Alan Liu: “Toward Critical Infrastructure Studies: Digital Humanities, New Media Studies, and the Culture of Infrastructure”(University of California, Santa Barbara)
In an era when complexly “smart” and hybrid material-virtual infrastructures ranging from the micro to the macro scale seem to obviate older distinctions between material base and cultural superstructure, how can the digital humanities and new media studies join in an emergent “critical infrastructure studies”? What are the traditions of such studies? What is the topic’s scope? What are some especially high-value areas for intervention by digital humanists and new media scholars/artists? And how can digital scholars in the humanities and arts collaborate with digital social scientists taking up similar matters? In this talk, Alan Liu considers the hypothesis that today’s “cultural studies” is a mode of critical infrastructure studies.
Bio: Alan Liu is Professor in the English Department at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He has published books titled Wordsworth: The Sense of History (1989); The Laws of Cool: Knowledge Work and the Culture of Information (2004); and Local Transcendence: Essays on Postmodern Historicism and the Database (2008). Recent essays include “Hacking the Voice of the Shuttle: The Growth and Death of a Boundary Object” (2016), “Is Digital Humanities a Field?—An Answer from the Point of View of Language” (2016), “N + 1: A Plea for Cross-Domain Data in the Digital Humanities” (2016), “The Big Bang of Online Reading” (2014), “The Meaning of the Digital Humanities” (2013), and “Where is Cultural Criticism in the Digital Humanities?” (2012). Liu started the Voice of the Shuttle web site for humanities research in 1994. Projects he has directed include the University of California Transliteracies Project on online reading and the RoSE (Research-oriented Social Environment) software project. Liu is founder and co-leader of the 4Humanities.org advocacy initiative. Currently he is leading the 4Humanities.org big-data, topic-modeling project titled “WhatEvery1Says” on public discourse about the humanities.