Reflection III (john)

Because I will be gone this week, please use part of your reflection to engage with two of these articles. Your reflections can/should still be personal, but they should reveal thoughtful consideration of identity and its implications on work, structurally and in its content. This reflection should be longer (1-2 pages).


Issues regarding the inclusivity of the canon has always plagued me as an aspiring writer. The mere fact that my identity controls whether or not my work can be considered “good enough” is daunting because evaluation tends to depend on the author and not the work of the author. However, this distinction has fueled me to challenge this idea of the canon and what is deemed textual or not; hence my choice to lyrically analyze an album rather than a book. In regards to the two pieces that overviewed race issues in the Digital Humanities community, I was pleased to find that the second piece answered the first article’s question of “why is Digital Humanities so white”? The community is so white because of the focus on technological production, which is limited to the privileged, rather than focusing on qualitative theoretical production equally.

In the first article, the author’s overviewed how panels primarily talked about technology, and tool productions, rather than race issues. I would argue that this anomaly is because the community is so white. White people do not have to worry about race relations because they are in a government system that benefits them. Thus, checking one’s privilege, like why a room full of white people are not discussing race, does not come to mind because that would involve acknowledging more complicated issues, like the history of the nation, how the history impacts the present, and how social issues have not progressed much over the years. Making such a realization would involve critiquing the very foundation of the government and society that people hold dear to their hearts, which makes sense why the panel would rather talk about technological tool creation instead of elaborating on why the panel is so exclusive; a topic that the second article broke down very well.

    The second piece provided elaboration on the theoretical processes leading to the creation of the White Violence, Black Resistance project. The authors disagree on the emphasis of technology in the Digital Humanities community because having access to online tools is a privilege in itself. Thus, they aimed to make simple technological production skills, like metadata application, data collection, analysis, etc, accessible to “citizens on the ground” because they were the ones experiencing the injustice at the time. Rather than make a project intended to garner the attention of academic institution’s funding, this project was made to expose the patterns of social injustice throughout our history in order to change society’s views on race and critique what should be included in the Digital Humanities canon. Thus, I argue, that the second article successfully provides an answer to why the Digital Humanities is predominantly white and a solution to fix the ailment. Rather than focusing on the advanced means to creating an online project, which is a privileged mind-frame because it implies one has immediate access to the needed tools, the focus should shift towards making technological production accessible to the very people that are excluded; in result, the Digital Humanities community would, hopefully, diversify while also paying attention to ideological critiques as well as technological tools.

Third Reflection (Camilla)

In our class discussions, we have tackled the perceptions of Digital Humanities as a predominantly white, male, form of scholarship that lacks a critical lens. However, I strongly disagree with this statement, and believe that the digital humanities projects that myself and my peers are working on do the opposite: they promote understanding of history, of stratification, ability, refugee migration, race, sexuality, and in my case of stereotyping and negative impacts of excluding policies based on culture and ethnicity. Our projects strive to be intersectional, and that was one of the values that we came up with as a team during the very first day that we all came together to embark on this journey of exploration, research, and discovery. What does it mean to be intersectional? Before I started college, I didn’t fully grasp the meaning of this word. In fact, the dictionary on my computer still insists that the word doesn’t exist, and highlights it red every time I write it in my class notes or in a paper. To be intersectional means to understand how multiple factors can influence an outcome, and how things are connected. Race, gender, socioeconomic status, etc, do not operate as singular entities. Rather, they affect and influence one another, and can and should be associated to understand how they are all related and impactful. Over the course of this research internship, I strive for my research to not have one singular facet, I hope that I can stay honest to my work and stay objective. I am not Sami myself, and most research papers I have read on Sami are not written by Sami scholars, but rather, they are written by people who wish to learn more, who wish to understand, and who strive to teach and convey powerful and humanizing messages. I too hope that with my research I can help others understand the impact of government interference on indigenous groups, specifically how categorization and regrouping form images of Sami that do not convey the various parts of Sami culture. Not every Sami is a reindeer herder, and they are not all nomadic–assuming that they are, and for example, relocating them thinking it isn’t a problem since they move around anyway, not only influences their abilities to interact with their own traditional lifestyles, but the way that Sami children living surrounded by other Swedish children are perceived by their peers. It is important to understand that cultures evolve, that they are not static, and that not everyone in a culture that isn’t one’s own is the same, or lives the same life.

In “Pedagogies of Race: Digital Humanities in the Age of Ferguson,” by Amy E. Earhart and Toniesha L. Taylor, the authors ask what digital humanities would be like if they focused on social issues and were “transformatively critical.” I interpreted the latter term to mean being critical of research done through analysis, but also in a way that is transformative, or changing the way we look at social issues and information, with a goal of changing perspectives and asking more questions. Earhart and Taylor describe a digital project through Texas A&M University and Prairie View A&M University, both state universities in Texas, Texas A&M being predominantly white, while Prairie View A&M is a Historically Black University (HBCU). Their project of digitizing racial conflict titled White Violence, Black Resistance is relevant today, and compares with racial violence against African Americans today such as in Ferguson, MO. Their work, while historical in nature, has contemporary applications. In addition, Earhart and Taylor describe how the media is a strong source used to share experiences, and digital humanities broadens that field of expression and sharing. Having access to digital humanities in the classroom later has real world applications, and helps people analyze current events and form understanding of their roots and comparisons between the modern age and the past. Ultimately, this project partners two universities with contrasting racial populations. Having them work together expands their resource bases, especially considering that Prairie View does not have the same funding for library space and archives that Texas does. Their project builds bridges, shares multiple perspectives, and looks at history by revealing information on black resistance and white violence, rather than concealing it.

When I think of digital humanities, I think of collaboration and opening up discussion and eliminating barriers. I think that digital humanities have a strong impact on scholarship, and have a lot of power to induce change, so I am with the movement that Roopika Rasam describes in “Beyond the Margins: Intersectionality and the Digital Humanities,” it is time to #transformDH. She explains the assumption that digital humanities do not think, they just do. But if we are careful with our defining and the data we choose, if we understand who we are leaving out, who we are marginalizing, we can be more intersectional and true to the data we are using and the projects we are creating. In my project I detail the ways that the Swedish government has defined Sami and therefore marginalized those that do not fit the description. When we do research as digital humanists, we have to be careful not to do the same. I know that my project is from an outsider’s perspective, but being an outsider isn’t always a bad thing, it must just be recognized for what it is. My goal is to include many realities in my project–realities of reindeer herding Sami, Sami youth going to Swedish schools, Sami youth going to Sami schools, Sami that herd part time, and Sami who do not herd at all. Will I be able to include everyone in the narrative? Unfortunately, it is likely that I will miss part of it, but the amazing thing that I see happen through collaboration is the ability to discuss and learn more over time and from one another. I recognize that my project isn’t going to be perfect–no research is, it is a process–but I plan for it to be a step forward in the communication of acceptance and understanding.

Estrato or Stratum?


On Domenico Fiormonte’s Toward a Cultural Critique of Digital Humanities

The first page of this text highlights exactly what I wanted to in my first reflection for DHSS. It critiques the “indisputable Anglo-American hegemony in the academic research field”. As I stated in my first reflection there are very few developing countries that have strong research. This is due to a ton of intertwining reasons from lack of funding to lack of research based colleges, but is inevitable a problem in the academic world. If all the things people are studying comes from the US then there is a lack of perspective in the research community. This is precisely why I wanted to do my project on somewhere outside of the US; it’s the reason I chose Colombia. Furthermore, there seems to be this perceived idea that developing countries need a lot of help and that the only way to ‘fix’ them is through the lens of already developed countries. This is simply not true! “Peripheral cultures do not need any revenge or, worse, any seat at the winner’s table.” As I wrote in my first post, why can’t Latin America succeed through different methods and dissimilar conditions?

The next set of questions the author asks can also be related to my project. Throughout the process, I’ve asked myself how I would be able to relay this information to scholars back home since it’s all in Spanish. There’s no doubt that the language of research is English. There’s no doubt that the language of computing, or at least digital tools, is also English. This leaves a very small space for those cultures and languages that want to make it in the big leagues but aren’t Anglo-American. What’s worse, there really isn’t a push for other languages to be promoted. But the real problem is that these tools are created out of a specific context. Technology is not neutral to its context. Clear examples of this are the inaccessibility of things like accent marks and the .edu domain to colleges and institutions outside of the United States.

The crux of what we’ve been debating so far in class can be seen in this quote: “it appears that digital humanities is the victim of a continuous paradox; demonstrating an ability to keep up with technologies (and with their owners and gatekeepers) and, at the same time, not to become subject to them.” Here we combine what we’ve been saying during the first two weeks about the rift between the humanities and it’s digitalization with an even more complex layer: the control of digital methods.

But the author doesn’t only stop with language. He goes on to explain that even desktop icons are also a form of cyber-colonization. That being said I wish he would’ve explained in greater detail the full effects that this could have, as he did with language. A second critique of this reading is when the author overlaps two maps; one with linguistic diversity and another with World GDP. He argues that “cultural richness does not necessarily match material wealth”. While I do agree that this is true, I do not think this is a correct way to prove it. “Cultural richness” is much more than linguistic diversity.


On Roopika Risam’s Beyond the Margins: Intersectionality and the Digital Humanities

This second reading is a bit harder to pull apart. The author starts by suggesting a division between theory and practice. This involves questioning how the Digital Humanities represents each. However, the author goes further by asking who is really involved in the construction of these projects and who are they for, just as the reading explained above.

The main argument, though, is based on intersectionality. Intersectionality is the “look beyond the race-class-gender triad described… [to include] additional axes of difference including sexuality and ability”. Similar to the previous reading, the author looks at why having the tools used in Digital Humanities in another language creates a barrier. If we truly want to understand the works of “black, women, [and] third world” scholars we need to be able to adopt their language and discuss in their own terms or else we limit the true expression of these scholars. Once again, my project is an example of this. There is no ‘real’ word that describes estratos in English. The closest approximation is Stratum or its plural, strata. Yet, that doesn’t really describe the full cultural connotations of the word. For example, it wouldn’t make sense to call someone ‘strata 1’- in English it is not a description of a person, but of a set of physical locations. In Colombian Spanish, socioeconomic zoning has made it relate to more than just a place- it is also an indicator (socially) of wealth, income, etc.

Another interesting argument Risam makes is about the way difference is portrayed online. Although cultural representation has been around for a long time, it is only with the internet that it has been able to gather widespread acceptance. As such, many different bodies, both public and private, have started using this to their advantage.

The racial makeup of coding is a good example of representation in the Digital Humanities. It is mostly white middle-class men who have the most access to coding. Who codes is just as important as what is being coded. But it isn’t enough to just give a minority a computer a say “code”. We must understand that the coding process itself is in between racial and gendered lines.

From what is being said in the reading, there doesn’t seem to be much backlash to this idea of diversification of DH. Scholars do want both (maybe I should say all) sides to be engaged, but they aren’t giving anyone the tools necessary to engage. That is the heart of the problem. It takes a lot of willpower to give up privilege, especially in something like technology.

I want to end with the same way the reading ends: “There is no single way of being “intersectional” – instead, intersectionality privileges exploration and innovation in feminist praxis. And aren’t exploration and innovation at the very heart of digital humanities?

Third Reflection (Tedi)

When it comes to equality, there seem to be two general, at-war schools of thought. One, that true equality will be achieved through erasure of individual identity—that there is equality in reducing every author and artist to their most basic identifier: human. Symptoms of this sort of thinking including espousing epigrams like, “I don’t see color” or “The only race that matters is the human race.” Its competing theory entails the opposite- that true equality is achieved through an acknowledgment of individualism by validating the variety of the human experience. People and their works are acknowledged within the sociocultural ecosystem of their birth. Instead of claiming “I don’t see color,” one might recognize another’s blackness and that their experience differs from the white experience, instead of invalidating this experience by diminishing it through erasure. Instead of ignoring our differences, we see them; instead of flattening the human experience, we give it dimension and color.

But how do these two theories of equality relate to digital humanities?

Before I embarked on my Digital Humanities journey, I liked the notion that Digital Humanities could be inclusive through anonymity. The computer would serve as the great equalizer, rejecting the biases and prejudices that commonly plague the humanities (and academia in general.) In Digital Humanities, the creator would be appraised by their scholarly work—gender, color, and creed aside. However, after some thoughtful reflection, research, and article-reading, I tend to stray from my original conclusion. I don’t want my project to be viewed void of context, a piece of creation born and then immediately divorced from its maker. I want my viewpoint, politics, and experience to be considered in duet with my work. My website was made by a white, able-bodied woman, upper-middle class, transposed from her Southern megalopolis into a tiny Northern town.  I don’t want to erase my authorship of this project; instead, I want to own it. I gravitate more towards acknowledgment over erasure, recognition over refusal.

In the articles I read, feminists addressed intersectionality instead of perpetuating white feminism (which is hardly feminism at all.) They attacked a “neutral point of view” as being deaf to the systemic biases against women, people of color, those in poverty, and the disabled. “Listen to us!” we want to scream, “Instead of ignoring us! Hear our experiences and recognize how they differ from your own.” Part of my responsibility as a disability studies researcher has been to not speak over the voices of a marginalized people, but to allow them to speak with autonomy (and I’m doing my best to do so, to avoid the tantalizing “savior complex” role that so many seem to revert to.) It is not my place to scoff at or deny someone’s experience of racism or ableism, in the same way that it is no one’s place to demean or belittle my experience as a woman. Good allyship ensures equality through representation, not repression, of identity.