What are Digital Arts and Humanities?

At ABDAH, “Digital Arts and Humanities” describes an approach and an interest more than it does a discipline.

The University of Lethbridge Department of New Media's game design class.

The term can describe the work of artists who use technology in their creative process, English professors who build databases to analyse the works of Shakespeare, archaeologists who create virtual reconstructions of ancient sites, librarians who work to improve our ability to find and retrieve information in the library, or on the move, pedagogical experts who turn to the techniques of computer gaming to improve the quality of education and training,… and much more.

What these activities have in common is an interest in how the hardware and software of technology interact with human interests and needs. How it affects the way we learn and understand, what we know and enjoy, how we organise ourselves, and compete and collaborate.

The University of Alberta's Ukranian Traditional Folklore site contains lanugage learning materials, history, and recordings of traditional Ukranian folk knowledge.

Sometimes this use of digital technology allows us to accomplish traditional research and teaching more efficiently or in a different way. XML, databases, and other technologies, for example, allow us to build better dictionaries. The Wikipedia replaces traditional encyclopedias with a new type of reference work.

Sometimes this use of digital technology allows us to ask completely new questions or look at problems in completely new ways. 3D scanning and visualisation techniques allow museums to preserve and represent our cultural heritage in completely novel ways. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) have begun to revolutionise the way we do economic and cultural history.

These approaches often also have a very practical component. In exploring the interaction of the technological and the human, researchers in the Digital Arts and Humanities are forced to develop practical answers to fundamental problems. How can we improve the way we use technology in carrying out every day activities? How can we make research and information more accessible? How can we improve the quality, effectiveness, and efficiency of education and training? What do we need to do to ensure that our heritage, including today’s new born-digital cultural heritage, is preserved and kept accessible for future generations? As the development of Unicode and XML suggest, the answers to these questions can have far reaching effects and involve questions that are interesting to industry and the academy alike.

The University of Alberta's Experimental Reading Project looked at how technology affected reading.

ABDAH supports the Digital Arts and Humanities in Alberta at the moment by encouraging collaboration and cooperation. It provides a forum that allows faculty, students, and the general public to discover how technology is being used by Alberta’s researchers and artists, to share techniques and expertise, and to develop common sets of standards and best practices.

As a future Campus Alberta initiative, ABDAH will build on this current soft support to develop more formal connections and associations. The development of multi-university and centre research teams, the sharing of IT and systems support, the closer integration of graduate and undergraduate research and teaching.

Alberta’s universities and research centres already carry out world-leading research and teaching in the Digital Arts and Humanities. ABDAH provides a way of maximising the return on our investment in this growth area and improving Albertan’s ability to compete and succeed in the new digital economy.



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