Aristophanes’ Androgynon with Hats 
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Explanation

DHSI Logo The explanation for “Aristophanes’ Androgynon with Hats” starts with the old DHSI logo, which was meant to invoke the digital humanities through a human and a measuring stick. I’ve heard it said that the human figure was given wide hips and narrow shoulders in order to make it look androgynous, but many have complained that it still looks very much like a man, which is especially problematic because technological fields tend to be male-dominated. The original designers were apparently sensitive to this imbalance, but they didn’t quite succeed in androgynizing the human figure.

DHSI Logo w/ Balloons The DHSI logo changed when balloons were added in celebration of the institute’s tenth anniversary. Personally, I like this logo, and I wear my t-shirt proudly. But by losing the measuring stick, it has become divorced from its original meaning, and the problem of the male-looking figure remains. So, because the DHSI folks are interested in creating a welcoming community, they asked people to submit new design proposals. “Aristophanes’ Androgynon with Hats” is mine.

In the famous discussion of love, in Plato’s Symposium, Aristophanes describes his idea as follows:

Man’s original nature was different from what it now is. It had three sexes—male, female, androgynous; all globular in shape and with double limbs and organs; derived respectively from sun, earth and moon.

Man’s woes were due to the pride of these primal men which stirred them to attempt to carry Heaven by assault. In punishment Zeus sliced them each in two, and then handed them to Apollo to stitch up their wounds. But, because they then kept dying of hunger, owing to the yearning of each for his other-half, Zeus devised for them the present mode of reproduction, altering the position of the sex organs accordingly. Thus Eros aims at restoring the primal unity and healing the cleft in man’s nature.

Each of us is a split-half of an original male, female, or androgynon; and the other-halves we seek in love are determined accordingly.

(The Symposium of Plato 1.8, tr. R.G. Bury 1909. Digital edition: Perseus Digital Library.)

Ignoring the peculiar sexism of Athenian society, I think this ‘androgynon’ can help overcome the problem in the original DHSI logo, by representing the female and male figures together. Thus, I have put the silhouettes of two heads back-to-back, united. This is meant to say that DH should not be male-dominated.

It also says that together we are stronger than we would be apart. So the humans are united, and the “D” and the “H” are joined as well. In my opinion (and speaking generally), digital technology and humanities research both arise from a common human desire to better understand our world and to improve the human condition. Though they may arise from this same goal, in practice they are divided into their separate fields and departments. DH, then, and DHSI, attempts to return these two to their original nature, combined and strong, able to better understand the world and improve its condition.

Secondly, I wanted to preserve elements of the original design. Though the composition has changed, the font remains the same. More importantly, “Aristophanes’ Anrdogynon with Hats’ is also a measuring stick, hence the tick-marks along the left side.

But what’s up with the hats? This is to say that we DHers wear several hats: computer programmer, humanities researcher, designer, teacher, etc. And we are often expected to switch among these roles, to change our hats. (It’s also an inside joke among my DHSI flat-mates.)

Hats-singleFinally, perhaps in a bit of nostalgia for my old rock-and-roll days, I wanted to make a design that would look good on t-shirts, flyers, and coffee mugs, so I kept the colors to a minimum, and contained the design to a simple rectangle.

In short, I wanted to create a DHSI logo that wasn’t gender-biased, but which maintained its connection to the legacy of the original design. There is still the human, there is still the measuring stick, but we’re also now a community, bringing disparate approaches and perspectives together.