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.

One Reply to “Neoliberalism and DH”

  1. There’s a lot of tension in higher education right now about what students should learn – how to think or how to do? This artificial dichotomy has emerged as education gets more expensive, jobs are harder to find (and often more specialized). Humanities have taken a hard hit on this, especially, since they are lambasted as not being real world skills, but STEM fields are supposedly where you get skills related to getting a job. I (obviously) think there’s room for both mindsets, especially since we still need to be ethical and thinking users of technology and information, which humanistic inquiry facilitates.

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