Armstrong, Blog Post Week 3: Earhart and the Problem of the Object


“For scholars interested in reinserting writers of color into critical discussions, the recovery efforts were a boon. We imagined that the free access to materials on the web would allow those previously cut off from intellectual capital to gain materials and knowledge that might be leveraged to change the social position of people of color. The new space of the Internet would allow those who had been silenced to have a voice.”

Amy E. Earhart touches on many crucial subjects in her article, “Can Information Be Unfettered? Race and the New Digital Humanities Canon”, not the least of which is the importance of the inclusion of race, gender, class, etc. factors in DH. I agree that DH needs to factor in these issues, but I think that Earhart is leaving something out.

The object.

When I say the object, I of course mean the actual computer, the vessel of the technology.

The inclusion of racial, gender, class, etc. factors (particularly class and space in rural areas) needs to factor in availability of access. In the article Earhart mentions, “Advocates of the free web were interested in three ideas: “1) Access to computers should be unlimited and total; 2) All information should be free; 3) Mistrust authority and promote decentralization,” all designed to allow “bubbles” of information to rise from the bottom, sowing “seeds of revolutionary change” (“Battle for the Soul of the Internet”).”

This first part is great in theory, but unfortunately it is only that right now.

The amount of people in rural regions of Appalachia and the South–– focusing here on a study of rural Appalachian Ohio as of 2011–– without access to the internet on a regular basis is “Approximately 124,000 adult Ohioans living in rural Appalachia” whom “cannot get broadband service, or they cannot get service that is fast enough to meet their needs.”

How can we discuss the importance of the inclusion of excluded groups without also speaking about who it is with the access to the information to begin with? Shouldn’t we also look into the object itself and what it is representing? How can we give those who were silenced a voice if they do not have access to the space?

Works Cited

Earhart, Amy E. “Can Information Be Unfettered? Race and the New Digital Humanities Canon.” Debates in the Digital Humanities. Web.

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One thought on “Armstrong, Blog Post Week 3: Earhart and the Problem of the Object

  1. feralroots says:

    I thought a lot about the object aspect to this article as well. Earhart glosses over this very quickly:

    “With superb work being produced by scholars such as Lisa Nakamura, Beth Kolko, and Tara McPherson, these fields have begun the difficult work of theorizing the way in which technology impacts the digital object.”

    There’s a physical absence of the object/tool for collaboration in the regions you mention. Additionally, I thought about organizations and initiatives popping up in the past decade to teach girls specifically how to code, indicating that this is actually a pretty common disparity. I know I was never presented with opportunities to learn code in school. I don’t know any women my age who are beyond remedial coding, which means there’s probably a good number of us interested in DH that can’t actually participate or “build” things in contribution.

    One of the most disconcerting statements I read in the introduction made by Stephan Ramsay was:

    “Digital Humanities is not some airy Lyceum. It is a series of concrete instantiations involving money, students, funding agencies, big schools, little schools, programs, curricula, old guards, new guards, gatekeepers, and prestige…. Do you have to know how to code [to be a digital humanist]? I’m a tenured professor of digital humanities and I say ‘yes.’ …Personally, I think Digital Humanities is about building things…. If you are not making anything, you are not …a digital humanist” (Ramsay, “Who’s In and Who’s Out”).

    Good. Great. That’s helpful, Ramsay.

    This is disconcerting for several reasons, one being that we already know many young women have no exposure to coding, impoverished people don’t have access to this either generally, and the list goes on. So then, who is doing the work, getting credit, and steering the conversation in DH?

    The second thing that concerns me here is the “in or out” mentality that seems very male and very “lift yourself up by your bootstraps,” capitalist driven belief that all of us have had the same opportunity and can participate if we really want to.

    The third thing is that this statement is very closed off, and not remotely inviting or interested in equipping the tools necessary for all types of people to participate, creating homogenous collection of data and production of scholarship. We’ve also read and discussed the changing nature of this field and for this guy to act as the end all be all of the field is just arrogant and ridiculous.

    Ignorant. *end rant*

    While Earhart glosses over the “computer” as object, I think her discussion of divisions in DH between scholars that only want to review objective topics vs scholars that want to bring cultural theory to the forefront is really important and wonderful. I believe she is talking about the object in a different way, mainly the cannon as object, specifically print and electronic scholarship, the ideals behind each of these categories, where we went wrong when we moved online, and where we can improve to ultimately include everyone in the discussion and destroy elitism. ❤


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