I want to take a brief moment to explain the personal and theoretical underpinnings of this project, and state why I want to connect critical DH work with certain aspects of critical university studies (CUS).
At last year’s MLA I organized a panel on Digital Humanities in Secondary Education with excellent panelists doing critical DH work, and I presented on a grant funded project introducing DH methods to underserved high school students with my colleague Jamie Cohen. In that presentation we vocalized our frustration with the glacial pace at which our project was progressing, as well as a number of battles we had to fight with administrators over control of the project. Since that presentation, the project has been co-opted by administration at our institution and dramatically changed without our input. (Without getting into to much detail here, I work at a private commuter college on Long Island, and Governor Cuomo’s plan for state-subsidized education has already negatively impacted the financial outlook of the college. As a result, existing projects, like mine, have been co-opted by administration and transformed into profit-bearing opportunities for the college.)
While the project hasn’t failed holistically, it has failed in concept and intent. We went from creating open access teaching methods and training, course modules, and a collective working model based on WeWorkNYC and The Center for Social Innovation, to a situation where the college is trying to monetize every aspect of the project. The question I’ve had to confront as a result of this failure motivates this paper: What resources, critical traditions, and avenues of action are available to DH scholars whose projects fail as a result of austerity? This is perhaps minor concern among DH scholar-practitioners given the exuberance with which our work is often funded and valorized at the institutional level, but it is nonetheless an intimate one for me, and I’m sure I’m not isolated.
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