“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.
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.