Announcing the ACH-sponsored Roundtable for MLA 2016: What we talk about when we talk about DH

Each year, in its role as an affiliated organization of the Modern Languages Association, ACH sponsors a panel at the MLA’s annual convention. This year the MLA Convention is scheduled for January 7-10, 2016 in Austin, Texas, and the ACH-sponsored roundtable will address interdisciplinary vocabularies using a revised format designed to foster dialogue among panelists and attendees. More information about the roundtable will be posted on our site on December 1st; meanwhile, the title, abstract, and biographical statements of participants appear below.  We look forward to a lively and generative conversation in Austin!

Title: What we talk about when we talk about DH: Interdisciplinary Vocabularies

This roundtable will consider how the interdisciplinary nature of digital humanities scholarship exposes tensions over disciplinary terms. What exactly do we mean when we use words like archive, code, curation, edition, data, or writing? How might our disciplinary affiliations, methodologies, and training shape our use of such terms, which may be deployed differently in another humanities discipline? How might the use of such terms help or hinder conversation? What responsibility do we have to acknowledge the disciplinary values attached to such vocabularies before appropriating them as part of “digital humanities?”

Tension between disciplinary values, language, and methods is hardly unique to digital humanities. Regarding the ascendancy of cultural studies within the academy, Stanley Fish’s 1989 article “Being Interdisciplinary is So Very Hard to Do” points out that “the announcement of an interdisciplinary program inaugurates the effort of some discipline to annex the territory of another, or “interdisciplinary thought” is the name (whether acknowledged or not) of a new discipline, that is, of a branch of academic study that takes as its subject the history and constitution of disciplines” (19). Considering the ways in which digital humanities is not only interdisciplinary but also tactical for social and financial reasons as, for example, Matthew Kirschenbaum suggests, discussion will focus on tensions that arise from the appropriation of vocabularies rooted in disciplinary traditions, methodologies, and theory. By sharing definitions as well as describing shared interests, roundtable participants and attendees will be asked to consider ways we might accommodate disciplinary vocabularies within the interdisciplinary discourse of digital humanities.

Roundtable participants will be limited to five-minutes to introduce a common digital humanities term with longstanding disciplinary histories, allowing for maximum time to be spent in facilitated discussion. Provided the necessary technology is available and operable, the session’s Twitter stream and public notes will be made available via overhead projection.

Fish, Stanley. “Being Interdisciplinary is so very Hard to do.” Profession (1989): 15-22. ProQuest. Web. 31 Mar. 2015.

Kirschenbaum, “What is ‘Digital Humanities,’ and Why Are They Saying Such Terrible Things about It?” differences 25.1 (2014): 46-63.


Wendy Hui Kyong Chun (code) is Professor and Chair of Modern Culture and Media at Brown University. She has studied both Systems Design Engineering and English Literature, which she combines and mutates in her current work on digital media. She is author of Control and Freedom: Power and Paranoia in the Age of Fiber Optics (MIT, 2006), and Programmed Visions: Software and Memory (MIT 2011); she is co-editor (with Tara McPherson and Patrick Jagoda) of a special issue of American Literature entitled New Media and American Literature, co-editor (with Lynne Joyrich) of a special issue of Camera Obscura entitled Race and/as Technology and co-editor (with Thomas Keenan) of New Media, Old Media: A History and Theory Reader (Routledge, 2005). She has been a Member of the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton), a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard and a Wriston Fellow at Brown, as well as a visiting associate professor in the History of Science Department at Harvard, of which she is currently an Associate. She is working on a monograph entitled Imagined Networks.

Patricia Hswe (data) is Digital Content Strategist and Head of ScholarSphere User Services at the Pennsylvania State University Libraries, where she has worked since 2010. She co-leads the department of Publishing and Curation Services, a digital scholarship department launched in 2012 to provide a framework to help researchers put into practice a lifecycle management approach to the enterprise of scholarly inquiry.

Micki Kaufman (curation) is a doctoral student in US history at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. She received her B.A. in history from Columbia University summa cum laude in 2011 and her M.A. from GC-CUNY in 2013. A three-time recipient of GC-CUNY’s Provost’s Digital Innovation Grant from 2012–2015, her research project, titled “Everything on Paper Will Be Used Against Me: Quantifying Kissinger,” involves the use of computational analysis and visualization techniques in the study of the DNSA’s (Digital National Security Archive’s) Kissinger Memcon and Telcon collections ( She is a co-author of “General, I Have Fought Just As Many Nuclear Wars As You Have,” published in the December 2012 American Historical Review, and presented her research at the American Historical Association’s 2015 Annual Meeting. Micki has served as a project manager and digital humanities consultant for a number of organizations and institutes, and leads workshops in text analysis, visualization and historical interpretation. She is also an accomplished film composer and recording engineer, having co-composed the score for the Sundance 2013 and Teddy Award-winning film “Concussion (2013)” and engineering the Platinum award-winning “Live From the Fall (1996)” by Blues Traveler. In February 2015, Micki joined the Modern Language Association (MLA) as their first Director of Information Systems.

Laura Mandell (edition) directs the Initiative for Digital Humanities, Media and Culture and is Professor of English at the University of Texas A&M. She is the author of Misogynous Economies: The Business of Literature in Eighteenth-Century Britain (1999), a Longman Cultural Edition of The Castle of Otranto and Man of Feeling, a forthcoming book called Breaking the Book: Print Humanities in the Digital Age, and numerous articles primarily about eighteenth-century women writers. She is Project Director of the Poetess Archive, an online scholarly edition and database of women poets, 1750-1900 (,  Director of 18thConnect (, and Director of ARC, the Advanced Research Consortium overseeing NINES, 18thConnect, and MESA. Her current research involves developing new methods for visualizing poetry, developing software that will allow all scholars to deep-code documents for data-mining, and improving OCR software for early modern and 18th-c. texts via high performance and cluster computing.

T-Kay Sangwand (archive) is the Human Rights Archivist for the University of Texas at Austin Libraries’ Human Rights Documentation Initiative and the Librarian for Brazilian Studies for the Benson Latin American Collection. Over the past six years, she has worked with non-governmental organizations in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the U.S. to preserve their human rights documentation. In 2015, she was recognized for this work and was named one of Library Journal’s Movers and Shakers. She holds an MLIS and an MA degree in Latin American Studies from UCLA with specializations in Archives, Spanish, and Portuguese. She is currently a member of the Academy of Certified Archivists and completed the Archives Leadership Institute in 2013.

Annette Vee (writing), Assistant Professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh, is interested in the ways that computer code shapes and merges with textual writing, and how this intersection plays out in approaches to writing from rhetoric and literacy studies. She has written on the history of literacy and computer programming, definitions of programming in the law, and social factors in learning programming. Her work has appeared in Computers in Composition, Computational Culture, Enculturation, JAC, and Literacy in Composition Studies, and she is currently working on a book manuscript titled Coding Literacy: How Computer Programming is Changing the Terms of Writing.

Lisa Rhody (presiding) is Associate Director of Research Projects at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University. She manages development on digital humanities projects such as Zotero and PressForward and is the general editor of Digital Humanities Now. Her work has appeared in the Journal of Digital Humanities and differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies, and her research interests include text analysis and visualization of poetry, new modes of scholarly communication and peer review, and the history of self publication.

By Lisa Marie Rhody

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