Laura Mandell (Texas A&M) has posted “Experiencing the Bust,” a response to Timothy Brennan’s “Digital Humanities Bust,” the Chronicle of Higher Education article that caused a stir earlier this month. In it, Mandell asserts that “digital humanities is only busted if you expected it to be salvific,” noting that “it is the utopianists who deserve your justifiable critique, and not those DHers who are trying to build an infrastructure adequate to humanities research.”
Mandell critiques the rush to discount the accomplishments of DH, emphasizing that “humanities work is always impoverished if it is read only to reveal general laws,” and that the aim of interpretation is to confront complexity in detail.
The journey is what matters in digital humanities work as well, but the kinds of insights derivable from operationalizing hypotheses and assumptions in machine language are invisible if dismissed as “30 pages of highly technical discussion.”
The post continues with a self-styled “diatribe” about the perceived need to justify the value of DH work while also doing the work. Mandell ends with a note that will be familiar to librarians in the field:
How the digital record is organized and preserved, and what tools are used to analyze it, database and search engine design, how cultural artifacts are findable when archived, how contextualized, how documented through metadata: these are all questions and problems currently under discussion in DH as well as currently being worked out in practical ways so that we do not need to depend solely on Google to mediate culture for us.