Stephen Ramsay, Alan Liu, Alex Reid and others have recently engaged in a fruitful conversation about the role of cultural criticism in the digital humanities. Ramsay begins the exchange with a post revisiting Liu’s 2011 article in Debates in the Digital Humanities, “Where is Cultural Criticism in the Digital Humanities?” Quoting Liu, “How the digital humanities advances, channels, or resists today’s great postindustrial, neoliberal, corporate, and global flows of information-cum-capital is thus a question rarely heard.”
Ramsay critiques the status quo in digital humanities (as well as cultural criticism and humanities in general), ultimately stating,
I want a break with the past. I want a new, revivified humanities that resists current attempts at its destruction. I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water, but I also don’t care if this new humanities looks like some kind of mashup between computer science and English.
In response to Ramsay’s post, Liu takes a deeper look at the social and cultural circumstances in which the digital humanities find themselves. Liu states,
The goal [of digital humanities] is to do research, to teach, and to live as if humanities technology is constantly intertwined with, reacts to, and acts on the way the links are now being forged between individuals (starting with those in the academy where we teach and conduct research) and the social-economic-political-technological constitution of contemporary society.
In “Ramsay, Liu, Cultural Critique, and DH,” Alex Reid weighs in on the conversation from his perspective as a digital rhetorician. He suggests:
In short the response to cultural critique should not respond to the critiques themselves (unless one finds them heuristically useful). Instead, we need to investigate a different ontological mode (and the methods it might suggest) and recognize the inertial drag of our print legacy on our disciplines.
There has also been a rich dialog in the comment section of each post that has expanded and continued the conversation.
Posts referenced above:
- Stephan Ramsay, “Why I’m In It“
- Alan Liu, “Why I’m In It x 2: Antiphonal Response to Stephan Ramsay on Digital Humanities and Cultural Criticism“
- Alex Reid, “Ramsay, Liu, Cultural Critique, and DH“