Blog Post

Introduction

I am the author of The Cultural Logic of Computation (Harvard UP, 2009), which applies cultural studies & critical theory methods to core topics in the theory, philosophy, and practice of computation, and develops a variety of arguments to show how computation functions in our society to produce and exacerbate hierarchies of race, class, gender, and power, despite the tremendous amount of rhetoric suggesting that computerization "democratizes," flattens, and decentralizes.

I am an English professor at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA, and also teach in our interdisciplinary Media, Art, and Text (MATX) PhD program.

I worked for about a decade as a software developer in the financial servcies sector in New York City.

I was hired to one of the first formally-labeled Digital Humanities positions in the US (University of Virginia, 2003), and during my time there, and to my great surprise, found myself increasingly marginalized from the DH community, locally and nationally, due (from what I could gather) to my insistence on taking a critcal view of computation, rather than in terms of my DH work, which has tended to focus on minority and endangered languages and the people who speak them.

I've writen a lot of articles on a range of issues in these areas -- along with a PDF of my book many are available at http://vcu.academia.edu/DavidGolumbia -- and maintain a digital theory blog, http://uncomputing.org.

I've been really heartened by the work of new DH scholars including the #transformDH and #DHPoco groups & have tried to participate in them.

All that said, I don't have a particular project that's at a good stage to air right now, and in general I don't like to see a lot of men jumping in on projects for women in technology and about feminism in tech, so my plan for the Workshop is mostly to read, listen, and learn.

 

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7 comments

Very fascinating.  I'd love to read your book.  My work also looks at embedded cultural assumptions around race, ethnicity, gender and sexuality and how it relates to technology-related experience, efficacy and agency.  I've primarily been exploring this through game culture.

Like you, I hope to comment on others' work though I myself will be too busy this weekend to actively participate.

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Hi, and welcome to the workshop! 

It must be interesting working in DH from the perspective of a software developer! Do you think that's given you some insight into the critical aspects of computation that others, who came to DH through different tracks, might not have? I'd also be interested to hear more about your critical work (I'm checking out your links as we speak).

I'm also coming at this more as an observer and facilitator than active participant, but hopefully I'll be able to contribute something of value to this workshop.

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Hi, and welcome to the workshop! 

It must be interesting working in DH from the perspective of a software developer! Do you think that's given you some insight into the critical aspects of computation that others, who came to DH through different tracks, might not have? I'd also be interested to hear more about your critical work (I'm checking out your links as we speak).

I'm also coming at this more as an observer and facilitator than active participant, but hopefully I'll be able to contribute something of value to this workshop.

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Hello Dvaid,

Please, please don't worry about being a man and "jumping in" on feminist projects. One of the things that bothers me the most about women's, gender, and feminist studies is the lack of men involved!   We need more men to join important conversations about equality and gender rights. So please...add your thoughts and expertise whenever you like.

Lori Beth 

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Thanks for the nice welcomes, everyone!

Brief comments: I talk quite a bit about race (and to a lesser degree gender) in games in Chapters 5 & 6 of my book, and an essay "Games Without Play" about World of Warcraft--also on my academia.edu site, and directly available here: http://easyurltoremember.com/docs/papers/games-without-play.pdf.

And yes, I feel my time as a software developer has seriously impacted my views of computation, at almost a startling level. Within the developer community, concern about the social consequences of widespread computerization was commonplace, especially among those with any amount of humanistic or political science education, so much so that it was an easy and frequent topic of joking everyday banter. We were building scary stuff, we knew it, and yet felt fairly powerless to do much about it. That was one of the main reasons I chose to be a full-time academic. I can't tell you how surprised I felt to land in a hotbed of humanistic computing and discover a kind of fervent enthusiasm for computerization I'd rarely encountered in the business world. It was a remarkable amount of cognitive dissonance. And most worrisome of all--given the relative distance of English professors from computer development, where had these ideas come from? To some extent, even the computer scientists I know are less sanguine about the computerization-of-everything than I sometimes encounter among humanists. And don't even get me started on what certain humanists told me about my ideas--suffice to say, I "don't know what I'm talking about" was the nicest version.

Finally, in case anyone is wondering, I am actually David Golumbia--I created this account a few years ago when I was enjoying playing around with the spelling of my name to frustrate algorithmic indexing, but I don't want to frustrate actual social/collegial interaction!

David

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Pleasure to have you on board. I really enjoyed Cultural Logic of Computation. Like you, I'm a former IT worker transitioning into full time academia. The project I'm bringing to the workshop concerns gender and online communities, and will be a chapter of my dissertation. Like Lori Beth, I think it's important for men to write about feminism and women in technology (also men in technology, something I've written about from a subculture perspective). Once that's done I'm probably going to start a project taking on the rhetoric of Big Data, as it's an increasingly worrisome aspect of our public culture, imo.

 

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I am delighted to meet you here, David...looks like we were briefly assigned to a group together, and then you were moved apart. I just want to say I am following your uncomputing blog with great interest...My own involvement with "digital humanities" (whether big tent or small) has been fairly recent, within the past couple of years, though I've done what might be called "humanities computing" back when I was a grad student in the 90s and early 00s... I've otherwise been more of an old-fashioned English professor  who developed websites and encouraged students to build stuff online and not be afraid to learn coding, until a senior colleague mobilized me into co-teaching a class and investigating this whatever-it-is... I admit I'm excited about it, and I've been enjoying the learning adventure, and I'm mobilizing projects that I genuinely care about and that I hope will be good for the colleagues and students involved with me...

...but I am glad of your warning notes and skeptical commentary, and am aware of exclusionary narrow tents. Of course I want my own project to be different, to be inclusive of people who want to help with a 19th-c. scholarly edition project who don't know how to code...and I believe that digital is the best direction for the kind of feminist archival and rediscovery work we're doing...but one thing that concerns me is, indeed, the direction of grant funding: Is there money and support for research into *noncanonical texts and topics*? Must "dh" be defined by dollars? I'd rather it were defined by collaborative connections, like my project team coming together out of mutual interest on the fly (and on the cheap!) this year and the social discourse we can engage in in places like HASTAC!

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