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Why digital humanities are sexy…

pornhub_8_22Ok, let’s say you’re a guy who’s spent most of your adult life carving out a career for yourself as a user experience designer and information specialist. You build a nice little life designing enterprise software solutions and websites for Fortune 500 companies. You’re not rich, but you’re comfortably entrenched in the middle class with a respectable disposable income. You’re a yuppie. You drive a hybrid SUV. You own your home, with a hot tub and a pool and a pool and a flat screen TV in every room. It’s an ok life. Then, lets say one day you have a nervous breakdown and lose your fucking mind and decide “hey, why don’t I go back to school and get a doctorate in English so that I can be an expert in some little tiny aspect of culture that no one gives a shit about and I can give all this up and never earn a living wage again!!!! Wheeee!!!” (turns out people who’ve lost their fucking minds say “Wheeee!!!” a lot… at least in this example). So, you go through life seeing no real crossover between those two careers, and realizing that you’re going to be eating ramen the rest of your life and your head hurts a lot…

But then every once in a while you see something on Gizmodo like this and you say “That! That right there! That is the ultimate intersection of academic research and information visualization. That right there!”

So this is an info graphic, designed by that details the top videos on (which is a porn site and NSFW, in case anyone is stupid enough to click on that without thinking) as aggregated by category and sorted by popularity. There is untold data about the human condition wrapped up with a tight tiny little bow here. Like I can tell that as a whole, we as a people generally prefer to sexually fetishize teenage girls (no surprise). But even more interestingly, I can tell that Orientalism doesn’t so much exist as a sexual fetish in and of itself, but instead a 50% multiplier of whatever sexual fetish it’s applied to. As opposed to transgenderism which doesn’t combine nearly as well with other fetishes. Interracial Otherness works like Orientalism, but slightly better. So it depends on what the base category is that gets multiplied. Almost EVERYBODY wants to see Ray J fuck Kim Kardashian, but EVERYBODY wants to see a Japanese schoolgirl get it on. People are freaks.

So yeah, I’d totally love to see people doing more of these with other literary topics, and in fact, the guy who made it, DOES do that. He has one that’s shows the occurrence of the character of God in the Christian Bible by verse that’s pretty damn fascinating. I could totally see doing interesting stuff with Shakespeare or Chaucer.

But really…  Porn! For Science! Well, for Humanities. Whatever….


18 comments for “Why digital humanities are sexy…

  1. October 2, 2014 at 12:48 pm

    nit: s/oriental/asian/g

  2. October 2, 2014 at 1:00 pm

    Nope…. Orientalism. It’s a term:

  3. October 2, 2014 at 1:07 pm

    And this all correlates to Rule 34?

  4. October 2, 2014 at 1:08 pm

    More specifically, Orientalism is pretty much the reason that the term “Asian” is preferred in regular conversation.

  5. October 2, 2014 at 1:13 pm

    While the line between porn and art can be blurry, it’s still a shitty term when applied to people (which I think applies for the topic of fetishes) for the objectification angle. Would you say that someone has a Negro fetish?

  6. October 2, 2014 at 1:13 pm

    Andrew: well it does, but that wasn’t really my point. If you take rule 34 as a given, it’s more a question of how society fetishizes everything. If we assume rule 34 exists, then we can assume the mapping of porn correlates to the actual sexual proclivities of society and therefore a mapping of porn genre corresponds to a mapping sociological concerns and values.

  7. October 2, 2014 at 1:18 pm

    Lee: yes. I would exactly say that someone had a negro fetish. The reason there are two terms is that Asian refers to people. Oriental refers to things. If I’m talking about fetishizing porn, I’m specifically talking about western objectification and not Eastern actualities. So calling it asianism would be wrong (and misleading)

  8. October 2, 2014 at 1:20 pm

    You need to meet my friend Danielle Rosvally, who is ABD at my old dept at Tufts, and does DH w Shakespeare. We should also talk about the various DH scholarly organizations. I went to a conference in NYC last year hosted by one of them and I spent a chunk of time thinking you’d have loved it.

  9. October 2, 2014 at 1:22 pm

    also, “fetishizing” doesn’t mean what it probably sounds like it means in this context. Related but not the same. It’s more like objectifying or commodifying… it doesn’t have the same sexual connotation that it probably sounds like it does. Except, we’re talking about porn, so it ends up that it does… its all very confusing.

  10. October 2, 2014 at 1:22 pm

    Meron: sure!

  11. October 2, 2014 at 1:23 pm

    Yeah. It’s a very confusing line. I thought it was interesting that you chose a loaded term rather than defaulting to what the diagram uses, even if it might not be precisely correct.

  12. October 2, 2014 at 1:28 pm

    yeah, I totally see where the confusion lies. I actually did it twice, I also referred to their “interracial” category as “interracial otherness” The thing is, pornhub isn’t actually trying to do any sort of scholarship or anything, so they use whatever terms they think people are most likely to be searching for. Since “Oriental” is pretty much accepted as offensive, they weren’t going to use that. But I’m not really making a statement about asian culture so much as I am about the western appropriation of it (which in the case of porn is what is really at stake) so that would have been wrong.

    To be fair, I probably should have changed “Teen” to “Youth” as well.

  13. October 2, 2014 at 1:44 pm

    OK Cupid also kicks out some revealing raw data stats from time to time.

  14. October 2, 2014 at 1:45 pm

    Bill: yeah, I’ve seen some.

  15. October 2, 2014 at 1:49 pm

    In fact, people do use “Negro” in such situations when describing stereotypes, as in the discussion of the “Magical Negro” characters in cinema. They choose the terminal precisely because it is offensive, as I understand it.

  16. October 2, 2014 at 1:56 pm

    John: pretty much. More that it’s objectifying rather than it being offensive. But for your purposes, that’s probably the same thing.

    If I said “black” or “asian” it wouldn’t call attention to the fact that we are talking about a cultural idea of a an objectified thing rather than the a person with subjectivity.

    In other words, when a guy pulls up the #1 link (Japanese school porn) he isn’t jacking off to “Asian woman who he celebrates for her embodiment of a grand cultural tradition” he is jacking off to “oriental girl who represents the eroticization of a culture that is foreign”

  17. October 3, 2014 at 4:48 pm

    You might be interested in this item and the links within:

  18. October 4, 2014 at 3:40 pm

    I was with you right up until “doctorate in English.” My nervous breakdown ) auto correct asks if I meant “nervous hedgehog”) moment obviously involved a lot of screaming “whee!” but none of this leaving the lucrative and creative field of UX. That’s just crazy!

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