Tag Archives: academic commons

the interventionists

“To the rescue, many librarians believe computers are the only means to effectively cope with their bulging bookshelves”. 1966. New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection (Library of Congress).

I must admit that I am still belaboring the idea of the field of DH as a (partial) means to subvert the strong focus on research and publishing for tenure to instead promote and enhance teaching & learning. Not to throw CUNY & the Academic Commons under the proverbial bus — it’s great, really! And I find it beneficial on many levels, academically and professionally — but the AC as a collaborative place limited to faculty, staff, and doctoral students is perhaps just redefining self-inclusive nature of academia*. The AC is also still imbedded within an institution where tenure is a reality. Sink or swim. Publish or perish (or my personal favorite, “It does not have to be good, it just has to be published,” which has said to me at least once at CUNY).

With all that said, having a centralized, digital place to provide such support and education to peers/faculty is, or could be, extremely progressive. In Digital Humanities Pedagogy Simon Mahony and Elena Pierazzo write, “what is needed is the development of a group space that exists somewhere between study and social areas” (217). The AC could directly answer to the need for such a group space should it eventually allow for a structure to accommodate it.

Within this process is the need to include the teaching parties by fostering their interest in engaging in digital technology into the classroom. Let’s be honest, part of the problem with academia/tenure is not just publishing fees, the subsequent pay-walls, and the cost of journals to libraries, but it’s also JOB COMPLACENCY. In some ways as students of DH we are being trained as the next generation of instructors who can then be on the front lines to promote and support continued efforts to get research, publishing, and tenure out of the ground and into the cloud(s). In Debates in the Digital Humanities Luke Waltzer writes, “More so than just about any other sub-field, the digital humanities possess the capability to invigorate humanities instruction in higher education and to reassert how the humanities can help us understand and shape the world around us.” DH doesn’t need to stop at humanities. It’s important to have that emphasis there, for the “learning for the sake of learning” and “lifelong learning” aspects of a humanities-driven education may become idioms of the recent past when still yet other disciplines can benefit from the tools DHers employ. For instance, teaching with DH concepts could become a gateway to future STEM interests and Open Access awareness. DH as a gateway drug, perhaps?

I almost wish DH had been instead titled “Interventionists”**. Academia needs a lot of creative intervention before true change can take place. Beginning the process in instruction is an excellent place to start as long as the institution supports the mission completely. That is to say, the process of instruction isn’t as wrapped up in the bottom line as publishing for tenure, and perhaps the trickle down effect of emphasizing digital technologies within traditional analysis can bring change overall.

*I believe this situation was mentioned in one of our first classes, and with good reason for the current design. If the AC is going toward the greater goal of community based digital collaboration, then I would argue that the place would need to evolve away from social media (i.e.: profiles and resumes, friendships, meeting announcements) to a platform that is used in undergraduate coursework and within workshops. A repository to instruct on new technologies and collaborate for pedagogical purposes. I imagine it being used as we are I’m DH praxis, but more widely (even within the GC).

**While the name “The Interventionists” is already taken, the concepts remain in tact to appropriate it for DH here: creative disruption.


Gold, Matthew K., ed. Debates in the digital humanities. U of Minnesota Press, 2012.
Hirsch, Brett D., ed. Digital Humanities Pedagogy: Practices, Principles and Politics. Vol. 3. Open Book Publishers, 2012.