"Agora.Techno.Phobia.Philia: Gender (and other messy matters), Knowledge Building, and Digital Media"


"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."AA? -Special Issue, "From Hard Drive to Software: Gender, Computers, and Difference,"AA? 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"AA? 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. If so moved, you are more than welcome to pose them ahead of time via email: mnsmith@umd.edu.

MARTHA NELL SMITH is Professor of English and Founding Director of the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH, http://www.mith.umd.edu) at the University of Maryland. Her numerous print publications include three award-winning books-Open Me Carefully: Emily Dickinson's Intimate Letters to Susan Dickinson, coauthored with Ellen Louise Hart (1998), Comic Power in Emily Dickinson, coauthored with Cristanne Miller and Suzanne Juhasz (1993), Rowing in Eden: Rereading Emily Dickinson (1992)-and more than 40 articles and essays in American Literature, Studies in the Literary Imagination, South Atlantic Quarterly, Women's Studies Quarterly, Profils Americains, San Jose Studies, The Emily Dickinson Journal, and A Companion to Digital Humanities. With Mary Loeffelholz, she edited the Companion to Emily Dickinson (Dec 2007), and she has also written Dickinson, A User's Guide (May 2008) for Blackwell. The recipient of numerous awards from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), the Mellon Foundation, and the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) for her work on Dickinson and in new media, Smith is also Coordinator and Executive Editor of the Dickinson Electronic Archives projects at the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities (IATH) at the University of Virginia http://www.iath.virginia.edu/dickinson or http://emilydickinson.org. With Lara Vetter, Smith is general editor of Emily Dickinson's Correspondence: A Born-Digital Inquiry, forthcoming (December 2007) from the Mellon-sponsored University of Virginia Press Electronic Imprint. With teams at the University of Illinois, University of Virginia, University of Nebraska, University of Alberta, and Northwestern University, Smith is working on two interrelated Mellon-sponsored data mining and visualization initiative, NORA http://www.noraproject.org and MONK (Metadata Offer New Knowledge) http://www.monkproject.org/. Smith also serves on the editorial board and steering committee of NINES (Networked Interface for Nineteenth-Century Electronic Scholarship; http://www.nines.org/) and is on numerous advisory boards of digital literary projects such as The Poetess Archive http://www.orgs.muohio.edu/womenpoets/poetess/ and Digital Dickens. A leader in innovations in academic publishing, Smith co-chairs the Modern Language Association (MLA)'s Committee on Scholarly Editions (CSE).

Coming up @MITH 10/30, Joseph JaJa "Novel Tools for Digital Archiving and Preservation"

View MITH's complete Fall Speakers Schedule here:

  • http://www.mith2.umd.edu/programs/mith_speakers_fall_2007.pdf
  • All talks free and open to the public!