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[emacs-humanities] Why Emacs-humanities?

From: Paul W. Rankin
Subject: [emacs-humanities] Why Emacs-humanities?
Date: Sun, 20 Dec 2020 20:32:07 +1000
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Why Emacs-humanities?

A few people have raised this question so as the person who put forth the proposal, the blame likely lies with me. And so, I'll attempt to articulate the motivation...

I've long suspected there to be a modest number of people who use Emacs for things wholly unrelated to programming, and that for such people their interest in programming might (currently) be little to zero. It's understandable that people without an interest in programming are unlikely to participate in the preexisting GNU lists associated with Emacs, which mostly take a programming focus.

It also seemed that many if not most of this group operated in or around the Humanities, or Liberal Arts (although being firmly rooted in the domain myself, I plausibly suffer from confirmation bias), e.g. people using Emacs to write their PhDs, research projects, novels, screenplays, etc.

EmacsConf 2020 [1] appeared to confirm this, both in its selection of topics, and the concurrent discussions on IRC/Matrix. The recent Emacs Survey [2] also showed that more than two-thirds the number of respondents who use Emacs for software development use it for writing, or if you add "research writing", the tallies between software and writing are almost equal. Over 600 respondents said they did not use Emacs for software development at all.

I'd posit there are still more people who otherwise work with text and are stifled by their mainstream non-free tools, but feel that the free software alternatives are intended only for programmers.

What I thought was needed was for GNU to send a strong signal that the doors are open to people using free software, i.e. Emacs, even if they're not currently interesting in programming, and for this invitation to be specific, i.e. Emacs within the Humanities, rather than vague.

I'd also like to single out a couple of people working in this Emacs-Humanities space...

Co-moderator Protesilaos Stavrou [3] is the author of the wonderful Modus Emacs themes, which are designed to conform with accessibility standards, while he also publishes essays and books on various -isms ("On nihilism, scepticism, absolutism" has caught my eye.)

Leo Vivier (zaeph) [4], is an English teacher in France working in Literature and Media/Visual Studies, who was one of the organisers/presenters for EmacsConf 2020 and is a maintainer of (among others) Org-Roam. Leo is currently facilitating the Emacs Research Group, which is investigating ways in which Emacs is or can be used in academic and government research.

For those interested in where my own work overlaps with Emacs:
Fountain Mode - A major mode for screenwriting in Fountain plain-text markup
Binder - A global minor mode facilitating multi-file writing projects
Olivetti - A minor mode to automatically balance window margins

Finally, let me say that I have no real plan for the direction of discussions on this list, nor do I want to be viewed as anything more than the random guy who suggested it. I hope that topics of discussion grow organically. I'm sure that subscribers will be interested in hearing about your projects using Emacs in the Humanities, your approaches to certain problems, questions, ideas, recent discoveries, etc.

[1] https://emacsconf.org/2020/
[2] https://emacssurvey.org/2020/
[3] https://protesilaos.com/
[4] https://zaeph.net


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