As an engineering student, the humanities have never been something that I’ve given much thought to apart from the obligatory credit hours I had to fill. To me the open ended qualitative analysis that the humanities seemed to emphasize was something I could not understand, and therefore was of no interest to me.
The lack of real, tangible products also made it difficult to understand what the purpose of the field was as well. You could certainly say that I am a “humanities deaf” individual, and I would have no argument.
What is exciting about the digital humanities field is that most of these issues no longer apply. As computing is introduced and used to do the previously qualitative analyses that I did not understand, things become more clear. In order to create these digital tools, the rules of analysis must be clearly defined and become much less open ended. This is a major advancement in reaching the humanities deaf like me, as instead of scratching my head trying to figure out how somebody came up with their analysis I can see exactly what they told the computer to do. Another change is that instead of producing just books and articles on their findings, digital humanities professionals are creating tools that allow someone like me to perform my own analysis.
The downside of this is the potential to dumb down the humanities. To take subjectivity out of the humanities would be to remove the point entirely. The humanities is about exploring the depths of human feeling and expression, and a computer cannot be taught to measure this accurately no matter how well programmed. In all, I find the field somewhat exciting in its ability to make the humanities easier to understand and explore for more people. This will be a good thing as long as it does not take away the deep exploration of human feeling that makes the humanities important to our world.