Underlying these administrative problems is a more basic question aboutthe nature of humanistic work. A humanities culture that prizes thinking and writing will tend to look down on making and building as banausic—the kind of labor that can be outsourced to non-specialists. Digital humanities gains some of its self-confidence from the democratic challenge that it mounts to that old distinction. “Personally, I think Digital Humanities is about building things,” said Ramsay in a polarizing talk at the MLA convention in 2011, printed in Defining Digital Humanities. Unlike many theorists, however, he was willing to make this demand concrete: “Do you have to know how to code? I’m a tenured professor of digital humanities and I say ‘yes.’ ”[...] if digital humanities is to be a distinctive discipline, it should require distinctive skills.
But are they humanistic skills? Was it necessary for a humanist in the past five hundred years to know how to set type and publish a book? Moreover, is it practical for a humanities curriculum that can already stretch for ten years or more, from freshman year to Ph.D., to be expanded to include programming skills?