6 Matching Annotations
  1. May 2016
    1. key figures

      After nothing but shadowy figures in the essay so far, I'm looking forward to actual names!

    2. This is why Digital Humanities is pushed far more strongly by university administrators than it is by scholars and students, who increasingly find themselves pressured to redirect their work toward Digital Humanities.

      Would an actual historical examination of this statement bear it up? Understanding that my anecdote is not data, my own experience at my own university is the opposite. Scholars and students pushed for developing DH for years in conversations with very reluctant administrators. Scholars and students built it at my university, then the admins came around. Unlike the authors, I expect that there are varieties of stories, but I doubt that the story at my campus is unique.

    3. 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.

    4. 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?

    5. 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?

    6. Neoliberal policies and institutions value academic work that produces findings immediately usable by industry and that produces graduates trained for the current requirements of the commercial workplace.

      This rings true. Humanities departments are increasingly justifying their existence by emphasizing the ways that strong writing, reading and analytical skills are employable skills. The necessity of that line of argumentation is coming not just from our managerial overseers, but from parents and students as well. I feel it would be irresponsible not to point out that what students gain in humanities classes, but that resting the case for the humanities on utility to future employers is giving up important ground. It supports the false idea that higher education can or should be a mechanistic and predictable process of plugging skills and knowledge into waiting vessels (students) who will then be able to deploy those assets in future employment. In reality, higher education is far more unpredictable and the "value" that students get from the educational experience, both in terms of future economic benefits and broader "quality of life" considerations, is likely to come from the least predictable places—a poetry class, a sports activity, a mentorship, friendships, geology, failures. In a resolve to read this essay generously when I can, I read this sentence in this spirit.