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The Prison-House of Data

Today Inside Higher Education is running an editorial of mine.

In 2010, the National Science Foundation and National Endowment for the Arts convened a historic workshop — it was their first jointly funded project. This meeting marked the beginning of a new level of national conversation about how computer science and other STEM disciplines can work productively with arts and design in research, creation, education, and economic development. A number of projects and follow-up workshops resulted in 2011. I was lucky enough to attend three of these events and, in the midst of all the exciting follow-up conversations, I couldn’t help but wonder: What about the digital humanities?

After all, the digital humanities have made it now. A recent visualization from University College London shows more than 100 digital humanities centers spread across the globe. There are dedicated digital humanities funding groups within the National Endowment for the Humanities and Microsoft Research. The University of Minnesota Press published a book of Debates in the Digital Humanities in January.

So why doesn’t the digital humanities have more of a seat at the table? Why is there the stereotype that, while computer scientists and digital artists have much to discuss, digital humanists only want to talk about data mining with the former and data visualization with the latter? I believe it is because the perception has developed, helped along by many in the field itself, that digital humanities is primarily about data.

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About the author:  Noah Wardrip-Fruin is a Professor of Computational Media at UC Santa Cruz and the author of Expressive Processing: Digital Fictions, Computer Games, and Software Studies. Read more from this author


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