Reflection 3 (Ben)

Digital Humanities has been a controversial subject in many ways from its initial emergence and one of the most prominent talking points is the discussing surrounding diversity. The current state of digital scholarship is dominated by racially white, culturally western players. Furthermore, according to “Towards a Cultural Critique Of Digital Humanities” by Domenico Fiormonte, the field is controlled primarily by a set of standards put in place by the same demographics at the hands of only a few companies, corporations or even individuals. Fiormonte argues that the central issue that causes this lack of diversity is that when new digital tools are developed, one reflects on their use or impact, but overlooks their cultural foundation. In “Pedagogies of Race: Digital Humanities in the Age of Ferguson”, two authors, Amy Earhart and Toniesha L. Taylor, reflect on the racial and cultural monotony of the field. They state that this lack of diversity has a series of negative results, a central one being that it takes away from participation in the digital humanities. In response the authors call for a “grassroots recovery project to expand current digital offerings.” This project would, in turn, broaden the digital humanities’ reach and engage with, at least on a basic level, people of all cultures, races, and socio-economic classes.

As I read about the monotony of the digital humanities community it reminds be to be cognisant of the cultural foundations of my own project. The origins of my research are based in my own cultural background and the genuine interest to learn more about my family’s history and more broadly the history of the Jewish people. As suggested in the readings, it is not only the culture associated with the project but also the environment that the project is created in that contributes to the finished product. What has my childhood in New York City contributed to my research process and project? What about Lafayette College and even the Digital Humanities Summer Program that i am in right now? In addition to this project being an opportunity to reflect on these questions and my own cultural environment, it is also a chance for me to further think about how my creation is going to be used. Earhart and Taylor inspire me to try and create a project that is accessible to all levels of education, in addition to all cultures. The primary goal when first thinking about my project was to provide academic information in an visual manner that it is not required to have prior knowledge about; to bridge the gap between common discourse and historical scholarship. Because general academic scholarship, like the digital humanities is dominated by small subjection of identities, this goal to make a project accessible to the public goes along with Earhart and Taylor’s proposal for a grassroots movement.

My project once again has shifter in terms of the data that I will be using. Instead of focusing on providing and series of information about particular cities relevant to Jewish migration, I needed a more of a practical and logical reason for mapping the information. As a result, I am now creating a map which the user follows mark in linear time progression, starting prior to the official start of the Spanish Inquisition in 1492 until the late 1500s. Each mark will be a either a specific event or a primary source entry. For example, one mark will be state: Istanbul, 1477: Government census records Jews as the third largest population in the the city by religious affiliation. As I continue my research I will have to determine if I can find enough events/primary source accounts or if I will have to expand my data set. Furthermore, most of the primary source accounts provide information about before migration, about life in Spain or about the pogroms as a result of the inquisition, or after the migration about the conditions in the Ottoman Empire, but i’m yet to find material regarding the actual migration process.

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