Date: Fri, 22 May 1998 17:21:25 EDT
From: AAllan
Subject: Computers and the arts & humanities

The following comes courtesy of our association with the American Council of
Learned Societies. ADS is not officially involved in the project described
here, but if you think we should be and would like to volunteer, let me know.
- Allan Metcalf



Our use of computers and networking technology have mostly been determined
by engineers and computer scientists with little knowledge or understanding
of the work requirements, needs, and unique sets of problems that scholars
and teachers working in the arts & humanities face. The arts and humanities
create and use knowledge in different ways than their computer science and
engineering brethren. As users of new technology we sometimes suffer from a
form of often unwitting "cultural imperialism" exerted by the scientific

Some efforts have been made to determine what the humanities should be
doing to take a more activist and thoughtful role in using and creating
computing technology. In 1996 the Getty Information Institute issued a
report proposing an outline Research Agenda for Networking Cultural
Heritage with eight essays by scholars on generic issues
( and see below for details*);
currently, the Council on Library and Information Resources with ACLS is
holding a small series of conversations with scholars and librarians on
their perceived electronic needs, organized by media: text, images, sound

As part of NINCH's ongoing research project with the National Academy of
Sciences (see the ACLS Occasional Publication #41, "Computing and the
Humanities") we are proposing to seriously address this issue. We propose
to systematically engage a set of core humanities disciplines through their
representative learned societies and, through a series of workshops,
examine what their discipline-specific intellectual issues, problems and
requirements are. Results from these workshops can then be used to create a
work-plan for projects that could engage computer scientists and humanities
scholars in creating solutions, tools and more usable technologies.

This work would ultimately be able to contribute to the creation of what
might be called an "Humanities Informatics," a study of how the humanities
create and use knowledge, that could itself be part of a needed study of
the broader history, philosophy and sociology of the arts and humanities,
which, unlike the sciences, it has never had.

This is an area of work that the National Science Foundation is
particularly interested in as it examines how different domains of
knowledge operate.

I look forward to hearing from societies that would be interested in
talking further with us about how we might move forward.

David Green

The Getty Topics were:
1. Tools for Creating and Exploiting Content
2. Knowledge Representation
3. Resource Search and Discovery
4. Conversion of Traditional Source Materials into Digital Form
5. Image and Multimedia retrieval
6. Learning and Teaching
7. Archiving and Authenticity
8. New Social and Economic Mechanisms to Encourage Access.


David L. Green
Executive Director
21 Dupont Circle, NW
Washington DC 20036
202/296-5346 202/872-0886 fax

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