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Theorizing DH" Tue, 19 Oct 2010 00:21:02 +0000 Patrick Murray-John 509@ <p>I feel like the role of pedagogical innovation has been simmering, and <a href="">this post from Luke Waltzer</a> brings it and other issues up in forceful ways. </p> <p>What Luke brings up is also a set of issues to address. </p> Daniel Allington on "Doing DH v. Theorizing DH" Mon, 18 Oct 2010 11:10:45 +0000 Daniel Allington 473@ <p>Although I am very much a newcomer here, the tension <a href="">Amy discusses</a> seems familiar to me, so (if the digression may be permitted), I'd like to draw a comparison with two fields that I have hitherto had more involvement in than DH, ie. book history and cultural studies. </p> <p>These fields formed largely in order to validate and facilitate forms of scholarship that were marginalised in existing disciplines, and in doing so they both provided a space for people working in different disciplines to talk to one another. All to the good. But I can't say I'm comfortable with the way in which either of them has developed, and in both cases what I see as the central problems have to do with the ways in which the tensions between so-called 'theory' and so-called 'practice' have been played out in arguments over what can and can't be permitted to count as a worthwhile contribution.</p> <p>In my opinion, <a href="">Bethany's point</a> that 'part of our community is almost exclusively rewarded for one thing, and part for the other' gets to the root of the problem. But that can only be challenged by challenging the institution in which so many of us are (or hope to be) employed, ie. the university, with its always-hierarchised divisions between teaching and research, between tenured and non-tenured staff, between the library and the departments, and of course between individual departments. So while the academic importance of a field is measured by its degree of disciplinarity (which is also its degree of institutionalisation) - annual conferences, dedicated journals, chairs, degree programmes, departments, and the spirit of gatekeeping that runs through all of these - there's something I find profoundly depressing about every step of progress in that direction.</p> <p>I've always been quite taken with Karl Popper's suggestion that disciplines are a fiction of university administrators. There are problems that interest us, and there are traditions of enquiry. The tradition of using technological aids to address humanistic questions is very old (older even than the Hinman Collator!). Isn't that more important than the question of who is and who isn't a 'real' digital humanist? </p> Vika Zafrin on "Doing DH v. Theorizing DH" Sat, 16 Oct 2010 21:07:42 +0000 Vika Zafrin 469@ <p>Amy, I wonder if the gatekeeping is more a function of DHers' lively interest in rigor? More specifically, what counts as rigorous work in DH? This, of course, is closely related to the question of what should count for academic cred (so for hiring, promotion and tenure).</p> <p>I don't think we've fully answered this question, and perhaps until we do, gatekeeping practices will err on the side of extra scrutiny.</p> <p>Just thinking aloud. </p> footnotesrising on "Doing DH v. Theorizing DH" Fri, 15 Oct 2010 20:33:49 +0000 footnotesrising 461@ <p>Amy, thank you for raising this point. I've been less concerned lately about who does or doesn't feel that they are inside the DH umbrella as about the problem, which you also implicitly raise (applied work informing theoretical work, presumably vice versa), that method (i.e. "tools") and theory (i.e. how computers are actually changing what we do in the humanities, or even what the humanities or their products/performances are) are not often enough discussed by the same people, or even by different people in shared venues. I'm not sure what to do about this, however, except to make an effort to instigate those "cross-cultural" conversations where we can.</p> <p>On that note, is anyone (Amy?) interested in trying to put something together for Digital Humanities 2011 on how applied work informs theoretical work? I've been puzzling over various permutations of just that problem with the November 1 deadline in mind.</p> <p>Susan </p> aearhart on "Doing DH v. Theorizing DH" Fri, 15 Oct 2010 16:26:16 +0000 aearhart 456@ <p>So we're all showing up at Steve Ramsey's house for dinner? Perfect.</p> <p>I worry about replicating academic infrastructure issues if DH is absorbed wholesale into the larger academy. By that I mean that I am all for competition, but not competition as defined by current academic structures, where social structures privilege hierarchies in problematic ways (I think of Amanda Gailey's excellent response to the Yale conference : <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a> or Bethany's comments about uneven rewards. </p> <p>I sense that resistance to the co-opting of DH (because, as Matt rightly points out, we are big business) is showing up in many of the authenticity discussions. Bethany makes a great point about reward structures. How do we shift reward structures away from certain forms (that privilege only certain types of participants)? Most of us do not have the power to do so, and we turn to other methods. I wonder if various Dh folks are utilizing such gatekeeping methods to protect what we see as unique within the larger humanities? I don't want to suggest this is the correct approach, but it is one way to protect the field's collaborative approach until those of us outside the hierarchical structures gain power to make changes. </p> <p>Is that too cynical?</p> <p>Amy </p> Patrick Murray-John on "Doing DH v. Theorizing DH" Fri, 15 Oct 2010 15:55:49 +0000 Patrick Murray-John 454@ <p>I suspect that part of the tension is related to one's position regarding changes to institutional structures. This will echo what's already been said regarding institutional structures and rewards and jobs. My sense is that the more theoretically inclined one is, the more likely they are to aim toward working within traditional structures. It seems like the more theoretical the approach, the more appropriate the traditional model of writing books and journal articles -- and of looking for a TT position on that model with the label "Digital Humanist"</p> <p>On the other hand, the more techy/hacky oriented, the more likely one is to want to break or work outside the traditional structures, along the #<a href=''>alt-ac</a> approach Bethany mentions. And so, I'm guessing that part of the tension has roots in a "maintain status quo" vs. "lets blow up the whole dying system" tension?</p> <p>The spectrum, I think, is healthy. For example, I really like the range of conferences available for DHers anywhere on the spectrum. I see HASTAC at the theory-end, THATCamp(s) at the techy/hacky end, but I would like to see more mixing of participants. (I've haven't gotten myself to DigitalHumanities -- maybe someone can offer a perspective on where it fits in the spectrum).</p> <p>I'm hoping that we can avoid that authenticity issue, especially by getting more collaborations between the theorists and the hackers. They have lots of insights to offer the other. Knowing how code works -- or having a friendly neighborhood hacker who can offer insights, will improve the theory, and a coder who is guided a bit by some theory will be able to incorporate that into an application's architecture. Specialization toward one end of the spectrum or the other is good, an collaboration among specialists is better. </p> Vika Zafrin on "Doing DH v. Theorizing DH" Fri, 15 Oct 2010 13:48:21 +0000 Vika Zafrin 450@ <p><em>Replying to @<a href=''>aearhart</a>'s <a href="">post</a>:</em></p> <p>Amy, to your original post--I'm wondering about this:</p> <p><em>Perhaps the increased tension in the field is fear of DH being moved away from a group that has tried to develop new, collaborative models of non-competitive work?</em></p> <p>I hope that we aren't driving toward non-competitiveness. Collaboration is both wonderful and key to the success of DH projects; but competition is also important. Competition makes us articulate our research questions more clearly when applying for grants. Personal fame is when your colleagues tell you they love your work because you <em>didn't</em> drone your paper for twenty minutes, but gave a dynamic and memorable presentation. I don't think that's bad at all. It's what often makes digital humanists' work shine so brightly: the other work is dull because many people are going through the motions of advancing in their fields instead of really talking to each other.</p> <p>I have a lengthy thought train about this dullness driving social disinterest in humanities disciplines, but I'll spare you.</p> <p>I do also see the divide, and it's not dissimilar to the "those who can't, teach" attitude. I don't buy that attitude for a minute; some of us are better at making things, and some are great at putting things in context. The divide is artificial, and you're right, it's that competitive nature of any enterprise, taken a little too far.</p> <p>All that said, there are and should be reasonable expectations of well-roundedness in DH, like in any other [meta]field. </p> mkirschenbaum on "Doing DH v. Theorizing DH" Thu, 14 Oct 2010 22:30:11 +0000 mkirschenbaum 441@ <p>Oh, we'd be talking. But with our mouths full. ;-) </p> katherineharris on "Doing DH v. Theorizing DH" Thu, 14 Oct 2010 22:22:02 +0000 katherineharris 440@ <p><em>Replying to @<a href=''>mkirschenbaum</a>'s <a href="">post</a>:</em></p> <p>But, I have to wonder if this is any different than what happened when cultural studies were introduced to the MLA. I've heard some stories from those conferences and the fistacuffs offered up. I'm not saying that Digital Humanities needs to take that route. Indeed there has been much opened up in even the last year, an opening up towards each other. There are some still feeling disenfranchised from the DH label. Most recently, some e-literature scholars were telling me this. Another set of New Media Artists have been saying this for awhile. Maybe it's the label too. In the words of Heidi Klum, "As we all know in [Digital Humanities] one minute you are in, and the next you're out." Not really, but couldn't resist.</p> <p>I've also watched in the echo chamber of Twitter some fairly discouraging behavior, then it was amended and everyone came back to the sandbox. Is someone who uses digital tools in the classroom a DH-er? Or is someone who knows programming languages more valid to nab the moniker? And what of bibliographers and textual studies people who now do "old-fashioned" Humanities Computing? (And what of the Hinman Collator -- that was very advanced at one point or another.)</p> <p>Sometimes, it's about who's got the voice in the crowd, or who's governing the governing bodies at any given time. Other times, a lot of this is tied to money, funding, institutional support.</p> <p>I also know that many DH-ers wear several different hats on campus, in the classroom, behind the desk, at a meeting with the Dean, in writing a grant, in computing the n-grams of 10,000 novels. Aimee, you ask an incredibly cogent, timely question, but I'm not sure that there's an answer. </p> <p>As for Matt's dinner table metaphor, if Ramsay is cooking, no one would be talking! </p> Bethany Nowviskie on "Doing DH v. Theorizing DH" Thu, 14 Oct 2010 21:37:54 +0000 Bethany Nowviskie 439@ <p>To my mind, this question is complicated (and, of course, enriched) by the increasing number of interesting opportunities emerging for digital humanists off the tenure track -- in alternative (<a href="">"#<a href=''>alt-ac</a>"</a>) roles within the academy. </p> <p>What happens to the theory/production ratio when part of our community is almost exclusively rewarded for one thing, and part for the other? I tend to know where I fall on the "more hack, less yak" spectrum, both personally and professionally (it's middle-left) -- but we need to acknowledge that this divide is as much due to institutional reward structures as it is to deep-seated convictions or personal inclinations. </p> nkelber on "Doing DH v. Theorizing DH" Thu, 14 Oct 2010 21:25:50 +0000 nkelber 438@ <p>I think Matt is right to point out that DH is a marketable hot commodity right now. It means a lot of different things to different people, but everyone wants to be "doing it." Some of this is leftover ferment from the debate regarding terminology (Humanities Computing or Digital Humanities?), but its also a debate about methods and approaches. For my part, I think you are right to look at the intersections. A viable field has to be theoretically and practically developed. To some extent these things are at odds, but that is the nature of academic discourse. A field isn't useful unless it is practiced and it can't advance without new theorizations. </p> mkirschenbaum on "Doing DH v. Theorizing DH" Thu, 14 Oct 2010 21:14:17 +0000 mkirschenbaum 437@ <p><em>Replying to @<a href=''>aearhart</a>'s <a href="">post</a>:</em></p> <p>"Will the real DH please stand up?"</p> <p>Authenticity arguments are never a good sign for a community, even if they are inevitable. My cynical take on what's going on? DH is big business, at least by the standards of most traditional humanities enterprises. It is increasingly perceived, and not without reason, as an end-run to jobs, funding, and institutional and individual influence and prestige. A lot of people have paid their dues and (to mix the metaphor) now want a piece of the pie. So each of us, in our own way, pleads our authenticity. </p> <p>There's nothing wrong with that, it's human nature and probably not inherently bad in any case, but we shouldn't kid ourselves friends--it *is* going to make for some tense times around the dinner table. </p> aearhart on "Doing DH v. Theorizing DH" Thu, 14 Oct 2010 20:49:05 +0000 aearhart 436@ <p>Here is my latest thinky thought:</p> <p>I've noticed that there is increasing tension between hands on, applied DH work and those who are theorizing DH. I've heard more than one digital humanist complain about "interlopers" who have never participated in a collaborative project, tagged a text, or used a visualization tool. I've heard the reverse as well. Those who only create tools aren't really digital humanists, as they haven't theorized their work within the context of humanities and technology. </p> <p>I think this is an important issue to discuss, hence my post! I've always thought of my applied work as a laboratory for the theoretical work I'm interested in pursuing. The really fruitful work happens in the intersection of the application/methodology and theory. </p> <p>Perhaps the increased tension in the field is fear of DH being moved away from a group that has tried to develop new, collaborative models of non-competitive work?</p> <p>Any thoughts on this are welcome!</p> <p>Thanks,</p> <p>Amy Earhart </p>