The Eversion and the Emergence of the Digital Humanities

I don’t mean to give Steve Jones short shrift — across the board, I am a huge fan of his careful scholarship which compellingly combines media archaeology, literary study, history, and theory. Forgive this brief and belated response to his Introduction.

Using metaphors from preeminent science fiction author William Gibson, Steven Jones aligns a transition from the cyberspace conception of the internet popularized in Gibson’s 1984 Neuromancer to Gibson’s new conception, eversion, with the shift from isolated computing to social networking. He also describes the disciplinary shifts within and from humanities computing and within the new movements of “the digital humanities.” Jones locates the primary transition in the years 2004-2008, when platforms such as MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and the rise of GPS and GIS, made the internet more social and more mobile.

I guess my provocations for the class are of disciplinarity and materiality.

  1. How do those in the social sciences respond to Jones’s literary version of DH? Does the impact of the metaphor shift pertain to questions outside of cultural imagination and in scientific inquiry?
  2. What is your mixed reality? Where do you personally find the materiality of the internet most palpable (in stashes of leftover cables from bygone electronics? in the feel of your phone? in the visible branding of restaurants or local businesses with facebook “like”s? in the new object sensitive scanners that don’t break bindings as they digitize?)j
  3. Are you convinced that the digital humanities is the humanities everted (turned inside out)?

2 thoughts on “The Eversion and the Emergence of the Digital Humanities

  1. tperson

    So sorry, this response is to the article: Wizards, Bureaucrats, Warriors, and Hackers: Writing the History of the Internet, by Roy Rosensweig. I took too many notes and got them all messed up

  2. tperson

    The Eversion and the Emergence of the Digital Humanities
    I didn’t expect to be enthralled by the emerging history of the internet, but I have to say that I too ultimately appreciated the painstaking detail with which Steve Jones lays out the creation and rise of the modern internet.

    Seeing it in its multi-layered historicity allowed me a different perspective on both the nets’ inception and initial use as well as the many lenses through which it can be analyzed. Technologically and bureaucratically, it was an outgrowth of the end of the cold war and was funded and researched as such, but it evolves with the times, in conjunction with social, political and cultural movements to become a source of technological inventiveness and pride, a space for grass roots and democratic activism and change, and at present a space of expanding capitalism and commercialism.

    Examined in this way, Jones allows us to see the evolution in a multidimensional way. For the first time I saw myself as part of this emerging history as a member of those in the 1990’s who bought into the message of individualism that ironically the eventual capitalistic ideals of people like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs advertised. This message, which Jones argues takes us further away from the 1960’s Hacker view of the internet vis a vis USENET as a place to put the control of computers in the hands of the people, later sets the stage as Hackers of the late 70’s demand money for the software they create, thus setting the stage for the current oligothopy of Microsoft and Apple. The very fear of Bob Albrecht in many ways has come to pass. We now use the computers as a mode of controlling the people even as we control our computers.

    This article takes me back to a reading by Sam Wineberg called ‘Historically Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts’ in which he argues that history can never be accurately understood or experienced by those who come behind. For each historical lens through which we examine the creation of the internet, there is truth and fabrication. What resonates is filtered always through politics, cultural and societal movements, etc. The internet is no different.

    My provocations for the class are:
    1) If the internet is both our creation and our re-creator( culturally, physically etc), on how many levels has it recreated us and have we already, lost control of our creation?

    2) What shifts in the lens through which you now see the creation of the internet and computer technology have you under gone through the latest readings?

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