Information technology changes the world in which we are living in many ways. The humanities as the discipline which occupies itself with the world's cultural wealth have to take these changes into account and have to teach their students ways to analyse critically the artecfacts produced with the help of the new technology.

As students are now growing up with information technology, the humanities have to find new ways of reaching them with the perennial problems of the world's cultural wealth, of communicating with them in terms they will understand and of equipping them with the means needed for a critical thinking in their world.

As many students are using information technology already for themselves, the humanities have to empower them to make critical use of this technology.

In other terms, the general aims of the humanities and humanities teaching have not changed. What has changed and is changing are the circumstances under which humanities research and teaching is done.

Although these changes bring about quite a few problems for the humanities, we humanists cannot close our eyes and neglect them, because, in the long run, the humanities will be affected by them in any case.

Instead of letting this happen in a passive way and adjusting ourselves in a reactive, disorganised and inefficient way, we as humanists have to try and take the lead and become conscious that the cultural shift brought about by information technology constitutes also a great opportunity to refurbish the humanities.

We have to be careful, however, not to succumb to promotionally driven, administratively short-sighted, inflated expectations of quick-fix from investment in high tech. Instead, we have to allow us the time to shape this complex process in humanistic terms and to find out the best ways of getting information tecnology to serve our humanistic aims.

In order to be able to shape and to find out the best ways, however, we now have to take up the challenges presented by the actually ongoing processes and integrate not only our research but also our teaching with materials and methods which have already been affected by the new media. The present guidelines on best practice for teachers want to become a resource of information about how this can be done with respect, above all, to the text-based studies.1 Therefore and in order to show possible ways of integrating the new media we have started to collect descriptions of existing courses and of how courses have been planned, conducted and evaluated.

These descriptions have been written by teachers from various backgrounds, i.e.

Your institution might fall either into one of these categories or find itself in between.

In the long run we recommend the creation of new undergraduate and graduate degrees which explicitely aim at qualifying students in information technology applied to the humanities or to specific humanities fields.

We are convinced that this goal has to be persued in such a way that a distinctive contribution to the creation of a multicultural and multilingual Europe is made where people live peacefully together and respect not only the members of the European community but people coming from outside as well and where the possibilities brought about by the new technology are not used only in terms of global information and communication but also to foster a human global community.

We hold that one way of achieving this

In the long run we recommend, furthermore, to consider carefully the establishment of a seperate academic unit where humanities computing is taught for all the humanities disciplines as this would seem to be the best way to take its interdisciplinary nature into account, to share equipment and resources, to foster collaboration and exchange between computing humanists and to provide at the same time discipline specific expertise.


(1) "Text" has to be understood here in broad terms, i.e. not in terms of "written text" but as a structured unity of meaning which might well be composed exclusively of verbal expressions but might contain other elements like pictures, graphs and sound etc., too.

Last modified: 06 November 2000
Elisabeth Burr