Gilmer Post 10: Striking a Balance with Sayers

This week, I had fun trying to piece together my own methodologies from Chapman and Sawchuk’s “family resemblance” paradigm: I’m still having difficulty finding my own place within the four categories, which is a testament to their extensive overlap. They also insist that these projects “must be assessed with a rigorous flexibility” (C&S 22). I love this oxymoronic diction, which effectively communicates the necessity of finding a balance between rigor (structure) and flexibility (non-structure) in the evaluation of digital humanities scholarship. Ironically, the essay itself fails to strike this balance, tipping entirely towards the spectrum’s traditional end. They acknowledge this as a “deliberate” choice: “we are also aware of an irony at the very core of this article, which has taken a traditional academic tone and style” (C&S 22). Unfortunately, I don’t accept their apology. Even if the article was conceived in traditional form, they could have focused on its process of production, revealing invisible layers of work that currently go unmentioned. And if DH is all about accessibility, community, and outreach, then this particular medium–one which reeks of canon–seems ineffective.

This is why I somewhat prefer the Sayers readings, which occur in an open online medium. I especially enjoyed what Sayers had to say about failure: “through what measures [is a project] deemed a success?” (Sayers, “Relevance of Remaking”). For me, this question becomes more relevant as the end of the semester approaches: what does “success” look like? Using Sayers’s logic, my project’s failure will depend on its evaluative context–which I am responsible for creating. This acts as a comfort, since true “failure” seems impossible in such a setting. And perhaps that’s what he’s getting at–there is no failure in a self-reflexive process of learning.

Sayers also gives voice to my attachment to physical space, remarking that central space allows unscheduled “Dialogue [to] emerg[e] in the margins. […] Without these conversations, the technical work we do would lack necessary conceptualization and contextualization. It would also feel a bit detached from the present, or a touch depersonalized and abstract.” Sayers emphasizes the importance of spontaneous dialogue, but remains moderately positioned: he argues that “the MLab is irreducible to its physical location and composition, even if infrastructure is entangled in practice.” Clearly, the laboratory’s intellectual capacity extends beyond its physical walls. But physical space necessitates the development of community, so to speak. And this is my favorite epiphany of the week: perhaps DH work can be completed outside of a centralized space, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it should.

One thought on “Gilmer Post 10: Striking a Balance with Sayers

  1. ebcousins says:

    I love that you don’t accept Champan and Sawchuck’s apology, because I absolutely did, without even realizing it! I wrote my response before reading yours, and now that I do I realize how striking it is for the article not to use any of the methods it describes…even simple ones, like the inclusion of multimedia. There’s definitely irony there…but to what end? Is it another case of a project catering to the traditional standards in order to gain credibility? It certainly does seem like a strange tactic while arguing for the credibility of non-traditional projects…I’ll have to think about this one!


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