DH – Who’s In? Who’s Out?

The common thread through all the essays in Part III of Debates in Digital Humanities goes beyond the question of who is or isn’t in the dh, and it asks questions about who should be included but isn’t. After these readings, one might see a picture of dh that is white, male, and ableist, which runs contrary to the themes of social justice and activism. This isn’t meant to be an accusation so much as it’s an observation that, given that dh attracts personality types who care about social justice and activism, it’s interesting to me that lack of diversity and other social issues need to be solved within dh, while dh-ers are also working on them within general society. I don’t know – maybe it’s a naïve assumption that many people share that issues would be solved within a community if the members’ attention is directed outside.

In the tradition of “language shapes reality,” the overall theme of this section was “computing shapes reality.” I struggled most with Tara McPherson’s “Why Are Digital Humanities So White?” I didn’t struggle with the need for more racial diversity in dh – I was completely on board with her on that issue the whole time. The struggle for me came with the comparison of “modular” coding to segregation. At the end of the essay, it’s clear that she doesn’t mean that coders are making the world racist; rather, that a compartmentalized, modular world view is reflected in both things. Again, I don’t disagree, but for me, it was harder to concentrate on her larger point when the thought of, “But…modular code that lets computers run smooth and reliably and that’s a GOOD thing! Everyone likes it when their machines run well, no matter who they are!” kept intruding. I had to let go of the good/bad judgment for a bit, realizing that a racist would argue that a “modular” (segregated) society makes things run more smoothly (at least for them). I’m not advocating bloated, clunky code any more than McPherson is saying that writing modular code creates racial problems; rather, I had to remove myself from “good/bad” subjectivity in order to keep following. This will likely be an essay I revisit as I contemplate the ideas of computing shaping our experience.

The essay I found most interesting is “What do Girls Dig?” by Bethany Nowviskie. Following the flow of the tweets, particularly when people were telling Brett Bobley to invite women in data mining to the conference by name, vaguely reminded me of the #WheresRey hash tag in the wake of the strong, central female character being absent from much of the merchandising tied in with Star Wars: The Force Awakens. This association was especially strong in my mind when the tweets in the essay turned to “Boys & unicorns & SPARKLES!” Similar conversations ensued among Star Wars fans who wondered why they’ve been left out as a target demographic when they’ve been active consumers of Star Wars and its merchandise since 1977 – and furthermore, why would they undermine the strong, self-reliant lead character by excluding her? While the data mining conversation didn’t result in the same occasional vitriol and tone-deaf defenses of why such an exclusion would occur, both situations identify a need to examine why women are participating in some activities and not others.

Much to digest in this section – almost too much to cover in a single blog post – but these are the things that stuck with me the most after reading.

From “Scary” to Valuable: Macroanalysis

I confess that when I read Part 1 of Macroanalysis, I was a little thrown by the idea of distant reading/macroanalysis versus close reading/microanalysis for literature. I haven’t taken a literature class since my undergraduate days, and it seems like everything was about close reading back then.

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Macroanalysis vs. Close Reading

I am a crafting snob. There was a time in the not so distant past that I highly prized hand embroidery above all else. True, it took me several hours to complete even the smallest project, but I believed it was the struggle that added to the special-ness of the project, and anyone who would resort to using an embroidery machine was “cheating.” (That is, until I got an embroidery machine of my own, which I will discuss presently).

But what does all this have to do with Macroanalysis? While reading the beginning chapters of the book, I saw a parallel between my sewing by hand vs. machine and close reading vs. big data. I liked that Jockers made it clear there are places for both close reading and using big data for literary analysis. (I started to feel myself bristle at the idea of setting close reading aside for more computational methods). Continue reading “Macroanalysis vs. Close Reading”

Macroanalysis- Jockers

After downloading and reading this book, it left me in sort of a daze. Almost to the point that made me think, did I really understand the book, or the end of it for that matter. The beginning was very well written and informational. However, the later chapters seemed to focus on a great deal of material from British and Irish writers and included a lot of charts and graphs showing data about these writers. I felt very lost in the later chapters, and in the point that Jockers was actually trying to make. The following information provided is from the notes I took while reading the book.

The first parts of the book focused on DH and what makes up DH. On pages 10-12 the author says that it is “revolutionizing, a new way of thinking, and is a new way to read, access and understand the meaning of texts.” However, there is still no general idea to what DH actually defines. The digital age is becoming more popular with access to digital libraries and digitalization in general. This “invites a new type of evidence gathering.” (16)

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Evaluating DH

Like Liz and, it seems, so many others I am still struggling with the concept of DH. I am not necessarily struggling with the general definition of DH but rather what can be categorized as DH. Now, we have added the concept of evaluating DH which, at this point, might seem even more foreign to some of us who lack the necessary background. Not only is the definition of DH changing rapidly, all concepts related to DH are changing. This, of course, makes evaluating a project in DH much more challenging. In a way, I worry that I am in no way qualified to evaluate a DH project because I cannot even come to a simple conclusion on what kind of projects can even be considered DH.

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