Critical Digital Humanities

I want to briefly outline an approach I call "Critical Digital Humanities." The aim of which is the study and use of the digital which is attentive to questions of power, domination, myth and exploitation, what has been called the "The Dark Side of the Digital Humanities" (Chun 2013; Grusin 2013; Jagoda 2013; Raley 2013). It develops an interdisciplinary approach which includes:
  • Critical Theory
  • Theoretical work on Race, Ethnicity, Gender, Sexuality and Class (TransformDH 2013).
  • The historical, social, political, and cultural contexts around digital transformations
  • Work that is both research and practice-led
  • Is reflexive to its own historical context and theoretical limitations
  • Has a commitment to political praxis
  • Theoretical work and "building things"
  • Technologically engaged work, including critical approaches such as software studies/critical code studies. 
  • Cultural/Critical Political Economy
As such critical digital humanities seeks to address the concerns expressed by Lui (2012) and others that digital humanities lacks a cultural critique (see Golumbia 2012). Liu argued,
While digital humanists develop tools, data, and metadata critically, therefore (e.g., debating the “ordered hierarchy of content objects” principle; disputing whether computation is best used for truth finding or, as Lisa Samuels and Jerome McGann put it, “deformance”; and so on) rarely do they extend their critique to the full register of society, economics, politics, or culture (Liu 2012).
Thus Liu asks, "how [can] the digital humanities advance, channel, or resist today’s great postindustrial, neoliberal, corporate, and global flows of information-cum-capital" and why is this "a question rarely heard in the digital humanities associations, conferences, journals, and projects" (Liu 2012). The aim of critical digital humanities outlined here is not to offer a prescription on a final approach, rather it is to begin to enumerate the plurality of approaches within such a field, and more specifically to a constellation of concepts related to a notion of "digital humanities", the softwarization of the humanities more generally and the post-digital. Indeed critical digital humanities could, paraphrasing Grusin (2013) slightly,
help to redefine our traditional humanistic practices of history, critique, and interpretation, so these humanistic traditions can help to refine and shape the direction and critical focus of digital humanities and its place in the institutional infrastructure of the academy (Grusin 2013). 


Chun, W. (2013) The Dark Side of the Digital Humanities, accessed 10/01/2013,

Golumbia, D. (2012) Why Digital Humanities Hates Literary and Cultural Studies: 

Grusin, R. (2013) The Dark Side of the Digital Humanities, accessed 10/01/2013,

Jagoda, P. (2013) The Dark Side of the Digital Humanities, accessed 10/01/2013,

Liu, A. (2012) Where Is Cultural Criticism in the Digital Humanities?, Gold, M. K. (ed.) Debates in the Digital Humanities, accessed 11/1/2013,

Raley, R. (2013) The Dark Side of the Digital Humanities, accessed 10/01/2013,

TransformDH (2013) #TransformDH: Transformative Digital Humanities: Doing Race, Ethnicity, Gender, Sexuality and Class in DH, accessed 11/1/2013,