Reply To: Critical Digital Humanities? Or Digital Humanities Criticism?

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Daniel Fawcett

Alex, I’m really glad that you looked so carefully at Bogost’s piece. I was thinking about writing in response to that one, but… Bogost is an odd duck for me. I love his work, yet he regularly pushes me into a state of both fury and despair. His work is regularly brilliantly insightful while being simultaneously nonsensical piles of horse dung. I have this complicated love/hate relationship with the man’s work (and his Twitter feed), but I know that when I deal with him, I often fall down the rabbit hole.

I do think that Bogost regularly writes to purge himself of his transgressions, as you interestingly put it. (I’ll bet the man has a Catholic upbringing. And, as a recovering Catholic myself, I know what to look for in others.) But it seems to me that, more than anything else, he winds up simply digging himself more deeply into the hole that he claims to want to get out of.

I think that some of Bogost’s critiques are put forth more clearly and with a more coherent “call to action” in “Can Digital Humanities Mean Transformative Critique?” In particular, the authors directly address Bogost’s fear that we are a cloistered cabal when they write the following:

What would digital scholarship and the humanities disciplines be like if they centered around processes and possibilities of social and cultural transformation as well as institutional preservation? If they centered around questions of labor, race, gender, and justice at personal, local, and global scales? If their practitioners considered not only how the academy might reach out to underserved communities, but also how the kinds of knowledge production nurtured elsewhere could transform the academy itself? These questions are not hypothetical. These digital humanities already exist. Here we offer a curated list of projects, people, and collaborations that suggest the possibilities of a transformative digital humanities: one where neither the digital nor the humanities will be terms taken for granted.

And really, I’m not going to comment on that. I’m going to let their comment speak for itself.

But I wonder what Bogost would say in response? It would probably be flowery and convoluted, however he responded.