Saturday, August 10, 2013


One thing I wish to observe about the UVa Scholars' Lab's upcoming "Speaking in Code" symposium is this.

A call for diverse participation rings hollow when the lineup of invited speakers is 100% white and cis male. I can think of some things besides "impostor syndrome" that might keep a developer from an underrepresented group from applying.

It is doubly problematic when "tacit knowledge" has been used in DH (idiosyncratically; see Collins and Polanyi) to represent software development as a minority culture imperiled by "dominant, extravagantly vocal and individualist verbal expressions." This is an ideological reversal of the fact that software development is a prestige domain both within DH and in contemporary U.S. culture at large and that, far from being a marginalized culture, it is marginalizing, insofar as it is structurally exclusionary of women and racial, ethnic, and sexual minorities.

Saying "you are welcome here" (as a student or participant but not as a leader or invited speaker) may ameliorate this structural exclusion, but not much.

I see the demystification of "tacit knowledge" as a salutary project, and I wish this symposium all success. But this is not a model for inclusivity. We can and should do better.


Collins, Harry M. Tacit and Explicit Knowledge. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2010.

Polanyi, Michael. Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958.

———. The Tacit Dimension. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1966.