In August this year, there were two almost consecutive threads on the Humanist mailing list that I found rather disturbing. The first, with the subject “getting involved”, seemed to reach a semi-consensus among its participants that digital humanists should be able to do some programming, at the least. In the second, with the subject “designing an academic DH department?”, people gave their views on the ideal makeup of such a department. Here’s part of one response, from firstname.lastname@example.org:
I would see it as involding two clusters of people. The digital
humanists and the computer technologists / engineers who were employed within the digital humanities group as dedicated to that group itself. Roughly, I’d see a ratio of 1 computer / engineering professional to 5 or so digital humanists…
[I]n the traditional university environment, where you’d have separate computer science/engineering departments and a digital humanities department […] you’d wind up with the digital humanities having just computer support staff and the computer science/engineering departments having the truly creative people. That is, the best minds in computing & engineering wouldn’t be thinking about digital humanities ideas unless for some reason the computer science / engineering departments happened to pick up someone with those “outside” interests.
So this department would have five digital humanists getting the one creative computer scientist to implement all of their ideas, while s/he also does his/her own research and implementation? What exactly makes the humanists “digital”, then? And why would a creative computer scientist want to be the dogsbody of the group?
And from Darren Harkness:
For an active DH department of 12-24 scholars, I would likely recommend a minimum of two developers, ideally split between highly structured languages such as Java and Python and less structured languages like PHP and perl as a way to cover most of your faculty’s needs. I would likely recruit a senior Java developer and a junior web developer with good research skills.
Am I simply reading these messages incorrectly, or is actual development/programming not what digital humanists do, in spite of the rhetoric? The ratios, in particular, don’t speak of the technical people being considered as anything like equal colleagues. This feels, to me, like a big problem.
 Both this and the later thread are available in the Humanist archive, though why a mailing list in this day and age doesn’t have threaded, dated, and searchable archives is beyond me. The first post in the “getting involved” thread is dated 19 August 2010.
 First post dated 1 September 2010.
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