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prof. Elizabeth Losh: Political Rhetoric, the Digital Humanities, and the Cybersecurity State

Monday, April 11th, 9.30-11.00, in-person lecture, JU Doctoral School in the Humanities, Rynek Główny 34, 2nd floor (limited availability)

Tuesday, April 12th, 10.00-11.30, hands-on online workshop, MS Teams (if interested, please contact dr hab. Anna Nacher, prof. UJ, at



How should the digital legacy of a political leader be archived, managed, and interpreted in the era of social media and ubiquitous computing? Connection, transparency, access, and participation are common themes in political rhetoric and also potential vulnerabilities for the virtual state. Based on interviews with White House insiders, archival research, and hundreds of digital corpora, this presentation extrapolates from the scholarship behind the author’s forthcoming book that reveals important insights about the extensive record of data from Barack Obama and Donald Trump as presidents and Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden as presidential candidates. This talk also looks at how such a digital legacy exists in a larger rhetorical and political historical context. For example, the Trump administration was quick to take down many public records made digitally available in the Obama era and even removed records about troop mobilization that had been posted during the pre-Obama Bush era of Republican political control. This context also involves having digital humanists consider issues about personalization and surveillance, as the Obama administration reversed longstanding cookie policies from the Bush and Clinton White Houses. At the same time as official digital archiving practices might be noteworthy, it is also important to acknowledge the labor of DIY archivers and hacktivists, such as the maintainer of the Trump Twitter Archive. Finally, this presentation will dramatize the importance of reconstructing missing digital objects of study, such as the White House website designed for would-be president Hillary Clinton, which is not available to researchers and may become irretrievably lost without a clear mandate for preservation.  

Accompanying this lecture there will be a workshop for interested participants about the politics of the digital humanities with hands-on practice derived from government sources and other state-sponsored forms of public information to discuss best practices for meeting the ethical and methodological challenges of digital humanities research.


Elizabeth Losh is the Duane A. and Virginia S. Dittman Professor of American Studies and English at William & Mary and a Fulbright U.S. Scholar to Estonia in 2021-22 at Tallinn University. Previously she directed the Culture, Art, and Technology Program at the University of California, San Diego.  

She is the author of Virtualpolitik: An Electronic History of Government Media-Making in a Time of War, Scandal, Disaster, Miscommunication, and Mistakes (MIT Press, 2009), The War on Learning: Gaining Ground in the Digital University (MIT Press, 2014), Hashtag (Bloomsbury, 2019), and Selfie Democracy (MIT Press, 2022). She is the co-author with Jonathan Alexander of Understanding Rhetoric: A Graphic Guide to Writing(Bedford/St. Martin's, 2013; second edition, 2017; third edition, 2020). She also edited the collection MOOCs and Their Afterlives: Experiments in Scale and Access in Higher Education (University of Chicago, 2017) and co-edited Bodies of Information: Intersectional Feminism and Digital Humanities (Minnesota, 2018).