Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 15, No. 558.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
Date: Mon, 01 Apr 2002 11:53:11 +0100
From: "Domenico Fiormonte" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: A letter for Humanist
I would like to call your attention to three recent and in my opinion
important publications in the field of Humanties Computing (or *Humanities
Computer Science*, as rightly proposed by ACO*HUM in 1999):
1) Jos Antonio Milln, *Internet y el Espaol*, Madrid: Fundacin
2) Raul Mordenti, *Informatica e critica dei testi*, Roma: Bulzoni, 2001.
3) Rolando Minuti, *Internet et le mtier dhistorien*, Paris: PUF, 2002.
As you can see, all three publications come from the Romance linguistic
community, namely French, Italian, Spanish. But linguistic roots, as I will
try to explain later, are not the only features they have in common.
*Internet y el Espaol*, among other things, is a political manifesto on
the policies of language on the Internet, and a humanistic-concerned
perspective on the role (and power) of language industries in the shaping
of the future communications tools: mobile phones and multi-editing
platforms, but also translation software, search engines, etc. Millan
[www.jamillan.com] points out the importance for Spanish, but also for
other languages of building language instruments at the local level. This
can be done both at institutional and educational levels, for example by
creating new and specific university curricula, but also by stimulating
goverments to protect national languages from indiscriminate exploitation.
According to Millan, there is a risk in ignoring the linguistic hegemony of
a handful of multinational industries: that we will have to pay foreign
companies for using our language. Not highly improbable, I would say, if
we look at the current policies of Microsoft.
*Informatica e critica dei testi* (Computers and Textual Criticism)
collects some of the best essays I ever read on the theory and practice of
electronic philology. Raul Mordenti [University of Rome II], a Boccaccio
expert, is a member of the historical literary computing group founded in
the 80s by Tito Orlandi at the University of Rome La Sapienza. This group
has been reflecting on the problems of digital edition and text encoding
since 1980 (see the volume edited in 1987 by another member of the team,
the late Giuseppe Gigliozzi, and published in the same series: *Studi di
codifica e trattamento automatico di testi*, Roma: Bulzoni).
If you read a little Italian, youll be delighted by the clear, elegant
prose of Mordenti. Although not equally known (he published only in
Italian), Raul stands among other pioneers of digital textual criticism in
reading his essays, I cant help thinking of Peter Robinsons philological
rigour and Jerome McGanns innovative (and someone might also say
heretical) critical approach.
The third book on my list, *Internet et le mtier dhistorien* (*Internet
and the job of the Historian*), shares many of the good points already
mentioned: clarity of style and rigour of thought above all. This volume
appears in the new important series of the Presses Universitaires de
France, Ecritures lectroniques. Modestly presented as an introduction to
the Internet for the historian, Minutis work is much more than that: it is
a profound, documented analysis on the impact of new technologies on the
intellectual work, and it is a reflection on the scholarly author in the
era of digital archives and dynamic electronic sources. Minuti discusses
the uses of the Internet for scholarly publishing, and the problems of
evaluation and academic recognition involved an area to which he brings
his experience with the newly forged Florence University Press.
Rolando Minuti is Professor of Modern History at the University of
Florence, and with other colleagues has implemented in 1998 one of the
first postgraduate programme on History and Computing, a pilot educational
project fairly unique in Italy and abroad.
The University of Florence is about to launch the new Italian potsgraduate
programme in *Informatica per le discipline umanistiche*. But what does it
mean exactly? Well, thanks to the recent university reform in Italy we now
have a complete two-years course in Humanities Computer Science recognized
at national level. This means that any university in the country dont
forget we have a State-led educational system, and everything must be
decided and negotiated at national level can implement this course, and if
necessary adjust the core curriculum to local requirements and demands.
And this is not all. Underway, the small but pugnacious HC Italian
community is struggling for the *official* recognition of the Informatica
Umanistica as a national subject that can be taught also at graduate level.
This would imply a major revolution in the HC scenario: as far as I know,
it would be the first time and not just in Europe that a Full Professor
of Humanities Computing can be appointed by a university! No more
dictatorship of other disciplines; no more academic Cinderellas: HC as a
real *academic subject*!
SOME PERSONAL NOTES
This piece of good news allows me to introduce some ideas regarding the
European HC curriculum, ideas and also concerns I have been discussing with
many friends (especially during past sessions of CLiP or within the CHIME
project [for more info on this initiative see
It is not very often that we read on Humanist about books published in
languages other than English. I have found this situation sometimes
frustrating, sometimes irritating, but more often just very sad (and this
is not the first time I am writing about it), as I think that linguistic
and cultural diversity are a key factor to the successful development of
But publications are not the only problem. An incredible amount of work,
both practical and theoretical (of which the above mentioned publications
are one of the less evident results) has been done in Continental Europe in
the last ten years. I can easily point here to papers presented at CLiP
2001 [http://www.uni-duisburg.de/FB3/CLiP2001/], for example the excellent
contribution of Manfred Thaller.
But it is hard to find any trace of this debate in some conferences
officially dedicated to the subject. I dont know why this is happening.
Lack of linguistic competence? cultural shock? Who knows.
A clear example is the recent meeting of Alberta (Nov 2001). Only six (6)
out of thirty-five (35) papers were presented by scholars coming from
Europe, and of these six people, only two or three were coming from
non-English speaking countries. Not enough, in my opinion, to give such a
universal title to the conference: Humanities Computing Curriculum
Conference. Whatever the organizers intentions were (and I am sure they
all had very good intentions), the HC curruculum in North America and the
UK would have been perhaps more realistic.
Of course I am not trying here to accuse the meeting of Alberta of HC
Imperialism, and far be it from me to critique Humanist I have too much
respect and esteem for all the members of this list and its moderator.
However, Id like to urge all members of the international HC community to
pay more attention to people, events and publications coming from places
different from UK, North America and other English-speaking countries.
Possibly, it is time to create something like a Southern branch of the
ACH, or may be we need a whole new association for professionals and
researchers coming from other areas of Europe. I dont have any solution
ready in my mind, and I would like to discuss this with you. But I know
many colleagues share similar concerns when I say that non-English
Humanities Computing research and scholarship have been not consistently
and fairly represented in official publications and events.
Professore a contratto
Universit di Roma II / Universit di Roma La Sapienza
Dr Willard McCarty, Senior Lecturer,
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London,
Strand, London WC2R 2LS, U.K.,
+44 (0)20 7848-2784, ilex.cc.kcl.ac.uk/wlm/,
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