Greetings, HASTAC-ers! Apologies for my silence here in the Blogosphere to date. Hoping to remedy that, this quarter. For my maiden voyage, I offer you the following.
Professor Jentery Sayers, (University of Victoria) hosted the second annual THATCamp (The Humanities and Technologies) PNW at the Center for Serious Play at University of Washington, Bothell, a research center devoted to gaming this past November. Our theme was social justice.
I spent the morning at unconference sessions on "Neo Geo" aka the emerging field of critical, participatory methods in geography and another addressing our theme of social justice. We wrestled with a variety of questions, including those surrounding the use of Google tools- so easy to access and utilize, but who owns what is created? Vs. Open Source tools- so democratic, but less easy to use. This topic also took us to the heart of complex and contested topics regarding “the digital divide”and access to the internet.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Neo Geo session more effectively addressed issues of "social justice" than the session thus named, which was a bit harder to ride herd on and repeated many of the themes of the prior discussion. I sensed a resistance in the room to meaningfully engage in the difficult dialogues necessary to address topics like race, socio-economic status, and other aspects of identity that are really necessary to interrogating and transforming systems of power.
How best to facilitate these conversations in the future in the arena of digital scholarship? I think social workers and other activists trained in group work regarding issues of identity, race, and privilege could have a lot to offer the digital scholarship community. If this topic is of interest to anyone here in HASTAC, lets talk! I would love to brainstorm with you on this topic.
In the afternoon UW Geography doc student, Joe Eckhart facilitated a workshop on participatory mapping. He took us through the pros and cons of choosing a platform- again focusing on the question of using widely available web-based tools vs. Open Street Map, a program developed by the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University. Then we collectively created a Google map of the Occupy Oakland site from hand drawn maps (this was of course prior to the camp being dissembled shortly thereafter).
Jentery Sayers and I co-facilitated the following session regarding using Omeka, another platform built by the Center for History and New Media for creating digital archives. Opening with interrogating the ethics of privileging open access above all else in digital scholarship as set forth in the Digital Humanties Manifesto 2.0, I talked about using frameworks coming from community based participatory action research (Minkler, Wallerstein, and Duran, 2008) and Indigenous/Indigenist theories of relationality (Wilson, 2008), using Kim Christen's work in Indigenous communities in Australia and the US as an example of communities with subjugated histories who had very specific needs regarding who has access to their digital archival materials and who does not. Jentery then walked us through how Omeka works and showcased a project he did with one of his classes this past year featuring an archive of recordings. Conversation ensued about the finer points of collaborative research and power sharing in participatory processes, among other topics.
2 big questions emerged for me out of my time at THATCamp PNW 2011:
First - As Jentery noted at the end of the day, we could easily do a second THATCamp PNW addressing the theme of social justice. If this were indeed to transpire, how might we want to approach a second iteration of this topic in order to articulate a deeper discourse regarding our definitions of that term and its implications in the digital context across disciplines, across professions, and research contexts? Any thoughts on this question are welcome.
Second- and I realize this question has complex political implications- I wonder about the continuing usefulness of the term "digital humanities" in a space in which many other disciplines and professions are increasingly represented. I have come to think of my colleagues engaged in digital scholarship as a "community of practice" that transcends discipline and offers opportunities for exciting new forms of collaboration. As a person attempting to translate these opportunities to a the field of Social Work, I find the term, “digital humanities”to be a tough sell to a field still wary of qualitative research methods let alone visual methods or multimodal publication. Is there a term that would honor the disciplinary diversity of this burgeoning arena? That said; I know that the very existence of the Humanities, which to my mind are the heart of the academy are under attack right now. If "digital humanities" buys some political capital in this era of budget cuts, so be it. This may not be an “either/or”question.