Interdisciplinary Approaches

Bair, Sheila, and Sharon Carlson. “Where Keywords Fail: Using Metadata to Facilitate Digital Humanities Scholarship.” Journal of Library Metadata 8.3 (2008): 249-62.

Bair and Carlson make the argument that scanning a text and making it searchable is not sufficient in meeting the needs of researchers and that resources should also use metadata (normalized names, authorized headings, and topics, to name a few) to avoid problems such as alternate spellings and abbreviations. This article made me reconsider my belief that scanning a text would be the best use of new technologies to provide a resource digitally that previously would not have been accessible. However, one drawback of this standardization has been the immense amount of time and work required by collaborators in projects to mark up the primary sources. The authors describe the steps taken by one research team to digitize letters as part of the United States Civil War Collection at Western Michigan University. 

Barabasi, A. “Network Theory: The Emergence of Creative Enterprise,” Science (2005): Web.

A short article in Science magazine by a theorist of scale-free networks (discussed in class last week), which lays out some of the implications of studies of the Internet.

Bartscherer, Thomas, and Roderick Coover, eds. Switching Codes: Thinking Through Digital Technology in the Humanities and the Arts. Chicago: University of Chicago, 2011.

This book includes essays from leading thinkers on technology and culture, including Alan Liu, Bruno Latour, and others. The goal of the book is to increase and foster dialogue between those who work in the humanities (and often understand little about the technology they use and work with) and in technology fields, whose work “controls” the humanities without their creators necessarily understanding much about the fields they affect. It looks at the effects of technology on the university and the humanities, on culture in general, and on the individual level.

Benmayor, Rina. “Digital Storytelling as a Signature Pedagogy for the New Humanities.” Arts and Humanities in Higher Education 7.2 (2008): 188-204. Web.

In this essay, Benmayor argues that digital storytelling allows students who are marginalized in the classroom due to issues of, for example, racism and sexism, to analyze their lived experiences. She argues that the digital humanities tool leads students to transformed social/historical/cultural understandings. Not only do the students construct narratives on multiple levels, they also reflect on the process of constructing the narrative itself. This self-reflexive re-charting of marginalized identities poses some interesting parallels when applied to archeological analysis.

Borgman, Christine L. “The Digital Future is Now: A Call to Action for the Humanities.” Digital Humanities Quarterly. 3.4 (2009): Web.

Although addressing the progress made in cyberinfrastructure, eScience and eResearch as a sort of guide to the digital humanities community that strives to become a more established field, this article focuses on the work that remains for the digital humanities. The lag includes areas such as the digital publication of journals and books, the dissemination and use of data, and collaboration among humanities scholars. Borgman says that these humanities scholars (i.e. librarians, archivists, programmers and computer scientists) must be the ones to lead the effort as they alone understand the requirements for digital scholarship to become mainstream in the humanities.

Cantara, Linda. “Long-Term Preservation of digital humanities scholarship.” OCLC Systems and Services 22.1 (2006): 38-42.

This article, though perhaps a bit dated already (in that it’s likely that many of the issues Cantara raises have been the subject of ongoing and updated research), looks at the important questions of preserving digital scholarship. The author writes about the need for coordinated work between scholars, computer technicians, and librarians, in order to prevent the great amount of effort (and money) invested in these projects from being wasted when the technology that created and sustains them becomes obsolete. While it is in a publication that caters more to librarians and archivists, the questions the article are important ones to consider for scholars as well.

Ciula, Arianna and Francesco Stella, Eds. Digital philology and medieval texts. Pisa: Pacini Editore. 2006.

A fairly huge piece of scholarship for a number of reasons, this book presents (in English, Italian, and French) selections of works presented at a 2006 conference in Italy. The conference was organized in order to help researchers to meet and “to discuss the principles and purposes of the critical edition produced with the support of humanities computing tools and methods”. Included is a CD-ROM that reproduces the slides and images used by presenters. As might be expected, while the focus of the conference was on philology, numerous presentations (several published here) explored the advantages of digital text vs. print texts, and the possible problems of digital texts. Several of the questions we have explored in class are discussed in papers, including the issues of how we as editors select works for digitization, and the process involved in that when questions of authority arise–whether to trust the author (in light of his/her overall body of work), the individual text, context, and so on.

Couldry, Nick. “New Media for Global Citizens? The Future of the Digital Divide Debate.” The Brown Journal of World Affairs 14.1 (2007): 249-263.

This article looks at the “Digital Divide” (the ability and quality of access to online and digital technologies and resources) both within individual nations, and on a global level. For example, it points out that, within the United States, 80% of people have regular and quality access to the Internet, while 20% go without it, for various reasons. (Note the 80/20 figure we talked about in class previously.) It also notes that the number of Internet users, after growing rapidly for a number of years, has now stabilized at 80%, with little change in nearly a decade. The author asks questions about citizenship on a national and global level, and whether it’s possible for people to be fully participatory in national or global politics, economy, and decision-making, without regular access to the Internet and digital resources. He concludes that governments must become more active in solving the digital divide (which he sees as growing in its effect, though not in terms of numbers), and in recognizing the ability (and need) of their citizenry to participate actively in decision-making via the Internet. If these criteria are not met, the author states that any gains we have made globally in regards to individual empowerment will be lost.

Darnton, Robert. The Case for Books. New York: PublicAffairs, 2009.

The Case for Books examines the role the book as material object plays on multiple social levels. Darnton wrote the book in response to the difficult position print media finds itself in as the 21st century develops, and the author felt that the authority possessed by books as a historical tool should not be discarded without thorough reflection and deliberation. This book is a fine addition to our bibliography, since it makes such an in-depth exploration of the history–and present–of the book as it enters an age that may challenge its continuing primacy in culture.

Fogu, Claudio. “Digitalizing Historical Consciousness.” History and Theory 48.2 (2009): 103-121.

A large portion of this piece actually revolves around video games, but Fogu takes questions derived from this field of study and extrapolates them into a discussion of the way that historicity presents and programs us with a way of thinking that is both linear and constructed. Digital media, Fogu argues, has displaced the cultural context inundated in our thought processes by history, but to what end and effect? These are precisely the kinds of questions I feel we ask tacitly by studying the practices of textual criticism through digital archival practices. Though the article’s focused subject matter strays a great distance from our work in this class, its broader themes address some of the same issues we’ve been working with, and sometimes skirting around.

Fuchs, Christian. “Class, Knowledge, and New Media.” Media Culture and Society 32.1 (2010): 141-150. Web.

In this article, Fuchs looks at the changing face of global capitalism, pointing to the shift towards knowledge production (rather than, for example, manufacturing) as the center of global economic production. He then formulates a Marxist analysis of social and economic class as it relates to knowledge production, looking at the ways that widespread digitization has led to changes in class structures, with many workers simultaneously occupying positions in several classes at once. He points out that the old, Marxist dichotomy of exploiter and exploited is no longer completely accurate in the digital age, as the often-autonomous or decentralized nature of knowledge production means those producing “goods” and capital are often, in turn, exploited by other producers, institutions, etc.

Greengrass, Mark and Lorna Hughes, Eds, The Virtual Representation of the Past. Farnham: Ashgate, 2008.

This book, reviewed at, is a fairly broad and comprehensive look at questions, concerns, possibilities and problems regarding the use of digital technology for historical study and research. In addition to profiling several ongoing projects, including the use of digital and virtual technology to “restore” damaged or partial works, it looks at issues of funding (mostly in terms of cuts to funding).

Hockey, Susan. “The History of Humanities Computing.” A Companion to Digital Humanities. Ed. Susan Schreibman, Ray Siemens and John Unsworth. Malden: Blackwell, 2004.

This article concentrates on a chronological description that traces the development of humanities computing. The article outlines milestones of intellectual progress. It also looks at where work done within humanities computing has been adopted by other disciplines such as research or teaching.

Kamada, Hitoshi. “Digital Humanities Roles for Libraries?” College & Research Libraries News 71.9 (2010): 484-485.

In this very short article, the author discusses the impact of digital humanities technology on libraries, which I thought was relevant considering our previous discussions about archives. She mentions that in librarian circles these days, there is much talk about “digitization, data curation, and digital preservation.” She mentions some conferences and collaborations, and also discusses some of the things librarians can do with this technology – though it is interesting to note that she focuses a lot on the power of computers to perform textual criticism, and “text mining.” She concludes that the role of librarians is to assist in “collecting and organizing data,” to put into “digital archives in reusable format” and “facilitate collaboration with other researchers.”

Kim, John Namjun. “Sudlandisch: the borders of fear with reference to Foucault.” Social Identities 15.3, (2009): 383-397.

This article looks at Foucault’s idea of discourse and referentiality in the context of an attempted bombing of a German rail station, and the subsequent debate in the country’s media. Noting that, despite the poor quality of the video image of the suspects, which made skin tone impossible to identify in comparison to bystanders, the media was quick to identify the suspects as “sudlandisch”, an adjective that simultaneously means (literally) southlander, foreign, Mediterranean, “brown” (in skin color), as well as having the various connotations associated with “otherness and southerness” in the Northern European imagination. Referring to the enunciative quality of a statement, the article quotes Foucault’s idea that “the enunciated has this quasi-invisibility of the ‘there is,’ which is effaced in the very thing of which one can say: “there is this or that thing'” (A of K 111). It then goes on to argue that the image of the suspects used in the media, highlighting the suspects with a circle, simultaneously calls attention to itself as creating a ‘there is’ enunciation, but in doing so also effaces its own strategy, drawing attention instead to the lack of givenness or obviousness of the image.

Kirschenbaum, Matthew. “Done: Finishing Projects in the Digital Humanities.” Digital Humanities Quarterly 3.2 (2009): Web.

Given the extensible nature of the digital humanities projects, it is difficult to assess the completion of such works. This short article introduces the issue of completion and directs the reader to several essays that further address the question/debate ‘what does it mean to finish a digital work?’

Liu, Alan. “Digital Humanities and Academic Change.” English Language Notes 47.1 (2009): 17-35.

Liu’s argument is that the new digital technologies are changing the humanities into a global one. He uses an evolutionary metaphor to trace the steps from Buggy Little Projects to Practice 2.0 and Organization 2.0 (“Center-Based” Departments) to Alien Knowledge. He describes technology as being able to make fundamental changes because of the way it can import “alien paradigms of knowledge.” Looking ahead, Liu sees the potential for the digital humanities to go beyond interdisciplinary studies to “exo-disciplinarity.”

Liu, Alan. The Laws of Cool. Chicago: University of Chicago, 2004.

In this 2004 book, literary and media/technology scholar Alan Liu looks at the changing nature of literature and the university in the face of digitization and corporatization. He notes Joseph A. Schumpeter’s idea that capitalism “incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one” (Liu 2). In this regard, immersed as we are within the capitalist system, Liu sees a critique of these changes as almost irrelevant, viewing them as inevitable, natural, morally neutral, and as replicating the same changes that took place when print culture supplanted manuscript/oral traditions. The question his book seeks to address, then, is how the Humanities can work within the system they are now in, and what ways writers, artists, philosophers and other traditional “humanists” can contribute positively to this otherwise entirely business-focused model. Recognizing the profound (and likely permanent) changes in the culture of literature, Liu looks at what the “old” order of aesthetic authority (such as literary scholars) may be able to teach the “new” order (of “cool” and tech-savvy digital specialists), and vice versa.

Parker, Deborah. “Guidelines for the Evaluation of Digital Humanities Projects.” ADFL Bulletin 41.1 (2009): 67-75.

Parker’s aim in this article is to make recommendations for how academics with limited familiarity in the digital humanities can evaluate projects. She bases them on her experience working on the digital archive The World of Dante ( Although Parker focuses on ways that primary researchers can receive appropriate recognition for their work, this article is also helpful for our project critiques; in each category of recommendations, Parker includes a series of questions that one could ask to better understand a project (and for department chairs to then support a project). The three main recommendations for researchers are to be proactive about communicating information, to collaborate with and manage contacts, and to get behind the interface and reveal the project’s “computer layer,” in addition to its more evident “cultural layer.”

Reed, Sabrina, Alexandra Pett and Patricia Rigg. “Pedagogy in the Electronic English Classroom: A Cluster.” Digital Studies 0.07 (2000): Web.

This is actually a “cluster” of three articles about how pedagogy changes with digital technology. The authors’ main point is that a “wired learning environment” the classroom is no longer subject to spatial and temporal limitations, and this can pose problems for the traditional teacher-student authority relationship. But, they all argue that this digital context offers an important opportunity to challenge this traditional authority to find new ways of connecting to each other in a more collaborative learning environment. This article reminds me of Foucauldian discourse analysis in a way, because with digital technology the student has access to a multiplicity of discourses rather than just one – the teacher’s.

Robinson, Peter M.W. “The Ends of Editing.” Digital Humanities Quarterly 3.3 (2009): Web.

This essay states that there is a shift towards a participatory exemplary of editing and reading due to digital forums. The question of the “end” (as in expiration or aim) of editing in the digital medium is addresses through various examples such as editions of Chaucer and Dante, the eColi genome and Obama’s discourse on the Constitution of the United States.

Ryan, Marie-Laure. “Multivariant Narratives.” A Companion to Digital Humanities. Eds. Susan Schreibman, Ray Siemens, and John Unsworth. Oxford: Blackwell, 2004.

Ryan begins with an overview of the major consequences to narratives of technological innovations. She then lists features of digital text that have impacts on the development of the narrative, reminding readers that a true digital text cannot be transferred to print without losing some elements. Examples of these properties are their interactive nature, multimedia channels, and networking abilities. These properties allow for digital texts that create multi-variant narratives, meaning that these texts can control passage from one part of the text through the next with codes. She provides examples of three hypertext novels, each of which has a unique variable narrative: discourse, point of view, and plot. This chapter is useful for its consideration of the implications of texts written in and for a digital format instead of written for a print format and later digitized. 

Siemens, Lynne. ‘“It’s a Team If You Use Reply All’: An Exploration of Research Teams in Digital Humanities Environments.” Literary and Linguistic Computing 24.2 (2009): 225-33.

Lynne Siemens is the creator of the handouts we’ll be using when writing our project summary. Her article helped me understand the collaborative model of digital humanities projects. She seeks to fill a gap in research on team development in this community. Basing her findings on interviews, she concluded that successful teams had shared goals, clearly defined tasks, and verbal communication beyond the digital realm. (I was happy to learn that team members identified interpersonal relationships as perhaps more important than tasks in the success of a project because I also believe that the process of working well as a team can at times be more valuable than the project at hand.) Siemens ends the article with five implications for practice: action from each individual, action by the leader, action from the team, training, and a mix of digital and in-person meetings.

Sweeny, Robert C.H. “Rethinking Boundaries: Interdisciplinary Lessons from the Montréal l’avenir du passé (MAP) Project.” Digital Studies 1.2 (2009): Web.

This article begins with an interesting discussion of the boundaries that structure information in the academy, which is very relevant to Foucauldian discourse analysis. Sweeny acknowledges that specialization has made “knowledge acquisition” easier, it multiplies the inequalities between disciplines. He describes the interdisciplinary project MAP the Montréal l’avenir du passé, a historical geographic information system. He parallels the project’s emphasis on boundaries to the way that digital resources of this kind can challenge the boundaries and structures of disciplines and their specific methodologies.

Willett, Perry. “Electronic Texts: Audiences and Purposes.” A Companion to Digital Humanities. Ed. Susan Schreiban, Ray Siemens and John Unsworth. Malden: Blackwell, 2004.
This article attempts to establish electronic texts as the future standard first step to humanities research. An important tool for professionals, scholars, libraries and teachers alike, electronic texts allows for the simple and easy retrieval and discovery of texts.


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