Tag Archives: culture

On “A Letter to the Humanities: DH Will Not Save You”

I really like Adeline Koh’s stuff, and her recent “Letter to the Humanities” is no exception. Here are some of my favorite parts of this piece:

After explaining the basis of Humanities Computing: “Too many in this field prize method without excavating the theoretical underpinnings and social consequences of method. In other words, Humanities Computing has focused on using computational tools to further humanities research, and not to study the effects of computation as a humanities question.” Not only do I agree with Koh on this point, but I’d further argue that a lot of humanists (who may not see themselves as having anything to do with computers or the digital world) would do well to hear her call. Reflexively revisiting the connections between methodology and method is a move that should be taken up broadly and far more seriously.

Koh suggests that humanists interested in the digital humanities should “champion the new wave of digital humanities: one which has humanistic questions at its core.” In other words, let’s pay attention to the potential value of new tools and methods, but let’s not abandon what we’re good at. “[I]nstead of pouring more money into tool building or the latest and greatest 3D printer, let’s not limit the history of the digital humanities to humanities computing as a single origin point. Let’s consider “sister fields” to the digital humanities as actually foundational to the digital humanities.” Koh’s focus on what I might call origin stories here is one that can be productive in a number of ways. In the final chapter of my dissertation, I resist drawing hard conclusions and instead imagine how the field of technical communication might look different to us if we imagine origin stories for it other than the most commonly accepted one.  What becomes possible then? Who gets included if we see technical communication as an ancient tradition rather than one born to serve U.S. engineering departments alone? Koh points out that for digital humanities, such a move means we can “redefine what we mean by the “best,” … digital humanities research. ”

Finally, this:

“The insistent focus on computing and methodology in the humanities without incisive, introspective examination of their social implications is devaluing the humanities. We shouldn’t be pouring federal money into building tools without making the ideological structure of the process explicit and their social effects and presuppositions open to inspection; we shouldn’t be funding the digitization of canonical (read: white, often male) authors without the simultaneous digitization of works by people of color, especially women of color. To do both is to betray some of the most important lessons which the humanities has learned with the rise of women, gender and sexuality studies, race, ethnic and postcolonial studies and disability studies.”


How To Be A Woman

How To Be A Woman book coverThis is one of those how-did-I-not-find-this-until-now books: Caitlin Moran’s How to Be a Woman. Moran is irreverent and on-point, and I often laughed out loud while reading. She calls herself a “strident feminist” and puts forth several theories about feminism and sexism that I found pretty useful, such as:

  • If you’re not sure whether something is a feminist issue, ask yourself if men are spending time worrying about it.
  • Treating other people with courtesy goes a long way toward enacting a feminist world.
  • Responding to sexism by noting that a person has been “uncivil” is often an in-roads to a better conversation.

In short, Moran articulates a feminism that is both persuasive and possible–and it’s fun!

Oh, and if you don’t follow her on Twitter, you’re missing out.

Professional Writing

Writing conference website screenshot


This post contains some (still rather disjointed) notes and ideas from the 2014 Maryland Conference on Academic & Professional Writing, which I recently attended. It was a useful conference, and I was especially excited about presentations by Anne Wysocki and Jeanne Fahnestock.

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Diagrams on (p/m)aternity leave

A really interesting couple of graphics here, blatantly borrowed from this Think Progress page about maternity/paternity leave around the world. I’m as interested in the graphics themselves (the rose diagram is an especially interesting choice) as I am in the data. However, this does leave me wondering what “paid” leave means. Does the government do the paying, or does a private employer become legally responsible? Is there a standard rate, or are people paid their usual salaries?

When thinking about how paid maternity/paternity leave might work in the US context, I’m increasingly shocked that it hasn’t been done yet. It even seems to me that a person on maternity/paternity leave could make a case that they qualify for unemployment (although, of course, FMLA requires that their old job would still be available when they return, which I’m sure is the hitch). It couldn’t seriously be all that hard to enact such a system.

Diagram of maternity leave in different countriesRose diagram of paternity leave in different countries

Beyond the Reproductive Body

Book coverI’ve been working on a project about healthcare communication after the Deepwater Horizon Disaster, and it looks like I’ll be focusing on the relationships between economy and healthcare rhetorics. Meanwhile, I’ve been reading Marjorie Levine-Clark’s Beyond the Reproductive Body: The Politics of Women’s Health and Work in Early Victorian England; while I wasn’t surprised to find thought-provoking material there, I have been excited and intrigued by how very relevant many of her findings are to my work on Deepwater.

Specifically, I’ve been interested that most of the health-related materials I’ve found related to my research have to do with children or pregnant women. It’s not surprising, then, that Levine-Clark argues that in Early Victorian English, the able body was male and the reproductive body was female; “these models of embodiment did battle in the discussions about what to do to reform the English social body” and, she says, “they also collided in working women’s perceptions of their own bodies” (p. 5). That is, working women contested the notion that their sex meant they were inherently not able-bodied.

Official narratives ran counter to these working women’s understandings of themselves. Continue reading