Week 1: Question 4--Subaltern DH
  • I just wanted to repeat Adeline and Roopika's fourth question here, because I find it so provocative: "Liu identifies the potential for DH-ers to leverage institutional
    affiliations with access to networked public knowledge. What kinds of
    roles might we envision for DH-ers without institutional affiliations,
    DH-ers outside the R1 system, or DH-ers who are graduate students? What
    challenges do these relationships to institutions and to the academy
    present?"

    There are days when I think that DH is just unthinkable outside of a well-funded R1 school; and then days when I think we're better off working outside of the usual academic and funding mechanisms altogether, anyway.  I am in the process of wrapping up a proposal to NEH for a small planning grant to support an indigenous community digitization project, and I noticed something unnerving about all the previous grant-winners: they are all major non-Native institutions, usually museums and archives that "came by" or "collected" their Native archival materials unethically in the first place.  The language of R1s and major funders is, at best, a language of "mutually beneficial partnerships"; the real challenge would be to REDISTRIBUTE some of these resources to communities who need them most.

    It's before dinner, and I'm probably being elliptical.  But I would love to hear others' thoughts and experiences re: this question.

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  • I wish I could disagree with you, but my experiences are not too different from your own. I am currently a graduate student at an R1 school that does not offer courses in the DH. As a result, I receive long-distance education in the DH from another R1 institution while simultaneously working on a my "traditional" degree in literature. In other words, even at an R1 institution I have limited resources for pursuing a degree in the DH and what few opportunities I have are often tied up in bureaucratic decisions.

    My research is similarly troubling. Though I focus on little-known or previously unpublished texts written by marginalized American women, I typically encounter these texts in academic libraries and archives - locations that are not (always) interested in preserving texts, but in gaining prestige.

    The problem is that I don't know how to move beyond the "commodification" of the DH or the texts that we study. It would be an incredible act of humanism if libraries and archives would be willing to return the texts to the native peoples from which they were taken, but this doesn't seem to be a likely reality. So, is our role as digital humanists to "recover" texts from bureaucratic/imperial bodies? Could we be a bridge between academia and the marginalized/displaced/colonized? And, if so, how do we ensure that our work fairly and effectively pursues those aims?
  • "Liu identifies the potential for DH-ers to leverage institutional 
    affiliations with access to networked public knowledge. What kinds of 
    roles might we envision for DH-ers without institutional affiliations, 
    DH-ers outside the R1 system, or DH-ers who are graduate students? What 
    challenges do these relationships to institutions and to the academy 
    present?"

    I think back to much of the fabulous work done in oral history outside the academia back in the day to inspire hope, as well as caution.  There is some amazing work done in community and political organizations right now.  For example the Lesbian Herstory Archives (http://www.lesbianherstoryarchives.org/digital.html), still academic-free, has an amazing omeka site that provides Audre Lorde audio among other things.  It is an absolutely amazing resource, AMAZING.  I'm thinking also of the People of Color Zine project Daniela Capistrano (http://poczineproject.tumblr.com/),  the work done around immigration by Favianna Rodriguez, self described artist, agitator and techie http://www.favianna.com ....

    I think though too of how institutionalization and bureaucratization take over things and I'm reminded that those who have power must use it well.  We can decide from inside academia (anywhere inside is a place of privilege IMHO) to worry about our comparisons to other institutions of higher education, or we can turn and face the world to see how we can use the power, prestige and privilege we have to work with those who have even less.  
  • Yes, I have to agree with @professmoravec. I, too, teach at a SLAC with many first generation collegians. I often find myself mourning our relative impoverishment, which means that I cannot give my students access to the private digital archives that contain so many 18th and 19th century materials. We do not even have access to all the journals I'd like. This is relative impoverishment indeed; my students do not have access to some of the resources that I took for granted as an undergrad or graduate student. Of course, many of these resources didn't even exist then...

    HOWEVER, such digital impoverishment is relative indeed. We can nonetheless contribute to scholarship by rewriting Wikipedia, publishing student work online in ways that make it accessible and useful in their communities, and partnering with community activists and groups that desperately need our DH skills. 

    One project we've done is mapping services available for low-income food aid in our immediate area. Addresses aren't enough, there's so much more that a person might need to know: are providers friendly to undocumented people? to Spanish speakers? etc. Researching and implementing such projects can bring students enormous learning benefits while also actually putting poco convictions into practice in our own community.
  • I too like this question: "What kinds of roles might we envision for DH-ers without institutional affiliations, 
    DH-ers outside the R1 system, or DH-ers who are graduate students?"

    And I would add, community college faculty? With reduced state funding, reliance on adjunct faculty, and "data-driven" curricula changes, among other challenges, what role might interested cc faculty, such as myself, play? Or does DH belong only to the four-year universities?
  • As a relative newcomer to the digital humanities, I wanted to say that I’m excited for the opportunity to dialogue about these issues and to expand my intellectual community. 

    I’d like to offer (the now defunct) American hip-hop group Das Racist as an example of artist practitioners of (postcolonial) digital humanities. There’s an assortment of digital technologies and cultures in their work, but most relevant for the discussion here is the way the group has engaged digital media to contest proclamations about hip hop.

    Das Racist made an online intervention against a New Yorker writer’s pronouncements about the death of hip hop. In their lyrics, they have challenged dominant sites that offer definitive explanations of hip hop lyrics and language. For instance, in “The Middle of the Cake,” rapper Victor Vazquez calls out RapGenius.com as “white demon sophistry,” and the UrbanDictionary as a site “for demons with college degrees.” The language of “white demons” is partly tongue-in-cheek, but it’s a clearly a charge intended to provoke an awareness of racial privilege and the ability to speak authoritatively about a historically black art form. 

    After reading “Can the Subaltern Tweet?” I’m thinking of Vazquez’s charge as a more openly oppositional phrasing of Ernesto Priego’s questions about differential access to digital media, and to whom such resources as crowd-sourced websites are actually addressed. In crowd sourcing, who actually constitutes the crowd?

    Das Racist’s intervention may not constitute a different digital archive, like the Herstory and Caribbean examples noted on these forums. It does strike me as a contestation over the digital means of interpretation for a popular art form. It also seems to constitute an act of cultural criticism that Liu finds lacking in digital media scholarship.  Do others find that artists or commentators outside of academia routinely do carry out digital cultural criticism?  

  • @Olough: I do. And I love looking at how folks inside and outside study and talk about them together. Liza Potts has treated Amanda Palmer's work because of precisely this, and there was a huge Kickstarter argument about a study of women in video games that took place beyond the academy. I don't think those affiliations--academic, nonacademic--are that stark. Liza Potts, for example, is an academic, and Palmer is not--and! Palmer extended an invitation to Morrissey to use the Web to distribute his work. Meanwhile, the Kickstarter project--again, not institutionally affiliated, took the kind of cultural studies approach that we routinely teach in academic classrooms.

    I'm not at an R-1, but we have a solid DH cadre here at ODU and lots of folks who are interested in it but aren't primarily DH (like me). Funding is, of course, the biggest issue because of the need for tools and equipment and space and RAs. It's hard to do these things well on the cheap. Maybe we should use Kickstarter.

    I'm skeptical of the Promise of Web 2.0 with its democratization of the limitless potential of the internet and whatnot; but I do think that it has a lot to offer institutions like mine in the form of partnerships and and collaboration. My main worry is the one that emerged from the MOOC saga: we still live in an era in which institutional branding matters, and that translates directly into tools, equipment, and training.
  • I ended up in academia but have always preferred to work the streets (or gardens). Here's a project by @afeeld and @CraigDietrich that reminds me of @profrehn's food aid mapper:

    Tenants in Action
    Submit housing violations directly to city agencies using the app's conversational language, in English or Spanish.

    A less related, but equally inclusive, street project by @VanessaVobis and @CraigDietrich:

    LA Green Grounds
    Crowdsourced "dig-ins" that turn lawns into gardens.

    I'll follow up on @ssenier's question about digitizing native artifacts in a separate thread.

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