Culture Magazine

Digital Humanities in the Cross-hairs, with the Cavalry on the Way

By Bbenzon @bbenzon
Daniel Allington, Sarah Brouillette, and David Golumbia have published a critique of digital humanities (mostly just digital work in english lit.) in the LARB: Neoliberal Tools (and Archives): A Political History of Digital Humanities. Here's the opening paragraph:
Advocates position Digital Humanities as a corrective to the “traditional” and outmoded approaches to literary study that supposedly plague English departments. Like much of the rhetoric surrounding Silicon Valley today, this discourse sees technological innovation as an end in itself and equates the development of disruptive business models with political progress. Yet despite the aggressive promotion of Digital Humanities as a radical insurgency, its institutional success has for the most part involved the displacement of politically progressive humanities scholarship and activism in favor of the manufacture of digital tools and archives. Advocates characterize the development of such tools as revolutionary and claim that other literary scholars fail to see their political import due to fear or ignorance of technology. But the unparalleled level of material support that Digital Humanities has received suggests that its most significant contribution to academic politics may lie in its (perhaps unintentional) facilitation of the neoliberal takeover of the university.
It has provided 30 comments so far, most of them critical. It also provoked Alan Liu to respond with a twitter stream which he then Storified: On Digital Humanities and "Critique". He his not happy, referring to the article's "character assassination of the still evolving field of an attempt at a last word foreclosing the critical potential of DH". Liu also posted drafts from a book he's working on:
“Drafts for Against the Cultural Singularity (book in progress.” Alan Liu, 2 May 2016.
I'm about to read through the drafts. Here's Liu's opening paragraph:
My aim in this book is to make a strategic intervention in the development of the digital humanities. Following up on my 2012 essay, “Where is Cultural Criticism in the Digital Humanities?”, I call for digital humanities research and development informed by, and able to influence, the way scholarship, teaching, administration, support services, labor practices, and even development and investment strategies in higher education intersect with society, where a significant channel of the intersection between the academy and other social sectors, at once symbolic and instrumental, consists in shared but contested information-technology infrastructures. I first lay out in the book a methodological framework for understanding how the digital humanities can develop a mode of critical infrastructure studies. I then offer a prospectus for the kinds of infrastructure (not only research “cyberinfrastructures,” as they have been called) whose development the digital humanities might help create or guide. And I close with thoughts on how the digital humanities can contribute to ameliorating the very idea of “development”–technological, socioeconomic, and cultural–today.

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