Tara McPherson

Photo of Tara McPhersonScholarship across scales: humanities research in a networked world

This talk looks at the connections and tensions between the “digital” and the “humanities” in order to argue that we need more humanities scholars to take seriously issues in the design and implementation of software systems.  Humanities scholars are particularly well suited to help us think through such topics as the status of the archive as it mutates into the database, the possibilities for less hierarchical computing, and the cultural contexts of code.  In short, this talk argues that neither theorizing  media nor building new technologies is sufficient onto itself; we must necessarily do both.

As a concrete example of the relationship of theory to practice, I will look at the work our USC team has undertaken over the last decade, including the digital journal, Vectors, and the new multimodal authoring platform, Scalar.  Our research has always been in direct dialogue with key issues in the interpretative humanities, including discussions of race, gender, sexuality, social justice and power.   Can such a dialogue come to shape the practice of software design?


Tara McPherson is Associate Professor of Gender and Critical Studies in USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. She is author of Reconstructing Dixie: Race, Gender and Nostalgia in the Imagined South (Duke UP: 2003), co-editor of Hop on Pop: The Politics and Pleasures of Popular Culture (Duke UP: 2003), and editor of Digital Youth, Innovation and the Unexpected (MIT Press, 2008.)   She is the Founding Editor of Vectors, www.vectorsjournal.org, a multimedia journal, and is an editor for the MacArthur-supported International Journal of Learning and Media (MIT Press.)  Her new media research focuses on issues of computation, gender, and race, as well as upon the development of new tools and paradigms for digital publishing, learning, and authorship.  She also leads a software lab for the Alliance for Networking Visual Culture with funding from the Andrew Mellon Foundation, the NEH, and others.