The Digital Humanities is Here for Your Soul!

This is not a Blog 001

The LARB supposed critique of DH reads as the last gasping breath of an ancien régime. Its authors seem to believe that they are still the revolutionaries rather than the powerholders who must acknowledge the new truth crafted by the next generation of successful scholars. Those-whose-time-is-coming-to-a-close are quick to label the upstart rabble as counter-revolutionaries, as if DHers would bow their heads in shame and retreat back to the shadows of cyberspace.

The authors characterize our heritage in our refusal to conform:

Rather than accommodate themselves to the requirements of the humanities research and teaching system, they would — in the style of Silicon Valley “disruptors” — attempt to force the system to accommodate them...
Thus, Digital Humanities was born from disdain and at times outright contempt, not just for humanities scholarship, but for the standards, procedures, and claims of leading literary scholars. Those scholars had told the Humanities Computing specialists, even if only implicitly, that their work didn’t count as scholarship. Now, it was time to prove them wrong.

I wholehearted agree… no… I embrace this! We refuse to remain silent. We refuse to sit where you tell us. We are making strides in new directions that your outmoded perspectives cannot even perceive. And we are winning (or your criticism wouldn't be needed).

But, you go a step too far with this:

We have presented these tendencies as signs that the Digital Humanities as social and institutional movement is a reactionary force in literary studies, pushing the discipline toward post-interpretative, non-suspicious, technocratic, conservative, managerial, lab-based practice.

We reject your George-W.-Bush-esque notions of “if you aren’t with us, you are against us.” Our mantra of openness stems more from Torvalds than from any theorist you read—or taught—in graduate school. If, as a result of massively parallel trial and error with feedback cycles, we end up where these authors predict, it will be the best form for our field to take. If—as the authors imply—those adjectives are detrimental to our field, those detriments will become apparent and corrected in the process.

In closing, I recommend the authors take to heart the advice they give DHers:

It will be necessary for its chief practitioners, associated with the biggest projects and the biggest labs, to mute themselves for a number of years so that the voices of the outsiders they claim to welcome may be amplified in turn.

Yes, you established literary critics/theorists/professors, it’s your turn to take a back seat. Stop using your positions of power to repress legitimate-yet-underprivileged voices in your field.

~The Digital Cynic