The closing keynote address to the Digital Humanities Summer Institute (DHSI) 2014 was given this year by Alex Gil (Columbia University), under the title, “The (Digital) Library of Babel.” With nods to both Jerome McGann and Bethany Nowviskie, Gil reminds us of the intellectual urgency surrounding the work undertaken by digital humanities scholars, and calls for a more inclusive, global, and universal practice among both individual scholars and institutions.
I for one take dead seriously Jerome McGann’s impossible injunction that the role of the humanist in the XXI century is to tend to the history of our documentary pasts—recorded, written, painted or built—and oversee their remediation for our digital futures.
For the first time, though, we have within our reach the means for both the production and dissemination of our own scholarly work at a massive scale. Provided the bloodstained cables, circuits and energy sources that support our digital mirrors clean up their act and survive our politics and commerce, we have an unprecedented opportunity to rebuild our collective memories on a different key. A humanities gone digital brings not the future, but a new past.
Gil goes on to discuss the genesis and recent work of Global Outlook::Digital Humanities, the #aroundDH in 80 Days project, and, more generally, the burden of translation (and where it should be placed) in a field that aims to consist of a “global community of scholars.”