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manifest in utopia

rmeyers's picture

I typed this through once already, but Serendip timed out: for some reason I am actually thankful, as this gives me time to revise some of my thoughts.

As I was reading through the beautiful and obviously provoking (obviously attempting to provoke, depending on the person) "Digital Humanities Manifesto 2.0" I came across a word. A rather dangerous word.

Utopia. THE ideal, a closed and inner sanctum of dangerous purity. Almost the exact opposite of mixing and mashing, the very things this manifesto was begging its readers to do.

Here's the passage: "Digital Humanities have a utopian core shaped by its genealogical descent from the counterculture-cyberculture intertwinglings of the 60s and 70s. This is why it affirms the value of the open, the infinite, the expansive, the university/museum/archive/library without walls, the democratization of culture and scholarship, even as it affirms the value of large-scale statistically grounded methods (such as cultural analytics) that collapse the boundaries between the humanities and the social and natural sciences. This is also why it believes that copyright and IP standards must be freed from the stranglehold of Capital, including the capital possessed by heirs who live parasitically off of the achievements of their deceased predecessors."

Isn't the use of a word that pretends to be THE ideal a little dangerous in such a manifesto? Is a new clique being created, and opposite of the Ivory Tower? This word is so surpring because of its context: the manifesto even states singularity is as important as group effort and collaboration --why then use the word utopia? An open walled museum is no utopia. It is something simpler, more level.

Speaking of which: why so wordy? I understand the need the clarify, and I even support many of the notations, but isn't the manifest just saying: free exchange (maybe you want to insert a verb (like 'fight' perhaps) and pick a better word than 'free'). Break it down further: free ex-change. Change is one of the deepest roots of this manifesto, the freedom to exchange in order to change (or the changes that come with exchange, etc.).


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