[Humanist] 24.428 digital humanities and the cuts

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Mon Oct 25 07:05:29 CEST 2010


                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 24, No. 428.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    "Postles, David A. (Dr.)" <pot at leicester.ac.uk>            (1)
        Subject: RE: [Humanist] 24.427 digital humanities and the cuts

  [2]   From:    Alan Liu <ayliu at english.ucsb.edu>                         (55)
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 24.427 digital humanities and the cuts

  [3]   From:    D.Allington <d.allington at open.ac.uk>                      (14)
        Subject: RE: [Humanist] 24.427 digital humanities and the cuts

  [4]   From:    maurizio lana <m.lana at lett.unipmn.it>                     (59)
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 24.427 digital humanities and the cuts

  [5]   From:    Patrick Durusau <patrick at durusau.net>                     (61)
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 24.427 digital humanities and the cuts

  [6]   From:    Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>          (92)
        Subject: more than crying wolf


--[1]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Sun, 24 Oct 2010 07:52:51 +0100
        From: "Postles, David A. (Dr.)" <pot at leicester.ac.uk>
        Subject: RE: [Humanist] 24.427 digital humanities and the cuts
        In-Reply-To: <20101024004225.EDE9697FCE at woodward.joyent.us>

I'm entirely in accord with Andrew Prescott's eloquent argument, but would just like to add that the removal of the EMA  will affect HE too, not so much for  the number of applications, but the social mix and the role of HE in social aspiration and social mobility.   That point is off-topic, but still, IMHO, worth consideration.


--[2]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Sun, 24 Oct 2010 01:59:56 -0700
        From: Alan Liu <ayliu at english.ucsb.edu>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 24.427 digital humanities and the cuts
        In-Reply-To: <20101024004225.EDE9697FCE at woodward.joyent.us>

> I was listening to Kathryn Sutherland
> on Today this morning describing the Jane Austen Fiction Manuscripts
> project and the way in which it has helped improve our understanding of
> Austen's writing. Isn't that a good thing to spend money on? Shouldn't
> we be arguing for the importance of this? A number of recent tweets have
> repeated a story about Winston Churchill: "When Winston Churchill was
> asked to cut arts funding in favour of the war effort, he simply replied
> 'then what are we fighting for?'". I have not been able to find a
> contemporary source for this, but it's a wonderful story nonetheless.
>
> If humanists respond to Fish's rallying call urging us to aggressively
> explain, aren't digital humanists in a perfect position to facilitate
> such a campaign? So far, the campaign to promote the cause of the arts
> and humanities seems to have been very desultory. . . .

I was moved by Andrew Prescott's powerful, well-informed, and timely
message.  It speaks precisely to the need for a larger social and cultural
awareness in the digital humanities that I mentioned in my previous post.
After months, if not years, of lurking on this list, I hope that I can be
forgiven adding another posting that speaks to the above excerpt from
Andrew's message.

I spent quite a deal of time last year serving on one of the "working
groups" (in my case, the working group on Research Strategies) of the
University of California Commission on the Future, which was created on an
emergency basis to set forth a vision of the future of the UC system in an
age when the public will no longer pay for it at previous levels.  One of
the great lessons I took away from collaborating with STEM scientists on my
working group is that the scientists have their own existential funding
insecurities--especially in regard to "basic research"--but that they are
well ahead of the humanities and other non-STEM fields in preparing
statements, stocked with examples, about the public value of STEM.  Taking a
leaf from the STEM page, I systematically canvassed the humanities and
social-science scholars in the University of California system, challenging
them to give me equivalent, publicly understandable examples of research.
After the results came in, I mocked up a document with a representative
selection of the results (http://liu.english.ucsb.edu/wp-includes/docs/UC-research-examples.pdf). Note the high proportion of examples that draw on digital technologies,
tools, or media.

There were many examples that I had to throw out because they seemed to miss
the point of the exercise (e.g., books of theory or specialist-oriented
"critique").  But there were just as many that I couldn't include simply
because my document was intended to be a mock-up of something fairly short
that our system's administrators and Regents (standing in for the public in
the near term) might actually peruse.  One night near dawn as I worked on
this to beat a deadline, I found myself actually moved to tears by the sense
of the cumulative, and individual, achievements of the humanities--a sense
of the good the humanities can do that I think the digital humanities now
have a special responsibility to represent.

--Best, Alan



--[3]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Sun, 24 Oct 2010 12:30:06 +0100
        From: D.Allington <d.allington at open.ac.uk>
        Subject: RE: [Humanist] 24.427 digital humanities and the cuts
        In-Reply-To: <20101024004225.EDE9697FCE at woodward.joyent.us>

Dear all,

Andrew Prescott has it absolutely right. The trouble is, how can we take a stand on the intrinsic value of scholarship when we have progressively abandoned any practical commitment to that value over the course of the last two decades? It would be truly wonderful to see scholars '[t]urn[ing] an accusation — you guys don’t deliver anything we [politicians] can recognize — into a banner and hold[ing] it aloft', as Fish puts it, but in British universities (and, I suspect, in American ones too) there is de facto acceptance of the idea that scholarly worth is to be measured in economic terms.

Yes, we stood up and made a fuss over the proposal that our research be assessed on its economic benefit to wider society. But of those of us who have sat on shortlisting committees and interview panels, how many have refused to judge job applicants primarily on the economic benefit they will bring to the department? (I mean to say: on past grant income and on presumed contribution to the forthcoming REF submission.) I'm sure there are some. But academia as a whole is pretty thoroughly sold out to the bean counters.

Yours ruefully,

Daniel

Dr Daniel Allington
Lecturer in English Language Studies and Applied Linguistics
Centre for Language and Communication
The Open University
+44 (0) 1908 332 914

http://open.academia.edu/DanielAllington


--[4]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Sun, 24 Oct 2010 14:50:07 +0200
        From: maurizio lana <m.lana at lett.unipmn.it>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 24.427 digital humanities and the cuts
        In-Reply-To: <20101024004225.EDE9697FCE at woodward.joyent.us>

Il 24/10/2010 02:42, Humanist Discussion Group ha scritto:
     I am surprised that we have not so far had any discussion on Humanist
     of the devastating effect that the current financial crisis will have on 
     the study of the arts and humanities internationally. [...]
great words andrew, i subscribe wholeheartedly.

here in italy it is not different, only the details are different.
the main matters are:

    * brutal cuts to the financing from the state to the universities, vs. huge
      deplorable spendings in other fields: here in italy we have the "ponte
      sullo stretto" (bridge to connect calabria and sicily), we are buying 141
      F35 fighter-bombers for 15 billions euros...
    * growing prestige of the myth about the virtues of private initiative in
      the field of public services (from transports, to instruction, to the
      water, and so on), notwithstanding its various and daily failures
    * humanities under attack because unproductive (!?)

one can't avoid to think of the respublica studiorum --  sometimes mentioned in
happier and more fruitful situations, but it exists now too, when the times are
sad.

we are all in the same situation, what andrew says about UK (and also US) is
very similar to what many of us feel about the italian situation. allow me to
cite some verses from Leopardi, "La ginestra" (111; 130-144) (http://
it.wikisource.org/wiki/Canti_(Leopardi)/La_ginestra,_o_il_fiore_del_deserto)

Nobil natura è quella
[che ...]
Tutti fra sé confederati estima
Gli uomini, e tutti abbraccia
Con vero amor, porgendo
Valida e pronta ed aspettando aita
Negli alterni perigli e nelle angosce
135Della guerra comune. Ed alle offese
Dell’uomo armar la destra, e laccio porre
Al vicino ed inciampo,
Stolto crede così qual fora in campo
Cinto d’oste contraria, in sul più vivo
140Incalzar degli assalti,
Gl’inimici obbliando, acerbe gare
Imprender con gli amici,
E sparger fuga e fulminar col brando
Infra i propri guerrieri.

i agree with the idea of "a platform which enabled all humanists"
not only  " to express their views on this assault on their intellectual
world and enabled them aggressively to explain why universities worth
the name must have flourishing humanities (and social science and science)
faculties." but also to share detailed infos about the situation in own
countries, ideas about strategies, international collaboration in order to
grasp european fundings (which are no panacea but allow to stay alive), an so
on.

maurizio
--
La Repubblica promuove lo sviluppo della cultura e la ricerca scientifica e
tecnica.
La Repubblica detta le norme generali sull'istruzione ed istituisce scuole
statali per tutti gli ordini e gradi.
(Costituzione della Repubblica Italiana, art. 9 e 33)
-------
Maurizio Lana - ricercatore
Facoltà di Lettere e Filosofia, Università del Piemonte Orientale
via Manzoni 8, 13100 Vercelli - tel. +39 347 7370925


--[5]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Sun, 24 Oct 2010 10:19:14 -0400
        From: Patrick Durusau <patrick at durusau.net>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 24.427 digital humanities and the cuts
        In-Reply-To: <20101024004225.EDE9697FCE at woodward.joyent.us>

Andrew,

On Sun, 2010-10-24 at 00:42 +0000, Andrew Prescott wrote:

<snip> 
> 
> If humanists respond to Fish's rallying call urging us to aggressively 
> explain, aren't digital humanists in a perfect position to facilitate 
> such a campaign? So far, the campaign to promote the cause of the arts 
> and humanities seems to have been very desultory - a number of op-ed 
> pieces in the papers, som tweeting, a few nascent Facebook pages. Of all 
> the humanities communities, we as a group should know more than many 
> about comunication and providing platforms for campaigns. We are at a 
> moment of supreme crisis for all our disciplines. Could we not as 
> digital humanists come together jointly to create a new means of getting 
> our message across, and resisting that boot which is currently stamping 
> in our faces? A platform which enabled all humanists to express their 
> views on this assault on their intellectual world and enabled them 
> aggressively to explain why universities worth the name must have 
> flourishing humanities (and social science and science) faculties.
> 

I think Fish is correct because otherwise we are allowing others to
define the terms of the debate over the value of the humanities. 

Never a good thing. 

For example, I would not even reach the issue of whether there is a
"product" from a humanities department. That is to debate on their
terms. 

Consider an alternative (ignoring the obvious copyright issues):

TV commercial:

*****

Modern Science brought us:

Mustard Gas - Death toll 
Zylon-B - Death toll
Atomic Weapons - Death toll
Weapons Production - Death toll (possibly with an image of an AK-47)

Cut to 3 part screen, teaching of the Koran, the Torah, and the Bible,
Teaching people not to kill - Priceless

Support the humanities.

*****

It has to be that stark. No more than 20 seconds, maybe 30. 

Bearing in mind that in battles over funding, the objective is to get
funding. It is not to educate, edify or to prove your worthiness to be
funded. 

If I had a production department I would do the "priceless" commercial
and wait for the credit card people to come after me. That would be more
PR than they could enjoy. Plus it would get the commercial lots of free
airtime. 

It would be necessary to turn that into support for specific funding but
that is why humanists need to enlist the support of marketing
departments. 

Hope you are at the start of a great week!

Patrick

-- 
Patrick Durusau
patrick at durusau.net
Chair, V1 - US TAG to JTC 1/SC 34
Convener, JTC 1/SC 34/WG 3 (Topic Maps)
Editor, OpenDocument Format TC (OASIS), Project Editor ISO/IEC 26300
Co-Editor, ISO/IEC 13250-1, 13250-5 (Topic Maps)

Another Word For It (blog): http://tm.durusau.net
Homepage: http://www.durusau.net
Twitter: patrickDurusau
Newcomb Number: 1



--[6]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Mon, 25 Oct 2010 05:52:52 +0100
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: more than crying wolf
        In-Reply-To: <20101024004225.EDE9697FCE at woodward.joyent.us>

Thanks to Andrew Prescott for raising the cuts to UK higher education 
into view for us Humanists. I cannot say much more than he has said on 
this topic, and certainly not more persuasively -- except to connect all 
that he has said to the central concern of Humanist: the scholarly case 
for the digital humanities. (By "case" I mean here not a quasi-legal 
one, rather in the sense of a case-study exemplifying all scholarly 
undertakings in the humanities and interpretative social sciences, and I 
think also the research sciences.)

Now that the funding crisis has hit us here in Europe and N America, now 
that answering the great So What question for the arts and humanities is 
no longer merely a pious duty to be working on, it's time to replace it 
with a version of the Churchillian question Andrew Prescott has recalled 
for us. I think we need to be asking publically, what else are 
universities for than to create the space and education within which a 
life worth living may be envisioned? And who else is going to be doing 
that? Who will be reminding our friends and neighbours of what human 
beings can accomplish, and instructing their children to lift their eyes 
from the dirt at their feet to the horizon?

Ringing the alarm bells may be a necessary thing, but we must not stop 
with that. The alarm bells may wake us up for a moment, but that's all 
the good they do. Stanley Fish's aggressive stance (which I heartily 
endorse) may get the attention of our paymasters, or those among them 
who listen, for a moment, if spoken by our colleagues in high university 
places. But what then? What then for the digital humanities? Putting 
forth our track-record in fund-raising may keep their attention for a 
bit longer, but the funds we raise are minuscule in comparison to what 
the techno- and medico-sciences can summon. And getting too much 
preoccupied with our (minuscule) fund-raising power, configuring 
ourselves as a (smallish) cash-cow, is a dangerous distraction. Is that 
what we want to say we're all about?

Anyhow -- picture yourself in a car or tent in a N American national 
park -- the bear, having eaten all our sweets and nibblies faster than 
we can produce them, will want more, and so come for us. Quickly, I 
suspect, our only defense and offense will be the appeal of the digital 
humanities to students, not as a way to a job, rather as a form of life. 
In the end all we actually have is (in the proper sense) our philosophy, 
what it is that we have to say, show and show them how to do. All too 
often in the past we've evaded our responsibilities here by pointing to 
those in other disciplines whose research problems our digital tools 
assist. We have leaned on the historians, the classicists, the literary 
folk et al. (bless them) to answer on our behalf by stating what we have 
done for them. This is certainly better than nothing, but answers of 
that sort are not our answers. What *is* our answer? Why should students 
come to study with us?

What do the students reading this think? Why have they put their lives 
on the line, paid the fees and come to ask us about what I used to call 
the life of the mind? (If you're a student reading this, PLEASE RESPOND!)

Andrew's right in remonstrating with us on our silence about the cuts. I 
expect, however, that most affected by them, or rather fearing wisely 
what the effects will be when they are made, have been too much in a 
state of shock. But I beg to differ with him, if differ I do, on the 
implication that Humanist is indifferent. Here the younger members of 
the collective will, I hope, forgive me for thumping a still thankfully 
metaphorical cane. When Humanist began, in 1987, the motivating force 
was precisely the scholarly case and the making of it. It's in fact 
always been our main purpose to come up with a strong one. In 1987, as 
had been in Berlin with its wall, we could not knock ours down; we had 
to wait, do what we do as well as we could, and wait. Read, take notes, 
write when possible, publish as we could, and wait. Now the wall is 
down, in some places we're in intra- and extramural positions of 
influence. The time has come to speak.

Recently I've been going on about the industrialization of the digital 
humanities because, I think, it is a symptom of a turning away from the 
rigorous questioning our situation demands to safe if claustrophobic 
technical conformity. It's a symptom of fear when the greatest bravery 
is needed. It's very much on topic.

But I question whether anything we can do now will make a modicum of 
difference, being schooled by experience as I am and thinking again 
about how I spend the time I have. Let us say it is too late to make a 
difference politically. Let us say, venturing nothing improbable, that 
there's no funding in prospect from any source, no jobs for new 
colleagues, no helping hands whatsoever. Still the question remains, 
what do we do? Still the scholarly opportunities are there. Isn't the 
work, whatever the specifics, that matters? For those in positions of 
power, such as it is, political action is possible. For the likes of me, 
and most of us, wouldn't it be foolish to think that our time is best 
spent on the picket lines? Hadn't we better get reading, writing and 
building?

Let us not be preoccupied with crying WOLF! WOLF! now that the wolf is 
really here -- though crying wolf is better than complacency for the few 
that can afford it. It's too late for that now. We less powerful ones 
can help by working hard on the Churchillian question.

Comments?

Yours,
WM

-- 
Willard McCarty, Professor of Humanities Computing,
King's College London, staff.cch.kcl.ac.uk/~wmccarty/;
Professor, Centre for Cultural Research, University of Western Sydney,
www.uws.edu.au/centre_for_cultural_research/ccr/people/researchers;
Editor, Humanist, www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist;
Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, www.isr-journal.org.





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