“In the 1990s, the rallying cry of proponents of the Internet was the democratization of knowledge made possible by the developing technological infrastructure” (Earhart).
Maybe one day when I read about the high hopes rich, white men had for the internet in the early 90s- a place without race, gender and class, an uncolonizable space- I won’t roll my eyes. Unfortunately, today is not that day.
This eye rolling also extends to the idea that in changing the way information is presented or disseminated without first trying to address inequities in the way knowledge is formed and what information is deemed important, said knowledge will somehow become representative of diverse experiences and information. What a prefect segue into a discussion about digital humanities and three of this week’s readings: Digital_humanities, “Can Information Be Unfettered? Race and the New Digital Humanities Canon” and “Can Digital Humanities Mean Transformative Critique?”
The very formats of “Can Information Be Unfettered? Race and the New Digital Humanities Canon?” and “Can Digital Humanities Mean Transformative Critique?” embody the value of digital humanities. The former is published on a website that encourages collaborative readings and understandings of the piece via a built in note taking/highlighting feature- users “can select and mark passages to express interest to the community, or help tag sentences for [their] index” (Earhart). The latter includes links and images (not unlike this blog) to provide additional tangential information and create more interactivity with its readers. Both articles focus more on directly addressing and solving the racialized, classed, and gendered discrepancies in representation within the field. Earhart seeks to accomplish this through collective work to reimagine traditional canons and Lothian and Philips curate a group of really interesting digital collaboratives that provide a space for the perspectives of marginalized groups that are often silenced. Thinking about the Earhart more specifically, and the encouragement of recovery efforts I was moved to recall Without Sanctuary, the digital companion of the book about American lynching with the same title.
The following quote succinctly brings into focus all that digital humanities have the potential to accomplish: “The spirit of #transformDH is not to arrest this momentum, but to channel it in truly transformative directions—to avoid trading whiteness for more whiteness, heteropatriarchy for more heteropatriarchy, one imperialist hierarchy for another” (Lathian and Philips). In short, #iamallaboutthesetwoarticles.
E for Effort
I found Digital_humanities remarkably counterproductive to the discussion of digital humanities. It provides an extensive history of humanities that I feel distracts from the possible future of the field. It also skates past the marginalization of certain groups that plague digital humanities (and society in general) and in a round about way goes on to blame those groups demand for inclusion for the decline in “sharing common references or approaches” and for “add[ing] ammunition to the forces that want to de-college the American populace” (23). I do however appreciate the work it does in trying to create a standardized understanding of the field.
Can we talk about the question and answer section:
Whose questions are these? The format of this publication, its stock questions and answers, seems antithetical to the interactivity that the digital humanities are rooted in. The text is resistant to questions from actual readers. The question answer section offers very stagnant answers that impose very strict definitions of the digital humanities; that they necessitate institutions and assessments, and attempts to strictly define who can be involved in projects and how. This discussion of digital humanities is unimaginative and does not acknowledge ways that current projects are advancing the field and leaves no room for individuals or people who are not part of the academy (122-130).
Things to ponder:
> Can inclusion of diverse aspects of the humanities ever be achieved when the academy is necessarily based on exclusion?
>I’m very much interested in the idea of the core curriculum that gets raised in the Burdick et al piece. How can we build a core curriculum that encapsulates enough breadth to prepare students “to steer their democracy through the challenges and opportunities that this highly networked, globalized, mobile, and ecologically fragile century offers” (Burdick 24)?
~ Personally, I think that having a framework that uses honest, accurate, integrative information about the ways systematic oppression operates established by a diverse group of humans to contextualize various works that fit under the “humanities” umbrella is the way to go, but I am also very interested in what everyone else thinks. (Full disclosure: I believe adequate representation if diverse experiences is the solution to most problems.)
> How can the digital humanities keep moving away from institutions and towards individuals?
Burdick, Anne, and Johanna Drucker. Digital_humanities. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2012, pp 1-26 & 122-130.
Earhart, Amy E. “Can Information Be Unfettered? Race and the New Digital Humanities Canon.” In Debates in the Digital Humanities. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2012. http://dhdebates.gc.cuny.edu/debates/text/16
Lothian, Alexis, and Amanda Phillips. “Can Digital Humanities Mean Transformative Critique?” Journal of e-Media Studies, vol. 3, no. 1 (2013)