‘I would think of myself as sitting inside the computer: Mary Dee Harris and Julianne Nyhan


‘I would think of myself as sitting inside the computer: Mary Dee Harris and Julianne Nyhan


An oral history interview for the Hidden Histories project


This oral history interview was conducted 3 June 2015 via skype. In it Mary Dee Harris recalls her early encounters with computing, including her work at the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, California. Despite these early encounters with computing she had planned to leave it behind when she returned to graduate school to pursue a PhD; however, the discovery of c.200 pages of a Dylan Thomas manuscript prompted her to rethink this. Her graduate study was based in the English Department of the University of Texas at Austin, which did not have an account with the Computer Centre, and so it was necessary for her to apply for a graduate student grant in order to buy computer time. Her PhD studies convince her of the merits of using computers in literary research and she hoped to convince her colleagues of this too. However, her applications for academic jobs were not successful. After working in Industry for a time she went on to secure academic positions in Computer Science at various universities. During her career she also held a number of posts in Industry and as a Consultant. In these roles she worked on a wide range of Artificial Intelligence and especially Natural Language Processing projects. Her interview is a wide-ranging one. She reflects on topics like the peripheral position of a number of those who worked in Computers and the Humanities in the 1970s and her personal reactions to some of the computing systems she used, for example, the IBM 360. She also recalls how she, as a woman, was sometimes treated in what tended to be a male-dominated sector, for example, the physics Professor who asked “So are you going to be my little girl?”


Julianne Nyhan and respective authors


Julianne Nyhan and Andrew Flinn 2016. Computation and the Humanities: towards an oral history of Digital Humanities. Springer.




Interview audio files are made available under a creative commons licence “by-nc-nd” with the following characteristics:
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See: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-ncnd/
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Oral History interview


The history of Digital Humanities c. 1949- 2016



Julianne Nyhan


Mary Dee Harris


Skype interview



Julianne Nyhan and respective authors , “‘I would think of myself as sitting inside the computer: Mary Dee Harris and Julianne Nyhan,” Hidden Histories: Digital Humanities 1949 – Present, accessed February 22, 2024, https://hiddenhistories.omeka.net/items/show/41.