“The degree to which American society has embraced and absorbed computer technologies is astonishing. The degree to which the changes provoked by computers leave prevailing inequalities is troubling.” –Special Issue, “From Hard Drive to Software: Gender, Computers, and Difference,” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society (August 1990–yes, you read the date correctly).
In the wake of the sixties, the humanities in general and their standings in particular had suffered, according to some, from being feminized by the messy considerations of gender, race, sexuality, class. For some, humanities computing and digital humanities seemed to offer a space free from all this messiness and a return to “objective” questions of representation. In 2007, asking some obvious, basic questions seems more than in order: Are digital humanities and new media important for feminist cultural, social, and intellectual work? Concomitantly, can feminism enhance and improve the world and work of computer science, of humanities computing, of digital humanities? Questions basic to feminist critical inquiry are certainly worth asking of our digital work: How do items of knowledge, organizations, working groups come into being? Who made them? For what purposes? Whose work is visible, what is happening when only certain actors and associated achievements come into public view? What happens when social order is assumed to be an objective feature of social life (i.e., uninformed by ethnomethodology)? What counts as innovation: why are tools valorized and whose work in their development and in their application is recognized? These and other questions posed by the group will be examined in this collaborative exchange.
Martha Nell Smith is Distinguished Scholar-Teacher, Professor of English, and Founding Director of MITH at the University of Maryland. Her numerous print publications include five singly and coauthored books—Emily Dickinson, A User’s Guide (2016); Companion to Emily Dickinson (Jan 2008); Open Me Carefully: Emily Dickinson’s Intimate Letters to Susan Dickinson (1998; Choice); Comic Power in Emily Dickinson (1993; Choice); Rowing in Eden: Rereading Emily Dickinson (1992; Hans Rosenhaupt First Book Award Honorable Mention, Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation)—and scores of articles and essays in journals and collections such as American Literature,Present Tense: Rock & Roll and Culture, Textual Cultures, ESQ, Studies in the Literary Imagination, Journal of Victorian Culture, South Atlantic Quarterly, Women’s Studies Quarterly, Profils Americains, San Jose Studies,The Emily Dickinson Journal, ESQ, Journal of Victorian Culture, and A Companion to Digital Humanities. Most recently, working with Professor Baihua Wang of Fudan University (Shanghai), Smith has edited sections on Dickinson for three different international journals—Comparative Literature, World Literature, Cowrie: A Journal of Comparative Literature and Culture, and the International Journal of Poetry and Poetics.