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Digital humanities

Mandal, Anthony 2017. Digital humanities. Year's Work in Critical and Cultural Theory 25 (1) , pp. 374-397. 10.1093/ywcct/mbx020

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Digital technologies continue to entangle themselves more deeply in our everyday lives in various ways; however, two key aspects can be seen as particularly dominant: an increasing recognition of the materiality of the digital and the role of ‘big data’ in controlling—indeed, structuring—us. The emergence of ubiquitous computing in the form of the Internet of Things that connects devices and their users physically within cybernetic networks can be seen through the increasing popularity of wearable devices and ‘smart’ home technologies. Meanwhile, the operations of big data reconfigure human subjects into ‘users’, defined by quantification and shaped by algorithmic processes. Undergoing such datafication, we are interpellated—often voluntarily, occasionally through coercion—into systems that leave us prone to surveillance by corporations, governmental agencies and cybercriminals. Recent macro-events—the crippling cyberattack on the UK’s National Health Service (May 2017), the catastrophic outage of British Airways’ IT infrastructure (May 2017) and the shadowy role played by data mining/analysis companies in the US Presidential Election and Brexit Referendum in the second half of 2016—have demonstrated how vulnerable today’s digital citizens are. This chapter considers seven publications from 2016 that reflect these concerns with materiality and datafication in various ways, first surveying three major essay collections that seek to explore longstanding issues or stimulate new reflections on our immersions within digital culture. Discussion then moves to examine ‘media archaeological’ approaches to computing, in Matthew Kirschenbaum’s literary history of the word processor and Tung-Hui Hu’s prehistory of the cloud—both offering new insights into everyday computational technologies that provoke a reconsideration of our interactions with them. The chapter then turns to quantification, by examining Deborah Lupton’s analysis into the ways in which digital self-tracking has coalesced around the Quantified Self movement, and to the risks to our lives and liberties through the increasing dominance of big data in analysing and controlling social policy interrogated by Cathy O’Neil.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: English, Communication and Philosophy
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0080 Criticism
T Technology > T Technology (General)
Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISSN: 1077-4254
Funders: The English Association
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 9 November 2017
Date of Acceptance: 13 July 2017
Last Modified: 10 Mar 2020 14:22

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