Title, Author & Summary



August 18, 2014

Digital Displacement

Dennis Tenen

The digital humanities take literary studies from the fertile age of speculative thought and model building to a time of instrumental reason and robust empiricism. At the same time, academic interest in material contexts of all kind has grown: in labs and maker spaces, in book history, in sociology of literature, in physical computing, in problems of regional inequities of access to information, in the future of books, presses, and libraries, in free culture, in the praxes of remix and remediation, and in the actual labor conditions at the base of our academic practice. The way of comparative literature has always been to advance through axes of contrast and correlation, by period and geography. The digital humanities offer yet another axis that bisects familiar concepts along a methodological divide. At its worst, the methodology devolves into shallow futurism and blunt instrumental reasoning. At its best, DH is a force of iconoclasm, used to question and to refine prevailing orthodoxies.

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June 28, 2014

Electronic Literature as Comparative Literature

Jessica Pressman

Electronic literature is Comparative Literature. It is born digital; it operates across multiple machine and human languages, and requires translation of these languages before it even reaches the human reader. It is procedural and computational and is processed across multiple platforms, protocols, and technologies in real-time, in accordance with the very real constraints and technical specificities of the hardware, software, and network configuration of the reader’s computer. What is presented onscreen – the artwork and poetic – is multimedia and multimodal. Combining text, image, sound, movement, interactivity, and design, such works challenge traditional disciplinary boundaries as well as genre categories. For these reasons and more, electronic literature requires its reader to read and think comparatively.

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Ideas of the Decade

April 23, 2014

Big Data

Jonathan E. Abel

Big data and digital humanities can not threaten traditional humanities, they can only inform them. As a set of tools to be used by humanists (on the same order as such traditional humanist tools as bookmarks, indexes, footnotes, underlinings, notecards), digital humanities will never rise to the point of becoming ends of humanistic inquiry in themselves. The recent flurry and fetish for a digital humanities, however, is but part of a long history of quantitative, positivistic humanist inquiry which supplements but cannot supplant the quests for information, knowledge, and truth which have and will continue to have formed the humanities.

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