A First Law of Humanities Computing?

The law

A little more than a decade ago, when I was working on my “electronic edition” of Cædmon’s Hymn, I developed a formulation that I have since come (only semi-jokingly) to consider something of a law about the use of computing in the Humanities:

The application of computation to humanities problems inevitably requires an examination of first principles.

What I mean by this is that you can never just copy a technique from the pre-digital humanities into the digital space. If you try, you will inevitably find yourself thinking before long about fundamental questions of why, what, and how: why you want to do whatever it is you are doing, what it actually is that you are trying to accomplish, and how the thing you are trying to accomplish actually does what it is you think it does.


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