Derived from “raising the hand” (manus), a manifesto is a call to action, a decisive intervention at a critical moment. It is a genre characterized by pithy statements and suggestive formulations, which are simultaneously playful and deadly serious.
The purpose of the Digital Humanities Manifesto is to arouse debate about what the Humanities can and should be doing in the 21st century, particularly concerning the digital culture wars, which are, by and large, being fought and won by corporate interests. It is also a call to assert the relevance and necessity of the Humanities in a time of downsizing and persistent requiems of their death. The Humanities, I believe, are more necessary than ever as our cultural heritage as a species migrates to digital formats. This is a watershed moment in the history of human civilization, in which our relationship to knowledge and information is changing in profound and unpredictable ways. Digital Humanities studies the cultural and social impact of new technologies as well as takes an active role in the design, implementation, interrogation, and subversion of these technologies.
To quote from the Manifesto: “Digital Humanities is not a unified field but an array of convergent practices that explore a universe in which: a) print is no longer the exclusive or the normative medium in which knowledge is produced and/or disseminated; instead, print finds itself absorbed into new, multimedia configurations; and b) digital tools, techniques, and media have altered the production and dissemination of knowledge in the arts, human and social sciences. The Digital Humanities seeks to play an inaugural role with respect to a world in which universities — no longer the sole producers, stewards, and disseminators of knowledge or culture — are called upon to shape natively digital models of scholarly discourse for the newly emergent public spheres of the present era (the www, the blogosphere, digital libraries, etc.), to model excellence and innovation in these domains, and to facilitate the formation of networks of knowledge production, exchange, and dissemination that are, at once, global and local.”
Authorship: The manifesto has been published in two “Commentpress” blog instantiations. Version 2.0 is also available as a pdf file. Parts of the manifesto were written by Jeffrey Schnapp, Peter Lunenfeld, and myself, while other parts were written (and critiqued) by commenters on the Commentpress blog and still other parts of the manifesto were written by authors who participated in the seminars. This document has the hand and words of about 100 people in it.