Shawna Ross deposited Labour, Alienation, and the Digital Humanities on Humanities Commons 3 months, 1 week ago
This chapter challenges core assumptions about the digital humanities by centering labour—including salaried work, as well as work remunerated through institutional credit (such as a degree or further employment)—as the core element of computing, and by extension, the digital humanities. We identify a division between creative and rote labor central to the history of computing by tracing divisions of labor through early computing into the present. From this history, we observe that hierarchies widely utilized in the computing industry have slipped into DH amidst the decline of the academic humanities. We argue that the labour conditions of the adjunctified university are deeply interwoven with large DH projects, in which knowledge workers with advanced degrees are alienated from the production of scholarly
artifacts. This alienation is produced due to the fundamentally unscalable nature of humanities research and of ethical labor practices in computing. To address this, we offer two possible futures: on the one hand, a more general advocacy of de-coupling work from personal joy in the digital humanities, and, on the other, highlighting ways in which DH can—through small-scale, short-range, and narrow-focused projects and through the careful cultivation of accountability and creativity—intervene in the conditions of academic labour.