Accessibility

In each article preceding the discussion of DH, Race, and Alterity, I found one major theme peeping through:  Accessibility.  Not just accessibility of reading content, but accessibility in understanding and creating content.  If DH is going to be universal and accomplish the goals of delivering high quality resources to all, DH needs to give more than just access to viewing content.

Is DH making its material accessible to as many people as possible, and if so, how is this being done? In The User, the Learner, and the Machines We Make Alex Gil forwards the idea that minimal computing is a way towards accessibility.  Citing Google’s search box, which is quite minimal until one looks at the massive amounts of code used to run this one box.  Yet, is minimal computing a good starting off place for accessibility?  More precisely, is everyone speaking the same minimal computing, as Seyers’s article expands the minimal computing definition. McGrail’s Open Source in Open Access Environments touches on this question of overcomplication in community college settings.  Is minimal computing helping community college students or developing a difficult entry point to DH?  How can DH ideas reach more people and truly be accessible without collapsing the integrity of the work studied?

Central to this issue of accessibility are race, gender, and international DH work.  In The (Digital) Library of Babel Alex Gil states, “a humanities gone digital brings not the future, but a new past.”  Digital Humanities can create new understandings by bringing together populations from culturally and socially disparate backgrounds to create new and interesting discussions about the world.  Yet Alex Gil states we need to take care of our own tents first.  The United States has its own struggles representing both gender and race equally within Digital Humanities.  Focusing on how to support our local tent is necessary to developing DH both at home and internationally.  Perhaps this local approach can be developed within collegiate frameworks of DH.  Yet still to be answered is the question:  How do we make DH accessible to all?

Houston Symphony Orchestra has a massive mission statement:  In 2025, the Houston Symphony will be America’s most relevant and accessible top-ten orchestra.  Yet when Mark Hanson became executive director of the symphony in 2010, he noticed that the majority of the symphony audience was white.  In Houston, which is 33% Anglo, 41% Hispanic, 18% African American, and 8% Asian, not engaging with multiple cultures means not being relevant or accessible.  In The Houston Symphony Diversity and Inclusion Case Study Mark Hanson states, “The Symphony can be as welcoming and as open as humanly possible but without intentional and deliberate strategies that address this feeling experienced by many from the African-American community, our organization and more importantly our art form will continue to remain unintentionally exclusive.” To become more inclusive they went straight to the source and developed three leadership councils filled with people from the communities they were trying to reach. The Houston Symphony Orchestra has since developed bilingual concerts, an African American chorus to perform for orchestra concerts, a Spanish composer series, free community tango concerts, and more to engage with their community.  Though it is solely a musical organization, the Houston Symphony Orchestra is dealing with the same issues as Digital Humanities.  The Houston Symphony Orchestra believes searching for answers at a community level will help them succeed in becoming one of the top 10 nationally recognized orchestras, but for DH, which is often thought of as a more national/international endeavor, would a local focus be acceptable?  Since the potential for DH is so expansive, should inclusivity in DH begin at a local or meta level?

Censorship or Editing

This blog post is in response to the discussion led by Dr. Michael Neal about the FSU Card Archive. The FSU Card Archive boasts over 4,000 collected postcards and hundreds of student made exhibits. Card images range from national parks, federal buildings, art, tourism postcards, and more. The FSU Card Archive teaches students how to organize often disparate ideas within one place. The following blog tries to make distinctions between professional archives, student sites, censorship, and editing based on the FSU Card Archive discussion.

Should an editor fix the broken links and correct misinformation in the archive or exhibits? The crux of this issue seems to be, is the site a student project site or a professional site? The answer to this question guides how the site will be maintained. As a professional archive, the broken links and misinformation would need to be corrected. The Smithsonian would not purposely publish an exhibit with misinformation, as the public would think the information was true. I hope it is our goal as scholars promote access to accurate information. Misinformation portrayed as fact can be misleading and possibly harmful to the average internet user. If this is a professional site, misinformation should be corrected.

Two questions of censorship and preservation emerged from the digital scholars discussion in relation to student project exhibits. I believe there is a succinct difference between censoring and editing, in a professional collection an editor should check each exhibit entry for misinformation before making it live and edit any broken links that occur when the creator has moved on. Yet, these issues become a philosophy question when the mission of the site is based around student learning. A portion of the digital scholars group believed that the student should be able to post views supported by misinformation within their personal exhibit posted on the FSU Card Archive. Again, I believe the final answer to this question must be decided by the mission of the site. If this is a site where students post their individual views, editing misinformation could easily be seen as censorship. However, if the mission of the site is to inform and educate others about the past through postcards, misinformation could harm the mission of the site.

The FSU Card Archive seems to be a cross between a professional archive and a student site. I think to bring the FSU Card Archive to the next level, it must choose to be one or the other. Moving towards a professional archive would include editing each archive entry and exhibit before making it public. If choosing to be a student oriented site, the front page of the FSU Card Archive might mention that the site is run by students and the views represented in the exhibits are student views. It could also be helpful to the average user to put the mission statement on the front page of the FSU Card Archive. This would inform the user automatically of what lens to view the archive.