25 Matching Annotations
  1. Jun 2017
    1. Advocates position Digital Humanities as a corrective to the “traditional” and outmoded approaches to literary study that supposedly plague English departments. Like much of the rhetoric surrounding Silicon Valley today, this discourse sees technological innovation as an end in itself and equates the development of disruptive business models with political progress.

      From this start, this article doesn't seem based in the same reality I've been observing.

      1) I don't see/or hear DH as a "corrective" so much as an "alternative."

      2) DH seems pretty self-conscious about Silicon Valley utopianism. In fact, I'd argue that it's voices from DH that have been most savvy about deconstructing that rhetoric.

  2. May 2016
    1. relying on painstaking individual scholarship

      This strikes me as one of the more politically regressive parts of their argument and it is foundational. One of the key interventions of DH, broadly defined, is to turn a bright light on the conditions of academic labor and production. Anyone who has written a monograph—even an essay—knows that it was not done by individual scholarship. It is almost always the product of the labor and institutional support of a large number of people. There is a fantasy, a destructive fantasy, of the sole scholar working silently at a desk needing nothing more than a stack of books or papers and time to produce a work of scholarship. In fact, every author depends on a greater or lesser support network that includes librarians and archivists, peers and grad students, editors and (yes) tech support, to give an incomplete list (often the very most important support is given by life partners who labor to free time for the writer). The individually-credited monograph hides all of that labor or pretends that labor was merely incidental and unconnected to the intellectual work that appears in print. The "project-based learning" in DH (as described by the authors below) tend to make that labor visible and, in the best of cases, credited. This phrase encourages me to think that the authors' "progressive politics" is abstract, divorced from material conditions of production and reproduction. People without the ability to mobilize the requisite networks of support labor—parenting scholars, adjuncts, non-professionals—are demonstrably damaged by the fetish for "painstaking individual scholarship." The burden is especially borne heavily by women. It is not what I recognize as progressive, but is rather deeply conservative.

    2. Advocates position

      If this was in a peer-reviewed journal, the reviewers would hit this very first sentence with a demand for extensive citation. In the spirit of generosity, I assume the authors have references. But the problem with starting this piece, in this venue, this way is that now everyone who thinks of themselves as having a stake in this DH thing is invited to see themselves as this "advocate" they invoke. In the vast majority of cases, they will not recognize the second half of the sentence as something that they have ever, or would ever, advocate. This may be intended as a polemic that will spark serious conversation, but with the very first words a lot of the audience that would be interested in engaging this piece sees a straw man and a misrepresentation. With that, the essay only reaches those who are inclined to agree with it in the first place. That now makes me wonder, in a less generous spirit, is this an effort to engage in a debate, or is this clickbait?

    3. the unparalleled level of material support that Digital Humanities has received

      I'm sure it feels unparalleled to the authors. But this is precisely the kind of claim that even a humanist shouldn't make without providing data. It may be true, but they aren't giving me any reason to not read the phrase in this edited form: "the unparalleled level of material support that it feels like Digital Humanities has received." Without doubt, when a student makes a statement like this in a paper written for my history classes, I lower their grade if they fail to provide evidence. Why should I make an exception for these experienced professionals?

    4. Digital Humanities instead aims to archive materials, produce data, and develop software, while bracketing off the work of interpretation to a later moment or leaving it to other scholars — or abandoning it altogether for those who argue that we ought to become “postcritical.”

      Feels like the definition and establishment of a strawman. DH definitely is interested in developing data, tools, etc., but I'm not willing to concede without argument that practitioners want to leave interpretation to others or abandon it all together.

    5. the outcome was the establishment, essentially by fiat, of Digital Humanities as an academic and not a support field, with the accompanying assertion that technical and managerial expertise simply was humanist knowledge. The unavoidable implication was that other humanists were wrong — not so much about how they went about answering humanist questions as about the very definition of the humanities.

      Why should the establishment of a new field of the Humanities imply that all other humanities fields are invalid? Why can't it just be one of many fields. Why should the existence of DH be threatening?

    6. The problem to which Liu draws attention is a theme that has recurred throughout this article: purported technical expertise trumps all other forms of knowledge, including critique of the uses to which such expertise is put. (What counts as “expertise,” however, turns out to be highly variable. For example, most of the senior scholars mentioned here — Moretti, Liu, McGann, Drucker, and Smith — openly disclaim any ability to code, even as other major figures in the field insist on this as a minimum qualification.)

      Isn't this self-contradictory. Technical expertise trumps all and the practitioners refuse to be critical, but all of these people we've cited have little technical expertise and have made their name by being critical.

    7. A parallel can be drawn with the often-remarked raced and gendered makeup of Digital Humanities, whose key figures remain (mostly) white men even as greater numbers of female scholars and scholars from minoritized backgrounds have entered the “big tent.” The problem has been highlighted again and again, yet nothing changes besides the occasional invitation of female scholars to speak alongside the established male stars. At the Digital Humanities 2015 conference, noted media studies scholar Deb Verhoeven addressed the men present as follows:

      This may be the first critique with which I unequivocally agree. If the entire article were reshaped around this point - How Supposed Techno-Meritocracy Promotes a Homogenized, Exclusive System - it would be a more useful article.

    8. pushing the discipline toward post-interpretative, non-suspicious, technocratic, conservative, managerial, lab-based practice.

      I just view the DH movement as fundamentally different:

      ...pushing the tech industry toward a more interpretative, suspicious, less technocratic, conservative, managerial, <del>lab-based</del> practice.

    9. unavoidable

      Is it?

    10. a space free from all the messiness of questions of identity and politics.

      I'd be more interested in an article that began with observing this possible lacuna in DH and explored ways that DH has or might address questions of "identity and politics."

    11. Thus,


    12. reconfigured on the model of the tech startup, with public, private, and charitable funding in place of Silicon Valley venture capital.

      Seems like a pretty big difference.

    13. Why these funders chose to do this remains something of a mystery. To find precise explanations, we would need to have access to private conversations and communications, though it is remarkable that such an epoch-making shift can be so lacking in explicit justification.

      Really? There's not research to be done here? I find that hard to believe. Why not simply ask Don Waters or Brett Bobley?

    14. fetishizing

      Et tu?

    15. The implication is that in Digital Humanities, computer use is an end in itself.

      Lots of dependence on "implications" in this argument. I've never heard a DH scholar even vaguely make a statement like this. In fact, it's converse is probably most often used to signal that such work is necessary beyond whatever project or tool is being showcased.

    16. a declaration would entail that the workers in IT departments of corporations such as Elsevier and Google are engaged in humanities scholarship.

      And why not? The authors present such a narrow and traditional notion of the humanities that work against their claim to be returning politics to literary study.

    17. It is telling that Digital Humanities, like Hirsch, and like Bowers, has found an institutional home at the University of Virginia.

      That was a lot of background/build-up on UVA literary critical history for such a vague association.

    18. Hirsch’s argument was foundational for the Common Core educational program favored by the political right.

      Interesting, but I'd like to see a citation here.

      Also, not sure it's fair to say that the Common Core was/is favored by the Right.

    19. producing forms of knowledge with less immediate economic application.

      Okay, maybe I'm just a neoliberal by this definition.

    20. It unavoidably also suggests that other approaches in the humanities fit less well into the contemporary university, because the implied measure of success is economic.

      This framework is repeated throughout: because of the success of B, A no longer has value. I don't see how that's true in terms of the structure of English departments/university priorities or digital humanities rhetoric.

    21. SSHRC’s model of funding therefore complements the development of new models of intellectual work within the neoliberal university — accelerating the devaluation of older models of literary study.

      So the problem is that someone besides a traditional independent academic researchers is getting paid to do "humanities" work? Expanding the definition of scholarly labor to include such positions seems far more radical, both politically and economically, than anything outlined here.

    22. rebranding of insecure campus employment as an empowering “alt-ac” career choice,

      Got a better idea?

    1. To take just one example, neoliberalism accounts in part for the enclosure of common goods by private interests, and the subjection of all areas of life to a strictly economic logic. In contrast, much work in DH involves either detourning commercial tools and products for scholarly purposes, or building Open Access archives, databases and platforms that resist the pressure to commercialize, as Alan Liu points out. That’s why DH projects (including my own) are so often broken, unworking or unfinished, and far from anything “immediately usable by industry.”

      Yeah, I didn't understand how the original LARB article somehow twisted the often open nature of DH projects into a Neoliberal consolidation of resources. The libraries and archives that are at the heart of the research university system are simply being opened to a broader audience through online distribution. This costs money, but isn't spending public money to provide goods to the people more of a socialist model than a neoliberal one?

    2. As many online have already protested, their genealogy of DH omits a great many areas of inquiry that have contributed to the field’s variegated and contested formation, including history, classics, archaeology, hypertext and hypermedia studies, cybercultural studies, electronic literature studies, critical media studies, maker culture, game studies and platform studies, to name but a few.

      Good list of the many fields mutually influenced by the development of DH.