Neoliberalism and DH -Emma Poff

Since high school, my goals have been centered around having a job I enjoy and finding a way to obtain it. I worked hard in high school to work hard in college to get me to the goals that I wanted to accomplish. Sadly whether I would like to admit it or not, these goals for a worthwhile job do also depend on money. The things we all enjoy still have to have some benefits financially.

Without having some stipend this summer, I do not know if I would be able to afford going without a job to help me pay for food and necessities. So when we dicuss and read different viewpoints on whether DH exhibits neoliberal characteristics, the simple answer is yes, it kind of has to in some way. If we are trying to make the digital humanities an environment that is free and open to everyone, we must make sure that everyone can participate regardless of money. So if people need money to complete their research digital project, we must give them a stipend of some sort to truly follow the values of DH.  Sometimes to get the money for grants and stipends the DH community has to reach out to foundations and business ventures for support. I do not think this is a negative aspect of digital humanities however, because those who are willing to give money for research see the value in making information more accessible. It’s not a money-making venture in this way.

Digital humanities is not just placing information into archives in databases. Digital humanists must come up with their own questions and problem solving to create and utilize digital tools to help benefit people they are trying to educate. While some people are paid to create certain tools, they are still working to make information available and open to collaboration. I think that avoiding all aspects of neoliberalism is virtually impossible. We have been programmed to think about the benefits outweighing costs. With this mindset, come people think that we cannot also create and research for anything beyond monetary benefits. I think that no matter if a professor is writing a book or making a website, he will have the same output in terms of how he makes money. Saying that DH supports neoliberalism discredits precious institutions that make professors and scholars write books for publishing and monetary bonuses. DH is not anything different that what we have used before to present research. People will always need money and use commercializing and assistance to succeed. Just because technology requires different skill sets with some people being paid for different tools does not lessen the impact and overall mission of collaboration and openness.

Reflection #4- Erik Carneal

The digital humanities is a very new form of scholarly practice. Neoliberalism ideas and values often appear on the digital humanities due to it being so new. One of the main ideas in neoliberalism is the idea of a free market. In the digital humanities, the market is open to anyone. All are allowed to and have the equal opportunity to create a digital humanities project and present it for public knowledge. This is made possible because of the digital humanities remaining free to create and access. If money was involved in the digital humanities, then the market would become less of an open market. Neoliberalism is strongly against capitalism and so are the digital humanities. Capitalism revolves around monopolies and big money complains that seize control of the industry. The fact that there is money directly from these digital humanities projects means that no company or individual can try to take control of said project. 

Another idea that is a result of the open market is the idea of scholarly collaboration. As Matthew Kirschenbaum touches in the article Am I a Digital Humanist? Confessions of a Neoliberal Tool, scholars within the field have the opportunity to collaborate and share ideas without harm. The open market not only means open in terms of money, but open in terms of the free sharing of information. One a digital humanities project is published, it enters a mixing bowl of ideas the the digital humanities presents for all. With proper citation, this information can start flowing through the open market still with no cost to the consumer. This creates an explosion of digital humanities projects that evolve around the use of cited work. For example, my project here at Gettysburg is mostly others information just presented in a visual way. I would not have the opportunity to create this project if it wasn’t for the free and open access to the information I need to visualize. In the article In Defense of DH, Grace Alfasi-Mamagani mentions that the digital humanities is very much a form of project-based learning. She again implements the idea that the digital humanities is all about open collerbation. She mentions that the digital humanities have similar values as public humanities, which also reflects neoliberalism values. The public humanities is the work of presented history, culture, and tradition to the public sphere in a way that is relevant to the modern world. 

As the weeks continue here at Gettysburg, I have learned more and more about the values of the digital humanities. Being a Political Science major, neoliberalism has been a topic of study for the past couple years. The digital humanities certainly incompase the neoliberal values. The values allow for the scholarly field to grow and expand because everyone has the equal chance to produce. The neoliberal values are what allow me and my colleagues to have this opportunity this summer to create a digital humanities project and contribute to the melting pot of information that comes as a result. 


DH and Neoliberal Values

For this week’s reflection, we’ve been tasked with answering the following: To what extent do you think the Digital Humanities (inadvertently or not) embraces neoliberal values in higher education? My background in answering this question comes from, “Neoliberal Tools (and Archives): A Political History of Digital Humanities,” Matthew Kirschenbaum’s “Am I a Digital Humanist? Confessions of a Neoliberal Tool,” and Grace Afsari-Mamagani’s “In Defense of DH,” as well as, of course, my own experiences with the digital humanities over the past four weeks.
To begin, I think it’s important to have a definition of neoliberalism in mind. According to Wikipedia, neoliberalism is the 20th-century resurgence of 19th-century ideas associated with laissez-faire economic liberalism and free market capitalism. When first presented with this week’s question, my gut reaction was to reject lumping the digital humanities in with neoliberal tools. After all, the digital humanities allow people with diverse backgrounds and experiences to share knowledge of importance to them, with less of a focus on an elite background. Is this not counter to neoliberalism? I attempted to go into the article with an open mind (understanding the weaknesses and criticisms of your field of interest is vital, after all) but finished the “Political History of Digital Humanities” unconvinced by the authors’ arguments. Moving to Kirschenbaum’s article, a direct response to the former, the author discusses his own path in the Digital Humanities, ultimately arguing that he is a digital humanist due to “the socialization of academia” and is not a tool of neoliberalism. To these points, Kirschenbaum’s article is largely an argument rejecting the idea that the digital humanities embrace neoliberal values in higher education.
Along a similar line, Afsari-Mamagani’s article differentiates between the agenda’s of projects created by corporations like Google Books projects created to promote access by academic departments or libraries. I agree that lumping both together is to misrepresent the diversity of digital humanities projects. I particularly agree with Afsari-Mamagani’s conclusion that the digital humanities foster “a sense of sociopolitical consciousness.” A value which is not consistent with neoliberalism.
Does this mean that the neoliberal criticism of the digital humanities completely without merit? Certainly not. The digital humanities are beholden to outside funding, often with an agenda. Is this a unique, defining factor of the digital humanities warranting the scorn of the “Political History of the Digital Humanities article?” I would say not. It is, however, an existing factor worthy of consideration in analyzing this reflection’s question. Overall, I would argue that the digital humanities is largely a rejection and counter to neoliberal values in higher education, at least, as much as any field of scholarship can be that has its roots in a Western, capitalist society.

– Michaela

Neoliberalism and DH

When reading about neoliberalism, particularly in academia, the emphasis on money is what stands out the most. There is the assumption that many people only participate in DH for the funding. It’s true that incorporating technology into the humanities might make it more economically appealing, contributing to the ongoing corporate changes in the liberal arts college system. However, we can’t forget the Digital Humanities effort to make resources more readily available for everyone regardless of their situation or location, often by publishing work in an open-access environment. DH strives to make information free and accessible for everyone, contradicting the money-centric assumptions.

In Neoliberal Tools (and Archives), the authors argue that DH is anti-interpretive, instead aiming to solely “archive materials, produce data, and develop software.” I believe that this description demeans the analytical aspect of DH; in addition to making such work accessible to as large an audience as possible, DH projects are also built to reflect the thoughts and opinions of all those who participate. This felt like an effort to make Digital Humanities appear shallow and potentially less impactful than it has the ability to be.

I can see how people make neoliberal connections to Digital Humanities by saying that it’s a field used to gather money. I believe that this is true in some cases, but I also believe that as Digital Humanities is a relatively new and developing field the people involved are generally interested and passionate about what they’re doing.

To some, college has become a place where people go to graduate and get a good job without actually learning anything. People don’t go because they’re interested in what they’re studying, they go so that they can get a degree and therefore hopefully succeed in society. Incorporating technology into the humanities has made it more appealing to this neoliberal college structure by taking a field that did not seem as fiscally appealing as other areas of education and implementing digital tools to interest university institutions and increase project funding. At the end of the day, I can see how people make connections between Digital Humanities and neoliberalism but I don’t think they’re as intertwined as some of these articles say they are.

Neoliberalism and Digital Humanities

The Neoliberal value of money driving institutes is seen as the drive behind institutional support for the digital humanities by some. It might be part of the reason that major academic institutions are putting their support behind developing digital humanities, but the actual digital humanity scholars are getting involved because they really care about the work that they are doing. Digital humanities are a new frontier of academia, giving more opportunities for different kinds of research, different kinds of thinking, and for more people to be involved. It challenges some of what is considered traditional scholarship but that is good because scholarship should be constantly evolving.

Digital Humanities is appealing because it allows for there to be new ways of thinking and for academic institutions to be less exclusive since the values of digital humanities are about collaboration and openness which is appealing to people new to the profession or who wants to see a change within the institution. William Deresiewicz comments on the neoliberal changes to academic institutions in his article, The Neoliberal Arts: How College Sold its Soul to the Market show how digital humanities can be a response to help make higher education more about learning instead of about getting a job. Digital humanities is more about learning because for most projects there is no profit to be made, it is about curiosity and research.

The values of digital humanities are of curiosity, openness, collaboration, none of which have to do with money. This is talked about in Matthew Kirshenbaum’s article Am I a Digital Humanist? Confessions of a Neoliberal Tool is about how he is part of the Digital Humanities and made it his life work because he was interested in it, not because it made money. He could have left academia if he wanted to make more money. But Grace Afsari-Mamagani’s hopeful ideas shared in her post, In Defense of DH are about how digital humanities also shows the newfound interest in the field and how it can change research in the humanities and develop new ways of thinking.

I do not think that digital humanities embraces a neoliberal value in higher education, it is where there is a lot of money but that is an unintentional side effect. Digital humanities help to inspire new types of scholarship that people are invested in. Neoliberalism is about playing a game where there are winners and there are losers, but that is not part of what digital humanities is. Digital humanities are about furthering learning and curiosity. Digital humanities might unintentionally support some neoliberal values but overall does not.

Neoliberal DH?

Hi Everyone,

Today, we have been challenged to answer the following question about Digital Humanities:

To what extent do you think the Digital Humanities (inadvertently or not) embraces neoliberal values in higher education?

It is quite a difficult question for me to answer as I am very new to Digital Humanities community and I am just learning more about DH. Honestly, I will try to answer it with my best knowledge, but I will try to divert the question a bit (maybe on purpose) by talking a bit more general (of course, including DH.)

If we talk about neoliberal values in higher education, we can generalize about every academic discipline as a whole, without excluding DH. (Yes, DH, for me, counts as an academic discipline as equal as “traditional” humanities and probably it would be another essay to talk about it.) So now we want to answer a new question:

To what extent do you think higher education embraces neoliberal values?

This question is also tough to respond, as I do not know how to estimate the extent, but I will first talk about how higher education does embrace neoliberal value, and then I will provide examples when higher education does not.

One of the main value that comes to my mind is that higher education is about money. Firstly, in order to get higher education you have to pay and nowadays, the higher education is very expensive. Many universities (public and private) demand very high tuition and you have to pay high amount. Because of today’s standards many people have higher education degrees, so it is one of the modern era necessities to get a higher education degree. Next, one of the main aims of higher education institutions is not to learn the knowledge for the sake of knowledge itself and growing as a person, but the main aim is to get the diploma to get a better job. It is coming both from people who are seeking higher education and from people who are providing higher education. People are often now thinking about what they can do with their diplomas after graduation and what kind of jobs they can get and how high they can earn. It makes people now learning not because of the fascination of the subject itself, but about what they can achieve afterwards with that degree. For example, I know many people from my major department and those people are majoring in it not because they like it or they find it interesting, but because they think that after graduation they can make more money and have a higher chance for a better job. But, it is ‘free market’ I guess and people can do whatever they are doing, even if they do not like it. Moreover, because this is neoliberal era and this is free market, universities can demand whatever they want and it is people’s decision whether they want to follow higher education and pay the tuition or they can give up higher education.

On the other hand, there are people who are fascinated in their discipline and really want to learn more about it. They are learning about the discipline and they are also willing to contribute to the discipline, without any physical gains. There are still many people who are doing research for the sake of the discipline and because of fascination about research and it is about all disciplines in higher education, including Digital Humanities.

At the end, I still cannot estimate to what extent higher education embraces neoliberal values but I know that it is still growing and getting more of neoliberal values.

Have a good weekend,