[Humanist] 23.647 events: at Yale (past), at the MLA (future)

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Sun Feb 21 14:14:23 CET 2010


Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 23, No. 647.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

[1]   From:    Olin Bjork <olin.bjork at gmail.com>                         (55)
Subject: MLA 2011 Special Session: Digital Humanism and English
Studies (deadline: 3/20/2010)

[2]   From:    "Willard McCarty" <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>        (27)
Subject: conference at Yale

--[1]------------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Thu, 18 Feb 2010 16:05:33 -0500
From: Olin Bjork <olin.bjork at gmail.com>
Subject: MLA 2011 Special Session: Digital Humanism and English Studies (deadline: 3/20/2010)

MLA 2011 Special Session (deadline: 3/20/2010)

Digital Humanism and English Studies

Humanism is traditionally defined as a philosophy that attaches
primary importance to humans, to their dignity, concerns, and
capabilities.  What happens when we include the digital in this
definition?  Is “digital humanism” an oxymoron?  Or is there room for
reconceiving the relationship between computing and knowledge
production--especially in, but not limited to, the discipline of
English studies--in a way that harnesses human potential in the
pursuit of humanistic ends?  The print revolution played an essential
role in the rise of Renaissance humanism.  Can the spread of computers
stimulate a digital humanism?

N. Katherine Hayles (1999) has argued that in this age of DNA,
computers, and artificial intelligence, information has lost its body
and the liberal humanist subject has given way to the “posthuman.”
Charles Traub and Jonathan Lipkin (2003) respond to this situation by
calling for the emergence of a “creative interlocutor” capable of
using computers to reinvent historical ways of interacting, thinking,
and creating that reinforce what makes us human.  Franco Moretti
(2005) argues that computation allows humanists to answer questions
that, due to their physical limitations as readers, could only be
asked before.

These viewpoints raise the question of whether we are reinventing the
human in the computer’s image or the computer in our own.
Disciplinarily speaking, has the move by English studies toward
computing moved it closer to or further from humanism?

In addition to the questions posed above, you may want to consider:

* What is digital humanism?  What is a digital humanist?

* What is the relationship between digital humanism and the digital humanities?

* How might digital humanism allow us to reconceive the humanities, in
particular the English studies discipline (both literary studies and
composition studies)?

* How might digital humanism allow us to reconceive the computer sciences?

* How does the emergence of the posthuman affect our notion of humanism?

* What is the relationship between digital humanism and the various
historical humanisms?

* How does the focus on the human element in product design contribute
to a conception of digital humanism?

* How does the view of computing as a socially embedded activity
contribute to a conception of digital humanism?

* How does the view of computing as a fundamentally rhetorical
activity contribute to a conception of digital humanism?

* What is the relationship between computing and the pursuit of
democracy and human rights?

* How has Matthew Arnold’s concept of culture as “the best that has
been thought and said” been affected by the digital computing
revolution?  Is there still room in digital humanism for the value of
human excellence?

* How has the poststructuralist view that humans are constructed by
and complicit in formations of power and ideology been affected by the
computer revolution?

Please send a 250-word abstract to John Pedro Schwartz js34 at aub.edu.lb
or Olin Bjork olin.bjork at lcc.gatech.edu by March 20, 2010.

The MLA Convention will be held between January 6-9, in 2011, in Los
Angeles, CA.

--[2]------------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Sun, 21 Feb 2010 12:51:11 -0000 (GMT)
From: "Willard McCarty" <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
Subject: conference at Yale

Yesterday, by generous invitation of the organizers, I attended "The Past's
Digital Presence" here at Yale (digitalhumanities.yale.edu/pdp/). This
conference was mostly by and for graduate students, though there were a few
of us about for whom graduate school is but a memory. To someone who has
spent his professional career working in various ways toward the realisation
of humanities computing as an institutionally recognised scholarly
discipline, this was quite an encouraging, indeed exhilirating experience.
Ed Ayres, historian and now President of the University of Richmond,
Virginia, summed up the moment by saying that he thought it might well prove
a watershed event in the history of our field in the U.S.

What impressed me most was the quality of the work by graduate students from
Yale and elsewhere. I treasure most the chance to witness their energies of
mind and critical intelligence applied to activities in the digital
humanities. Quite independently of the work us older ones have done for so
long, these students see the possibilities now visible and question them as
befits the humanities. We often bemoan the unthinking acceptance and
uncritical uses of computing in evidence all around us. Here was evidence of
an altogether different sort. Bravo!

I think what sticks in my mind most encouragingly of all is not just the
acts of critical questioning but the idealism which survives it: the
realisation that what really matters is enabling the "beginner's mind" of
scholarship, as a teacher of mine used to say (though he was speaking of
much more than scholarship). What matters even more than the assist to
professional scholarship, one presenter said, is the beginner's experience,
say of medieval manuscripts. If, as another said, the most important
engagements with computing are the simplest ones, then our job is to make
more of them simple. 

We can, I was told, look forward to a detailed record of the event once all
the dust has settled and those most involved have had a chance to recover.

Yours,WM

--
Professor Willard McCarty
staff.cch.kcl.ac.uk/~wmccarty/




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