The Freedom of Research in the Digital Humanities

Access to information is pivotal to the creation of new knowledge. However, access to new information can be difficult for a variety of reasons.  Making information available to the public is the key to furthering research and the easiest way to disseminate information to the public is to incorporate tools and techniques developed within the Digital Humanities into the research process. These tools allows information to be distributed more quickly and in an inviting and exciting way that breeds new attention and research. The division between the traditional Humanities and the Digital humanities is rapidly shrinking and soon what we consider now to be two separate entities will become one unified discipline of Humanities.

For years research has been a coveted prize for scholars, kept locked away in fear that someone else may publish their findings first. This was a logical concern; it could make or break a career. A prime example would be the original study of the Dead Sea scrolls, where for many years scholars would only release a trickle of information regarding this tremendous discovery and the raw data was kept from the public view, thus allowing only a small group of scholars to study the scrolls, and in turn generating only a small range of views regarding the deciphering and interpretation of these texts.

In our digital age, research has the ability to spread rapidly far and wide.  This can be a risk as work might be released too early or in still developing forms. However, in a digital format work can be edited and updated as research progresses while logging this progress publicly.  Posting ideas on blogs, archaeological research on www.opencontext.org, GIS information on Pleiades, creating online collections and exhibits, databasing texts, and creating networks of research all serve to expand the collective knowledge of scholarship while establishing a documented trail of development that can be easily cited and referenced. When we allow our work to be viewed by others, input increases and output grows as a result. The Digital Humanities allows for this growth as it gives scholars access to as much information that one allows to be published and gives us the ability to further research in a new and innovative way.

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