Humanist Discussion Group

Humanist Archives: March 22, 2023, 5:09 a.m. Humanist 36.469 - disciplinarity

              Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 36, No. 469.
        Department of Digital Humanities, University of Cologne
                      Hosted by DH-Cologne
                Submit to:

    [1]    From: Bill Pascoe <>
           Subject: Re: [Humanist] 36.466: disciplinarity (180)

    [2]    From: Manfred Thaller <>
           Subject: Re: [Humanist] 36.466: disciplinarity (17)

        Date: 2023-03-21 23:52:19+00:00
        From: Bill Pascoe <>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 36.466: disciplinarity

Here's a simple practical question on applied Digital Humanities, and sorry if
there has already been a discussion on this that I've missed. What should I call
myself, as someone whose job is to do Digital Humanities?

I tend to call myself a 'Digital Humanities Specialist' in professional circles,
but it's a bit of a mouthful. To lay people at the barbecue I say I'm a software
dev for the Humanities department, which gets me out of trouble but 'software
developer' or the upgrade to 'System Architect', which is sometimes my official
title is too reductive and easily dismissed as 'the IT guy'.

Some simply go by the conventional area within which they specialise,
'historian'', 'linguist' etc, and perhaps it is or soon will be simply normal
humanities practice and the term 'digital humanities' won't even be needed. But
there are some of us whose job is to apply digital humanities across any

'Research Software Engineer' has recently become a rallying identifier for
people in that field to get recognition and establish careers, conferences and
work conditions, but there tends to be an assumption that every such person
works in STEM. And just as there are bio-statisticians, so too we need our job
title in Digital Humanities.

I've heard people use the term 'digital humanist' but that seems to imply that
you are ideologically a 'humanist' but of the digital kind, whatever that might
mean. Or to the person at the BBQ perhaps that you do humanitarian work online
or in VR or something.

What do others in this chat call themselves?

I'd just like to have something more pithy to use but it's also important to be
able to name things. If there is a discipline, and a student graduates with a
body of knowledge they can then apply, what do we promise the prospective
student they will become? It may be hard to create and sustain institutional
jobs if we struggle to even name them. Is 'Digital Humanist' well and truly
established or are there other terms?

Bill Pascoe

From: Humanist <>
Sent: Wednesday, 22 March 2023, 10:16 am
To: Bill Pascoe <>
Subject: [Humanist] 36.466: disciplinarity

              Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 36, No. 466.
        Department of Digital Humanities, University of Cologne
                      Hosted by DH-Cologne
                Submit to:

        Date: 2023-03-20 14:28:07+00:00
        From: Dr. Hartmut Krech <>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 36.454: musings: disciplinarity

Dear Willard,

Thank you again for providing food for thought thru your musings and
trouvailles from the literature and your rich experience.

Are the 'digital humanities' (and the various synonyms you are citing)
an academic discipline, you are asking. Of course, digital humanists
should know what they are doing, and this self-knowledge very certainly
affects the way the 'digital humanities' are represented and financially
sustained within institutional contexts. Multiple answers seem to be
possible to this important question. Let me try to approach it from the
history of the word.

Latin 'disciplina' appears as a cover term for various Greek
designations of groups of educated people transmitting a certain
teaching or systematized opinion in public discourse. At that time, Rome
itself was learning from Greek culture, and formal education was being
systematized and institutionalized in public libraries, schools, etc.
The knowledge transmitted was meant to be applied by orators, lawyers,
politicians, etc. Therefore, 'disciplina' in the sense of 'applied
knowledge' was used interchangeably with 'ars'. The body of knowledge
transmitted was called 'doctrina' (teaching) instead. With respect to
the interpretation of  'disciplina' as an art, the adverb
'disciplinaliter' ('in a strict manner') has some importance.

Returning to your initial question, are the 'digital humanities' an
academic discipline, we have to state that in the beginning they were
lacking a coherent teaching because of the novelty of their methods. As
was often the case in the history of science, they consisted of various
practices and research strategies within the field of the 'humanities',
a difficult term in itself. Nevertheless, those practices were peculiar
enough to be separated from other practices within the humanities. As
such they might still be called an 'art' in the old sense. What makes
'digital humanities' an academic discipline, is the strict, systematized
and teachable manner in which the digital humanities are practiced. As a
discipline, the digital humanities have to address an additional task:
to organize, criticize, formalize, and store the knowledge they are

Best regards,
Latest publication:
IndianerLeben. Indianische Frauen und Männer erzählen ihr Leben

Am 17.03.2023 um 07:01 schrieb Humanist:
>                Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 36, No. 454.
>          Department of Digital Humanities, University of Cologne
>                        Hosted by DH-Cologne
>                  Submit
>      [1]    From: Willard McCarty<>
>             Subject: is it a discipline? (54)
>      [2]  <>
>             Subject: detroit (6)
> --[1]------------------------------------------------------------------------
>          Date: 2023-03-16 09:17:43+00:00
>          From: Willard McCarty<>
>          Subject: is it a discipline?
> Of the many agonisings over whether 'digital humanities' (and before
> that 'humanities computing', and before that 'computing in the
> humanities', and before that, 'computing and the humanities') is a
> discipline, I prefer not to dwell, and recommend that no one else does
> any further. However, Umberto Eco, in "Concluding remarks" to the First
> Congress of the International Association for Semiotic Studies, held in
> Milan in June 1974*, has wisdom on the question of 'is-it-one', which
> he asked on behalf of semiotics, that would be a pity not to know and
> keep somewhere for anxious moments. Thanks to an article by another
> fine scholar, Teresa De Lauretis, "The Shape of the World: Report on
> Structuralism and Semiotics in Italy" (1975), I found my way to Eco's
> remarks and here offer some spirit-lifting snippets:
>> Semiotics is formally entitled to take possession of a theoretical
>> heritage which has not been borrowed from outside for it was born from
>> inside....
>> Is this project a utopian one? Certainly it is, if one believes that
>> semiotics is an absolutely unified and ‘objective’ discipline...
>> Semiotics is a human science and as such tries to give to the world the
>> shape that we wish it had....
>> I do not know if semiotics is a science. I prefer to consider it a
>> scientific attitude, a critical way of looking at the objects of other
>> sciences. I am not troubled by the suspicion that my science does not
>> have a recognizable and duly registered academic physionomy. We are not
>> fishing for departmentalization. Galileo Galilei did not know whether he
>> was a mathematician, a physicist, an astronomer, a philosopher. Nor did
>> Charles Sanders Peirce....
>> Is there a risk? Yes, a big one. To be charged with Imperialism. It
>> would be difficult to plead not guilty, if one accepts--as I
>> accept--Morris’ definition, according to which “Semiotics is not
>> concerned with the study of a particular kind of object, but with
>> ordinary objects in so far (and only in so far) as they participate in
>> semiosis”....
>> But it is not only semiotics which wants to put its nose into
>> everything. For a few years everybody has wanted to put his nose into
>> the semiotic mysteries.
>> Well, gentlemen, you are welcome.
>> Provided we are the gate-keepers.
> Yours,
> WM
> -----
> *(pp. 246-51, in the Internet Archive,
> <>)
> --
> Willard McCarty,
> Professor emeritus, King's College London;
> Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews;  Humanist

        Date: 2023-03-21 12:19:06+00:00
        From: Manfred Thaller <>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 36.466: disciplinarity

Dear Hartmut,

> What makes
> 'digital humanities' an academic discipline, is the strict, systematized
> and teachable manner in which the digital humanities are practiced.

Per saecula saeculorum: difficile est satiram non scribere.

Best regards,

Prof.em.Dr. Manfred Thaller
formerly University at Cologne /
zuletzt Universität zu Köln

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