E-ciència en humanitats digitals

ImageGràcies a un tweet de @io2a he vist un post del TGE-Adonis (una unitat del CNRS francès) sobre la revista Digital Humanities Quarterly, que en el seu darrer número (Vol.3 , No. 4, tardor 2009) està dedicada a l’e-Ciència en el domini de les arts i de les ciències humanes. Tots els articles són força interessants, i la veritat és que proporcionen un bon pont entre la ciència i les humanitats, aportant nova llum al camí a vegades poc il.luminat que va d’una disciplina fins l’altra. Des de la meva posició al bell mig de la Ciència, m’agrada veure aquests esforços, que ajuden a crear llaços entre aquests dos grans camps del coneixement.

A la introducció de DHQ s’hi parla de forma clara de la e-ciència en les humanitats digitals:

L’introduction, rédigée par Stuart Dunn et Tobias Blanke du Centre d’e-Research du King’s College de Londres, revient sur la naissance et le développement du programme de l’initiative d’e-science dans les arts et les sciences humaines au Royaume-Uni , démarrée en 2005. Elle a eu pour but, dans un premier temps, de prouver que l’e-science pouvait susciter l’intérêt des « humanistes ». Elle visait aussi à confronter les méthodes informatiques aux défis spécifiques des données de sciences humaines. Ce champ de recherche ne s’est pas défini et imposé sans difficultés. L’emploi du terme d’e-research a été adopté au départ pour différencier les méthodes de l’e-science appliquées aux SHS de celles appliquées aux sciences exactes.

De fet, al primer article de la revista (Digital Humanities Quarterly Special Cluster on Arts and Humanities e-Science) hi ha una interessant discussió sobre el que vol dir “e-ciència”:

Arts and humanities e-Science has proven not only difficult to define, but also a paradoxical coinage. This is rooted in an etymological language distinction. The English language distinguishes between the “humanities” and “science” in a way that reflects a specific treatment of the division of labour in research; while in German both are Wirssenschaften, and in French both are sciences. In English, science is not just a general state of knowing, like philosophy to the Ancient Greeks; it is linked to specific “scientific” methods, which are mainly found in “hard” or “natural” sciences — a pattern reflected very clearly in the first five years or so of e-Science itself. Such methods are normally terra incognita to the communities inhabited by humanists and practice-led researchers in the arts. This makes “e-Science in (or for) Arts and Humanities” a paradox, which is not helped by the general confusion about what “e-Science”‚ in itself, might be. This paradox led to a lively discussion in the early stages of the Initiative as to whether the methods and technologies of e-Science as applied to the arts and humanities should have been repackaged as “e-Research”. This term, it was argued, might better reflect the fact that the appeal of those methods and technologies for (e.g.) collaboration, or dealing with fuzzy and/or incomplete data, does not necessarily have to extend to dealing with terabyte-scale datasets or massive intercontinental computational processing, as hitherto associated with e-Science and its traditional “big science” constituency. The term “e-Research” was resisted, however, on the grounds that arts and humanities e-Science is about using advanced technology to tackle arts and humanities research questions: technology that originates from far outside the arenas familiar to arts and humanities researchers, even those traditionally involved with ICT (although, as discussed below, a number of UK institutions have had to recognize the difficulties this presents for interdisciplinary collaboration when setting up dedicated research institutes). The increasing use of so-called Web 2.0 applications in advanced research, and an emerging debate in the broader e-Science world about the role of distributed technology and its relationship with the user, has given extra significance to this question (see also [Dunn 2009]). This significance is further explored in this issue in our interview with David De Roure, one of the key figures in this debate.

Em sembla molt interessant també l’article (fora del clúster d’articles sobre e-ciència i humanitats) The Digital Future is Now: A Call to Action for the Humanities, on es caracteritzen sis diferències principals entre les humanitats i la ciència:

The digital humanities are at a critical moment in the transition from a specialty area to a full-fledged community with a common set of methods, sources of evidence, and infrastructure — all of which are necessary for achieving academic recognition. As budgets are slashed and marginal programs are eliminated in the current economic crisis, only the most articulate and productive will survive. Digital collections are proliferating, but most remain difficult to use, and digital scholarship remains a backwater in most humanities departments with respect to hiring, promotion, and teaching practices. Only the scholars themselves are in a position to move the field forward. Experiences of the sciences in their initiatives for cyberinfrastructure and eScience offer valuable lessons. Information- and data-intensive, distributed, collaborative, and multi-disciplinary research is now the norm in the sciences, while remaining experimental in the humanities. Discussed here are six factors for comparison, selected for their implications for the future of digital scholarship in the humanities: publication practices, data, research methods, collaboration, incentives, and learning. Drawing upon lessons gleaned from these comparisons, humanities scholars are “called to action” with five questions to address as a community: What are data? What are the infrastructure requirements? Where are the social studies of digital humanities? What is the humanities laboratory of the 21st century? What is the value proposition for digital humanities in an era of declining budgets?

Pel que fa a la pròpia revista, és interessant la definició de Digital Humanities:

Digital humanities is a diverse and still emerging field that encompasses the practice of humanities research in and through information technology, and the exploration of how the humanities may evolve through their engagement with technology, media, and computational methods. DHQ seeks to provide a forum where practitioners, theorists, researchers, and teachers in this field can share their work with each other and with those from related disciplines. In identifying the scope of DHQ, we define both “the humanities” and “the digital” quite broadly, and we invite contributions that probe the boundaries of the domain or re-examine its foundational premises

Tot plegat, un número interessant que, al menys als que estem al cantó de la ciència, ens permet fer-nos una idea de la computació i de la informàtica en el camp de les humanitats i de les ciències socials. També ens pot permetre pensar en projectes interdisciplinars, que no són pas gaire fàcils de fer.