Friday, 19 November 2010


You'd have to be hiding under a rock to not notice the attack on the Arts and Humanities in the UK, and beyond, recently.

As a response to the threads on Humanist in October on "industrialisation of
the digital humanities" ( and "digital humanities and the cuts (, I am part of an international collective of digital humanists that Alan Liu is coordinating. We have started an initiative and Web site called "4Humanities: Advocating for the Humanities" (

(Members so far in the U.S., Canada, and U.K.): Edward Ayers, Cathy N. Davidson, Patrick Durusau,
David Theo Goldberg, Tim Hitchcock, Lorna Hughes, Alan Liu, Andrew Prescott, Stephen Ramsay, Geoffrey Rockwell, Lisa Spiro, Me, and William G. Thomas, III.

The 4Humanities Mission Statement goes as follows (

4Humanities is a site created by the international community of digital humanities scholars and educators to assist in advocacy for the humanities.

Government and private support for the humanities—for research, teaching, preservation, and creative renewal in such fields as literature, history, languages, philosophy, classics, art history, cultural studies, libraries, and so on—are in decline. In some nations, especially since the economic recession that started in 2007, the decline has resulted in major cuts in government and university funding. Leaders of society and business stake all the future on innovative and entrepreneurial discoveries in science,engineering, biomedicine, green technology, and so on. But the humanities contribute the needed perspective, training in complex human phenomena, and communication skills needed to spark, understand, and make “human” the new discoveries. In the process, they themselves discover new, and also very old, ways to be human. They do so through their unique contribution of the wisdom of the past, awareness of other cultures in the present, and imagination of innovative and fair futures. Many people care about the humanities, not just in the educational and cultural institutions directly affected by the recent cutbacks, but also in business, government, science, media, politics, the professions, and the general public. They believe that society will be poorer, not richer, without the humanities to help us grasp, and evolve, what it means to be “human” and “humane” in today’s complex

4Humanities is both a platform and a resource for humanities advocacy. As a platform, 4Humanities stages the efforts of humanities advocates to reach out to the public. We are a combination newspaper, magazine, channel, blog, wiki, and social network. We solicit well-reasoned or creative demonstrations, examples, testimonials, arguments, opinion pieces, open letters, press releases, print posters, video “advertisements,” write-in campaigns, social-media campaigns, short films, and other innovative forms of humanities advocacy, along with accessibly-written scholarly works grounding the whole in research or reflection about the state of the humanities.

As a resource, 4Humanities provides humanities advocates with a stockpile of digital tools, collaboration methods, royalty-free designs and images, best practices, new-media expertise, and customizable newsfeeds of issues and events relevant to the state of the humanities in any local or national context. Whether humanities advocates choose to conduct their publicity on 4Humanities itself or instead through their own newsletter, Web site, blog, and so on, we want to help with the best that digital-humanities experts have to offer.

4Humanities began because the digital humanities community—which specializes in making creative use of digital technology to advance humanities research and teaching as well as to think about the basic nature of the new media and technologies–woke up to its special potential and responsibility to assist humanities advocacy. The digital humanities are increasingly integrated in the humanities at large. They catch the eye of administrators and funding agencies who otherwise dismiss the humanities as yesterday’s news. They connect across disciplines with science and engineering fields. They have the potential to use new technologies to help the humanities communicate with, and adapt to, contemporary society.

So how can you help?

We are calling for participants and assistance from the digital humanities community. Some of the help we need most immediately is as follows:

(1) Before we become more public (i.e., recruiting talent and time from the general humanities community, itself a prelude to recruiting advocacy from people in the sciences, business, government, film industry, etc.), we need to build up more resources under the "Digital Resources for Advocacy" part of the site, (Lisa Spiro, for instance, will be helping by harvesting from her DIRT wiki:

(2) We are especially keen to begin collecting posts, images, podcasts, etc., in the currently empty category of "Students for the Humanities"--i.e., student voices.

(3) We'd really like to recruit some creative multimedia people to begin producing a video "advertisement for the humanities"--so that we don't stay only in the realm of essay-like advocacy statements.

Please write to Alan Liu at if you would be interested in helping. Please also help put out the word about 4Humanities.


Drastic Plastic said...

Evidently I live under such a rock, for I know of no "attack on the Arts and Humanities in the UK".

Is this a rather over-dramatic way of saying that this area of the tax-funded economy is being cut back because the last government borrowed and taxed and spent until it was bust? If so, as one of those who has to feed both himself and the government on one salary, my sympathy is rather limited.

It's probably best, whatever your issue, to state it clearly and factually, not to go for rhetoric. The deficit denier is not your friend, you know; sooner or later, the bills have to be paid.

Melissa said...

Roger, I was of course referring to the Brown report, and the ceasing of funding for humanities under the current teaching grant mechanism. Which is a pretty strong (and well publicised) attack on the arts, humanities, and social sciences in the UK.

See Martin McQuillan's piece on the LGS's blog, "If you tolerate this… Lord Browne and the Privatisation of the Humanities" for a good overview of the situation.

Nice you only have to feed yourself and the government with your salary. All being well in the next three weeks, I will have to feed myself, the government, and three kids from a humanities academic salary. Not to mention trying to save to put them through an education system which those who are making the cuts benefited from for free, despite their trustfunds.

Its probably best, whatever your issue, not to bring snark to the table.