CIRCA:Hockey, Susan "History of Humanities Computing"


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Hockey, Susan. “The History of Humanities Computing.” A Companion to Digital Humanities, ed. Susan Schrelbman, Ray Siemens, John Unsworth. Oxford: Blackwell, 2004. [1]

Reviewed By Megan Sellmer

Susan Hockey’s article, “The History of Humanities Computing” (2004), described the evolution of humanities computing and its relationship with technological advancements, asserting that the progress provided an invaluable foundation to the field. Hockey proved this through various examples shown in the period of 1949 to 2004, particularly focusing on the digitalization of text. She presented cases of that work in order to explain the analytic approach taken to combat negative issues that were prevalent in Humanities. Hockey designed this article to reach students with an interest in humanities computing, especially in the fields of linguistics, library and information studies, and those exploring the arts.

Hockey divided her article in to four sections, and explained the progression that humanities computing experienced in specific years. She described an early project that proved Madison wrote the Federalist Papers (previously unidentified), confirmed by comparative and statistical approaches (by Mostller and Wallace). (3) The rest of the article contained similar examples of scholars using computers to make electronic literature. The author’s standout technological advancement of the timeline was TEI (Text Encoding Initiative), Hockey described it as “…the first systematic attempt to categorize and define all the features within humanities texts that might interest scholars.” (9) She also pointed out other important developments like markup languages (such as SGML, XML), online databases (Oxford Text Archive or OTA), humanities computing journals, conferences, and Associations.

Hockey showed an interesting view of this field to someone who has yet studied the area in depth, and promoted an excitement of working with computers. She described the shared technology, conferences, and ideas between Linguistics and Library and Information scholars and Humanities Computing and how that changed. As a SLIS-HUCO student, there was particular knowledge gained from the close relationship found in the information sector. This article partnered with Patrik Svensson’s “The Landscape of Digital Humanities” provided a general view of the disciplines past, present, and future. In context, these readings assignments helped lay a foundation for the rest of the term.

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