This Changes Everything!
The “Digital Turn” and the Institutional Practice of the Humanities

Conferência de abertura – Opening Conference

Daniel O’Donnell

University of Lethbridge


Daniel Paul O’Donnell é Professor na Universidade de Lethbridge, onde ensina e pesquisa nas áreas de Humanidades Digitais, Patrimônio Cultural Digital, Filologia Inglesa, e História do Livro. Foi presidente da Society for Digital Humanities / Société pour l’étude des médias interactifs, associação canadense que reúne humanistas envolvidos em pesquisa, ensino e criação voltados a tecnologias digitais. É fundador do Perspectivas Globais::Humanidades Digitais – Global Outlook::Digital Humanities (GO::DH), grupo de interesse especial (SIG) da Alliance of Digital Humanities Organisations (ADHO) que visa enfrentar as barreiras que impedem a colaboração entre pequisadores e estudantes das humanidades, artes digitais e setores de patrimônio cultural em países de diversos níveis socioeconômicos. É também co-editor do periódicos Digital Studies / Le champ numérique e Digital Medievalist (por ele fundado). Foi, ainda, Conselheiro e CEO da TEI, Text Encoding Initiative (2006-2010). / Daniel Paul O’Donnell is a Professor in the Department of English at the University of Lethbridge, where he lectures and researches in Digital Humanities, Digital Cultural Heritage, English Philology, and Book History. He was co-president (English) of the Canadian Society for Digital Humanities/Société canadienne des humanités numériques, an association that draws together humanists who are engaged in digital and computer-assisted research, teaching, and creation. He is founder of Global Outlook::Digital Humanities (GO::DH), a Special Interest Group (SIG) of the Alliance of Digital Humanities Organisations (ADHO). He is also co-editor of Digital Studies / Le champ numérique and associate editor of Digital Medievalist, a journal he helped found. In previous years he has been Chair and CEO of the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI), (2006-2010), and founding director of the Digital Medievalist Community of Practice (2003-2009).



It is a truism to say that the “Digital Turn” is having a profound effect on disciplinary practice in the Humanities. It is affecting what we study, how we teach, and the methods we use present our findings. These are changes we’ve seen coming and, as a result, they have been well studied.

But how is it affecting our institutional practice? The way we organise and adjudicate our work? The way we fund and understand our activity? The way we present ourselves to the public? How what we do is understood?

These changes are as important and potentially far-reaching as anything affecting our disciplinary practice. But because they involve us rather than the things we study, they can be easier to overlook and more difficult to analyze. The inherent institutional conservatism of academy also ensures that they tend to move much more slowly, and often in the face of deep resistance.

This paper looks at the effect the “Digital Turn” is having on the place and practice of the Humanities as an institution and how humanists are responding to the challenges and opportunities it presents. Perhaps most importantly, it discusses some of the new opportunities these changes present for improving the humanities relevance and standing in contemporary society.

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  1. Pingback: I Seminário em Humanidades Digitais no Brasil | Bibliotecas Digitais para as Humanidades·

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