The Role of the Humanities in the Digital Age: The GPWC at 40 Years

“I find myself anticipating a new kind of storyteller,” writes author and Professor Janet H. Murray in her book Hamlet on the Holodeck, “I am drawn to imagining a cyberdrama of the future by the same fascination that draws me to the Victorian novel.”

Murray is an internationally-recognized interaction designer and innovator of digital narrative and digital humanities. Her influential book, Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace (MIT Press, 1998) asks if computer technology can be the base for a new artistic narrative form.

Murray gives the keynote address at this year’s 40th Annual Great Plains Writers Conference whose theme is “The Role of the Humanities in the Digital Age: The GPWC at 40 Years.” She speaks at 7 pm on Monday, March 21 at McCrory Gardens Education & Visitor Center.

Hamlet on the HolodeckMurray

Jason McEntee, SDHC board member and SDSU English department head said, “I am very excited about Janet Murray—she is a pioneer of digital humanities!”


Murray currently serves as associate dean for research and faculty affairs and Professor in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication at Georgia Tech. There she developed one of the world’s first doctorate programs in Digital Media and directs the eTV Lab, a research group that creates prototypes of advanced digital storytelling environments.

This year’s GPWC will focus on how narratives, writing, and the humanities have been reshaped by current technologies and speculate about changes the next 40 years may bring. Throughout the day, the community can also hear other internationally recognized scholars and panels discuss the topic.

 “This is our fifth year of ‘thematizing’ the conference; prior to this, the conference did not have any theme in particular, just panel and presentations and workshops,” McEntee said.

The conference was started by SDSU’s English Department in 1976 and continues to provide a multitude of free workshops, panel discussion, and public readings. Project Director Darla Biel said she is “particularly pleased that one of the conference co-founders, Charles Woodard, is able to join us and give some opening remarks on this history of the conference.”


The South Dakota Humanities Council has been a long time sponsor of the GPWC and is excited to provide a Discussion Grant for this year’s conference. The conference was one of seven humanities-oriented proposals awarded grant money by the SDHC for 2016.

“We likely couldn't have reached this 40th anniversary without the ongoing support of SDHC. Thank you!” Biel said.

Visit the Great Plains Writers Conference website for a complete list of the day’s speakers and schedule.