Tag Archive for Digital Humanities

Capitalism is an Empty Signifier

Yes, definitely, assuming anyone can tell you what capitalism actually is.

Yes, definitely, assuming anyone can tell you what capitalism actually is.

Back in January, I posted about a project that my Cultural History of Capitalism seminar was undertaking this semester.  Students in the class had to go out and interview three people about how they understood both the meaning of capitalism as well the history of capitalism, and then they had to write a reflection post on their conclusions about popular meanings and histories of capitalism, and how those popular understandings match up with the scholarly literature on the subject.  The project is done, and it has turned out to be an interesting and revealing, if not particularly surprising, exercise in muddiness.  The class’s interviewees often had strong feelings about capitalism, which showed a good deal of variation from strongly positive to strongly negative to deeply ambivalent.  But when we pushed harder, the interviewees generally had a difficult time saying exactly what capitalism was, and an even harder time tracing its history.  People knew it had something to do with “markets,” and often “freedom,” and that it came from England, and that Adam Smith was an important guy.  Beyond that, most of the interviewees demurred.

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Exploring Modern Popular Meanings of Capitalism

Thomas Hart Benton's A Social History of the State of Missouri, 1936

Thomas Hart Benton’s A Social History of the State of Missouri, 1936

This semester I am teaching a new course that I’m very excited about, which I’ve titled Cultural History of Capitalism, which will mostly focus on the United States.  It’s a senior-level undergraduate seminar, in which we will study some economic history in order to understand the origins, evolution, and importance of capitalism as an economic system, but in which we will mostly read scholarship from the recent historiography on the cultural history of capitalism. As the class dives into this new scholarship, I plan to explore the moments of contingency where capitalism was implemented, the lived experiences of capitalism, and the specific social and cultural processes by which capitalism came to be seen as the natural and proper economic system for the United States and humanity as a whole. I hope that the course will ultimately work to understand and displace modern narratives of capitalism’s inevitability by showing how it was constructed and legitimated in history. Read more

Reflections on #SHEAR14

The analog program cover.

The analog program cover.

I just returned home from my most digitally enhanced annual meeting of the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic (SHEAR) yet, so it only makes sense that I capture my reflections on that experience in digital form.

As always, I am impressed by what a generous group of scholars has been drawn to SHEAR’s flame.  With a few exceptions, the official comments and audience questions were gentle, constructive, and aimed at enhancing our understanding of the past rather than scholars’ egos.  And I think this spirit is extra impressive in a group of people who study a period in which the American ideology of competitive individualism was first finding its footing and its ideological power. Read more

The Accidental Digital Scholar

A chart by Leah Tams that shows the changing proportion of one-off and serial guidebooks across the first half of the nineteenth century

A chart by Leah Tams that shows the changing proportion of one-off and serial guidebooks across the first half of the nineteenth century

Reading through the Weller piece for this weeks’ DoOO discussion, I realized that I have become something of a digital scholar without entirely intending it.  When I began to form my scholarly identity in my early graduate school years, “digital humanities” was not yet a blip on my radar, and as I approached mature independent scholarhood, I became acquainted with the term without much context, which led me to experience it more as a buzzword than as a rigorous way of working.  But thinking back over it, my scholarly work habits grew and shaped and shifted over the course the last five years of my career, to the point where digital methods inform much of what I do. Read more

Analog Day, Digital Day

Virginia Snowpocalypse 2014: digital humanities or analog humanities?

Virginia Snowpocalypse 2014: digital humanities or analog humanities?

This week’s assignment to explore “personal learning networks” through social media came at an auspicious time.  Unlike Jason and Dave, last week’s snow days freed up some time for me, because of the particular moment I was in for each of my courses.  (I’m screwed this week, but that’s another story.)  That meant I had a fair amount of time on Thursday and Friday to play with Twitter and RSS. Read more

What the Digital Humanities Can Do

meme-say-digital-humanities-one-more-timeIf you’re like me, you’ve been hearing about Digital Humanities for a long time, without totally understanding what the term means.  Or, more precisely, without totally understanding what of real value the “digital” can add to the “humanities.”  The Digital Humanities can do lots of things, I am assured, but my problem has always been imagining exactly what those things are, and more importantly, what their payoff is.  This blog post (h/t Kevin) does the best job I’ve seen so far of collecting and explaining high-quality examples of what the Digital Humanities can do.  As a historian of tourism, I’m particularly enamored of the project mapping the Green Book.  Highly recommended.

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