Niceness, Building, and Opening the Genealogy of the Digital Humanities: Beyond the Social Contract of Humanities Computing

My new article, “Niceness, Building, and Opening the Genealogy of the Digital Humanities: Beyond the Social Contract of Humanities Computing” has just been published by differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies. If you can’t access the paywalled version I’ve also uploaded an earlier version here. Abstract: “This essay explores the ‘social contract’ of the digital humanities community. I argue that the social contract of the digital humanities is composed of two rules: 1) the notion of niceness or civility; and 2) the possession of technical knowledge, defined as knowledge of coding or computer programming. These rules are repeatedly raised within the public sphere of the digital humanities and are simultaneously contested and criticized. I claim that these rules and the social contract come from humanities computing, a field commonly described as the digital humanities’ sole predecessor. Humanities computing has historically differentiated itself from media and cultural studies, defining itself as a field that uses computational methods to address humanities research questions rather than exploring the impact of computation on culture and the humanities. I call for a movement that would go beyond this social contract by creating multiple genealogies for the digital humanities; by arguing that current conceptualizations of the digital humanities have not only developed from humanities computing but also include additional fields such as new media studies, postcolonial science and technology studies, and digital research on race, gender, class, and disability and their impact on cultures around the world.”

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  1. On Ignoring Encoding | Ryan Cordell - May 8, 2014

    […] Lately we’ve seen a spate of articles castigating the digital humanities—perhaps most prominently, Adam Kirsch’s piece in New Republic, “Technology Is Taking Over English Departments: The False Promise of the Digital Humanities.” I don’t plan in this post to take on the genre or refute the criticisms of these pieces one by one; Ted Underwood and Glen Worthy have already made better global points than I could muster. My biggest complaint about the Kirsch piece—and the larger genre it exemplifies—would echo what many others have said: these pieces purport to critique a wide field in which their authors seem to have done very little reading. Also, as Roopika Risam notes, many of these pieces conflate “digital humanities” with the DH that happens in literary studies, leaving digital history, archeology, classics, art history, religious studies, and the many other fields that contribute to DH out of the narrative. In this way these critiques echo conversations happening with the DH community about its diverse genealogies, such as Tom Scheinfeldt’s The Dividends of Difference or Adeline Koh’s Niceness, Building, and Opening the Genealogy of the Digital Humanities […]

  2. The Public Digital Humanities | - January 9, 2015

    […] are brandished behind people’s backs, as is far too common in the scarcity economy of academia. Adeline Koh argues that “niceness/civility … play important gatekeeping roles within the digital humanities […]

  3. On Ignoring Encoding | Ryan Cordell - February 2, 2015

    […] genealogies, such as Tom Scheinfeldt’s The Dividends of Difference, Adeline Koh’s Niceness, Building, and Opening the Genealogy of the Digital Humanities, or Fiona M. Barnett’s “The Brave Side of Digital […]