The Digital Future is Now: A Call to Action for the Humanities
The digital humanities are at a critical moment in the transition from a specialty area to a full-fledged community with a common set of methods, sources of evidence, and infrastructure – all of which are necessary for achieving academic recognition. As budgets are slashed and marginal programs are eliminated in the current economic crisis, only the most articulate and productive will survive. Digital collections are proliferating, but most remain difficult to use, and digital scholarship remains a backwater in most humanities departments with respect to hiring, promotion, and teaching practices. Only the scholars themselves are in a position to move the field forward. Experiences of the sciences in their initiatives for cyberinfrastructure and eScience offer valuable lessons. Information- and data-intensive, distributed, collaborative, and multi-disciplinary research is now the norm in the sciences, while remaining experimental in the humanities. Discussed here are six factors for comparison, selected for their implications for the future of digital scholarship in the humanities: publication practices, data, research methods, collaboration, incentives, and learning. Drawing upon lessons gleaned from these comparisons, humanities scholars are “called to action” with five questions to address as a community: What are data? What are the infrastructure requirements? Where are the social studies of digital humanities? What is the humanities laboratory of the 21st century? What is the value proposition for digital humanities in an era of declining budgets?