Blog Post

Scholar Introduction: Stephen Ramsay is wrong.

Greetings to all HASTAC Scholars. My name is Keon Mandell Pettiway, and I am a second-year doctoral student in the PhD program in Communication, Rhetoric, and Digital Media at North Carolina State University. Previously, I completed my MFA in Graphic Design at East Carolina University where I focused on experimental design and designing for social change. Currently, my research focuses on rhetorical design criticism in the context of intercultural communication. As a HASTAC Scholar, I am particularly interested in digital media, critical race theory, history of technology, and knowledge production. At the moment, I am working on a DH project involving digital cultural communication of African heritage. More specifically, I am investigating the interpretation and documentation of Ghanian symbology in digital media. You can read more about what I'm up to at

Position Statement: Stephen Ramsay is wrong.

I recently read "Who's In and Who's Out" by Stephen Ramsay in Mark Olson's visual media studies course. In short, Ramsay argues that the cornerstone of digital humanities is that scholars building things. As Ramsay states:

But if you are not making anything, you are not — in my less-than-three-minute opinion — a digital humanist. You might be something else that is good and worthy — maybe you’re a scholar of new media, or maybe a game theorist, or maybe a classicist with a blog (the latter being very good thing indeed) — but if you aren’t building, you are not engaged in the “methodologization” of the humanities, which, to me, is the hallmark of the discipline that was already decades old when I came to it.

Ramsay provides an essentialist view of digital humanities by presupposing that humanists' previous mode of scholarship is no longer sufficient or efficient. I find Ramsay's argument quite debilitating and lacking in explaining a view of digital humanities that does not polarize and de-historize the different trajectories taking shape in digital humanities. I more useful examination of "who's in and who's out" would be to refrain from the binary operation of head versus hand or theorist versus builder. 

As a HASTAC Scholar, it is my hope to examine and break out of this binary operation by examining where rhetorical design criticism meets digital humanities, how the lines between theory and practice are blurred, and the ideological framework that has given rise to dialogue about head versus hand and hand versus head. 

I look forward to "building' with everyone. Give me a holler if you're nearby Raleigh, NC.


Keon Mandell Pettiway


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