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Decolonializing the
Digital Humanities
Allan Cho
Digital Humanities Librarian
for FNIS 401
(February 26, 2018)
Outline for Today
1. Defining DH
2. Exercise
3. Challenges
4. De-colonialize DH?
Part I
Defining Digital
Humanities
Crisis in the Humanities? Not with DH
• A crisis in the humanities?
• The central virtue of a liberal
education is that it teaches you
how to write, and writing makes
you think
• DH integrates use of
technologies, new ways of
learning, and thoughtful analysis
of tools that can be used outside
of the classroom
What is (are) Traditional Digital Humanities?
A community of practice combining technology with
humanistic inquiry.
- Wikipedia
The development, exploration, and evaluation of
computer-based technologies and resources for enabling
the pursuit of research questions in the humanities.
- Susan Brown
How did we access information in the past?
How Do (we) Humanists Read?
• In the past . . .
• Traditional close reading is the
careful, sustained interpretation
of a brief passage of a text.
• The close reading of a text
became a fundamental method
in literary criticism in the 20th
century
Text Analysis With DH
• “Distant reading” refers to a
professional reading method
that relies heavily on computer
programs
• Uses big data analytics for the
purposes of literary scholarship
• Franco Moretti
Man versus Machine
• Machine learning algorithms?
• Or human subject expertise?
➢ Self-driving car or . . . ?
“Methods” of DH
• Enhanced Critical Curation
• Augmented Editions and Fluid Texts
• Big data
• Distant/Close, Macro/Micro reading
• Cultural Analytics, Aggregation, and
Data-Mining
• Visualization and Data Design
• The Animated Archive
• Humanities Gaming
• Code, Software, and Platform Studies
• Database Documentaries
• Repurposable Content and Remix Culture
Exercise: Which One Is Better?
• JSTOR’s Text Analyzer -
http://www.jstor.org/analyze/
• Voyant -
https://voyant-tools.org/
Part II
Challenges of Digital
Humanities
Problem of the “Black Box”
• Do we fully understand what
happens to the data that we
input?
• Do we place too much trust in the
"black box" of software that
cannot be sufficiently examined
for errors?
DH Scholarship Globally or Not?
● The Alliance of Digital
Humanities Organizations
(ADHO), the umbrella
professional organization for
digital humanities
● DH mainly in United States,
Canada, and Western
Europe (Risam, 2016)
Geographical Representation Disparity
(Risam, 2016)
Diversity in DH?
• What is the role that race and/or identity
politics plays in DH?
• Lack of racial diversity in digital
humanities to the modality of UNIX and
computers themselves (MacPherson, 2012)
Inclusion & Exclusion in DH
• Do we need to examine the canon
that skews toward traditional texts
and excludes crucial work by
women, people of color, and the
GLBTQ community? (Earhart,
2012)
• Does DH fail to meet the needs of
users with disabilities?
Research Bias?
• Is teaching and pedagogy the neglected in
DH?
• Grants and tenure in the humanities are
geared more toward research with
quantifiable results rather than teaching
innovations, which are harder to measure
• What about Indigenous Studies or Ethnic
Studies or Asian Canadian Studies?
Racial Hegemony in DH?
Is there diversity in the digital
humanities or does it embed
historical, self-reinforcing patterns
of marginalization
National Endowment for the
Humanities, (NEH) funds digital
humanities projects
What about indigenous peoples?
What about colonialized peoples?
Grant Funding Levels by Race/Ethnicity
Civilization and Its Many Discontents
Makers of Civilization VI did not
ask permission to use the
likeness of Chief Poundmaker
World of Warcraft “mirrors the
dispossession of information
workers in the Fourth Worlds
engendered by ongoing
processes of globalization”
(Nakamura, 2009)
Part III
Decolonizing of the
Digital Humanities?
Is DH a refuge from race/class/gender/sexuality?
1. #transformDH
2. Poco DH
3. Black Digital Humanities
4. Digital Feminism
5. Criticial DH
What is #transformDH?
#transformDH is an academic
guerrilla movement seeking to
(re)define capital-letter Digital
Humanities as a force for
transformative scholarship by
collecting, sharing, and highlighting
projects that push at its boundaries
and work for social justice,
accessibility, and inclusion.”
(#transformDH Tumblr)
What is #transformDH?
1. Questions of race, class, gender, sexuality, and disability should be
central to digital humanities and digital media studies.
2. Feminist, queer, and antiracist activists, artists, and media-makers
outside of academia are doing work that contributes to digital studies in all
its forms. This work productively destabilizes the norms and standards of
institutionally recognized academic work.
3. We should shift the focus of digital humanities from technical processes
to political ones, and always seek to understand the social, intellectual,
economic, political, and personal impact of our digital practices as we
develop them.
- Moya Bailey, Alexis Lothian, and Amanda Phillips
Part IV
Case Study - The
Chinese Canadian
Stories project
Decolonizing the Digital Humanities
The Chinese Canadian Stories project
• Historians are good at
capturing data and census
records
• Demographic statistics
• Determine patterns and
trends during certain time
periods
• Synthesizes this information
into books & articles
• So what?
Headtax Database Digitized
Decolonizing the Digital Humanities
Digital Storytelling and Oral History
Community Outreach and Engagement
Decolonizing the Digital Humanities
Decolonizing the Digital Humanities
A Learning Opportunity
● Understanding institutional
hierarchies, cultures, & practices
● Critiquing the not forgetting the
original mission of the project
● Why did we do it? What can we
learn from this project?
Ramsay’s “Type 2” Digital Humanities
Type 1
● English
● History
●
Type 2
● Media studies practitioners
● Internet culture
● Archaeologists
● Digital artists
● Gaming studies
References
● Weingart, Scott B., and Nickoal Eichmann-Kalwara. "What’s
Under the Big Tent?: A Study of ADHO Conference Abstracts."
Digital Studies/Le champ numérique 7.1 (2017).
● Risam, Roopika. "Beyond the margins: Intersectionality and
the digital humanities." DHQ: Digital Humanities Quarterly,
Volume 9, Number 2 (2015).
● McPherson, Tara. "Why are the digital humanities so white?
Or thinking the histories of race and computation." Debates in
the digital humanities (2012): 139-160.
References
● Risam, “Diasporizing the Digital Humanities: Displacing the
Center and Periphery.” International Journal of E-Politics 7.3
(2016): 65-78.
● Nakamura, Lisa. "Don't hate the player, hate the game: The
racialization of labor in World of Warcraft." Critical Studies in
Media Communication 26.2 (2009): 128-144.
Any Questions?
Allan Cho @allancho
www.library.ubc.ca

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Decolonizing the Digital Humanities

  • 1. Decolonializing the Digital Humanities Allan Cho Digital Humanities Librarian for FNIS 401 (February 26, 2018)
  • 2. Outline for Today 1. Defining DH 2. Exercise 3. Challenges 4. De-colonialize DH?
  • 4. Crisis in the Humanities? Not with DH • A crisis in the humanities? • The central virtue of a liberal education is that it teaches you how to write, and writing makes you think • DH integrates use of technologies, new ways of learning, and thoughtful analysis of tools that can be used outside of the classroom
  • 5. What is (are) Traditional Digital Humanities? A community of practice combining technology with humanistic inquiry. - Wikipedia The development, exploration, and evaluation of computer-based technologies and resources for enabling the pursuit of research questions in the humanities. - Susan Brown
  • 6. How did we access information in the past?
  • 7. How Do (we) Humanists Read? • In the past . . . • Traditional close reading is the careful, sustained interpretation of a brief passage of a text. • The close reading of a text became a fundamental method in literary criticism in the 20th century
  • 8. Text Analysis With DH • “Distant reading” refers to a professional reading method that relies heavily on computer programs • Uses big data analytics for the purposes of literary scholarship • Franco Moretti
  • 9. Man versus Machine • Machine learning algorithms? • Or human subject expertise? ➢ Self-driving car or . . . ?
  • 10. “Methods” of DH • Enhanced Critical Curation • Augmented Editions and Fluid Texts • Big data • Distant/Close, Macro/Micro reading • Cultural Analytics, Aggregation, and Data-Mining • Visualization and Data Design • The Animated Archive • Humanities Gaming • Code, Software, and Platform Studies • Database Documentaries • Repurposable Content and Remix Culture
  • 11. Exercise: Which One Is Better? • JSTOR’s Text Analyzer - http://www.jstor.org/analyze/ • Voyant - https://voyant-tools.org/
  • 12. Part II Challenges of Digital Humanities
  • 13. Problem of the “Black Box” • Do we fully understand what happens to the data that we input? • Do we place too much trust in the "black box" of software that cannot be sufficiently examined for errors?
  • 14. DH Scholarship Globally or Not? ● The Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations (ADHO), the umbrella professional organization for digital humanities ● DH mainly in United States, Canada, and Western Europe (Risam, 2016)
  • 16. Diversity in DH? • What is the role that race and/or identity politics plays in DH? • Lack of racial diversity in digital humanities to the modality of UNIX and computers themselves (MacPherson, 2012)
  • 17. Inclusion & Exclusion in DH • Do we need to examine the canon that skews toward traditional texts and excludes crucial work by women, people of color, and the GLBTQ community? (Earhart, 2012) • Does DH fail to meet the needs of users with disabilities?
  • 18. Research Bias? • Is teaching and pedagogy the neglected in DH? • Grants and tenure in the humanities are geared more toward research with quantifiable results rather than teaching innovations, which are harder to measure • What about Indigenous Studies or Ethnic Studies or Asian Canadian Studies?
  • 19. Racial Hegemony in DH? Is there diversity in the digital humanities or does it embed historical, self-reinforcing patterns of marginalization National Endowment for the Humanities, (NEH) funds digital humanities projects What about indigenous peoples? What about colonialized peoples? Grant Funding Levels by Race/Ethnicity
  • 20. Civilization and Its Many Discontents Makers of Civilization VI did not ask permission to use the likeness of Chief Poundmaker World of Warcraft “mirrors the dispossession of information workers in the Fourth Worlds engendered by ongoing processes of globalization” (Nakamura, 2009)
  • 21. Part III Decolonizing of the Digital Humanities?
  • 22. Is DH a refuge from race/class/gender/sexuality? 1. #transformDH 2. Poco DH 3. Black Digital Humanities 4. Digital Feminism 5. Criticial DH
  • 23. What is #transformDH? #transformDH is an academic guerrilla movement seeking to (re)define capital-letter Digital Humanities as a force for transformative scholarship by collecting, sharing, and highlighting projects that push at its boundaries and work for social justice, accessibility, and inclusion.” (#transformDH Tumblr)
  • 24. What is #transformDH? 1. Questions of race, class, gender, sexuality, and disability should be central to digital humanities and digital media studies. 2. Feminist, queer, and antiracist activists, artists, and media-makers outside of academia are doing work that contributes to digital studies in all its forms. This work productively destabilizes the norms and standards of institutionally recognized academic work. 3. We should shift the focus of digital humanities from technical processes to political ones, and always seek to understand the social, intellectual, economic, political, and personal impact of our digital practices as we develop them. - Moya Bailey, Alexis Lothian, and Amanda Phillips
  • 25. Part IV Case Study - The Chinese Canadian Stories project
  • 27. The Chinese Canadian Stories project • Historians are good at capturing data and census records • Demographic statistics • Determine patterns and trends during certain time periods • Synthesizes this information into books & articles • So what?
  • 30. Digital Storytelling and Oral History
  • 34. A Learning Opportunity ● Understanding institutional hierarchies, cultures, & practices ● Critiquing the not forgetting the original mission of the project ● Why did we do it? What can we learn from this project?
  • 35. Ramsay’s “Type 2” Digital Humanities Type 1 ● English ● History ● Type 2 ● Media studies practitioners ● Internet culture ● Archaeologists ● Digital artists ● Gaming studies
  • 36. References ● Weingart, Scott B., and Nickoal Eichmann-Kalwara. "What’s Under the Big Tent?: A Study of ADHO Conference Abstracts." Digital Studies/Le champ numérique 7.1 (2017). ● Risam, Roopika. "Beyond the margins: Intersectionality and the digital humanities." DHQ: Digital Humanities Quarterly, Volume 9, Number 2 (2015). ● McPherson, Tara. "Why are the digital humanities so white? Or thinking the histories of race and computation." Debates in the digital humanities (2012): 139-160.
  • 37. References ● Risam, “Diasporizing the Digital Humanities: Displacing the Center and Periphery.” International Journal of E-Politics 7.3 (2016): 65-78. ● Nakamura, Lisa. "Don't hate the player, hate the game: The racialization of labor in World of Warcraft." Critical Studies in Media Communication 26.2 (2009): 128-144.
  • 38. Any Questions? Allan Cho @allancho www.library.ubc.ca