9.0021 Conf: Cultural Resources in the Electronic Era (1/195)

Mon, 15 May 1995 11:08:25 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 9, No. 0021. Monday, 15 May 1995.

Date: Thu, 11 May 1995 20:19:32 -0400
From: mccarty@epas.utoronto.ca (Willard McCarty)
Subject: Conference in Tel Aviv

Beyond Enthusiasm: Some Critical Perspectives

Faculty of the Humanities
Tel Aviv University
5-6 June, 1995

The increasing role of computers and information technology in the use of
cultural resources is creating new challenges for the liberal arts.
Although traditionally Humanists have eschewed technology in their
research and teaching, a tidal wave of digitization is transforming the
texts, images, artifacts and manuscripts that are the basic materials of
humanistic scholarship. Libraries, archives, museums and galleries can now
be accessed electronically, and their most valuable holdings are being
reproduced digitally. Ease of access, dissemination, and preservation are major
advantages of the electronic format. The potential of computer-assisted
analysis and information retrieval from huge textual corpora can only be
realized when resources are preserved or converted into an electronic

These advantages, together with the early popularity of word processing,
and the more recent enthusiastic acceptance of international networks and
the concept of "cyberspace," have resulted in a growing intrusion of the
new technologies into the traditional and tradition-bound spheres of
Humanities research. Computers were first used in Humanities research in
the 1940s, but have received a huge impetus during the last ten years.
Almost all major universities and centers of scholarship can now boast
academic projects that involve the digitization of primary sources.

Scholars have traditionally stood at the gateways of culture, and have
selectively chosen those cultural artifacts which merited preservation and
distribution. However, the information explosion undermines the principles
of selectivity.

The purpose of this Conference is to place these developments into
perspective, and to raise critical questions concerning the purposes,
means and impact of this "revolution". The speakers, from the major
Humanities computing centers and digitizing projects in Europe and the
USA, will examine the impact of the information revolution and the new
technology on research in the Liberal Arts.

What has been achieved since Humanities computing was first introduced
forty years ago? What major projects are underway today, how are they
organized, and what principles guide them? What can be learnt from the
success of some projects and the failure of others? What impact will the
electronic era have on conventional scholarly publishing? How can the
principle of selectivity be preserved?

In addition to these general issues, the following specific questions will
be addressed:

1. There is a mass of cultural information which we could work on, and we
have limited resources. How are we going to decide where to direct these

2. The pace of development constantly confounds our attempts to keep up
with the technology. This causes problems of rapid obsolescence, when we
are trying to preserve our cultural artifacts into the far future. Texts
and data written on punch cards are no longer readable, whereas two
thousand year old manuscripts can still be interpreted. Despite the
promise of the new technology, digitization might ultimately be the enemy
of preservation. What solutions exist to the problems of obsolescence in
its various forms?

3. Are any standards starting to emerge? Are these overtaken as soon as
we begin to adopt them? We need to consider urgently the different
approaches in tagging, image formats, video and sound formats, compression

4. What is our relationship to 'edutainment'? We might feel that it is
irrelevant as we deal with more 'serious' matters, but this drives the
technology for better or worse, and it is an aspect of popular culture
which we need to examine. (For example, the influence on fiction writing of
interactive fiction and adventure games.)

5. Digitization and networking are challenging the printed word. What
impact will this have on the preservation and transmission of our cultural
resources across generations? Do the existing intellectual conventions of
Humanities scholarship meet the needs of the new media? What impact will
the new technologies have on academic research and publishing?

6. Are we trying to create a discipline of humanities computing? Or are
we trying to persuade humanists that their individual disciplines need to
change to accommodate to the demands of information technology? How do we
support them while the changes take place? They need funding, training,
theoretical underpinning. Where do we find the resources for the work we
need to do? How do scholars get the institutional credit for the work

7. Can we share experience, technical resources, trained personnel? Can
we establish a linked international consortium of humanities computing

During the Conference, there will be a display of Israeli software and
digitization projects relevant to Humanities research.



Dr Deian Hopkin, Dean, Faculty of Human Sciences, London Guildhall

Dr Peter Denley, Director, Centre for Humanities Computing, Queen Mary
and Westfield College, University of London

Dr Seamus Ross, Assistant Secretary (Information Technology) The British
Academy and Visiting Research Fellow in Humanities Computing and
Multimedia, London Guildhall University

Lou Burnard, Director, Oxford Text Archive, and European Editor, Text
Encoding Initiative

Dr Marilyn Deegan, Director, Office for Humanities Communication and CTI
Centre for Textual Studies, Oxford University

Dr Ruth Glynn, Chief Editor, Electronic Publishing, Oxford University Press

Sir Charles Chadwyck-Healey, Chairman, Chadwyck-Healey Ltd

Professor Kathryn Sutherland, Professor of Modern English, University of
Nottingham, and Director, Project Electra

Dr Michael Alexander, Document and Image Processing Manager, The British

Dr Eddy Higgs, Research Fellow, Wellcome Institute for the History of
Medicine, University of Oxford


Dr Allen Renear, Director, Scholarly Technology Group, Brown University,
Providence, Rhode Island

Professor John Unsworth, Director, Institute for Advanced Technology in
the Humanities, University of Virginia


Professor Andrew Armour, Faculty of Letters, Keio University, Tokyo.
Presently Honorary Research Fellow, Office for Humanities Communication


Dr Costis Dallas, Director, Foundation of the Hellenic World, Athens, Greece


Dr Yannick Maignien, Head of Digitizing Project, Bibliotheque National de
France (not confirmed)


Prof. Ya'akov Choueka, Bar-Ilan University

Dr. Tuvia Friling, Ben-Gurion University

Dr. Irit Keynan, Hagana Archives (not confirmed)

Mrs. Edna Mokady, Israel State Archives

Dr. Ronald W. Zweig, Tel Aviv University

Anyone interested in attending the conference described above (for which
there is no registration fee) should contact:

Dr Marilyn Deegan
Humanities Computing Initiative, Tel Aviv University
E-mail: marilyn@rambam.tau.ac.il

Anyone who is interested in the topic, but who cannot attend, might be
interested to know that the proceedings are to be published in the Office
for Humanities Communication series of publications. We are hoping that
the volume will be available by the end of 1995. To register your
interest, write to Marilyn Deegan at the above address until 11 June
1995, thereafter at marilyn@vax.ox.ac.uk.

Willard McCarty, Centre for Computing in the Humanities (Toronto)
(416) 978-3974 voice (416) 978-6519 fax mccarty@epas.utoronto.ca