Not elite enough?

Trying to change the world through DH is like trying to change the world through architecture. Or worse still, trying to change the world through accounting. I like the DH because of its scholarly politics and not because of general in-the-wild politics, which, of course, has its essential place but has swamped parts of the humanities and turned them into servants of politics at the cost of something more imaginative (like perspective, power, wisdom, and scholarly significance, not just party politics).

I think I am political, but I do this elsewhere through both the informal and formal political systems. I like the DH because of the quality in the digital, scholarly record and the way it extends and challenges me through significant cultural interpretations, not because it looks like the politcs I see on TV. There have been a lot of careers in the humanities built on TV politcs since it became the staple diet in the 1960s, but not many in humanities computing. This is where the actual broader issues of ‘diversity’ lay.

It is not that we are elite; we are not elite enough. It is not that we are exclusive; it is that we are not exclusive enough. And in politics, this is a bad thing to say; in scholarship, it is a good thing to say. They are two different institutions with different understandings of merit and cultural contribution. Everything doesn’t have to collapse into one, like in a mashed potato empire that is culturally flat but economically pyramidal.

There are genuine issues of labour relations in the DH. At times, it is challenging to locate academic merit and the career pathways that constitute this (and does the field have control over this?).  There is no digital humanities, only ways to see the digital humanities as the digital humanities. The politics is in the code!

 (This ”gadfly” post responds to issues such as this circulating in the blogosphere. I think we are saying the same things, and I am  attentive to these thoughts, but I would like to see their computing projects first and politics second so I can make a judgement)



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