In response to the latest "crisis" in the humanities, advocates have marched, rallied, fundraised, and-especially-argued. This essay contends that communication scholars can support the growing "case for the humanities" by analyzing argumentative strategies, and more specifically, by offering ethical argumentative strategies that avoid replicating structures of domination. In particular, we look to Mari Lee Mifsud's theorization of rhetoric as gift, which follows Henry W. Johnstone in conceptualizing argument as something other than winning over an adversary. We place Mifsud's theorization of the gift in conversation with the methods of the digital public humanities (DPH), which acknowledge and offer abundant resources for meaning-making. Through the methods of DPH, we offer a response to the humanities "crisis" that activates the humanities' already broad constituencies by giving resources for humanistic inquiry rather than seeking to capture adversaries. Our case study is Photogrammar, a DPH project for organizing, searching, and visualizing the New Deal and World War II era photographs funded by the U.S. federal government. The project forefronts visual, nonlinear, and interactive argumentation in order to engage publics in generative humanistic inquiry. By enlisting participants and sharing expertise, Photogrammar shows how humanities advocates can deepen attachments to the humanities and build broad constituencies of collaborators and allies.

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Copyright © 2019 Routledge. Article first published online: May 2019.

DOI: 10.1080/15358593.2019.1598569

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Full citation:

Cox, Jordana and Lauren Tilton. "The Digital Public Humanities: Giving New Arguments and New Ways to Argue." Review of Communication 19, no. 2 (2019): 127-146.