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"Is Humanities Computing an Academic Discipline?"

September 16, 1999 -- Faculty and graduate students with an interest in technology will meet on Fridays throughout the Fall semester in an attempt to answer the question "Is Humanities Computing an Academic Discipline?"

The traditional scholarly fields that comprise the humanities have, over the last decade, become increasingly involved with information technology, and humanities computing has begun to present itself as a discipline in its own right. In more local terms, the University of Virginia is already internationally recognized as a leader in the field of humanities computing, but at present the University offers no graduate (or undergraduate) degree in this field.

Participants in this fall's seminar will discuss the nature of humanities computing (Is it, in fact, a field of scholarly inquiry?) and whether the University should offer a degree program in it. The seminar ties into activities already underway in the University's Libraries (in particular, the Library Digital Centers), its division of Information Technology and Communication (in particular, the Teaching + Technology Initiative), its individual departments and Colleges, and several of its research institutes (in particular, the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities and the Virginia Center for Digital History).

Moreover, it continues, in a narrower and more sustained discussion, the Faculty Senate's 1998-99 discussion of information technology's impact on the University. Eight outside visitors have agreed to participate in the seminar by presenting essays for discussion:

  • Espen Aarseth, Dept. of Humanistic Informatics, University of Bergen
  • Lou Burnard, Humanities Computing Unit, Oxford University
  • Susan Hockey, Department of English and Canadian Institute for Research Computing in Arts, University of Alberta, Edmonton
  • Stuart Moulthrop, Communications Design, University of Baltimore
  • Willard McCarty, Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College, London
  • John Nerbonne, Humanities Computing, University of Groningen
  • Geoffrey Rockwell, Humanities Computing Center, McMaster University
  • John Slatin, Department of English, University of Texas at Austin

These outside participants are each connected with programs that teach humanities computing as an academic discipline at the University level.

They approach this discipline from a fairly broad range of perspectives:

Espen Aarseth has a recent book from Johns Hopkins on considerations of genre in electronic texts and games;

Lou Burnard is Manager of the Humanities Computing Unit at Oxford University Computing Services and the European Editor for the Text Encoding Initiative, which produced the markup standard most widely used in encoding literary and linguistic texts;

Susan Hockey was the first director at the Center for Electronic Texts in the Humanities and was for 13 years the chair of the Association for Literary and Linguistic Computing, and she is currently providing technical direction for the Orlando Project, a history of women's writing in the British Isles;

Stuart Moulthrop is a theorist, historian, and author of hypertext, internationally known for his own hypertext fiction, and editor of the oldest electronic journal in the humanities;

William McCarty is a classicist and long-time host of the oldest and largest email discussion group in the humanities, Humanist; Nerbonne's background and interests are in linguistic computing;

Geoffrey Rockwell's training is in philosophy; Slatin is in the English Department at University of Texas at Austin, and is well known in the computers and writing community. The seminar will meet in Clemons Library from eleven to one o'clock on Fridays throughout the Fall semester.

A web site, at, contains more detailed schedule information, as well as background readings, meeting minutes, contact information and related links.

The seminar will continue into the Spring semester with three panels on teaching, research, and employment in the field of humanities computing.

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: please contact the Office of University Relations at (804) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (804) 924-7550.
SOURCE: U.Va. News Services


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