Proposal to establish ASECS Digital Humanities Caucus
Written by George Williams
Submitted and approved at 2010 meeting of ASECS
The ways in which digital technologies are changing the humanities are increasingly visible. These changes arrive not just through the online publication of information that previously had appeared only in print, but also through the proliferation of sophisticated digital tools that allow new ways of thinking about the humanities. And these changes are quite noticeable in eighteenth-century studies: almost any ASECS conference program from the last decade features at least one session devoted to digital resources for teaching or research. This year , in particular, there are 4 such panels:
- Session 17: ECCO, EEBO, and the Burney Collection: Some ‘Noisy Feedback’
- Session 68: The Digital Eighteenth Century 2.0 — I
- Session 110: The Digital Eighteenth Century 2.0 — II
- Session 128: Digital Humanities and the Eighteenth Century: Pros and Cons
Obviously, the participants in these sessions are evidence that scholars, teachers, and students are engaged in exciting work with computational tools. However, many of us are also concerned about the best ways to make use of these tools (see the title of Session 128) as well as the potential problems caused by lack of access to commercial digital projects (see Peter Reill’s 2009 letter to ASECS membership).
Given the extent to which the digital humanities is becoming a part of the “bloodstream” of the humanities, in general, and eighteenth-century studies, in particular, I propose establishing an ASECS Digital Humanities Caucus. Under the auspices of this caucus, a panel or roundtable could be organized around these issues at our annual meeting. Future developments might include affiliation with the Association for Computers in the Humanities <http://www.ach.org>.
This new caucus need not simply celebrate uncritically digitally-enabled approaches to our field. Rather, it would ideally provide a accessible intellectual forum for those scholars and teachers with advanced training and experience in the digital humanities as well as those who are interested in these tools and the new approaches they enable but are perhaps unfamiliar with how best to make use of them.
An ASECS Digital Humanities Caucus would enable our organization to avoid simply responding to the changes brought to our field by digital technologies but instead to take a more active role in shaping those changes.