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Reviewed by:
  • The Arclight Guidebook to Media History and the Digital Humanities ed. by Charles R. Acland and Eric Hoyt
  • Liza Palmer (bio)
The Arclight Guidebook to Media History and the Digital Humanities Edited by Charles R. Acland and Eric Hoyt REFRAME Books, 2016

The Arclight Guidebook to Media History and the Digital Humanities Edited by Charles R. Acland and Eric Hoyt REFRAME Books, 2016

What is the collective noun for a group of scholars? Rabble? Preponderance?1 I see academy suggested on some websites I have consulted, brow on others (thanks, Wiktionary!). But these don't do nearly enough justice to those scholars who usher in change and deliver rousing calls to action (albeit with a pinch of caution), all [End Page 156] before their 9:00 a.m. two-hundred-student lectures. We need to sing songs of scholars, craft peer-reviewed ballads of scholarly derring-do—especially these days, when higher education (and tenure, and shared governance, and academic freedom, and the list goes on) is imperiled or, at the very least, held in contempt. So, for now, let's agree on valiant, a valiant of scholars, which I take to be suitably celebratory of the integral role scholars play in modern society. We have such a valiant to thank for a new contribution to the burgeoning field of digital humanities and big (media) data, The Arclight Guidebook to Media History and the Digital Humanities, edited by Charles R. Acland and Eric Hoyt.2 A practically minded and "self-reflective" (361) book, it showcases a variety of digital methods—war stories, if you will, from both large-scale and grassroots media–based projects—the ambition of which will quickly silence any critics who, as is the fashion, damn the humanities as not scientific, rigorous, or data driven.

A particularly laudatory point: as you might expect from our valiant, The Arclight Guidebook is open access.3 If the medium is the message (thanks, Marshall McLuhan!), then open access communicates volumes. As a librarian concerned with the accessibility of information, I applaud the open access movement. However, the irony that I am writing this review for a journal with a paywall is not lost on me. As an active editor, I also recognize the value in being able to capitalize on copyrights and monetize the work of creative personnel ranging from copy editors to poets as well as academia's (possibly unhealthy) dependence upon traditional publishing's infrastructure and the difficulties in quitting the system cold turkey.4 So, in short, I try to enjoy my contradictions (relishing the ability to engage different skill sets in my two professions), and I negotiate the fine line between these two publishing models, erring on the side of circulating information freely upon request and actively advocating for reasonable limits on copyright terms (and preaching the gospel of fair use, always). Hopefully, traditional publishing and open access can continue to coexist, mutually supporting one another (such as here, with me writing a review of an open access book in a traditional journal). But Acland and Hoyt's decision to go the open access route certainly makes life less complicated for everyone involved: users can freely access a (carefully constructed, well-edited, nicely typeset, color-illustrated) product, faculty can assign it as a required text at no cost to students, and the work of the valiant is more easily disseminated to other scholars, who will surely benefit from (and more readily emulate, cite, etc.) the case studies explored in this book.

The Arclight Guidebook is large in a way that only an open access book, perhaps, could be. Organized into four parts, "Searching and Mapping," "Approaching the Database," "Analyzing Images, Sounds, Words," and "Process, Product, and Publics," each chapter includes a notes section and bibliography, which helps readers quickly recognize who the major players are in digital humanities. Additionally, for initiates5 to the field, Robert Hunt and Tony Tran provide a helpful "Keywords and Online Resources" glossary, explaining essential computer programming terms and pesky acronyms, among other things.6 The book is a delightful box of chocolates—not much ties some of the chapters together, save for their...


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pp. 156-161
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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