For over a dozen years, the Vectors Lab has experimented with digital scholarship through its online publication, Vectors, and through Scalar, a multimedia authoring platform. The history of this software lab intersects a much longer tale about computation in the humanities, as well as tensions about the role of theory in related projects.
Tara McPherson considers debates around the role of cultural theory within the digital humanities and addresses Gary Hall’s claim that the goals of critical theory and of quantitative or computational analysis may be irreconcilable (or at the very least require “far more time and care”). She then asks what it might mean to design—from conception—digital tools and applications that emerge from contextual concerns of cultural theory and, in particular, from a feminist concern for difference. This path leads back to the Vectors Lab and its ongoing efforts at the intersection of theory and praxis.
Tara McPherson’s digital work is a model of intelligent design in a crazed world; her projects are bold and innovative. This is a fascinating account of the emancipatory drive she invests into those projects and an even bolder look at the genealogy of computing from the 1960s. She seeks to link the abstract universe of software design with ongoing ideologies of race and gender, and suggests even the algorithm is not immune from its cultural context. A must-read in every way.
A beautifully nuanced and wide-ranging elaboration of the creative energy and possibilities that reverberate from the messy entanglements of the humanities, computational technologies, digital aesthetics, cultural histories, and feminist theory. McPherson does what few can: she moves into the messiness, not to settle the matter, but rather to expand our thinking about how to understand what matters. There is no one better at navigating the span between critical modes of theoretical inquiry and the creative cultural production of digital tools.
Tara McPherson has been at the heart of the digital humanities for the last decade as a much-admired critical scholar and tool-maker. This book is a letter from the trenches of that discipline as well as an impassioned and sophisticated argument for why digital humanists must concern themselves with both praxis and theory. This book radicalizes the digital humanities, persuasively arguing for the centrality of difference in parts of the field that ignore it. Richly illustrated with digital scholarly projects on race, gender, and social justice that her lab helped to build, as well as a retelling of the history of code and computing using a feminist lens, this book is deeply generous and generative.
- 2018, Winner of the Garfinkel Prize in Digital Humanities
- 280 pages
- 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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