Recent Comments

November 16, 2017 - 10:24

Thank you for your post.   It made me think about the growing ecosystem of archives that are negotiating similar issues. Earlier archives such as  the Lesbian Herstory Archive and One Archive started with a focus on lesbian and gay history. Now the Digital Transgender Archive (DTA) has launched positioning itself as supporting a broader acquistion policy than these previous archives. They specifically note the need to use new vocabularies (such as trans) to describe archival materials so that the material are more easily discoverable.  What I find really interseting is th DTA's  focus on pre-2000 materials. Their project seems to be one of re-labeling and revealing a trans history pre-2000, which is important work. This move also seems to align well with your concerns that Lesbian history might be effectively rendered invisible through these kinds of processes.  What also caused me to pause was the prioritized periodization of the archive, which seemed counterintuitive to me. One would think they would focus on the plethora of born-digital post-2000 materials considering how important the early 21st century is to trans history. Like the women's bars and bookstores that are vanishing, the platforms where queer online communities formed to forge networks of support and resistance are vanishing rapidly (or often occur in for-profit platforms run by multi-national corporations). It makes me wonder how we, historians, will tell the history of these gender and sexuality revolutions now and in the future.  What about the memories that are erased when a digital platform/ community is deleted? How dependent will be we be on the memories of individuals produced through oral histoires? It seems we have more work to do. 

November 15, 2017 - 17:26

Viktor's remarks strike me as highly appropriate to the issue of "memory" (and therefore his perceptive recourse to Borges), or what constitutes memory in the age of Big Data. One of the issues with the Digital Humanities is that practices associated with this new super-discipline also coincide with practices at large in Cognitive Capitalism — and not all together pretty practices. Many of the unhandsome aspects of Big Data and Digital Culture are enhanced in the Digital Humanities, to the detriment of the Arts and Humanities. Data is not memory, even if data is increasingly seen as identity. I often have to revert to my own understanding of memory as a form of magical-realism to keep in perspective what constitutes literary, artistic, or humanistic research today. Whether Borges or Subcomandante Marcos, we can always find perceptive justifications for allowing elective lapses in memory to become productive of "revolutionary" change.

My own remarks in "Event, Fall — Harvest," as published here, have to do with the need to permit the agency of the artistic event to "play out," and to be archived and/or erased (withheld as mere commodity or artifact). This then suggests that we also have a huge responsibility for the formatting, dissemination, and archiving of works. Performance-based media, for example, is more or less an out-of-control phenomenon today. Yet what is NOT out of control, or what is generally missing, is a carefully crafted response to the explosion of platform cultures and the curation of works across works. There is no effective avant-garde today because Capital has nearly fully appropriated memory and identity. Total closure in this sense is not so far off. What needs to occur is an effective counter-movement to the conversion of everything to scaleable and marketable wares across digital platforms. Proponents of the Digital Humanities need to examine their own complicity in this impending disaster.

October 16, 2017 - 09:19

With the digital world infiltrating every aspect of the modern world, traditional religion and spirituality are not exempt. The incorporation of digital technologies into religious worship is already occurring on global and local levels. Even the Roman Catholic Church, an institution that some claim is stuck in the past, is embracing new technologies. Its popes have communicated to the faithful worldwide through the social media platform Twitter since 2012. In my own Catholic community, Saint Thomas More Chapel at Yale University, a smartphone application named “Cloud Hymnal,” digitally shares liturgical resources for church services. Religious institutions and communities are logging online simply because many of their believers already use digital media. The shepherds are pursuing the flocks. The digital also provides an opportunity for evangelization where religious leadership can spread the message among a wider, more diverse group of people. The Church of England supplies the best example of this, with Archbishop Justin Welby actively pursuing new members via Twitter. During this past Christmas season, the Church launched (and Archbishop Welby promoted) a digital campaign called #JoyToTheWorld. Online users were asked to find and attend one of the Church of England’s offline Christmas services. Local churches and their congregants were encouraged to post online photos and videos of their celebrations.

There is also the incorporation of spiritual practice in the virtual world. Christians are baptizing via the video conferencing app Skype. Buddhists are meditating through the 3D virtual world of Second Life. These new practices prompt the questions: Can and does God work through Wi-Fi? Are online religious practices as valid as offline religious practices? Will there come a time when online worship is not just a supplement to brick and mortar worship, but the norm?

These were some of the questions addressed in Professor Berger’s Digital Media, Religion, and Theology course at Yale Divinity School. This study of intersection of digital media and religion drove the class to approach and reexamine broader theological questions like what it means when we say that religion is a living process? How important is physical matter to religious ritual? Is there such thing as unmediated access to the divine if we are always in a physical body?

This nascent field of digital religion has personally left me with more questions than answers, but through these debates my own preference of traditional brick-and-mortar worship over cyber religious practices has been challenged.

September 14, 2017 - 23:52

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May 6, 2017 - 08:27

Thanks for this great post, Margaret. I really love this course and would love to see how you might teach a variation on the course at the undergraduate level. 

I have a longer question about the centrality of textual studies approaches to archives in DH — as opposed to media studies and cultural studies approaches. Textual studies approaches absolutely have their place in the digital humanities and it doesn't have to be a choice between the fields, but sometimes I worry that the centrality of textual studies pushes out other approaches to DH. To be sure, your post and your course don't unproblematically valorize textual studies, but their subject reminded me of a larger disciplinary question I've been pondering for a while.

Apart from how these conflicts parallel some of the debates about decolonizing the archive, I feel that the discourse surrounding technology in DH as a tool and not a medium creates many problems. For instance, tool discourse makes it easier to see technology as an "add on" to traditional literary studies rather than (as you say in the post) showing the history of the codex within a larger media history of technological change that includes social media, etc. So, technology isn't added on to the book, but the book is already technology. My sense is that the discourse of humanism also does this. Humanism posits an essence to what beings can be considered human, almost always essentializing white heteronormative bourgeoisie subjectivity, and this subjectivity gradually accepts others as "add ons" once they are deemed similar enough to this essence. 

Ava Meijer — drawing off of Kim Gallon's piece — has a really powerful way of articulating this tension: "the future of the archive is in acknowledging 'humanity' as not being a fixed category and the creation of tools representing that." What's interesting here, for me, is the way a posthuman argument might recast this issue. Humanity has traditionally been a category of exclusion, even if this exclusionary category has changed over time. The issue may not be inclusion, but deconstructing the human and showing how it is the product of many different technosocial assemblages that make specific experiences seem naturalized. Perhaps it is a question of merging textual studies with media and cultural studies to construct the archive as not a bourgeoisie artifact, but as something else?

March 28, 2017 - 11:01

Thank you for flipping the question to think about how art transforms dh!

As always, and which you of course know from our collaborations, I am interested in those embodied knowledges and muscle memories. If we were to be less concerned with policing the boundaries between "art" and "dh" we might be able to see that coding and other forms of digital praxis that usually get shorthanded as dh, including the creation of media, are as embedded in the bodily memories of some of us as, say, painting or doodling are for others. I am thinking here of yours and others' insistence elsewhere on ways of producing algorithms that are not digital (or rather, "digital" in the sense of having to do with our fingers). Artistic process is algorithmic, involving the cutting up and layering and recombination of bits and pieces of things; I would argue that this is as true of dance as it is for writing or collage or crochet, for example. We get hung up on what to call these processes and what they technically involve, as thoroughly disciplined in these fields and immersed in their vocabularies as we are. Having done such processes for so long that they become thoroughly integrated into our bodily knowledge, it is easy to forget that none of them are "natural"—they have just become naturalized to us, remaining black-boxed for others. I think it is this humanistic questioning of what is natural, and in turn what is "human," that I would like dh practitioners to borrow from the arts (and of course, what I find so compelling about your work!).    

February 27, 2017 - 19:33

I highly agree with Christian Christensen in his opinion about how important public engagement is, especially in this day and age. He also points out another good point which is that it is not for everyone or should it be for everyone (the first person that came to mind about who public engagement is not for is Donald Trump, especially on the Twitter front).  The cool thing about media and public engagement is that there is so many different kinds and so varied that some people might want to and is good at participating at one type but not the other, but either way they have a voice in some sort of public sphere. 

Christian Christensen also brought up a good point. I have never written an article on a website but I read them and I read the comments and I never thought of if the author reads the comments too, somehow I always thought they just ignore it. Anyways he brings up an interesting point that no one really contact the author directly which is a good thing because of well as he mentions, "That relative lack of harassment is also privilege that we cannot (and should not) forget."

February 23, 2017 - 21:34

Higher educational institutions and those that make up the academic community are charged with promoting an open, inclusive environment for critical thinking, reflection and conversation with all students. As humanists, academia should promote higher learning and understanding of other ideas and people, and uphold humanity above all else. As such, varying viewpoints and perspectives should be considered, except for those that promote inhumanity. By definition, activism consists of efforts to improve society through humanity, treating all people humanely with common decency and respect. Conflating extreme ideological alt right views with activism is incorrect, because extreme views such as Peterson’s do not embody humanity, and denigrate and objectify a segment of people. He has a right to his personal opinion, but the University of Toronto, by extension, is complicit by continuing to employ him. Just as many have boycotted companies that support inhumanity, so too should they boycott the University of Toronto. There should be no place in an academic setting for false “activist” rhetoric. All universities have an obligation to provide safe environs where all students can pursue higher learning without fear of being served up for someone’s egotistical agenda.

February 22, 2017 - 16:30

Right now our political climate is one that is inhabited by many who lack knowledge and resists anyone who tries to enlighten them. It is the duty of scholars to ensure that their work reaches the masses, and I wholeheartedly agree that we are in an urgent need for scholars to become a part of important conversations, especially in terms of politics. It is also important to focus on rising scholars as well and determine how to mold higher level academic programs in order to train graduates to be flexible in their roles (both in and out of the classroom). As a scholar, you should possess the skills to effectively converse with other scholars while teaching those who may be ignorant to the history/particulars of the subject. There should be more emphasis placed on research versus opinion and universities need to assess more innovative ways to recognize the work of scholars in hopes of inspiring rising scholars. America is in a sort of influential space right now because of high levels of uncertainty with our current government, and I believe this is a pivotal time for scholars to speak out in order to reach broad audiences. “Institutions may not recognize that work, but especially in the current political climate, when our research and writing has the potential to influence policy, public opinion, and more, there is much more at stake than simply tenure.”

February 21, 2017 - 17:03

These documentaries and such are an amazing way for this institution to achieve their goals of, " beginning to build connections between Rutgers students and community-based organizations in the region." I think it shines a new light to these communities because this post is very accurate on how they have been consistently underserved by local journalism. By doing this the students are really making a difference rather than just doing typical school work that may not get anywhere. With this project they learn a hands on method and approach to, "report on issues of poverty and inequality (often hidden from view), while building relationships with community based groups that are comprised of, or work in, disenfranchised communities." This is very important in a community rather than being hidden away without a voice. The questions that are asked of the participants for the documentary is also very intriguing and I just love this project because I love seeing how these people finally have a voice. The only thing is that I wish these documentary were more popular and widespread so that these voices are heard rather than just being voices. The six best practices could really work for  a lot of other areas because traits such as perspective, respect, accuracy, visibility, agency, and community are all very important in sharing, writing, or recording a story or anything else.