This piece considers some recent variations on the debate around the role of cultural theory within the digital humanities, code studies, and platform studies in order to argue for a theoretically explicit form of digital praxis within the digital humanities. It takes seriously Gary Hall’s recent claim that the very goals of critical theory and of quantitative or computational analysis may in fact be incommensurable. The author argues that there is something particular to the very forms of digital culture that encourage a separation of technological investigation from cultural contexts, a portioning off that also plays out in the increasing specialization of academic fields and even in the formation of many modes of identity politics. We need conceptual models for the digital humanities and for digital media studies that integrate theory and practice as well as technology and culture. Feminist theory has much to offer in this regard. As such, the author asks what it might mean to design—from their very conception—digital tools and applications that emerge from the concerns of cultural theory and, in particular, from a feminist concern for difference. Put differently, this essay poses this question: can software be feminist? In answering that question, McPherson turns to the scholarship of Anne Balsamo, Karen Barad, and others to examine two digital media projects that she has been involved in, the journal Vectors and the publishing platform Scalar.
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Tara McPherson; Designing for Difference. differences 1 May 2014; 25 (1): 177–188. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10407391-2420039
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