[Humanist] 25.475 complementarity?

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Tue Nov 15 06:38:16 CET 2011

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 25, No. 475.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Tue, 15 Nov 2011 05:34:16 +0000
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: complementarity

I want to use the word "complementarity" to qualify the relationship 
between digital technologies and the humanities but first must reverse 
the process by which it became the creature of quantum mechanics and 
return it to the simple, expansive sense of "a complementary 
relationship or situation". If you would, regard that reversal as having 

Now to the complementarity I want to ask about. A colleague just asked 
me in effect whether I thought we needed more of it in the digital 
humanities, to wit whether the relationship is not too often too 
one-way, from these technologies to the humanities rather than also from 
the humanities to them.

What do you think?

If you are about to jump in to assert that this is a perfect marriage (I 
issue a most open invitation), please supply evidence as specific as you 
can as to what the humanities have done for the technologies. I think we 
have enough of the other kind to last us for a while, or at least enough 
assertions that were one actually to look he or she could produce such 
evidence. (Do we believe that?)

I suspect that on the whole we are still so applications-orientated, 
perhaps also so stymied by the enormously difficult challenges coming 
from the humanities, that we tend not to think of what they contribute. 
I suspect that we still feel the need to promote digital tools and 
methods to our less techologically literate colleagues as once happened 
with wordprocessing. Nowadays it is not rarely said that the digital 
humanities might be a life-raft for the humanities as a whole. But why 
should scholars of principle think that? I for one would rather have 
them on my life-raft than have it sunk by a horde of opportunists.

In asking the question I mean *much* more than markup with XML. I want 
to ask, how do the interpretative demands of the humanities stimulate 
the transformation of the technologies -- or could if only we paid attention?


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/

More information about the Humanist mailing list