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Debates in the Digital Humanities

2012

Matthew K. Gold, Editor

Debates in the Digital Humanities

OPEN ACCESS EDITION

 

Leading figures in the digital humanities explore the field’s rapid revolution

Debates in the Digital Humanities brings together leading figures in the field to explore its theories, methods, and practices and to clarify its multiple possibilities and tensions. Together, the essays suggest that the digital humanities is uniquely positioned to contribute to the revival of the humanities and academic life.

"Is there such a thing as ‘digital’ humanities? From statistical crunches of texts to new forms of online collaboration and peer review, it’s clear something is happening. This book is an excellent primer on the arguments over just how much is changing—and how much more ought to—in the way scholars study the humanities."
—Clive Thompson, columnist for Wired and contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine

Encompassing new technologies, research methods, and opportunities for collaborative scholarship and open-source peer review, as well as innovative ways of sharing knowledge and teaching, the digital humanities promises to transform the liberal arts—and perhaps the university itself. Indeed, at a time when many academic institutions are facing austerity budgets, digital humanities programs have been able to hire new faculty, establish new centers and initiatives, and attract multimillion-dollar grants.

Clearly the digital humanities has reached a significant moment in its brief history. But what sort of moment is it? Debates in the Digital Humanities brings together leading figures in the field to explore its theories, methods, and practices and to clarify its multiple possibilities and tensions. From defining what a digital humanist is and determining whether the field has (or needs) theoretical grounding, to discussions of coding as scholarship and trends in data-driven research, this cutting-edge volume delineates the current state of the digital humanities and envisions potential futures and challenges. At the same time, several essays aim pointed critiques at the field for its lack of attention to race, gender, class, and sexuality; the inadequate level of diversity among its practitioners; its absence of political commitment; and its preference for research over teaching.

Together, the essays in Debates in the Digital Humanities—which will be published both as a printed book and later as an ongoing, open-access website—suggest that the digital humanities is uniquely positioned to contribute to the revival of the humanities and academic life.

Contributors: Bryan Alexander, National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education; Rafael Alvarado, U of Virginia; Jamie “Skye” Bianco, U of Pittsburgh; Ian Bogost, Georgia Institute of Technology; Stephen Brier, CUNY Graduate Center; Daniel J. Cohen, George Mason U; Cathy N. Davidson, Duke U; Rebecca Frost Davis, National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education; Johanna Drucker, U of California, Los Angeles; Amy E. Earhart, Texas A&M U; Charlie Edwards; Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Pomona College; Julia Flanders, Brown U; Neil Fraistat, U of Maryland; Paul Fyfe, Florida State U; Michael Gavin, Rice U; David Greetham, CUNY Graduate Center; Jim Groom, U of Mary Washington; Gary Hall, Coventry U, UK; Mills Kelly, George Mason U; Matthew Kirschenbaum, U of Maryland; Alan Liu, U of California, Santa Barbara; Elizabeth Losh, U of California, San Diego; Lev Manovich, U of California, San Diego; Willard McCarty, King’s College London; Tara McPherson, U of Southern California; Bethany Nowviskie, U of Virginia; Trevor Owens, Library of Congress; William Pannapacker, Hope College; Dave Parry, U of Texas at Dallas; Stephen Ramsay, U of Nebraska, Lincoln; Alexander Reid, SUNY at Buffalo; Geoffrey Rockwell, Canadian Institute for Research Computing in the Arts; Mark L. Sample, George Mason U; Tom Scheinfeldt, George Mason U; Kathleen Marie Smith; Lisa Spiro, National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education; Patrik Svensson, Umeå U; Luke Waltzer, Baruch College; Matthew Wilkens, U of Notre Dame; George H. Williams, U of South Carolina Upstate; Michael Witmore, Folger Shakespeare Library.

Debates in the Digital Humanities

Matthew K. Gold is assistant professor of English at New York City College of Technology. He is a faculty member in the Interactive Technology and Pedagogy Doctoral Certificate Program at the CUNY Graduate Center, where he also serves as Advisor to the Provost for Master’s Programs and Digital Initiatives.

Debates in the Digital Humanities

Is there such a thing as ‘digital’ humanities? From statistical crunches of texts to new forms of online collaboration and peer review, it’s clear something is happening. This book is an excellent primer on the arguments over just how much is changing—and how much more ought to—in the way scholars study the humanities.

Clive Thompson, columnist for Wired and contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine

I look forward to the day when anxieties about the disruptive nature of ‘digital humanities’ fade into memory and the innovative methods, theories, and approaches championed by those who have contributed to this valuable volume are respected across academia for their rigor and utility. This book will go a long way toward clarifying the debates within and about digital humanities.

Siva Vaidhyanathan, author of The Googlization of Everything—and Why We Should Worry

[The book] reflects . . . the diversity, openness, and community spirit of the digital humanities.

Inside Higher Ed

Though Debates in the Digital Humanities is well over 500 pages in length, there is no fat in it; all essays contain important information and concepts relating to DH. Taken together, the book as a whole and every essay in it is a must-read for anyone who claims to be a digital humanist whether she or he works in theory, pedagogy, and/or practice.

Leonardo Reviews

A substantial collection . . . [whose] contributors include most of the scholars who have been most prominent in the emergence of digital humanities over the past few years.

Times Literary Supplement

The essays in Gold’s collection demonstrate the positive effects of a cross-fertilization of ideas, as the authors often refer to one another in their work. The result is an anthology that reads like a conversation—dynamic, capacious, and at times diffuse, but one that always returns to core concerns about the meaning, function, and future of this emerging field.

American Quarterly

Provides not only a valuable primer for any newcomer interested in exploring digital humanities, but also a detailed exploration and critique. . . Gold has managed to balance the need to provide a detailed survey of the subject with an incisive look at the complexities inherent in both the ‘making’ aspect and the ‘thinking’ aspect of digital humanities.

Information, Communication & Society

This collection of some fifty articles and blog posts by leading scholars in the field, elegantly printed, provides a rich exploration by way of self-reflection on the field as it has emerged in academic departments in the humanities, particularly in English and History, in recent years.

The Key Reporter

Gold’s anthology is absolutely the necessary starting point for those who want to catch up on debates in the field, learn about the history of digital humanities, and contemplate a future application to their art historical work. Gold should be highly commended, given that he gives us a book so far reaching but also honest about its moment.

Visual Resources

Debates in the Digital Humanities

Contents

Introduction: The Digital Humanities Moment
Matthew K. Gold

Part I. Defining the Digital Humanities
1. What Is Digital Humanities and What’s It Doing in English Departments?
Matthew Kirschenbaum
2. The Humanities, Done Digitally
Kathleen Fitzpatrick
3. This Is Why We Fight: Defining the Values of the Digital Humanities
Lisa Spiro
4. Beyond the Big Tent
Patrik Svensson

Blog Posts
The Digital Humanities Situation
Rafael Alvarado
Where’s the Beef? Does Digital Humanities Have to Answer Questions?
Tom Scheinfeldt
Why Digital Humanities Is “Nice”
Tom Scheinfeldt
An Interview with Brett Bobley
Michael Gavin and Kathleen Marie Smith
Day of DH: Defining the Digital Humanities

Part II. Theorizing the Digital Humanities
5. Developing Things: Notes toward an Epistemology of Building in the Digital Humanities
Stephen Ramsay and Geoffrey Rockwell
6. Humanistic Theory and Digital Scholarship
Johanna Drucker
7. This Digital Humanities which Is Not One
Jamie “Skye” Bianco
8. A Telescope for the Mind?
Willard McCarty

Blog Posts
Sunset for Ideology, Sunrise for Methodology?
Tom Scheinfeldt
Has Critical Theory Run Out of Time for Data-Driven Scholarship?
Gary Hall
There Are No Digital Humanities
Gary Hall

Part III. Critiquing the Digital Humanities
9. Why Are the Digital Humanities So White?, or, Thinking the Histories of Race and Computation
Tara McPherson
10. Hacktivism and the Humanities: Programming Protest in the Era of the Digital University
Elizabeth Losh
11. Unseen and Unremarked On: Don DeLillo and the Failure of the Digital Humanities
Mark L. Sample
12. Disability, Universal Design, and the Digital Humanities
George H. Williams
13. The Digital Humanities and Its Users
Charlie Edwards

Blog Posts
Digital Humanities Triumphant?
William Pannapacker
What Do Girls Dig?
Bethany Nowviskie
The Turtlenecked Hairshirt
Ian Bogost
Eternal September of the Digital Humanities
Bethany Nowviskie

Part IV. Practicing the Digital Humanities
14. Canons, Close Reading, and the Evolution of Method
Matthew Wilkens
15. Electronic Errata: Digital Publishing, Open Review, and the Futures of Correction
Paul Fyfe
16. The Function of Digital Humanities Centers at the Present Time
Neil Fraistat
17. Time, Labor, and “Alternate Careers” in Digital Humanities Knowledge Work
Julia Flanders
18. Can Information Be Unfettered?: Race and the New Digital Humanities Canon
Amy E. Earhart

Blog Posts
The Social Contract of Scholarly Publishing
Daniel J. Cohen
Introducing Digital Humanities Now
Daniel J. Cohen
Text: A Massively Addressable Object
Michael Witmore
The Ancestral Text
Michael Witmore

Part V. Teaching the Digital Humanities
19. Digital Humanities and the “Ugly-Stepchildren” of American Higher Education
Luke Waltzer
20. Graduate Education and the Ethics of the Digital Humanities
Alexander Reid
21. Should Liberal Arts Campuses Do Digital Humanities?: Process and Products in the Small College World
Bryan Alexander and Rebecca Frost Davis
22. Where’s the Pedagogy?: The Role of Teaching and Learning in the Digital Humanities
Stephen Brier

Blog Posts
Visualizing Millions of Words
Mills Kelly
What’s Wrong with Writing Essays
Mark L. Sample
Looking for Whitman: A Grand, Aggregated Experiment
Matthew K. Gold and Jim Groom
The Public Course Blog: The Required Reading We Write Ourselves for the Course that Never Ends
Trevor Owens

Part VI. Envisioning the Future of the Digital Humanities
23. Digital Humanities As/Is a Tactical Term
Matthew Kirschenbaum
24. The Digital Humanities or a Digital Humanism
Dave Parry
25. The Resistance to Digital Humanities
David Greetham
26. Beyond Metrics: Community Authorization and Open Peer Review
Kathleen Fitzpatrick
27. Trending: The Promises and the Challenges of Big Social Data
Lev Manovich
28. Humanities 2.0: Promise, Perils, Predictions
Cathy N. Davidson
29. Where Is Cultural Criticism in the Digital Humanities?
Alan Liu

Acknowledgments

Debates in the Digital Humanities

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Download an infographic.

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The University of Minnesota's Institute for Advanced Study has posted video from Debates in the Digital Humanities editor Matt Gold's visit to campus.

 

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UMP blog - Representation and the digital environment: Essential challenges for humanists. By Johanna Drucker.

 

The basic challenge for humanists comes from adopting visualizations that don’t suit our fundamental epistemological values. Obviously humanism is not monolithic. But methods of statistical analysis and empirical observation are grafted onto the humanities, they were not created from within the traditions of textual analysis and study. Put simply, the distinction between humanistic and empirical methods is the difference between interpretation and scientific positivism. I have no quarrel with the latter, only with the ways visualization techniques from the natural and social sciences have been adopted for use in the humanities. The result is reductive, and in most instances, produces a reification of misinformation. Exceptions exist.

 

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