Chapter

Computation and the Humanities

Part of the series Springer Series on Cultural Computing pp 227-235

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

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Moderate Expectations, Tolerable Disappointments: Claus Huitfeldt and Julianne Nyhan

  • Julianne NyhanAffiliated withDepartment of Information Studies, University College London (UCL)
  • , Andrew FlinnAffiliated withDepartment of Information Studies, University College London (UCL)

Abstract

This interview was conducted on 11 July at the 2014 Digital Humanities Conference, Lausanne, Switzerland. Huitfeldt recounts that he first encountered computing at the beginning of the 1980s via the Institute of Continental Shelf Research when he was a Philosophy student at the University of Trondheim. However, it was in connection with a Humanities project on the writings of Wittgenstein that he learned to programme. When that project closed he worked as a computing consultant in the Norwegian Computing Center for the Humanities and in 1990 he established a new project called the ‘Wittgenstein Archives’, which aimed to prepare and publish a machine-readable version of Wittgenstein’s Nachlass. Here he discusses the context in which he began working on the encoding scheme (A Multi-Element Code System) that he developed for that project. The influence of MECS went beyond the Wittgenstein Archives. According to Ore (2014) ‘when XML itself was under development, the idea of well-formed documents (as different from documents valid according to a DTD or schema) was taken into XML from MECS’. In addition to discussing matters like the trajectory of DH research and his early encounters with the conference community he also discusses some of the fundamental issues that interest him like the role of technology in relation to the written word and the lack of engagement of the Philosophy community with such questions. Ultimately he concludes that he does not view DH as a discipline, but rather as a reconfiguration of the academic landscape as a result of the convergence of tools and methods within and between the Humanities and other disciplines.