Where is the Digital?

One question that comes up frequently is “where is the the digital history lab?” This is a natural enough question, but what is it really asking?

If the question is: “where is the server that hosts this site?” then the answer is: in an IIT server lab.

If the question is: “where is the work done that’s showcased on this website?” then the answer is: in classes and libraries across campus.

If the question is: “where are the video recorders, audio tools, etc. that I can use to produce films and podcasts?” then the answer is: in Galvin library, available for checkout at the circulation desk.

If the question is: “where are the faculty and staff involved with the project?” then the answer is: in the Humanities Department (Siegel Hall) as well as in Galvin Library.

The short answer might be to say that the Digital Humanities Lab doesn’t have a dedicated physical lab space, but that’s not quite right: as you can see from the questions and answers above, there is physical space and physical resources devoted to the lab. The question is essentially a form of asking: “where is the digital?” And, what do we expect in terms of the tangibility of digital projects and products?

Trying to answer this question is, in fact, one of the most important things that a digital humanist can do. Because in so doing, one creates the very space for digital humanistic inquiry and production that one is asking after.

This lab is primarily a teaching resource that focuses on enabling students to create humanistic digital products and projects both inside and outside of class, by using history as a tool to understand contemporary social and technological issues.

The lab’s digital resources are collected on this website, and its physical resources, for the most part, are in Galvin Library for check-out. But the actual “where” of the lab is campus-wide, and hopefully growing, as it exists most fruitfully in the projects of students in history and humanities classes who use these tools to shape new historical inquiries.

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