CS+X

Humanities and computer science are not two separate worlds anymore, what is visible in dynamic and developing field of digital humanities (DH). Although digital humanities is not an academic discipline, there is no study devoted merely to DH, some universities have introduced additional courses or PhD studies in the scope of digital humanities. Digital humanities is the area of research conducting at the intersection of the humanities and computer science, and its aim is to elaborate digital tools to collect, organize, present and analyze texts for research in the humanities. DH is located in centers or laboratories that gather researchers from different academic fields. Therefore, it is interdisciplinary and collaborative field, two keywords of digital humanities.

Digital humanities does not solve all challenges that may be taken up by high-school students who have to choose between studying the humanities and computer science. Then, the question rises: how can we combine the humanistic spirit with a passion for programming? I believe this dilemma will be more and more common among next generations; surely in the US where president Obama released, couple weeks ago, a new initiative, called “Computer Science for All”, the goal of which is to “increase access to K-12 computer science education”.

Nowadays, if humanists want to delve into the secrets of programming, they can participate in seminars and workshops such as Digital Humanities Summer Institute, or study computer science on your own. It seems that a good solution would be to introduce practical courses (not only theory) within the humanities, focusing on practical using digital tools in research. Nevertheless, such strategy does not tackle all problems, since in this case, the humanities is the major field of study and computer science is only a supplement. So, how can we merge the humanities and computer science to put stress on them equally?

Stanford University has initiated a new program, informally known as “CS+X”, Computer Science+X, where “x” means one of 14 disciplines in the humanities, including history, art, and classics. As a result, you can choose, for example, “CS+Music”, studying either music cognition or acoustic technologies. It seems that the advantage of this program is strict focus on one field and an acquirement interdisciplinary knowledge. According to Jim Kurose, assistant director for computer and information science and engineering at the National Science Foundation, “CS+X degrees may not be meant for students who want to do deeply technical work as programmers, but rather for those who want to use data collection to analyze topics such as politics, society, and the environment”.

By looking at current, what has been called in recent years, a crisis in philology and literary studies, program “Computer Science + Philology” would reanimate philology, and in particularly, prove that this discipline, contrary to appearances, has been one of the most significant field. Digital collections, editing and digital reproduction of books, to name just a few, are essential research in the age of digitization of culture. You cannot (or should not) work on digital editions without philological knowledge. It is worth recalling Jerome McGann’s thought that a “philological system is fundamentally a system of social software” (“A New Republic of Letters: Memory and Scholarship in the Age of Digital Reproduction”, 2014). This idea calls to mind also David M. Berry (“Understanding Digital Humanities”, 2012) who, in turn, claims that understanding culture is in some sense understanding digital technology.