Course: Berry

[Course] David Berry: DH and cultural criticism from on Vimeo.


Collaborative notes taken by paricipants of the DH Summer School Switzerland:
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[Course] David Berry(@berrydm), DH and cultural criticism

Thinking a “critical” digital humanities
Developing a “humanistic” approch to computational phenomena
DH appears to some observers a “Managment friendly discipline”
The digital collections/publications etc. has been accepted as a means of research but not as research itself.
Technician are no longer considered doing the “dirty work”
– dichotomy between academic and technical humanities…
Catherine Hayles : renaming/rebadging/rebrandig to the term Digital Humanities was meant to signal that the filed emerged from athe low prestuge statut of support serivvce into a genuily intellectual endeavour with its own prof practices, rigourous standards, etc.  ( ?
Re-branding trend: Different research centers renamed as Digital Humanities. “Because it is good money” – says Berry.
(Example in Switzerland: Imaging and Media Lab in Uni. Basel –> Renamed in 2013 “Digital Humanities Lab”:
Steven Ramsay talks about
– DH Type I : TEI consortium + Association for Litt & linguistic computing + Association for Computers in the humanites + Consortium for Computing in the humanites in the early 90ies
Community level = Humanities Computing
including….(examples of practices : encoding of corpuses…ETC.
– Type II : new comers
incl. media studies, people who did things without calling them so, some digital artists, digital pedagogy
David Golumbia : narrow definition of DH, “DH” with capital letters, “tools-and-archives” as some say (see
The big tent definition includes the plain litteral meaning of the term “dh”
Follow them on Twitter, he sometimes argues with Ramsay 🙂
Why does this matter ? What is at stake ?
Axe I Calculation
– We  are not talking of individual act of calculation. But more of this  comportment (?) : large scale, calculative, enumeration, representation
– Organisation of knowledge epistemologically grounded in Mathematics
– University becomes de facto buisiness establishments, and much less a place of “contemplative reflexion”
– Digital is hegemonic
– Twitter as a backchannel where people are debating in RT what’s happening.
– Heavy focus on tech in DH, discourse & also in projects
– Calculation as a mentality, a “progressive” discourse, as opposed to the “old fashioned” traditonal humanities. Not necesssarly articulate, but implicety accepted./
Implicit distinction in DH with “old fashioned” DH – Both real and imagined dichotomies
– Traditionally, outputs of research like code, archives, tech reports are not taken into account when it comes to publishing.
– These dichotomy are both real & imagined ; productive & improductive
– Often the outputs of DH are not yet conceived scholarly for tenure => generates precarity
– Keen early adopter mentality…
– Journalists love DH, in contrast to their lack of interest in traditional Humanities
– The term DH is new-ish (2001)…
– Debates over XML/TEI = public expression of “Digital formalism” that many DH projects often contain
– The problems/notions of acronyms: “you’re not really doing a digital project if it doesn’t have an acronym” –> technical language changes the way we frame/formulate the project
– Bulding things, “more hack, less yack” = very strong in DH community (cf. Ray Siemens rhetoric) = construction & making of digital systems, archives, interfaces, visualisations = PROGRAMMING = code-focuses
– this has been seen as a lack of critical engagement
– “Making things” as a marketable skill
– Detractors of DH see DH as a move by neoliberalism/mangement within the university
– Project-oriented mentalities
Axe II Organisation
The university is a methodological commons of computational techniques
– Is this a kind of “scientisim”?  The humanities taking science as its model
-” Putting aside the question of the ‘‘two cultures,’’ we nevertheless observe a striking, non-trivial resemblance between humanities computing and experimental science: both are data-centerd, equipment-orientated activities
that centrally involve modeling and tend to be collaborative.”, McCarty,%20Humanities%20computing.pdf
– Risk of seeing the computer as “truth machines”
– Constant struggle for funding
– Shift towards research
– Reading the DH as a revelator of how the Academia is evolving in a neo-liberal economy
– Universty: risks to become corporations, professors project managers.
– Input/Output calculation: enure that capital invested is repaid in termes of knowledge produced and disseminated
– DH is a savious AND a sinner in relaiton to the future of university
Stanford literary labs — Pamphlets:
Axe III Speed
mechanical increase of speed with the power of computers
Transience becomes an important aspect
These new technologies enable team-based working methods, offering the possibilities of new social ontologies in the Humanities: ‘Big Humanities’ – not necessarily collegial and flat.
Just in case: possible amendments can be made afterwards as well, David Berry gave a previous talk on the issue and later on
What are Critical DH ?
– How political views are embeeded the in tools themselves
– See TransformDH Group 2013:
– Productive slowdown forcing a project to reflect on its approach, method and goals (–> slow HD?)
– critical thinking acts as “grit in the machine” (though DB is looking for a better metaphor)
EP – Digital Humanities starts with a research question; yet there’s a proper recognition of technology as a strategy. Technology is considered a given…
DB clarifies that after the question is phrased, you use technology to structure the project
Algorithms and their importance for the digital humanities. Important questionmark over the algorithm
– To what extent is DH a response of governmental demand that humanities(?) justify what they do?
DB suggests that while DH language fits in nicely with justifying activity in “management speak”, the DH is not a cynical exercise in working a system. It emerges out of a more authentic space of engagement with humanities issues.
Abigail de Kosnik’s work on ‘free labour’ in the digital enviroment may be of interest here: