[Humanist] 26.482 do we have something to say?

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Wed Nov 14 08:54:47 CET 2012

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 26, No. 482.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Tue, 13 Nov 2012 05:47:08 +0000
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: all the conversations

In a quiet moment early this morning I happened to pick up and read the 
first few pages of a fine book, Alison Winter's Memory: Fragments of a 
Modern History (Chicago, 2012). It's grist for a mill I am building. 
Those pages not only told me that I had not misspent my book allowance 
(self-allowed and unregulated :-) but once again reminded me of the 
situation in which we find ourselves as digital humanists. So, grist for 
this mill also.

These days it is often said that the digital humanities is the 
humanities' salvation. As I've perhaps commented before, I wonder in 
each case if the sayer has any idea at all what wonderful work is going 
on in these humanities, arm in arm as they are with the sciences, e.g. 
of memory. I do understand that institutionally the humanities are in 
trouble, but then higher education is in trouble as a whole -- caused by 
ignorance of purpose within and without. This ignorance is appalling, 
but I wonder whether it is a new phenomenon? More true of some 
disciplines than others? I suspect that a history of humanists' 
complaints would reveal a continuum of whinging ab ovo.

But what impresses me is simply how much good work is going on, and how 
much we have to learn. We in the digital humanities have recently 
entered a very large room in which many astonishing conversations are in 
progress -- such as about memory. Wouldn't you think, for example, that 
while we help to build these cultural memory archives we make ourselves 
aware of this work? Stop talking as if (to resort to a N American idiom) 
we are endlessly baking apple pies, each tastier than the last? The 
question is, do we have anything to say to the people in this room we 
have just entered, or are we (to adjust my food metaphor slightly) 
merely serving drinks and nibblies, listening in briefly, at best 
catching snatches of this or that conversation before quietly moving on?


Willard McCarty, FRAI / Professor of Humanities Computing & Director of
the Doctoral Programme, Department of Digital Humanities, King's College
London; Professor, School of Computing, Engineering and Mathematics,
University of Western Sydney; Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews
(www.isr-journal.org); Editor, Humanist
(www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist/); www.mccarty.org.uk/

More information about the Humanist mailing list