4Humanities is an initiative to advocate for the humanities backed by the international community of digital humanities scholars and educators. Government and private support for the humanities—for research, teaching, preservation, and creative renewal in such fields as literature, history, languages, philosophy, classics, art history, cultural studies, libraries, and so on—are in decline. In some nations, especially since the economic recession that started in 2007, the decline has resulted in major cuts in government and university funding. Leaders of society and business stake all the future on innovative and entrepreneurial discoveries in science, engineering, biomedicine, green technology, and so on. But the humanities contribute the needed perspective, training in complex human phenomena, and communication skills needed to spark, understand, and make “human” the new discoveries. In the process, they themselves discover new, and also very old, ways to be human. They do so through their unique contribution of the wisdom of the past, awareness of other cultures in the present, and imagination of innovative and fair futures. Many people care about the humanities, not just in the educational and cultural institutions directly affected by the recent cutbacks, but also in business, government, science, media, politics, the professions, and the general public. They believe that society will be poorer, not richer, without the humanities to help us grasp, and evolve, what it means to be “human” and “humane” in today’s complex world.
4Humanities provides a platform for humanities advocacy, creates advocacy projects, and conducts research on the role and perception of the humanities in public.
As a platform, 4Humanities stages the efforts of humanities advocates to reach out to the public. We are a combination newspaper, magazine, channel, blog, wiki, and social network designed to amplify “voices for the humanities.” We solicit well-reasoned or creative demonstrations, examples, testimonials, arguments, opinion pieces, open letters, press releases, print posters, video “advertisements,” write-in campaigns, social-media campaigns, short films, and other innovative forms of humanities advocacy, along with accessibly-written scholarly works grounding the whole in research or reflection about the state of the humanities.
As a project incubator, 4Humanities has created initiatives that inspire people to speak up for the humanities (e.g., the Humanities, Plain & Simple Initiative and “Shout Out For the Humanities” student contest), video mini-documentaries, infographics, and other resources.
As a research group, 4Humanities has started such major projects as the WhatEvery1Says study to data mine, topic model, and analyze large-scale samples from newspaper, magazine, and other public discussions of the humanities. We are also studying the way politicians discuss and act on the humanities (e.g., What U. S. Politicians Say About the Humanities).
4Humanities began in 2010 because the digital humanities community—which specializes in making creative use of digital technology to advance humanities research and teaching as well as to think about the basic nature of the new media and technologies–woke up to its special potential and responsibility to assist humanities advocacy. The digital humanities are increasingly integrated in the humanities at large. They catch the eye of administrators and funding agencies who otherwise dismiss the humanities as yesterday’s news. They connect across disciplines with science and engineering fields. They have the potential to use new technologies to help the humanities communicate with, and adapt to, contemporary society.