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Humanist Archives: Oct. 15, 2019, 8:04 a.m. Humanist 33.318 - what we're not ready for?

                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 33, No. 318.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                   Hosted by King's Digital Lab
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        Date: 2019-10-14 07:19:19+00:00
        From: Willard McCarty 
        Subject: what we're not ready for

[This posting should have preceded the one I just contributed, but 
somehow it has not. Forgive the out-of-sequence commentary. --WM]

A few days ago, 9 October to be exact, I used a comment Jerome Bruner
made about the maturity of cognitive psychology in turn to ask about the
maturity of digital humanities. To ask what we in digital humanities are
"not quite ready for" (Bruner's words) is to probe our awareness of
problems that belong to us, that constitute our own proper field of
study. In the back of my mind was, and is, Northrop Frye's argument in
the "Polemical Introduction" to Anatomy of Criticism that "the absence
of systematic criticism has created a power vacuum, and all the
neighboring disciplines have moved in". Another way of saying somewhat
the same thing is that interdisciplinary research, to which a
methodological field like ours is committed, requires a discipline from
which to be interdisciplinary. To ask after the problems we are not yet
ready for, problems that we cannot ignore because they are important and
will otherwise be ignored or treated incompletely or badly, is to ask
the still unanswered question, what is digital humanities? A kind of
sociology? Cultural studies? Philosophy? Or is something emerging that
looks sort of like these, and others, but has its own agenda? Nothing
wrong with being an amalgam, like computer science.

The comment of mine that got Vika Zafrin to reply was to the effect that
a good answer to the above cannot simply be helping others, though one
learns a lot from doing that. I did not intend to imply that helping
others is not a good thing or a worthy way to spend one's time, nor that 
this often follows from involvement of digital humanities (whatever it is) 
in the research of sociologists, cultural critics, literary scholars et al. 
Service is fundamental to reprocity, and reciprocity is what keeps the 
whole show going. But to serve well without being merely a servant -- 
a role our machines are quickly assuming -- one has to have something to 
give. In our case, what is it?


Willard McCarty (www.mccarty.org.uk/),
Professor emeritus, Department of Digital Humanities, King's College
London; Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews
(www.tandfonline.com/loi/yisr20) and Humanist (www.dhhumanist.org)

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