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