This project brings together a multidisciplinary team of cultural historians and literary and cultural studies scholars in order to map and cultivate the digital research landscape in Cultural Studies and Cultural Heritage Studies in the V4 countries.
The purpose of the project is to develop methods for channelling the latest results of regional digital humanities (DH) projects into higher education and reach audiences beyond academia. Such a coordinated effort will assist universities in the V4 countries to close the gap between specialized DH centres and general faculty and students.
What Are Digital Humanities?
Digital humanities are an interdisciplinary area that combines traditional humanities with digital methods and technologies. For some, it is a separate scholarly discipline, for others, it may be a developmental phase of the humanities or merely an application of digital tools in the humanities. Among those tools and methods, digital humanities use text encoding, text analysis, data analysis, data visualisation, digital collections, archiving, mapping technologies, Big Data, crowdsourcing, or social network analysis. The goal of applying those methods is to collect, preserve, publish, analyse, or visualize data. This advanced data management and analysis are bringing new opportunities, perspectives, and questions to traditional areas of research such as cultural history, performance and media studies, history of art or literary science, among many others. Another important aspect of digital humanities is to make the data as well as the research results available to other scholars, researchers, students, and the general public through online resources, open-access publications, and digital exhibitions.
Furthermore, the interdisciplinary nature of digital humanities has allowed scholars from different fields to collaborate and work together in new ways. This does not concern only the fields of the humanities and social sciences. The changes brought by introducing digital methods and tools for collecting, analysing, comparing, and presenting data related to culture and society have also encouraged more common intersections and cooperation between the humanities, the natural sciences, and technical disciplines. Digital humanities can therefore contribute to the creation of new knowledge and the advancement of the humanities and sciences, making it an exciting and constantly evolving area of research.
Overall, digital humanities provide novel opportunities for researchers of various fields of study, for students in their further academic development as well as for the general public to engage with the humanities in new and dynamic ways.
Brief History of Digital Humanities in Central Eastern Europe
Using digital tools in the humanities in Central Eastern Europe has a long history. For example in Hungary, methods and approaches today falling under digital humanities can be traced back to early research in computational linguistics in the 1960s, and the expanding field of semiotics in the 1970s helped to spread the approach across disciplinary boundaries.
Textual approaches dominate the scene of digital humanities even today – it is supported by intense digitalization projects in various institutions that were established as early as the 1990s. Since 1995, the Greater Poland Digital Library (Wielkopolska Biblioteka Cyfrowa) has been developed thanks to several partner libraries and institutions in Poznań, Poland. It was completed and made accessible to the public in 2002. The digital library is running on the dLibra system by the Poznań Supercomputing and Networking Centre (Poznańskie Centrum Superkomputerowo – Sieciowe). The goal of the project is to enable the general public easy access to educational (coursebooks, scripts, and scientific monographs), cultural (selected manuscripts and prints of great historical value), and regional (related to Poznań and the Greater Poland region) resources. The Greater Poland Digital Library was followed by several other digital libraries made accessible in the early 2000s. As of 2016, the Federation of Digital Libraries marked more than 4.2 m objects made available by 127 Polish cultural institutions.
Other Central Eastern European countries soon followed the trend – in the Czech Republic, the National Library of the Czech Republic launched Manuscriptorium – the digital library of historic book resources (such as manuscripts, incunabula, early printed books, maps, charters, and other types of documents) in 2003 – and developed an open-source content management system for digital libraries named Kramerius. The Hungarian Electronic Library (Magyar Elektronikus Könyvtár) became accessible to the general public via its own website in 2004. In Slovakia, the Digital Library and Digital Archive (Digitálna knižnica a digitálny archív – DIKDA) with more than 2.5 m documents were finalized in 2015.
While digital libraries and library systems were among the first tools developed in the region, the current field of digital humanities in Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, and Austria uses a whole scale of methods and technologies from digital collections, archives, programmes for text encoding, reading, and analysing electronic texts, geospatial and critical discursive mapping technologies, ‘Big Data,’ social computing, crowdsourcing, and networking and 3D immersive visualisation environments.
Today, the Central Easter European countries are active in digital humanities research, with scholars and institutions collaborating on projects and sharing resources. Many academic institutions, such as Masaryk University in Brno (Masarykova univerzita v Brně – https://digital-humanities.phil.muni.cz), the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic (Akademie věd České republiky – https://digitalhumanities.cz), the Central European University (https://www.ceu.edu/dhi) or the Institute of Literary Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences (Instytut Badań Literackich Polskiej Akademii Nauk – http://chc.ibl.waw.pl/en/) – have their own initiatives or portals dedicated to digital humanities. The Centre for Study of Popular Culture and its project Mapping and Boosting Digital Humanities in the Visegrad Region: Cultural Studies and Cultural Heritage Studies in the V4 countries, supported by the Visegrad Fund, is trying to map the current digital humanities projects in the region and cultivate the digital research landscape in cultural studies and cultural heritage studies in the Visegrad countries.
Digital Tools and Technologies Used in Central Eastern Europe
Digital humanities use various tools, technologies, and methods to analyse, interpret and/or share the data related to the research of human history, culture, and society. As in other regions, the scope of these tools in Central Eastern Europe has risen rapidly in the last two decades, with some of them being developed locally to respond to the specific needs of Czech, Slovak, Polish, Hungarian, and Austrian research institutions.
As of April 2023, digital repositories and databases play a key role among Central Eastern European projects and initiatives collected by the project Mapping and Boosting Digital Humanities in the Visegrad Region: Cultural Studies and Cultural Heritage Studies in the V4 countries. They are digital collections allowing to store, manage preserve and provide access to various types of data and metadata.
The type and nature of the data stored within the databases and digital repositories vary greatly. Some repositories store and allow access to digitalized books, periodicals, manuscripts, charters, maps, and other archival documents, while other institutions produce and share their own content, such as audio and video recordings of contemporary witnesses, or social science data. Some databases are dedicated to sharing information about museum collections and cultural institutions, or work as a thematic encyclopaedia or dictionary. The target group of intended users differs as well – most of them are freely accessible to the general public, and some of them (or parts of them) allow access only under certain conditions, such as only on the institutional network. Some of the institutions have developed their own content management systems.
While databases, repositories, digital libraries, and digital collections remain the most widespread among the digital tools used by cultural heritage scholars and research institutions in Central Eastern Europe, the use of technologies for reading, analysing, and encoding texts remains popular as well. Among those projects, we can find corpuses (large collections of textual sources, allowing to track, analyse, compare, and research the current state as well as the historical evolution of languages), language portals, or transcription tools. Mostly within the field of history, art history, and cultural heritage studies, we can observe a growing interest in geospatial visualisations of data.
The preview of tools and technologies included in the data collection conducted within the project Mapping and Boosting Digital Humanities in the Visegrad Region: Cultural Studies and Cultural Heritage Studies in the V4 countries, managed by The Centre for Study of Popular Culture with financial support of the Visegrad Fund, is by no means final and could include other branches within the scope of the field of digital humanities, such as Big Data, social computing, crowdsourcing, and networking. Thanks to the globalization, which affects the academic sphere as well, there is also a great number of digital tools, technologies, and programmes, that are being used by scholars and research institutions of various fields of humanities and social sciences in Central Eastern Europe as well as in other regions worldwide. However, the trends mapped by the project show that databases, digital repositories, text-related tools, and geospatial technologies still dominate the scene of digital humanities in Austria, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, and the Czech Republic.
Digital Humanities and Collaboration in Central Eastern Europe
With its interdisciplinary character, the field of digital humanities not only invites to cross the boundaries of areas of research but also encourages collaboration between institutions – on a regional as well as international level. With the growing importance of digital humanities in research, which requires interdisciplinary collaboration and access to international resources, collaborative initiatives and projects within the field are on the rise both in Central Eastern Europe and worldwide.
International collaboration gives Central Eastern European researchers access to resources, funding, expertise, and knowledge that could not be available to them otherwise. An example from the database of the project Mapping and Boosting Digital Humanities in the Visegrad Region: Cultural Studies and Cultural Heritage Studies in the V4 countries can be the initiative COURAGE – connecting collections (http://cultural-opposition.eu/). The project, funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme, has built an online database of collections on the histories and forms of cultural opposition in the former socialist countries. The consortium was led by the Research Centre for the Humanities, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, and consisted of renowned institutions not only from other Visegrad countries (Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia) but from all over Europe.
Financial and structural support of digital humanities on the European level is crucial both for the competitiveness of Europe as a whole and for advances in the field in respective countries. The Digital Research Infrastructure for the Arts and Humanities (DARIAH), established as a European Research Infrastructure Consortium (ERIC) in August 2014, should foster and promote digital technologies in research and teaching across the arts and humanities. DARIAH brings together innovative digital arts and humanities initiatives and expands their outcomes to a European level by engaging with communities of practice. It allows sharing expertise, information, knowledge, content, methods, tools, and technologies among projects, people, and institutions internationally. Currently, Austria, the Czech Republic, and Poland are among the 20 member countries of DARIAH, and institutions from Slovakia and Hungary are cooperating partners.
International organisations such as the Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations and The European Association for Digital Humanities contribute to promoting international collaboration and engagement in the field. They organize conferences, workshops, and training programs that bring together scholars from different countries and institutions to share ideas and best practices. International associations’ involvement has been beneficial in increasing the visibility of digital humanities in Central Eastern Europe and fostering its incorporation into the region’s research culture. However, from the Visegrad countries, only the Czech Republic has its regional association (the Czech Association for Digital Humanities – Česká asociace pro digitální humanitní vědy, CzADH). Therefore, initiatives such as the project Mapping and Boosting Digital Humanities in the Visegrad Region are essential for further development and advanced internationalization of digital humanities within the region.
Digital Humanities in Cultural Studies
By enabling scholars to use computational tools to examine, compare and analyze enormous amounts of data related to culture, digital humanities have fundamentally broadened the possibilities of cultural studies. The field combines traditional humanities research methods with digital technologies, with encoding, data visualization, text mining, and network analysis being among the most used, to examine cultural phenomena and artifacts. In the region of Central Eastern Europe with its multiethnic character and complicated history, digital humanities can therefore have a great impact on cultural identity.
One area where digital humanities have been particularly useful is cultural history. Researchers can use digitized archives, databases, and digital mapping tools to analyse works of literature, art, and music. Geospatial visualizations of data – and especially interactive maps and atlases – are very popular within the field of cultural history. They can help researchers to mark and analyse historical processes and events in their spatial contexts, but they are also very popular tools in historical education.
There are several projects in Central Eastern Europe centred around the spatial mapping of historical processes and events. These are thematically focused on a certain topic, period, or type of sources. Medieval and early modern period as well as the holocaust are among the most popular. For example, Atlas Fontium (https://atlasfontium.pl/) by the Tadeusz Manteuffel Institute of History of the Polish Academy of Sciences (Instytut Historii im. Tadeusza Manteuffla Polskiej Akademii Nauk) is a website dedicated to the publications of historical sources, research results and sharing materials from the period of the old Poland and the old Republic of Poland that have a spatial dimension. The Atlas of Holocaust Literature (Atlas Literatury Zagłady; https://nplp.pl/kolekcja/atlas-zaglady/) provides digital collection and interactive maps based on personal documents (diaries, letters) connected to the topic of Warsaw under occupation, the experience of the Warsaw ghetto and the experience of the extermination in general.
Digital methods have also enabled researchers to study the networks and connections between cultural actors, institutions, and movements in different periods. By using network analysis tools, researchers are able to uncover the relationships between writers, artists, and intellectuals in Central Eastern Europe and other parts of the world and understand how they influenced each other and shaped cultural trends.
However, textual approaches to digital humanities are still among the most prominent within the cultural studies. An example of that can be the research initiative LINDAT/CLARIAH-CZ, the Digital Research Infrastructure for Language Technologies, Arts and Humanities. It connects ten Czech partner institutions – research institutes, libraries, universities, a gallery, and an archive – to allow for an open-access to digitized data resources of the given disciplines for the broad research community and for students both in the Czech Republic and in EU and at the same time to obtain access to similar resources available in the pan-European networks CLARIN and DARIAH. It deals primarily with language data but also with other digital resources and tools for their exploitation, maintenance, and enhancement.
It is clear that the digital humanities have and will continue to play an important role in research on the culture of Central Eastern Europe. Given the diversity of topics and technologies, projects like Mapping and Boosting Digital Humanities in the Visegrad Region: Cultural Studies and Cultural Heritage Studies in the V4 Countries are important for networking that will contribute to research excellence and collaboration on an institutional level both nationally and internationally.
Digitization of Cultural Heritage in Central Eastern Europe
The digitization of cultural heritage is a process that uses digital technologies, tools, and methods to help to document, capture, preserve, store, research, promote and provide access to different types of tangible cultural heritage, such as books, manuscripts, charters, archival documents, maps, artworks, monuments, archaeological sites and other types of artifacts, as well as intangible cultural heritage such as songs, dances, oral traditions, rituals, traditional crafts. The process aims to to preserve cultural heritage for future generations and to make it accessible to scholars for the purpose of research and teaching as well as promote it to a wider audience.
Central Eastern Europe is a region with a long and culturally diverse history, with artefacts extant from the prehistorical era, the Roman and the Ottoman empire, medieval kingdoms, modern multi-ethnic states, or totalitarian regimes. Tangible and intangible cultural heritage has been systematically documented, preserved, collected, studied, and exhibited by historians, ethnologists, museum workers, and other scholars and amateur enthusiasts for at least two centuries. Utilisation of digital methods and technologies allows us to document, research, compare and promote artifacts and traditions of the region and beyond in a scope incomparable to the traditional methods.
Online exhibitions, digital collections, and databases significantly broaden the traditional target groups of institutions such as museums or libraries. From the comfort of one’s home, everyone can examine thousands or even millions of significant objects, artworks, books, and documents, as well as audio and video recordings. This form of presentation also enables new ways of presenting the current state of research to the general public, as well as clearly organised information and metadata in almost any quantity.
Digitization is also important for the development of cultural tourism. Having access to the region’s history and cultural identity online may draw tourists from all over the world, thanks to the digitalization and promotion of cultural artifacts and customs. This might benefit the local economy by bringing in money for cultural institutions, small enterprises, and the larger community through cultural tourism but also boost more interest within the local population.
Digitization of cultural heritage also strengthens its resilience – and with it, the resilience of the entire society. It allows to document of precious artifacts and sites that are at risk of being destroyed by natural disasters or wars, it also allows the transformation and continuation of cultural life in case of severe unforeseen changes in everyday life, such as state-wide quarantines during a pandemic or a diaspora following a military attack.
Although it can bring numerous benefits, the digitization of cultural heritage faces several challenges – and the region of Central Easter Europe is no exception. Probably the biggest one is the lack of sufficient funding and resources, which is significant especially in this region. It is challenging to invest in costly digital technology and employ qualified people since many cultural organizations in the area are underfunded and understaffed. This has led to a slow and fragmented digitization process that has yet to reach its full potential.
Another important challenging aspect is the authenticity and integrity of cultural heritage. The process of digitization raises questions about the completeness of documentation of intangible heritage or the accuracy of the digital replicas of physical artifacts. The process of digital documentation can also in some cases lead to unintentional damage or even destruction of the original artifact.
As with other spheres of handling and mediating cultural heritage, its digitization also rises ethical questions regarding the provenance of artifacts, especially those acquired under colonial rule or by totalitarian regimes. Finally, specifically the open access to digitized cultural heritage – or using technologies such as NFTs (non-fungible tokens) – has a lot of legal aspects and implications novel to the field of cultural heritage mediation and presentation.
Despite the specific challenges associated with the digitization of cultural heritage in Central Eastern Europe, it is a complex, ever-evolving process that is of the utmost importance for the cultural identity of the region, cultural development and education, cultural institutions, and tourism. Having access to the region’s history and cultural identity online may draw tourists from all over the world, as well as allow locals to connect with the cultural heritage in new, exciting ways.
Role of Digital Humanities in Societal Crises
The importance of digital humanities grew significantly during the recent crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine. Digital methods and technologies applied in various fields of humanities and social sciences have helped researchers to understand better the roots of the current situations, to model and estimate recent threats and challenges, and to predict possible future emergencies.
The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed the everyday life of millions of people. One of the most significant sectors influenced by the measures taken by governments to protect public health was education, including universities. Online learning platforms have taken the role of traditional lecture halls and classrooms, and digital technologies became necessary for both students and teachers, as well as for organisers of conferences and workshops. That meant the usage of previously overlooked software for communication, networking, and co-working, as well as the development of new programmes and technologies.
Organising online academic events – or at least hybrid ones – became a new normal. This advance also meant democratisation and opening of the scientific exchange to the general public, which could listen to lectures, panels, and discussions without actually having to attend the workshop, conference, or other academic programme on-site. This infrastructure proved to be helpful also in other difficult circumstances, such as emigration following the war in Ukraine.
Digital tools and technologies have also allowed universities and research institutions to collaborate with researchers and educators from around the world. This has made it easier for experts to share their knowledge and skills, leading to a deeper grasp of history, society, and culture and to respond better and faster to societal crises. Researchers may now easily collaborate on projects and share data using digital technologies, which has resulted in more thorough research and a greater understanding of history and culture.
Particularly in times of pandemics and war, digital technologies have proved to be essential in safeguarding cultural heritage. The use of digital resources has made it possible to preserve historical relics and artifacts, provide virtual tours, and disseminate vital historical and cultural knowledge to a larger audience. Digital tools such as mentioned virtual tours, digital exhibitions and collections, or 3D modelling have allowed institutions such as museums, galleries, libraries, universities, and research institutes to make historical artefacts accessible to the general public even in the event of restricted admissions due to social distancing rules or military operations. An essential dimension has also been in networking and internationalisation – institutions have exchanged digital know-how with each other, while cultural heritage has been made accessible to anyone from anywhere.
Especially virtual tours of historical sites or exhibitions have experienced great popularity since the first months of the pandemic. Physical travel may be prohibited or risky during pandemics and times of conflict. Virtual tours enable individuals to experience historical and cultural locations without ever leaving their homes. This has allowed a larger audience to experience and learn about many cultures and histories in addition to preserving these places and artefacts.
Digital humanities and the application of digital tools and technologies within the field of cultural heritage and education have played an essential role in preserving the history and culture of various communities during times of pandemics and wars in recent years, with many of its benefits remaining even after the (prospective) end of mentioned societal crises. Digital tools have allowed for the preservation of historical artifacts, the creation of virtual tours, the dissemination of important historical and cultural information, an international collaboration between researchers and educators, and better inclusion of the general public in scientific affairs. As the world continues to face new challenges, it is clear that digital humanities will continue to play an important role both in research and in the preservation and dissemination of historical and cultural knowledge.
Digital Humanities and the General Public
One of the most significant benefits of digital humanities is the ability to reach a wider audience through various online platforms. While this is a valuable asset in terms of research collaboration and dissemination of knowledge and the current state of research among scholars, most importantly, it plays an increasingly significant role in popularising research of history, society, and culture among the general public. Digital humanities have also revolutionized the way cultural artifacts are presented to the public, in a form of online exhibitions, digital repositories, or multimedia in museum exhibitions.
Online libraries and archives allow access to books, archival materials, and other resources to people regardless of their physical location, level of expertise, or affiliation to an institution. This is beneficial especially for humanities students, however, it also offers new possibilities for interested amateurs, people for various reasons excluded from higher education, or for teachers who want to diversify their class work. It may also help to encourage and engage the general public to take part in the research process themselves. An example of that can be The History of Everyday Life Database (Databáze dějin všedního dne; https://ddvd.kpsys.cz/), a project by the Institute of History of the Czech Academy of Sciences, which allows searching in several hundreds of sorted and systemized sources of personal nature – it can also encourage the public to contribute to the database with their own sources such as old memories, family chronicles, diaries, and other biographical recollections.
Online exhibitions provide an excellent opportunity for the general public to explore and interact with cultural artifacts from any location and at any time. This has proved helpful especially during the COVID-19 pandemic when it helped the institutions to remain in touch with their regular audience and potentially attract new visitors. Online exhibitions can incorporate interactive features such as videos, images, audio recordings, or even VR and AI. This accessibility has opened new avenues for both scholars and cultural institutions such as museums or galleries to share their cultural heritage research and collections with the world, creating a more inclusive and diverse representation of cultural heritage.
Another possibility for providing a more engaging and immersive experience for visitors of museums and galleries is incorporating multimedia in the physical exhibitions. The use of new media for museum displays has grown considerably in the last two decades, with the use of video, audio, VR, or games. The incorporation of technology and new media ideas can be viewed as the beginning of a complex modernization process for museums while ensuring that their use remains relevant and purposeful for the museum’s content.
Those are only a few examples of how digital humanities have created new avenues for research and cultural institutions to reach a wider audience, including the general public. Through online exhibitions and repositories, the public can explore, interact with, and access vast collections of cultural artifacts and archive materials, which can also encourage them to contribute to the current state of research by providing new sources. Digital humanities have made it easier to break down barriers and bring cultural heritage and the current state of research to the world.
Digital Humanities in Higher Education
Today, digital humanities play an increasingly critical role in higher education and training, and Central Eastern Europe is no exception to this trend. It provides tools, methods, and technologies that offer innovative ways of teaching and learning and encourage students and young researchers to take on interdisciplinary approaches in humanities research. Enriching the traditional humanities by integrating digital tools can enhance student engagement and understanding. Digital humanities also offer new opportunities for collaboration and sharing of resources among institutions, researchers, and students.
For relatively small countries such as those in Central Eastern Europe, digital humanities are particularly important for promoting international collaboration and exchange. Digital tools help to share research data as well as the current state of research and to overcome language barriers. As well as in other regions, digital humanities in Central Eastern Europe also play a key role in researching, preserving, and promoting both tangible and intangible cultural heritage. Digitization of works of art, literature, and historical artifacts opens new possibilities for both students and researchers and allows cultural exchange.
Thanks to the interdisciplinary nature of digital humanities, students are encouraged to combine methods and theories from different fields of study. Crossing the boundaries between different humanities and social sciences is crucial for addressing complex issues facing society today as well as studying the origins of those issues from a historical perspective. By combining the methodologies and perspectives of humanities and social sciences with those of computational sciences, digital humanities can provide new insights into pressing issues such as climate change, social justice, and migration.
The knowledge of various digital tools and other skills gained by training in digital humanities can help the graduates on the job market, which is crucial given the current state of national economies in the Visegrad region. Humanities majors also have the ability to critically reflect on the implications of the continuing digitization of society and everyday life, which gives them the advantage of predicting and assessing issues and risks.
Digital humanities can help to address issues of inclusion and access in higher education as well. Though their usage and impact tend to be limited by the financial means of the universities, open-access resources, and online courses contribute to minimising inequalities between countries, institutions, and individuals. They can also make education more accessible to people who may face barriers to traditional forms of higher education – such as students with different forms of disabilities, individuals with a lack of financial resources, those from marginalized communities, or those unable to attend universities due to other reasons. Digital humanities can therefore contribute to social and economic mobility, international exchange, and the region’s overall development by increasing access to education and training.
Digital Humanities and Research Ethics
The subjects of study of humanities and social sciences are culture, society, and human behaviour. Researching these topics comes with a great number of ethical questions and implications concerning research methods, research design as well as publications of the results. While using digital tools and technologies may help to address and to solve some of them, such as plagiarism, it also raises new ethical issues, particularly in terms of data privacy, consent, and ownership.
Using digital technologies that are able to search and compare great amounts of text can be helpful in uncovering plagiarism, both in students’ essays and theses and in texts by renowned scholars. However, as in other areas where similar programmes are being used, the results can be influenced by a number of factors such as the quality of the digital tool, the technology it uses for analysing and comparing the texts, and the quality and quantity of the base material. There are certain types of plagiarism that the programmes are unable to detect and on the other hand several occasions where the technology can evaluate certain text as plagiarism unjustly. This stresses the importance of the fact that control of the results of the digital tools, assessing their relevance, and decision on the consequences should therefore rest on the human – which is a principle that should be applied universally within the field of digital humanities. On the other hand, advanced AI programmes can produce texts that are almost indistinguishable from those written by humans, which raises new questions concerning plagiarism as well as education in general.
Other ethical issues, such as consent, data privacy, and ownership, are often tied to open science in general but digital humanities and social sciences hold a specific position due to the sensitive nature of data related to private persons or for example political parties. Especially the digitization and open access to digitized cultural heritage also stress the question of ownership and intellectual property rights.
Many digital humanities initiatives require gathering and processing substantial volumes of data, including personal data. Researchers must ensure adherence to strict EU and states’ legislation regarding personal information and their protection, as well as the consent of individuals or groups whose data they are using, particularly when that data is personal or sensitive. While these issues arise in traditional research of society and culture as well, the possibilities given by digital tools (especially the amount of stored and analysed data, the speed of their processing, their storage and sharing) and the involvement of external actors such as technology companies point to the need to pay more attention to them.
The digitization of cultural heritage, which is an especially popular focus of digital humanities in Central Eastern Europe, enables the once restricted access to digital copies of historical artifacts, books, manuscripts, charters, archival documents, maps, and artworks for virtually any person anywhere. That raises questions about ownership and intellectual property rights. Institutions such as museums, libraries, research institutes, or universities have to navigate complex legal and ethical issues, such as copyright law and cultural property law, to ensure that they are respecting the rights of creators. Although the development of the technologies meant to properly protect the digitized cultural heritage from illegal sharing and downloading is permanently proceeding, the issue of ownership of the digital versions of cultural artifacts (and how can they be used or reused) is likely to persist.