American Council of Learned Societies
Occasional Paper No. 37
Information Technology in Humanities Scholarship:
Achievements, Prospects, and Challenges
The United States Focus
V. PRINCIPAL RECOMMENDATIONS
AND FOLLOW-UP ACTIVITIES
Action is required on many fronts if the potential advances in research described in this brief
survey are to become the norm throughout the humanities. This will depend in part on action by
scholars in the humanities, for surveys have revealed a culture of low expectations in terms of funding
for equipment, maintenance, and support and a consequent under-representation on
university computing and equipment committees. Although this situation is beginning to change with
the growing awareness of the benefits of information technology, humanities scholars must make
their needs explicit and press for representation. Unfortunately, this change is taking place at a time
of acute pressure on funding in higher education in general, and hence shortages even
among established users of information technology.
Those responsible for the allocation of funds must ensure that support for information
technology in the humanities matches that expected in science and social science faculties, and that the true
costs of using such technology are recognized. Similarly, scholars in the humanities must
have opportunities to develop skills in the application of information technology, especially those
with little experience in the field.
A national strategy is needed for the conversion of analogue material into digital form, for
the holding of research material that will maintain comprehensive coverage, and for the provision
of user-friendly systems to ensure that such material will be made available over the Internet. The
use of information in electronic form also requires attention to copyright issues and to the
development and promotion of standards for the documentation and transfer of material in electronic form.
This report will be most useful if, in conclusion, it recapitulates some of the priorities
articulated at a number of meetings of humanists, technical experts, librarians, and administrators over the
last five years. These priorities include:
establishing an annual review of arts and humanities computing, whether a conference
or electronic list, where progress can be reported and assessed.
greater support for standardization requirements and computing needs in the humanities
and arts, in the context of ongoing corporate and industrial discussions.
the promotion by scholars, administrators, and librarians of the institutional and social
change required for the creation of a hospitable environment
for computer-supported arts and humanities.
progress by humanists in the coming decade in developing shared methods of
the creation of a significant mass of digitized networked information in the humanities
and arts that can enrich a sense of community, foster intellectual collaboration, preserve
cultural information, and improve the quality of teaching and learning.
Added to these are the more technical issues of ensuring the highest fidelity of representation
of original works; the preservation of integrity over time of digital information; and the promotion
of detailed description and commentary of objects and documents to assure accurate provenance
and future access.
Preface | I. Background
II. Information Technology and Scholarship | III. New Developments and Change
IV. To Challenge and Invigorate Future Scholarship | V. Principal Recommendations and Follow-up Activities