“Infrastructure as Epistemic Value in the Digital Humanities,” Symposium on “The Integrative Potential of Epistemic Virtues for the Digital Humanities,” German Institute for Japanese Studies, Tokyo, 27 January 2023.
- Abstract: In seeking legitimacy as a field of study, the digital humanities have cultivated epistemic values that combine some from the sciences (such as evidence, precision, and reproducibility) and some from the contemporary humanities (such as being “interpretative” and “critical”). These values sum up at a higher level in the more general epistemic values that the digital humanities have made it a priority to attain: being “meaningful” and “cultural critical.” (Some in the humanities have been skeptical that quantitative and other DH methods can be interpretatively meaningful or engage in sociopolitical and cultural critique.)
But there is one other general epistemic value in the digital humanities that makes the field distinctive among the humanities: valuing the “infrastructural” (i.e., thinking about and developing infrastructure as an interpretative and critical object). This talk surveys some of the intellectual approaches that converge in current “critical infrastructure studies,” inquires into the constitutive epistemic values underlying such studies, and concludes with a suggestion about how textual analysis of the “verbs” as opposed to “nouns” of infrastructure can unlock the “black box” of these values.