Humanist Discussion Group

Humanist Archives: Jan. 8, 2022, 8:04 a.m. Humanist 35.447 - historical self-awareness?

              Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 35, No. 447.
        Department of Digital Humanities, University of Cologne
                      Hosted by DH-Cologne
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        Date: 2022-01-08 07:59:13+00:00
        From: Willard McCarty <>
        Subject: history of computing in the humanities?

The history of technology is a thriving subject and, though considered
by some as a 'grubby' subject in comparison to the history of science,
it has attracted much intellectually stimulating work. The history of
computing has not fared so well. I suspect (but would welcome
contradiction) that historian Michael Mahoney's sentence in “Issues in
the History of Computing” (1996) remains true to this day:

> The major problem is that we have lots of answers but very few
> questions, lots of stories but no history, lots of things to do but
> no sense of how to do them or in what order. Simply put, we don’t yet
> know what the history of computing is really about.

(For more see his 2011 collection of papers ed. Thomas Haigh, Histories
of Computing , 2011.)

The problem, I suspect, is much worse for digital humanities, or
computing in the humanities by any other name -- worse because we do not
have a Mahoney at work (or do we?), and worse because our field, or
concatenation of fields, carries the term 'humanities' in it, hence the
obligation to be historically self-aware.

I though of 'history' this morning as the first answer to a question I
asked myself and now you all: what courses in digital humanities would
you most like to see that are not currently taught?


Willard McCarty,
Professor emeritus, King's College London;
Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews;  Humanist

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