The digital humanist: Contested status within contesting futures

Costas Papadopoulos*, Paul Reilly

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The fluctuating role and status of digital humanists—for example as adjunct technicians, hybrid cross-disciplinary scholars, para-academics, or so-called Alt-Acs—is not solely contingent on disciplinary challenges in the academy. Uncontrollable external factors such as economic instability, political change, and technological disruption can radically change and redefine roles and career trajectories. Therefore, the possibility of having to deal with the consequences of not just constant change but also potentially massively disruptive upheaval needs to be considered seriously on an ongoing basis. To avoid, or mitigate, the destructive aspects of such destabilizing change to the Digital Humanities we apply the futurity technique of scenario analysis. In this analysis, we develop and explore four plausible, contesting, but not mutually exclusive, potential futures and ask three fundamental questions to inform future organizational designs and development plans: What could happen? What would be the impact? What needs to be done to be ready and able to respond effectively (to all scenarios)? We conclude that, to remain relevant and resilient in a world constantly threatened by disruption, the Digital Humanities should adopt more flexible and less hierarchical divisions, open processes, and policies, and embrace flatter organizational structures, incorporating extended and inter-operable networks of communities, sources, and technologies, while employing a blended basket of criteria that will prevent identified schisms from becoming dangerous chasms.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)127-145
Number of pages19
JournalDigital Scholarship in the Humanities
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020


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