Chapter 2

The Future of Digital Humanities Is a Matter of Words

Willard McCarty



The job I have been given is to take up the whole question of digital humanities and the digital mediation of knowledge among the various humanities disciplines with a view to what's driving the change, where it is heading, and what the humanities might look like as a result—and what “new media” might mean in this context. I am tempted to ask ironically in return “Is that all?” The question is fascinating and needs to be asked, but where does one begin on such a vast and uncertain project?

First, however, allow me to anticipate what I think an adequate response might be. For reasons I will explain, it could not be what we almost always get: a projection of current technical know-how into an imagined future. Rather, it would have to be a history written to address current predicaments in order to open up the complexity of the present as staging post for the future. Its historiography would have to look like a perpetual weaving and unweaving of many threads, or like a bird's-eye view of a complex drainage system: strands of quite separate development or channels of diverse influence coming together and intermingling for a time before dispersing to mingle again elsewhere (cf. Mahoney 2011: 13, 57). Speaking of the future, Terry Winograd and Fernando Flores have argued that

all new technologies ...

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