YOIT: The dark side of DH

Despite all my good intentions, I fell off the blogging wagon yesterday, thanks in large part to my annual early-January flu, which this year has coincided with MLA. Rather than being at yesterday’s panel on “The Dark Side of Digital Humanities,” as I had planned, I followed it via twitter from my hotel room, where I was fighting a fever. William Pannapacker’s Chronicle piece on the panel and Alexis Lothian’s notes both provide helpful summaries of the issues discussed.

One of the things the defenders of DH note in response to the admittedly provocative panel is that DH seems to be conflated in the minds of panelists with MOOCs, but that in actuality, nobody who does DH (and few people in English departments at large) is actually a fan of MOOCs. That may be true, but, as this conversation helpfully points out, that distinction is often not so clear in the eyes of administrators. Pannapacker cites Natalia Cecire’s succinct and accurate tweet: “1. DHers usually don’t see dh as a panacea. 2. Admins often do. 3. DHers often need for admins to have this erroneous belief.”

That’s something that bears continued discussion, because while DH’s emphasis on hacking can be seen as both transformative and subversive in relation to traditional academic practice and hierarchies, hacking can also be doing more with less, and making do with limited resources. While resourcefulness is a virtue, in a time of increased budget cuts and decreased respect for the humanities, the very buzzwords that make DH attractive to administrators–efficiency, productivity, even something as broad as “technology”–often imply a streamlining of resources and personnel that works to further marginalize the position of the humanities in relation to the rest of the university.

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