arts-humanities.net is an online hub for research and teaching in the digital arts and humanities. Its purpose is to advance the use of digital tools and explore resources for teaching methods in the arts and humanities. Another website, Digital Humanities Questions and Answers (in collaboration with the Association for Computers and Humanities*) acts as a community resource for questions that “need just a little more than 140 character answers.”
These on-line hubs appear to be following a model that Willard McCarty from King’s College London wrote about in his 2003 article, “Humanities Computing.” In it, he asks the reader to consider that the definition of humanities computing can be seen in a roughly sketched diagram, or, as he calls it, a “rough intellectual map of humanities computing.” At the center of this map is “a methodological commons,” ‘of computational techniques’ that are shared among the disciplines that make up the humanities. Below the commons he lists broad areas of learning (philosophy, sociology, history, etc.) including technologies like digital library research. One of the purposes of this model is to connect discipline groups in such a way as to re-imagine both knowledge and learning. McCarty (and his colleague Short) developed this model by grouping similar disciplines and connecting them to relevant techniques that are imported and exported into this methodological commons.
But the grouping of these disciplines did not begin with McCarty but with Roberto Busa, a Jesuit scholar, who in the 1940′s compiled an exhaustive concordance on the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas. His, Index Thomisticus, was foundational to literary, philological and linguistic computing. Many other computational efforts followed and from them grew research centers like CETEDOC (the Centre de traitement electronique des documents) and ACH* which developed journals and conferences, bringing with them the critical questions that have always been the hallmark of the Humanities. It could well be that these foundational efforts at humanities computing may be part of what is carrying forward new collaborative efforts in many new forms: like these online hubs.
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