I get the sense that I’m a generation or two older that most the tweeps I interact with so forgive the historical perspective but the debate over coding and gender reminds me so much of the 90s and debates over gender and theory
In short historians were taking the post modern turn and it seemed the “big boys” were all doing theory. Yes there were some women, but even at the grad school level at UCLA the theory sluts were mostly men were writing dissertations that employed theory. Yes we all “did” theory, heck were basically teaching it to our profs. I was in a reading group of grad stus and one prof where I laboriously translated and taught Lacan, but it didn’t speak to me, or rather I suppose I should say, it didn’t speak me, for a very long time (although it eventually did)
The problem or course was not that different historians used different methodologies but that the historians who used those methodologies had bodies that aligned with power structures. My question is did the bodies drive the valuation of methodology or did the methodology drive the bodies to the thing of perceived value? Were dudes doing PoMo because it was the latest hot thing and they were more committed to being the hot shit? Or did PoMo become the hot shit because dudes were doing it?
Of course the hegemony of PoMo was not instantaneous. The debate about the value of post-modern theory for the various strands of history that emerged out of social history went on for quite a long time, which is what initially evoked the resonances with the gender and coding debates.*
I laughed when I saw this tweet
“What’s wrong with mixing fiction and history?” Audio from a HaydenWhite masterclass at
because it immediately called to mind Hayden White’s triumphant return to UCLA, where he had been denied tenure, after the publication of Metahistory. Many of the profs who voted down his tenure were present and we grad stus, seated on the floor of a packed room, swiveled our heads like the spectators at Wimbledon while they traded coded jibes and barbs, many of which went over our heads but made for some damn fine spectacle.
So in returning to digital humanities I guess my question is, why is coding afforded the status it is? Does it really drive the field or is it privileged because it’s the cool thing and is it the cool thing because dudes dominate it?
I know I’m late to the party but in my case if I could code anything, what I’d like is a kaeldescope interface to structure and restructure my narrative “parts.” When I write I’m constantly privileging one line of thought over the other, all the while confined alternative narratives to the footnotes. What it I could write out not only different “parts” of my story, but multiple sections on their interface? Then with a “click” the “parts” would combine with “their interface” then click again, reassemble different “parts” with “their interface.” This is not something I need to code. The complicated part is figuring out the parts and interfaces. Why should I learn to code when I have considerable expertise in the writing and developing of ideas?
Someday I might want to code as I work extensively with primary source documents and could envision such a project, just as I eventually returned to translating French theorists when required. But until the project demands it, why learn it, just because it is seen as the new hotness.
*please note I”m well aware of the value of various methodologies and that various resistatant areas of history eventually followed the cultural turn. My point here is about what drives the directions, not the direction itself.