About: Digital Humanities at Princeton Seminary

What are the digital humanities and how are they part of seminary education? Princeton seminarians recently explored these and other questions to propose new interactive knowledge resources.

Scholarship in the digital humanities uses emerging information technology tools and methods, such as text encoding and geographic information systems, to interrogate and create new knowledge from digitized and born digital materials. Those materials might include digitized manuscript collections of 18th century theologians, high-resolution images of ancient paleographic specimens, or audio files on social media platforms. DH research mines data in humanities resources in ways not possible with traditional analog material.

At the same time, digital humanists query the technologies they use, examining possible ethical ramifications of these new trends in scholarship. Engagement and exchange are essential to the digital humanities.

Teaching and research at Princeton Theological Seminary have always been grounded in the humanities, all of which are digital now in some aspects. Discussions among PTS faculty, administrators, and library staff generated ideas for an introductory course in DH. F.W. “Chip” Dobbs-Allsopp, Associate Professor of Old Testament; Gregory Murray, Head of Digital Initiatives at the Seminary Library; and Andrew Newgren, Director of Academic Technology; co-taught the class in January and plan to teach it again January 2016.

“As with any other research design or skill, DH tools will suit some tasks and subjects better than others,” writes Professor Dobbs-Allsopp. “DH must be applied and adapted to specific issues and areas of research. As important, to exploit DH capacities fully, whether in teaching or research, scholars must know what kinds of skills are required. There is no ‘DH’ anything specific to Biblical Studies. However, I can imagine a number of ways DH methods can enhance and lead to deeper projects in the history of the Bible. I’m sure the same is true for all other disciplines represented at the Seminary.”

As PTS Senior Michael J. Toy writes in his paper on digital confessions, “The ubiquity of digital technology, the increase in computing power, and the ability to perform metadata analysis open up new doors, new questions, and new challenges to religious studies.”

2015 Projects

Pictured above: detail from Hyong Nam Ahn, “Unending Love.”