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Initial thoughts on DH

As I type this blog post on my Macbook Pro, glance at an article on my iPad, then grab my iPhone to text a colleague about a topic from this course, I realize how Porsdam placed well Steve Jobs’ quotes about the marriage of technology and the liberal arts/humanities as the reason for Apple’s massively successful products. Porsdam and others believe the same is true for the growing field of DH. Not knowing anything, even generally, about digital humanities prior to this course, I see from the Porsdam and “Digital Manifestos” readings how the entire field of humanities is going to change as a result of it’s marriage to technology. At first I thought, much like described in the articles, DH would be a toolkit for publishing standard print texts and I did not understand why there was a whole graduate class offered on it. Now I see how the methodology of humanities will be challenged. I thought of history and my professors who just published books. What does it mean for historians’ methodologies if they did not go to the archives themselves, rather retrieved it from an online database. How will historians begin to critique these sorts of DH projects, their limitations, and methodologies? Do historians begin to critique the curation of digital humanities projects as they critique sources used in books? Those were my initial thoughts after reading the “Digital Manifestos” and Cordell, and Porsdam posed some of those same questions in the context of the science versus humanities debate within DH.

In my field, secondary social studies education, we talk about teachers having TPACK: technological, pedagogical, and content knowledge. We say that technology should never be used for technology’s sake, but should be used to enhance the learning experience or allow the learner to engage in activities that did not exist without technological innovations. I perceive that the new DH parallels what I have learned about use of technology in the classroom. The new DH is not simply adding a document to a website, but it is a place for construction and collaboration of knowledge that could not be done with print or traditional mediums. I’m getting weirdly excited about learning the implications for the classroom from learning about DH.

Using Images

The illustrations in the Digital Humanities Manifesto 2.0 seem important. I didn’t pay much attention to them while reading (I remember there being an umbrella included in the middle of a sentence and thinking “there is an umbrella in the middle of this sentence”). The series of images on the last page function as a kind of border or decoration but also as a way to represent the manifesto’s last words, “In the meantime, let’s get our hands dirty”. I thought that the hand was intriguing but also unsettling and created quite a different visual argument than the creative, pioneering spirit of the document itself. The credited image was taken from a poster made in 1928 by the artist John Heartfield. The poster, created for the German communist party, included the caption “5 fingers has a hand! With these 5 grab the enemy!” The photographed hand is a factory worker’s.

I think it’s interesting to think of image use outside of the constraints of copyright law. It seems strange that a poster with this kind of historical weight and significance could be so easily repurposed in a much different context. What does it mean that an image is “iconic”? I suppose there is a difference between crediting an image appropriately and using it in a way that is appropriate. Both of these manifestos stress the blurring of lines between disciplines, but this also means blurring lines between mediums. Digital Humanities might also open a line of inquiry into what constitutes ethical use of public information (particularly the repurposing of visual art and design) and how fair use is evaluated.

“If a bit of fun is had along the way, so much the better”

“If a bit of fun is had along the way, so much the better” (Schnapp, et al), taken from the first page of the latest iteration of “The Digital Humanities Manifesto,” might, if taken out of context, be mistaken for the manner of conversation which takes place prior to cliché filmic stereotypes of baseball coaches and their pedagogical ilk. These voices, found in somewhat lesser venues than those typically associated with the academic realm, can be at times difficult to take seriously. Any “manifesto” in which the first and foremost instruction is: “Don’t Whine” (Schnapp, et al), may or may not be construed as less nuanced than other pieces of academic output, for example. Whether or not one agrees with the ideas presented in any piece of writing, media, or technology, the way in which the information is presented is paramount in importance to the analytical mind. Here, we are given a profound idea—that of a conglomeration of thought and, more importantly to the authors of the manifesto, practice, between the historically combative schools of science and humanities which could spark a revolution that is, theoretically, already taking place both in terms of the ways in which information is found and shared and also in terms of all of the intellectual possibilities and implications linked with contemporary phenomena such as Wikipedia and Google—in the voice of a child. Therefore, those who wish to form a conglomeration with a common aim treat their audience and readers didactically. Misguided methinks if its aim was to reach the academic audience who would no doubt also be repulsed by such choices.

That being said, the Porsdam article speaks to the echoes of this failed marriage between the thinkers in the sciences and those in the halls of the humanities. The Snow and Leavis debate is, of course, still occurring (despite the friendly mawkish tone of those who would call to arms both sides of the debate) but in many ways, the dichotomy is superficial. Technological advances will continue to influence the way in which individuals consume literature, share ideas, and exist in the information age. So, too, will the ideas that emerge from the humanities influence the imaginations of those who engineer and manufacture technology. If the Digital Humanities is a means for those who identify with either camp to effectively communicate and share ideas, then I would say it is an inherently good thing. “We need to proceed with our eyes wide open so that we many [sic] use technology rather than be used by it” (Porsham 44) concludes the article and serves as a reminder to keep one’s humanness while the phenomenological world of technology constantly changes.

A Familiar Manifesto

I was excited by the two versions of the Digital Humanities Manifesto because what they espouse is so familiar. Most of what the authors value about Digital Humanities are things my two fields of interest—composition and fan studies—have been doing for years.

To begin with composition, Schnapp et al. proclaim, “Process is the new god; not product” (1.0, par. 13). “Process not product” is a mantra often heard among comp theorists, although it’s not exactly a new god; Donald Murray published his seminal article “Teaching Writing as a Process, Not a Product” in 1972. For us, “process not product” means we should value the steps our students take in producing writing, not only the finished papers they turn in for a grade. We use teaching methods such as brainstorming, rough drafts, peer review, and workshopping to pay attention to our students’ writing processes. I hadn’t thought of this key concept as part of Digital Humanities, however, and I look forward to applying this familiar composition stand-by to digital work.

My primary research interest connects even more directly to DH than does comp. “Fan studies” refers to the analysis of fans (of television shows, movies, books, etc.) and the artifacts they create and produce related to their interests: fan fiction, art, crafting, videos, music, and more. In particular, I research the intersection of digital rhetoric and fan studies, performing rhetorical analysis on fan products and theorizing/practicing how to use this form of extracurricular composition in the classroom. The Digital Humanities Manifesto is clearly a fan’s ally: “Copyright and IP standards must, accordingly, be freed from the stranglehold of Capital. Pirate and pervert Disney materials on such a massive scale that Disney will have to sue… your entire neighborhood, school, or country. Practice digital anarchy by creatively undermining copyright and mashing up media” (1.0, par. 8; also 2.0, par. 13). Fans have been “pirating and perverting” canon texts from the first print fanzines publishing Captain Kirk/Mr. Spock “slash” romance fiction in the 1960s. “Furry” artists display their “cease and desist” letters from Disney with pride, and I myself sell handmade Pokémon plushies on Etsy—without a license of course. Apparently, we’ve been taking “strong (guerrilla) action” all along (2.0, par. 17). (For more on fan work’s relationship with copyright, see the Organization for Transformative Works.)

Lastly, curation—for me at least—blends the two fields. I loved version 2.0’s treatment of “the scholar as curator and the curator as scholar” (par. 45). I pride myself on my fan curations, both physically and digitally. And often, these two areas cross, as in my blog The Drifarmy which displays my Pokémon collection and in my wiki The Sonic Wings Wiki which curates information (as well as my physical collection) on an obscure video game series. Such fan-produced texts are precisely what I most love to study rhetorically, yet I believe they also have a place in pedagogy. Schnapp et al. write, “Curation means making arguments through objects as well as words, images, and sounds” (2.0, par. 45, emphasis original). I believe that anything—including an object—can be an argument, and my current EN 102 assignment has my students performing rhetorical analysis of objects—specifically items related to Alabama football to bring in a hint of the fannish.

These connections between Digital Humanities and my areas of interest—both academic and extracurricular—led to my enthusiasm for the Digital Humanities Manifesto, and I look forward to seeing how such familiar concepts play out throughout the semester.

DH By the People, For the People

The prospect that the Digital Humanities Manifestos present of DH projects created by and for people inside and outside the academy is both exciting and potentially problematic.  One, I think, positive effect of the manifesto’s aim of creating a “mass audience” is that DH “gladly flirts with the scandal of entertainment as scholarship, scholarship as entertainment” (“Digital Humanities Manifesto 2.0” 5).  While scholarship should never aim to be “just” entertaining, resources that are fun (!) to interact with and academic writing that is pleasurable to read engage both academics and other interested learners more effectively than static black-on-white Times New Roman websites and painfully unclear writing.  If creators and curators of DH projects can successfully drive traffic to their websites, DH may offer an opportunity for literary critics and other scholars who want to effect social change to put their ideas in front of readers outside the academy.  If they are strategic and lucky enough for their work to go viral or start a trending hashtag (though given the sorts of things that usually go viral, this seems unlikely), they might be able to have a tangible impact on society, or at least educate more people about an important issue or idea.  This might be one step toward Moulthrop’s proposition of “reinventing literacy for a world beset by ignorance” (qtd. in Porsdam 37).

While a larger audience seems to be a good change for the humanities, a wider field of project creators has the potential to undermine the accuracy and reliability of DH resources.  The authors of the DH Manifesto 2.0 laud Wikipedia as the epitome of collaborative authorship, and while Wikipedia’s inclusion of all authors sounds warm and fuzzy, the obvious flaw is that it cannot be a reliable source using this model.  I wonder how inclusive the Manifesto authors would like DH projects to be.  Can anyone who wants to participate become a collaborative author?  Surely this undermines the project’s credibility.  If not, how would the project creators determine who can be an author?  Must he or she be an academic affiliated with a university?  If so, is this exclusionary, and does it work against the Wikipedia ideal?  According to the authors, DH calls for “a dedefinition of the roles of…expert and non-expert,” but I don’t want to cite a non-expert in my own work or rely on their research any more than I rely on Wikipedia (“Digital Humanities Manifesto 2.0” 7).  If that non-expert’s work was reviewed by an expert or was a result of collaboration with an expert, I would trust it.  This non-labeling of expertise is one of the deconstructed boundaries of DH that makes me uncomfortable, despite how enthused I am about most aspects of DH and types of DH projects discussed in this week’s readings, particularly, as Cordell puts it, “an open-ended, universally-accessible scholarly edition!!!!

A Response to: “A Digital Humanities Manifesto(s)”

I want to acknowledge the reinvigorating nature of the manifestos and that their apparent excitement and sense of purpose is much needed. However, the tone and intent of the piece is self-defeating. It is redolent of Zizek’s defense of radicals. He argues that Mao and Robespierre’s revolutions and the killings associated with them were not only necessary but morally justifiable. Not only is there a pervasively combative tone to the piece, but it proliferates the age-old tendency of (to borrow Presner and Schnapp’s term) ‘Balkanizing’ in literary criticism.

From Plato’s assumption that poetry is dangerous to Samuel Johnson’s assertion that all literature must be mimetic, entertaining, and didactic; the authors of the manifesto are guilty of the same destruction wrought by the “great diminishers” who “reduce anything in digital humanities and preface our work with ‘just.’” Although they are wise to point out that departments are too insular and they are right to support interdepartmental and transdisciplinary discourse, they posit that “the Humanities are contingent formations that have become stabilized and made culturally redundant at the university.” They ask the reader to “imagine different constellations,” a “dedefinition of the contours of the research community once enclosed by university walls,” and  a “dedefinition of the roles of professor and student, expert and non-expert.”  These calls to change appear innocuous (though disturbingly vague), but when they also appeal to the audience to “practice digital anarchy by creatively undermining copyright” and that “there is something utopian at the core of digital humanities…the  no place,” the tone sounds less like Zizek and more like Jim Jones.
The manifesto is correct in asserting that every new genre “looks backwards as it moves forward,” it responds to, reacts to, and often contradicts previous conceptions of criticism, but it is (typically) a purification rather than a purgation. While most new forms of criticism offer new modes or techniques for evaluating or conceiving of literature, it appears as if the manifesto attempts to build an entirely new system from the rubble of previous systems, rather than using existing frameworks. When Cordell, in “On Ignoring Encoding,” says “textual encoding has never been as sexy as text analysis,” it is evident that the manifesto is a response and attempt to make digital sexy and tap into the booming market of trendy scholars with a dash of counter-cultural disillusionment and a heaping tablespoon of social awareness. It is as if the manifesto attempts to annihilate previous estimations of literary research in order to lay fallow the ground of defining the humanities anew, which is an unnecessary bifurcation of methodologies. Porsdam reminds us that, while digital humanities is redefining the field from the top-down and from the inside-out, “we don’t forget the humanities part of DH, don’t get carried away with the digital part and all its possibilities to such an extent that we forget the core strengths of the humanities.”

The old humanities and the new can, and ought, to work simultaneously and in cooperation in order to achieve their similar ends. The manifesto demarcates rather than unifies, it divides in an effort to conquer previous conniptions of academia. The restructuring, rethinking, and un-reification of academia are necessary for its existence in the 21st century, but not at the cost of throwing the ‘old white man’ out with the bath water.

How to present work

One of the problems with digital humanities work is that much of the work is invisible by design. Metadata, for example, can be handled transparently. Users typically see none of the code that makes a program or site function unless they go out of their way to do so; code which must be compiled may not even be viewable by users. In addition, digital humanities work does not transparently present itself as scholarly, nor does it automatically situate itself in the way that a monograph may and a journal article typically does. Being published in Shakespeare Quarterly means being contextualized for Shakespeare scholars within the context of peer review, revision and presentation of work which goes along with that journal. The advantage of being published in a top journal is that this context for your work implies its quality and scholarly merit. Self-publishing an article, by contrast, brings along with it none of those external contexts or elements of outside review.

Peer review and the digital humanities strikes me as a large topic. We’ve engaged with it secondarily (from Digital Humanities Now to a range of other sites) and primarily (our Project Reviews), but especially for collaborative DH projects, peer review is an ongoing process. I think we must take it as such here, too, although not all of you will continue your work on these projects.

How, then, can you make a case for the scholarly value of the work that you are doing? In part, the answer must be dictated by that work: a program is distinct from a textual analysis is distinct from an online edition or archive, and all these may differ from a tool or commons or journal or procedure or the like. In addition, DH work may be indirectly productive in the sense of bringing about scholarly work of various sorts, or it may be directly productive, the object in question itself.

I suggest three elements involved in presenting and justifying your work:
1. Context.
2. Document what went into the project.
3. Credential the project as scholarly.

Context involves situating whatever work you’ve done within the framework which produced it. Having that context when learning calculus would probably help students, for example, by explaining that calculus was developed initially to help model physical interactions between objects in motion. Context here involves understanding how your work situates itself within an existing project or within what has been done–or what has yet to be done–in digital humanities more broadly. Your main concerns should be to explain your purpose and establish that you are doing digital humanities, to the extent that is possible.

Documenting your work will help you address the common (and I suspect, large) problem in DH projects that they often appear, when functioning, to be quite simple, but they all take levels of effort not obvious or visible. There are some possible exceptions (as with “straight text” work where you simply type in a bunch of words without including pictures or links, like this post), but you want to be certain that you get credit for the blood, sweat and tears invested in your project, even (or especially) if what you end up with doesn’t look like much yet.

Credentialing the project can prove difficult, as we’ve seen. I think your best approach, especially for the work you’re doing for this seminar, would be to think along one of two lines:
A. Value added. With the caveat that this approach fits the neoliberal/capitalist criticisms laid upon DH, I suggest you sketch out how what you have done makes a contribution, however small, to scholarship or the scholarly community. This will be easier if you’re a small cog in a big machine, as you only really need to establish that you contributed to the big project and point to that project’s own scholarly justification/engagement. For a new project, you’d need to identify who it serves and explain how it does so. (Copy/pasting an existing site under a Creative Commons license wouldn’t qualify as adding value, to provide an example of something NOT scholarly.)
B. Scholarly content. While necessarily nebulous, the “scholarly” can nevertheless be distinguished from that which is not. One of Roger Ebert’s film reviews would be more scholarly than me tweeting “That movie sucked!” to a personal Twitter feed; a critical analysis of a film or group of films would be scholarly; a Youtube video talking about a film could be. Generally speaking, your approach, audience and content will all help you to describe your work as scholarly (or not). Your best example here would be to think of a post to a personal blog. One post might be clearly unscholarly, which another might be clearly scholarly, and a third might be ambiguous, reflecting mixed audiences and mixed purposes. I think it in some ways unhelpful to be dogmatic about what is or is not scholarly; that said, if you want your DH work to be treated as scholarship, you need to be able to make a case for it, whatever form it takes.

Both credentialing options involve identifying your audience and what you expect your audience to get out of your work. Again, if you’re contributing to an existing project, this part of your task should be easier as that project has implicitly or explicitly answered these questions already.

For your projects this semester, I’d aim for a 1-3 page reflection on your work. Feel free to include analysis of various sorts (what went well or poorly, what you learned from the experience), as I think these help to establish the scholarly productivity of the experience.

Project Review: Global Shakespeares

Project Team: MIT (and others)
Reviewed By: Alex Pieschel
Review Presentation Date: March 20, 2013
Expertise Required: ??? (Presumably none, but this is not entirely clear)

I found navigating the Global Shakespeares website to be a puzzling experience. The site’s purpose is implied but never explicitly stated. It seems to be a site that aspires to include and tag Shakespeare performances that can be categorized as “international” in some way. I see a lot of problems with the site, and I’m not sure what to make of its intended trajectory.

The About page, full of vague academy-speak, doesn’t really tell me anything. Shakespeare is referred to as a “global author.” The page purports to “nourish the remarkable array of new forms of cultural exchange that the digital age has made possible.” None of this tells me about the site’s specific goals and how it means to achieve them. That said, the site’s goals do appear to be ambitious. Included are videos of full productions from around the world, scripts translated into multiple languages, critical essays, interviews, a bibliography, and a list of theater companies. The About section links to a separate portal, entitled “Shakespeare Performance in Asia,” which appears to have been last updated in 2008. The About section implies that more portals will be provided for other regions, but it is not clear when this is meant to be achieved.

Global Shakespeares’ function appears to be curatorial. The site includes a catalog of videos depicting specific performances with attached metadata, which includes the date of performance, theater company, director, language, and location. The criteria for entry is described as “International performances that are changing how we understand Shakespeare’s plays and the world,” which still leaves me with the following questions: What are the standards for an appropriate or professional performance? Does recording quality play into whether or not a video is included? Could I contribute a production at the University of Alabama recorded on my iPhone? The ambiguity of the site’s curatorial standards might discourage users from contributing. The site needs a clearer mission statement.

Metadata seems to be an important aspect of the project. It’s apparent that the site aspires to present performances with clear contextual descriptions. That said, the Productions tab is full of holes; most of its entries consist of pages that include only metadata and a message that reads “No video is currently available for this production.” The Videos & Clips section contains everything from two-minute film trailers to two-hour live productions with no clear organization to distinguish those categories from one another. This makes for an aesthetically inferior experience. It also makes me think the site’s ambition is not matched by its execution. As is, navigating the site feels like rummaging through pieces of a failed project, and this might not be the case if the blank entries were simply not included, or if the site’s projected goals and timetables were more explicitly stated.

The Glossary page s one of the stranger sections of the site. It consists of a bulleted list of terms, each of which links to a separate page. The definitions of said terms consist of paragraphs copied and pasted from Wikipedia. The definitions are cited as “from Wikipedia,” which invokes the academic convention of quoting and offering citations but also the non-academic convention of citing Wikipedia. The effect is one of weird dissonance. Why is this list of terms even included? Why does each term have to be on its own separate page? If the site is set on using Wikipedia, why aren’t links to Wikipedia pages simply included in the essays whenever the appropriate terms appear?

In addition, Global Shakespeares links its videos through Youtube, which means a collection of related links are included at the end of each video. The problem with this is that the Youtube player is external to the Global Shakespeares site, so that Youtube (as opposed to MIT) is suggesting related videos. Furthermore, if you click on a linked video, the metadata on the site’s page does not change. This feature sort of undermines the entire curatorial purpose of the site, and in class, I was given the impression that this is a feature that can be turned off.

Overall, the site looks professional, but there are several aesthetic details I find jarring at worst, unnecessary at best. In my opinion, it’s pretty tacky to feature “share” buttons prominently on almost every page of the site, especially when those buttons display zero “Tweets” or “Likes.” The “Open Access” descriptor at the top is also unnecessary. Of course it’s open access because we’re talking about Youtube videos and paragraphs from Wikipedia! Essays and interviews are presented in bland, nondescript lists, as are the Glossary and Links pages.

Navigating this site made me wonder if the problem with some DH projects is that they are too collaborative for their own good. The team listed for this site is a large one with many prominent members. If a mission of DH is to facilitate open access to scholarly materials, then what is the point of a bulleted list of Wikipedia paragraphs? Should we consider this scholarship? Parts of the site seem very much scholarly and useful. It’s fantastic to have access, even if the content is not vast, to cut scripts in multiple languages. It is wonderful that I can watch a full link production of Richard III and know that it is performed by an Arab theater company in Athens, Greece.  I guess the main problem with the site is that it is indeed ambitious and apparently unfinished. Another problem is that it almost certainly lacks grant money. As is, Global Shakespeares feels like an exciting project idea that lacks execution, or at least lacks a transparent plan or timetable that would reassure curious, perhaps skeptical, visitors of the site’s value.

DH Final Project: Weird Romance Game Thing

So I just sent a message to one of my undergrad professors (Look! DH networking!). I wanted to consult with him on some of the issues I’m envisioning for the project that Joe and I will be working on for the rest of the semester. I’m gonna post a version of that message here. If you guys have any feedback/gut reactions/whatever, we would be super appreciative.

Recently, a friend and former professor asked me this question: “Could there be a game that allowed you to travel through different literary traditions?” My immediate reaction was “yep, and it would be pretty easy to make, if it were a text game.

Well, now that I’m actually thinking about how to make the thing and considering what the finished thing would actually look like, my brain feels pretty twisted up.

First of all, here’s what I think such a game should aspire to achieve:

  1. To allow the player to trace literary archetypes through the chivalric Romance tradition. In other words, the game should try to make players think about where figures like knights and wizards come from and how these figures might change or be upended, according to where they are in the literary tradition. I would try to keep it simple and allow the player to choose “knight” or “wizard.”
  2. To allow the player to interact with different characters in that tradition.
  3. To combine literary fiction (by offering its own narrative) with literary analysis (through the archetypal abstraction of fictional characters into playable protagonists and non-playable characters).
  4. To use a really accessible tool to create a really accessible finished product. No coding or downloads or purchases required. Just a link that can be played in a browser window.

Here are some of the problems I am envisioning in trying to achieve the above goals:

  1. So, obviously, I need to make this thing interactive, and I also need to highlight how literary archetypes can shift or change. Should this element be illustrated in the player’s choices or in the conversations with other characters that the player meets along the way? Does the player develop into a different kind of knight or wizard throughout his/her journey, or do the non-playable characters reflect different kinds of knights or wizards? Or both?
  2. How can I make these different literary environments and archetypes distinct from one another without simply copying and pasting from Mallory or Ariosto or Spenser or Shakespeare? What makes an Ariosto knight different from a Spenser knight? How can I illustrate tonal shifts between different literary traditions? How do I tell the player where the characters are coming from? It’s clear how Don Quixote reads differently than Morte d’Arthur, but differences between other Romance works aren’t as explicit. Can I abstract these differences into fictional characters in a way that suggests they stem from specific traditions? In other words, how do I make it clear that I’m not just blowing smoke?
  3. I kind of view this project as a continuum between how academic/educational (boring?) I can make this game and how subtle/abstract/stylized (entertaining?) I can try to make it. To what extent should I be trying to create a literary piece of interactive fiction? To what extent should this project be a dry piece of academic work that attempts to reproduce or make sense of chunks of literary history? Should there be footnotes? If so, should they be prominent? I hate most edutainment games, so I don’t want that. Ideally, the game would be funny and thought provoking. Ideally, it would make the player think about the origins and development of knights and wizards, figures that are so pervasive in western culture. On the other hand, the game is coming from a place of trying to teach the player, so perhaps it would be disingenuous to try and obfuscate or downplay its educational elements too much.

Sorry if none of this makes much sense. Just trying to brainstorm and move towards something tangible. The finished product would probably look something like a Choose Your Own Adventure Story that you click through. There’s a tool, called Varytale, that would allow us to track player choices in a way that gives concrete feedback on skills and relationships with other characters. For example, one Varytale story I’ve played tells you how good your character is at spelling at any given point in the narrative. This tool would be more difficult to use than Twine, which is used to make straight up hypertext fiction.

If anyone is interested in playtesting whatever we come up with, let me know.

Sound Familiar?

From Ian Bogost’s “This is a Blog Post About the Digital Humanities

Let’s go over that again. At the MLA and in a new book, digital humanists debated the role of computer media like blogs in the practice of humanism. In the wake of the MLA, a famous and controversial literary theorist notes that the MLA featured debates about the use of media like blogs in scholarship, and raises concern about the nature of media like blogs in scholarship, largely through discussion of a book by an MLA officer about the ways scholarship is changing when done on blogs, which was first a blog and then became a book. Digital humanities advocates respond in blogs and blog comments about blogging, arguing, among other things, that digital humanities are not really postmodernist. Ahem.

When I lived in Los Angeles and worked in the entertainment industry, I remember coming to a realization: a great deal of Hollywood entertainment is about the entertainment industry. Think about it. Fame, Barton Fink, Super 8, Tropic Thunder, Party Down, Adaptation, Full Frontal, Peeping Tom, Ed Wood, The Truman Show, Sunset Blvd., The Barefoot Contessa, Somewhere, Hollywood Ending, Seinfeld. I guess it makes sense. Write what you know, the aphorism goes. At first, that means heartbreak or black heartedness, but eventually, with success, what one knows is what one does. And currently, what one does in the humanities is talk about the humanities. This is particularly true of the digital humanities, some of whose proponents are actually using computers to do new kinds of humanistic scholarly work in breaks between debates about the potential to use computers for new kinds of humanistic scholarly work.

And now I’ve written a blog post about it.