Monthly Archives: September 2015

DH + Dissertations

Following our conversation I thought this was interesting. I just received this email for the upcoming MLA conference about DH and taking action. It’s an interesting read, especially since it is about dissertations and creating/doing/making as well as theorizing.

We are very pleased to announce our second DHSI@MLA offering, “Digital Humanities (DH) and / in the Dissertation,” at MLA 2016 in Austin, Texas. This session is geared toward those working on dissertations currently or in the future, those who supervise or review dissertations, and those interested in the intersections between the digital humanities and graduate studies more broadly. We welcome (and are ourselves) participants from all career stages, including students, librarians, staff, researchers, faculty members, and others. Please join us for what is sure to be an exciting session!

Digital Humanities (DH) and/in the Dissertation

MLA 2016, Session 1
Thursday January 7th, 8.30am-11.30amPlease note that all registrations are handled through the MLA conference site.

Sponsored by the Digital Humanities Summer Institute, the Public Knowledge Project, the Maker Lab in the Humanities, the Electronic Textual Cultures Lab, and the Implementing New Knowledge Environments project, this workshop offers participants both theoretical and hands-on considerations of a number of innovative ways in which the Digital Humanities (DH) can affect, reflect, or otherwise shape the PhD dissertation. The session is structured around an opening talk, two sessions of breakout groups (some seminar, some hands on), and group discussion as follows: Alyssa Arbuckle (U Victoria) and Liz Grumbach (TAMU), “Ctrl+Alt+Diss,” Melissa Dalgleish (York U) and Daniel Powell (King’s College London, U Victoria), “Beyond the Protomonograph: Digital Models for the Dissertation,” Laura Estill (TAMU), “DH After the Dissertation: Digital Humanities Postdoctoral Fellowships,” Brian Owen (Simon Fraser U Library, Public Knowledge Project), “On-Campus Spaces and Services for Digital Dissertation Work,” Jentery Sayers (U Victoria), “Versioning Your Dissertation with Git,” Lynne Siemens (U Victoria), ““Project Management for Graduate Students and Early Career Scholars.”

We are exceptionally pleased to be working with the MLA Office of Scholarly Communication on this workshop.


  1. 8.30-9.10: Welcome, Brief Opening Talks
  2. 9.15-10.00: Breakout Session 1
  3. 10.15-11.00: Breakout Session 2 (a repeat, so attendees can engage two topics)
  4. 11.10-11.30: Wrap-up and Full Group Discussion

Breakout sessions:

  1. Ctrl+Alt+Diss (Alyssa Arbuckle & Liz Grumbach): How are scholarly communication practices changing? What implications does the current trend toward social knowledge creation have for more traditional academic pursuits, like the dissertation? How is scholarly output transforming in the digital world, and what does that mean for current and future dissertators? We will explore these topics within the broader digital humanities realm, as well as consider alternatives to traditional academic practices and trajectories. This workshop is geared toward undergraduate and graduate students, alt-ac practitioners and those curious about the alt-ac track, as well as individuals interested in digital scholarly communication and social knowledge creation in general.
  2. Beyond the Protomonograph: Digital Models for the Dissertation (Melissa Dalgliesh & Daniel Powell): This session is designed to provide an overview of current activity in the field of digital dissertations in humanities contexts. We will provide numerous examples of such projects, with the aim of illustrating how advanced graduate students are creating PhD capstone projects that effectively integrate digital technologies generally, and the digital humanities more specifically. The first part of this workshop will highlight between three and five projects currently in progress or recently completed, including: a dissertation project published as a constantly evolving blog; a multimedia dissertation project integrating text, video, and sound; and different projects integrating social media like Twitter, network visualisations, or geolocation. The second part of the workshop will encourage participants to consider and actively talk through the logistical, administrative, and infrastructural issues that such dissertations prompt for university administrations, students pursuing digital projects, and for those in mentorship and supervisory positions.
  3. DH after the Dissertation: Digital Humanities Postdoctoral Fellowships (Laura Estill): While many of us want digital skills, it seems that the best time to have learned them was always yesterday … or tomorrow. This workshop considers the benefits and challenges of learning digital humanities skills during a postdoctoral fellowship. We will discuss the different kinds of digital humanities postdocs (project-driven; teaching-oriented; research-focused), what you can expect, where to find them, and how to apply. We will talk about how to get the technological skills and support you need to complete your projects, how to manage your time, and how to position yourself on the job market. This session will be of value for doctoral students, faculty considering hiring a DH postdoc, and veteran postdocs and advisors.
  4. On-Campus Spaces and Services for Digital Dissertation Work (Brian Owen): Libraries have long been spaces for traditional, print-based academic work, including the PhD thesis. But how are libraries evolving to support or intersect with digital humanities research? How does the development of the research commons reflect the need for alternative approaches to learning and scholarship in the digital age? This workshop will grapple with these topics, as well as explore the research commons at Simon Fraser University (SFU) Library in Burnaby, British Columbia, as an exemplar. The SFU Library’s Research Commons opened in 2014 and supports the research endeavours of the university community, with particular focus on graduate students during all stages of the research lifecycle–ideas, partners, proposal writing, research process, and publication–and provides easy access to both physical and virtual research resources.
  5. Versioning Your Dissertation with Git (Jentery Sayers): Git and GitHub allow people to track changes made to a given project and, in so doing, produce a detailed revision history. In this workshop, participants will learn the basics of Git and GitHub, with an emphasis on how they can be used to archive, track, version, and even share changes to a dissertation. They will also discuss GitHub as a component in the publication process.
  6. Project Management for Graduate Students and Early Career Scholars (Lynne Siemens): Project management skills are increasingly in demand for graduate students, early career scholars and alternative academics. This offering will cover the basics of project management from project definition to project review upon completion, including management of resources, time, tasks, and budget, risk assessment and mitigation, software tools and related internet resources and other topics. Material will be covered through lectures, discussions, and case studies.


Here’s a panoramic view of the MAL that I took tonight- what a trove of technological history!  

belated and belabored

Caveat Emptor: Digital Humanities as a “Discursive Construction”[1]

“we do things differently in DH, we are vast”[2]

–Dr. Matthew Jockers

“My name is Legion; for we are many”

– Mark 5:9

After this week’s readings I found myself musing, along with a certain star-crossed heroine: “what’s in a name?”[3] Apparently, according to Kirschenbaum, Ramsay, and many others, a name carries connotative freight that can and, by and large, does determine “who’s in and who’s out.”[4] However, like any ‘new kid on the block,’ digital humanities is subject to ridicule and scrutiny; particularly from those that feel DH is encroaching on their hallowed territory. I’m reminded of Edmund Wilson’s caustic response to Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.[5] In other words, there have always been–and will always be–the naysayers, the sanctimonious skeptics, the self-righteous cynics: those who make it their sole purpose to ‘critique’ (i.e. criticize) others’ endeavors in a misguided effort to serve their own self-interests and promote their own agendas. This is what Kirschenbaum refers to as “the rhetoric of contempt” (7). Ultimately (and unfortunately), this often results in nothing more than an embarrassing intellectual pissing contest. Nevertheless, as Kirschenbaum notes, even as a “term of tactical convenience”– or, rather precisely because it’s treated as a “discursive construct”– there are real implications for digital humanists.

For many skeptics, the concept/practice of digital humanities simply ‘does . . . not . . . compute.’ The only point of consensus as to what digital humanities is or should be, for that matter, is that it remains to be decided; which, in turn, makes me wonder: is this uncertainty unique and/or inherent to digital humanities? And, if so, is that such a bad thing? (i.e. or does this mutability allow for a level of innovation, experimentation, and collaboration that isn’t present/possible in traditional approaches to the humanities?)

Regardless, the fact remains: there are real people out there doing real things that constitute authentic scholarship and, furthermore, deserve recognition and consideration. One such example is the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili project at MIT This is an online codex to, what is considered to be, one of the earliest known extant incunabula of print culture (ca. 1499). The entire document is electronically reproduced in the original Italian, but there is a link to Liane Lefaivre’s exegesis; which, in addition to a plot synopsis, includes supplementary explanatory information about the typography, woodcut engravings, architecture, metaphors, and hidden messages in the text.

Furthermore, as a result of her undertaking, Lefaivre’s research also led her to attribute authorship to Leon Battista Alberti.

The point I’m trying to make is that whether or not we treat DH as a construct, it has a real-world, practical and logistical impact on the work and livelihood of those doing it. Institutional infrastructure aside, DH is here–like it or not–and, the amount of interest in defining and describing it only further testifies to its vitality and validity. The moment the debate is finally settled signals the impending demise of digital humanities.

Works Cited

Jockers, Matthew L. Macroanalysis: Digital Methods and Literary History. Urbana, IL: U of Illinois P, 2013. Print.

Kirschenbaum, Matthew. “What is ‘Digital Humanties,’ and Why Are They Saying Such Terrible Things About It?” differences 25.1 (2014). Durham, NC: Duke UP. Web.

24 Sep 2015.

[1] Rita Raley’s term (qtd. in Kirschenbaum 3)

[2] (fn. Jockers 12)

[3] Romeo and Juliet. (II.ii:43).

[4] the title of Ramsay’s controversial talk at the 2011 MLA Convention

[5] (“Who Care’s Who Killed Roger Ackroyd?”) “Why Do People Read Detective Stories?” The New Yorker. October 14, 1944.

“infrastructural thinking” in the Media Archaeology Lab

Take some time to wander around the Media Archaeology Lab – turn some machines on, if you like, or load some software; also note the way the lab has been organized; think about how it is and is not akin to a scientific laboratory. Now in groups of two or three, work through the following questions. You might want to focus your thinking by paying attention to spatial arrangements (or lack thereof) in the lab, or to particular machines or particular rooms.

  1. In response to Stephen Ramsay’s observation that “doing” in DH is under-theorized, what sorts of theories (if any at all) of doing are implied the set-up of the MAL? Does the MAL seem to want to emulate a scientific setting or configuration?
  2. What might or could be, in Kirschenbaum’s words, the “material conditions of knowledge production” in the MAL?
  3. How exactly can we use the MAL to think through how infrastructure is, in Svensson’s words, “about situated imagination”? How can we use the MAL as a case-study to enact “infrastructural thinking”?
  4. How could the MAL “emphasize a laboratory model as one that privileges traditional humanistic inquiry through material and spatial construction”? In the context of this particular infrastructure, what would or could humanistic inquiry look like?


Patrik Svensson always seems to elegantly and lucidly set out the state of the DH landscape in his scholarship. In “The Humanistiscope—Exploring the Situatedness of Humanities Infrastructure,” Svensson introduces us to the notion of the “humanistiscope” as a new mode of viewing infrastructure that is created for the specific needs of the humanities. I’m interested in the discord that arises due to his identification of the opportunity, indeed the need, for DH as a ‘field’ to creatively and uniquely forge its own infrastructure, whilst adhering to the larger cultural, social, political, and technological frameworks around us. This tension is most obvious when we situate the goal of “unlocking infrastructural making and doing” alongside the practical necessity to “relate to the notion of infrastructure established by the policy makers, funding agencies, and institutions of higher education” (337, 344). A number of DH commentaries have expressed the desire to completely re-imagine processes and tools rather than merely revitalize the old, but realize that they must be grounded in real-world institutional politics. Svensson’s phrase the “situated imagination” helpfully combines these ideas, and he acknowledges that “making a case for [rethinking DH] infrastructure is one of politics and packaging as well as ideas, people, and equipment” (338).

Recent trends that Svensson identifies as imbedded in DH’s situated imagination are viewed in real-world spaces and methodologies; for example, they are all encompassed in the package that is the newly established University of Sussex Humanities Lab. Officially opening this month, the SHL is still developing its first projects, but aims to “re-launch the humanities” through the digital. Their mission statement claims to “re-imagine the humanities” without relying on “inherited disciplinary approaches,” and to this end the Lab is directed by an interdisciplinary team with backgrounds in media studies, philosophy, politics, sociology, performing arts, cultural studies, and coding and algorithms ( But the SHL website also demonstrates the institutional expectation that has shaped the initiative. The £3 million investment demands longevity, and PhDs are the only individuals invited to apply for funded research positions at the Lab, in specific fields of study. Svensson considers the digital humanities lab an ideal model that can bring together different humanistiscopes, but the SHL shows that such a space, whether digital and/or physical, is largely formulated under a policy-driven rule of thumb. The policy itself is not necessarily undesirable, but it certainly limits the DH’s potential explosion in scope and innovation by setting out expectations based on traditional methods of study and evaluation.

As a side note, I’m very much in support of Svensson’s claim that “The [DH] challenge is also one of moving from critical sensibility to creative, if conditioned, making, which often does not come easy to the humanities” (337). His statement reminds me of the irony that when bridging the “two cultures” in a humanities lab, the humanists are often viewed as bring the creative element to the more structured workspace traditionally favored by the scientific community. However, except for specific programs such as creative writing degrees, we could argue that the humanities often find it difficult to integrate the creative into the academic. This is of course a gross generalization, but I think it’s worth considering the fact that the humanities still largely consists of disciplines defined by strict practices, making it all the more bizarre that humanists are viewed as compellingly more creative forces when undertaking work with STEM collaborators.

Works Cited:

Svensson, Patrik. 2015. “The Humanistiscope—Exploring the Situatedness of Humanities Infrastructure.” In Between Humanities and the Digital, eds. Patrik Svensson and David Theo Goldberg, 337-353. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2015.

Schultheis Post 4: Ramsay and Earhart


Over the last four weeks, I’ve strongly advocated for a DH centered around activism, yet to blithely consider DH a field/hermeneutic/epistemology/#chooseyourownadventure that is capable of challenging and changing existing oppressive ideologies without also considering, what Stephen Ramsay describes as, “the way digital humanities does or does not engage with cultural criticism”—is criminally myopic (my emphasis). Ramsay’s “Why I’m In It” addresses a number of concerns that we have been circling around this semester: particularly, the fear of a DH subsumed into the current academic institution. Foregrounding his post with the work of Alan Liu, Ramsay takes on the question of whether DH-ers are “channel[ing], advanc[ing], or resist[ing]” institutions and corporations in order to do their research or make their products. He is correct that this is a “book-length question,” but I have the short answer: it’s all three. I don’t mean to be flippant; it’s an important question that’s well worth the time to research (and I’m sure Ramsay’s future book will make clear that all three are at work), but if we begin taking part in conversations that describe DH as if it is in some sort of binary, we’re doomed. Be cognizant of Ramsay’s question. Be ready to think long and hard over it, but let’s move beyond unconsciously (or consciously) appropriating deconstructionist hierarchies and Foucauldian power dynamics. Instead, I’d like to see critics embrace what Rebecca Bushnell calls in another context, “functional ambivalence”: the ability to see that a particular tendency “always allow[s] for the realization of an opposite one, without undermining or effacing itself in turn” (19). In the end analyzing this paradox is crucial for understanding DH’s relationship to culture and its role within academia, and I hope it’s a principal issue in Ramasy’s work on this question.

Earhart and HaCSS:

While I take issue with Amy Earhart’s repeated use of “neutral” when describing DH labs, I appreciate her description of the queer space it occupies—one that does not look entirely humanist or scientific. The University of Southern California’s The Humanities and Critical Code Studies Lab is interested in residing in this in-between place. Particularly concerned with creating a “cross-disciplinary dialogue . . . specifically [with] the humanities and computer science,” the HaCCS turns to humanities hermeneutics when studying computer code, bridging the “two cultures.” Further, the lab focuses on collaboration; in fact, the word and its various forms are used 14 times in a 388-word post about the lab’s new platform. And while the distinct roles that professors and students play are unclear, a point Earhart address in her article, the lab’s site makes contributors’ names visible to the right of every page, emphasizing the collaborative nature of HaCCS at every level.

Works Cited

Bushnell, Rebecca W. A Culture of Teaching: Early Modern Humanism in Theory and Practice. Ithaca, N.Y: Cornell University Press, 1996. Print.

Earhart, Amy E., “The Digital Humanities as a Laboratory.”

Ramsey, Stephen. “Why I’m In It.”

Gilmer Post 4: Neutral Space (And Other Figments of My Imagination)

Since their conception, the digital humanities have expressed a fickle relationship with the sciences. Scholarship ranges from wholehearted endorsement to scathing denunciation of the scientific model, fluctuating in a pendulumic rhythm: while our first week of readings asserted the importance of bridging the “two cultures,” this week’s scholars seem very hesitant to jump on the scientific bandwagon. In “The Digital Humanities as a Laboratory,” Amy Earhart explains that “the digital humanities lab is primarily imagined as science lab-like,” but rarely functions as such. Quoting Unsworth, Earhart argues that “our emulation may not actually bear that much resemblance to the reality of what goes on in science” (393). DH has essentially transformed into a knock-off handbag. This holds true for Stephen Ramsay, who professes an “obsession with building and making,” but ironically asserts that he hasn’t “really built or made anything” in his time as a digital humanist. What he does instead “is philosophize […] about digital humanities” (Ramsay, italics added); depressingly, any active roles typically relegate DHers to technical coding positions. And what an awful word he uses: he isn’t a doer, but a philosophizer. Digital humanities functions not a frontier of action, but as another great fat void of sitting around and thinking. Way to go, Ramsay: undermine the foundation of our entire class.

In light of these accusations of charlatanism, I find Kirschenbaum’s article very convincing: “When a federal funding agency flies the flag of the digital humanities, one is incentivized to brand their work as digital humanities” (10). Academic trends tend to go where the money goes, and at this current historical moment, the money is in the tech industry. As Earhart points out, there “remains a deep suspicion of bringing a science model to humanities work” (394). Are we, as DHers, simply wolves in sheep’s clothing? (Alpacas in sheep’s clothing? You get the point.)

Svensson’s “humanistiscope” emerges as a potentially useful paradigm, but I hesitate to conceive of DH studies on a humanistic foundation. Ramsay declares that DH should “break with the past”–a very different sentiment than Svensson, who advocates for a balance between the technical and humanist disciplines. I agree with Svensson that a “multiplex” methodology is necessary, but I question whether or not his model can meet the requirements of a “neutral space.” DH currently lacks the tools to articulate and construct an interdisciplinary infrastructure. Every time I try to mentally build this space, I get a very clear image of the border between North and South Korea: a highly guarded, miniscule strip of land that no one can access. 

Not such a pleasant thought, is it? Maybe I’m being too negative about the model–but if the point of DH is to create scholarship that is unrecognizable as traditional scholarship, then don’t we need an infrastructure that is equally unrecognizable as infrastructure?

To continue this week’s theme of constructing (and tearing down) disciplinary walls, I’ve attached a link to the Duke BorderWork(s) Lab ( This lab focused on national, communicative, and historical border-making, providing an amalgamation of border-work projects in a collaborative digital atmosphere. However, as you’ve probably noticed, I used the past tense–these guys shut down in 2014, it seems (thankfully past projects are still available on the site). I’m very interested in everyone’s opinions of this project, as I personally question whether or not this work qualifies as progressive. I’m a huge fan of anything digital, don’t get me wrong, but within the parameters of this specific lab, the digital element is fairly minimized. That’s not to say that the lab as a whole is conservative, and some of you may disagree with me after you take a look at the lab’s other projects. But when a project is advertised as being within the DH, I don’t expect to find a printed monograph among them: Is this a conservative approach to DH? Or is this what a “neutral space” looks like–an equal inclusion of text and digital? Personally, I doubt whether such a space is conceivable. Hopefully labs will prove me wrong!

Armstrong, Blog Post Week 6: Ramsay and #DHPOCO and eLit

“I want a break with the past. I want a new, revivified humanities that resists current attempts at its destruction. I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water, but I also don’t care if this new humanities looks like some kind of mashup between computer science and English. I don’t see why protecting the humanities means protecting the Department of French Literature as it has been since the Second World War. I don’t see why History must “remain a book-based discipline.” I don’t see why the classroom has to be what the German Pietists said it should be three hundred years ago. Big theory was a grenade (that completely altered my intellectual universe), but I want a new blast pattern. Theology (as Stanley Fish alleged)? Whatever.”

Ramsay’s article, “Why I’m In It” addresses a need in DH to avoid conforming to traditional power structures in the university system, and beyond that as individuals/groups identifying as Digital Humanists. “Gaps in the archive? Let’s fill them. Co-opted by Apple and Google? Let’s find ways to get out. Frustrated with business-as-usual in university press publishing? Let’s create new ways to do it. Big tent? Better be.” This opens up more discussion for the need of #DHPOCO and the necessity to do more than be self-aware and focuses on the importance of action.

He says in the comment section in reply to *Adeline Koh, “As a technologist yourself, you are undoubtedly aware of how hard it is to imagine things outside of what already exists. Once upon a time, though, *there was no such thing as a blog*. Once upon a time, *there was no such thing as Twitter*. Someone (more likely, a group of people) had to sit down and think that stuff up, in part, out of thin air. I don’t mean to suggest that either of these things were without precedent, but they represented *enormous* feats of invention and lateral thinking. We need to have those sessions, and we need to know how to put the results of those discussions into action. I think that’s ultimately what I mean by “learning to code.” I think it is only partly to do with “learning Ruby” or “learning Javascript” — neither of those things might be relevant at all. I think it just means being open to gaining whatever skills we need to turn our complaints and frustrations into (forgive me for using another industry buzzword) ‘solutions.’”

With this new definition of “learning to code” we can open more doorways for interesting and diversive forms of communication and scholarship. Ramsay is trying to promote more communication and interaction between DHers, “I suppose I’m challenging us (and myself) to create genuinely new forms of representation, communication, and affordance.”

eLit, something along the lines of Jennifer Egan’s Black Box, a book released on Twitter, or the poetry site, Cellpoems, which distributes poems via SMS text messaging and Twitter only, seems to be worlds ahead of more traditional DH practices which are still conforming to power structures. I think what Ramsay is trying to aim/call for here is something that eLit has been doing for a long time. In fact, Ramsay says, “I think we are way behind them [eLit] in doing the same thing for non-fiction genres. Can you imagine if the products of our work as scholars — the media we create to convey our messages and ideas, whether textual or not — were as varied and creative as what we see coming from the eLit folks? I think it would be a complete revolution” (my addition).

While I think that Ramsay is talking more about the technological possibilities for DH as discipline than he is speaking directly towards a necessity in the humanities to decolonize, it can’t be ignored that his ideas lend themselves to this.

In some ways, I wonder how far Ramsay’s action goes. Does he mean technologically only? He discusses the ideas of “access” but more along the lines of a need to break away from these ideas because of the lack of responsibilty to do anything other than talk. Right now, as much as it is a call to action, the article is still only talking without much doing. He said, “I don’t think I’ll ever live down “Who’s In and Who’s Out,” which now seems an utterly divisive and counterproductive thing to have said.” I’m not sure, but I think that his willingness to expand and reflect on his original ideas as probelematic is a good start, but I want to know what he plans to do.

*Adeline Koh runs Digitizing ‘Chinese Englishmen’, and speaks about the need to Decolonize the Archive

Ramsay, Stephen. “Why I’m In It.” Sitewide ATOM. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Sept. 2015.

“Doing”: An Inclusive Look at DH

Last week, I wrote about defining digital humanities; this week, I find myself still interested this topic. More specifically, I’m interested in Kirschenbaum’s definition and—what I see as—his defense of DH: “[…] do some thing that is sufficiently noteworthy that reasonable people who themselves do similar things must account for your work, your thing, as part of the progression of a shared field of interest. That is what being a digital humanist is; it is almost all of what being a digital humanist is” (11).

Here, Kirschenbaum points out that Digital Humanities really is doing. However, it’s not really different from any other kinds of doing. Perhaps doing really is the most important word in understanding DH. As our readings have demonstrated, naming this field has been a process of sorts. We’ve discussed dropping the “D,” considered dropping the “H,” and questioned what to call the work of underrepresented people. But the one common denominator amongst DHers, DH theorists, librarians, literary scholars (what are we called anyway?), and we blogging DH graduate students is that we’re all doing some thing.

That doing may look different, but I think it matches up with Kirschenbaum’s definition across fields. DHers do all kinds of things. One of my personal favorite examples is the Mapping Emotions in Victorian London (MEVL) project, which gathers data from literature to generate maps that reveal the emotional geography of London in the nineteenth-century. Moreover, as a crowdsourcing project, MEVL is also getting other people to participate in this doing. DH theorists like Stephen Ramsay—despite not having a “project”—are building theoretical frameworks that help us conceive of the field, its possibilities, and its limitations. Librarians and literary scholars alike are doing archival research. Each time we write a blog post, we are also doing something that adds to this discussion of the field and many of us will be doing building (to use Ramsay’s word) of our own projects at the end of the semester.

Maybe I’m just an optimist or not as critical as a scholar should be, but I like Kirschenbaum’s definition. I like it because it’s broad enough to include a variety of things that are expanding and creating knowledge—and isn’t that the point of all of this?

Jones: What Might Redesigning the Tools of DH Look like?

After this weeks readings, I’m interested in the idea of creating specific tools for DH. I’m interested in both Ramsay’s  and Svensson’s focus on building an infrastructure or tools for DH that would be “based on core and central needs of the humanities”.[1] I believe that the needs for DH resources are currently being met by scholars who provide access to pre-existing resources, and these resources are often called “DH Toolkits.” From an outsider’s perspective, it appears that these resources are often defined in a list in order to be fitted to a model or project. This seems different from what Ramsay meant when he implied that he wanted a “new blast pattern”. Perhaps Svensson and Ramsay did not require the building of a wholly new set of tools, but I wonder how the tools or infrastructure would be created.  Can entirely new tools be redesigned or built specifically for DH? Or will the existing tools be continually adapted for laboratory work? Are these tool kits the solution or is creating new programming languages for building truly the notion?

Perhaps redesigning a new set of tools is too great a task, but this could potentially reshape the way that DH is viewed internally and externally. The focus of building appears instead for some DH labs to resides in projects that use tools like XML, Google or other industry tool and then providing a list of what’s already out there. Perhaps the new infrastructure could include outlining methodologies for using or finding the tools of DH work, and then how to adapt them. For some of the labs that I’ve looked into this week, (trying to find if there are any particularly “new” DH tools), the  “DH Toolkits” act as long introductory lists of different resources.  The University of North Carolina’s cdhi, or Carolina Digital Humanities Initiative, offers such a detailed list of tools for DHers, along with other colleges and universities.

If there are so many tools available, why does Ramsay ask, “Should we redesign our own tools, metadata protocols, archive frameworks, languages, and ‘content management systems”? [2] What is specifically wrong with the tools available? What  are the constraints of current resources? While blogs and their temporality and the way that they privileging recent work was mentioned, what else is going wrong? Also, what’s holding current scholars back from “the new?” If Ramsay will not be writing a book, a blog, a manifesto, then what will the “new blast pattern” be? I’m not trying to be entirely critical, but I’m interested in the possibilities. How could scholars overcome limitations of time, ability, and funding to make new DH tools? When trying to formulate for myself what this may look like, I tried to again think of the values of DH work, but on a smaller more technical level. Is permanence valued in the humanities? Or is it the movement “from critical sensibility to creative[3]” that Svensson mentions?

I tried to use Kirschenbaum’s article to think about some of these issues. I think that Kirschenbaum’s call to critique the work may offer the insights into outlining what humanities based needs may be when figuring out how to build “the new”. Kirschenbaum mentions in his article, “that ‘digital humanities’ is in fact a diversified set of practices, one who details and methodologies responsible critique has a responsivity to understand and engage.”[4] This lends a material, historicist, multicultural, and formalist (among other perspectives) view to understanding DH work. The humanities then appear to be interested in exploring many avenues, so the “new tools” must be able to capture or encapsulate this varied world of social, historical, and cultural exploration. This would necessarily need to include the creative along with the quantitative, but if not a blog, then what? Would this be virtual reality reconstructions of theories? Would this be a lab hosted domain where blogs, representational data (charts, graphs, and more), along with archives and queries be accessible to all? Would it include 24/7 feeds and open “sand boxes” where the new languages could be used to develop new projects? Would this be similar to Earhart’s explorations of labs that “emphasize a laboratory model as one that privileges traditional humanistic inquiry through material and spatial construction?”[5] Once built, would scholars use Kirschenbaum’s theories about how to read DH work: “Let us read citation networks and publication venues. Let us examine the usage patterns around particular tools” and “reading the working involves reading the tools”?[6] If the tools were to be redefined and redesigned, a new reading may need to be developed so that it could read the methods and tools of DH work. This seems like such an exciting notion to put forward, but now I wonder how it’s to be accomplished and will humanities scholars be at the forefront of this development?


Earhart, Amy E. 2015. ““The Digital Humanities As a Laboratory.” In Between Humanities and the Digital, edited by David Theo Goldberg, Patrik Svensson, 391-400. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Accessed September 26, 2015.

Kirschenbaum, Matthew. 2014. “What Is “Digital Humanities” and Why Are They Saying Such Terrible Things about It?” differences 1-17. Accessed September 25, 2015.

Ramsay, Stephen. 2013. Why I’m In It. Accessed September 25, 2015.

Svensson, Patrick. 2015. “The Humanistiscope – Exploring the Situatedness of Humanities Infrastructure.” In Between Humanities and the Digital, edited by Patrick Svensson and David Theo Goldberg, 337-353. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Accessed September 26, 2015.



[1] Svensson, Patrick. 2015. “The Humanistiscope – Exploring the Situatedness of Humanities Infrastructure.” In Between Humanities and the Digital, edited by Patrick Svensson and David Theo Goldberg, 337-353, 337.

[2] Ramsay, Stephen. 2013. Why I’m In It. Accessed September 25, 2015.

[3] Svensson, Patrick. 2015. “The Humanistiscope – Exploring the Situatedness of Humanities Infrastructure”, 337

[4] Kirschenbaum, Matthew. 2014. “What Is “Digital Humanities” and Why Are They Saying Such Terrible Things about It?” differences 1-17. Accessed September 25, 2015., 14

[5] Earhart, Amy E. 2015. ““The Digital Humanities As a Laboratory.” In Between Humanities and the Digital, edited by David Theo Goldberg, Patrik Svensson, 391-400. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 395

[6] Kirschenbaum, Matthew. 2014. “What Is “Digital Humanities” and Why Are They Saying Such Terrible Things about It?”, 14 & 16.

Carlson Post 4: Svensson and Earhart’s DH Infrastructure in Action

This week’s readings by Patrik Svensson and Amy Earhart were mainly concerned with the issues that surround creating a digital humanities infrastructure or lab. Svensson advocates for the notion of the “humanistoscope” as a way to envision the potential for humanities infrastructure, as the current state of humanities infrastructure points to an issue with self-advocacy and “situated imagination.” Earhart advocates for a DH lab as a neutral space for collaborative digital scholarship, but recognizes the issues with basing such a lab on a science model. Both articles bring to the forefront a big-picture issue that DH currently faces (especially since these articles were both published earlier this year): how can DH envision infrastructure that effectively combines the digital with the human without simply following the footsteps of other purely scientific disciplines? This made me curious to see how current DH labs navigate this question.

Screen Shot 2015-09-27 at 3.59.29 PMThe first lab I looked at was the Collaboratory for Research and Computing for Humanities (RCH) at the University of Kentucky. This lab has several facilities which, according to their website, are “ideal for concentrated workshop sessions, as well as extended project work.” They have two separate labs – the “Digital Research Incubator” and the “Projects Office,” both of which are equipped with numerous workstations and multimedia resources. True to its name, the focus of the ‘collaboratory’ seems to be on group work – especially that which combines individuals from several disciplines. Additionally, this lab seems to have a focused imagination when it comes to their infrastructure, as they claim to “provide physical and computational infrastructure, technical support, and grant writing assistance to university faculty who wish to undertake humanities computing projects.” Whether this infrastructure comes from the imagination of the “humanistiscope” is unclear.

I also took a look at the Hyperstudio Laboratory for Digital Humanities at the MassachusetScreen Shot 2015-09-27 at 3.58.57 PMts Institute of Technology (MIT). According to its website, Hyperstudio “focuses on questions about the integration of technology into humanities curricula within the broader context of scholarly inquiry and educational
practice” and is associated with the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. From this information, it seems clear that Hyperstudio strives to come at their projects from a humanities-based perspective, but per their impressive list of software, they have an arsenal of digital infrastructure that supports the ‘digital’ end of this lab’s projects. Additionally, the “Process” section of the lab’s website describes the detailed workflow of each project that comes through the lab, including securing grant money, project roll out, evaluation, and project maintenance. Hyperstudio seems to have a good handle on each step of this process and appears to have the infrastructure to back it up.

Works Cited:

Earhart, Amy E. “The Digital Humanities as a Laboratory.” 337-53. Web. 2015.

Svensson, Patrik. “The Humanistiscope – Exploring the Situatedness of Humanities Infrastructure.” 391-400. Web. 2015.

McGehee Post 4: Innovation, Imagination, and Selective Borrowing in DH Labs

After focusing on Amy E. Earhart’s “Can Information Be Unfettered? Race and the New Digital Humanities Canon,” last week, it’s interesting to see a second article from her now pivoting toward the laboratory in Digital Humanities. “The Digital Humanities As a Laboratory,” captures the ephemeral nature of my feelings, and so many other humanist scholars’, towards DH, as well as the “divergent approaches that nonetheless must coexist within the digital humanities framework” (393).

Earhart uses the laboratory as conduit for pivotal discussions surrounding DH, specifically whether or not DH should lean more towards a pragmatic, scientific approach or a humanist approach which would include the cultural theory she so heavily emphasizes in last weeks article. In many of the articles we’ve read for this course these field divisions are heavily emphasized, but Earhart tells us that:

“The digital humanities lab has been constructed from various traditions including the design lab, art studio, and science lab to meet the distinctive needs of humanities scholars, or as Patrik Svensson has noted, digital humanities labs are fusioning forms from other traditions to develop a lab that serves our unique purposes” (391).

In other words, the digital humanities lab model is unprecedented, constantly evolving as time goes on. Additionally, the nature of the field keeps it from fitting fully into neither science nor humanities, which means that it cannot merely borrow from science or risk cultural erasure and reliance on scientific approaches to create seemingly inarguable data. Neither can the lab remove the “seminar table” of the humanities for cut and dry relaying information.heart

In this article, Earhart is primarily concerned with collaborative practices in the field as well as pedagogical practices. She states that in the sciences, “Each field understands how to interpret the author order on papers. This is not so in the humanities, where a common understanding of author order is not shared” (395). This appears to be an area still under construction in DH, one reason being that DH is uniquely diverse and hard to nail down as a field in the first place. One aspect of DH will not operate in the same way as another and therefore crediting and collaboration doesn’t necessarily work the same in each subfield (for instance library sciences and programming will have wildly different methods for crediting contributers). However, there does seem to be merit in establishing a set methodology and practice based on the sciences for the sake of efficiency and fostering the collaboration absent from humanities.

I am most interested in Earharts discussion of mentorship in DH, calling attention to the traditional apprenticeship in humanities (“the lone scholar”) vs. a more positive, science-based, collaborative structure:

“While I would like to see my graduate students in English publish, my career is minimally impacted if they do not. If a science faculty member does not work with the student to publish, the faculty member’s publication rate is diminished, adversely impacting the faculty member’s career” (398).

LostI can definitely relate to this, feeling often that my professors are too busy with their own work/publications to guide me through publication processes, editing, pointing me toward crucial resources that I’m unaware of. And what incentive do they have to focus more of their precious time and attention on students’ work? As a creative writing teacher, I know that I’m completely drained and depleted by my own work. Giving individuals the time they deserve isn’t always possible. There seems to be something lacking in the mentoring process and application here, and I feel quite often like the “lone [humanities] scholar” Earhart presents.  I can then see the immense benefit to not only holding professors accountable in this way, but, as Earhart suggests, rewarding “faculty for good mentoring,” and “enforce[ing] a codependency that is not present within the humanities,” with the laboratory acting as a facilitator for these methods. Earhart suggests selective borrowing and balance from science and the humanities for the most efficient results in archival/collaborative/pedagogical work.

Earhart highlights The Praxis Program as a leading example of a lab, which both encourages collaboration and focuses primarily on the aid of graduate student research in DH. “The projects success is partially based on the decision to locate the program in a neutral laboratory space…designed to replace traditional research methodology courses with a more current set of skills for graduate students training to become contemporary digital scholars” (397). According to Earhart, the labs success points to a seperation of DH from traditional fields for faster production of knowledge and overall efficiency.

One product of The Praxis Program is the Scholars’ Lab. On their web page I came across a blog site where teachers and students exchange information at the click of a button. The majority of the posts center on pedagogy and collaboration as one would expect, but I didn’t expect these exchanges to be so accessible. These posts and instant responses capture this perfect borrowing from both the sciences and humanities of which Earhart speaks, and all of this is posScholarslab
sible through the lab, the posts acting as a lab in an online space. None of this is facilitated through the traditional scholarship pathways, rather I can sit at home in my underwear and have a meaningful collaborative, discussion on the best ways in which to implement DH practices in my classroom. This perhaps stands in opposition with Liu’s assertion that the humanities as “unimaginative,” or perhaps he is correct if we’re looking a the bigger picture here.

One thing is for certain though. The science lab “is a space into which we can imagine our hopes for new practices” (399).

Works Cited: 

Earhart, Amy E. “The Digital Humanities As A Laboratory.” Between the Humanities and the Digital. MIT Press. 2015. Print.

The Praxis Program. Scholars’ Lab. Web. 2015.