[-empyre-] Engineering the University : Week 03 : Bettivia and Flanders

Hamilton, Kevin kham at illinois.edu
Thu Mar 19 13:33:22 AEDT 2015

Hello all

I'm guessing that Rhiannon will likely jump in here again soon but as
Julia introduced so many great directions, and Murat and Ben added yet
more, I wanted to respond a bit in ways that I thought might connect some

One of the things I gained from Julia's framing so far is that DH offers
an opportunity - whether "intended" or not - to recognize as substantive
and intellectual some work that might have previously been seen as "merely
technical," not bearing meaning, opportunities for argument, history,
politics, etc. That's a huge transformation, with multiple dimensions that
Ben and Murat should take courage from, given the other concerns I see
implicit in their questions.

(Many folks coming from New Media Art or Art-Science backgrounds might
wonder how anyone could imagine something such as metadata as "merely
technical,"  but that's the technocratic world we live in.)

>From Julia's observations as I understand them, DH can afford - if even in
an opportunistic way, through new training opportunities, new job
descriptions, etc - a chance to treat as substantive work that has been
marginalized for all kinds of reasons, to the detriment of everyone

Julia wouldn't remember me I'm sure, but I had the pleasure of taking a
TEI workshop from her once, in my first (and last) introduction to the
complexities of standardized markup language for scholarly texts. I
remember hearing her and the other workshop leader talking about the
question of gender, for example, and what fields might exist in a
standardized markup language for indicating the gender of a character in a
narrative, etc. What a rich opening for newbies like me, to see where
matters of gender get literally encoded in machine-readable language, but
also debated through those looking to set standards, arbitrate them,
comment on them, etc. (Sorry for the broad brush Julia, but something
stuck in there for me, even if it wasn't what was really going on : )

I'm arguing here in a way for some closer listening to Julia's
articulations. It's easy to make DH into a straw man, and Julia has
already offered some carefully worded address of the possible stumbling
blocks and distractions within these arguments.


On 3/18/15 11:25 AM, "B. Bogart" <ben at ekran.org> wrote:

>----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>Thank you Julia. I'm not sure if you saw my question that followed up on
>Rhiannon's question? (Sent on Mar 17, 2015 11:42 am)
>After reading your responses I'm even more confused as to what DH
>actually is. You did mention some difficulty in defining it, but the
>extract from your email below baffles me. Based on this quote, it would
>seem DH is simply the application of IT skills (meta data, websites,
>etc.) in a humanities context. This is quite a bit more shallow than my
>previous conception of DH as science-about-humanities. I fail to see
>what, as a discipline, we gain if its simply the exploitation of an
>existing skill set that becomes increasingly dominant and even
>displacing traditional media. Is DH about making humanities knowledge
>more accessible, or about applying quantitative and analytic methods
>from data science to cultural artifacts? (or both? or neither?)
>What strikes me most is the notion of all the graduates of new media art
>and design programs could fit under the umbrella of DH (as far as I can
>glean from the quote below). I keep thinking of the notion of the
>"creative coder" who knows a lot of design and some coding, and is
>intended to prototype whole projects and act as a bridge between the
>design and coding specializations. There has been some backlash against
>this area because graduates have been seen as lacking the depth of
>coding skills to balance their design ability, and end up working
>largely as designers because coders are required to fill in the skill
>The reason for my interest in (and challenge of) DH is an apparent move
>to the quantification of everything and thus the domination of
>scientific methodologies over all others. Maybe this is an obvious
>extension of the movement for social science to be accepted by hard
>sciences in terms of rigorous methods?
>To get back to the topic of Engineering the University (which is
>interesting it itself being an apparent optimization or design problem
>to solve, rather than a dialogue to unfold), I wonder what students end
>up being DH professionals and what programs do they attend? Is DH IT +
>humanities training? Is it IT skills taught in the context of
>humanities? Is it better under the umbrella of computer science as a
>data science? Is DH a signal of the impending collapse of the science
>and art distinction, resulting in a unified quantitative methodological
>framework for science-about-culture and science-about-nature?
>Ben Bogart
>On 15-03-17 07:27 PM, Julia Flanders wrote:
>> A museum might feel a need, without any prompting, for a "web master"
>> or a "metadata specialist"--but once we have a pool of professionals
>> who understand how the well-formalized intellectual capital of
>> metadata can serve as the basis for a dynamic online presence that
>> engages the public in exploring the museum's collections, that's the
>> basis for an entirely different kind of professional niche.
>empyre forum
>empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au

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