20.256 but how healthy are we really?

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Sat, 14 Oct 2006 20:09:51 +0100

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 20, No. 256.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

         Date: Sat, 14 Oct 2006 19:59:12 +0100
         From: Edward Vanhoutte <edward.vanhoutte_at_kantl.be>
         Subject: But how healthy are we really?

It is curious to observe that there is indeed scarce quantitative
information on the administrative state of humanities computing and
digital humanities. Up to the late 1980s several surveys, directories
etc. of , for instance, projects, courses, software, text
repositories in the field of humanities computing were published in
Chum and on mailing lists. Partly because of the enormous evolution
of the field which made overlooking the field a tough job, and partly
because the increasing availibility of the WWW spread the false
impression that all information was available on-line, these efforts
to draw quantitative maps of humanities computing ceased to exist. No
directories of scholars active, no humanities computing yearbooks,
and no lists of available courses anymore.

The question whether humanities computing is in a healthy state
nowadays can only be answered from a historical perspective. Absolute
fugures don't tell us anything until they are related to earlier
fiigures which can show an upward or a downward trend. Much of these
earlier figures (or at least estimates) are available and have been
published. Current figures, however, remain, to my knowledge,
unpublished. That's why Melissa Terass' paper (Terras, 2006) is
important, because it does publish recent figures and provides an
analysis of them.

As far as courses in humanities computing are concerned, the Advanced
Computing in the Humanities thematic network project has produced a
thematic survey of computing in humanities education in seventeen
countries and identified the basis for a humanistic computer science
in 1999 (De Smedt et al., 1999). Also, the inventory of institutional
models for humanities computing (McCarty and Kirschenbaum, 2003) does
include some general guidance on the recent teaching of humanities
computing in the world. But surveys as the ones published in
Computers and the Humanities from 1971 to 1987 have not been pulished
since. The first survey referred to here was published in 1971 and
identified 28 computer courses for the humanist (Bowles, 1971). This
figure grew rapidly in the coming years: 35 courses in 1972 (De
Campo, 1972); 42 courses in 1974 (Allen, 1974); and 133 individual
courses and seven institutes or research groups that offered multiple
courses were listed in 1978 (Rudman, 1978). In 1987, Rudman listed
346 courses but added that the real figure might well be over 400 and
that more courses were planned to run in the following years (Rudman,
1987). How many (advanced) courses are offered nowadays? Nobody seems to know.

Is King's doing well with three PhD students in Digital Humanities in
2006? Probably, but in 1958, only a couple of miles or so away from
King's, two of Andrew D. Booth's PhD students at Birkbeck College,
Leonard Brandwood and John Cleave, may have been the first PhD
students in applying computers to the humanities, apart from
translation language problems. Leonard Brandwood worked on the
chronology and concordance of Plato's works (Booth et al., 1958, p.
50-65), and John Cleave on the mechanical transcription of Braille
(Booth et al., 1958, p. 97-109). An increase of 1 PhD candidate in
the field of computing in and for the humanities in half a century in
a city like London is hardly a healthy trend.

This is why we need chronologies and histories of humanities
computing(s). not only to understand the past, but to check our
current state of health.

Referenced works:

Allen, John R. (1974). The Development of Computer Courses for
Humanists. Computers and the Humanities, 8: 291-295.
Booth, A.D., Brandwood, L., and Cleave, J.P. (1958). Mechanical
resolution of linguistic problems. London: Butterworths Scientific
Bowles, Edmund A. (1971). Towards a Computer Curriculum for the
Humanities. Computers and the Humanities, 6/1: 35-38.
De Campo, Leila (1972). Computer Courses for the Humanist: A Survey.
Computers and the Humanities, 7/1: 57-62.
De Smedt, Koenraad, Gardiner, Hazel, Ore, Espen, Orlandi, Tito,
Short, Harold, Souillot, Jacques, and Vaughan, William (eds.) (1999).
Computing in Humanities Education. A European Perspective. Bergen:
University of Bergen.
McCarty, Willard, and Kirschenbaum, Matthew (2003). Institutional
Models for Humanities Computing. Literary and Linguistic Computing,
18/4: 465-489. On-line publication: <http://www.allc.org/imhc/>.
Rudman, Joseph (1978). Computer Courses for Humanists: A Survey.
Computers and the Humanities, 12: 253-279.
Rudman, Joseph (1987). Teaching Computers and the Humanities Courses:
A Survey. Computers and the Humanities, 21: 235-243.
Terras, Melissa (2006). Disciplined: Using Educational Studies to
Analyse 'Humanities Computing'. Literary and Linguistic Computing,
21/2: 229-246.


Edward Vanhoutte
Centrum voor Teksteditie en Bronnenstudie - CTB (KANTL)
Centre for Scholarly Editing and Document Studies
Associate Editor, Literary and Linguistic Computing
Koninklijke Academie voor Nederlandse Taal- en Letterkunde
Royal Academy of Dutch Language and Literature
Koningstraat 18 / b-9000 Gent / Belgium
tel: +32 9 265 93 51 / fax: +32 9 265 93 49
edward dot vanhoutte at kantl dot be
Received on Sat Oct 14 2006 - 21:25:05 EDT

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.2.0 : Sat Oct 14 2006 - 21:25:06 EDT