Response from Renuka Gusain

As I noted in my first post in October, my selected readings for this seminar were:

1) Helen Burgess:
New Media in the Academy: Labor and the Production of Knowledge in Scholarly Multimedia

2) Julia Flanders:
“The Productive Unease of 21st-century Digital Scholarship” Digital Humanities Quarterly 3.3 (Summer 2009)
Digital Humanities and the Politics of Scholarly Work

3) Matthew Kirschenbaum. “What is Digital Humanities and What’s it Doing in English Departments?” ADE Bulletin, 150, 2010.

These have already been summarized at length, so I’d like to pick up specific concerns/issues that caught my attention both in these readings as well as the commentaries that have been offered thus far. I do appreciate that these 3 articles (and many similar articles and the recent MLA sessions in Seattle) want to explain what the digital humanities and scholarship are all about, how we are going to negotiate its status in English departments, how to evaluate it, and so on. This is an important conversation to have, but after a point (MLA and post-MLA web-chatter) this conversation becomes, in a word, frustrating. And that, I think, is a good thing, a sort of “productive unease” if you will.

To divide my concerns about our work in the digital humanities into 2 overlapping categories: pedagogy and research–

At a pedagogical level, I would like to see activities and assignments designed to implement teaching and learning in Shakespeare courses (or other courses). Like Valerie, I would like to see some case studies, examples of what people are actually doing. I enjoyed getting a glimpse of the project Sheila and Kevin are working on. I’m also keen on seeing what happens with Ellie’s twitter account. I hope you will all share the kinds of documents your students designed, your evaluation rubric, and other materials emerging from your courses. I have taught literature and writing courses using blogs, wikis, social bookmarking, and all kinds of technologies, using collaborative practices across countries, but I often faced a situation similar to the one Robin faced—students thinking that online medium is a version/reproduction of their paper assignments/texts. I’d very much appreciate if others could share examples and models for teaching a humanities/writing/literature course with technology. If–as Erin reminds us from McLuhan and Fiore’s The Medium is the Massage–the medium is the message and there is a certain tactile experience in dealing with electronic medium, then what kinds of methodologies and critical models emerge from our engagement with the digital humanities that help our students becomes better writers, literary critics, and producers of knowledge? One of the ways that I see the digital humanities as a model for methodological and critical practices is by being more accepting of heuristics—to look at the processes of discovery (not necessarily aim at a preconceived idea of a product, either a text, or an image-text, or and dissertation or book). Theoretically, it sounds fine. But practically, we would have to address the issue of institutional evaluation.

At the level of research—especially as an emerging scholar—I am most concerned about the “value” of engaging with the digital humanities writ large. How will my work on a digital edition of a lesser-known contemporary of Shakespeare, for instance, compare to an article publication in SQ or SEL? (Laurie has addressed this issue at length in her post in reference to Hirsch’s article; Laurie, I found your post to be very helpful) And what about copyright issues and ownership? Like Ellie, I am concerned about open source and its professional ramifications. Questions about research in digital humanities are at a very basic level questions about the appointment/tenure process (and questions about the traditional model of the dissertation).

I found Flanders’ reminder and emphasis on “play” to be useful in addressing some of my concerns:

But it is healthy to remember that the most interesting papers and books we read, in any genre, are those that neither foretell doom nor glory, but give us instead an interesting idea about the world to play with. Methods and tools that combine what has been gained in power and scale with a real measure of scholarly effort and engagement can give us such an idea. But the intellectual outcomes will not be judged by their power or speed, but by the same criteria used in humanities scholarship all along: does it make us think? does it make us keep thinking? (para 27)

The fact that there is an on-going conversation about all of our concerns is a good thing. Perhaps the answers do lie in our constant questioning and reassessing. I like that Peter identified ideas that are key to our discussion: model, medium, expansion, value.  In addition to addressing theoretical concerns, I really hope that we can share some useful, practical methods that can enhance our teaching of early modern texts. I hope we continue to post readings, particularly case studies, on this forum.

Here are some recent articles that have been circulating on the web that I thought some of you might find interesting:

Stanley Fish on the “new order” of digital humanities: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/12/26/the-old-order-changeth/

Slideshow of talk delivered by Richard E. Miller (text2cloud) at MLA 2012 on the future of the dissertation. http://text2cloud.com/2012/01/mla-talk-2012-dissing-the-dissertation/

Rethinking Tenure: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2012/01/09/mla-considers-radical-changes-dissertation

Jeff Rice’s response to Fish: http://ydog.net/?p=1250

“The Digital Humanities is not as new as Fish thinks, of course, but as we watch our English colleagues suddenly “doing” Digital Humanities we see that they are putting their hopes (and university funding) in this movement because there is nowhere left to go in a world that has long been digital (while many insist it is not), and a world where reading is dominated by writing.  Typically, though, the Digital Humanities advocates are still stuck in their own paradigm: reading and interpreting texts (scanned literary texts or software studies texts). “

The MLA’s discovery of “digital scholarship”

http://stevendkrause.com/

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One Response to Response from Renuka Gusain

  1. presleyerin says:

    I enjoyed reading your response! I just saw that Fish is back at it on NYT.com: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/23/mind-your-ps-and-bs-the-digital-humanities-and-interpretation/

    He notes (and misrepresents) Mueller’s article.

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