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MLA’s electronic geography: tracking the digital humanities

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Certainly one of the most involved discussions at the recent annual meeting of the Modern Language Association was the continued emergence and changing role of the digital humanities. From blockbuster panels and papers on an array of topics to summaries in the Chronicle of Higher Ed and Twitter feed responses, we’ve just barely scratched the surface of some of the conversations that might introduce a digital humanities newbie to the wealth of exchanges that happened this past weekend, alongside a couple of new announcements made in the conference’s wake.
What follows is an assortment of clips that have come through our wires, marking our own foray into readings that extend beyond ThatCamp basics and Chicago’s own list in this burgeoning interest area. By no means exhaustive, this is a collection of moments that caught our attention, as the internet flickered in the days following our return from M(LA).

If you don’t know what the digital humanities is, you haven’t looked very hard.—Matthew Kirschenbaum, author of Mechanisms: New Media and the Forensic Imagination, which won the MLA’s First Book Award in 2009
I know from experience that there are plenty of people in the profession who know little about this established field and even regard it with disdain as something disturbingly outré and dangerous to the mission of the humanities.—William Pannapacker, “Pannapacker at MLA: Digital Humanities Triumphant?”

Digital Humanities Sessions at the 2011 MLA:
12. Labor in the Digital Humanities
19. Digging into Data: Computational Methods of Literary Research
29. The Brave New World of Scholarly Books: Publishing in Tempestuous Times
45. Getting Funded in the Humanities: A National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Workshop
48. Hacking the Profession: Academic Self-Help in an Age of Crisis
52. E-Books as Bibliographical Objects
91. Meeting in the Library: Academic Labor at the Interface
125. Literary Research and Digital Humanities
140. What Is College Level Writing in the Twenty-First Century?
141. New Thresholds of Interpretation? Paratexts in the Digital Age
150. New Tools, Hard Times: Social Networking and the Academic Crisis
185. Planet Wiki? Postcolonial Theory, Social Media, and Web 2.0
193. New (and Renewed) Work in Digital Literary Studies: An Electronic Roundtable
218. Analog and Digital: Texts, Contexts, and Networks
233. Transmedia Activism
248. The Dictionary in Print and in the Cloud
282. Paper as Platform or Interface
296. Technology-Enhanced Delivery Models in Foreign Language Learning and Teaching
305. Silent Night: The Archives of the Deaf and Blind
309. The History and Future of the Digital Humanities
331. The Open Professoriat: Public Intellectuals on the Social Web
349. From N-Town to YouTube: Medieval Drama on Film, Video, and the Web
385. Endangered Languages, Language Documentation, and Digital Humanities
397. The Lives That Digital Archives Write
431. Textual Scholarship and New Media
436. The Institution(alization) of Digital Humanities
462. Foreign Language Cultural Literacy and Web 2.0
474. Social Networking: Web 2.0 Applications for the Teaching of Languages and Literatures
493. The Archive and the Aesthetic: Methodologies of American Literary Studies
505. Lives and Archives in Graphic and Digital Modes
521. Close Reading the Digital
532. Electronic Lives
541. Electronic Literature: Off the Screen
577. Print Culture and Undergraduate Literary Study
596. Will Publications Perish? The Paradigm Shift in Scholarly Communication
606. Methods of Research in New Media
617. Implementing New Knowledge Environments (INKE) and the Scholarly Edition
619. Ecocriticism beyond Literature
639. Where’s the Pedagogy in Digital Pedagogy?
743. What the Digital Does to Reading
752. Literature and/as New Media
753. Sustainable Publishing
792. Sound Reproduction and the Literary
Archive taken from Mark Sample’s updated Sample Reality repost on
If in flux in the age of digital technologies are the roles of instructor and intellectual, and the methods and formats of scholarship, so too are the very objects of study.—excerpt from “Digital Humanities at the 2011 MLA Convention,” published by the University of California, Berkeley’s Townsend Humanities Center
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4Humanities began because the digital humanities community—which specializes in making creative use of digital technology to advance humanities research and teaching as well as to think about the basic nature of the new media and technologies—woke up to its special potential and responsibility to assist humanities advocacy.—from the mission statement of 4Humanities: Advocating for the Humanities, cited in a paper by Alan Liu (“Where is Cultural Criticism in the Digital Humanities?”)
If you don’t begin with the assumption that literature itself is a repository of human values that human beings need, then we lose everything.—Professor Donald Pease, Dartmouth College, quoted in a Los Angeles Times article about MLA and the “low-plateau” of the job market for humanities scholars
‘Everyone is rushing now to announce,’ Douglas Armato, director of the University of Minnesota Press, said via email. He has been involved in the planning conversations behind some of the new ventures. ‘The good news, I think, is that the e-transition for the institutional market is clearly—and finally—at escape velocity.’ —from Jennifer Howard’s article in the Chronicle of Higher Education on the recent announcement of Books at JSTOR and other ebook publishing platforms
An analysis of the 7,649 tweets with the hash tag “#mla11”:
80% (6119) of the tweets in this TwapperKeeper archive were made by 13% (115) of the twitterers.
The top 10 (1%) twitterers account for 38% (2915) of the tweets.
50% (428) of the twitterers only tweeted once.
Community and collaboration are undoubtedly signs of the spirit, but to say that disciplinary definition doesn’t really matter is to eschew the hard reality of life in the modern academy. Digital Humanities is not some airy Lyceum. It is a series of concrete instantiations involving money, students, funding agencies, big schools, little schools, programs, curricula, old guards, new guards, gatekeepers, and prestige. It might be more than these things, but it cannot not be these things.—Stephen Ramsey, excerpt from “Who’s In and Who’s Out,” a paper presented at the History and Future of the Digital Humanities panel
Early odds on the digital humanities ‘arriving’ at #mla12 are 1/100—tweet archived by lwaltzer on January 10th