Special issue of Culture Machine, vol. 12;
edited by Federica Frabetti (Oxford Brookes University)

The emerging field of the Digital Humanities can broadly be understood as embracing all those scholarly activities in the humanities that involve writing about digital media and technology as well as being engaged in processes of digital media production (e.g. developing new media theory, creating interactive electronic literature, building online databases and wikis). Perhaps most notably, in what some are describing as a ‘computational turn’, it has seen techniques and methodologies drawn from Computer Science – image processing, data visualisation, network analysis – being used increasingly to produce new ways of understanding and approaching humanities texts.

Yet just as interesting as what Computer Science has to offer the humanities, surely, is the question of what the humanities have to offer Computer Science; and, beyond that, what the humanities themselves can bring to the understanding of the digital. Do the humanities really need to draw so heavily on Computer Science to develop their sense of what the Digital Humanities might be? Already in 1990 Mark Poster was arguing that ‘the relation to the computer remains one of misrecognition’ in the field of Computer Science, with the computer occupying ‘the position of the imaginary’ and being ‘inscribed with transcendent status’. If so, this has significant implications for any so-called ‘computational turn’ in the humanities. For on this basis Computer Science does not seem all that well-equipped to understand even itself and its own founding object, concepts and concerns, let alone help with those of the humanities.

In this special issue of Culture Machine we are therefore interested in investigating something that may initially appear to be a paradox: to what extent is it possible to envisage Digital Humanities that go beyond the disciplinary objects, affiliations, assumptions and methodological practices of computing and Computer Science?

At the same time the humanities are not without blindspots and elements of misrecognition of their own. Take the idea of the human. For all the radical interrogation of this concept over the last 100 years or so, not least in relation to technology, doesn’t the mode of research production in the humanities remain very much tied to that of the individualized, human author? (Isn’t this evident in different ways even in the work of such technology-conscious anti-humanist thinkers as Deleuze, Guattari, Kittler, Latour, Negri, Ranciere and Stiegler?)

So what are the implications and possibilities of ‘the digital beyond computing’ for the humanities and for some of the humanities’ own central or founding concepts, too? The human, and with it the human-ities; but also the subject, the author, the scholar, writing, the text, the book, the discipline, the university…

What would THAT kind of (reconfigured) Digital Humanities look like?

We welcome papers that address the above questions and that suggest a new, somewhat different take on the relationship between the humanities and the digital.

Deadline for submissions: 18 October 2010

Please submit your contributions by email to Federica Frabetti:

All contributions will be peer-reviewed.