[Humanist] 24.308 designing an academic DH department

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Thu Sep 2 22:33:45 CEST 2010

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 24, No. 308.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Wed, 01 Sep 2010 22:58:20 +0100
        From: John Levin <john at anterotesis.com>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 24.303 designing an academic DH department
        In-Reply-To: <20100901002353.1769165C07 at woodward.joyent.us>

On 01/09/2010 01:23, Humanist Discussion Group wrote:
>                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 24, No. 303.
>           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
>                         www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
>                  Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
>          Date: Wed, 01 Sep 2010 10:21:42 +1000
>          From: Willard McCarty<willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
>          Subject: designing a digital humanities department
> My speculative question about what sort of digital humanities department
> we might want elicited 4 responses. Allow me to summarize these here.
> All four of the responses argued for or assumed that the department
> would comprise both technical, academic-related staff and those with
> established academic posts. Bob Amsler, in 24.283, put forth a cogent
> argument for having both groups in the same department: "a department
> involving the two groups in a sort of equality such that the computer
> people could have their own discussions, plans, etc. for the advancement
> of the computer's role in developing capabilities in the humanities and
> the digital humanists could have their own agenda for the humanities
> that involved using computer tools". Claire Chavez, in the same number,
> simply assumed this would be the case, as I would, since it seems now
> quite obviously the way to go. Both Amsler and Darren James Harkness, in
> 24.288, specified ratios of technical to non-technical staff. Julianne
> Nyhan, in 24.288, gave a brief but strong argument for a chair whose
> primary role would be to talk to the public outside the academy and to
> those in other disciplines -- a St Paul to the techno-humanistically
> unaware.
> Julianne's imagined chair denotes a role I have had for years, so you
> might expect me to agree with her enthusiastically. But my agreement is
> based more on the experience of doing the job and the conviction that we
> have a vital role to play in the future of the academy and our
> societies, indeed a crucial one. We are *already* out in the public
> sphere, already on the loose in the disciplines, so we had better be
> able to explain what motivates us and why we deserve respect and our
> salaries. In some countries the time has already come when justification
> (a.k.a. a "business case") is required. For the others I would guess
> that it's just around the corner.
> Comments?
> Yours,
> W

Perhaps one can also think a little less formally about the activities 
of an academic DH dept. An important part of the new DH centre at UCL 
(University College London) has been the relaxed discussions around 
'Decoding Digital Humanities'
that have been taken up in Melbourne too:

They offer a meeting point for the interested, from within and without 
the department (and the university), to share different ideas and 
approaches. This helps to 'embed' the department in the intellectual 
life of the university (and beyond),and share intellectual resources. 
Plus it's cheap.*

* Can depend on the pub.

(nb: I'm not a part of the UCL dept, but a happy participant in the DDH 

John Levin

John Levin

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