From CUNY Academic Commons


Here are a few entry points to ongoing – often heated – debates in the field. What topics would you add? What other readings would you recommend to someone new to DH?

The Digital Humanities and the Humanities

The annual MLA Convention seems to provoke intense discussion of the relationship between the Humanities and the Digital Humanities, often focused by coverage in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Articles are below, with responses. Be sure to read the comments too.

MLA 2009:
William Pannapacker announces the “arrival” of DH.

MLA 2011:
Pannapacker’s review finds DH triumphant, but dominated by an in-group/out-group mentality – DH has its “stars,” DH itself is the “cool kids’ table.”

MLA 2012:
The fireworks this time are brought by Stanley Fish, no less.

See also John Unsworth’s “The State of Digital Humanities, 2010,” June 2010, and Ian Bogost’s more recent take, “Beyond the Elbow-Patched Playground,” August 23-25, 2011.

Marking the Field (Turf Wars?)

There are tensions within the field too – see the above posts, and the many Definitions of DH. As Whittney Trettien puts it: “Who can claim to be a digital humanist? Do you have to have a PhD? How much coding do you have to know? Are humanities bloggers and twitterers participating in e-scholarship? At the root of it all: how do we (or do we not) want to delimit our community?”

A Culture of Making, and Its Implications

Many DHers subscribe to a project-based, build-something mentality that has been summarized as “more hack, less yack,” or “less talk, more grok” – see for instance, THATCamp, and One Week | One Tool. The emphasis is on teamwork and collaboration versus the “lone scholar” model. But it also raises a range of questions: do digital humanists need coding skills? How do all members of the team get the recognition they deserve (and need to prove their worth to their employers)? How can we promote openness in our making practices? Is making in tension with thinking?

To Code or Not to Code – A Canard?

Collaboration and Participation:

Thinking and Making:

Calls to Action

Melissa Terras’s address has been widely acclaimed; the Manifestos have received more uneven endorsement. Bethany Nowviskie summons us to reform graduate education, and Lisa Spiro issues a call for the DH community to create an open, distributed certificate program in the digital humanities. Alan Liu challenges DH to be more critically engaged with our culture, and to take a leadership role in advocating for the humanities. Jim Groom’s post – a vision of open education more generally – is straight from the heart and, for CUNYites, an anthem.


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