Digital humanities, as explained by Meredith Martin, associate professor of English at Princeton University, “brings computational tools such as large-scale databases and text-analysis software to bear on traditional humanities scholarship."
Martin is the director of the new Center for digital humanities in Princeton, officially opened at the end of September, which aims to be a bridge among humanities, computer sciences and library sciences. Supporting faculty, graduate and undergraduate researches, it is a good example of the huge number of topics that can be included under the label “digital humanities”.
For instance, one project is the Princeton Prosody Archive, a full-text searchable database created in 2007 which collects more than 10,000 records, such as manuscripts, manuals, articles and grammar books, about prosody - the study of the metrical structure of verse - written between 1750 and 1923. But the Center also works on the “virtual archeologist” project, a software that helps to reconstruct frescoes of Akroti, on the Greek Island of Santorini, that were buried under volcanic ash 3500 years ago, simulating the traditional procedures followed at excavation sites.
A forthcoming research will be about a complex dictionary of pre-modern Chinese texts, made of a database of characters and sounds plus a hypertext version of all these texts. This project has been promoted by the Department of East Asian Studies and it will allow scholars to see and explore all existing intertextual relations.
"Because of the ability of computers to digest and store vast amounts of data” Martin adds, “things that would have taken scholars an entire career to research, computers can now do in a month. Instead of digging through archives trying to find the answer, in collaboration with a computer scientist, the humanist can come up with ways of using existing or new tools to generate a lot of answers very quickly. This, in turn, helps humanists pose new questions."