ACO*HUM Advanced Computing in the Humanities

Chapter 7


Koenraad de Smedt
University of Bergen, Norway

The aims of this book have been to analyze the status quo with respect to computing in humanities education, to point out related developments in society, to present current innovations and plans for the future, and to make proposals and recommendations.  This work has been carried out with special reference to Europe, but also with great openness towards cooperation without any borders.

The chapters in this book have addressed these issues each in their own way, related to their own field and defining their own scope.  At the same time, clear indications have been given that the chapters must also be seen in relation to each other.  Indeed, if any general conclusion must be drawn, it is that computing is strongly affecting all the humanities disciplines and is a catalyst for interdisciplinary cooperation.

Advanced computing methods are at present the major innovating force in humanities curricula as well as in the delivery of humanities courses.  It is important to point out that humanities computing is not simply the result of 'importing' computer science methods, but is the fruit of active research in the various humanities disciplines, leading to new, sophisticated scientific methods with great theoretical and practical relevance.

We have pointed out best practice as shown in projects and testing, which are to a great extent borne by the extraordinary efforts of a few motivated individuals.  These efforts will not reach their targets in the wider world if they are not supported by substantial institutional commitment.  Unfortunately, the investments in the humanities are still lagging behind those at business, science and technology faculties.  Also it is found that industry, despite being dependent on well-trained graduates for job recruitment, is not nearly seeking enough cooperation or making enough investments in training tools.

It would be misguided to consider advanced computing as a temporary trend in which the humanities are seen to be simply catching up with other disciplines.  Instead, the use of computing methods in the humanities is recognized as a revolution in its own right, which will continue to have strong repercussions in the years to come.  What is at stake now is not so much the advent of humanities computing, which will happen anyway, but how fast and how successful the process will be.  Challenging questions in this respect are whether Europe will take a lead or lag behind other continents, and whether universities will keep their competence edge or give it up to the software industries.

If the challenge is taken up, the foreseen intensive developments, seen in relation to corresponding needs in society, call for supportive coordinated actions at different levels.  As a group of experts representing a network of over one hundred European institutions of higher education, we have presented specific recommendations at the end of chapters 2-5.  These recommendations will not be repeated here, but are distilled into the following very general recommendations for broad actions at different levels:

In order to supplement and make concrete these general recommendations, we emphatically point to the specific proposals and recommendations given throughout this book.  Concrete actions based on these recommendations into practice are, in our opinion, urgently needed to secure the survival and renewal of the humanities in the 21st century.