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Burdick, Anne, Drucker, Johanna, Lunenfeld, Peter, Presner, Todd and Schnapp, Jeffrey (eds), Digital_Humanities.

Burdick, Anne, Drucker, Johanna, Lunenfeld, Peter, Presner, Todd and Schnapp, Jeffrey (eds), DigitalHumanities, MIT Press, Cambridge, 2012, ISBN 9 7802 6201 8470, 176 pp., A$37.95. Distributor: Footprint Books.

Digital_Humanities is essential reading for anyone seeking to gain a clearer understanding of the disparate field of theory and practice that is the digital humanities. A collaboration between five key digital humanities practitioners, the book aims to provide an answer to the central question: 'What are the digital humanities?' The authors work together to explain just how humanities scholarship continues to shift in the always-evolving age of information technology. As with traditional humanities scholarship, a driving question for the digital humanities remains, 'What is it to be human?' However, now that question is placed in the context of the digital culture that surrounds us. The book is clearly structured and leads the reader through the development of the digital humanities to a speculation on what this field of practice may hold in the future.

Beginning by exploring the various methodologies that constitute the digital humanities, the authors highlight how developing digital technologies and other platforms can be employed to extend humanities scholarship. This extension can take the form of new types of scholarship, or new ways of communicating research outcomes. They also describe the roles digital humanities projects can have for the communities that become involved with them. Accompanying the discussion of digital humanities in terms of methods and projects are case studies assembled by the authors. The purpose of the case studies is to highlight examples of scholarship that can provide inspiration for further work and research. The case studies emphasise the collaborative nature of digital humanities scholarship (a point also demonstrated in the joint authorship of the book), as well as the potential for projects to be cross-disciplinary and multi-institutional. The inclusion of these case studies is extremely valuable for the book's intended audience. Each case study provides detailed explanations of the possible motivation for starting a digital humanities project; the technology that would be needed to complete the project; the plan or timeline for such projects; and suggestions for disseminating the results of the project in a participatory way, together with the need for ongoing assessment of projects. For those practitioners looking for an entry point to the digital humanities, the authors have provided great clarity in the models included in the book. They also argue for a spirit of criticality and experimentation to be the benchmark of the digital humanities. As they note, as technologies become normalised, the digital humanities may find it difficult to maintain their critical and experimental character (p. 103). Although the authors do not offer a specific solution to this issue, they do make a strong argument for digital humanities practice needing to broaden its horizons and move outside of the academy. In particular, the authors note that the digital humanities must 'visibly demonstrate' the value of the field's contributions to our knowledge and society (p. 120). This book is immensely useful for both newcomers to the digital humanities and more established practitioners. It offers clear explanations and descriptions, as well as outlining the challenges for future directions in this field.

--Wendy Davis, Academic Learning Services, Central Queensland University
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Author:Davis, Wendy
Publication:Media International Australia incorporating Culture and Policy
Article Type:Book review
Date:Nov 1, 2014
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