Computation and the Humanities

Part of the series Springer Series on Cultural Computing pp 75-86

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hic Rhodus, hic salta: Tito Orlandi and Julianne Nyhan

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


This interview was carried out in Rome, Italy on 17 October 2014 at about 09:00. Orlandi recounts that his earliest memory of a computer dates to the 1950s when he saw an IBM machine in the window of an IBM shop in Milan. Around 1960, together with his PhD supervisor Ignazio Cazzaniga, he engaged in some brief exploratory work to see what role punched card technology might play in the making of a critical edition of Augustine’s City of God. His sustained take up of computing in the 1970s arose from the practical problem of managing the wealth of information that he had amassed about Coptic manuscripts. He was aware from an early stage of the possible limitations of computational approaches: his early encounters with the work of Silvio Ceccato left him wary of approaches to cybernetics. He identifies the work of the applied mathematician Luigi Cerofolini who taught him UNIX, among other things, as having been central to his understanding of methodological issues. In relation to theory, he emphasises the impact that understanding Turing’s Universal Computing Machine made on him. Indeed, his work on the significance of modelling to Humanities Computing (see, for example, the discussion in Orlandi, T. (n.d.)) preceded that of McCarty (2005). In addition to questioning inherited beliefs about the origins of DH, particularly in regard to the role of Fr Roberto Busa S.J., in this interview Orlandi argues that DH has not given sufficient attention to the fundamentals of computing theory.