Democratization and Digital Manifestos

I want to look at a few issues which arose while reading the Digital Manifesto 2.0.

First of all, call something a manifesto and non-already-engaged readers will see even the perfectly printed page tilting precariously into a scrawl around the margins.  But be that as it may.  But let’s move on.

Digital Humanities is not a unified field but an array of convergent practices that explore a universe in which: a) print is no longer the exclusive or the normative medium in which knowledge is produced and/or disseminated; instead, print finds itself absorbed into new, multimedia configurations; and b) digital tools, techniques, and media have altered the production and dissemination of knowledge in the arts, human and social sciences.”

Fine and fine.  I’m on board with both.  So DH is methodology and practice which makes reasonable assumptions.  There’s lots to explore here.  It’s foolish to ignore emerging (or already-emerged) technologies.  Print media is not dead, but it’s no longer ruling the kingdom.  It’s more like Vito retiring in The Godfather so that Michael can take over.  Making DH into a field, however, seems impossibly broad.  We can pretty much call anything which combines the humanities and technology Digital Humanities.  But in the 21st century world, digital technology has pervaded so deeply into our daily lives, we could just go back to calling it “humanities.”  Labels constrain things anyway.

The value of unpacking the above definition is to free ourselves from a kind of linear thought which has in the past limited how we might, um, do whatever we’re doing.  It’s new, it’s shiny, so there’s no harm in seeing where it’s all going.  Studying how the aforementioned digital tools, techniques, and media have altered things may lead us to better understanding those things and to better teach people how to understand them.  Which leads to the next point:

There’s no reason for the habitat of the expert to fall solely within the walls of academe or think tanks.

Again, seems pretty reasonable.  Why should smart people get to do all the thinking?  We have to recognize that there are smart people who aren’t in academia or think tanks; we still would like places for smart people to gather, though.  I get the point that existing structures don’t always serve best the broadest part of the population.  I’d like to help open more things to more people, democratization being a central message of the manifesto—but I’m going to make a contrary point.

In practice, democratization is bad.

We have glaring evidence, both artistically and socially.  We’ve turned into a global economy of techo-narcissists, abjectly positive that our thoughts on whatever we choose to comment on are well-formed.  Because we have a megaphone, we assume that makes us worth listening to.  Most of us aren’t.  There is no end of both pablum and hatred to sift through in our digital worlds, as we raise megaliths to our own vanities.

Here’s the good news.  While existing structures of thought and how we organize and disseminate it may not be serving us, having the democratic freedom to take command of those structures may lead to those which do.  Amidst all the flotsam of arrested teenaged angst bobbing around the sea of self-expression, there are nuggets of brilliance—and they’re worth preserving, even if we have to cast a wide net and sift through lots of dead fish.

The dead fish cocktail would be quite something, wouldn’t it?  But we’ll head a better direction.  I lifted the basic idea from El Dorado Kitchen in Sonoma, CA, and a drink they call the Dirty Harry.  I tinkered with the proportions and it’s become my most recent cocktail of choice, which I call the Don Vito, after one of our cats and the screen titan he was named for.

Dirty Harry

3 oz Angel’s Envy bourbon

1 oz Carpano Antica vermouth

1 oz Luxardo

.5 oz St. Germain

Dash of Cherry Bitters

Homemade maraschino for garnish.

Put it all into a cocktail shaker over ice and strain into a martini glass.  Homemade maraschinos are easy; just get some fresh cherries, pit them, and soak them in Luxardo for about three weeks.  You’ll be happy you did.


About sheldonmenery

Sheldon Menery is a self-taught food and wine aficionado who has circled the globe in search of the riches it has to offer. He's wined and dined at some of the best (and worst) places in the world.
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