There is a paradox. DH wants to be accessible, but DH wants to address complex and underlying issues in society. DH wants to “unmask racialized systems of power,” yet DH is based in technology that “developed out of a racialized system (Gallon).” DH wants to create a grassroots recovery, yet DH starts not from the community, but from academia. DH states it wants to “move ‘beyond normative ideas of who is a digital humanities scholar (Terman),’” yet DH is almost completely based in higher education. Where do we start to address these contradictions?
Are we, as digital humanists, exclusionist in the language we use to describe the systemic issues that exclude people? Yet, while discussing topics of race and gender, simplifying an issue can create misinformation and misunderstanding. We all have complex and rich histories, we just need a starting place to begin exploring them. These histories are all about perspective, meaning we need more people with diverse backgrounds to engage in these topics and allow for their voices to be heard. If we reached more people, would this help DH reach the goal of impacting complex, underlying issues?
My basic question is where is the entry point to DH? Earhart and Taylor base their paper on the idea of creating a grassroots recovery of lost humanity. Yet, I question how they view the terms grassroots. For them, it means starting with entry level technologies and broad partners. Here the DH point of entry is only simplified in their technology choices. However, Gallon suggests this is not a good thing. Digital Humanists should not compromise the technology they use, as this is the basis for their work. Gallon references Johana Drucker’s statement that we should “use and build digital infrastructure and tools steeped in humanistic theory so that they function in ways that reflect the core values of the humanities (Gallon).” While using technologies steeped in humanistic theory for humanities research is more theoretically sound, these technologies tend to have a higher technological entry point. Therefore, there is a tension in choosing what technology to use. Should professors use a simple, easy tool that can be used by many, or use a tool that recognizes the nuanced way the humanities work as a discipline? The use of entry level technologies may be a good starting point to bringing more undergraduates into digital humanities, but it simplifies and perhaps undermines identification of, “racial dynamics in digital spaces (Terman).”
Is it beneficial for digital humanists to create an entry point for those interested in developing and sharing their knowledge? A simplified entry point might not be the right answer, as simplifying has its own problems, but where do we start teaching more people about DH? Is it more important to bring in more people with more perspectives, or first clean the issue DH has in itself? Finally, would opening DH to reach more people create a dialogue that would bring richer complexity and depth?
- Earhart, Amy E., and Toniesha L. Taylor. (2016). “Pedagogies of Race: Digital Humanities in the Age of Ferguson.” Debates in the Digital Humanities 2016. Lauren F. Klein and Matthew K. Gold (Eds.). [Open-access edition, CUNY Graduate Center]
- Gallon, Kim. (2016). “Making a Case for the Black Digital Humanities.” Debates in the Digital Humanities 2016. Lauren F. Klein and Matthew K. Gold (Eds.). [Open-access edition, CUNY Graduate Center]
- Terman, Rochelle (Oct. 03 2010). “Black Studies and Digital Humanities: Perils and Promise.” Blog Post, Townsend Center for the Humanities.
- Wernimont, Jacqueline. (2013). “Whence Feminism? Assessing Feminist Interventions in Digital Literary Archives.” Digital Humanities Quarterly 7.1.