Conference “(Retro)Digitalisate – Kommentarkultur – Big Data” 8-9 October

In this blog post I highlight a few aspects which were of particular interest for me during the conference (Retro)Digitalisate – Kommentarkultur – Big Data: Zum Stand des Digitalen in den Geisteswissenschaften. The concept behind the conference was quite intrigueing: No classical paper presentations as an attempt to stop people from saying what they always say. Instead the organizers opted for a combination of panel discussions and keynotes. The conference’s subtitle describes the angle: “The state of Digital in the Humanities”. I was invited to talk about tools and the (re-)use of digital materials and would like to thank the organizers Lilian Landes and Norbert Kunz for the invitation.

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As far as I could tell, the conference brought together people from very diverse fields of work (libraries, publishing, humanities research, IT, lexicology…) who mixed together in four panels with the topics “Digital publishing”, “Tools”, “Communication” and “Post-publications”. In the end however, the issues which were really up for debate found their way in all of them: What counts as Digital Humanities? Which consequences does this have for the humanities? Are the rapid changes we are experiencing changes for the worse, better or are they just changes?

The four panels made it very clear that “digital” is changing the humanities and makes me agree even more with Mareike König who calls the humanities digital already. But following the discussions also made it very clear that at this stage, old models of publications, career planning, self-identification are in a state of profound transformation which is experienced in a positive way by some and in a negative way by others. At this stage there is no way to predict where this transformation will lead the humanities and continued cuts in funding in- and outside the universities are reasons to be concerned. This is also reflected in one common angle in all of the keynotes and panelists: Sitting it out is not an option.


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