ACO*HUM Advanced Computing in the Humanities

Minutes of the third meeting of the ACO*HUM Steering Commitee.

Granada, Nov. 2, 1997.

Present at the meeting: Daniel Apollon, Bente Opheim (secretary), Dino Buzzetti, Harold Short, Koenraad de Smedt (chairman), William Vaughan.

The Steering Committee wishes to thank the University of Granada, through the preparatory work of Domingo Sanchez and John Trout, for their hospitality.

Minutes of the second meeting

The minutes are accepted.

Evaluation of the Policy Symposium

The Steering Committee is generally satisfied with the outcomes of the event, especially in relation to its modest duration. It was a good idea to bring the working groups together and is a beginning of a true cooperation and cross-fertilization across the working groups. The event might have benefited from even more sessions in which the groups were mixed in different ways. It is seen as important to maintain the value of the project as a whole, to prevent the dominance of a single working group, to keep sight of the whole scope of the humanities field, and to look to future extensions. On the other hand, the Steering Committee recognizes the need of the individual working groups to pursue their own agendas and have their own outside links.

New working groups in a new network structure

The working groups represent working communities and have proved to function well in the past year. In the proposal for the current year (1997-1998), an extension for a new working group on Computing for Non-European Languages was proposed and a new working group on Formal Methods in the Humanities was suggested. During the Policy Symposium in Granada, the roles of these new groups with respect to the existing ones was thoroughly discussed. The Steering Committee takes this occasion to define the new working groups and redefine the existing ones in an updated network structure. A structure with vertical and horizontal working groups is adopted.

The vertical working groups are linked to one or more traditional humanities disciplines and consist of the following (note adjusted names):

  • Computational linguistics and language engineering 
  • History and historical informatics 
  • Computing in history of art, architecture and design
  • Computing for non-European languages
  • The horizontal working groups are truly humanities-wide perspectives and consist of the following:

  • Textual scholarship and humanities computing
  • Formal methods in the humanities
  • This structure suggests the need for interaction between the working groups, which in turn requires more flexible group meetings, aided by communication technology tools (Internet and video meetings). The interplay can be graphically depicted in the following diagram:

    working groups structure

    It is decided to define the mandate of the two horizontal working groups more clearly in order to reflect their humanities-wide scope and goals and also to assign different concrete tasks to different groups.

    The mandate of the working group on Textual scholarship and humanities computing is adjusted towards the following focus elements:

    1. textual encoding as relevant to all humanities disciplines
    2. the educational use of humanities resources (corpora, on-line literature, digital archives etc.)
    3. textual scholarship and edition philology
    4. common curricula components (CCC) in text-based disciplines (literature, philosophy, etc.).

    The reflection on CCC needs and proposals will be the most central task in the working group's activities.

    The new working group on Formal methods in the humanities will be led by Prof. Tito Orlandi and consists further of members of each of the other working groups in order to secure cross-linking in its concepts and activities. The mandate of the working group is to discuss the following two distinct themes:

    1. How does the very nature of humanities scholarship change due to the incorporation of formal and computational methods? How does the adoption of such methods (e.g. the digitalization of language and art, the application of artificial intelligence, the use of computer simulation methods) have an impact on the humanities, from a philosophy of science viewpoint?
    2. What are the theoretical and practical problems involved in the integration of advanced computing in humanities curricula, accross the various disciplines involved? Can common modules be identified offering formal and computational methods for all humanities students? In which respects must humanities computing be taught differently than other computing?

    The above questions will be addressed in a humanities-wide perspective, but also by in-depth analyses of the specific disciplines involved in the other ACO*HUM working groups.

    Priorities of the thematic network project as a whole

    The limited funding of the thematic network project requires setting of priorities. While each of the working groups has its special activities, there are many common ones. Among the various possible forms of activities in the network, the following are discussed:


    At its second meeting, the Steering Committee proposed the eventual production of a book on European studies on advanced computing in the humanities, with key information to be published on paper and on the web and details to be published only on the web. This plan has received attention in the current year through discussion at the Policy Symposium. The plan will be materialized in the third and final year of the project (1998-1999).

    Several working groups have been taking a closer look at existing information gathering activities in their relevant fields. It is proposed that the working groups play a key role in gathering information and preparing overviews of their fields. The first survey by ACO*HUM was too broad and lacked a focus, so any follow-ups should be in-depth analyses of more specific areas and themes. Nevertheless, the resulting publication should have chapters in a common format and should be joined by common information e.g. on European educational systems in the humanities. Therefore, a strong central coordinating effort by the project office will be required.

    This activity should start immediately after the September 1998 conference, and should receive priority on next year's budget.

    Planning of the 1998 conference

    The organization of an international conference under the auspices of ACO*HUM is an important activity in the plans for the current year. This event was originally plannedin the spring of 1998, but is being postponed due to problems in obtaining necessary national funds to complement the SOCRATES grant. Therefore it appears that the conference cannot be held before the summer of 1998. The earliest occasion would be September 1998, which falls in the next project year and therefore requires negotiation with the Commission.

    The current budget situation for the conference is not yet clear. Depending on the outcome of pending applications for funding, the following options are still open:

    1. In case sufficient Norwegian funding can be obtained, the conference will be held in Bergen. The conference organization will try to team up with other partners, specifically the Euroliterature project (a SOCRATES ODL project). This option would be the most favourable one.
    2. In case such funding cannot be obtained, the conference will try to team up with a research conference, specifically DRH'98 (Digital Resources in the Humanities) in Glasgow, in September 1998. Such a joined event has the advantage that a significant audience of researchers can be reached, but the ACO*HUM identity might not be sufficiently highlighted.

    With respect to the programme, horizontal strands must be derived rather than vertical ones, in order to discuss common problems and solutions at a truly humanities-wide level. The conference should show the use of digital resources in actual educational practice. The event should show to the outside world what we are doing.

    The working groups should identify hot themes for workshops on the last day of the conference. At the same time, the Steering Committee acknowledges that the conference cannot address all relevant audiences. The working groups should also identify other events, i.e. research meetings in their area, and add educational tracks there.

    Closing remarks

    Summary of main responsibilities and priorities:

    The Steering Commitee will preferably have its next meeting before the conference, in order to prepare the programme. The meeting after that will be at the time of the conference.

    Koenraad de Smedt