Manifestos on Digital Humanities

| November 10, 2011

While researching for one of my library science classes, I recently came across two different manifestos  for the Digital Humanities.  Digital Humanities has been an increasingly hot topic over the last five years or so, thanks to an increasing amount of humanities scholars blogging on scholarly topics (some examples are Planned Obsolescence and Dan Cohen’s Digital Humanities Blog) and producing scholarship outside of the traditional realm of monographs (In Media Res is one example; a few others at UC Santa Barbara are listed here).  While the humanities has been slow to embrace the digital world in comparison with other disciplines, interest has been growing, enough so that a few manifestos for Digital Humanities have been produced.

The first one I came by was the Digital Humanities Manifesto 2.0, an updated version from a manifesto released a year earlier.  It wholeheartedly embraces its genre, which it describes as “all M’s: mix :: match :: mash :: manifest.”  It’s entertaining and edgy enough to earn a disclaimer saying that it does not represent the views of UCLA.  Here’s a fun little snippet:

Digital Humanities have a utopian core shaped by its genealogical descent from the counterculture‐cyberculture intertwinglings of the 60s and 70s. This is why it affirms the value of the open, the infinite, the expansive,  the university/museum/archive/ library without walls, the democratization of culture and scholarship, even as it affirms the value of large‐scale statistically grounded methods (such as cultural analytics) that collapse  the boundaries between the humanities and the social and natural sciences. This is also why it believes that copyright and IP standards must be freed from the stranglehold of Capital, including the capital possessed by heirs who live  parasitically off of the achievements of their deceased predecessors.

The other, more level-headed manifesto came from THATCamp 2010, a “user-generated ‘unconference’ on digital humanities” that took place in Paris (THAT rather straightforwardly stands for “The Humanities and Technology”).  While this manifesto employs less fanfare, it still pushes for open access to scholarly material, cooperation among institutions, interoperability of systems, the incorporation of digital humanities into curricula, and greater acceptance of digital scholarship in the humanities.

Practicing what they preach, both of these manifestos allow comments, and the THATCamp one allows you to sign.

While the Digital Humanities aren’t going to be starting a revolution, if they achieve what they call for in these manifestos, not only humanities departments, curricula, and scholarship will all be affected, but also publishers and libraries, and perhaps profoundly so.

So, depending on your stance, either batten down the hatches ’cause a storm’s a-brewin’, or get out your swimsuit ’cause the sea’s a-changin’ and the water’s fine.