[Humanist] 29.221 unforeseen contexts

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Tue Aug 18 07:24:58 CEST 2015

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 29, No. 221.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Mon, 17 Aug 2015 16:57:46 -0400
        From: Janet Abbate <abbate at vt.edu>
        Subject: [SIGCIS-Members] Is Unix racist?

[The following query began somewhat of a flame-war where it was posted, in the e-mail list of SIGCIS (Special Interest Group: Computers, Information and Society, www.sigcis.org). Whatever the value of the article that sparked it may be, the more violent reaction so far to it gives us an example of what can happen when something meant for one disciplinary context finds its way into another. It raises the question of how to anticipate inadvertent interdisciplinarity. Those interested in following the reactions will find them at http://lists.sigcis.org/pipermail/members-sigcis.org/. --WM]

Anyone seen this piece by Tara Mcpherson? It starts with some interesting questions, but I found the follow-through to be disappointingly ahistorical. Again and again she argues that there must be a connection between the modularity of Unix and the compartmentalization of race within American culture, but then immediately admits that she has no evidence for any direct connection. As far as I can tell, the only reason she singles out Unix is because it coincides conveniently with the US Civil Rights era. I'm curious to know what others think. 

"Why Are the Digital Humanities So White? or Thinking the Histories of Race and Computation." 


Dr. Janet Abbate
Associate Professor, Science & Technology in Society
Co-director, National Capital Region STS program
Virginia Tech


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