ACLA 2016!

In this year the American Comparative Literature Association’s Annual Meeting took place at Harvard University in Cambridge on March 17-20. Big conference gathered nearly 3000 people from over the world. Nearly 270 seminars were divided into four streams. The various topics of seminars were related to different studies at the crossroads of the humanities and other fields, such as affect studies, queer studies, global studies, trauma studies, immaterial studies, sleep studies, popular culture, digital humanities, big data, data surveillance, animal studies, zoopoetics, dance, capitalism and slavery, performance, photography, postcolonialism, cartography etc.

My own presentation was the part of the seminar “Public Humanities in the Digital Age”. I was talking about bringing categories from science into humanities practice and its implication for the public humanities. It was nice to see that my topic attracted listeners’ attention and encouraged them to comments and discussion. This is the first part of my research devoted to the shifts in the humanities, ‘scientification’ of the humanities and  laboratory-based model for the humanities work. Nowadays, I have prepared an article for publication, based on my presentation. I hope it will be released successfully very soon. Next, I plan to investigate new methods of humanities research, conducting not in ‘office’ anymore, but in the ‘humanities labs’ implying new ways of work. So stay tuned!

Researchers in the humanities have been looking for new tools and strategies to overcome what has been called, in recent years, a crisis. According to these efforts, it is possible to change prevailing views that the humanities represent arcane or irrelevant fields by changing frames in ways that show the humanities to be useful, accessible, and actionable. Specifically, researchers have been claiming for the humanities frames and concepts from the sciences – for example, the idea of humanities ‘labs’ – that signal quantifiability, verifiability, and functionality. Increasingly, this ‘scientification of humanities’ is a crucial strategy to obtain grant funding and public support for research. (For example, NEH Digital Humanities Start-Up Grants require a ‘data management plan’, a fairly novel requirement for humanities research.). Following the lead of Lev Manovich’s question “The Science of Culture?”, this paper examines the effect upon the humanities of the importation of terms from science such as laboratory, project, data, collaboration, data visualization, and analytics. The digital humanities, more than any other domain of the humanities, illustrates the processes by which the humanities in the 21st century seeks to become ‘public’: accessible (the publication of work-in-progress on the Internet), functional (providing digital tools for research), comprehensible, and attractive (aesthetic data visualizations).