Once and Always a Criminal?

Guest Blogger

Michelle Jones's statement that she killed her son partly because of her own trauma and psychological breakdown speaks to an unresolved tension in our thinking about crime.

The Thin Reed of Humanism

Chad Wellmon

It's at the margins of our established ways of engaging our world and ourselves that new ways of seeing and imagining what it is to be human so often emerge.

Who Needs Captains of Erudition?

Brianne Alcala

With our backs to the wall and overcome by the sense that our university was imperiled, we faculty members made arguments that were not in the first instance financial, technological, or political. We made normative claims about what a university ought to be.

Cultural Critics vs. Social Scientists—They Both Stink

Andrew Piper

We need to think more about the process of cultural modeling. How do we model a cultural subset through a data set (a generation, contemporary television), and how do we model a cultural practice or concept through a particular measurement? These aren’t easy questions, but they are the prerequisite for correcting against the journalistic just-so stories of cultural criticism.

Quit Lit: Do the Humanities Need the University?

Brianne Alcala

We have a difficult time imagining the future of the humanities beyond the anxieties of professors and the failures of university administrators. And when we invoke the humanities, we are actually speaking about a beleaguered and exhausted profession. There are only professors and their disciplines here. And they both are trapped, as Nietzsche would say, in a "castrated" passive tense: "The humanities are compelled . . .." There are no agents in this drama, just put upon, passive professors.

Apple Watch and the Quantified Self

Brianne Alcala

This may sound crazy, but what's the difference between tracking your daily prayer life with an app and doing so with another set of repeatable instructions, such as the Benedictine Rule and its set of daily readings and reminders to ponder God?

Humanities in the Face of Catastrophe

Brianne Alcala

Whatever the fate of the "anthropocene" as a term (its existence and even inception is still being debated among geologists), scientists, activists, and scholars consider human activity and practices as inseparable from nature. Whether they intend to or not, they thereby challenge basic ideas about the human, culture, and agency that have sustained the humanities for centuries.

The Ethics of Squirming

But something more does need to be said about the broader ethics of research, which sometimes puts us in uncertain ethical situations. There is something about the will to know, and more so the professionalization of knowledge production, that leaves us more frequently than we would like in tricky ethical territory. Rather than simply relying on an IRB “stamp of approval” university researchers might instead simply stop squirming and take responsibility for their work, even being willing to regret it or repent of it.

"Open" is not Public

Making something openly accessible does not make it public. To make something accessible or “open” in the way we talk about it today does not assume, on the level of norms, making it legible, debatable, let alone useful to non-specialists. There are millions of studies, papers, and data sets that are openly accessible but that nevertheless do not have a public life.

Big Humanities

Brianne Alcala

Before there was big science or big data, there was big humanities. Until the last third of the nineteenth century, the natural and physical sciences imitated many of the methods and practices of the humanities, especially disciplines like philology, which pioneered techniques in data mining, the coordination of observers, and the collection and sorting of information.

The Wall Must Stand: Innovation At the New York Times

Brianne Alcala

What is the real goal of "innovation" at the New York Times? Is it intended primarily to enable the editorial leaders to use and inculcate the best practices of distribution, with additional staff possessing advanced skills in those practices, in order to support and advance strong journalism? Or is it something else?

The Humanities in Full: Polemics Against the Two-Culture Fallacy

Brianne Alcala

We need a history and vision of the humanities capacious enough to see the humanities not as a particular method or set of disciplines but as a disposition, as a way of engaging the world.

Semi-Pro—On the New Work-Study Conundrum

Andrew Piper

Rather than banish the idea of work like some unclean vermin out of a Kafka story, we should be taking the opportunity to look it more squarely in the face, and not just in the world of college sports. Work is everywhere on campus today. It's time we accepted this fact and start rethinking higher education accordingly -- starting with that most hallowed distinction between working and studying that informs almost everything else we do.

Frank Gehry and the Enigma of American Monumentalism

Pity Frank Gehry? The great architect of the anti-monumental, so wily and free and unpredictable in form, with so little obvious care for function, got outflanked by the Eisenhower Memorial complex.

#failedacademic: the New Public Intellectual?

Brianne Alcala

The university may well be antiquated, hypocritical, and in some ways outdated, but at its best it is a bulwark against the pressures, market and otherwise, that celebrity tweeters, #failedintellectuals, and smart writers will certainly face.

The Unpredictability of Academic Writing

Andrew Piper

So rather than rehash tired clichés about the jargony nature of academic writing – itself a form of redundancy! – we might also want to consider one of academic writing’s functions: it is there to innovate, not comfort.

Beyond the Democratic "Experience" of an Archive

The democratic culture of the Archivo is one where history, condensed in the archives, is proactively oriented toward justice through acts of exposure, yes, but moreso through the construction of structures of accountability, of justice, even in a political context where those structures are regularly frustrated by corruption, cronyism, and fear.

The New Heresy

Brianne Alcala

Literary theories from the radically deconstructive to the deeply historicist have long interrupted our reading experiences, but they have done so within the bounds of close-reading liturgies. Digital humanities violates this consummate exhortation of the practice of Literature. It is the new heresy.

The New Anti-Intellectualism

Andrew Piper

Never before has it been so fashionable to be against numerical thinking.

You Must Unplug Your Life!

Brianne Alcala

Avoiding technology may sound like a noble feat of asceticism, but it's neither possible nor desirable. Technologies are part of us.

Where the Disappeared Reappear

To be “disappeared”—a perverse if starkly accurate use of the passive voice—is not just to be kidnapped or killed. It is to be removed from the political world in such a way that no public memory or imagination is allowed.

The internet killed books again

Andrew Piper

The real problem, as everybody knows, is not that the internet is ruining writing. It’s writing. There’s just too much of it.

Who's Afraid of Nate Silver?

Brianne Alcala

Data is hard won, theoretically complicated, and wrapped up with questions of value, questions that Leon Wieseltier claims Nate Silver and all his "intimidating" fellow data journalists fear. But that's just not true.

The Spectacle and the Square

The ancient Greeks bestowed to European civilization three great political technologies: the spectacle, the square, and rhetoric. This long winter we have seen each at work in remarkable ways in Russia and Ukraine.

Who Should Professors Write For?

Brianne Alcala

The recent controversy sparked by Nicholas Kristof's lament over university professors' self-imposed irrelevance is nothing new. Kant, for example, handled the dilemma of scholarly writing vs. popular writing in his own way.

What is Metadata, and Why Should We Care?

"Metadata is 'data about data,' " explains Wikipedia. But in the case of the NSA activities, “metadata” means something a bit more slippery, and is arguably a misnomer.

Read quickly, for tomorrow you die

Brianne Alcala

In moments like ours when we feel as though we are awash in so many words, we look for ways to cope, ways to manage and structure our reading through technologies of all kinds.

Twitter as Aphorism

Brianne Alcala

For University of Pennsylvania Professor Eric Jarosinski, Twitter's formal constraint of just 144 characters has freed him of the endless equivocations of academic prose.