Focussing the debates in DH

I am involved in several Digital Humanities field-building type activities, which are a lot of fun. These involve Association work, conference event organisation, publishing and presentation work, and some development work. As the field of Digital Humanities is wide open in Australia, it is a reasonably exciting time to contribute to the debates that will lead it in a fruitful direction. However, it is essential to get the arguments right. If the ideas aren’t improper, we could be set back for years.

By ‘getting the debates right’, I mean positioning our arguments for computing within the history of humanities computing. Like any field, the statements advance through trial and error. Computing in the humanities has never really been about delivery, yet some still propose this as an argument (the tired ‘convenience’ argument). I am re-visiting the Companion to Digital Humanities (Schreibman, Siemens, Unsworth, 2005). It outlines the field’s history over 50 years (and there are some significant contributions to general computing from our area). Still, no field exists to serve other fields. Humanities computing exists to discover new things about the world, as all fields do. Lots don’t necessarily exist to serve other areas but to challenge different areas. Humanities computing challenges many assumptions in the broader humanities, so we must get our arguments right. Arguments are what we all have in common.



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