Accessibility and Sustainability

This week’s readings and featured projects have expanded my definition of Digital Humanities and opened up the possibilities of research, output and social justice issues within DH. It is interesting to note the trajectory of the readings (2012–2019) and where the focus of the next iteration of Debates in Digital Humanities will be, particularly with the current political climate and global pandemic.

One issue that often came to mind when viewing the websites is the accessibility and sustainability of DH work, mentioned by Gold and Klein in 2016. Torn Apart / Separados has been divided into two volumes. Volume 1 focuses on ICE detention centers and Volume 2 looks at ICE’s financial structure. The beauty of digital projects such as this is their ability to update, expand and transform over time. New data sets can be analyzed, collaborators added and different forms of technological tools deployed. However, with the rapidly changing nature of technology, will this project be accessible in five or ten years? Will the Javascript programming function in future iterations or is this not a consideration? Should DH practitioners focus our attention on audiences of the present and near-future and not far-future? For example, I have found “broken” or non-accessible areas of the Colored Conventions Project. While this minor inconsistency does not alter my view of the success and worthiness of this project, it is conceivable that other digital projects may be experiencing the same dilemmas, even at a larger scale.

The “Reflections” section of Torn Apart / Separados is extremely helpful in putting the visualizations in context. As much as visualizations are important, scholarly writing is also a necessary component of DH projects. Personally, I’d like to see projects expand beyond the world of academia and scholarship and include other voices as well. I gained a greater understanding of DH after reading the peer-reviewed projects in Reviews in Digital Humanities, but perhaps some DH projects can broaden their audiences to allow for more equitable access to information. Regardless, it is impressive how far the field has evolved. Its role in the research and knowledge of past, present and future issues is immense.