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.

One Reply to “Neoliberalism and Digital Humanities”

  1. Great points. There’s a lot of grant money that exists out there for DH, but I don’t know of any DHers who are getting rich off of their work. Sometimes DH happens in the margins of our regular jobs, such as mine, so if we can secure outside funding, it makes things easier for us to move forward. Very few people work in higher ed for the money, we do it because we are passionate about things and want to work with students who are interested in learning and doing.

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