[Humanist] 27.259 critical digital humanities; branding

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Sun Aug 4 22:18:27 CEST 2013

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 27, No. 259.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    Dean Rehberger <deanreh at gmail.com>                       (116)
        Subject: Re:  27.255 branding & a critical digital humanities

  [2]   From:    Victoria Scott <victoriahfscott at gmail.com>                (28)
        Subject: What I mean by "critical" digital humanities

  [3]   From:    maurizio lana <maurizio.lana at gmail.com>                   (22)
        Subject: Re:  27.254 branding and a critical digital humanities

        Date: Thu, 1 Aug 2013 18:17:22 -0400
        From: Dean Rehberger <deanreh at gmail.com>
        Subject: Re:  27.255 branding & a critical digital humanities
        In-Reply-To: <20130801201154.D94A82F92 at digitalhumanities.org>

This is not to agree or disagree but to take another path.  As I was reading Inglis hyperbolic screed I kept trying to find the irony, some recognition of the class bound brand that has long been part of the UK higher education system.  What Inglis is perhaps pointing out is the breakdown of brand.  However, what bothers me most with articles like these is the callus disregard for our colleagues.  Business, advertising, public relations are all legitimate spaces and places for majors at universities, with fine people doing wonderful academic and scholarly work.  Frankly Inglis appears to me as whinger pointing to monsters at the gate that need to be banished so we can go back to work as normal (the monsters could never be us).

But as you note we are not here to talk about this but as Craig raises, should we brand digital humanities, and as you note, should there be a critical digital humanities.  I come at the digital humanities from a different bent having always partnered with libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural heritage institutions.  Large collaborative projects with healthy doses of public engagement.  While we (constantly) whing about the crises of the Humanities within the academy (the putative decline of majors), it has been a perfect storm outside of the academy for cultural institutions.  Orchestras going bankrupt, museums shutting their doors, theaters turning off their lights.        

And it is here that people have done ingenious public relations work and rebranding, imaginative social media campaigns.  There has been a long running evolution of museums and libraries moving from housing things to being active, vibrant, engaged parts of communities (both IRL and virtually).  Brand can be an important and powerful tool, a way to keep doors open and cultural heritage accessible.

So as Craig implies, should we brand digital humanities?  I say yes, but not to protect it but to give it away.  As Willard notes, should we have a critical digital humanities.  By all means yes, but more important we need Engaged Digital Humanities, a digital humanities that will reach out to and work with multiple publics and institutions.  The humanities do have a public relations problem.  It is not being caused by monsters at the gate.  It is us.  We can sit in our silos and be critical or we can engage, play, occupy, captivate with the magic we make in the digital humanities.  


Dean Rehberger
Michigan State University
rehberge at msu.edu
deanreh at gmail.com
Twitter: deanreh
Aim: deanreh

On Aug 1, 2013, at 4:11 PM, Humanist Discussion Group <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk> wrote:

>                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 27, No. 255.
>            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
>                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
>                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
>        Date: Thu, 01 Aug 2013 21:57:10 +1000
>        From: Craig Bellamy <txt at craigbellamy.net>
>        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 27.254 branding and a critical digital humanities
>        In-Reply-To: <20130731201403.3D0932F7A at digitalhumanities.org>
> Dear Willard and Humanist,
> Thanks for the link to the Higher Ed article and your critical 
> addendum.  You struck a cord, one that I have reflected upon at length 
> of late.  The broader issue of 'branding' is a problem of the academy 
> everywhere; the particular University I am at promotes itself as 'number 
> one' in this particular imagined geographical context; in an assumption 
> that all universities are playing the same game. Plus this state's most 
> proudly regional and parochial university promotes its self as 
> 'Worldly', when, if one drives 1 hour West of Melbourne, common sense 
> may tell you otherwise.
> If your question is where does the critical digital humanities intersect 
> with branding, (and I suspect that this is a rhetorical question), I 
> would say that the 'digital humanities' is rapidly becoming a brand in 
> itself.  I worry that all the investment that students and scholars have 
> made in the field; who understand its core technologies and values, its 
> intrepid interdisciplinarity, and its endearing contradictions, is not 
> protected well enough. We don't protect its boundaries, nor its emerging 
> merit structures, nor its research accountability structures well 
> enough.  Many believe that merit in some other field is merit in the DH, 
> an EU notion of the DH, that is bound to fail because one of the member 
> states hasn't paid its taxes.
> Sure, anyone can brand themselves a 'digital humanist' or historian, and 
> they possible won't be arrested and sent to Tasmania. But still, if 
> someone writes a dodgy history, they will confront a well-established, 
> critical 'infrastructure' to insist they defend their thesis and their 
> historical skill. I am not sure we have the same luxury in the DH, thus 
> our 'brand' is in danger of being stolen by thieves, who may use it to 
> not only undermine us, but the rest of the humanities in the process 
> (ie. I already see a drift of the term 'digital humanities' into the 
> realm of the well-oiled 'science propaganda' machine along with its 
> crudely Modernist, deterministic agenda...and its seductive funding models).
> If you ask what we can do about it, perhaps fight fire with fire!
> Register 'Digital Humanities' as a brand and only allow its use under 
> strict circumstances (and at a very high fee). Patent TEI, and even 
> perhaps have a DH certification process, (like Plumbers do); ''a 
> certified practising digital humanist' (also at a very high fee). Or 
> change the name or even sell it for a very large sum and use the money 
> to do some research. Sure I am being a gadfly, but if anyone can use the 
> term 'digital humanities' for what ever purpose (and others will believe 
> them), then the past 40 odd years of work in this field will be wasted.
> I respect those who have made a much larger and more sophisticated 
> contribution to the field than I have (my opportunities have been 
> limited), and I hope these people are also in a better position to 
> certify the work of the DH much better than I am.
> Kind regards,
> Craig
> In the Times Higher for 18 July, Fred Inglis asks the rhetorical 
> question, "What if marketing-speak is not glib nonsense, but a poison at 
> the heart of the university?" He answers in a long article,"Branded to 
> Death" 
> (http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/features/branded-to-death/2005732.fullarticle), 
> beginning as follows:
>> Before we get too far into the thickets of trendy socio-cultural 
>> questions easy to pursue because they require no technical knowledge 
>> or the making of anything, and safe because we can do nothing about 
>> them (except to leave the academy altogether and join the 
>> picket-lines), perhaps we could consider what might be done to give 
>> some real meaning to the word "critical" in "critical digital 
>> humanities". Inglis identifies an evil in academic life. Is it so? If 
>> it is, as the evidence all around us suggests to me it is, then where 
>> does it cross our path, and what can we *as digital humanists* do 
>> about it?
> -- 
> Dr Craig Bellamy
> Research Fellow
> ___________________________
> Computing and Information Systems
> The University of Melbourne
> Parkville, Melbourne, Australia
> ___________________________
> w: craigbellamy.net

        Date: Fri, 2 Aug 2013 10:58:15 +0200
        From: Victoria Scott <victoriahfscott at gmail.com>
        Subject: What I mean by "critical" digital humanities
        In-Reply-To: <20130801201154.D94A82F92 at digitalhumanities.org>

Thank you to everyone for all their suggestions, I am at the digital
humanities summer school in Leipzig, and applying for jobs at the same time
so I have not had time to read them all yet but I will soon.

I am working on a hunch...that the rise of centralized computerized
administrative systems at universities is connected to the decline of
academic freedoms in the Anglo-speaking world (and probably in other places
too). This has been complicated even further by the whole NSA
debacle...indicating that there might be several different kinds and levels
of bureaucratic agencies, state and private, snooping around in our email.
Scholars need privacy for open and free debate. Without it knowledge cannot
be advanced. This problem could be solved if departments' email systems
were truly private, and perhaps if they owned and controlled their own
servers and had their own IT teams (maybe this is already the case in some
places?...I just am unaware) We need to rebuild and re-entrench privacy in
academia, and every where else too, and I think it has to happen at the
level of hardware and software. I am new to the field of digital humanities
(sort of) but it seems to me that, theoretically anyway, exactly because of
their specialized sets of knowledge, digital humanists are in a privileged
position to begin this movement. Or, at the very least, to begin discussing


Forza! And thank you again for all the suggestions, I am very much looking
forward to reading them!

*Victoria H.F. Scott
*The Art History Guild <https://sites.google.com/site/thearthistoryguild/>*

        Date: Fri, 02 Aug 2013 18:21:10 +0200
        From: maurizio lana <maurizio.lana at gmail.com>
        Subject: Re:  27.254 branding and a critical digital humanities
        In-Reply-To: <20130731201403.3D0932F7A at digitalhumanities.org>

Il 31/07/2013 22:14, Humanist Discussion Group ha scritto:
> Years ago a friend of mine in High Administration at Toronto explained 
> to me that getting things done was all a matter of packaging. 

nearly the same for many sources of research funding: you must package 
your proposal so that it be 'in line' with the expectations, 
presumptions, knowledge, etc. of your possible funding subject.
the packaging activity con go from "making your research theme 
understandable to people" to "modifying/changing your theme in order to 
be able to package it in an attractive way".
but for me the true problem is that we all go into these packaging 
activities mainly because we need funds for our research. _those funds 
that our institutions don't provide to us_.

il corso di informatica umanistica: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=85JsyJw2zuw
la biblioteca digitale del latino tardo: http://www.digiliblt.unipmn.it/
a day in the life of DH2013: http://dayofdh2013.matrix.msu.edu/digiliblt/
che cosa sono le digital humanities: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4JqLst_VKCA
Maurizio Lana - ricercatore
Università del Piemonte Orientale, Dipartimento di Studi Umanistici
via Manzoni 8, 13100 Vercelli - tel. +39 347 7370925

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