It’s (Not) Always Sunny in the Digital Humanities:

Another Perspective DH’s “Dark Side”

Dark Side

Morea Coker, in particular, raises an important topic that hasĀ Dark Side of the Digital Humanities. a number of important points I wanted to explore with the entire group. To define DH, she insists, we must examine far more than the sheer desires of the people involved. I admit that there is a

Clearly, the definition of digital humanities needs to come from an examination of the digital rather than the humanistic.In her exploration of how we might define DH, she reveals I applaud your choice to dig into the political, material, and ideological issues that surround any attempt to define a discipline–always already an attempt at legitimizing a discipline (or not). :)

However, Spiro (as well as many other DHers) fail to address exactly how this will become economically viable for the academy. In all the reading, there seems to be a focus on the willingness of scholars to share, publish in open access, and collaborate with the public. However, the public is not clearly defined and the implied contributors, if we look into the contributors of the textbook, are people who hold full-time positions save three graduate students. So what is being shared? What type of knowledge is being built?

make some interesting arguments about DH scholarship and its place in the academy.

I applaud your choice to dig into the political, material, and ideological issues that surround any attempt to define a discipline–always already an attempt at legitimizing a discipline (or not). :) As you insist, “To fully understand the conception of DH, one must look into the funding that legitimizes the discipline.” Absolutely. I agree that , but I am ultimately a bit confused by some of the conclusions you draw from this evidence.

As much as I admire your analysis and evidence selected to pursue those ends, I must quibble with the following assertion: “While DH is respected for its potential, it is still clearly removed from the inner circles of the academy.” Wow, I’m really struggling to find any evidence of this “clear remov[a] from the inner circles of the academy.” It does, indeed, force us to rethink the humanities, but we’ve already been forced to do this in recent years as “the end of the humanities” seems to echo from every major publication and each new report. Humanities majors are down–WAY down. Funding is being stripped from humanities departments across the nation. Many a report from major news outlets suggest the general public finds humanities to be “out of touch.” Plenty fear humanities departments will go the way classics departments went not too long ago. Extinct. A relic of the past.

Maybe it is this environment that makes DH so important, so regularly declared “the future of the humanities” or maligned as “the death of the humanities.” Whatever the case, it has taken center stage at the center in “inner circles of the academy–whether anyone likes it or not. I’d like to think a successful rescue of the humanities is underway, which may be a reason I embrace the DH. But the fact is whether we embrace it or not, DH is here and likely to stay here for the unforeseeable future.

In fact, far from relegating DH to the margins of the academy, every major university these days has a well respected, high profile center for DH or is working quickly to remedy NOT having one by bringing in senior scholars to spearhead such efforts. THIS is the future of the humanities, not just the DH. That’s not me talking, and it isn’t even always (or mainly) DHers talking. That’s just about any mainstream news outlet and scholars as traditional as Stanley Fish–even Fish is calling it “the next big thing.” Headlines in everything from the New York Times and Washington Post to more academic-specific outlets like Inside Higher Ed and the Chronicle of Higher Ed declare or decry its major prominence in the academy but we’d be hard pressed to find any story that denies its a presence to contend with. DH even dominates the annual conferences of the major powerhouses of the humanities–including the Modern Language Association and the American History Association , more so every year. And it is welcome. If AHA and MLA celebrate DH, you know it isn’t on the fringes of the academy. Similar evidence is NEH’s ODH, which gives DH the top tier of credibility. Very little can surpass such a powerful endorsement of an entity’s scholarly worth and academic chops.

You also suggest that “Rather than having the year-long (or more) submit, revise, publish paradigm of traditional scholarship, DH provides markers of real time thought and transformation within the academy through collaborative web-text and expandable potentials on printed materials.” Yes and much more no. It takes just as long to publish the most widely read and highly valued DH scholarship as it does non-DH scholarship. Likewise, digital venues are not, necessarily, publishing primarily scholarship that would be labeled “DH.” Further, publication in online, refereed venues does not mean a shorter timeline to publication either. At least that’s not been my experience.

t is important to note that our textbook includes a variety of pieces that range from peer-reviewed articles to blog posts. As Gold notes in the introduction, the reason for the latter is a desire to publish work that reflects the most recent DH trends possible. Things move too fast in DH to rely soley on extensively peer-reviewed, print-based scholarship.

That does not mean that the blogs and rest replace the more heavily referreered and revised work in DH. Quite the contrary. Instead, it supplements it. In fact, I can tell you from personal experience that the timeline for DH scholarship isn’t actually any shorter (or less rigorous) than any other.

I’ve never tried to publish anything in a DH journal, but I have (will) published on DH in our own discipline’s top publication venues (College English, November 2013) and a forthcoming book called Rhetoric and the Digital Humanities (set for publication with University of Chicago Press in early 2014). Both of these pieces were invited, so the timeline from submission to publication is a little shorter than it might otherwise be. But the timeline from the editor’s invitation to me, my invitation to my co-authors, our initial submission, acceptance, revisions, and (now) copyedits (ala galleys from publisher) is two years (exactly) for one and slightly more for the other.

This is very comparable to my publication timelines for non-DH scholarship in competitive venues with high submissions and very low acceptance rates. It’s always about two years, sometimes more. One time it was less than one year, but that was very atypical. College English really wanted my “Living Inside the Bible (Belt)” piece. I submitted it in early fall of 2006. They accepted it a couple months later (in November), with minor revisions.

Here are two examples:

Non-DH publication example
In July 2007, College English published my “Living Inside the Bible (Belt).” This is our field’s top venue with a very high submission rate and a very low acceptance rate. The articles go through rigorous peer review.

Timeline from submission to publication–quite short:

Submitted late early fall 2006.
Received “Accept, with Revisions” by November 2006.
Published the following July.

Others Non-DH publication examples

It is also not a product of digital publishing. Each of my examples took about two years.

Kairos published our “The Converging Literacies Center” in Fall 2009 (with Donna Dunbar-Odom). That was about two years from submission to publication.

Bump Halbritter and I co-edited a special issue on undergraduate research for Kairos. We published or call for submissions in 2009. The special issue appeared Fall 2011.

Fall 2010, Computers and WRiting Online published our “Activist Writing Center” (with Dunbar-Odom and Adkins). That was about two years from submission to publication as well.

I love this comment to another post, as well: “I really believe DH is much less about what we think it is and more about what it does.” I absolutely agree. One of my favorite DH scholars (and I can’t seem to remember who at the moment) offers the following advice to those anxious about getting involved with DH: The best way to understand the DH is to do it. Dive in.

include stuff on critical digital humanities for coker, including our work on RRT