Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Stanley Fish, Blogger



In today's (January 10, 2012) online New York Times Stanley Fish breaks down and admits that his "column" for The Opinionator is actually something else:
"This is a blog. There, I’ve said it. I have been resisting saying it — I have always referred to this space as a “column” — not only because “blog” is an ugly word (as are clog, smog and slog), but because blogs are provisional, ephemeral, interactive, communal, available to challenge, interruption and interpolation, and not meant to last; whereas in a professional life now going into its 50th year I have been building arguments that are intended to be decisive, comprehensive, monumental, definitive and, most important, all mine."
Partly a review of Kathleen Fitzpatrick's Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academy, Fish's latest work is mostly an inquiry into the "digital" part of the digital humanities--an academic movement I've been interested in for a little while and one that I have a feeling will become more and more prominent in the near future.  In short, it's something I should probably better familiarize myself with.


Seventeenth-Century Coffeehouse

As Fish writes about it, via Fitzpatrick's arguments, the digital humanities inverts some long-dominant academic paradigms: digital humanists privilege collaboration over singular authorship; malleability of texts over fixity; distributed meaning over meaning attained at the end of a linear argument.  Fish argues that this vision is theological and political--theological in that
"it promises to liberate us from the confines of the linear, temporal medium in the context of which knowledge is discrete, partial and situated — knowledge at this time and this place experienced by this limited being — and deliver us into a spatial universe where knowledge is everywhere available in a full and immediate presence to which everyone has access as a node or relay in the meaning-producing system."
And, perhaps more obviously, it is political in that it strives toward
"a new era of expanding, borderless collaboration in which all the infirmities of linearity will be removed."
He elaborates:
"Chief among those infirmities are the institutions that operate to keep scholar separated from scholar, readers separate from the creation as well as the consumption of meaning, and ordinary men and women separate from the knowledge-making machinery from which they are excluded by the gate-keeping mechanisms of departments, colleges, universities, university presses and other engines dedicated to the maintaining of the status quo."