Rabea Kleymann: Reading Code Diffractively in Digital Humanities Pedagogy
Lightning Talk at the DH Unbound 2022 virtual conference, sponsored by the Association for Computers and the Humanities (ACH) and the Canadian Society for Digital Humanities (CSDH/SDHN), 17–19 May 2022
Reading and writing code have become an important task for understanding our contemporary society. Digital humanities pedagogy is therefore being challenged by the question of imparting competency to unpack code. So far, “code” literacies in DH have often been considered in the light of traditional forms of textual criticism, while strengthening the idea of code as a text. In my talk, I propose Karen Barad’s diffractive reading as a methodological approach for critically engaging with code in DH. Diffractive reading is defined not only by taking into account social-material enactments that constitute the phenomena we study. Rather, it is a performative approach that focuses on accountabilities of boundary-drawing beyond representationalism.
Given that code in DH is often entangled in complex research environments, I argue that diffractive readings could make tacit diversity-oppressing assumptions and settings visible and re-negotiable for DH scholars. The purpose of my talk is twofold: (1) to conceptualize code as a notion of matter, which has an immense sociopolitical impact on shaping DH scholarship and (2) to imagine and diversify humanistic readings of code. Using code snippets from DH research, I demonstrate how to read code diffractively. Which kind of cultural conception runs this source code? My talk is an invitation to reflect on our practices of drawing boundaries that are folded into coding, in order to take this as a starting point for shifting boundaries anew.
The literary scholar Rabea Kleymann is a research associate with the project Diffractive Epistemics: Cultures of Knowledge in the Digital Humanities.