February 28 – Issues in the Digital Humanities

///February 28 – Issues in the Digital Humanities
February 28 – Issues in the Digital Humanities 2017-02-23T14:54:46-05:00


Flanders, Julia. “Time, Labor, and ‘Alternate Careers’ in Digital Humanities Knowledge Work” in Debates in the Digital Humanities. Gold, Matthew K., ed. Minneapolis: Univ Of Minnesota Press, 2012.

McPherson, Tara. “Why Are the Digital Humanities So White? or Thinking the Histories of Race and Computation” in Debates in the Digital Humanities. Gold, Matthew K., ed. Minneapolis: Univ Of Minnesota Press, 2012.

Presner, Todd. “Critical Theory and the Mangle of the Digital Humanities.” In Between Humanities and the Digital, edited by Patrik Svensson and David Theo Goldberg. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 2015. (This is a prepublication draft)

Svensson, Patrik. “Beyond the Big Tent” in Debates in the Digital Humanities. Gold, Matthew K., ed. Minneapolis: Univ Of Minnesota Press, 2012.

Wernimont, Jacqueline. “Introduction to Feminisms and DH Special Issue.” Digital Humanities Quarterly 9, no. 02 (2015).


  1. Lauren February 27, 2017 at 8:35 pm

    “Modularity in software design was meant to decrease “global complexity” and cleanly separate one “neighbor” from another (Raymond, 85).” in McPherson essay stuck with me. The idea that was thinking and being trained in how to be a good engineer is the wrong abstraction to reflect on society. Which abstractions are the ones that fit? Is the way we train people to think about how to use the tools fundamentally different that the way we teach humanities? Is that is what is creating a divide?

    The idea of DH being a white, male dominated field seems at the surface a no brainer of course it is, it is a highly privileged field (you can usually only get into higher education of humanities with significant privilege ) and in the current generation the advantage men “typically” have to the use and familiarity of building technical tools would quickly create said bias. As the careers and importance of DH start to grow, we are likely to see even more separation. How is a field know for bringing things together so polarizing?

    The Big Tent Notion highlights an important dynamic. Yes, there is a desire to open up the previous notion of what I defined as DH but to have central control over the definition and inclusion still. Which schools right now are the big players in DH? Where did their come from? Are people looking for DH or to break off from another field? Is that also defining the kind of people (and social stability) of those who would move into it?

  2. Alfo February 28, 2017 at 2:12 pm

    1. McPherson text is fantastic. When she states that we “need to take seriously the possibility that questions of representation and of narrative and textual analysis may, in effect, divert us from studying the reorganization of capital—a reorganization dependent on the triumph of the very particular patterns of informationalization evident in code”, is she referring more to the tech industries, or the inequalities in access to information in academic institutions? I have the impression that she is focusing more on the latter, is she avoiding the tech industry issues we all know about?

    2. It seems to me that Presner text is putting a lot of hope on the type of discourses and narratives made by the DH, and that by stating that DH absolutely participatory, there is a democratization of these. But, how is absolutely democratic the participation in the DH, if access to the platforms and technologies is not ‘really’ democratic and horizontal? The fact that an Iranian student has the possibility of producing ‘digital discourse’ in LA, does it mean that the Iranian people is participating of this phenomenon?

    3. Tech industry

  3. Cat February 28, 2017 at 2:34 pm

    1. I thought Patrik Svensson’s discussion of Yale University entering the Digital Humanities world was very interesting. For most of the semester, it seems that the scholars we have read are pushing for more people to enter the DH world, and argue for a more inclusive description of the field. It seems strange, then, to condemn the university for attempting to enter the ‘tent’. I’m curious what Gailey means by “I view the late arrival of the Ivies as a worrisome indicator that DH will soon be locked down by the same tired socioeconomic gatekeeping mechanisms that prevent many people with talent from succeeding at so many other academic disciplines.”

    2. I loved Tara McPherson’s piece. She mentions that early analyses of race and the digital often took two forms: “a critique of representations in new media or the building of digital archives about race… or debates about access to media—that is, the digital divide.” I wonder why this is? Possibly because (for the latter, at least) this information is more available and simply more accessible for exploration?

    3. This isn’t a precise question, but I think I could use some more clarification on McPherson’s explanation of the lenticular and the stereoscope.

  4. Shoshanah February 28, 2017 at 3:47 pm

    Flanders description of the academy reminds me of the structure of labor within the performing arts. In theatre or film, performers, directors, and writers receive the majority of the accolades and celebrity. However, none of their work would be possible without lighting and sound; scenic and costume design; hair, makeup, and wardrobe people; etc…. In film, the camera crew, editors, foley artists, grips, and even background actors “set the scene” which allows the principle actors and director to flourish. According to Flanders this is true in the academy as well. Professors and students are acknowledged and have agency within the University. But what of administrative faculty, librarians, etc…?

    Flanders states that efficiency and productivity are measures of value within the academy. If efficiency lowers the amount of time it takes to reach the same productivity, then are efficiency and productivity are inversely related to what Marx called “labor value”?

    Presner asks, “What is the relationship between the ‘critical’ function of the humanitites and the ‘building’ and ‘making’ espoused by the digital humanitites?” Thinking about the theme of our class this term, could one say that DH takes traditional critical analysis from the Humanities one step further by creating digital visualizations of material we’ve previously only analyzed theoretically?

  5. Hannah February 28, 2017 at 4:05 pm

    This is just a thought on the DH Debates site, not the articles. It’s interesting how it highlights the sentence you are reading, and I think that that is a sort of digital humanities technique. I have a particularly hard time reading on the computer, and as things become more digital I wonder how that changes the pedagogy of the humanities.

    Flanders says, “This idealized view stands in for the real complexity of the university as an institutional ecology of work—in which every hour of faculty work is brought into being by hundreds of hours of time spent maintaining the physical and administrative space within which that work is conducted: libraries, network, payroll, buildings, and all the rest of it.” I think this really resonates with me when we discuss the humanities. There is so much manpower behind this enormous machine and I wonder how all of that changes, because while we have a tendency to think that this means there will be less manpower needed, sometimes it’s just a different type of power. Also, manpower is a sexist term, in my opinion.

    Also Flanders is awesome in that she goes through all of these different ways of being paid for your work. We don’t often think about it, but it lines up really well with the Approaches to Public History Course I’m taking with Professor Noonan. There is such a large system at play (see my comments above) and we have to think about how we use this system to benefit ourselves, or at times do a disservice. We also perpetuate the gender gap when we decide that the intellectual positions are salaried and others may not be. Intellectual is the wrong word, but I hope it proves my point. Intellectual implies a certain level of privilege by nature of achieving that stature.

  6. Jane Excell February 28, 2017 at 5:22 pm

    Flanders highlights a distinction between work that is measured qualitatively, such as teaching, and work that is measured quantitatively, like jobs in IT, and demonstrates how DH academics must straddle both types of measurement. I wondered how this plays out in collaborative projects in which the “academic” work is done by one person or group, and the “technical” work by another. How does this affect the end result? How does it play into the collaborative process?

    Wernimont’s article in particular made me question all over again why DH has been so dominated by white males. As a field with its roots in alternativity and rejection of traditional academic modes, it just seems especially strange that it would contain such biases. I just still don’t quite understand- how and why did this happen?

    Svensson admits that “a big-tent digital humanities should not be predominantly anchored in one tradition” but also worries about the dilution of the field if it is too widespread. How can DH remain open to all while still maintaining a solid foundation?

  7. Whitney March 6, 2017 at 12:34 pm

    1.) Flanders seems to be critical of the precious nature of the “alternative” or “para-academic” jobs and their requirement that one stay up-to-date on any new technological change. But, girl, that’s your job – that’s everybody’s job in the digital era! I might not feel sympathetic for Flanders because I’ve not worked in the field of “alt.” academia; however, even at the level of secondary education, being involved in and up-to-date with technical pedagogy is *required*. Isn’t the idea that academia is changing inherent in the digital humanities, and isn’t that part of the fun of it all?

    2.) Going to have to question Flanders again with her statement that “efficiency and productivity are not inapplicable to traditional academic models of work but their applicability is considered strictly voluntary, qualitative, and relative.” I can see how this methodology of research may have been acceptable in the past, but aren’t most research initiatives funded by grants and such most of the time? Maybe I’m being pessimistic, but I can’t see how funding would just go on indefinitely because the academic world doesn’t like deadlines. Is this really the attitude of academic research circles when it comes to timelines?

    3.) Woof, Tara McPherson’s article “Why Are the Digital Humanities So White? or Thinking the Histories of Race and Computation” has to be one of the most problematic essays I’ve read in a while. We discussed how great of a leap it was for her to equate post WWII social movements and their effects on the development of computation with the lack the presence of people of color in DH, but what could be better explanations for this occurrence? Does the lack of equality in local educational resource disbursement at the primary and secondary level have more to do with race inequalities in the field later on?

  8. phyllis plitch May 14, 2017 at 8:56 pm

    Questions for February 28 – Issues in the Digital Humanities
    In his paper, Critical Theory and the Mangle of Digital Humanities, Todd Presner describes several projects that offer “perspectives and possibilities for digital humanities to develop a cultural-critical praxis rooted in an ethic of participation and Curation.” But he adds that “one might object because all the projects were built on corporate platforms and software,” such as Google Maps, Twitter, ArcGIS and Flash.” This issue of corporate dominance in platforms and software is one that seems to generally not take have taken center stage generally in Digital Humanities. It did come up in my use of ArcGIS in my final project, so I’m wondering: What is the ongoing and growing impact of corporate dominance in software and platforms in the field? Are academic institutions making strides in building platforms and software that can be applied in digital humanities in recent years? Does that possibility bring its own issues? Presner goes onto ask: Do they (presumably the projects) inevitably speak their (presumably the corporations) language, surreptitiously ape their worldviews, and quietly extend the dominance of the technological imaginary as put forward by corporations? Or, perhaps, might they create fissures, alternative narratives, incommensurabilities, and new moves within the existing platforms and paradigms?” Have the answers to these questions become clearer since Presner wrote this draft in August 2012?

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