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

Bettivia, Rhiannon Stephanie rbettivi at illinois.edu
Thu Mar 19 14:52:28 AEDT 2015

Thank you to Julia for these extensive responses and indeed for everyone¹s
interest in this line of inquiry.  I would like to start a second round of
questions and frame some of the emerging discussion happening this week
within the context some interesting items came to the fore last week.

Shifting the conversation ever so slightly, I would like to touch more on
the idea of Œthe digital¹ as well as the concept of Œnewness¹, especially
as the latter was articulated and discussed by Ned and Chad last week.  In
your first response to my questions, Julia, you talked about some of the
interesting labor opportunities that arise in conjunction with the public
discourse around DH and you noted that some of these are not even really
related to what makes the digital humanities digital.  Rereading all the
posts since, I am still really interested by this idea because so many of
the examples of DH projects that have come up in this conversation are not
explicitly digital; at least, I don¹t read the most interesting
intellectual work and the provocations to think about critical issues in
the realm of digital systems as the most compelling part of said projects.
As simple example: the politics of metadata call up long standing power
relations that have played out over the past century in the relationship
between library/information/archival science practitioners and researchers
who interact with materials in these spaces.  It is just that a few years
ago, we might have said those discussions were about catalogs, or perhaps
categories in the sense of Bowker and Star¹s work, rather than metadata.
Before library science was a science, we would have called it something
else, but in many ways the discourses were the same.

It is so easy to see the ways in which the dilemmas that we face as
graduate students are not new (The crisis in higher education!!!!  Data
deluge!!!! Information dark age!!!! Feel free to insert your own
hyperbolic and mildly hysterical trope here...). Chad and Ned made some
very elegant and nuanced observations about this last week.  In much the
same way, I always find it easy to make the argument that this digital
moment is not new, especially as it relates to the digital, post-custodial
archive, such projects often stemming from DH but certainly also relevant
in other fields and outside identifiable academic disciplines.  Aside from
the possibilities of the popular acceptance of new types of intellectual
output, many of which have yet to be realized in a systemic way (at least,
to my mind as a professional preservationist), what is new about this
particular moment?  And what is the relationship of this newness to the
digital, if you see a relationship here at all?  What is the digital
doing, in DH or elsewhere in this discussion?

Rhiannon Bettivia
Doctoral Candidate
Graduate School of Library and Information Science
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

On 3/18/15, 9:33 PM, "Hamilton, Kevin" <kham at illinois.edu> wrote:

>----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>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
>empyre forum
>empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au

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