Reading Latour and Woolgar’s anthropological study of labs, I am interested in how their emphasis on the relationship between science and the social realm connects to a blog post I read this week by Jean Baur called “Baking Gingerbread, as a DH Project.” As Jonas Salk concisely notes in his introduction, “One of [Latour and Woolgar’s] main points is that the social world cannot exist on one side and the scientific world on the other because the scientific realm is merely the end result of many other operations that are in the social realm” (13). Whether positive or negative, L&W demonstrate that social factors inevitably affect the scientific process. I think most would agree that the (digital) humanities—or any fields of study for that matter—are the same way.
So much of our reading has emphasized coding, building, and even theorizing as DH work; and much of traditional humanities work involves presenting papers, publishing essays, composing manuscripts—alone. As we’ve discussed in class, it seems that the human sometimes gets forgotten in the humanities. Somebody learned to write that code from someone else. Somebody presents that paper to other people. Social factors are inherent in everything we do, even those activities we consider solitary. Yet academia largely dismisses the social as less important than individual activity. For instance, literary scholars rarely co-author papers and, according to L&W, social factors inhibit scientists’ success (21).
Baur addresses this issue of the social in DH stating that, “DH should be a conversation, a process, and a community. It should not be a checklist, a test, or yet another way to exclude the people that major structural forces already exclude.” Like BRANCH: Britain, Representation, and Nineteenth-Century History—which offers an open-access compilation of short, peer-reviewed articles by scholars from History, Art History, and English—the (digital) humanities should embrace the benefits of the social. Not only should we should support the idea of DH as a community, but we should make it about community as well.
I realize in reading over this that my post this week really doesn’t have anything to do with labs—although I think there is a connection to be made between the lab and the social that I’m running out of time and energy to make here; maybe someone can start that train of thought in the comments—but, nevertheless, I think the social is an important facet of DH to consider.