- Debates in the Digital Humanities 2016 ed. by Matthew K. Gold and Lauren F. Klein
by Matthew K. Gold and Lauren F. Klein. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, MN, U.S.A., 2016. 600 pp., illus. Trade, paper. ISBN: 978-0-8166-9953-7; ISBN: 978-0-8166-9954-4.
This book launches a new annual series that will follow future debates in Digital Humanities (henceforth DH). It builds on an earlier publication with the same title from 2012. And as editors Matthew Gold and Lauren Klein note, while that latter volume marked the emergence of the field, "the digital humanities moment," this volume marks its "arrival." Providing a historical context for DH, Gold and Klein's helpful introduction draws perceptively on the canonical art historical essay "Sculpture in an Expanded Field" by Rosalind Krauss (1979) to extend the "Big Tent" DH metaphor that governed the 2012 volume .
The collection is composed of six sections, the first five sections being respectively about DH histories, methods, practices, disciplines and critiques, with the final section being a forum on digital text analysis and scale. Brevity is a hallmark of the majority of the 50 chapters. Many express a marked and uneasy concern regarding disciplinarity, involving not only the relevance of each contributor's DH work to their own discipline but that to other disciplines as well. Thus this wide-ranging collection might be of particular interest to those working in transdisciplinary and interdisciplinary studies. For instance, in Ryan Cordell's emblematic essay, "How Not to Teach Digital Humanities" (in Part V: Digital Humanities and Its Critics), he writes that the power of DH will lie in transferring information and lessons from one discipline to another, that "DH will only be a revolutionary interdisciplinary movement if its various practitioners bring to it the methods of distinct disciplines and take insights from it back to those disciplines" (p. 463). As this is, however, the formal definition of transdisciplinarity—not interdisciplinarity—this volume might be of special interest to the Leonardo community, especially considering the shared topical concerns.
The introduction and many of the essays present highly readable accounts of key moments and publications that mark and constitute the emergence and evolution of DH. From the MLA 2009 announcement of DH as the "Next Big Thing" to the recalibration of DH in the context of Alan Liu's long view of technology [End Page 90] and cultural convergence in "Where is Cultural Criticism in the Digital Humanities?" (2012), from William Pannapacker's essay "Stop Calling It Digital Humanities" (2013) to the sheer scale of issues considered in these chapters, this book indeed signals that DH has come of age . Two essays, in particular, provide critical self-reflexive insider accounts of DH history, namely Bethany Nowviskie's "On the Origin of 'Hack' and 'Yack'" and the multiauthored essay on hashtag activism, "Reflections on a Movement: #transformDH, Growing Up."
In the opening essay, Steven Jones describes how between 2004 and 2008 the network was "everted" at the same time DH was achieving critical mass. What is this term "eversion" and what is its significance? The term comes from William Gibson's 2007 observation that cyberspace has turned inside out and is "flowing out into the world," that the mobility of data and its use value in the physical world is now an integral part of our reality . For the DH community, one essential task then is to make sense of this eversion by engaging it as Ryan Cordell suggests in his chapter, "How Not to Teach Digital Humanities." He emphasizes that DH students should be able to push technology beyond its expected uses and to "imagine what might be created in its stead." However, the kind of work Cordell holds up as models for the future already exist on a significant scale. For instance, among the many other platforms that come to mind—such as the British Library's Endangered Archives Project—I can think of few more illustrative cases of applied experimental work already achieved than in the media arts project at Cambridge in 2011 and 2012, particularly as regards mapping .