Citation: “Drafts for Alan Liu, Against the Cultural Singularity (book in progress.” Alan Liu, 2 May 2016.


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.

Method (1)

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”. . . .