Background readings

Our readings for the first week of the course….


Bailey, Moya Z. All the Digital Humanists Are White, All the Nerds Are Men, but Some of Us Are Brave. Journal of Digital Humanities 1.1 (2011).

Great riff on the seminal Black Women’s Studies text that can be found in full here (and would be interesting to do some text analysis on!).


Liu, Alan. “Where is Cultural Criticism in the Digital Humanities?” Debates in Digital Humanities. U of Minnesota P, 2012. Online.

This is an early and the most influential call for a reorientation of DH towards some of the central, social-justice-oriented concerns of the mainstream humanities. The volume and its 2016 followup–both of them free online–are also an excellent places to start reading more broadly.


Goldberg, David Theo. “Deprovincializing Digital Humanities.” In Between humanities and the digital. Ed. Patrik Svensson and David Theo Goldberg.  MIT Press, 2015. 163-71.

One of the founders of HASTAC reflects on the field that HASTAC was in some ways founded to counter. Check out


Mandell, Laura C. “Gendering Digital Literary History.” In A New Companion to Digital Humanities. Ed. Susan Schreibman, Ray Siemens, and John Unsworth. Blackwell, 2016. 511-523.

The first field-forming Companion to DH (2004) didn’t have anything focused on gender or feminism so this is a significant addition.


Nakamura, Lisa. Queer Female of Color: The Highest Difficulty Setting There Is? Gaming Rhetoric as Gender Capital. Ada: a Journal of Gender, New Media, and Technology, No. 1 (2012).

Cool appropriation of gaming conventions to think through intersectionality.


Risam, Roopika. “Beyond the Margins: Intersectionality and the Digital Humanities.” DHQ 9.2 (2015).

One of the leading post-colonial DH scholars in the leading open access journal in the field.


4 thoughts on “Background readings

  1. Re: Bailey’s article, I’m interested in exploring what some of the key structural limitations that prevent marginalized people from engaging in DH might be. I’ll try to check back on this once I’ve done more research. Kim mentioned Global Outlook DH and “minimal computing” in class today, so that’s something that might be useful here!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Some general musings: So, where does critical theory actually *happen* in DH projects? Does is occur in its form (code, interface, cyberinfrastructure) or content (text)? And what of legibility? What happens when readers/users cannot access the critical theory represented in the body of a dataset? Perhaps it is the relationship between form and content that needs to be paid more attention and then made explicit (whether represented visually or textually) since to focus on one enriches our understanding of the other (see Mandell’s application of MSA and gender studies + her analysis of The Orlando Project). Maybe it’s time for DH to, as my grade school match teacher would say, “show their work.” Perhaps, beyond the need for more critical theory (which DH indeed lacks), the field must come up with best practices around the translation of their work to non-specialists.


  3. Now that the WordPress has been created, I thought it would be useful to add the comments I left on the Google Doc (in our Google Drive) onto here, as well as add my comment and question that I didn’t really post anywhere but just left written in my notebook.

    My thoughts on Liu’s article: I think there is great importance in identifying the novel ways of analysis that the ‘digital’ part of digital humanities brings to the table when it comes to the process of close reading, which I think Liu demonstrates well. For instance, introducing DH’s technique,‘distant reading’, illustrates how DH is changing the scene. Tools such as Voyant Tools is capable of creating a word cloud that shows how often a term is used in a body of writing, for example. These new methods of close reading generate questions where we wonder about whether this is a positive or negative change, or whether these tools are actually helpful and create new possibilities that may have not been achievable before. Liu’s whole discussion makes me think of the following questions: Is technology really helping the humanities? Does the ‘digital’ and the ‘humanities’ truly complement with one another?

    My thoughts on Goldberg’s article: I think Goldberg points out a key “fear” that is associated with DH that I personally think is the main reason why it is still a field that is generally avoided by a majority of scholars (this opinion is not based on research or clear knowledge of the field myself, it’s just based on general knowledge and observation). I believe there is a stereotype that if you study DH then you must be 100% tech savvy and know everything there is to know about code. Goldberg mentions how humanists don’t have to know code in order to engage with digital material, they just need a basic knowledge of what that concept means and what it can do. Although this is a reasonable anxiety to have, I think Goldberg’s mention of how technology is depicted as ever-changing is a thought that causes people to avoid the subject altogether. Think of Facebook for example, they are constantly changing their interface but it’s still so widely used despite these constant changes. I think people tend to forget that they can adapt to new things and it’s not as difficult as one may think. If you were to think of ALL of technology changing, that is a pretty daunting thought, however if you focus on just one website or tool that you use on the Internet, it appears more approachable and doable. The Internet is a big wide world but if we’re capable of adapting to changes on our own planet then what stops us from exploring further?

    My comment: There was a lot of argument in a few of the readings over DH’s name, particularly in regards to whether it belongs to the humanities at all.

    My question: How can we make DH more inclusive?


  4. I thought maybe I could help some of the students who are newer to digital humanities by expanding a bit on the concept of distant reading, which Liu mentions in “Where is Cultural Criticism in the Digital Humanities?” but doesn’t expand on. We read an essay about it that I believe was by Franco Moretti when I was in last year’s DH class, and my understanding of how it works is that scholars analyze periods of literary history by examining data about tons of stuff instead of by looking at a few specific texts. So there could be a big database of books that exist, in which an entry for first Harry Potter book, for instance, would include the author, the year it was published (1997), and some tags about what kind of book it is like maybe “children’s, fantasy, school story”. And you could go into the database and bring up a list of all the fantasy books from the 1990s and then see how many of them were for children, or something like that. I’m not really sure why it’s called distant reading when I think it’s more data analysis than reading, or why it seems to get portrayed as if it’s somehow opposed to close reading, but it seems to happen frequently, as Liu mentions.

    I also wonder how well someone might be able to “distant read” something like the HASTAC website, which seems to aggregate a bunch of blog posts from different people in their network. I explored their humanities section a bit, and it seems more geared towards scrolling through everything that’s new rather than searching for things by more specific keywords. I’ll have to look at it in more detail to see if they do this already, but maybe it could be more useful to them to sort things by more specific tags, both so that people could use it to find exactly what they’re interested in, and so scholars could use distant reading to analyze the internet posts of digital humanists.


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