Jason Helms deposited The High Cost of Love: Passive Exploitation of Labor in DH and DM Courses in the group 2019 MLA Convention on MLA Commons 1 week, 2 days ago
One of the most salient aspects of DH projects is that they are fun to create. DH scholars love to make amazing new tools that solve tangible problems. This makes teaching DH a joy: students work harder on DH assignments because the assignments demand and reward their attention. When work is fun, it doesn’t feel like work. Rather than being alienated from their labor, students identify with it to the extent that they willingly devalue their labor. As teachers, we can exploit that passion, often without realizing it. When teaching DH, we teach not just tools but labor practices as well—whether we realize it or not.
While the exploitation of scholarly labor in DH is obvious (particularly in the slew of alt-ac DH support jobs), we have not paid enough attention to the ways we as teachers exploit our students’ passion for DH. This paper transfers the knowledge from recent arguments about scholarly labor exploitation into an examination of student labor exploitation. Building a theoretical lens around scholarly assessments of technology and labor (Anderson, et al.; bianco; Chun; Galloway; Himanen; Liu; McPherson; Stiegler; Thacker and Wark), this paper argues that a new pedagogic model is needed. Such a model, taken from contract-grading methods (Syverson), eschews due dates and word counts in favor of student-directed, scaffolded assignments. Short reflective assignments (including, student-teacher conferences) can build a critical apparatus for examining and valuing one’s one labor.