Performing the Humanities @ 24 fps: Part 1

Performing the Humanities @ 24 fps: Part 2

'What Does's Success Mean for Open Access: The Data-Driven World of Search Engines and Social Networking', LSE Impact of the Social Sciences Blog, October 22, 2015.

'The Uberfication of the University', Discover Society, July 30, 2015.

Open Education: A Study in Disruption (London: Rowman and Littlefield International, 2014) - book co-authored by Coventry’s Open Media Group and Mute Publishing. (Open access version available here.)

Open Access

Most of Gary's work is freely available to read and download either here, in the OA archive CSeARCH or in Coventry University's online repository CURVE here

'The Political Nature of the Book: On Artists' Books and Radical Open Access' (co-authored with Janneke Adema), Materialities of the Text issue of New Formations, Number 78, Summer, 2013. 

performative project Janneke Adema has put together, based on our ‘The Political Nature of the Book: On Artists’ Books and Radical Open Access’ article for New Formations.

Forget the Book: Writing in the Age of Digital Publishing, discussion with Doug Sery, Sean Cubitt and Sarah Kember, CREATe at Goldsmiths, University of London, 25 May, 2013.

Lecture on 'Radical open access in the humanities: or, will the future editors of Žižek have to publish his tweets?' at Columbia University, New York, October 18, 2010. 

Piracy Theory

Talk on 'Piracy and Open Access', The Post-Digital Scholar conference, Leuphana University, Germany, November 12-14, 2014. 

'Pirate Radical Philosophy', Radical Philosophy, 173, May/June, 2012.

Special issue of Culture Machine on Pirate Philosophy (2011)

Lecture on Pirate Philosophy, Coventry University, September 29, 2008.

Disrupting the Humanities

Series of events looking at research and scholarship in a 'posthumanities' context, organised by the Centre for Disruptive Media, and featuring Mark Amerika, Søren Pold, Monika Bakke, Iris van der Tuin and Johanna Drucker:

Disrupting the Scholarly Establishment: How to Create Affirmative and Alternative Institutions (March 2014)

Aesthetics of the Humanities (June 2014)

Radical Methodologies for the Posthumanities (March 2015)

Liquid, Living Books

Force of Binding: On Liquid, Living Books (Version 2.0: Mark Amerika Mix)’,, companion website to Mark Amerika, remixthebook (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2011).

Living Books About Life, a series of twenty five open access books, funded by the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) and published by Open Humanities Press (OHP)


Digitize Me, Visualize Me, Search Me (Ann Arbor: Open Humanities Press - an imprint of MPublishing, University of Michigan, 2011)

Liquid Books, a series of open access books, published by OHP, that users can rewrite, remix, reformat, reversion, reuse, reinvent and republish

New Cultural Studies: The Liquid Theory Reader (Ann Arbor: Open Humanities Press, 2009)

Fluid notes on liquid books in Timothy W. Luke and Jeremy W. Hunsinger eds, Putting Knowledge to Work and Letting Information Play: The Center for Digital Discourse and CultureCenter for Digital Discourse and Culture (CDDC) @ Virginia Tech.

Culture Machine

Culture Machine Live - series of podcasts considering a range of issues including the digital humanities, internet politics, the future of cultural studies, cultural theory and philosophy. Interviewees and speakers include Johanna Drucker, N. Katherine Hayles, Chantal Mouffe, Geert Lovink, Alan Liu, Ted Striphas, and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak.

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On the limits of openness V: there are no digital humanities

Let’s bracket the many questions that can be raised for Deleuze’s thesis on the societies of control (some of which can also be raised for Lyotard’s account of the postmodern condition), and the reasons it has been taken up and used so readily within the contemporary social sciences, and social theory especially.  For the time being, let us pursue a little further the hypothesis that the externalization of knowledge onto computers, databases, servers and the cloud is involved in the constitution of a different form of both society and human subject. 

To what extent do such developments cast the so-called computational turn in the humanities in a rather different light to the celebratory data-fetishism that has come to dominate this rapidly emerging field of late? Is the direct, practical use of techniques and methodologies drawn from computer science and fields related to it here too helping to produce a major alteration in the status and nature of knowledge, and indeed the human subject? I’m thinking not just of the use of tools such as Anthologize,  Delicious, Juxta, Mendeley, Pliny, Prezi and Zotero to structure and disseminate scholarship and learning in the humanities, but also of the generation of dynamic maps of large humanities data sets, and employment of algorithmic techniques to search for and identify patterns in literary, cultural and filmic texts,  as well as the way in which the interactive nature of much digital technology is enabling user data regarding people’s creative activities with this media to be captured, mined and analyzed by humanities scholars.

To be sure, in what seems to be almost the reverse of the situation we saw Lyotard describe, many of those in the humanities - including some of the field’s most radical thinkers - do now appear to be looking increasingly to science (and technology and mathematics) to provide their research with a degree of legitimacy. Witness Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi’s appeal to ‘the history of modern chemistry on the one hand, and the most recent cognitive theories on the other’, for confirmation of the Compositionist philosophical hypothesis in his 2009 book, The Soul at Work: ‘There is no object, no existent, and no person: only aggregates, temporary atomic compositions, figures that the human eye perceives as stable but that are indeed mutational, transient, frayed and indefinable’. It is this hypothesis, derived from Democritus, that Bifo sees as underpinning the methods of both the Schizoanalysis of Deleuze and Guattari, and the Italian Autonomist theory, on which his own Compositionist philosophy is based. It is interesting however that Bifo should now feel the need to turn, albeit briefly and almost in passing, to science to underpin and confirm it.

Can this turn toward the sciences (if there has indeed been such a turn, which is by no means certain) be regarded as a response on the part of the humanities to the perceived lack of credibility, if not obsolescence, of their metanarratives of legitimation: the life of the spirit and the Enlightenment, but also Marxism, psychoanalysis and so forth? Indeed, are the sciences today to be regarded as answering many humanities questions more convincingly than the humanities themselves?

While ideas of this kind appear just that little bit too neat and symmetrical to be entirely convincing, this so-called ‘scientific turn’ in the humanities has been attributed by some to a crisis of confidence. It is a crisis regarded as having been brought about, if not by the lack of credibility of the humanities’ metanarratives of legitimation exactly, then at least in part by the ‘imperious attitude’ of the sciences. This attitude has led the latter to colonize the humanists’ space in the form of biomedicine, neuroscience, theories of cognition and so on.  Is the turn toward computing just the latest manifestation of, and response to, this crisis of confidence in the humanities?

Can we go even further and ask: is it evidence that certain parts of the humanities are attempting to increase their connection to society; and to the instrumentality and functionality of society especially? Can it merely be a coincidence that such a turn toward computing is gaining momentum at a time when the likes of the UK government is emphasizing the importance of the STMs and withdrawing support and funding for the humanities? Or is one of the reasons all this is happening now because the humanities, like the sciences themselves, are under pressure from government, business, management, industry and increasingly the media to prove they provide value for money in instrumental, functional, performative terms? (Is the interest in computing a strategic decision on the part of some of those in the humanities? As the project of Cohen and Gibb shows, one can get funding from the likes of Google.  In fact, ‘last summer Google awarded $1 million to professors doing digital humanities research’.) 

To what extent, then, is the take up of practical techniques and approaches from computing science providing some areas of the humanities with a means of defending themselves in an era of global economic crisis and severe cuts to higher education, through the transformation of their knowledge and learning into quantities of information - deliverables? Following Federica Frabetti, can we even position the computational turn as an event created precisely to justify such a move on the part of certain elements within the humanities?  And does this mean that, if we don’t simply want to go along with the current movement away from what remains resistant to a general culture of measurement and calculation, and toward a concern to legitimate power and control by optimizing the system’s efficiency, we would be better off using a different term other than ‘digital humanities’? After all, as Frabetti points out, the idea of a computational turn implies that the humanities, thanks to the development of a new generation of powerful computers and digital tools, have somehow become digital, or are in the process of becoming digital, or at least coming to terms with the digital and computing.  Yet what I am attempting to show here by drawing on the philosophy of Lyotard and others, is that the digital is not something that can now be added to the humanities - for the simple reason that the (supposedly pre-digital) humanities can be seen to have had an understanding of, and engagement with, computing and the digital for some time now.

Reader Comments (6)

Great piece. Was reading Golumbia's excellent bk "The Cultural Logic of Computation" <> last year which is pretty useful on this dynamic. It's all about the frame and "digital" has its own.

January 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDanny

Very timely set of questions coming off the digital humanities conversations at MLA. It remains quite difficult to foreground questions of power, ideology, affect, race, etc. in many "DH" conversations. Difficult, but not impossible. I also think it's imperative that those of us interested in such questions engage in the terrain of the digital humanities and help shape the conversation. I'm glad you'll be at USC this summer to help us with this task.

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTara McPherson

Thanks, Danny. I'll check out The Cultural Logic of Computation. Sounds interesting.

January 14, 2011 | Registered CommenterGary Hall

Interesting piece. Although I don't think computational=scientific. Indeed, the humanities might offer a critical theory of technology rather than themselves being overwhelmed by scientism. The exchange of knowledge and ideas goes in both directions.

Thought you might be interested in my thoughts in Digital Humanities: First, Second and Third Wave.

January 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Berry

David, I agree. That's exactly what I was trying to point toward at the end when I stress that 'what I am attempting to show here by drawing on the philosophy of Lyotard and others, is that the digital is not something that can now be added to the humanities - for the simple reason that the humanities can be seen to have had an understanding of, and engagement with, computing and the digital for some time now.'

I'll certainly take a look at your comments on the first, second and third wave of the Digital Humanities. Thanks.

January 16, 2011 | Registered CommenterGary Hall

Tara, I'm hoping to say more about questions of power, ideology, affect, race, etc in relation to the digital humanities in my next installment. But I'm sorry I missed the discussion at the MLA. Sounds intriguing.

Yes, very much looking forward to being with you all at USC in the summer.

January 17, 2011 | Registered CommenterGary Hall

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