16.447 report on Computer Science and the Humanities Conference 17-18/1/03

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk)
Date: Wed Jan 29 2003 - 02:32:06 EST

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                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 16, No. 447.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                         Submit to: humanist@princeton.edu

             Date: Wed, 29 Jan 2003 07:12:03 +0000
             From: NINCH-ANNOUNCE <david@ninch.org>
             Subject: Computer Science & Humanities Conference: Press Release;
    Reports and papers Available Shortly

    News on Networking Cultural Heritage Resources
    from across the Community
    Monday January 27, 2003

                  Humanities Scholars, Scientists, and Engineers
         Explore Common Ground in the New World of Digital Technology

         Transforming Disciplines: Computer Science and the Humanities Conference
                                Held January 17-18, 2003

                      Full Report and Papers Available Shortly

    For Immediate Release: January 27, 2003
    Humanities Scholars, Scientists, and Engineers Explore Common Ground in the
    New World of Digital Technology
    Humanities scholars, museum administrators, librarians, publishers,
    computer and information scientists, technologists, and engineers met at
    the National Academies in Washington, DC, January 17-18, 2003, to celebrate
    pioneering models of scholarship that employ digital technology and to
    address the considerable challenges to further progress.

    As the conference, "Transforming Disciplines: Computer Science and the
    Humanities," convened, William Wulf (National Academy of Engineering)
    suggested that humanists and engineers shared the problem of creating
    "macro scale" systems out of billions of minuscule components - with
    unpredictable results. If humanists could resolve this problem for
    themselves and for engineers, they would usher in a revolution comparable
    to the development of Einstein's theories and quantum mechanics at the
    beginning of the twentieth century. The necessity - and revolutionary
    potential - of cooperative working relationships between humanists and
    computer scientists and engineers, and the notion that they might be able
    to help answer essential questions in each other's disciplines, became an
    important theme of the conference.

    Presenters included historians, classicists, art historians, engineers,
    media studies professors, computer scientists, and representatives of
    cultural and educational institutions. Will Thomas (University of Virginia)
    discussed his work with the American Historical Review to create a new
    genre of scholarship, playfully titled "a work formerly known as an article."

    In the related arenas of teaching and textbook publishing, Richard Baraniuk
    (Rice University) offered an ambitious vision of the cooperative
    development of a "commons of free teaching materials," based on the
    collaborative model of Linux software development.

    Taking advantage of the computer as a visual medium, art historian Stephen
    Murray (Columbia University) presented a graphic simulation of the
    construction of Amiens Cathedral, and Douglas Greenberg (Survivors of the
    Shoah Visual History Foundation) gave conference participants a glimpse of
    the complexities of indexing and making accessible the videotaped
    testimonies of more than 52,000 survivors of the Holocaust.

    All of the projects examined during the conference demonstrated both the
    rich possibilities and the limits of current technology and led to
    speculation about new tools, training, and shifts in disciplinary thinking
    that might allow more fruitful relationships between the humanities and
    computer science. Participants frequently returned to the problem of
    inertia within disciplines-particularly in expectations for promotion and
    tenure, minimal training in technology for graduate students, and the lack
    of adequate cooperation with university libraries and librarians.

    Resisting the general tide of multi- and cross-disciplinarity, Michael
    Joyce (Vassar College) sounded a call in favor of the traditional
    disciplines and the need to explore all that is not known within those
    disciplinary bounds-to "husband doubt, rather than suffocating in
    knowingness." Janet Murray (Georgia Institute of Technology) argued that
    perhaps lack of total understanding between computer specialists and
    humanists is useful, creating a space of play and adaptation in which both
    are able to formulate overly ambitious-and creatively valuable-projects.

    By the time the meeting adjourned, participants had developed a wish list
    of new tools, training, and cooperation, but recognized that they must
    balance the desire to experiment creatively with the constraints of
    existing tools and models, limited departmental support, and looming cuts
    in federal, state, university, and foundation budgets.

    "Transforming Disciplines: Computer Science and the Humanities" evolved
    from the 1997 Computer Science and Humanities Initiative and a subsequent
    September 2000 workshop that began exploring cross-disciplinary
    cooperation. The Initiative is supported by the American Council of Learned
    Societies (ACLS), the Coalition for Networked Information (CNI), the
    National Initiative for a Networked Cultural Heritage (NINCH), the National
    Academies, and Princeton and Rice Universities and is funded by generous
    grants from the Carnegie Corporation.
    More information about the Computing and Humanities Initiative is available
    on the NINCH Web site <http://www.ninch.org/programs/science/>. The
    conference Web site <http://carnegie.rice.edu> will soon include more
    detailed information about the presenters and links to a variety of digital
    humanities projects.


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