DH@UVA, U.Va.
Your Portal to the Digital Humanities at the University of Virginia

What's the Difference between Digital Humanities and Digital Literacy?

The American Library Association defines digital literacy as “the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills." We might understand digital literacy as the capacity to create, comprehend, and distribute digital products (on various digital mediums, using various digital methods). Much of what would be considered digital literacy are things that many of us take for granted in modern classroom and university settings. But digital literacy admits of levels as well. Some of us are more digitally literate than others, and that is okay. You don’t have to be the most digitally literate person to start introducing digital humanities (DH) into your classroom. Why? The simplest answer is that digital literacy and DH come apart in an important way.

While the boundary between digital literacy and DH is still contested, we think it is safe to say that the most obvious difference between them is that DH adds the component of critical engagement with digital methods and mediums. When the activity of reflection becomes a part of the individual or the classroom interaction with the digital, we cross the boundary between digital literacy and DH. As a result, DH enhances our interactions with our course material by offering us a new method of examining the same thing. Were the conclusions you’d drawn about an author’s development over time challenged by the text-analytic results you got when you asked the same question but derived the answer computationally? How were your biases reflected in your twitter data mining? Digital literacy gives us the capacity to employ these tools in our classrooms and research, while DH gives us the space to reflect critically about the process as well as the product derived from using such tools.

--Elyse Oakley, DH@UVA Pedagogy Specialist (2019)