Computation and the Humanities

Part of the series Springer Series on Cultural Computing pp 157-166

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


It’s a Little Mind-Boggling: Helen Agüera 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 between London and Washington via skype on 18 September 2013, beginning at 17:05 GMT. Agüera was provided with the core questions in advance of the interview. She recalls that her first encounters with computing and DH came about through her post in National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), where she had joined a division that funded the preparation of research tools, reference works and scholarly editions. Thus, she administered grants to a large number of projects that worked, at a relatively early stage, at the interface of Humanities and Computing, for example, Thesaurus Linguae Graecae. In this interview she recalls some of the changes that the division where she worked made to its operating procedures in order to incorporate digital projects. For example, in 1979, a section that was added to application materials asking relevant projects to provide a rationale for their proposed use of computing or word processing. She also discusses issues like sustainability that became apparent over the longer term and reflects on some of the wider trends she saw during her career. Computing was initially taken up by fields like Classics and lexicography that needed to manage and interrogate masses of data and thus had a clear application for it. She contrasts this with the more experimental and exploratory use of computing that characterises much of DH today.