19.731 computer science, the humanities and humanities computing?

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Wed, 26 Apr 2006 07:28:29 +0100

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 19, No. 731.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

         Date: Wed, 26 Apr 2006 07:08:49 +0100
         From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
         Subject: computer science, the humanities and humanities computing

Since the early 1970s there have been a number of speculations about
a relationship between computer science and the humanities, e.g. by
Jean-Claude Gardin, Nancy Ide, Christian Koch, Robert Oakman, Tito
Orlandi, Manfred Thaller and others. In the US, the National Research
Council has sponsored two major reports that touch on the
possibilities, Computing the Future (1992) and Beyond Productivity
(2003), and a Roundtable Meeting (1997) which resulted in Computing
and the Humanities (1998), published by the American Council of
Learned Societies. The US National Initiative for a Networked
Cultural Heritage (NINCH) held a Building Blocks Workshop in 2003,
again to explore the relationship. In Europe the British Library has
published Interpretation in the Humanities: Perspectives from
Artificial Intelligence, ed. Richard Ennals and Jean-Claude Gardin
(1990) and the Advanced Computing in the Humanities (ACO*HUM) project
has produced the book Computing in Humanities Education: A European
Perspective (1999) identifying the basis for what in several European
languages is more easily called a humanities computing "science". My
own book, Humanities Computing (Palgrave, 2005), has a chapter that
explores computer science in order to clarify the relationship with
humanities computing. This year, the US Commission on
Cyberinfrastructure for the Humanities and Social Sciences is
concluding its work -- a draft report is now in circulation; unlike
the earlier US reports, its focus is on what the humanities can gain,
a relationship with CS is mentioned (by my count, 5 times). Later
this year, at the University of New Brunswick, the Canadian Symposium
for Text Analysis (CaSTA -- not to be confused, as Google does, with
supermodel Laetitia Casta) is holding a conference dedicated to the
topic, with an unsurprising emphasis on textual computing: Breadth of
Text: A Joint Computer Science and Humanities Computing Conference,
at the University of New Brunswick.

Significant, I think, is the fact that at the CaSTA conference this
October, members of the concluding panel (which includes me) have
been asked to make provocative statements as to our perceptions of
how the two research areas can inform each other. Apparently a
question-mark remains the most prominent aspect of the putative relationship.

This note has two purposes. My first purpose is to ask you kindly to
supply references to any discussions of this relationship that I have
somehow overlooked. Indeed, if you think from looking at this list
that I am asking the wrong question, please say so. My second purpose
is to urge anyone involved in collaborations between computer
scientists and humanists, including humanities computing
practitioners, to write about what is happening or has recently
happened, or to attract those who will analyze and theorize the
collaborations, e.g. PhD students from the social sciences. If you
are in possession of unpublished writings on the topic and are
willing to send them to me, then I would be very grateful.

In addition to the above, that is, I am in the process of cataloguing
a number of untheorized but very interesting collaborations of
computer scientists, scholars in the humanities and humanities
computing practitioners, so that my own speculations will be better
informed. The question I am asking is, I think, a bit different, more
of a philosophical enquiry. It is, rather, that given the basic
tendencies and inclinations both of computer science and of the
humanities, what kinds of developments might actually be worth
pursuing? Raiding parties from CS are to be expected but from my
point of view not very interesting. I want to know about new ways of
thinking and working that may be of long-term value to us.

Thanks very much for any suggestions.


Dr Willard McCarty | Reader in Humanities Computing | Centre for
Computing in the Humanities | King's College London | Kay House, 7
Arundel Street | London WC2R 3DX | U.K. | +44 (0)20 7848-2784 fax:
-2980 || willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk www.kcl.ac.uk/humanities/cch/wlm/
Received on Wed Apr 26 2006 - 02:50:33 EDT

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.2.0 : Wed Apr 26 2006 - 02:50:34 EDT