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Confessions of a Recovering Humanist

Confessions of a Recovering Humanist

Surprising lasting lessons from a comparative literature education presented at the University of York's Humanities Research Centre's 10 Year Anniversary, October 18, 2019.


Sebastian Deterding

October 18, 2019


  1. confessions of a recovering humanist Sebastian Deterding (@dingstweets) Digital Creativity

    Labs, University of York October 18, 2019 c b
  2. know, dear listener, that i, too was once a young

    humanities scholar …
  3. … taught by my mentors …

  4. … that all possible knowledge is already contained within the

    walls of the library.
  5. to venture into the world outside the library was to

    flirt with temptation and the eternal damnation of my very soul.
  6. out there were the people that our texts referred to.

  7. the people that read our texts.

  8. the people that wrote our texts.

  9. but we must never speak with these people. for the

    meaning of our texts are never revealed by the people; they are revealed only by other texts.
  10. this my mentors and their texts taught me. Wimsat &

    Beardsley, 1949 Barthes, 1967 Foucault, 1969
  11. i felt lost and alone in this prison house of

  12. i wanted to burn it all down!

  13. and so ventured into the world outside its icy confines.

  14. research: comms, hci, cs digital design: games, web, apps

  15. 15 years later …

  16. thinking back fondly of some unsuspected lasting lessons.

  17. n of 1, comp lit, ymmv (caveat)

  18. lesson #1 a license to poach

  19. “it’s all just text!”

  20. example: embarrassment

  21. embarrassment keeps adults from engaging in serious games

  22. then how is this possible?

  23. then how is this possible?

  24. poaching all the fields Brown, shame resilience (social work) Goffman,

    face work (micro-sociology) Granovetter, threshold effects (macro-sociology) Wouters, honeypot effect (HCI) Olson, alibis (Law) Moran, adulthood (Education) Miller, embarrassment (Psychology) Caillois, play (Philosophy) Montola, play alibis (Games)
  25. lesson #2 code switching

  26. code-switching and re-framing as essential skills

  27. lesson #3 pattern spotting

  28. doing qualitative research

  29. recognising different rhetorics and how they parse the world

  30. lesson #4 power- sourcing

  31. what’s the source - then

  32. Concrete vs abstract attitude ≈ Renaissance similarity vs Classicist identity

    and difference Object/episteme ≈ Figure/ground what’s the source - then
  33. what’s the source - now

  34. what’s the source - now

  35. i could list more … •Textual poaching •Pattern-spotting •Code-switching •Power-sourcing

    •Seeing the rhetoric form in everything •Tracing cultural and historical contingency •Critiquing arguments •Composing texts •…
  36. but compared with my old transcripts … •History of World

    Literature •Poetics •Poststructuralist theory •Metafiction •Anthologies: Hiroshima in Comic & Literature •Cyborgs in Literature •Jorge Luis Borges •James Joyce, Dubliners •…
  37. hidden curriculum

  38. if we want more fond returners to the humanities …

  39. what if we made such skills explicit?

  40. how to poach any field and speak its code in

    24h for instance …
  41. sebastian@york.ac.uk @dingstweets codingconduct.cc thank you.