Tara McPherson and Digital Design

With apologies for the delay, this post will discuss Tara McPherson's Sawyer presentation, which took place on December 3. Her lecture focused on the use of novel technologies as a way to teach and work in the humanities. Covering the roots of the Digital Humanities, she showed images of projects like the Eames Office, an example of innovative use of architectural space as a new approach to presenting information. Her history contextualized her own digital platforms, Vector and Scalar.

The projects she highlighted from these platforms were interesting and underscored the theoretical concerns surrounding the use of digital technology in the humanities. For instance, Sharon Daniel's Public Secrets documents the stories of "incarcerated women and others." We learn about the platform's potential for activism, its original aesthetics, and non-linear approach.

McPherson's presentation has left me conflicted about her approach. It's clear that a lot of the work done using Vector and Scalar is engaging and educational, but it's tough to imagine the textual elements of these platforms providing more use than more traditional critical work. Rather, I think these platforms function in the mode of documentary film, visual art, and literature, and is not most effective as academic literature. Also, it seems that the platforms' functionality is evolutionary, not revolutionary. With that said, the work McPherson showcased demonstrates a commitment to finding new routes of humanistic education and practice through technology. Undoubtedly, those who shun the digital entirely make a similar mistake as those who uncritically buy into digital hype. There will be a place for a radical expansion or reorganization of the humanities through digital technology, but what that may look like I don't think we have an answer to at this point.