Digitization in Digital Humanities

A big part of Digital Humanities is the act of digitizing an object of some sort, whether it’s a book, photo, or work of art. There are a number of things to keep in mind while performing this act of digitization.

The first thing is to consider the best way to digitize a particular object. Is the object text only, such as a journal article? A photograph or map? A three dimensional sculpture? Each of these examples have different concerns when trying to capture it in the computer. All can be photographed, but several are required for anything with more than one side, and text recognition software can give errors. Journal articles and photos can be run through a scanner, but a sculpture cannot. A video of a sculpture can do wonders for that sculpture, but a recording of a book that it several hundred pages long is time consuming and has very few uses.

Another thing to consider when something is digitized is what is lost in this act. How can someone gauge the weight of an apple from a video or picture? A video can capture the  shape and color of the apple, as well as how it sounds when someone takes a bite, but what about it’s taste? A photo or video will allow someone to see the color, shape, and sound of an object, but anything tactile is lost. You cannot tell how heavy something is,  how hard or soft it is, or whether it is smooth or rough. The best you can get is to have someone describe these things through dialogue.

With so many things to get wrong, why bother to digitize anything? If done correctly, anything that is digitized can be manipulated to further someone’s understanding of the topic. Once that book is digitized in the right form, it can be run through character recognition software, and then can be played audibly through speech software for those who can’t or have trouble reading. Old photographs can be restored to their original form. Artists can create a video of their work, and edit the video to create a new work of art. Museums can digitize their collections, which can then be posted to the World Wide Web, exponentially increasing access to the exhibits.

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