Reverse Engineering, via Twitter, the Instant History Conference

On September 24th, 2016 Loyola University hosted the Instant History one-day conference. This event, sponsored by Hank Center, the CTSDH, and the Svaglic Chair for Textual Studies and thoughtfully organized by Prof. P. Eggert, explored Father Busa’s humanities computing methods and their legacies.


  1. It was Saturday morning and a corwd assembled to listen our four wonderful speakers: Geoffrey Rockwell (University of Alberta, Canada), Steven Jones (University of South Florida), Ted Underwood (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign), and Laura Mendell (Texas A & M).
  2. However, as it usually happens with Digital Humanities events, we experienced technical difficulties...
  3. But nothing was stopping the Instant History Conference from happening. We simply moved to another room and the conference started.
  4. The first speaker was Prof. Geoffrey Rockwell. During his introduction, entitled “Replicating Father Busa’s Methods,” he spoke about his ongoing research on Busa's humanities computing methods to build a massive lemmatized concordance to the works of St. Thomas Aquinas. By replicating Busa's methods, he has been able to better understand the technical and manual work behind Busa's project.
  5. He has also been able to understand the arguments against Father Busa's humanities computing methods as well as the limitations (both physical and technological) of Busa's approach.
  6. Rockwell was followed by Prof. Steven Jones, former director of the CTSDH. Jones is the author of the recent work, Roberto Busa, S.J., and the Emenrgence of Humanities Computing: The Priest and the Punched Cards (Routledge, 2016). During his presentation, entitled “Reverse-Engineering the First Humanities Computing Center: A Media-Archaeology Approach”, he introduced us to his work on reverse engineering, and how he would like to virtually reconstruct the world's first Humanities Computing center.
  7. Jones' approach has lead him to understand aspects of the CAAL such as the division of labor, labor hierarchies, and the role of women in the center, as well as the role of the Jesuit's world mission and the mid-century understanding of Philology in the CAAL.
  8. Both Rockwell's and Jones' presentations led to important conclusions and questions regarding Father Busa's work and his contribution to contemporary Digital Humanities research.