Week 5: Precarity and Labor

This week’s readings centered around the complex dynamic between Digital Humanities scholarship and the institutions in which it is produced. Boyles et al. (2018) describe how the collaborative nature of DH work is often exploitative in terms of how labor is distributed in favor of investing more funding into tangible digital resources (independent from humans). The argument is that the approach to digital humanities scholarship by many institutions within American higher education is ultimately not a sustainable one— which is very accurate. I cannot begin to express how many digital projects I have been involved with in the past five years and how many are currently collecting dust on the internet. I think CUNY tends to have a strong “starter place” mentality when it comes to these projects and initiatives that they get students and adjuncts involved with because the reality is that they’re just exposing people to this type of work with the expectation that they will then independently peddle it forward. Even long-standing DH projects I’ve been part of, such as the CUNY Academic Commons, which serves well over 30,000 members of CUNY, have to constantly argue for and justify their budget/expenses every single year. Additionally, the Commons has the potential to replace CUNY’s LMS entirely in favor of open pedagogies (if we’re willing to forfeit grading as a pedagogical tool), but we will never reach that scale due to the current size of our team and lack of support. At the same time, to speak to Oyo (2019), a large number of faculty members teaching on the Commons and integrating culturally sustaining and open pedagogies are our adjunct faculty. Their commitment to transformation is often taken advantage of and not supported in the same way our doctoral students are— and even our doctoral students are not properly trained to teach.

2 thoughts on “Week 5: Precarity and Labor

  1. Brieanna Scolaro (They)

    Anthony, Oyo’s piece on burnout in this DH space particularly resonated with me as well. It made me reflect on how undervalued the DH workforce is in general, let alone the multiple roles that you and other DH workers, adjuncts, committee leaders take up. In a different perspective, as someone who develops websites for mental health practitioners, when I provide quotes sometimes people’s reaction is “woah – that is a lot.” However, when I do digital work, my price is also considering all the years of experience it took for me to do what may seem to be “one little thing” and extra time to debug or problem solve solutions. There is the tech product, but there is also the many many little steps, work, workarounds it takes to develop and maintain that tech that often is invalidated.

  2. Tuka Al-Sahlani

    I appreciate that terminology ” starter place”. I have wondered about why the Commons don’t replace Blackboard, but I forget about grading as you have reminded me.

Comments are closed.