Sunday, May 3, 2015

Seven reasons why we need an independent Digital Humanities, by Gregory Crane

A very interesting piece of writing by Gregory. Warning: more than 40 pages ! so enjoy !

Seven reasons why we need an independent Digital Humanities

Gregory Crane
[DRAFT as of April 27, 2015]

Alexander von Humboldt Professor of Digital Humanities
Department of Computer Science
Leipzig University

Professor of Classics
Winnick Family Chair of Technology and Entrepreneurship
Tufts University


This paper describes two issues, the need for an independent Digital Humanities and the opportunity to rethink within a digital space the ways in which Humanists can contribute to society and redefine the social contract upon which they depend.

The paper opens by articulating seven cognitive challenges that the Humanities can, in some cases only, and in other cases much more effectively, combat insofar as we have an independent Digital Humanities: (1) we assume that new research will look like research that we would like to do ourselves; (2) we assume that we should be able to exploit the results of new methods without having to learn much and without rethinking the skills that at least some senior members of our field must have; (3) we focus on the perceived quality of Digital Humanities work rather than the larger forces and processes now in play (which would only demand more and better Digital Humanities work if we do not like what we see); (4) we assume that we have already adapted new digital methods to existing departmental and disciplinary structures and assume that the rate of change over the next thirty years will be similar to, or even slower than, that we experienced in the past thirty years, rather than recognizing that the next step will be for us to adapt ourselves to exploit the digital space of which we are a part; (5) we may support interdisciplinarity but the Digital Humanities provides a dynamic and critically needed space of encounter between not only established humanistic fields but between the humanities and a new range of fields including, but not limited to, the computer and information sciences (and thus I use the Digital Humanities as a plural noun, rather than a collective singular); (6) we lack the cultures of collaboration and of openness that are increasingly essential for the work of the humanities and that the Digital Humanities have proven much better at fostering; (7) we assert all too often that a handful of specialists alone define what is and is not important rather than understanding that our fields depends upon support from society as a whole and that academic communities operate in a Darwinian space.

For the full text, see the Google Doc