May 9, 2013
Just published on the Postcolonial Digital Humanities (DHPoco) website: “‘And If Your Head Explodes With Dark Forebodings Too’: The Dark Side of the Digital (Conference Review).”
Mark Perry’s article in the Chronicle makes the conference sound too much like a set of grousing sessions on familiar tropes: surveillance, privacy, online education. It seemed to me very different from that: it struck me as the creation of a social space where scholars were free to talk, in as useful or “useless” a manner as we wished, about all the affordances and consequences of, possibilities for, and concerns we have about the
rapid, society-wide transformations wrought by digitization. It is just a fact that much academic discussion of these matters is confronted so often with a loud and powerful utopianism based in commercial interests–accusations of “Luddism” thrown at iPhone/iPad using scholars, as if that contradiction invalidates any critical thought, as opposed to proving that the thinkers can’t possibly be Luddites–that most spaces in which humanities scholars discuss these issues become quickly mired in battles around defenses of “the digital” as a whole, and whether or not “it’s as bad” as critical scholars suggest. The effect of this is to make it very hard to pursue, as humanists and social scientists are familiar with doing in almost every other context, all the ramifications of social and human phenomena. In this sense, the “uselessness” mentioned by Grusin dovetails with a wider sense of “critique” or “critical” than people typically grant it–the sense of “critique” that Kant uses in calling his main three philosophical works Critiques, and that he sees as critical to the Enlightenment project that had a great deal to do with the birth of representative democracies in the West. (This is also why Rita Raley’s and Ken Wark’s injunctions not to resist technoutopianism entirely were very important as the conference went on.) The resistance to such critique has to be of great concern to anyone familiar with that long history, and as a longstanding critic of the digital, I can say with certainty that the resistance is profound. Indeed, as I’m finishing this piece, a major scholar of the Digital Humanities has just called the proceedings of the conference “silliness,” based apparently on just reading the conference website and the Chronicle article. It is a mark of the need for projects like #DHPoco and #transformDH that such statements can be uttered by those in our own community; it is also a reason for optimism born of critique that conferences like this one, and efforts like DHPoco and #transformDH exist, and are garnering the amount of attention they deserve.
Read the full post here.
Oh, that title. I probably shouldn’t have, but I couldn’t resist.