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(Post)Human(ities) all too (Post)Human(ities): or an Ode to Parentheses

March 3, 2011

Sorry Nietzsche.
Sorry Haraway.
I know, I know…not clever…not funny…

So. An ever-so-slightly cringe-worthy though historic move on the part of the Modern Languages Association comes in the form of their Youtube Channel here.

Gary Hall on the ‘Digital Humanities’ and the computational turn. The jury of ‘me-myself-and-I’ are currently out ( read: chinstroking) vis à vis this piece. On the one hand, the humanities has always performed within pseudo-scientific discourses–not simply Popperian themes of Psychoanalysis and Marxism, but in pretensions towards empirical analysis and objectivity. The scientific turn that seems to trouble Hall is therefore not a recent development. There is also a certain kind of liberation of the humanities to be glimpsed on the horizon of the digital age, by virtue of such new approaches as dynamic mapping or algorithmic analysis. Methods of quantitative literary analysis offer rich opportunities for a more vigorous scrubbing-away of the artwork’s aura, as well as perhaps offering new paradigms for the construction of canons. Perhaps this liberation exists as yet in potentia, or perhaps its disruptive possibilities have already de-fused by our ineluctably entrenched approaches to cultural artefacts. Or perhaps on the other hand Hall is right; perhaps this ‘computational turn’ is a symptom of a deep insecurity percolating throughout humanities disciplines, a deep sense of inadequacy in a post-Enlightenment (or post-Republic!) era. There is the oft-cited and rather nostalgic position arguing against a poshlost perceived to be inherent to such soulless enterprises as entailed in examining, for example, the life-works of a painter by means of a statistical analysis of the use of various pigments throughout her career. How does critical intervention occur under such circumstances? Why, surely in the same ways as it has been doing up until now? Perhaps we are to eventually realise that MacLuhan was right in that the content of media is simply ‘a juicy piece of meat carried by the burglar to distract the watchdog of the mind’. Of course the dissemination of dissent is part of the bildungsroman of the academe. To my mind the digital humanities (the computational turn) does not signify a radical rupture in cultural analysis, rather it is a continuation of established tradition, exemplified in early hypotheses of the nature of modernity and hailings of the ‘information age’ that have proliferated since at least the beginning of the 20th century.

Noteworthy of course, is the Hall article’s inclusion of an useful article on Deleuze (though might need a couple of attempts for successful download. Click on highlighted text on first line of the entry but if file corrupts first few times keep trying!). A further Russian Doll in that Deleuze-article’s inclusion of Liquid Theory TV also retrievable here and the idea of Liquid Books (see further)…is no doubt one to which we will return. It seems problematic to assume that the codex was ever a fixed, borderless, and rigidly material entity. For the present however a conclusion will be attempted by an inclusion of Hall’s work Digitize This Book!… as a useful springboard for reflection.

And the first (explicit) mention of Deleuze in RemiXedoC herewith marked by rather beautiful Deleuze-inspired images (below) from Tammylu. Tammy Lu’s work is of former Dictionary-of-Non-Philosophy fame which can (should…?…ought to!) be enjoyed here. {Also…some lectures by Butler and Critchley have/will become available here (clapclap!)}


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