The Turtlenecked Hairshirt

Ian Bogost has stirred up some discussion with his post on how digital humanities has challenged the humanities at large.  I’ve been very happy with the level of support I’ve received from my English colleagues, my humanities colleagues, and the dean, but all interdisciplinary, hybrid, and emerging fields rub against the sharp edges of the pre-defined categories.

If there is one reason things “digital” might release humanism from
its turtlenecked hairshirt, it is precisely because computing has
revealed a world full of things: hairdressers, recipes, pornographers,
typefaces, Bible studies, scandals, magnetic disks, rugby players,
dereferenced pointers, cardboard void fill, pro-lifers, snowstorms. The
digital world is replete. It resists any efforts to be colonized by the
post-colonialists. We cannot escape it by holing up in Berkeley waiting
for the taurus of time to roll around to 1968. It will find us and it
will videotape our kittens.

It’s not “the digital” that marks the future of the humanities, it’s what things digital point to: a great outdoors.
A real world. A world of humans, things, and ideas. A world of the
commonplace. A world that prepares jello salads. A world that
litigates, that chews gum, that mixes cement. A world that rusts, that
photosynthesizes, that ebbs. The philosophy of tomorrow should not be
digital democracy but a democracy of objects. —Ian Bogost

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