18.718 nomenclature?

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Tue, 19 Apr 2005 09:01:59 +0100

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 18, No. 718.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

         Date: Tue, 19 Apr 2005 08:59:28 +0100
         From: Melissa Terras <m.terras_at_ucl.ac.uk>
         Subject: Nomenclature

Dear Willard and all,

I've being doing some reading around the field of "Humanities Computing"
and I would like to ask members of Humanist about what they feel certain
names for our "discipline" imply. There seems to be various ways of
referring to what we do - both in teaching, and research: Humanities
Computing, Computing in the Humanities, Digital Humanities, Humanities
Informatics, Cultural and Heritage Informatics, Digital Resources in the
Humanities, Digital Resources for the Humanities, Literary and Linguistic
Computing, etc. I would like to explain what the wordings of these
different names suggest to me, and ask members of Humanist what their
thoughts are, which they prefer to use to describe what they do, and if
there are any that I have missed.

Humanities Computing: A complex juxtaposition of two distinct (and wide)
academic fields, which is almost an oxymoron, but makes a researcher in the
area appear to be straddling across two fields equally. This can raise
problems when trying to pigeonhole where the discipline fits (which is
important for teaching programs, and for funding streams?) but
nevertheless, gives the impression of an equality between the two, whilst
being Computing specifically applied to the Humanities. Because it is also
two academic terms, it seems to imply that this is a field of academic
research, and less geared towards the heritage industry or wider world?

Computing in the Humanities: similar to Humanities Computing, although this
seems to be a little reduced in its strength, given that it only refers to
computing that is happening within the humanities (whilst the above term
could imply any computational technique which may be applied to the

Digital Humanities: By removing the "computing" element, and replacing this
with digital, it seems to me to remove the process or techniques of
manipulating digital objects, and suggests that this is scholarship in the
Humanities which merely relies on digitised objects, or on making things
digital. It seems less strong a term than Humanities Computing to me, as it
implies that you do less with the digital objects: I see digital as being
slightly pejorative in this sense. Is this just me?

Humanities Informatics: Again, this has removed computing and focused on
informatics which is the management of information and thus meaning that
this is the management of Humanities data, and/or information. Is this a
less strong term? Or a more focussed one? Informatics also covers
management and storage of information -but is it a wide enough
computational term to embrace the type of research that goes on under our
weirdly shaped umbrella? Would certain types of "Humanities Computing" be
"Humanities Informatics", and some not? is it a specialism?

Cultural and Heritage Informatics: By not mentioning Humanities or
Computing, this to me disassociates from any academic field and seems to be
more applied in its focus within the Cultural and Heritage Industry. This
may be an applying for funding thing as it gives the air of being more
practical and focussed than just general terms. A political term for our
field, to be used in certain funding situations, or to explain how it can
be applied?

Digital Resources in the Humanities: Suggests that the people involved are
solely interesting in creating resources for the humanities - which may
imply they are not using advanced computational techniques to manipulate
them (or is this just a bias?) Are we only about the creation of resources,
or about the use, manipulation, development, and theorising about them too?

Digital Resources for the Humanities: Similar to the Digital Resources in
the Humanities, but there is something different in that in/for
distinction. "In" would imply to me that the producers are working within
the confines of the Humanities, "For" suggests that it is anyone making
digital data producing, in this case, a resource that can be used in the
Humanities - or do I read too much into it?

Literary and Linguistic Computing: A term used historically which now
doesn't encompass all that the wonderful world of using computing in the
arts and humanities can offer.

Am I reading too much into the language used in these terms -or are my
hunches applicable? Do readers of Humanist have a favoured term? Do we even
need a term that covers all that we do to define ourselves, or are we happy
with these amorphous labels? I would be interested in hearing what anyone
had to say.



Melissa M. Terras MA MSc DPhil
Lecturer in Electronic Communication
School of Library, Archive and Information Studies
Henry Morley Building
University College London
Gower Street

Tel: 020-7679-7206 (direct), 020-7679-7204 (dept), 020-7383-0557 (fax)
Email: m.terras_at_ucl.ac.uk
Web: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/slais/melissa-terras/
Received on Tue Apr 19 2005 - 04:10:59 EDT

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