Digital Humanities Laboratory
The mission of the Digital Humanities Laboratory at the University of Evansville is to provide a collaborative learning/research environment in which faculty and students can work together on professional projects in two areas: 1) the application of computing and information technologies in the service of humanities research, principally, though not exclusively, in philosophy, and 2) the application of humanistic and social science research to help better understand the cultural and ethical dimensions of the present information age. In doing so, it accepts the definition of the "humanities" as established in the 1965 National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act:
The term 'humanities' includes, but is not limited to, the study of the following: language, both modern and classical; linguistics; literature; history; jurisprudence; philosophy; archaeology; comparative religion; ethics; the history, criticism and theory of the arts; those aspects of social sciences which have humanistic content and employ humanistic methods; and the study and application of the humanities to the human environment with particular attention to reflecting our diverse heritage, traditions, and history and to the relevance of the humanities to the current conditions of national life.
The reference to "digital" in conjunction with the "humanities" respects the two-fold emphasis articulated above. No lab can hope to encompase the full range of "digital humanities" that the above statements suggest. However, it can hope to specialize in a few particular areas. In this regard, the Digital Humanities Lab at the University of Evansville is concretely dedicated to the following:
- Support for the Noesis project, an initiative to map the profession of philosophy insofar as it is articulated publicly online;
- Computational philosophy, the use of computational tools and techniques to provide insight on philosophical issues;
- Research in artificial intelligence and cognitive modeling that can aid items 1 and 2 above;
- Research in the philosophy of information and information ethics with the aim of better comprehending what is happening around us culturally and ethically as a result of changes within our information environment; and
- The study of the history and philosophy of information technology.
The lab aspires to fulfill its mission by employing students as interns, providing professional educational opportunities for University of Evansville students, and by sponsoring both individual and team-based projects in close collaboration with a faculty mentor.
It originally began in 1996 as the Internet Application Laboratory (IALab), a collaborative learning environment funded by the Office of the President and the Experiential and Collaborative Environment for Learning (EXCEL) at the University of Evansville to develop quality-controlled search engine technologies for use in the humanities with the help of students from a variety of disciplines, including computer science, computer engineering, graphic design, religion, and philosophy. (For more on the early history of the lab, see "Evaluating Search Engine Models for Scholarly Purposes: A Report from the Internet Applications Laboratory," published by the Corporation for National Research Initiatives, 1998, and the other resources linked to from Noesis.)
In 2002, the lab was consolidated into the newly-formed Internet Technology Program, (Robert Morse, director) College of Engineering and Computer Science, and then in 2008, reconsolidated as the Digital Humanities Laboratory (DHLab) in conjunction with the Cognitive Science Program and the Department of Philosophy and Religion in the College of Arts and Sciences. This close relationship between UE's College of Arts and Sciences and its College of Engineering and Computer Science remains to this day to create an environment where computationally-minded humanists and humanities-minded compututationalists may work together to cross the distance between two otherwise disparate areas of research and innovation.