[Humanist] 23.9 events: Seminar in Humanities Computing, 14 May

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Fri May 8 07:05:14 CEST 2009

                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 23, No. 9.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Thu, 7 May 2009 06:00:13 -0700 (PDT)
        From: tamara.lopez at kcl.ac.uk
        Subject: Seminar in Humanities Computing: 14 May, 1pm

Harvey Quamen (University of Alberta) 

Digital + Humanities = Humanism 2.0

14 May (Thursday, 1 p.m.)
CCH Seminar room, 26–29 Drury Lane

For the past eight years, I’ve taught courses in both the University of Alberta’s Humanities Computing program and its English Department, introducing students to everything from cyberpunk novels to cultural theories of the Internet to database design and web scripting with Perl and PHP. Humanities students can be notoriously technophobic, and the student response to learning new technologies -- often as simple as web design, or the philosophy of open source software, or even just elementary XML -- has ranged from enthusiasm to downright vitriol.

I’ll discuss several “case studies” of teaching the digital arts to Humanities students: 1) my own experiences teaching our Humanities Computing program’s course on database design and web scripting; 2) teaching XML to a graduate English course on “Editing Texts”; 3) teaching an undergraduate course on Internet Culture (in which I required my students to cite Wikipedia); and 4) being a technical editor for O’Reilly Press’s recent publication, Head First PHP & MySQL.. Over the years, I’ve accumulated some pedagogical rules of thumb that, with some hearty discussion, might eventually pass as an elementary set of “best practices.”

I’ll end on a more philosophical point -- namely, that introducing digital technologies into our humanities courses does indeed change, wholly and radically, what we mean by the “humanities.”  The old humanism -- known by its emphasis on the discrete individual, on the progressive amelioration of society, on the sanctity of subjective experience -- cannot remain unchanged as our work increasingly embraces digital technologies. My suggestion is that the Humanities are evolving into something new and that the future success of our Digital Humanities programs may well depend upon our ability to teach our own awareness of that transformation alongside our new technologies..


Harvey Quamen (PhD Penn State) specializes in science studies, cyberculture, and Modern and Postmodern literature. One of his works-in-progress, Becoming Artificial: H.G. Wells and the Scientific Discourses of Modernism, examines the early science fiction writer H.G. Wells as a crucial figure in the transformation of our conceptions of "artificiality" from nineteenth-century evolutionary theory to twentieth-century cyberculture and artificial intelligence. He is also working on a textbook that teaches the web technologies PHP and MySQL to humanities students. Other current interests include representations of science in popular culture, Internet Culture and web scripting languages. He is currently a Visiting Fellow at the Centre for Computing in the Humanities at King's College, London.

Tamara Lopez
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
26-29 Drury Lane, London WC2B 5RL (UK), t: +44 (0)20 78481237

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