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Contents contributed and discussions participated by jatolbert


The Digital-Humanities Bust - The Chronicle of Higher Education - 0 views

  • To ask about the field is really to ask how or what DH knows, and what it allows us to know. The answer, it turns out, is not much.

    Let’s begin with the tension between promise and product. Any neophyte to digital-humanities literature notices its extravagant rhetoric of exuberance. The field may be "transforming long-established disciplines like history or literary criticism," according to a Stanford Literary Lab email likely unread or disregarded by a majority in those disciplines. Laura Mandell, director of the Initiative for Digital Humanities, Media, and Culture at Texas A&M University, promises to break "the book format" without explaining why one might want to — even as books, against all predictions, doggedly persist, filling the airplane-hanger-sized warehouses of

  • A similar shortfall is evident when digital humanists turn to straight literary criticism. "Distant reading," a method of studying novels without reading them, uses computer scanning to search for "units that are much smaller or much larger than the text" (in Franco Moretti’s words) — tropes, at one end, genres or systems, at the other. One of the most intelligent examples of the technique is Richard Jean So and Andrew Piper’s 2016 Atlantic article, "How Has the MFA Changed the American Novel?" (based on their research for articles published in academic journals). The authors set out to quantify "how similar authors were across a range of literary aspects, including diction, style, theme, setting." But they never cite exactly what the computers were asked to quantify. In the real world of novels, after all, style, theme, and character are often achieved relationally — that is, without leaving a trace in words or phrases recognizable as patterns by a program.
  • Perhaps toward that end, So, an assistant professor of English at the University of Chicago, wrote an elaborate article in Critical Inquiry with Hoyt Long (also of Chicago) on the uses of machine learning and "literary pattern recognition" in the study of modernist haiku poetry. Here they actually do specify what they instructed programmers to look for, and what computers actually counted. But the explanation introduces new problems that somehow escape the authors. By their own admission, some of their interpretations derive from what they knew "in advance"; hence the findings do not need the data and, as a result, are somewhat pointless. After 30 pages of highly technical discussion, the payoff is to tell us that haikus have formal features different from other short poems. We already knew that.
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  • The outsized promises of big-data mining (which have been a fixture in big-figure grant proposals) seem curiously stuck at the level of confident assertion. In a 2011 New Left Review article, "Network Theory, Plot Analysis," Moretti gives us a promissory note that characterizes a lot of DH writing: "One day, after we add to these skeletons the layers of direction, weight and semantics, those richer images will perhaps make us see different genres — tragedies and comedies; picaresque, gothic, Bildungsroman … — as different shapes; ideally, they may even make visible the micro-patterns out of which these larger network shapes emerge."

    But what are the semantics of a shape when measured against the tragedy to which it corresponds? If "shape" is only a place-holder meant to allow for more-complex calculations of literary meaning (disburdened of their annoyingly human baggage), by what synesthetic principle do we reconvert it into its original, now reconfigured, genre-form? It is not simply that no answers are provided; it is that DH never asks the questions. And without them, how can Moretti’s "one day" ever arrive?

  • For all its resources, the digital humanities makes a rookie mistake: It confuses more information for more knowledge. DH doesn’t know why it thinks it knows what it does not know. And that is an odd place for a science to be.

DHQ: Digital Humanities Quarterly: A Genealogy of Distant Reading - 0 views

  • Because Radway’s voice is candid and engaging, the book may not always sound like social science.
    • jatolbert
      I wonder what social science he's been reading.
  • In calling this approach minimally "scientific," I don’t mean to imply that we must suddenly adopt all the mores of chemists, or even psychologists
    • jatolbert
      And yet the effect is the same: scientizing processes and products which by their very natures as human works resist scientific analysis.
  • social science
    • jatolbert
      Again, this is a very different social science from that in which I received my own training, which has long held to the notion that objectivity is not only unobtainable, but undesirable.
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  • But computational methods now matter deeply for literary history, because they can be applied to large digital libraries, guided by a theoretical framework that tells us how to pose meaningful questions on a social scale.
    • jatolbert
      I wonder about this. Is he suggesting that examining a large corpus of published works is the same as examining an entire society? This would seem to ignore issues of access and audience, literacy, representation, etc.
  • The term digital humanities stages intellectual life as a dialogue between humanists and machines. Instead of explicitly foregrounding experimental methods, it underlines a boundary between the humanities and social science.
  • Conflations of that kind could begin to create an unproductive debate, where parties to the debate fail to grasp the reason for disagreement, because they misunderstand each other’s real positions and commitments.
    • jatolbert
      Similar to the conflation of sociology with all of the social sciences.
  • the past
    • jatolbert
      Is it appropriate to conflate the -literary- past with -the past-? That is, can any study based wholly on texts claim to be in any way representative of things outside the sphere of what we call "literature"?

How America Went Haywire - The Atlantic - 2 views

  • We all have hunches we can’t prove and superstitions that make no sense. Some of my best friends are very religious, and others believe in dubious conspiracy theories
    • jatolbert
      Don't like how he's equating religion with irrationality.
  • anything-goes relativism
    • jatolbert
      This bears explaining
  • Much more than the other billion or so people in the developed world, we Americans believe—really believe—in the supernatural and the miraculous, in Satan on Earth, in reports of recent trips to and from heaven, and in a story of life’s instantaneous creation several thousand years ago.
    • jatolbert
      Disagree on a number of levels. But mostly I object to his repeated claims that belief in these things is stupid/irrational.
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  • By my reckoning, the solidly reality-based are a minority, maybe a third of us but almost certainly fewer than half.
    • jatolbert
      What in the world does he mean by this? Who (besides himself) does he view as "reality-based"?
  • Remarkably, the same fraction, or maybe less, believes that the Bible consists mainly of legends and fables—the same proportion that believes U.S. officials were complicit in the 9/11 attacks.
    • jatolbert
      Misusing the genre term "legend"
  • Of course, various fantasy constituencies overlap and feed one another—for instance, belief in extraterrestrial visitation and abduction can lead to belief in vast government cover-ups, which can lead to belief in still more wide-ranging plots and cabals, which can jibe with a belief in an impending Armageddon.
    • jatolbert
      What does he mean by "lead to"? There's a causal factor between disparate beliefs? Where's his proof? His "truth" is truth by fiat, which is as bad as the other truths he attacks.
  • that there is some ‘public’ that shares a notion of reality, a concept of reason, and a set of criteria by which claims to reason and rationality are judged,
    • jatolbert
      Now he's just pissing me off.
  • merican moxie has always come in two types. We have our wilder, faster, looser side: We’re overexcited gamblers with a weakness for stories too good to be true. But we also have the virtues embodied by the Puritans and their secular descendants: steadiness, hard work, frugality, sobriety, and common sense.
    • jatolbert
      There is no such thing as national types or traits. This is a step away from eugenics.
  • We invented the fantasy-industrial complex; almost nowhere outside poor or otherwise miserable countries are flamboyant supernatural beliefs so central to the identities of so many people.
    • jatolbert
      And now he's just being an outright bigot. Also, I doubt this claim about which countries have prevalent supernatural beliefs is even close to accurate.
  • national traits
  • Essentially everything that became known as New Age was invented, developed, or popularized at the Esalen Institute.
    • jatolbert
      This is, in fact, overstatement.
  • Reality itself is a purely social construction, a tableau of useful or wishful myths that members of a society or tribe have been persuaded to believe.
    • jatolbert
      doesn't understand constructivism
  • perceptions
  • Over in anthropology, where the exotic magical beliefs of traditional cultures were a main subject, the new paradigm took over completely—don’t judge, don’t disbelieve, don’t point your professorial finger
    • jatolbert
  • the idea that nothing is any more correct or true than anything else
    • jatolbert
      This is not what relativism is.
    • jatolbert
      False equivalencies, unclear links, and general unsubstantiated grouchiness. This guy is an idiot.
  • Exciting falsehoods tend to do well in the perpetual referenda, and become self-validating. A search for almost any “alternative” theory or belief seems to generate more links to true believers’ pages and sites than to legitimate or skeptical ones, and those tend to dominate the first few pages of results. For instance, beginning in the ’90s, conspiracists decided that contrails, the skinny clouds of water vapor that form around jet-engine exhaust, were composed of exotic chemicals, part of a secret government scheme to test weapons or poison citizens or mitigate climate change—and renamed them chemtrails. When I Googled chemtrails proof, the first seven results offered so-called evidence of the nonexistent conspiracy. When I searched for government extraterrestrial cover-up, only one result in the first three pages didn’t link to an article endorsing a conspiracy theory.
    • jatolbert
      This is just stupid. He SEARCHED for terms that validate these claims-- "proof; cover-up"--so of COURSE the majority of results were from the perspective of belief.

Scholarly, digital, open: an impossible triangle? | Goodfellow | Research in Learning T... - 1 views

  • Scholarship is discussed below from both institutional and individual perspectives. The view I am starting from is that ‘scholarship’ refers to a set of epistemological and ethical practices that underpin the social construction of an enduring record of objectively validated knowledge. By this definition teaching and learning is not scholarship, although it may draw on scholarship and be done by scholars.
    • jatolbert
      Hugely disagree. The first part may be reasonable enough, although I disagree with the notion of "objectively validated knowledge" as a necessary component of scholarship (how is it "objective"? how can it be "validated"?). But to claim that teaching is separate from scholarship is problematic.
  • Research in this area always runs the risk of collapsing into reflexivity, as digital scholars turn the lens of enquiry onto themselves, but grounded and critical research into situated practice in areas of research, teaching and public engagement where both scholarship in all its forms and digitality in all its manifestations are prominent is possible and should be pursued.
    • jatolbert
      Is reflexivity a bad thing? In the social sciences it's a sine qua non.
  • There is an inherent tension between practices that aim to open up the social construction of knowledge to universal participation, and those which aim to deepen the understanding of specialist communities and establish a stable and enduring record. Nevertheless, it is the role of many scholars to be involved in both. To bring scholarship, teaching and public engagement closer together must surely be the aim, but first we need to understand the ways in which practice makes them different.
    • jatolbert
      I mostly agree with this bit, although I prefer the proper reading of Boyer's model, i.e., that research, teaching, and "public engagement" (which falls into Boyer's category of Application) are -all- forms of scholarship.

The "Digital" Scholarship Disconnect | EDUCAUSE - 0 views

  • Digital scholarship is an incredibly awkward term that people have come up with to describe a complex group of developments. The phrase is really, at some basic level, nonsensical. After all, scholarship is scholarship. Doing science is doing science. We don't find the Department of Digital Physics arguing with the Department of Non–Digital Physics about who's doing "real" physics.
  • Soon, people wanted to start talking more broadly about newly technology-enabled scholarly work, not just in science; in part this was because of some very dramatic and high-visibility developments in using digital technology in various humanistic investigations. To do so, they came up with the neologisms we enjoy today—awful phrases like e-scholarship and digital scholarship.

    Having said that, I do view the term digital scholarship basically as shorthand for the entire body of changing scholarly practice, a reminder and recognition of the fact that most areas of scholarly work today have been transformed, to a lesser or greater extent, by a series of information technologies:

    • High-performance computing, which allows us to build simulation models and to conduct very-large-scale data analysis
    • Visualization technologies, including interactive visualizations
    • Technologies for creating, curating, and sharing large databases and large collections of data
    • High-performance networking, which allows us to share resources across the network and to gain access to experimental or observational equipment and which allows geographically dispersed individuals to communicate and collaborate; implicit here are ideas such as the rise of lightweight challenge-focused virtual organizations
  • We now have enormous curated databases serving various disciplines: GenBank for gene sequences; the Worldwide Protein Data Bank for protein structures; and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and planned successors for (synoptic) astronomical observations. All of these are relied upon by large numbers of working scientists. Yet the people who compiled these databases are often not regarded by their colleagues as "real" scientists but, rather, as "once-scientists" who got off-track and started doing resource-building for the community. And it's true: many resource-builders don't have the time to be actively doing science (i.e., analysis and discovery); instead, they are building and enabling the tools that will advance the collective scientific enterprise in other, less traditional ways. The academic and research community faces a fundamental challenge in developing norms and practices that recognize and reward these essential contributions.

    This idea—of people not doing "real" research, even though they are building up resources that can enable others to do research—has played out as well in the humanities. The humanists have often tried to make a careful distinction between the work of building a base of evidence and the work of interpreting that evidence to support some particular analysis, thesis, and/or set of conclusions; this is a little easier in the humanities because the scale of collaboration surrounding emerging digital resources and their exploitation for scholarship is smaller (contrast this to the literal "cast of thousands" at CERN) and it's common here to see the leading participants play both roles: resource-builder and "working" scholar.

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  • Still, in all of these examples of digital scholarship, a key challenge remains: How can we curate and manage data now that so much of it is being produced and collected in digital form? How can we ensure that it will be discovered, shared, and reused to advance scholarship?
  • On a final note, I have talked above mostly about changes in the practice of scholarship. But changes in the practice of scholarship need to go hand-in-hand with changes in the communication and documentation of scholarship.
    Interesting short piece on challenges of digital scholarship

DLAx | The Digital Liberal Arts Exchange - 0 views

shared by jatolbert on 08 Jun 17 - No Cached
  • Many schools have recently embarked upon initiatives in digital scholarship – those forms of scholarship largely in the humanities and humanistic social sciences that emphasize digital tools and infrastructure, as well as accompanying expertise and support.
    • jatolbert
      Why is it "largely in the humanities and humanistic social sciences"? I don't buy this.

Open Stacks: Making DH Labor Visible ← dh+lib - 1 views

  • DH librarians, whose highly collaborative work is dedicated to social justice and public engagement, may be one particularly vital community of practice for exposing the changing conditions that create knowledge.
  • like the fish who asks “what is water?”–most scholars are unaware of the extent to which their work, professional interactions, and finances are imbricated with the global technology Stack.
    • jatolbert
      Also not sure that this is true.
  • Many DH programs, initiatives, and teams have arisen organically out of social connections rather than centralized planning.
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  • the myth of scarcity
  • Scholars often presume that because libraries acquire, shelve, and preserve the print books that they write, that the same libraries will acquire, shelve (or host), and preserve digital projects.
    • jatolbert
      This is a natural assumption, and in fact is true in many cases.
  • digital scholarship
  • DH
  • digital scholarship

The one word that doubles liberal arts grads' chances of getting hired | EAB Daily Brie... - 0 views

  • Burning Glass reports that when liberal arts job seekers add the word "digital" to their resumes—or otherwise demonstrate digital competencies—they double the number of job openings they qualify for.

Trends in Digital Scholarship Centers | EDUCAUSE - 2 views

  • Although sometimes confused with digital scholarship centers, digital humanities centers are often specialized research centers led by a group of faculty and serving only select disciplines rather than a broad campus community. Also, libraries often play only a peripheral role in digital humanities centers.1 In contrast, libraries or IT organizations have a key role in digital scholarship centers.
    • jatolbert
      This is important.
  • Digital scholarship centers can build institutional capacity to address emerging and future scholarship needs.
  • Considering options for presenting or publishing completed projects
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  • A key attribute that distinguishes digital scholarship centers from more traditional research institutes (such as digital humanities centers) is that they are service organizations, staffed by individuals with specialized skills, who support work in the digital environment.
  • Whether a digital scholarship center needs a dedicated facility or can be a distributed set of physical spaces and services — or even a virtual service — are open questions. A physical center that brings together specialized equipment and services in one convenient place has the advantage of visibility and provides a venue for an array of programming, including workshops, guest lectures, and displays of completed projects. In other cases, an office or set of offices might serve as the hub for center staff, while equipment and services are dispersed in physically separate media production areas, GIS facilities, data visualization labs, and makerspaces.
  • The case studies also illustrate the importance of tailoring a digital scholarship program to the needs of the institution; there is no "one size fits all."
  • The Sherman Centre has taken a "design-build" approach: Spaces were rendered with maximum flexibility in mind — with minimal enclosed spaces and with a strong focus on moveable furniture and adaptable technology. Design work has continued long after the center was officially opened: Key service and space components have been added as the needs of the campus community have become more clear.
  • Thus, the Sherman Centre was not serving an established collection of self-identified digital scholars — it was growing its own.
  • First, we have learned the critical importance of clearly defining the Sherman Centre's scope and purpose for the campus community.
  • We often find ourselves having to turn people away when their work is not advancing the digital scholarship agenda. Saying no is not easy, but it must be done to protect the center's integrity.
  • Digital scholarship centers represent a model of engagement for libraries and information technology units. They both support and encourage new directions in research, teaching, and learning and provide the infrastructure (technical and human) to encourage experimentation in new areas of scholarship.
  • Experiences gained from existing digital scholarship centers can help uninitiated institutions better launch their own efforts and thereby increase support for the research, teaching, and learning needs of their campus communities.
  • Digital scholarship centers focus on relationships, extending the ways in which librarians and academic computing professionals relate to and work with faculty (and often students) and their scholarly practices.
  • Here, we examine centers that go by a variety of names — including digital scholarship center, digital scholarship lab, and scholars' lab — but that nonetheless share common features. These centers are generally administered by a central unit, such as the library or IT organization; serve the entire campus community (including undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty); and address the needs of a range of academic departments and programs.
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