Computation and the Humanities

Part of the series Springer Series on Cultural Computing pp 237-256

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


So, Into the Chopper It Went: Gabriel Egan 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 took place at the AHRC-organised Digital Transformations Moot held in London, UK on 19 November 2012. In it Egan recalls his earliest encounters with computing when he was a schoolboy along with some memories of how computers were represented in science fiction novels, TV programmes and advertising. His first job, at the age of 17, was as a Mainframe Computer Operator. He continued to work in this sector throughout the 1980s but by the end of the decade he recognised that such roles would inevitably disappear. In 1990 he returned to university where he completed a BA, MA and PhD over the next 7 years. He recalls his shock upon returning to university as he realised how little use was then made of computers in English Studies. Nevertheless, he bought a relatively cheap, second-hand Sinclair Z88 and took all his notes on it. Later he also digitised his library of 3000 books, destroying their hard copy versions in the process. The interview contains a host of reflections about the differences that computing techniques and resources have made to Shakespeare Studies over the past years, along with insightful observations about the contributions and limitations of DH. In this interview Egan describes himself as a ‘would be Digital Humanist’; indeed, it is the landscape that he describes from this vantage point that makes his interview so interesting and useful.