Conversations: Interdisciplinary – Style

Digital Humanities cuts across a range of fields, and as such it draws its lexicon from all of these disciplines.  As I continue to read DH articles and attend DH discussions, I am assailed by this concept of a shared vocabulary.  Although the individual words may be the same, each discipline has added its own nuance to the concepts behind the words.  This week’s articles are no exception.  Nony “asks us to face a decisive rite of passage” in our battle of the Anthropocene and goes further by telling us that “the liminal is simultaneously here and there.”  I had to pause as the anthropologist in me winced at this.  This is where the lexicon breaks down.

Anthropologically speaking, a rite of passage has three stages: First, the separation stage; Second, the liminal stage; Finally, the reaggregation stage.  The liminal entity is in a transformative state and is neither here nor there.  They are between cultural statuses.  To complete this rite of passage the entity must reincorporate themselves into the society after the culture accepts the new status.  Even if we assumed that the culture itself was the liminal entity, it would have nothing to reaggregate with because the totality is in the liminal state.

Instead of a rite of passage, and in keeping with the battle theme stated at the beginning of the article, perhaps we should fight and assimilate to a politics of care.  Am I missing the argument while getting caught up in semantics?  Possibly, but as we all know, the devil is in the details.  Yes, we should just assimilate as resistance is futile.

In Nony’s other article, the section about digital storage and memory formation was intriguing.  I could not help the evil giggle that escaped me when I read that the programmer is the gatekeeper to memory.  Although, has this not happened throughout history?  When writing was invented, did not the storyteller lose his place as gatekeeper?  When the printing press started printing in the vernacular, did not the monastery lose its role as gatekeeper?  Why does “get off my lawn” come to mind?

The fight for diversity in Digital Humanities is crucial.  The consequences of losing are dire.  We not only lose history and culture, but we lose the future possibilities that these groups bring to the table.  The question is: should we win or should the battle for improvement itself be the goal?  If we win, is there a loser and do they then get pushed to the margins?  Does the issue stay in active thought, if we win, or will it recede to memory?

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