[Humanist] 25.913 real vs digital?

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Wed Apr 25 08:56:25 CEST 2012

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 25, No. 913.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Wed, 25 Apr 2012 08:47:18 +0200
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: real vs digital

Recently I found myself in a hotel lift with a colleague who had 
attended the same conference but with whom I had not previously spoken. 
I asked him what he was working on, or interested in, or some such thing 
as that. He said, "I'm an historian -- not a digital historian but a 
*real* historian."

Too much can be made of such a remark, but it did characterise rather 
succinctly an attitude I found here and there at the conference and have 
encountered before. Contrariwise it can easily be turned aside, and so 
too little made of it. But I'd rather ask in this time of transition, 
from the status of unpersons (as those our kind once were frequently classed) 
to the coolest of academics, how we negotiate changing identities. In my 
conversation with this colleague in the time it took to descend from the 
6th to the ground floor I learned that he was at the conference because 
he is in charge of a major digitization project. I conclude that it was 
important to him in the moment of confrontation with one of the digirati 
to establish a distance between oldfashioned, pre-digitally affected 
history and all he associated with the digitization of historical 
materials. A moment of fear?

In any case, how do we make it clear to our colleagues that the 
situation is one of fluidity and hybridity, that taking positions and 
establishing boundaries only impedes the discovery/invention of the 
world coming into being? This is different from and more than the 
question of how one explains oneself in the lift or taxi. I suppose it 
is more like how one disperses the distorting fog that surrounds us.

Is this once again a manifestation of the effects of self-definition by 


Professor Willard McCarty, Department of Digital Humanities, King's
College London; Professor (fractional), University of Western Sydney;
Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews (www.isr-journal.org); Editor,
Humanist (www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist/); www.mccarty.org.uk/

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