What are the differentiations and intersections of media studies and the digital humanities?

  • I worry that the answer is nostalgia.

    Kevin Moberly's picture
    by Kevin Moberly — Old Dominion University view

    I worry that the answer is nostalgia. 

    Why?  Justified by the oft-repeated, but rarely substantiated claim that the humanities is undergoing a crisis, digital humanities constructs the high technology of the present moment in much the same way as proponents of the now largely-forgotten field of new media —as a shift in the means of production that is synonymous in its historical and cultural implications to the introduction of the printing press.  The crucial difference, though, is that for proponents of new media, this technological determinism is almost always symptomatic of a larger positivism.  Convinced that society is in the throes of a far reaching “information revolution,” they construct computers and the various innovations that computers enable as a means of remedying, and, ultimately, transcending the inherent limitations of human subjectivity.

     By contrast, digital humanists imagine computers and the innovations they enable as a means of returning to and thereby recovering the types of performances that, in various formulations, they celebrate as embodying human subjectivity in the ideal.  Fascinated with the potential of digital technologies to re-imagine what they construct as great or valuable works, they turn to e-editions and digital archives not as a means of remedying the limitations of human subjectivity but of perfecting it: of teaching a generation of born digital subjects how to appreciate the timeless values manifested in classic (analog) works of art and literature.

    Whether imagined as a means of transcending or perfecting human subjectivity, digital technology is constructed as the catalyst for a contemporary renaissance of sorts: a renaissance that, very much like the original (and to some degree now discredited), is celebrated as both a rebirth into a new era and a recovery of the glories of one that had been lost.  Implicit in this belief is a corollary belief in a middle period of sorts—not a dark ages, per say, but a set of historical circumstances that are characterized by a lack or loss, a primitivism from which we are anxious be reborn.  I worry that this middle period is constructed, in part, in the image of media studies, especially the branch of media studies that is rooted in cultural studies.  

    Scholars working in cultural studies, after all, tend to be more interested in mass culture, even in its most pedestrian forms, than high culture.  Moreover, they tend to resist the sort of hierarchical schemas that declare that one work is better or more valuable than another.  It is not that they eschew literature or art, but that they recognize that such designations are always already political and particular—indications of what a particular culture values at a particular historical moment rather than transcendent human values.  Worse yet, they oftentimes take a less than enthusiastic approach to technology.  Rather than celebrating it as having a life of its own—a force in and of itself that exists independently of the people who produce, use, and are otherwise affected by it— they approach technology in much of the same way that they approach literature and art: as a material (and therefore political) manifestation of the struggles in which various individuals, communities, and institutions engage as they vie for power.  

    Concerned primarily with the present tense rather than the past or the future, cultural studies thus understands scholarship as a political and interventionist practice rather than a quasi-objective, quasi-sacred calling.  As such, it represents a radical shift from the types of texts and the types of performances (academic, artistic, or otherwise) that the humanities traditionally privilege.  I worry that Digital Humanities is motivated by a desire to restore the humanities, and, in particular, literary studies, to a future that is imagined to have existed before cultural studies.   For it strikes me that digital humanities is interested in the past for much of the same reason that new media is interested in the future: because both imagine that high technology can provide privileged access to a sense of higher purpose, a spirituality, that has presumably been lost.  Or, put another way, both imagine high technology of a means of exorcizing, once and for all, the horrors of the present tense.

    Image on front page by Christiana Gasparotto and available on flickr

  • Conclusions: the intersections of media studies and digital humanities

    Jamie Henthorn's picture
    by Jamie Henthorn — Old Dominion University view

    In coming up with a way to conclude this project in a visual fashion I tried to show connections across posts. I uploaded the articles shared during this project into a wordle program, tagxedo

    I also graphed respondent posts over a venn diagram to try show connections between the pieces on scholarship, theory, and praxis. You are free to click through (I would recommend full screen if you are on a smaller screen) and catch any of the pieces that you may have missed. They will open up in a new window. 

    In my readings this month, I saw a discipline very much in flux and, as is usual with these kinds of surveys, raise more questions and observations than answers. What kind of work is included in digital humanities? What is the labor involved? How do we continue to count and promote that labor? Overall, I see digital humanities methods  able to challenge and enrich media studies, but also media studies challenges those who produce scholarly tools to create better tools for coding and analyzing visual and auditory media. I look forward to continuing conversations started here in other projects here on MediaCommons.

  • Critical Making

    Daniel Chamberlain's picture
    by Daniel Chamberlain — Occidental College 4 Comments view


    The previous contributors to this discussion have done a fantastic job of reflecting on the importance of professional context, personal growth, and depth of inquiry as valuable frames for considering the relationships between media studies and the digital humanities. In addressing this question in other contexts, I have argued[PDF] that the richest possible intersections between these “fields” would bring together the theoretical sophistication, attention to history, and concern for the practices of actual people that has characterized the most productive turns in media studies, as well as the emphasis on praxis, collaboration, and experiments with new modes of scholarly practices that are often associated with digital humanities work. Building on Aaron Kashtan’s recent post, I would like to pull on the thread of this argument that is nearest to my own concern with digital scholarship program building in and around disciplinary environments. 

    As I work with colleagues on my own small campus, I find that the rhetorical frame of my discussions changes based on specific contexts - I might talk about “media studies” with fellow travelers, “digital scholarship” with colleagues trained in the sciences, and “Digital Humanities” with those who keep up with the Chronicle and the New York Times- but that our conversations often gain traction when I suggest that much of the best work covered by such labels share a concern with practices of “critical making.” In the simplest terms, I take this phrase to mean producing cultural objects from within the critical frames of a discipline. I use it to describe coding, prototyping, fanvids, complex data visualizations, zine-making, webmaking, geo-spatial analysis, network visualizations, and the set of critical reflections that are baked into or built around such activities. Building on long-traditions of praxis-based pedagogy and project-based learning, the notion of critical making appeals for a number of reasons. At first glance, it is quite simply that scientists/artists understand lab/studio work, people familiar with the digital humanities are aware of the debates around building and coding, and media studies folks might already appreciate the value of production training for critique or the importance of fandom and participatory cultures as forms of knowledge production. At a deeper level, an emphasis on robust forms of critical making includes a process of production, reflection, reformulation, and reconsideration, or making as a way to ask better questions. For students who are not fully persuaded that academic papers make a difference in the world, critical making projects often open an avenue to critical intervention, and help them understand that making is something done by authors, scholars, and audiences, and that students themselves may occupy these roles. Beyond the bounds of our current discussion, I think that a critical making framework also connects such academic work to a broader terrain of contemporary cultural change, in the form of hacker spaces, physical computing projects, slow food movements, cultural remixing, urban farming, bike garages, and the like. Students engaged in critical making might develop transferrable skills, but more importantly they might develop a transferrable (critical) disposition that they can apply in other curricular and non-curricular contexts.

    I have been engaged in the discourses of media studies and digital humanities long enough to know that the idea of critical making is not central to the practice of everyone who might identify as being associated with these disciplines, and I certainly am not trying to reinforce any perceived boundaries about which forms of making count in either field. I do want to suggest that such a framework is becoming more urgent as emergent media increasingly becomes an object of analysis, as technologically-inflected techniques inform scholarly method, and as new forms of scholarly communication rely on digital and networked systems. 

    Image on front page by mandiberg and available on Flickr.

  • Analyzing abundance

    William Moner's picture
    by William Moner — University of Texas at Austin 1 Comment view


    When I was asked to share my perspective on the question of how digital humanities and media studies interrelate, my thoughts turned to how scholars access and make meaning of large digital repositories. My response centers on access: what is accessible, what is inaccessible, and how we can resolve the gap. Media studies and its suite of theoretical approaches seem to be well suited for analysis of not only the data itself but the institutional structures and power dynamics that lead to accessible digital artifacts. 

    Efforts such as the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) and the digital presence of the Prelinger Archive and the Internet Archive, among others, aim to provide online access to digital and digitized collections. While these projects significantly advance the capabilities of digital humanists, the work of libraries and cultural repositories has just begun. As these collections move online—and as websites and other "born-digital" collections are acquired by groups like the Archive Teamwhat is acquired and made accessible is as significant as how these materials are made accessible. Metadata—the descriptors of these digital or digitized materials—becomes vital to the process of analyzing cultural artifacts (digital and non-digital). Increasingly, organizations providing access to public domain materials or materials made public must consider how their digital collections can be accessed through APIs (application programming interfaces) as a way to build bridges between collections and map data across organizations and existing metadata schema. These APIs are likely to be incomplete, particularly those from private organizations who seek to profit from back catalogs and libraries of commercial media. 

    As a field, digital humanities grapples with the complexities of building systems that best represent culture and make sense of the material artifacts of cultures — their texts, their art, their expression. The media studies discipline represents a set of theoretical approaches to data accumulated and linked through these systems. Humanists must not mistake accessible data as representative data, and must work to build interoperable systems that allow for solid comparative analysis. Scholarly inquiry in the digital humanities can leverage the cross-disciplinary approach of media studies to analyze complex systems through application of a variety of theoretical frameworks. In turn, media scholars must draw from the strengths of digital humanities, which leverage storytelling through maps, interactive visualizations, audio, video, and traditional scholarship.

    Archives like those linked through the DPLA and the Internet Archive capture a mere fraction of the sum of human creativity and omit the types of communicative practice occurring through walled garden environments. We must continue to question what's missing from our datasets and how those missing artifacts can be made not only digital but accessible for analysis.

    Image on front page by Cea and available on Flickr.

  • Media Studies and Digital Humanities as a Mode of Scholarship

    eric faden's picture
    by eric faden — bucknell university 1 Comment view


       I became a digital humanist without really knowing it or understanding how it happened.  Suddenly, I was invited to be on panels about DH or give keynote addresses on the subject or contribute to various journals or websites (like this one).  So, oddly, thanks to my multimodal scholarship and video essays, I’ve become an expert on something I don’t formally know much about.

       With that caveat, here is the most grossly oversimplified way I can express the differentiations between Media Studies and Digital Humanities in the limited space here.  My hope is that this simplified glossing can spur some discussion with others filling in more nuanced (and informed) details and examples.

       For me, Media Studies is a discipline largely concerned with mass media technologies often of a digital nature.  Particular areas of study might include mass media content, the enterprises and systems for distributing that technological content, and analysis of how audiences use media technologies and understand mass media content.  In general, Media Studies embraces traditional analytical models and appears in traditional printed forms (books, journal articles, etc.). 

       By contrast, DH for me is not a discipline, or, at least, not a discipline distinct from the Humanities.  In fact, I see DH more as an ingenious marketing or branding exercise that has successfully brought attention (and funding!) to a long-standing and traditional scholarly area that is (or perceived to be) in crisis at many colleges and universities.   Like the Humanities in general, DH is largely (and widely) concerned with understanding a variety of humanistic areas of study.  In many cases, the objects of study are books, manuscripts, or text but DH uses digital analytical tools to interrogate these objects in ways not previously possible.  On occasion, DH scholarship also appears as a multimodal work rather than a traditional scholarly article or book. 

       I personally would like to see the bond between Media Studies and DH grow stronger.  As a Film/Media Studies scholar, I welcome many of the technical tools and methodologies developed for DH research.  Moreover, I think both areas can help better develop scholarship as a multimodal form.  For a considerable time, academic work has appeared largely as text (like this essay) and largely as a particular rhetorical mode—thesis, literature review, argument, evidence, conclusion, calls for further research, etc.  Yet, the ability to produce work in a multimodal form can also prove advantageous.  First, some subjects (like film or media) lend themselves to audio/visual modes of presentation.  Put simply, it’s easier to show a film clip than to try and textually describe it.  Second, I like multimodal scholarship’s potential to widen the audience of a particular work well beyond the academy.  For Media Studies and DH, one of the challenges ahead will be figuring out a new interface for presenting scholarly work that is as stable and widespread in form and rhetoric as the traditional journal article is now. 


    Image on front page by Helran and available on Flickr.

  • The Human in Digital Humanities and Media Studies

    Mark Martinez's picture
    by Mark Martinez — University of Minnesota 1 Comment view



    Humane Scholars are the most unmechanized of men.

                                                                —Jacob Neusner, Scholars and Machines 1960


    What do we know about the epistemological and ethical figure of the “Human” in our own work on the Digital? To what extent do we perceive its beleaguerment in the face of technological innovation? And in what ways are we engaged in the continual re-articulation of a Humanness in response to the alienating or inhumane conditions of our modern lives?

    I believe that an epistemological intersection between Digital Humanities and Media Studies relies on their perceived relationship not merely to computing technologies, but rather to a history of techno-science: the intertwined relationship of technologies and scientific knowledge based on the belief that Science has the power to alter aspects of reality (material, political, and ethical). Not coincidentally, the origins of the digital computer emerge alongside the height of investment in technoscience at mid-20th century, and the Digital develops in complementary movement with particular theories—systems, cybernetics, information, and what is now Neuroscience—all that at the very least question the uniqueness and complexity of the human being alongside other observable phenomena. Within the contexts of poststructuralism or cultural studies such interrogation of the Human work towards anti-essentialist understandings. Within the context of techno-science, though, there is more ambivalence for the humanist scholar.

    On the other hand, much capital and resource investment have gone into these cutting edge sciences. Whether housed within an English, Communications Studies, History, or Gender and Sexuality dept., the scholar of the humanities is well aware of the shifts at the University level, of disinvestment and redistribution based on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics coalition (STEM) which has had its hand in legislation on every level in the U.S. The priority of the digital seems to be systemic as resources continue to grow not only for math and science concentrations, but now software writing, or “coding for kids” as a new mark of literacy. Thus, it seems that teaching with or teaching about digital media is now less about “thinking” than “making”. On the one hand the recently burgeoning Massive Online Learning Courses are marketed in part as a solution to the “problem” (budget, marketability, value?) facing the Liberal Arts in Universities, and on the other the job skill set of media “production experience” is less about techniques for the camera or studio production, and more about the ability to create apps for smart devices, or to instruct in flash animation. Our particular moment of question for a Humanities skill set in a STEM world is, I believe, a great opportunity to revisit our changing historical relationship with the sciences and with techno-science, as well as the unfortunate and artificial exacerbation of our differences via the Culture Wars.

    I would also like to suggest that in our disciplinary debates that we continue to interrogate the Human in humanistic thought that is both productive of and delimiting to our understandings of technologies and scientific knowledge.

    To the extent that the Digital marks a significant change to education, communication, and knowledge practices—it also marks another moment of retrenchment and reinvestment in what the Human is—on all ideological sides of discourse on technology. From “human-centric” and “intuitive” computing, to “Robo-ethics” in Artificial Intelligence research, to the growing number of Ethics courses in applied science colleges—there is a significant history to be done on the discourse of “humanizing technologies” that reaches back much further than the emergence of the digital computer.

    Finally, if the digital occupies a space of “other” to our figure of the Human, what are the possibilities for a “digital non-humanities” as further study of this otherness?

    Image on front page from Argonne National Library and available through Flickr









  • DH and Practice-Based Media Research

    Aaron Kashtan's picture
    by Aaron Kashtan — Georgia Institute of Technology 2 Comments view


    Definitions of DH frequently emphasize that DH is about making stuff, producing artifacts, rather than simply theorizing in an abstract sense. For example, in an earlier response to this survey, Pamela Ingleton observes that “ at stake in the ‘digital humanities’ is this question of ‘making:’ producing, building, coding, programming, engineering—in other words, practical interaction with technology as opposed to theoretical analysis of it.”

    However, there is also a current in media studies that emphasizes the importance of making media objects as well as studying them. Geert Lovink writes “No more vapor theory anymore!” (10). Accordingly, scholars like Alexander Galloway, Jussi Parikka and Garnet Hertz have called for a practice-based form of scholarship that involves the actual production of media artifacts. In his proposal for an MLA special session on “Critical Making in Digital Humanities,” Roger Whitson lists several notable examples of such scholarship; others that come immediately to mind are Stephanie Boluk and Patrick LeMieux’s art games, or Nick Montfort’s interactive fiction and constrained poetry generators.

    I feel that this sort of creativity-based research ought to count as digital humanities, and that we need to avoid what David Golumbia calls the “narrow” definition of DH, by which DH is limited to the creation of scholarly tools for working with large archives.

    Let me discuss this in terms of my own creative practice. I originally became interested in media studies largely because of my existing interest in comic books and graphic novels. There is a longstanding tradition of using the comics medium to theorize itself. The two most influential English-language books about comics, Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics and Will Eisner’s Comics and Sequential Art, are both by professional cartoonists rather than academics, and the former actually is a comic, while the latter includes numerous example comics drawn from the author’s previous body of work. Using comics to theorize comics is a good idea because first, in comics, you can state an argument verbally and illustrate it visually at the same time. And second, when you theorize comics by making comics, a feedback loop is created in which the practical insights you learn while making comics can then be applied to your theoretical practice.

    For example, while learning to use Bitstrips for a project I’m working on for Digital Humanities Quarterly, I created several comic strips that experimented with various aspects of comic page structure – panel borders, order of reading, word balloons, etc. None of these comics have much artistic merit, but they all represent practice-based attempts to think through how comics work. Similarly, this past semester I had my students write a paper in which they analyzed a comics page, then illustrated their analysis by redrawing the page in a different way and explaining how their redrawn version of the page was more or less effective than the original. (One of the most effective responses to this assignment is shown in this Prezi, with the student’s permission.)

    I don’t know if this sort of thing counts as digital humanities or as practice-based media research or as both or neither. (I would note, however, that my artistic talent is very limited and that without tools such as Bitstrips and Comic Life, it would be prohibitively difficult for me to engage in this sort of theoretical exploitation; similarly, my students were able to use such tools to produce more sophisticated comics than they could have otherwise.) But maybe that’s precisely the question. Does there need to be a distinction between one specific type of practice-based research that falls into the privileged category of digital humanities, and other types of practice-based research that are just media studies?



    Lovink, Geert. Dark Fiber: Tracking Critical Internet Culture. MIT Press, 2003. Print 


    Melanie Kohnen's picture
    by Melanie Kohnen — NYU 4 Comments view

    Confession: I really wish there was a THATCamp SCMS. I wish we could have some of the spontaneity and collaboration that defines THATCamp (The Humanities and Technologies Camp) at SCMS (the annual meeting of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies). Both THATCamp and SCMS are defining events in their respective fields of Digital Humanities and Media Studies. Yet, they couldn't be farther apart. While THATCamp is proudly defiant of the traditional conference format, SCMS embraces panels and papers.

    Let me elaborate a little. THATCamps are weekend-long “unconferences” that come without paper proposals or a predetermined agenda. Instead, participants share a common investment in the Digital Humanities (or, more recently, a broadening array of topics, including feminism, games, or pedagogy). Participants include archivists, librarians, grad students, museum curators, and professors. Conversations at THATCamp cross both disciplines and professions/institutions. Any THATCamp's agenda of informal workshops is set on the first day based on participants' interests; it often includes show-and-tell sessions highlighting research methods and tools. THATCamp is about the nitty-gritty details and the larger conceptual questions that define scholarly everyday life. In many ways, it is a look behind the curtain of the polished conference paper, and that is precisely what makes attending THATCamp inspiring and rewarding.

    SCMS cherishes the polished conference paper. It embraces the thrill of seeing a carefully crafted argument unfold before one's eyes (or should I say through one's ears as visual aids are often still absent from SCMS). But what if there was space for THATCamp at SCMS? The recent increase in workshops (and the packed rooms I have seen at these workshops) suggests that there is an interest in a collaborative conversation. What if there was a space in the program that would allow us to think through the implications of unfolding media events, industry conversations, regulations, and technological shifts and their place in nascent research projects? Sure, these conversations often happen in the hallways between panels (or on Twitter), but what if there was a dedicated space for them in the program? To borrow THATCamp's motto, perhaps SCMS could do with a little more hack and a little less yack.

    Image Credit: THATCamp Bay Area Program by George Oates on flickr

  • cultural or humanistic informatics complications

    Jeremy Hunsinger's picture
    by Jeremy Hunsinger — Wilfrid Laurier University 1 Comment view


    Digital humanities…. many will remember when it was Computing in the Humanities and it still is for many projects and at many places.  For a very short period while people were talking about e-Humanities.  The umbrella term seems to have become "digital humanities" which has a particular genealogy worth exploring, though not in this post.  Instead this post is about the intersection and mediation of the idea of digital humanities and media studies by adding to the debate with the idea that what we have is less of terminological or mereological problem between media studies and digital humanities, but is instead at least a tripartite complication between media studies, digital humanities and cultural or humanistic informatics

    Cultural informatics is the broadest term for what the humanities does with computers according to Gregory Crane's seminal paper, but for me, cultural informatics is by necessity more reflexive and situated then informatics in general.  I contend that the idea of a cultural informatics is ripe for exploration as a way of launching a transdisciplinarily orientation into the fields of media studies and digital humanities.

    Elsewhere I have defined cultural informatics as:

    Cultural Informatics is the application and understandings of information technology in the broadest senses of cultures and cultural institutions.(2007)

    which I expanded with:

    To that end, it deals with understandings of culturally centered information, cultural heritage, cultural communities, the transmission of information through cultures and relations between culture and information technology. While there are productive, design and creative elements to cultural informatics, that design has to be understood as constructed within a rich cultural milieu, and situated as such as part of a process to generate understanding within and across cultures. Cultural informatics must continually be reflexive and critical of the systems we create and participate in order to generate new possibilities that will work across cultural domains. It is not enough to build the tool, we build the tool in a culture, and we build cultural and political assumptions into that tool which have clear implications for the positioning of cultures, peoples, and technologies.(2007)

    As we can see, cultural informatics builds tools and systems, but unstated above is that all those things that it begets, including its own conceptualiztion, also build or contribute to cultures. Thus in my definition and its expansion, it is heavily invested in the reflexive understanding of the informatics in culture.  This is very much like the perspectives found in many modes of media studies, which relies heavily on understanding the plurality of contexts surrounding the media that it studies.  But new/old media studies is not really digital humanities nor is it really cultural informatics because it deals with things that are not digital, nor necessarily informatically oriented.  Media studies is more expansive than either.  Similarly digital humanities, with its narrow focus on the digital and current tendencies toward the construction of digital media to serve the humanities, does not really encompass the direction of media studies, nor cultural informatics.  Cultural informatics, as I have argued does encompass elements of both fields, but again extends beyond them as my definition indicates.  

    The challenge of all of these fields and academic disciplines is not terminological or mereological though, the real challenge is the slow vacillations between the imaginations of academic inter/disciplines and fields as facile institutional constructs and the imagination of them as longstanding traditional disciplines.  This challenge, I argue should not seek resolution through the construction of a new identity that encompasses all but instead should be including more constructs that span the identities, such as cultural informatics, which through their inclusion will allow a re-imagination of the fields towards transdisciplinarity and a transdisciplinary politics of knowledge.


    Image on front page by quapan and available on Flickr. 

  • The “Make or Break” Mentality of DH: An Outsider’s Perspective

    Pamela Ingleton's picture
    by Pamela Ingleton — McMaster University 1 Comment view

    A few years ago, while attending one of three symposia centred on discussions of the “digital and the human(ities)”[1] among a self-identified “digital humanist” crowd, I learned that the chasm between my own work (on the discourses of social media from a cultural/new media studies perspective) and the so-called “digital humanities” is apparently considerable.[2] At this particular conference, the order of the day very quickly became what Neil Fraistat referred to—quoting Steve Ramsay—as the “making imperative”[3] of digital humanities’ scholarship (Fraistat). What separates “new media” studies from the “digital humanities”? According to Fraistat, Ramsay and the majority of the attendees at TILTS, at stake in the “digital humanities” is this question of “making:” producing, building, coding, programming, engineering—in other words, practical interaction with technology as opposed to theoretical analysis of it. Especially oppositional, according to Diane Davis, are those “young” scholars “prioritizing social media,” whose theoretical analyses apparently come off as “a wee bit snot-nosed” (Davis). If the disciplinary anxieties of DHers are not yet evident, consider the rallying cry of Laura Mandell’s keynote on “Forms of Attention:” “[D]ata crunchers are not passive” (Mandell). It seems that within this failed meeting of new media and digital humanities one finds both a renewal and new iteration of a tension similar in kind to that oft-noted between the sciences and the humanities, with digital humanists legitimizing their work, in part, by way of claims to the science of building, making, doing. The possibilities of DH “making” are indeed exciting, but my question is: does theory not involve “making,” too?

    Works Cited

    Davis, Diane. “What is Digital Humanities?” TILTS Symposium: The Digital and the Human(ities). University of Texas, Austin. 4 Feb. 2011. Address.

    Fraistat, Neil. “What is Digital Humanities?” TILTS Symposium: The Digital and the Human(ities). University of Texas, Austin. 4 Feb. 2011. Address.

    Mandell, Laura. “Forms of Attention (II): Distant Reading & Discipline.” TILTS Symposium: The Digital and the Human(ities). University of Texas, Austin. 3 Feb. 2011. Keynote.

    Mcgann, Jerome. Radiant Textuality: Literature after the World Wide Web. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2001. Print.

    [1] The Digital and Human(ities) symposia were hosted by the Texas Institute for Literary and Textual Studies (TILTS) at the University of Texas at Austin. I attended the first symposium in February on “access, authority and identity” with, among others, Laura Mandell, Neil Fraistat, Lisa Gitelman, Kenneth Price and Siva Vaidhyanathan. The latter two symposia included keynotes from Alan Liu and Johanna Drucker, as well as papers from N. Katherine Hayles, Nick Montfort, Matthew Kirschenbaum and others.

    [2] We find further evidence of this ongoing discussion in one of the CFPs for the 2012 MLA conference in Seattle. Victoria E. Szabo’s proposed panel, “Digital Humanities v. New Media,” queries,How do ‘digital humanities’ and ‘new media’ relate? Do they complement or compete as academic memes and methods? Does one take text and the other the rest?”

    [3] Jerome Mcgann echoes this sentiment in his representation of the “The Ivanhoe Game”—essentially consisting of email correspondence between him and fellow digital humanist, Johanna Drucker—as new-media theory: “The next generation of literary and aesthetic theorists who will most matter are people who will be at least as involved with making things as with writing text” (Mcgann 19).

  • Let Your DH Flag Fly

    David Roh's picture
    by David Roh — Old Dominion University 1 Comment view


    The query calls attention to divisions that are more the consequence of formalized categorizations rather than any inherently "natural" ontological differences between the Digital Humanities and Media Studies.  On one hand, I'm hesitant to make sweeping declarations enumerating stark disparities and/or intersections, as if they were immutable disciplines; on the other hand, I think the question is worth exploring as it may unmask some epistemological problem areas.

    A caveat: I restrict my discussion mainly to the idea of a division between Media Studies and Digital Humanities in terms of project-oriented productivity.  There has been keystrokes aplenty on both sides on the subject of new media theory, of which there is considerable permeability.

    Media studies—discerned from a grossly unscientific and irresponsibly broad survey of various departments with the name—seems to concentrate on "newer" cultural forms, which includes film, television, radio, and more recently, gaming.  Whether fair or not, the prevailing perception is that  while the content of media studies includes "serious" as well as popular culture, it has less invested in the defining (and refining) of high culture, as say, a literature department.

    The question is, why isn't the Digital Humanities naturally drawn to, and enfolded within, media studies departments?  Why does it seem that DH (as the cool kids are calling it these days) largely emerged from English studies or humanities programs?  Is DH somehow more invested in "serious" culture?  To echo George Landow, is [DH] print's "revenge" on TV?

    It's a deceptive question—and a false premise.  As with most things, the answer is largely circumstantial, mundane, and pragmatic.  Early computer processing power and storage was painfully finite, and when computing began to colonize our desktops, much of it was text-based.  In the late 1980s and 1990s, many personal computers simply did not have the power to remediate any cultural form other than the literary or text-based in a meaningful way.  Thus, it would take some time before Moore's law would take effect for more bandwidth-hungry cultural forms (such as TV/film/radio/gaming—i.e., media studies) to undergo the logic of computing.  So it makes some sense for electronic platforms to take early hold in English studies.

    As DH lurches forward, between fits and starts, towards some kind of definition, we are obligated to recognize this history, as it seems to mirror many early and current DH projects.  Practically speaking, it's much easier and less resource-intensive (as well as quicker) to program a computer to process a few gigabytes of word strings than it is to process terabytes upon terabytes of video or audio.  However, as processing power increases, storage expands, and costs shrink, media studies will find algorithm-based queries or renders much more accessible.

    In many respects, this is already happening.  Digital Humanities is no longer solely the purview of literary studies (were that ever the case); instead, scholars from across the spectrum—geography, computer science, information studies, history, as well as media studies— are letting their DH flags fly.

    Image on front page by hellojenuine and available on Flickr.

  • Mind Expanders and Multimodal Students

    Amanda Ann Klein's picture
    by Amanda Ann Klein — East Carolina University 2 Comments view

    Despite recurring concerns that smart phones and internet search engines like Google are limiting our capacity to think, Ray Kurzweil, author of How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed, argues that such technologies allow us to “outsource” some of the brain’s work to machines. Just as humans once discovered that a stick could be used to reach something beyond the grasp of the hand, Kurzweil claims that computers function as “mind expanders,” increasing our capacity to think. Similarly, I have come to view social media not simply as a shiny new toy I can dangle in front of my media studies students, but as mind expanders — the “stick” that enables them to reach connections and conclusions that were previously unavailable. 

    I require my students to respond to one discussion prompt on their class blog each week, addressing some aspect of the films we are watching. Though my students fret over the prospect of writing even very short papers, they rarely complain about blogging. Their posts are highly focused, detail-oriented, and, very often, almost as long as (and more eloquent than) the short papers I assign. My guess is that the expansion of blog culture and social media has altered the way people, particularly Millennials, view the labor of writing. If you want your point to be understood online, you must be able to write clearly, and with a specific argument in mind, or else your ideas will be lost (or misrepresented). Writing a blog post is not tedious — it’s the primary method of communication on the internet. The class blogs have also had a noticeable impact on the quality and thoughtfulness of our film discussions. Even my quietest students will speak when I ask them a direct question about ideas they have already presented publicly on the blog. Students also frequently reference what they wrote as they talk in class, which serves as a critical baseline from which they can move forward on to more complex ideas.

    This semester I also experimented with Twitter in the classroom. Using a course hashtag, students were required to compose 3 tweets per week based on their assigned readings. My goal was to encourage students to read (and read on time) by making them publicly accountable for course labor that usually remains undocumented. Overall, I noticed an increased engagement in class conversations about reading assignments this semester and, when I surveyed them anonymously, all 30 students said that composing tweets about what they read made them read more carefully and with greater understanding at least some of the time. Their anonymous reflections on the class blogs yielded a similar result — on the whole, blogging facilitated a better understanding of the week’s film and made them more likely to participate in class discussions. Thus, what I like about these digital tools is that they don’t replace our face-to-face meetings, they enhance and invigorate them.

    Tara McPherson argues that the digital humanities is producing a new breed of humanist: the multimodal scholar. Multimodal scholars believe that “hands-on engagement with digital forms reorients the scholarly imagination” and “understand their arguments and their objects of study differently, even better, when they approach them through multiple modalities and emergent and interconnected forms of literacy” (120). Thus for me the intersection of digital humanities and media studies lies in the creation of, to borrow McPherson’s term, “multimodal students,” who use digital learning tools like class blogs and Twitter feeds to better study the media that surrounds them.

    Works Cited

    McPherson, Tara. "Introduction: Media Studies and the Digital Humanities." Cinema Journal 48.2 (2009): 119-123.

  • It's in the Making

    Virginia Kuhn's picture
    by Virginia Kuhn — University of Southern California 2 Comments view

    At the 2011 Computers and Writing conference, I participated in a plenary session themed around the question, Are You a Digital Humanist? Even though I have not taught a writing course in years, and my faculty appointment is in Cinematic Arts, I’ve stayed connected to the C+W community, which includes a vibrant discussion forum, “techrhet” (technical rhetoricians), and the peer-reviewed journal, Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy. And viewing the term digital humanities from the C+W perspective proved illuminating.

    It reminded me that one of the divergences between media studies and the digital humanities may have less to do with the “digital” and more with the “humanities” side of that term, especially in departments of English. In tracing the emergence of the freshman English class (aka first year composition), Sharon Crowley finds rampant evidence of the “humanist contempt for mass media and popular culture” running through the professional literature.  For instance, in 1950, one scholar laments the “visual minded illiteracy of a generation of television watchers,” just as in 1890, Adams Sherman Hill worried that novels and newspapers would ruin people’s language use as well as their morals (105). 

    The humanistic tendency to view literature as the height of human expression has traditionally been at odds with the study of mass media, and this privileging of literature, in turn, has implications for the type of critical response considered appropriate. Poets and dramatists are artists and their tool is creativity; the academic essay is about literature but, using the tool of criticism, it takes the form of prose. Given these roots, it’s not surprising that many digital humanities projects build tools to help study literature. And, insofar as many film studies programs grew out of literature departments, the privileging of cinema is similar: that is, cinema is the art we write about using academic prose. The creative and the critical are separate entities and the form of the critical does not shift much, nor is it questioned.

    The field of rhetoric and composition takes as its subject the shifting nature of communication and expression, and what that means for academic argument as well as for teaching the academic essay.  Indeed, the Computers and Writing conference has been problematizing the digital for almost thirty years, and so its members express skepticism about something that might seem like a trendy term: digital humanities.

    Personally, I identify more as a digital rhetorician than a digital humanist, mainly because of the rhetorical focus on both the production and the consumption of texts; I encourage the use of all of the available semiotic registers which no longer includes only words, but also images, sound and interactivity. I make remix videos, I publish pieces that could not have been done on paper, and my research centers on tools for indexing massive video archives.  Still, I use terms like digital humanist strategically and contingently, and in this respect, I follow the sentiments of the crowd-sourced Digital Humanities Manifesto 2.0, which argues that the term is not perfect, but it is a placeholder for what comes next. Given that current academic disciplines coalesced during the ascendency of print literacy, they need rethinking and likely will shift.  Our active participation in that process will no doubt begin with conversations like this.


    Crowley, Sharon. Composition in the University: Historical and Polemical Essays. 1998, U of Pittsburgh P.

    Digital Humanities Manifesto: http://hastac.org/node/2182

    “Are You a Digital Humanist?,” Town Hall session, Computers and Writing, 2011.  Katherine Hayles, Jentery Sayers, Julie Klein, Alex Reid, Cheryl Ball, Doug Eyman

    Image on front page by sbpoet and available on Flickr.

  • Help Wanted: A (Tenure-Track) Cyborg Manifesto

    Suzanne Scott's picture
    by Suzanne Scott — Center for Digital Learning + Research, Occidental College 11 Comments view

    My approach to this question is both pragmatic and personal, but hopefully it speaks to the lived realities of the sort of Boolean “AND” integration that Jason Rhody points to in his response.  The (slightly modified) question I’m currently grappling with is “What are the differentiations and intersections between a job in media studies and the digital humanities?”  It’s vital to consider how these fields are diverging and converging, but we also need to begin furthering the conversation about how to institutionally value and support an evolving vision of media studies informed and inflected by the digital humanities.

    After receiving my Ph.D. in Critical Studies from USC in 2011, I took a position as a Mellon Digital Scholarship Postdoc in the Center for Digital Learning + Research at Occidental College.  This fall, I’ll be joining the Film and Media Studies faculty at ASU as a tenure-track Assistant Professor.  These positions, while similarly focused on the cultural impact of digital technologies, are vastly different in scale and substance.  My commitment to multimedia argumentation and technopedagogy will need to be adapted, not abandoned, as I move from a SLAC environment to the largest public University in the country.  I’m equally unwilling to abandon the digital humanities affordances (the embrace of open, born-digital, and transformative scholarship; the emphasis on collaboration across disciplines and institutions; the ethos of “productive failure”) I’ve only begun to explore.

    Erin Copple Smith has offered some concrete strategies towards “Making Online Labor ‘Count’ for the Tenure Case”.  The questions that inevitably populate media studies conference roundtables on the digital humanities about how to document, frame, balance, and value emergent or invisible forms of labor are daunting and aren’t going away.  Those who are committed to a cyborgian future for media studies need to be asking a different set of questions, ideally during phone interviews and campus visits.  Does your tenure and promotion committee have a system in place for evaluating digital projects or multimodal scholarship?  Would you be willing to negotiate terms in my contract to make space for innovative scholarship?  And those on the other side of the table need to be ready to answer.

    Many of us are ready to do the risky thing and there are a growing number of allies in media studies ready to have our back.  But it’s not enough.  In the DH tradition, we need to share tools and ideas that will help wed the social reality of the tenure-track model to the s/f potentials of media studies as a discipline, even as we continue to search for a common language and move beyond dualisms.

    Image on front page by The Year of Mud and available on Flickr. 

  • The Boolean Logic of the Digital Humanities

    Jason Rhody's picture
    by Jason Rhody — National Endowment for the Humanities 4 Comments view

    Step back in time with me, if you will, just twelve years.  In April of 2001, the Society for Cinema and Media Studies (SCMS) was simply known as the Society for Cinema Studies; the organization did not formally adopt "and Media" into its name until 2002, a simple Boolean operation that formally institutionalized more than a decade of active interdisciplinary growth within that organization.   In that same April of 2001, as we're told in a few versions of the origin story, John Unsworth, Susan Schreibman, and Ray Siemens were just beginning conversations with the acquiring editor for Blackwell Publishing for what would later be entitled the Companion to Digital Humanities, chosen only after discarding — through a different Boolean operation — the alternatives: NOT humanities computing; NOT digitized humanities.  

    Humanities computing was the prevalent term in 2001, and it too had its own sort of logic at work, an elaborate Venn diagram of digital libraries and archives, linguistics, and other computational methods.  At the University of Maryland, where I was a PhD student in the English department at the time, the two phrases at play were "humanities computing" and "digital (media) studies," with the former most often referring to the creation of archives and tools, and the latter to the study of electronic literature, videogames, and the changing face of cinema.  Our colleagues over in American studies were engaged in "Constructing Cyberculture(s)." This was the title of their local 2001 conference, which I remember David Silver opening with remarks about the shape of this growing field where scholars were grappling with performance theory and Internet protocols, videogames and critical race theory.  We all swapped articles and debated terms.

    At that time, we were just barely into our second year of an NEH challenge grant to form the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH) under the leadership of Martha Nell Smith.  MITH wasn't a DH center (that phrase wasn't popularized yet, although we had plenty of good nearby examples at places like UVA, Brown, George Mason, and elsewhere), but rather a "new technology center in the university library." Scholar-fellows came from all over the College of Arts and Humanities: women's studies, American studies, ethnomusicology and comparative literature. They weren't "digital humanists" (no such thing existed either, really).  They were media scholars and literary historians.  Feminists and formalists. Filmmakers and textual editors.   Like most, I suspect, they were looking for ways to engage technology to enhance their scholarship and teaching, sifting through possible methods and technologies,  all while theorizing the shifting landscape of cultural (and academic) production.  

    It's within the context of these dozen or so years that I'd like to foreground the intersections of digital humanities and media studies.  Boolean logic is a relatively straight-forward series of choices (AND, OR, NOT) that can generate complex results; it's also a method that can control fields and establish taxonomies.   A lot of recent conversation about the digital humanities has focused on how it should be defined, how it is institutionalized, and what it excludes.   To be sure, definitions can be useful, but all too often they are seen as acts of foreclosure or negation, a movement to capture a certain present, often for strategic impact, and often obscuring messy histories and generative futures.

    Instead of focusing only on defining DH, as though we can come to a single result from a complex Boolean query, I'd like to suggest that we also consider the practice of DH as a recurring process of refining. Boolean logic presumes winnowing and filtering, but as any scholar who has spent a few hours in the library knows, it also presumes iteration. The value in Boolean logic is that it allows us to start with some basic principles and come to very different results of equal value.  How else to explain that digital humanities can describe the use of lasers and helicopters to investigate Maya civilization, on the one hand, and the study of game software as cultural artifact, on the other?  The messy histories remind us that DH is a term in its relative infancy deployed — yes, strategically, tactically, rhetorically — to encompass a broader set of traditions that themselves have complex backstories threaded through a host of disciplinary backgrounds and, importantly, institutional types: not just universities, but galleries, libraries, archives, and museums (the GLAM quartet), small historic homes and historical societies.  

    When people ask me now how I define DH, I answer only: "broadly."  If I’ve learned anything in reviewing thousands of grant applications in the digital humanities, it’s that I could never sufficiently define the term to suit all disciplines and institutional profiles.  However, many of the overlapping interests of media scholars and digital humanities practitioners tend to be those same  institutional concerns that permeate our contemporary academic culture: changes in scholarly communication practices; the positive and negative effects of IT infrastructure on teaching and research; the study of computational forms and objects and their influence; the possibilities enabled for new knowledge through joined collections and increased access to data; the creation of tools to search, collect, mine, and visualize; fostering collaborations across disciplines and institutions.

    Media scholars are particularly well-positioned to challenge assumptions we might make when it comes to the software and media that undergird much of this kind of DH work, which is one reason why ODH encourages grant submissions that focus on the history, criticism, and philosophy of digital culture and its impact on society.  It’s worth noting that this emphasis is not new to the agency.  In April 2000, NEH released a report (PDF) that not only committed “to ensuring that intellectual and cultural content in the humanities is available in digital form for our nation's citizens,“ but also emphasized that the agency has “an important role to play in supporting projects that will examine and interpret the historical and cultural impact of this technology.”  This report served as one of the early documents that shaped the eventual development of the Office of Digital Humanities several years later.

    Given the broad range of institutional types and disciplines, media scholars have been actively represented in the formation of digital humanities work as reflected in the Office of Digital Humanities' list of funded projects (which, I should note, is just but one of many measures of what constitutes DH).  In 2008, in one of our earliest set of awards, we funded a start-up called MediaCommons to explore innovations in "peer-to-peer" review.   Since then, ODH has funded platforms for film analysis; institutes for multimodal scholarship; software for cultural analytics that has been used to examine manga and computer games; investigations of how scholars can access born-digital materials in the archives; or processes for how to archive born-digital materials like computer games.  This is a partial list (you can explore the full list here), and it's only a fraction of the much longer history of digital humanities at NEH (most of which happened before ODH even existed, or "digital humanities" as a phrase was in vogue).

    I'm not sure how many of our grantees would self-identify (without some reservation) as primarily "digital humanists."  I suspect they would identify first with their home discipline, not so different from the scholar-fellows at MITH from a dozen years ago, who looked to add to their knowledge base and their methodological approaches.  In that respect, I like to think that DH, taken broadly, operates as a kind of Boolean composition — a process of invoking and refining combinations of disciplines, methods, subjects, and theories to investigate research questions of interest.  Few people actually just "do DH."  Rather, they topic model feminist texts, or analyze the social network of art dealers in 19th-century Europe, or visualize videogame speed runs, or use helicopters and lasers to do digital archaeology. Some code while others interpret code.  Some create archives, or digital scholarly editions. Some build tools and others theorize them.  Overall, however, you'll notice there are relatively few digital humanities efforts — even collaborative, interdisciplinary ones — that do not, in some way, carry forward the traditions, theories, and practices of home disciplines.  In short, the humanities AND…


    Image on front page by Leah Z and available on flickr.

  • Digital Humanities Tools Can Inform Media Studies

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    by Anne Dotter — University of Kansas 3 Comments view


    Practitioners of the Digital Humanities such as Dan Rosenberg, Arianne Dwyer or Giovanna Ceserani use digital research tools to make arguments in their respective disciplines.  While the object of study itself might be digital in a field such as media studies, tools provided by the digital humanities can be used to do research within the realm of media studies.

    A case in point is the digitization of recordings still only available on VHS tapes so as to make them searchable. Had 1980s French television shows been digitized when I consulted them at the TV archive in Paris a few years ago, I might have been able to locate the advertising, which in turn would have allowed me to elaborate my arguments.  The digitization was then in process; these arguments will have to be made. While I wanted to locate such advertising so as to have a better insight into marketer's understanding of specific shows' demographics, the digitized files and their encoding likely will lend themselves to unforeseen findings.

    Many more possible avenues for productive use of digital research techniques come to mind well beyond my narrow focus on - what Jonathan Gray called - paratexts. Further development of software and search engines would allow for the filtering of information in ways that would alter the research process as it currently is, and would in turn certainly affect the media studies scholarship thereby elicited.  While this argument might appear somewhat slippery, it rests on the assumption that how we analyze and look at texts is more dynamic than the object of one's study, the what of any methodological framework.  Following this logic, historians, linguists and classicists such as the three above cited scholars will be able to borrow from the digital humanities to develop scholarship in their own respective fields in the same way that media scholars can.


    Image on the front page by andyaldridge and available on flickr.

  • Digital humanities and the allure of the absurd

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    by Miriam Posner — UCLA 2 Comments view

    It is, of course, absurd to claim you can capture the richness of human experience in machine-readable data. Human lives are quicksilver, protean, bent and pulled in a thousand different directions. We think and feel, interpret and surmise, hold contradictory notions, revel in paradox. It’s ridiculous to think that a machine, which thinks in binary, can replicate these shades of gray.

    And yet. Media scholars know better than anyone that it is equally absurd to attempt to capture human experience in a photographic narrative. Because we understand the photographic image — its trickery, its inherent limitations, the world beyond its frame — we understand how essentially false is any work’s claim to represent “reality” in all its plenitude and contingency. To argue that a work of media is fully representative is to be unforgivably naïve; we know that every work is constructed, no matter how transparent it appears.

    But somehow we feel there’s something valiant in the attempt to capture human experience, even in these inadequate media. Writing on Rossellini’s Paisà, Andre Bazin observed that the film’s essential unit is not the shot but the “fact,” one slice of time and space, itself worthy of interpretation and filled with meaning. Paisà is rife with gaps and omissions, but so much the better: “The mind has to leap from one event to the other as one leaps from stone to stone in crossing the river.” The best films are beautiful not because they claim earnestly to represent reality, but because they acknowledge this feat’s impossibility but keep trying anyway, honoring their viewers by trusting them to make their way from stone to stone.1

    There’s a potential for a digital humanities that holds toward data the same vexed, impossible loyalty with which media scholars honor the photographic image. In this version of digital humanities, scholars would view data neither as fully adequate to reality nor as necessarily mendacious, but as one moment, a slice of time and space. The best work would not be the most comprehensive — just as the best films are not the most verismilitudinous — but that which exhibits the most sophistication, the most humanity, in making the leap from fact to narrative.

    I don’t think digital humanities is there yet, but I think this is an opportunity for media scholars. This is why I think the best possibilities for the intersection of digital humanities and media studies lie not so much in counting frames or automating facial recognition (though this is interesting in its way) as by bringing to digital humanities the peculiar agony of the media scholar: the belief, simultaneously, that all stories are lies and that there’s truth in their telling.

    1 André Bazin, “An Aesthetic of Reality: Cinematic Realism and the Italian School of Liberation,” in What Is Cinema? Volume 2, André Bazin (Berkeley/Los Angeles: University of California Press, 16-40), 35 and 37.

    Image on front page by italianjerry and available on flickr.

  • Digital Humanities and the Study of Intermediality in Comparative Cultural Studies

    Steven Totosy de Zepetnek's picture
    by Steven Totosy de ... — Purdue University and Purdue University Press view


    Digital humanities and the study of intermediality in comparative cultural studies is about how intermediality influences the negotiation of culture(s)—in theory and application—and how, cultural practices shape the use of (new) media and their social significance. The notion of intermediality—a concept of old, but with renewed perspectives and practices in digital humanities—raises a number of issues including social and cultural practices, pedagogy, aspects of globalization, the cultural industries, the publishing of scholarship online, etc. A paradox is that neither social theories concerning modernity, modern publicity or the media, nor humanities theories regarding different cultural forms, types of texts, or genres have paid enough attention to the fact that "the past and present of contemporary culture and media are indeed part and parcel of multimodal and intermedial culture and media" (Lehtonen, Mikko. "On No Man's Land: Theses on Intermediality." Nordicom Review 22.1 [2001]: 71). The processing, production, and marketing of cultural products such as music, film, radio, television programs, books, journals, and newspapers determine that today almost all aspects of production and distribution are digitized. Culture today is multimodal as it makes use of technology, as well as symbolic forms (Lehtonen, Mikko. "On No Man's Land: Theses on Intermediality." Nordicom Review 22.1 [2001]: 75). Hence the relevance of the study of intermediality and digitality in various humanities and social sciences disciplines and fields. Similar to intermediality studies, digital humanities is (an emerging) field of study both with regard to the construction of theoretical frameworks and their application in the study of culture and the application of new media technology including pedagogy, the publication of scholarship, etc. At a time when many disciplines and fields in the humanities and social sciences are defined as processes of multi-, inter-, and trans-medial construction, interaction, and practice, the development and study of their encounters take on a primary relevance to scholarship and this perspective is a primary point of departure.

    Intermediality is a phenomenon for the creation of new forms of artistic and critical innovation, among others to find ways for their distribution (i.e., open access to scholarship published on the world wide web), new scholarship about intermedial and interdisciplinary perspectives of old and new products of culture, the link(s) of cultural communities in cyberspace, and to be applied as a vehicle for innovative educational practices. Discursive practices including visualities form a complex (inter)medial network of signifying practices which construct realities rather than simple representations of them. Socially constructed meaning or what we call and practice as "culture" take place through processes of the negotiation of stories, images, and meanings; that is, through constructed and contextual agreements, power relations, and their authorization and legitimation of social positions and loci. Therefore, the ways (inter)medial discursive practices are produced, processed, and transmitted are relevant for research and practice and this occurs, increasingly, in digital humanities. (see Digital Humanities and the Study of Intermediality in Comparative Cultural Studies. Ed. Steven Tötösy de Zepetnek. West Lafayette: Purdue Scholarly Publishing Services, 2013. http://www.thepress.purdue.edu/titles/format/9781626710023 & New Perspectives on Material Culture and Intermedial Practice. Ed. Steven Tötösy de Zepetnek, Asunción López-Varela Azcárate, Haun Saussy, and Jan Mieszkowski. Thematic Issue CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture 13.3 (2011): http://docs.lib.purdue.edu/clcweb/vol13/iss3/).

    Image on front page by Gary Hayes and available on Flickr.

  • Am I a Digital Humanist (Yet)?

    by Jason Mittell — Middlebury College 1 Comment view

    I’ve been asking myself this question quite frequently lately. My scholarly and pedagogical work is firmly anchored in media studies, centered on television but expanding tendrils into film, radio, videogames, wikis, blogs, and other digital media. But I find myself drawn to digital humanities as a new site of exploration and growth. The Manifesto for the Digital Humanities called DH “a community of practice,” but I must admit that thus far I have been drawn more to the community than the practices—as I’ve come to know self-identified DHers (and see some longtime colleagues start wearing that label more frequently), I’ve been impressed by their openness to new ideas (and people), their sense of playful experimentation, their belief in sharing and openness, and their commitment to making things happen. As I’ve found myself in dialogue members of the DH community, I’ve found myself wondering what practices I might bring to the community from my background as a media scholar.

    Miriam Posner and I organized a workshop focused on this very question at the Society for Cinema and Media Studies, and as is typical of most academic collective endeavors, we came away less with firm answers than invigorating conversations (which you can watch in the archived livestream). My own sense is that to feel ownership of the DH label, I need to do more than embracing online, open access publishing, which I have done for years via my blog and work here with MediaCommons. It’s also not enough to study digital media (which I often do) or critique DH projects for not considering how digital forms of scholarly practice “mediate” our knowledge (which I’ve occasionally been tempted to do). Instead, I feel like I need to find a project where scholarly insights emerge through digital practice, while framed by my contextual, interdisciplinary lens of media studies. This might be by applying computational methods to understanding media, or by using digital modes of expression that truly transform knowledge (like some video essays). But this changes my typical model of scholarly inquiry—I normally find a compelling research question and then devise the appropriate method to answer it, but now my question is “how might DH tools answer questions I don’t even know to ask?” This has led to some preliminary investigations like creating a database of television scene lengths to compare narrative structures, or “caption mining” from DVDs to explore textual features of dialogue, but these projects are still in the “hmmm… maybe?” stage. Yet through the open community of DHers and media scholars assembled here at MediaCommons and elsewhere, I can share such ideas and hope they may lead to unforeseen insights and intersections—and someday feel more comfortable wearing the moniker of practicing Digital Humanist.

    Image on front page by svanstraten and available on Flickr

  • Intro: What are the intersections of media studies and digital humanities?

    Jamie Henthorn's picture
    by Jamie Henthorn — Old Dominion University view

    MediaCommons’ new survey emerges from the evolution of digital humanities as a discipline within the academy. While digital humanists seem to be coming from many disciplines, media scholars are beginning to take a stake in DH as well. For instance, the 2013 conference of the Society of Cinema and Media Studies and 2012 conference of Flow Journal both included panels on the digital humanities though both conferences are firmly rooted in media studies. Digital humanities was being used and discussed on several other panels as well. MediaCommons itself sits between media studies and the digital humanities. While many of our projects focus on media studies content, the impetus of the site itself rests in how new media changes writing and publishing, as well as the attribution and aggregation of knowledge. The front page focuses on meta questions of digital humanities. So, the question remains, how do digital humanities and media studies intersect? How are they different? How does the well know fact thatthedigitalhumanitiesishardtodefineplay a role in the method used by media studies?

    This month we have invited digital humanists and media scholars to weigh in on the intersections of these two disciplines, how they use them, and how these intersections expand and/or complicate these two fields of study. We hope that you will join in this conversation as we look at how these two disciplines have to contribute to one another.


    Week 1

    April 15: Jason Mittell, Middlebury College

    April 16: Stephen Totosy de Zeptnek, Purdue University

    April 17: Miriam Posner, University of California-Los Angeles

    April 18: Anne Cecilia Dotter, The University of Kansans

    April 19: Jason Rhody: Nationaly Endowment for the Humanities


    Week 2

    April 22: Suzanne Scott, Occidental College

    April 23: Virginia Kuhn, University of Southern California

    April 24: Melanie Kohnen, New York University

    April 25: Daniel Chamberlain, Occidental College

    April 26: William Moner, University of Texas-Austin


    Week 3

    April 29: Pamela Ingleton, McMaster University

    April 30: Amanda Ann Klein, East Carolina University

    May 1: David Roh, Old Dominion University

    May 2: Jamie Henthorn, Old Dominion University

    May 3: Jeremy Hunsinger,  Wilfrid Laurier University/Virginia Tech


    Week 4

    May 6: Avi Santo, Old Dominion University

    May 7: Aaron Kashton, Georgia Tech

    May 8: Eric Faden, Bucknell University

    May 9: Mark Martinez, University of Minnesota

    May 10: Kevin Moberly, Old Dominion University


    Image on front page by katiedaviespics and available on Flickr