Catch-Up for the Humanities?

Is it time for the Humanities to play catch-up in “building digital infrastructures within their disciplines” (Chronicle of Higher Education)? A report from the American Council of Learned Societies, noted in the article “Humanities and Social Sciences Should Improve Digital Resources, Report Says,” suggests that the Humanities are far behind the sciences “in creating ‘cyberinfrastructure,'” which they define this way:

Cyberinfrastructure is roughly defined as the systems, personnel, and practices that support the digital resources and activities of a discipline — including, but not limited to, digital collections and electronic communications.

Part of the problem, is, as usual, a lack of funding in the humanities compared with funding for the sciences, and such a project will be expensive.

Gary Wells of Ithaca College notes another problem in the nature of the scholarly atmosphere in the humanities: “The humanities are very much the culture of the solitary scholar,” Mr. Wells said. “And yet it is very clear that the future is collaborative, and technology is not only an enabling factor in that collaboration.”

Yet he sees change, with a caveat, in the new community of young scholars: “A young scholar is going to say that it’s very exciting to anticipate a digital archive or have access to tools that are going to allow looking at materials in a new way,” he said. “Yet there is a risk, even for a more senior scholar, in being accused of not being serious in using new tools and new methods.”

So, if you are a student in the humanities or just taking a required humanities core course, do you see a lack of “digital infrastructure” in the field? Do you feel less motivation for collaboration in your scholarly training in the humanities? Or are your faculty stepping out into new frontiers of research using available technologies? What suggestions do you have for motivating the humanities to upgrade its methods?

Note: The Chronicle of Higher Education is accessed by subscription only.

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Categories: technology

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