Citation: “Hello (again), world!” Alan Liu, 4 October 2015. http://liu.english.ucsb.edu/hello-again-world/

This is the inaugural message I posted to the new “digital-humanities@lsmail.ucsb.edu” listserv at UC Santa Barbara, which I started in October 2015. The posting was made on 4 October 2015.

4 October 2015

Hello (again), world!

“Hello, world!” is the customary first output for a beginner trying out a programming language. At UC Santa Barbara, many of us were saying hello, world! to the digital humanities as early as the start of the 1990s, though the name for the field had not yet been invented. In my own case, for instance, I started Voice of the Shuttle in 1994, and at that time also circulated email tips and how-to instructions for something new called “the Internet.” I also published locally and sold through our campus bookstore a 124-page booklet titled Ultrabasic Guide to the Internet For Humanities Users at UCSB (1994) [PDF version]). In other words, UCSB was an early “beginner” in the digital humanities, especially in conjunction with the digital arts and social sciences. (Not to mention, of course, engineering and the sciences. After all, our campus was one of the original four nodes of the Internet when it started in 1960 as the ARPAnet.) True to the robustly decentralized culture of our information technology at that time, we started digital humanities by evolving local nodes of strength in departments and programs (even such ham-radio-like clubs as the Many Wolves Web Authoring Collective that Victoria Vesna and I participated in during 1995-96); then we created collaborations between those nodes. All of that was catalyzed by interdisciplinary hubs or programs such as the two UC Multi-campus Research Grants we hosted (The Digital Cultures Project, 2000-2005; Transliteracies, 2005-2010), CITS (Center for Information Technology & Society), and MAT (Media Arts & Technology).

But we’ve never had a common listserv for the digital humanities, relying instead on our patchwork of center- or program-based lists. Starting this listserv now in 2015 (digital-humanities@lsmail.ucsb.edu) is essentially a way to say: “Hello (again), world!”

It’s also a way to reflect on the curious relation of UCSB at the present time to the world’s rapidly expanding awareness of the digital humanities. Having rushed onto the digital scene prior to the invention of the “digital humanities” name (which originated circa 2005), we don’t here actually have centers and programs called “Digital Humanities,” even though we have many past and present initiatives, projects, grants, courses, etc.–some of international repute–that fit that bill. Nor, as our campus recovers from the great California budget cutbacks of a few years past, does it look likely that we will be able to take advantage of digital humanities’ currently more evolved institutional and programmatic framework to jump in with full commitment to dedicated DH cluster hires, DH centers, DH “alt-ac” positions, etc. (like those at other public and private universities that are latecomers to the field but able to commit resources strategically at the right moment). (I remember with bittersweetness the missed opportunity of the exciting proposal for a DH-themed “Humanities Collaborative Research and Teaching Initiative” [colloquially called “Humanities Lab”] that some of us designed for UCSB in 2009 at the request of our Chancellor and Dean of Humanities and Arts to respond to the recommendations of the 2004 Association of American Universities [AAU] Reinvigorating the Humanities: Enhancing Research and Education on Campus and Beyond report [PDF]. That proposal for a DH incubator was dead on arrival because of the deep, heartless, and IMHO ultimately short-sighted and courageless public-university budget cuts of the Great Recession.)

So, the underlying question that motivates me to start this digital humanities listserv now in 2015–some 20 years after we all began the great digital adventure at UCSB–is: what next? How can we exploit our advantage as early movers in the field (and in the related social science, arts, and other digital fields whose collaboration with the humanities is part of the longtime DNA of digital studies on campus) in a way that builds the next generation of digital humanities at UCSB? For example, would it be possible to exploit our unique strengths by creating a unified intellectual agenda–supported by publications, conferences, curricula, etc.–for the “digital humanities” and “new media studies”? (That unified framework doesn’t really exist yet nationally or internationally. I am amazed at how many scholars, artists, social scientists, and engineers I know working on new media or network studies with whom I have no opportunity to collaborate in conferences, co-editions, journal venues, courses, or institutional programs because such apparatus now tends to be either for “digital humanities” in a narrow sense or for “new media studies.”)

This list, I hope, will be a forum for sharing news, events, resources, tools, job calls, conference calls, publications, research, methods, syllabi, etc., relevant to the digital humanities in a capacious sense. I hope it will also occasionally be a space for sharing reflections with a longer historical or future time horizon of the sort I have started us on here.

Next up: short news and resource items. Please contribute to the list your own news, resources, events, tools, courses, etc. And tell your colleagues and students about the list in case they are interested.

Again: folks at UCSB and alumni can sign up as a member of the UCSB digital-humanities listserv here: https://lists.lsit.ucsb.edu/listinfo/digital-humanities.lsmail The address for posting messages to the list once you are a member is: digital-humanities@lsmail.ucsb.edu

–Alan Liu, October 4, 2015