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,



Information Sharing

In Chapter 3 of Digital_Humanities authors Burdick, Drucker, Lunenfeld, Presnet, and Schnapp, consider “The Social Life of the Digital Humanities.” This idea encompasses a wide variety of themes including publishing, authorship, and legitimation of information. Within these themes arises the essential question: What happens when anyone can speak and publish? What happens when knowledge credentialing is no longer controlled solely by institutions of higher learning? This question is a complex one, with significant potential positives as well as risks. To begin, I want to expound upon the risks that the article considers of a community in which anyone can publish information without the accreditation of higher learning institutions.
Today, being able to determine the credibility of information seems more critical than ever before. As the chapter discusses, social technology with more authors and information does not equate to the promotion of democratic values. For one, this emerging social technology has the potential to be used as a conduit for social control. This issue encompasses all social technologies with limited regulations and, as the 2018 elections demonstrate, have yet to be adequately addressed. Going hand and hand with this issue, when anyone can speak and publish it can become more difficult to differentiate between what is real and what is not. The ivory tower is inherently problematic, historically limiting authorship to white, men and limiting the flow of information to an “academic elite circle.” Keeping this in minds, information being regulated by higher institutions and peer review did reassure the credibility of the information.
On the flip side, the digital humanities also offers a diversity of perspectives previously restricted from information sharing as they fell outside the walls of the ivory tower. This is particularly important for “reach and relevance” of the digital humanities in addition to what the authors call “decolonizing knowledge.” While platforms that support diversity are more of a lofty goal than present reality, this concrete goal is consistent with the core values of the digital humanities. Furthermore, unlike traditional humanities, the digital humanities invites those voices that were once excluded from the conversation to not only participate in active discourse but also to collaborate and further expand the field. Changing the notion of whose voice matters will broaden the range of information available as well as the audience attuned to the humanities.
Overall, I would contend that the value of expanding authorship and publication far outweighs the risk and offers an exciting future for the humanities as a developing field. The humanities cannot remain limited to a select group, representing only a tiny proportion of the population and their experiences. This emphasized, the inherent dangers of the digital humanities must not only be acknowledged, but methods to combat these pitfalls must be deeply considered. Acknowledging that legitimation is a problem in the field is not enough without responding with potential solutions.
– Michaela

Reflection 3- Erik Carneal

This week was a very productive week for my project, and much was learned outside of my own work as well. We have delved further into understanding and dissecting the digital humanities as the weeks go on in the fellowship. We have learned that a key aspect of the digital humanities is that anyone can create a project for public use. This allows for anyone to contribute to teaching and providing knowledge. Having the academic liberty to create this knowledge limits larger companies or larger information sources to control what they see as valuable knowledge. With this freedom, there can be much more diversity within the digital humanities sphere. Digital humanities can involve a wide range of genres and topic of learning. This is allowed because of the right that anyone can produce any knowledge they wish to bring to a public sphere. The digital humanities does not require a larger company to check the worthiness of the knowledge, which limits the individual from producing a free thinking project. This academic freedom has mostly positive benefits, yet it could also lead to people spreading false information. There is no check process, which means that hate or other prejudice information could be produced. This does seem like a rarity considering scholars within the digital humanities almost always produce information for good, yet the possibility of prejudice information still lingers.

When students produce digital humanities projects, they are working for a higher learning institution yet their ideas and information they produce are their own. When these higher institutions provide information for the students, it is often by a curriculum. Digital humanities programs allow for the students to create their own idea with the foundational learning they have been taught by higher education. This also causes the higher education knowledge they produce to be more diverse. Students often have different viewpoints and idea which creates a melting pot of information within the digital humanities. This diversity of free information expands further when the higher education institutions allow for their students to collaborate with other schools and their digital humanities. For example, our upcoming trip to Lafayette College is a chance to share the research and knowledge we have gained with other digital humanities peers.

I look forward to producing a final product that can contribute to the knowledge that the digital humanities provide. By having our projects be open access, we have allowed others to tap into free information provided by scholars. By making information like this free, education can be provided through outlets other than large academic institution. Since these projects remain free, no large company or conglomerate would form to make money off the product. When money is left out of it, the information remains much more independent and true to the author. Nonprofits such as CreativeCommons allow for the legal use of the information, which creates a flow of free information. As the digital humanities continue to grow, I hope that the information remains free and true to the author.


Education and Accessibility -Emma Poff

Chapter three of the required read discussing digital humanities focused in on the impact of sharing knowledge beyond academia. The book mentions how before digital humanities, one author researched and created their own paper with the purpose of giving their work to an academic institution where other professors and students could read it. Only small groups have access to the papers uploaded through academic institutions because the majority of people lack the required paid subscription or login information.

When answering the question of what will happen when knowledge credentialing is no longer controlled solely by institutions of higher learning, my response would be openness. If educational resources were no longer locked in the depths of academia for only a few scholars interested, the general public could freely view any work published. This change would impact the amount of knowledge available for any user of the internet to view, hopefully leading to a better more well-informed human population.

This openness of new information could also lead to more collaboration. In general, if papers and sources were available to anyone with internet access, more people could respond to works with their own research. This could be in the form of a new paper publish or a digital humanities project. To me, digital humanities offer the general public a chance to learn new information, taken from papers and scholarly reports that they would have otherwise struggled to read. When a digital humanist creates a website with interactive tools, splitting up complicated information into separate pages with deep analysis, the general public can read and dissect the information quickly without feeling lost. My personal goal in addition to making my website open to the public is ensuring that the way I present information can be understood by virtually any high school student or older.

With the help of digital humanities, the public can offer feedback through comments, interacting directly with other users on the specific site of interest. This open communication gives everyone the chance to engage in a larger discussion. The book states how with a paper or book published in academia, the work is finished in terms of how the one author feels about his or her finished product. With digital humanities, the website and work of research is never finished because a diverse community of users can continue to add to the final product.

Digital Humanities as the Expansion of Scholarship

The questioning of what happens when anyone can speak and publish explores the ideas of the elite status of academic institutions. There are many prestigious publishing presses all around the world, and they are well respected for the high level of work and effort that goes into the books, articles, and journals that are published by them. But they are also very exclusive because it allows only one path for publishing and there are strict standards of what can be published, which allows only a certain type of people to be published. Academic institutions are exclusive in that they only allow certain people in, which is where privilege coming into play. People with certain privileges like being white or coming from a middle-class background helps them access these opportunities in a way that people of color do not have. This is how publishing in academia is controlled, through who has access to these elite institutions.

But this limited access does not allow for the full diversity of ideas and opinions, because people from marginalized backgrounds, people of color and people from the LGBTQ+ communities often do not have access to these institutions or have more institutional barriers in the way of getting into the institutions. And when the it is mostly straight white people, often times white men, who get published and given the prestige it is leaving out these other perspectives and backgrounds that lead to new ways of thinking and to new discoveries.

Allowing knowledge to be credentialed by other people, instead of elite academic institutions allows for more people to have the opportunity for their knowledge to be credentialed. This leads to a wider diversity of thought, ideas, and creators. But when credentialing is no longer controlled by an institution it does lead to potential issues with misinformation, information cannot be checked or vetted in the same way because there is not an institution to check it.

A good compromise for this is to allow for people to publish their own work in their own way and to expand the idea of scholarship. This can be done through digital humanities. Traditional academic institutions do not yet consider digital humanities scholarship in the same way that a paper being published is considered scholarship. Digital humanities allows for more opportunities because it is more accessible to people from marginalized background because it is based on sharing information and tools that are free. Digital Humanities is often run by people already in academic institutions but it also allows people who are not within those institutions to work within them, engage with the community, and by engaging in the community the work and knowledge can be credentialed.

Publishing and Accessibility

Historically, the humanities have been comprised of individual scholars who work alone and publish their final products in exclusive, institutional environments that can only be accessed through certain journals or university books. There is an emphasis on intellectual property and taking sole credit without recognizing or inviting the assistance of outside participation. This is what the Digital Humanities community is trying to move away from, into a social, open-sourced world where work is collaborative, accessible, and credit is spread among the people who continuously work to update and share information. By involving digital technology, the humanities no longer need to exist in a primarily physical state but instead are being altered for a medium with which people from all around the world can interact and contribute their own experience and expertise.

With this, scholarship transforms from a solitary experience to a group project as work is published on public platforms where the author(s) can receive feedback without the restrictions of exclusive licensing agreements and copyright. Publishing becomes a social act instead of the presentation of a set-in-stone final product. This leads us to the existence of platforms like Wikipedia, which may run the risk of spreading misinformation but also provides an example of the kind of global, collaborative, knowledge-distributing community that DH embodies. Traditional scholarly publishing follows a strict set of conventions that are no longer necessarily productive or beneficial in this digital day and age. Individual, institutional exclusivity is limiting and prevents the humanities from embracing the potential that digital humanists recognize with the rise of technology. There is also the risk that the service provider or company with access to privatized scholarly work could go out of business and as a result, the work could cease to become available to anyone at all. Widely digitizing information can prevent this.

At its core, the goal of Digital Humanities is to make all information as open and accessible as possible, regardless of one’s circumstance. Publishing information to the public creates an inclusive and all-encompassing environment where people from around the world can communicate their own knowledge and experiences to create something amazing without institutional boundaries. Instead of confining scholarly work to a solitary author who publishes within a narrow realm, the open-source options that accompany the internet allow for this core value of expansion and inclusivity to flourish.

Let’s share knowledge

Hi Everyone,

Recently, I have read Chapter 3 of Digital Humanities by Burdick, Drucker, Lunenfeld, Presnet, and Schnapp and I have been engaged with many questions by the authors, which one of the questions was very interesting:

What happens when anyone can speak and publish? What happens when knowledge credentialing is no longer controlled solely by institutions of higher learning?

Firstly, I think it is a bless that humankind is able to speak. Speaking has helped humans to communicate and allowed humans to talk and share their own thoughts. People were able to share their problems and through speaking people could understand each other even more and be able to help each other better. When a baby is crying, we cannot really understand why it is crying, we can only guess why that baby is crying. But once that baby grows up and learns the language, that person (baby) does not have (only) to cry to address the issue to the other person, it can now speak and tell what it is happening, and we can help that baby more accurately.

We, humans, now can speak and talk with other people. Nowadays, with the coming of the Internet, people can share their thoughts with a greater audience and can publish anything online. I think it is even better that people can now talk about whatever they want and can share whatever they want to, because it is a human right for a person to express themselves freely and be able to share their thoughts.

With these circumstances, nowadays, any human thoughts can be shared freely and is not really “controlled” by any organization. Especially “knowledge credentialing is not longer controlled solely by institutions of higher learning.” Knowledge is shared with anyone freely without any organization controlling it. That means we now have access to even a bigger pool of knowledge of others.

Because of lacking a institution of higher learning that controls the credibility of the knowledge, we, people, have check the credibility of the knowledge of our own. Of course, everyone is free to share any knowledge they would like to, so that knowledge might “correct” or “incorrect”, and it is the responsibility of the recipient of that knowledge to whether accept it or not. That recipient is can accept the given knowledge without any hesitations or if have any doubts, then the recipient can try to test it to check its credibility.

Even if this might pose more challenges to us, humans, at least we can now really freely share our own knowledge with others, and we have a bigger access to a bigger knowledge, without having any institutions filtering the knowledge and giving us only limited knowledge, the given pool of knowledge by the institution will have a bias, having chosen only some knowledge, and rejecting other knowledge. I think that is our right to freely speak and share and it is also our right to really decide what we accept and what we decline, as of knowledge.

However, I do not know much, I really think that we should try to know rather than not to know.

Have a good weekend,