American Council of Learned Societies
Occasional Paper No. 41

Computing and the Humanities:
Summary of a Roundtable Meeting

Appendix B.


In our discussion we speak broadly of the humanities. We mean to include those areas normally understood as the arts, the humanities, and the social sciences. While the arts connote the arena of active creation or performance of works of human expression, the humanities comprise those areas of intellectual investigation that focus on the preservation, transmission, and interpretation of the human record. Their cousins, the social sciences, focus on the analysis of social forces and the modeling of laws underlying the formation of society and of the individual's relationship to society. The social sciences—economics, political science, sociology, psychology—rely more on observation of current social forces and analysis of data than on historical document and cultural object.

One might broadly categorize the humanities as follows:

  • the history and analysis of society and culture—its currents, events, and forms as measured and observed through objects and documents. Specialization is broadly by the type of activity studied or the means of analysis (history of law, labor, politics, science, economics), period (archaeology, various period studies, e.g. Medieval Studies, 18th-century studies), or geographical area (by country or other area, e.g. English History; Oriental Studies). Methodologies vary: narrative and thematic analysis, comparative studies, detailed data analysis.

  • history and analysis of forms of thought and creative expression: philosophy; spoken and written language (literature and linguistics, drama); visual forms (visual art and architecture, cinema, theater); music; and dance. Approaches vary: biographical narrative, detailed internal and comparative analysis of works, broader studies of aesthetics and their historical development.

I. Introduction and Background
II. Toward a Common Language: Methods and Context
III. Software and Standards Development
IV. Economic and Institutional Issues
V. Next Steps: Talk First to Select Actions Better

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