The University of Southampton

InterFace keynote will ring the changes in digital humanities

Published: 
8 July 2009
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A 'strikingly modern partnership of equals' between computer science and the digital humanities will be called for by Professor Willard McCarty in a keynote address at InterFace 2009 on Thursday 9 July.

Professor McCarty, Professor of Humanities Computing at King's College London, will deliver a keynote entitled: 'Imagining the hunt: Cutting edge, collaborative, digitally human and reciprocal' at InterFace 2009, a symposium on cross-fertilisation between technology and the humanities, which will take place at the University of Southampton on 9 and 10 July.

As the title of his keynote suggests, Professor McCarty will ring the changes on the thematic elements of the conference - cutting edge research, collaborative work, the digital humanities and their interrelations with computer science.

In terms of 'cutting edginess', he will highlight the uneasy and uncertain effects of progress in the humanities. He will suggest that together computer science and the digital humanities nevertheless have the opportunity of creating a 'trading zone'. Both disciplines, he will argue, are well equipped in their own right, but each needs to understand the other’s ways of questioning and to recognise how its own questions can become in the other’s context daring, exciting and relevant - not simply useful.

He will go on to sketch a working definition of 'digital humanities' as exemplified in the Centre for Computing in the Humanities at King’s College London. Nevertheless, he will suggest, there is considerable uncertainty world-wide about how to negotiate relations between computing and the humanities. Despite the fact that humanistic research has been done with computing since 1949, there are still no widely accepted institutional models for the digital humanities, hence no standard ways of getting computer scientists and humanists together. Close attention needs to be paid to what the disciplines on both sides want to achieve and how in each institutional circumstance they are to do that, he will argue.

In terms of 'reciprocity', Professor McCarty, citing Leibniz’s dream of uniting empirics and theoreticians, will argue that: ‘Changing what needs to be changed, this dream provides an appealing vision of wholeness for which humanists and computer scientists could strive – a strikingly modern partnership of equals, no one on a pedestal, no one calling all the shots. It seems to me that the contributions each [group] has to give to the other are sufficiently attractive as easily to make a strong case for institutional as well as individual action.’

For further information contact Joyce Lewis; tel.+44(0)23 8059 5453

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