Humanist Discussion Group

Humanist Archives: Nov. 7, 2022, 8:32 a.m. Humanist 36.243 - why Humanist

              Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 36, No. 243.
        Department of Digital Humanities, University of Cologne
                      Hosted by DH-Cologne
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    [1]    From: Enrica Salvatori <>
           Subject: Re: [Humanist] 36.238: why Humanist? (83)

    [2]    From: Alan Liu <>
           Subject: Re: [Humanist] 36.238: why Humanist? (56)

        Date: 2022-11-06 21:10:33+00:00
        From: Enrica Salvatori <>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 36.238: why Humanist?

Dear William,

your exhortation is so beautiful. Thank you.
I have the impression that the Digital Humanities have now made the first and
second (the third?) halfway point, they have “grew up" for better or for worse.
This mean they are full into a process of disciplinary closure that "in itself"
inhibits debates like the ones you want.

Am I wrong?

Enrica Salvatori

Medieval History
Digital Public History
University of Pisa


             Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 36, No. 238.
       Department of Digital Humanities, University of Cologne
                     Hosted by DH-Cologne

       Date: 2022-11-05 07:31:20+00:00
       From: Willard McCarty
       Subject: Humanist

There are likely but a very few here who have been in Humanist since the
beginning, in 1987, and only a few more long enough to understand its
role in establishing what we now call digital humanities as an academic
discipline or practice. The crucial need then, and now, was to provide a
means for scholarly conversation about problems and methods. Humanist
quickly progressed beyond the mere exchange of information about this
and that, e.g. conferences (there were very few then), new software etc.
Notices of worthy events, academic positions and the like will always be
welcome, but the point of Humanist in particular is conversation about
things that matter to the scholarly character of academic life and work.

Back when I was a doctoral student, I was advised by a fellow student, a
successful careerist, to keep what I was doing secret so that someone
else wouldn't 'get there first'. I ignored this advice; I found it
repugnant--and still do. Sitting one day in an Old English course
before the professor arrived, I overheard fellow students complaining
about having to read Beowulf. I had just spent the previous evening,
after putting my son and daughter to bed with stories, being swept
away by that very poem. So in the classroom the next day I found
myself wondering why the complainers had become graduate
students at a time when jobs were scarce. The only plausible
hypothesis I could come up with was that they were in it for the
comfortable position in a nice office with a good salary. Nothing
against that for sure, but really!

Perhaps I am naive, only protected from the damaging consequences
of my naivety by senior status. But I have a higher opinion of scholarly
work than that suggests, having seen over and over again how the
intellectual and personal value of research is unique to the person--
and utterly transformative. There may be better arguments for being a
scholar rather than a careerist. I would very much like to think they are
stronger for the satisfaction of basic needs as well. Something along
the lines of winning the game but losing your soul in the process?

So, let us use this medium in its current form to discuss crucial
problems we're having with our research--when they actually can be
articulated. Let us throw false caution to the winds and say what
puzzles us. And when someone is brave enough to do that, let's jump in
and help. This happens here sometimes. It needs to happen more often.
Digital humanities in my view is starving for it--for arguments not so
bullet-proof that they have become proof-like and so, dead.


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

        Date: 2022-11-06 08:50:01+00:00
        From: Alan Liu <>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 36.238: why Humanist?

Dear Willard,

Kudos to you from someone who entered the digital humanities circa 1993 (a
bit junior to Humanist). Kudos for the forum for quality thought (combined
with announcements, etc.) that you started and steadfastly maintain.

I want to add to your conversation-starter the thought that there is
currently a heightened need to think about the role and value of Humanist
and other platforms/forums for scholarly interchange. As you know, many of
us who have split our attention between Humanist and so-called "academic
Twitter" to discuss the digital humanities are currently in the wind about
whether to stay with that social media platform or to go ... somewhere
else. (I myself just joined Mastodon,, the
currently surging open-source and decentralized Twitter alternative, to see
if it is viable for academic Twitter to move there, and in case Twitter
dies. (I'm on Mastodon). Humanist is of course a
different kind of forum that you built for deeper and more sustained
discussion. But the total current DH discussion ecosystem -- in which many
of us split our attention between Twitter, blogs, "commons" platforms (such
as Humanities Commons), and Humanist and other lists -- is likely to
reconfigure in the wake of the current turmoil in one of the major channels
in the total multiplex mix.

For me -- in my situation as also now a too senior DH scholar with
sunsetting digital projects, worries about digital sustainability, and an
interest in deposit projects in trust repositories -- this all raises
uncomfortable issues about where to concentrate one's energies if one
weighs available channels and media from the point of view of legacy. The
issues are pragmatic ones about any platform for our DH community. They are
about sustainability. I have started many projects myself that have ceased
or will not be sustainable for combinations of funding, institutional,
platform (technical), and personal reasons. (I call them *one-bus*
projects, in the sense that if I am hit by a bus, then the project stops.)
Currently, Twitter in a different way has become a one-bus
platform--reliant on the whims and fate of one owner who himself is the
careening bus.

I wonder what your thoughts are about the ongoing sustainability of
Humanist for those who want to know what basket in which to put their most
important eggs now? Has planning been done at DH-Cologne (where Humanist is
presently maintained) for ongoing sustainability or -- the reality for many
DH initiatives -- for eventual deposit of archives and listserv code in a
trust digital repository?

I know this is an unpleasant, mortal topic. But I am among the few (only
slightly junior to you) who can broach the issues from the perspective of a
shared concern. In all honesty, when I look at all my own projects and
initiatives, I think they stand less of a chance than Humanist of going or
or becoming part of the lasting record. But it would be good to know your
thoughts (and any planning thoughts in particular) in regard to Humanist.


--Best, Alan

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