Archive for December, 2011

Digital Humanities at MLA?

December 31, 2011

I thought readers of this blog would be interested in Stanley’s Fish’s recent piece about DH as the next big thing at MLA, but be sure to read Ted Underwood’s response, as well.

Underwood’s post usefully reframes and redirects Fish’s narrative about DH “saving” literary studies, but Underwood patiently explains why DH is not, and should not be, interested in engaging in the kinds of generational/methodological combat that Fish is endorsing:

In literary studies, change has almost always taken place through a normative claim about the proper boundaries of the discipline. Always historicize! Or on second thought no, don’t historicize, but instead revive literary culture by returning to our core competence of close reading!

But in my experience digital humanists are really not interested in regulating disciplinary boundaries — except insofar as they want a seat at the table.

As Laura Rosenthal observed on the Long 18th, Fish insists upon reading DH and its ambitions as an Oedipal narrative about succession and its anxieties.  Underwood, correctly in my view, advocates instead for a more pluralist view of literary studies that could encompass a variety of theoretical and critical projects, including DH.

But I agree with Underwood that these kinds of battles over competing normative claims seem unsuited to DH, and misconceive its relation to literary studies as it is conventionally understood and practiced.  It does not aim to displace literary studies or interpretation, largely because it represents an ensemble of practices too amorphous to be strictly defined, anyway.  Nonetheless, it offers, as Underwood concludes, less a coherent theoretical or polemical project, as much as “the name of an opportunity.”

Technological change has made some of the embodiments of humanistic work — media, archives, institutions, perhaps curricula — a lot more plastic than they used to be. That could turn out to be a good thing or a bad thing. But it’s neither of those just yet: the meaning of the opportunity is going to depend on what we make of it.



Evaluating Digital Scholarship

December 17, 2011

Readers will be interested in a series of essays on the evaluation of digital scholarship edited by Susan Schreibman, Laura Mandell, and Stephen Olsen and published in the recent issue of MLA’s Profession.

These essays are freely available as PDF files. Their titles are as follows:

“Introduction,” Susan Schreibman, Laura Mandell, and Stephen Olsen

“Engaging Digital Scholarship: Thoughts on Evaluating Multimedia Scholarship,” Steve Anderson and Tara Mcpherson

“On the Evaluation of Digital Media as Scholarship,” Geoffrey Rockwell

“Where Credit Is Due: Preconditions for the Evaluation of Collaborative Digital Scholarship,” Bethany Nowviskie

“On Creating a Usable Future,” Jerome McGann

“Peer Review, Judgment, and Reading,” Kathleen Fitzpatrick

In introducing the essays, the editors point to national calls for clearer guidelines for evaluating digital scholarship:

National scholarly organizations such as the Modern Language Association and the American Council of Learned Societies have called for department and institutions to “recognize the legitimacy of scholarship produced in new media, whether by individuals or in collaboration, and create procedures for evaluating these forms of scholarhsip” (Report of the MLA Task Force).

This publication provides an opportunity for emob’s readers to discuss how digital scholarship might best be evaluated and to raise questions about the process of evaluation.