Digital Humanities Manifesto Comments Blitz

I just managed to read UCLA’s Digital Humanities Manifesto 2.0 that made the rounds a week or so ago, and I noticed its CommentPress installation hadn’t attracted many comments yet. Anyone interested in a session at THATCamp where we discuss the document paragraph by paragraph (more or less) and help supply some comments for the authors?

15 Responses to “Digital Humanities Manifesto Comments Blitz”

  1. Suzanne Fischer Says:

    Great idea! Especially since we’ll have some thatcampers who were involved in the manifesto’s development.

    Paragraphs 43/44 on curation also dovetail nicely with my proposal for talking about the place of material culture objects in digital history.

  2. Larry Cebula Says:

    Selection from the Manifesto:
    “–definition: a literal handbill, the manifesto reaches out. Its manus is both beckoning and fending off. It is a hand that has started to work the room hard, whether preaching, teaching, laying down or upending the law. Little does it matter if the chosen medium is the voice, the body, the printed page, or a pixelated scroll. Things hidden, if not since the beginning of the world, then at least by the generation of our immediate forebears, are being exposed to the day’s harsh light; things that waver between the obvious and the scandalous, the heroic and the silly, the private and the public. What is urgent is to draw a line–the line between sinners and saints , passéists and futurists—while blurring other lines: between critics and makers, coders and cogitators, scholars and entertainers. If a bit of fun is had along the way, so much the better. Time is short; this is a genre in a hurry.
    –so: if you are looking for linearity and logic … or for an academic treatise…”

    I’m not sure what there is to say…

  3. Peter Jones Says:

    This does sound like a great idea. With many sessions on more specific aspects of Digital Humanities, critiquing the purposely broad Digital Humanities Manifesto can provide a great contrast.

  4. barbarahui Says:

    I’d be all over this. I haven’t had a chance to really sit down and comment on it systematically and would love the opportunity to do so. By the way, I had absolutely nothing to do with the development of the document. I’d love to discuss its reception and general perception of it amongst DHers too…

  5. Frédéric Clavert Says:

    Can we participate to this comment-session, even if we’re quite skeptical about its content?

  6. Tom Scheinfeldt Says:

    Glad there’s some interest in this. The thought behind this is that it would be very much in the spirit of THATCamp to have a non-technical session that still manages to get some work done.

    Some specific responses:

    @Larry Maybe that will be a useful place to start: Is this even a constructive document, and if not, how could it be remade to be?

    @Frederic As my response to Larry suggests, all views are welcome–even negative ones. In fact I’m fairly ambivalent about the Manifesto myself.

  7. barbarahui Says:

    @All I just inquired and found out that the doc is authored by Todd Presner, Jeffrey Schnapp, and Peter Lunenfeld. It’s not signed because it incorporates the comments from CommentPress on version 1.0.

    2 questions I’d like to put on the table: 1) should the document be signed? 2) is a “manifesto” the appropriate genre for this kind of field/discipline/movement/what-have-you document? The genre of the “manifesto” has a very specific history which the authors are overtly playing with/on here. What do we make of this?

  8. barbarahui Says:

    Oops, I meant to say: 2) is a “manifesto” the appropriate genre for this kind of field/discipline/movement/what-have-you *defining* document?

    I’ll do some research on the history of the manifesto as a genre and post it here. Anybody know something about it?

  9. Sterling Fluharty Says:

    I too look forward to a session on the manifesto. Can we still count it as crowdsourcing if it is done in person? 😉 Seriously, though, it would be real fun to pick apart, criticize, debate, ratify, and shore up various elements of the manifesto. We may find that it goes too far in places and not far enough in others. And I would love to hear what the historians in the room have to say.

  10. Suzanne Fischer Says:

    “…A non-technical session that still manages to get some work done,” sez Tom. Yes, exactly. Doing intellectual work, especially around something that wants to be a founding document/radical intervention/futurist beckoning hand/etc, will definitely be useful and interesting.

    @barbara Sorry for the misattribution!

  11. andyashton Says:

    Sounds like an interesting discussion. However, I hope that these kinds of meta-methodological discussions are hashed out to some extent at DH, and that ThatCAMP retains some focus on the concrete. Still, if there is a discussion/critique session, I’m there. 🙂

  12. Tom Scheinfeldt Says:

    Believe me, I’m all about the concrete. Indeed, I’m hoping to infuse some of that spirit in to this document … if not to say bring it back down to earth somewhat.

  13. Todd Presner Says:

    As one of the Manifesto authors, I thought I should clarify a few things before the hashing begins:

    1. Parts of the document were written by Jeffrey Schnapp, Peter Lunenfeld, and myself, while other parts were written (and critiqued) by commenters on the Commentpress blog and still other parts of the manifesto were written by authors who participated in the seminars. This document has the hand and words of about 100 people in it. That, in itself, is quite remarkable. Barbara’s statement above about the three authors is thus a bit misleading.

    2. This document explicitly cites and builds on the tradition of the manifesto in avant-garde modernisms, not least of all Blast and the Futurist Manifesto. The genre of the manifesto is a provocation, a stimulation, and thought-piece, with ideas that are rarely fleshed out. Instead, they are crystallized through pithy statements and suggestive formulations. The leitmotiv of the “hand” is critical for this genre — a manifesto is about raising hands and doing things. We think that DH is also about that (curation, creation, generation, making, but also upending, subverting, hacking).

    3. The document is a snapshot of a work-in-progress. That’s why it’s been on Commentpress and that’s why we indicated it would continue to go through revisions. Your comments and thoughts are most welcome.

    4. There are, of course, plenty of other genres available for making arguments to departmental chairs, administrators, Deans, etc. That’s why we authored a “whitepaper” on DH at UCLA — also available on the digital Humanities website ( The manifesto is a different genre. It does different things and is meant to be a call to action, especially a wake-up call for humanists to assert and insert themselves into the 21st century cultural wars (which are largely being defined, fought, and won by corporate interests). Why were humanists, foundations, and universities conspicuously — even scandalously — silent when Google won its book search lawsuit and, effectively, won the right to transfer copyright of orphaned books to itself? Why were they silent when Disney essentially engineered the Digital Millennium Copyright Act? The “guerrilla” tactics in the manifesto are, on the one hand, playful and silly but, in another vein, deadly serious, as they call attention to our need for deeper engagement with digital culture production, dissemination, access, and ownership.

    5. Finally, the manifesto represents a call for the RELEVANCE and NECESSITY of the Humanities in the 21st century — not for their obsolescence. In a climate of budget cuts, downsizing, and the assertion of the corporate university, the Humanities offer critical modes of reflection, critique, and guidance. Ultimately, the manifesto is a call for vitality, relevance, engagement, and nimble thinking that is, at once, self-reflective (ie, what are the Humanities in the 21st century and what can/should they do) and globally oriented (how can the Humanities engage with and set agendas for the new millennium).

    I look forward to your thoughts.


  14. Tom Scheinfeldt Says:

    @Todd — *Many* thanks for these comments. They provide some valuable and clearly necessary context for our work at THATCamp. We will be sure to proceed in the spirit of collaboration, self-reflection, activism and commitment to the humanities that motivates the Manifesto.

    Take care,

  15. briancroxall Says:

    A little late to this, but I too am very interested in a session examining, debating, and expanding the manifesto.