Last spring, I attended a symposium titled “Networked Publishing: Digital Writing in the Humanities” at the University of Kentucky. I was something of an intellectual luddite at the time and was still suspicious of the promises of the prophets of Digital. Curiously, however, I was simultaneously entering a new reading area located nebulously at the intersection of media theory, new materialism, and design. Also, I was beginning to formulate a project that—as I learned at the symposium—set me squarely against the anti- or at least a-technological ethos that defined my scholarly imaginary. This project, titled MASH, is an experiment in digital publishing and, I’ve begin to realize, in digital humanities. While this platform that Patrick Danner, Ashanka Kumari, and I have been working to launch has by no means been the sole object of my attention over this first year of my doctoral work, it is an important one and the one I will focus on here.
MASH—which is a somewhat forced acronym for Media, Arts, and Humanities—is a graduate student-run multimedia platform that we have developed with help from both the English and IT departments, and it currently supports both aural and textual media. At the time of this blog post the platform will not yet have launched (though it will soon after), but we have assembled three issues that include podcasts, essays, and book reviews discussing particular concerns in media theory and how they relate to social phenomena. Since we consider this not only a platform for content but a scholarly project in its own right, we’ve also begun to think about how MASH might itself be considered and theorized as a media experiment in the service of a more public humanities. To this end, coming issues will begin to address more ambitious topics and attempt to leverage the affordances of digital curation to make intellectual archives more dynamic, engaging, and useful. While Patrick, Ashanka, and I have to date been the sole operators of this project, our longer-term vision is to make our resources, our platform, and ourselves available to graduate students in the program and help them to carry out any media-inflected projects they may begin to formulate.
While I still believe that there are reasons to remain skeptical toward the Digital prophets, this work reminds me that, as with any paradigm shift, the intellectual task is to theorize and act on affordances while critiquing and resisting possible damage. Our hope is that MASH might be able to work toward this goal.
Rick Wysocki is a first-year student in the Ph.D. program.