[Humanist] 24.455 digital humanities and the cuts

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Tue Nov 2 11:46:45 CET 2010

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 24, No. 455.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Mon, 1 Nov 2010 08:47:44 +0000
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: Work on a modest scale

Given the dim prospects for funding and for new academic jobs in most
(though not all) parts of the world reached by Humanist, it would seem to me
practical to ask what can be done without institutional resources.
Admittedly there is much that cannot. As in most (but not all) of the
sciences, there are certain kinds of projects which simply require a
collaborative team of people all of whose salaries need to be paid. Other
projects are impossible without considerable stretches of uninterrupted,
untroubled time. But devotion to the work finds a way, in bits and scraps of
time as these become available, with kinds of research that can be done in
them, by oneself, using all that free brain-power we let go unused. I think
we should be asking, what problems have we been ignoring that we can now
turn our attention to? What have we been *prevented* from doing by former
luxuries? How could current technologies be better deployed to help? If
choices have to be made, how can the least expensive kinds of work be

Years ago I found myself in a job that did not allow time for the research I
had been trained to do. So I was forced to make use of every available
moment, on public transport, in the doctor's waiting room and so forth, for
reading, note-taking, writing, editing. You might say I discovered then what
Pliny the Elder realized millennia ago, that if one wishes to accomplish
great things in scholarship every available moment must be utilised. Mobile
technologies have subsequently provided us with numerous options for work
under less than ideal circumstances, but these technologies are driven by
kinds of work very different from our own and in consequence are seldom a
perfect fit. So, in addition to everything else we can observe what's
happening e.g. as we take notes on the bus and feed experiences back to the
developers of software.     

I suppose all this is really to ask, what matters to us most -- and what
really matters to those for whose benefit we are working in the long-term?
How under changed circumstances can we best continue?



Professor Willard McCarty

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