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HEADLINE: Computer Science & the Humanities

About the Computer Science and Humanities Initiative

Computer Science and the Humanities is an initiative developed out of an exploratory Roundtable meeting held at the National Academy of Sciences on March 28, 1997, and March 26, 1998. Collaboratively organized by the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board (CSTB) of the National Academy of Sciences, The Coalition for Networked Information (CNI) and the National Initiative for a Networked Cultural Heritage (NINCH), the Roundtable brought together around thirty prominent individuals in the fields of computing and communications science, and arts and humanities research, in an attempt to explore the complexities of cross-disciplinary collaboration. A report of the meeting was published by the American Council of Learned Societies. See: Press Release and Report. Following the Roundtable, a steering committee was formed to develop the means to carry forward the lines of inquiry suggested at the meeting.

Building Blocks Workshop: Intellectual Needs Shaping Technical Solutions
An initial project was developed to work mostly with humanities scholars and teachers as a prelude to a conference convening computer scientists and humanists. Working with 26 learned societies, NINCH staff organized a 4-day workshop in September 2000 for 90 humanists organized into five fields (History, Interdisciplinary Studies, Language & Literature, Performing Arts, and Visual & Media Studies). The goals of the workshop were to review current practice, articulate by field and across disciplines the most pressing needs in the humanities that networked computing can address, and outline both short-term, practical projects and areas to include on a longer-term research agenda to be developed with computer scientists. More than 15 project proposals are under development. A website was developed for the conference with details about participants, reports of surveys of the field, background and context on the conference and reporting areas. An overall report is under construction. See the news announcement released after the workshop.

Conference Series
With the January 17-18, 2003 conference, “Transforming Disciplines,” we open what we would like to see as a series of annual “best practice” conferences for computer scientists and humanities computing practitioners to review current research, lessons learned and promising directions, with the goals of identifying unmet needs and policy issues for funders and policymakers as well as to identify areas of research that will benefit from cross-disciplinary applications conducive to new discovery and long term collaboration between the humanities and engineering sciences. These conferences will provide one ongoing context for the reporting of the cross-disciplinary results of Building Blocks as well as an international forum for discussion and exchange between the communities of the humanities and computer science. The conference series is the single strongest framework for continuing and building on the conversations of the 1997 Roundtable. See Conference Press Release. Conference Web Site Under Construction

Steering Committee
Marjory Blumenthal, Executive Director, Computer Science & Telecommunications Board, National Academies; David L. Green, Executive Director, NINCH; Charles Henry, Vice President and Chief Information Officer, Rice University; Stanley N. Katz, Director, Center for Arts & Cultural Policy Studies, Princeton University; Joan Lippincott, Associate Executive Director, Coalition for Networked Information; John Unsworth, Director, Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, University of Virginia; Steven C. Wheatley, Vice President, American Council of Learned Societies.

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