A manifesto for the humanities in the digital age, A New Republic of Letters argues that the history of texts, together with the methods by which they are preserved and made available for interpretation, are the overriding subjects of humanist study in the twenty-first century. Theory and philosophy, which have grounded the humanities for decades, no longer suffice as an intellectual framework. Jerome McGann proposes we look instead to philology—a discipline which has been out of fashion for many decades but which models the concerns of digital humanities with surprising fidelity.For centuries, books have been the best way to preserve and transmit knowledge. But as libraries and museums digitize their archives and readers abandon paperbacks for tablet computers, digital media are replacing books as the repository of cultural memory. While both the mission of the humanities and its traditional modes of scholarship and critical study are the same, the digital environment is driving disciplines to work with new tools that require major, and often very difficult, institutional changes. Now more than ever, scholars need to recover the theory and method of philological investigation if the humanities are to meet their perennial commitments. Textual and editorial scholarship, often marginalized as a narrowly technical domain, should be made a priority of humanists’ attention.
A digital anthropologist examines the online lives of millions of people in China, India, Brazil, and across the Middle East—home to most of the world’s internet users—and discovers that what they are doing is not what we imagine.New-media pundits obsess over online privacy and security, cyberbullying, and revenge porn, but do these things really matter in most of the world? The Next Billion Users reveals that many assumptions about internet use in developing countries are wrong.After immersing herself in factory towns, slums, townships, and favelas, Payal Arora assesses real patterns of internet usage in India, China, South Africa, Brazil, and the Middle East. She finds Himalayan teens growing closer by sharing a single computer with common passwords and profiles. In China’s gaming factories, the line between work and leisure disappears. In Riyadh, a group of young women organizes a YouTube fashion show.Why do citizens of states with strict surveillance policies appear to care so little about their digital privacy? Why do Brazilians eschew geo-tagging on social media? What drives young Indians to friend “foreign” strangers on Facebook and give “missed calls” to people? The Next Billion Users answers these questions and many more. Through extensive fieldwork, Arora demonstrates that the global poor are far from virtuous utilitarians who mainly go online to study, find jobs, and obtain health information. She reveals habits of use bound to intrigue everyone from casual internet users to developers of global digital platforms to organizations seeking to reach the next billion internet users.
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