Citation: “Drafts for Alan Liu, Against the Cultural Singularity (book in progress.” Alan Liu, 2 May 2016. http://liu.english.ucsb.edu/drafts-for-against-the-cultural-singularity
The following is draft work (notes and bibliography not included) from one of my books in progress tentatively titled Against the Cultural Singularity: Digital Humanities & Critical Infrastructure Studies. Excerpted are a few portions from the beginning of the manuscript that bear on the critical potential of the digital humanities and critique.
For a talk including this material as well as additional excerpts from my book in progress, see the video recording of my contribution to the Workshop on “Frontiers of DH: Humanities Systems Infrastructure,” University of Canterbury, 12 November 2015 (delivered as part of a series in New Zealand during my Fulbright Specialist residency at U. Canterbury, October-November, 2015.)
2 May 2016
My aim in this book is to make a strategic intervention in the development of the digital humanities. Following up on my 2012 essay, “Where is Cultural Criticism in the Digital Humanities?”, I call for digital humanities research and development informed by, and able to influence, the way scholarship, teaching, administration, support services, labor practices, and even development and investment strategies in higher education intersect with society, where a significant channel of the intersection between the academy and other social sectors, at once symbolic and instrumental, consists in shared but contested information-technology infrastructures. I first lay out in the book a methodological framework for understanding how the digital humanities can develop a mode of critical infrastructure studies. I then offer a prospectus for the kinds of infrastructure (not only research “cyberinfrastructures,” as they have been called) whose development the digital humanities might help create or guide. And I close with thoughts on how the digital humanities can contribute to ameliorating the very idea of “development”–technological, socioeconomic, and cultural–today.
The first step–framing for the digital humanities a suitable methodological framework for critical digital infrastructure studies–is challenging, given that the digital humanities are maturing after the late twentieth-century bloom of humanities “theory” and “cultural criticism,” which I here group together (grosso modo) under the name “critique”. . . .
Citation: “Hello (again), world!.” Alan Liu, 4 October 2015. http://liu.english.ucsb.edu/hello-again-world/
This is the inaugural message I posted to the new “firstname.lastname@example.org” listserv at UC Santa Barbara, which I started in October 2015. The posting was made on 4 October 2015.
Hello (again), world!
“Hello, world!” is the customary first output for a beginner trying out a programming language. At UC Santa Barbara, many of us were saying hello, world! to the digital humanities as early as the start of the 1990s, though the name for the field had not yet been invented….
So, the underlying question that motivates me to start this digital humanities listserv now in 2015—some 20 years after we all began the great digital adventure at UCSB—is: what next? How can we exploit our advantage as early movers in the field (and in the related social science, arts, and other digital fields whose collaboration with the humanities is part of the longtime DNA of digital studies on campus) in a way that builds the next generation of digital humanities at UCSB? For example, would it be possible to exploit our unique strengths by creating a unified intellectual agenda—supported by publications, conferences, curricula, etc.—for the “digital humanities” and “new media studies”? (That unified framework doesn’t really exist yet nationally or internationally. I am amazed at how many scholars, artists, social scientists, and engineers I know working on new media or network studies with whom I have no opportunity to collaborate in conferences, co-editions, journal venues, courses, or institutional programs because such apparatus now tends to be either for “digital humanities” in a narrow sense or for “new media studies.”)
Citation: Research Report: ”How Public Media in the U.S. and U.K. Compare in Their Terminology For the Humanities.” WhatEvery1Says Project, 4Humanities.org. (3 August 2015) http://4humwhatevery1says.pbworks.com/w/page/98623971/How%20Public%20Media%20in%20the%20US%20and%20UK%20Compare%20in%20Their%20Terminology%20For%20the%20Humanities
While assembling a study corpus of public discourse in English about the humanities (since about 1990 when newspapers began fully digitizing articles), the 4Humanities “WhatEvery1Says” Project (WE1S) encountered the following questions of linguistic usage:
- How are the humanities referred to in newspapers, magazines, and other media in the U.S. compared to the U.K. (and other Commonwealth nations)? Especially, what from a comparative perspective is the overlap/difference between the terms “humanities,” “liberal arts,” “arts,” and “the arts”?
- Do the proportions of such terms change over time in each nation?
- Most practically, which terms (“humanities,” “liberal arts,” “arts,” and “the arts”) should the WE1S project use for searches in newspaper API’s and other resources as it locates texts for its corpus? (Since public discourse in newspapers, magazines, and other media is too ample to be collected in toto, WE1S aims to collect just what might be called the “neighborhood” of discussion of the humanities. The project will then apply text analysis methodology to this neighborhood to refine its understanding of the way the humanities are discussed.)
The following is a preliminary study focused on comparing linguistic usage in the U.S. and U.K. It is conducted by Alan Liu with assistance from other members of the WE1S research team and the co-leaders of 4Humanities.org. The study will be extended and revised as WE1S research continues.
Citation:”The Big Bang of Online Reading.” Advancing Digital Humanities: Research, Methods, Theories. Ed. Paul Longley Arthur and Katherine Bode. Palgrave Macmillan, 2014: 274-90.
- DOI of book: 10.1057/9781137337016
- Full text (open-access author’s pre-copy-edited final version in institutional repository, PDF)
Citation: “Theses on the Epistemology of the Digital: Advice For the Cambridge Centre for Digital Knowledge.” Alan Liu, 14 August 2014. http://liu.english.ucsb.edu/theses-on-the-epistemology-of-the-digital-page
The following was written as a solicited follow-up to my participation in the second planning consultation session of the new Cambridge University Centre for Digital Knowledge. The session, held on 7 May 2014 at the Cambridge Centre for Research in the Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH), focused on “digital epistemology,” one of the two intended thematic strands of the Centre for Digital Knowledge. A previous planning consultation at CRASSH that I did not attend focused on the other intended strand of “digital society.”
My theses below are meant more as provocation than as prescription; and they do not take account of plans that may have been put in place for the Center for Digital Knowledge since the planning consultations.
Thesis 1: Enlightening the Digital
Establishing a Centre for Digital Knowledge oriented around the “epistemology of digital knowledge” will require a laser-sharp focus on making “knowledge” a productive framework for understanding the digital age. This framework must be robust enough to compete with such more common gestalts as “society,” “politics,” “culture,” and “economy” (represented in such phrases as “information society,” ‘”surveillance society,” “social media,” “online culture,” “information economy,” etc.). The proposed Centre for Digital Knowledge can generate its agenda by deliberately harnessing the tension between knowledge (including ideals of academic knowledge shaped by the German research university model and the Enlightenment) and social, cultural, and economic understandings of the digital age….
5 March 2014
My friend and first editor, Helen Tarter — Editorial Director of Fordham University Press and formerly editor at Stanford University Press — died in a car accident on March 4th, 2014. (Fordham UP announcement) Helen was a formative influence on my writing and career who took a gamble on my sprawling first book Wordsworth: The Sense of History (Stanford UP, 1989) and nurtured it into print. I will always remember her support, the discipline she inspired rather than required, and the fluid, sparkling stream of her conversation (carried out in a voice so soft that I hear it in my mind whenever I reread Wordsworth’s “Nutting” and come to the line on “the murmur, and the murmuring sound”).
The following is excerpted from the beginning of the Acknowledgments in my second book (my first book “after Helen”):
|2013||Essays , Interviews|
Citation: Scott Pound and Alan Liu, “The Amoderns: Reengaging the Humanities — A Feature Interview with Alan Liu.” aModern, 2 (2013). Web. <http://amodern.net/article/the-amoderns-reengaging-the-humanities/>
“‘Why I’m In It’ x 2 — Antiphonal Response to Stephan Ramsay on Digital Humanities and Cultural Criticism”Categories Blog Essays
Citation: “‘Why I’m In It’ x 2 — Antiphonal Response to Stephan Ramsay on Digital Humanities and Cultural Criticism.” Alan Liu, 13 September 2013. http://liu.english.ucsb.edu/why-im-in-it-x-2-antiphonal-response-to-stephan-ramsay-on-digital-humanities-and-cultural-criticism/
On January 7, 2011, Stephen Ramsay and I both participated in the memorable panel at the Modern Language Association convention in Los Angeles entitled “The History and Future of the Digital Humanities.” We both launched on that day controversial theses about the digital humanities by asking leading questions. Steve asked, “Do you have to know how to code [build, make]?”, and I asked, “Where is cultural criticism in the digital humanities?”
Now, two and a half years on, we have (virtually) converged again at the intersection between questions about the nature of the digital humanities field and questions about its relation to cultural criticism. . . .
Citation: “The Meaning of the Digital Humanities.” PMLA 128 (2013): 409-23.
- DOI: 10.1632/pmla.2013.128.2.409.
- Open access (post-embargo published version in institutional repository, PDF)
- Paywalled (published version, PDF)
- Video of lecture at New York University (May 1, 2013) based on fuller version of the paper subsequently published in PMLA. (1 hr. 47 min.)
Citation: “The Digital Humanities and Identity Issues.” Alan Liu, 11 May 2013. http://liu.english.ucsb.edu/the-digital-humanities-and-identity-issues/
I think that the distinctive identity issue to address in considering “the intermingling of race, class, gender, sexuality and disability and the digital humanities” is the political economy of digital-human identity today. Such identity consists in a relational set of overlaps and differences between at least two [groups] of the digital human: those who stand in the position of producers or managers of the technologies and media that shape life in the information age, and those whose “power of identity” (to use Manuel Castells’s term from his trilogy about network society) is shaped by or against those technologies and media without having direct access to producing or managing them. . . .
Citation: “Is Digital Humanities a Field? — An Answer From the Point of View of Language.” Alan Liu, 6 March 2013. http://liu.english.ucsb.edu/is-digital-humanities-a-field-an-answer-from-the-point-of-view-of-language/
Over the past few years, I have wrestled with a low-level set of usage and style problems when publishing essays related to digital-humanities issues. These may be put in the form of the two questions: is “digital humanities” singular or plural? and should we crown the phrase with the definite article (“the digital humanities”)?
Of course, these are prosaic questions. But the issues they represent have the unsettling habit of showing up in the most prominent places, such as in the title of an essay I have forthcoming in The Changing Profession section of PMLA. Where my manuscript originally read, “The Meaning of Digital Humanities,” my copy editor has revised to,”The Meaning of the Digital Humanities.” Nor is it just in prominent places that the issues appear. Usage problems of this sort are pervasive to the point that my manuscripts on [the] digital humanities tend to be sprinkled throughout with innumerable tiny problems at the low level of articles and subject-verb agreements. . . .
“Friending the Humanities Knowledge Base: Exploring Bibliography as Social Network in RoSE” (co-authored)Categories Other Writings
Citation: Alan Liu (lead author), Rama Hoetzlein, Rita Raley, Ivana Anjelkovic, Salman Bakht, Joshua Dickinson, Michael Hetrick, Andrew Kalaidjian, Eric Nebeker, Dana Solomon, and Lindsay Thomas. “Friending the Humanities Knowledge Base: Exploring Bibliography as Social Network in RoSE.” White Paper for the NEH Office of Digital Humanities: Rose Digital Humanities Start-up Grant (Level 2) HD-51433-11 (9/1/2011 TO 9/30/2012).
Citation: “From Reading to Social Computing.” Literary Studies in the Digital Age: An Evolving Anthology. Ed. Kenneth M. Price and Ray Siemens. MLA Commons. Modern Language Association of America. 2013. Web. <http://dlsanthology.commons.mla.org/from-reading-to-social-computing/>
|2012||Blog Essays , Other Writings|
Citation: Alan Liu and William G. Thomas III, “Humanities in the Digital Age.” Inside Higher Ed — Views, 1 October 2012. http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2012/10/01/essay-opportunities-humanities-programs-digital-era/
Good strategy requires picking some point on the line to apply leverage. The leverage point in the policies now shaping the future university is the digital, and we feel that it is crucial that the humanities try for well-conceived, humanities-friendly models of digital work that are institutionally cohesive enough to influence policy.
Citation: “The Humanities and Tomorrow’s Discoveries.” 4Humanities, 25 July 2012. http://4humanities.org/2012/07/alan-liu-the-humanities-and-tomorrows-discoveries/
I think that the distinctive identity issue to address in Today, we use words like invention, innovation, and breakthrough to describe the most hopeful visions for the future of humanity. We pin our hopes on technological and other breakthroughs that might switch on whole new levels of economic, social, and personal well-being—or, just as important, help ward off threats to well-being. We even have a name for the greatest human challenges whose breakthrough solutions—not yet in sight—will require sustained innovation by large numbers of researchers across many fields. We call these “grand challenges.” As identified by the U.S. President’s Office, the Grand Challenges in Global Health initiative, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, and other public and private agencies, the grand challenges for the 21st century will be global in scale and require collaborative, interdisciplinary solutions on multiple fronts: scientific, engineering, biomedical, agricultural, social, economic, cultural, ethical, and educational. World energy, world climate, world hunger and thirst, world disease, world security. These are some of the grand challenges of the 21st century.
Yet not one of the words invention, innovation, and breakthrough are as powerful as the word that encompasses them all and gives them their full human meaning. That word is discovery, for which a society’s preparedness in the humanities is as vital as in any other field. Discovery is what happens when an invention, innovation, or breakthrough occurs in a fully human horizon of understanding that radically multiplies its value, discovering connections to whole worlds of human meaning and possibility. . . .
Citation: “Translitteraties: le big bang de la lecture en ligne.” Trans. Françoise Bouillot. E-Dossiers de l’audiovisuel, January 2012. INA Expert (Inathèque of France). Web.
- Full text (open access published version in institutional repository, PDF)
- Full text (open access publisher’s version, HTML)
Citation: “The State of the Digital Humanities: A Report and a Critique.” Arts and Humanities in Higher Education, 11.1-2 (2012): 8-41. DOI: 10.1177/1474022211427364.
- Open access (author’s pre-publication final version in institutional repository, viewable online and downloadable as PDF)
- Paywalled (published version, PDF)
Citation: “‘So What?’: New Tools and New Humanities Paradigms.” Response to Monica Bulger, Jessica Murphy, Jeff Scheible, and Elizabeth Lagresa, “Interdisciplinary Knowledge Work: Digital Textual Analysis Tools and Their Collaboration Affordances.” Collaborative Approaches to the Digital in English Studies. Ed. Laura McGrath. Logan, UT: Computers and Composition Digital Press / Utah State University Press, 2011. 272-75. (Available online.)
- Open-access full text (published version, PDF) (“‘So What?'” response essay at end, pp. 272-275)
Citation: “Where is Cultural Criticism in the Digital Humanities?” Alan Liu, 7 January 2011. http://liu.english.ucsb.edu/where-is-cultural-criticism-in-the-digital-humanities/
Original full text of paper presented at the panel on “The History and Future of the Digital Humanities,” Modern Language Association convention, Los Angeles, 7 January 2011. (The paper was delivered in truncated, improvised form at the actual event due to time constraints.) An expanded version of this paper (full text) was later published under the same title in Debates in the Digital Humanities, ed. Matthew K. Gold (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012): 490-509.
This is the occasion to announce the new initiative titled 4Humanities: Advocating for the Humanities, which is subtitled “Powered by the International Digital Humanities Community.” The site, which I and a collective of digital humanists in the U.S., Canada, U.K., and Australia started in November 2010 in the wake of discussion on the Humanist List about whether the digital humanities had become too “industrialised” and about the budget “cuts” in the United Kingdom, is a platform for advocacy statements for the humanities and other forms of showcasing the value of the humanities. The premise of the site is that the digital humanities have a special role to play today in helping the humanities communicate in contemporary media networks. . . .
|2009||Essays , Publications|
|2009||Essays , Publications|
Citation: “Thinking Destruction: Creativity, Rational Choice, Emergence, and Destruction Theory.” Occasion: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Humanities, 1.1 (October 15, 2009). <http://occasion.stanford.edu/node/24>
|2009||Blog Essays , Other Writings , Publications|
Citation: “A New Metaphor for Reading.” Invited contribution to “Room for Debate” forum on “Does the Brain Like E-Books?” New York Times, 14 October 2009. http://roomfordebate.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/10/14/does-the-brain-like-e-books/
Initially, any new information medium seems to degrade reading because it disturbs the balance between focal and peripheral attention. This was true as early as the invention of writing, which Plato complained hollowed out focal memory. Similarly, William Wordsworth’s sister complained that he wasted his mind in the newspapers of the day. It takes time and adaptation before a balance can be restored, not just in the “mentality” of the reader, as historians of the book like to say, but in the social systems that complete the reading environment.
Right now, networked digital media do a poor job of balancing focal and peripheral attention. We swing between two kinds of bad reading.
|2009||Essays , Publications|
“A Poem Should Be Equal To: / Not True.” Preface to Romanticism, History, Historicism: Essays on an OrthodoxyCategories Essays , Publications
Citation: “A Poem Should Be Equal To: / Not True.” Preface to Romanticism, History, Historicism: Essays on an Orthodoxy. Ed. Damian Walford Davies. New York: Routledge, 2009. xiii-xx
|2008||Books , Publications|
Citation: Local Transcendence: Essays on Postmodern Historicism and the Database. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008.
[392 pp., ISBN-10: 0226486966, ISBN-13: 978-0226486963]
Book of essays on the methodology of the new historicism and other modes of postmodern cultural criticism in the age of the network and the database (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008)
Citation: “When Was Linearity?: The Meaning of Graphics in the Digital Age.” Digital History. Web. August, 2008. <http://digitalhistory.unl.edu/essays/liuessay.php>
|2008||Essays , Publications|
Citation: “Literature+.” Currents in Electronic Literacy (Spring 2008). <http://currents.dwrl.utexas.edu/2008/literature-plus.html>
|2007||Essays , Publications|
|2007||Essays , Publications|
Citation: “Higher Education and Online Lifelong Learning: Five Theses.” Academy Exchange, Issue 6 (Summer 2007): 34-35.
|2007||Essays , Publications|
Citation: “The Humanities: A Technical Profession.” Andrew Delbanco, Ronald G. Ehrenberg, Alan Liu, and Catharine R. Stimpson, The Idea and Ideals of the University. ACLS Occasional Paper No. 63, 2007. <http://www.acls.org/Publications/OP/63_Ideas_and_Ideals.pdf>
[Note: This paper was first presented as a talk at the Annual Meeting of the ACLS, 8 May 2004, then revised slightly for publication in 2007 in the ACLS Occasional Papers online series. Though this revision stays close to the talk, it adopts some of the changes made for the first published essay version of the paper: the 2005 article (also titled “The Humanities: A Technical Profession”) in Teaching, Technology, Textuality: Approaches to New Media, ed. Michael Hanrahan and Deborah Madsen (Basingstoke [England]: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005): 11-26.]
(For an excerpt, see the entry for the above mentioned, closely similar, 2005 article.)
|2006||Essays , Publications|
Citation: “Understanding Knowledge Work.” Criticism 47 (2005): 249-60. Essay written as invited response to Johanna Drucker’s and N. Katherine Hayles’s reviews in the same issue of Criticism of The Laws of Cool: Knowledge Work and the Culture of Information
- Full text — HTML | .pdf (Project Muse)
- Full text of the reviews of The Laws of Cool to which this essay responds (Project Muse):
|2006||Essays , Publications|
Citation: “A Transformed Revolution: The Prelude, Books 9-13.” William Wordsworth’s “The Prelude”: A Casebook. Ed. Stephen Gill. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006. 341-75.
[Excerpt from chapter 8 of Wordsworth: The Sense of History.]
|2005||Essays , Publications|
Citation: “The Humanities: A Technical Profession.” Teaching, Technology, Textuality: Approaches to New Media. Ed. Michael Hanrahan and Deborah Madsen. Basingstoke [England]: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005. 11-26.
|2005||Essays , Publications|
Citation: “The New Historicism and the Work of Mourning.” The Wordsworthian Enlightenment: Romantic Poetry and the Ecology of Reading. Ed. Helen Regueiro Elam and Frances Ferguson. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005. 149-57.
[Reprint of “The New Historicism and the Work of Mourning,” Studies in Romanticism 35 (1996): 553-62.]
|2005||Other Writings , Publications|
Citation: Alan Liu, David Durand, Nick Montfort, Merrilee Proffitt, Liam R. E. Quin, Jean-Hugues Réty, and Noah Wardrip-Fruin. Version 1.1. August 5, 2005. Electronic Literature Organization. Retrieved [date of access]. <http://www.eliterature.org/pad/bab.html>.
This white paper is part of the Electronic Literature Organization’s PAD (Preservation / Archiving / Dissemination) initiative. PAD aims to create methods for preserving or migrating experimental, “born-digital” works of creative literature that are perishing with their original hardware and software environments.
- Full text
- Also available from: University of California eScholarship Repository
- Electronic Literature Organization’s PAD Initiative