#DHPocoSS Week 3: Summary of Amy Earhart, Can Information Be Unfettered?

chains111Reading: “Can Information Be Unfettered?: Race and the New Digital Humanities Canon” Amy E. Earhart

Summary by Megan Farnel (@meganfarnel)

Find Discussions on Questions Here.

·      Begins by noting the optimistic belief in early DH work that free access to online material would provide missing intellectual capital to marginalized, non-canonical populations

o   Building things, particularly the undertaking of recovery projects, became aligned with an activist ethic/intervention.

·      The fact that this has frequently not been the case is something we need to both historicize and critique in contemporary DH scholarship.

·      The late 1990s and early 2000s saw recovery projects operating on two scales, with the smaller scale work being completed by individuals or small groups, and the larger scale work being undertaken by e-text and/or DH centres, most of which were institutionally affiliated.

·      Small-scale projects initially thrived, she says, but many have since been deleted or lost.

o   Leads to the impression of DH as consisting of limited number of projects undertaken by small group of scholars.

·      Large scale projects, meanwhile, tended to reinforce the structural biases of the canon.

o   Some argue this is due to funding and institutional affiliation; others (including Smith in the article we’re reading next week) contend that such projects represented a way for scholars to retreat from and ignore the complications raised by cultural studies.

o   Others have also considered that notions of what texts/editions are need to be revised.

·      The types of early recovery projects that have survived indicate that standards and sustainability are of critical importance

o   Need to extend these privileges to “DIY scholars”

·      There are fewer ongoing recovery projects, and Earhart argues this should concern anyone concerned with questions of race, class, gender, ability, and sexuality.

Earhart Questions

1. Earhart contends that sustainability is an inherently racial question, noting the disappearance of many early text-recovery projects concerned with work by marginalized persons and populations. What tools and/or strategies can we use to ensure the survival of this work? And though Earhart makes a strong case for the necessity of recovery work, what other types of projects, platforms or tools should we consider when discussing the sustainability of critical race work online?

2. When considering which early recovery projects have survived, Earhart notes the importance of standards and institutional affiliation. This leads her to argue that DHers must consider how to extend these privileges to what she calls “DIY scholars”, citing an archive (Gibagadinamaa- goom) and an intervention into TEI coding practices  (Amanda Gailey) as examples. Can you think of other scholarly and/or activist work doing this? And what other factors might be important when attempting to decouple sustainability from institutional affiliation and centralized standards?

3. Earhart importantly historicizes the emphasis on building things in DH work and its alignment with an activist imperative to recover and provide space for marginalized populations. She also notes with concern the decent decline in scholars interested in producing this type of work. What factors might have lead to this decline, and how might we attempt to reassert the validity and importance of such work?

4. Though Earhart is using a fairly wide definition of the term text, the article does seem to primarily emphasize the recovery of written/printed artifacts. What does it mean to recover non-text works, and how can we create the conditions necessary for the sustainability of that recovery? Are they any different than the conditions for other recovery projects? And how might the implications of such work be of particular importance for specific groups (such as disabled subjects)?

5. Is race a unique problem to the digital canon? Can this article be also about sexuality, class, (dis)ability, and how these may intersect?

6. Earhart highlights an important issue of ownership of digitised heritage negotiated between Timothy Powell and Ojibwe elders. This is an example of cultures and languages under threat and in urgent need of preservation, often in non-Western societies. How is the issue of ownership of digitised heritage different in developed countries?

7. The internet can be perceived as an immense warehouse of information in particular digitised texts of and by diverse communities. Can digitised material of and by marginalised communities be better served if they were centralised by universities and research institutions?

8. Because it is situated in Internet, textual digitisation promotes fluidity and disembodiment of the author. Does the race and ethnicity of the author matter with regard to the digital archiving of materials by under-represented communities?






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