The Digital Humanities promote merging between human sciences and technologies and within the Humanities themselves, in order to analyse the new products of a cultural sector whose hybrid nature is on the rise. The future challenge for the Humanities lies in the digital feasibility of all the research phases: from searching for sources, to their analysis and critical grounding in the network of knowledge. Technology is thus seen not only as a tool, but also as a new structure of critical thought where any individual and the society at large can give their contribution.
The Digital Humanities, then, represent all those disciplines which combine mastery of digital tools for research, education, and content development to the traditional learning rooted in the Humanities. The Digital Humanities can therefore give new impulse to the social role of the human sciences, undermined by an epistemic, sector-based view of sciences: introducing a common language and a research method, the new technologies can promote dialogue within the Humanitas, overcoming the boundaries of specific knowledge and creating products which are not only transmedial, but also transdisciplinary.
The Digital Humanities were born in Italy, within the Humanities themselves. It was Father Roberto Busa SJ (Vicenza, 1913-Gallarate, 2011) who, in 1946, while working at his thesis, thought of analysing linguistically the corpus of Thomas Aquinas’ works with a computer for the first time. A collaboration with IBM made it possible: this impressive endeavour had to face obsolescence of digital supports and went through several steps, being re-elaborated until its final outcome on the web in 2005 (http://www.corpusthomisticum.org/it/). After that, it was mostly Anglo-Americans researchers who led the research in the field, with their engineering-oriented, hands-on approach, focussing their studies on the evolution of Computational Linguistics and the creation of educational digital applications. European academies met the challenge mostly within the Classical Humanities, researching the cultural roots and effects of the digitalization of knowledge, proposing new configurations of knowledge (and knowledge transmission) concerning changes in the objects of study, the merging of several branches of knowledge, and an emergent linguistic superstructure encompassing them all.
In their merging, these two facets create the theoretical and practical approach of the Digital Humanities, applied to the research on digital archives, infographics, the use of ICTs in education, gaming, simulations (e.g., autocad, smart city, etc.). Alongside, it fuels reflection on digital communication, economy, web rights and marketing, digital art and all philosophical approaches having the use of digital technologies in the Humanitas as their object of study.