[Humanist] 28.53 losing the plot by digital means

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Mon May 26 00:05:54 CEST 2014

                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 28, No. 53.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Sun, 25 May 2014 11:50:33 +1000
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: losing the plot by digital means, or here is some criticism for digital humanities

Alan Liu has asked, "Where is the cultural criticism in the digital 
humanities?" (Debates in the Digital Humanities, ed. Gold). I've 
modified this question slightly but, I would argue, improved it by a 
simplifying enlargement: "where is the (indigenous) criticism in 
digital humanities?". Last year Tim Hitchcock, Professor at 
Hertfordshire and co-director of the Old Bailey Online, published 
the sort of criticism I wish we had more of: "Confronting the Digital: 
or How Academic History Writing Lost the Plot", in Cultural and 
Social History 10.11. I quote here the abstract:

> This discussion piece argues that the design and structure of online
> historical resources and the process of search and discover embodied
> within them create a series of substantial problems for historians.
> Algorithm-driven discovery and misleading forms of search, poor OCR,
> and all the selection biases of a new edition of the Western print
> archive have changed how we research the past, and the underlying
> character of the object of study (inherited text). This piece argues
> that academic historians have largely failed to respond effectively
> to these challenges and suggests that while they have preserved the
> form of scholarly good practice, they have ignored important
> underlying principles.

Commentary most welcome.


Willard McCarty (www.mccarty.org.uk/), Professor, Department of Digital
Humanities, King's College London, and Research Group in Digital
Humanities, University of Western Sydney

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