ALLC Roadmap Meeting

Pisa

April 2002

This year's mid-term committee meeting of the Association for Literary and Linguistic Computing was branded as a roadmap meeting (apparently a current vogue word for meetings devoted to navel gazing) which might hopefully produce some content for a New Directions in Humanities Computing panel session to be held at the close of this year's ALLC-ACH conference. In addition to ALLC committee members, the meeting, organized and chaired by David Robey and Harold Short, was attended by a small number of hand-picked invited experts from the field; I was given the task of presenting a summary of the issues raised during the course of the two day discussion, so had to pay attention. The meeting was held in Pisa, so the dinners were good.

Each of the five sessions was supposed to address the same questions (Where are we now?, Where are we headed?, What should our agenda be?) from the perspective of the following five different application areas: linguistics (Laslo Hunyadi and Elisabeth Burr); literary studies (Paul Fortier and Lisa-Lena Opas-Hanninen); Bibliography and textual criticism (John Dawson and Wilhelm Ott); Libraries and archives(Espen Ore, Marilyn Deegan, Susan Hockey); Multimedia and performance studies (Lorna Hughes and Jean Anderson); Methodologies and digital scholarship (Willard McCarty and Harold Short).

I took a lot of notes, from which I distilled a final summary that seemed to go down quite well. You can read these notes at 0204pisanotes.txt; here's a briefer and possibly less tactful summary of the chief conclusions I drew from the experience: the major application areas for computers in the humanities disciplines continue to be in linguistics, textual criticism, and (arguably) library science; in all of these areas, the research agenda is dictated by the discipline specialists; similarly, in other areas such as digital cultural heritage, all the significant developments are being undertaken by technical or cultural specialists, not by by cross-disciplinary theoreticians; a wider understanding of the theory and practice of textuality, markup, and text-encoding remains arguably the only substantive result of the last two decades of humanities computing the major contribution currently made by humanities computing specialists is in brokering collaborative work involving specialists from technical and non-technical disciplines; no-one had much of any substance to say about information extraction, data mining, distance learning, distributed computing, or other creative applications of the technology .

However, as I said, the dinners were very good.