Author Archives: A Virtual Lisa

“Fair Use for Non-Fiction Authors” Workshop

Leibovitz v. Paramount Pictures Corp.

Parody versus the original

On Nopvember 18th, I attended a workshop designed to teach nonfiction writers about fair use as applied under United States copyright law.  The workshop was produced by the Mina Rees Library and was part of their Scholarly Communication Workshop Series.  You can learn more about the series here:

The workshop was held via Zoom, with eight participants, including instructors Jill Cirasella and Roxanne Shirazi.  Jill is the head of the scholarly communications unit for the GC and often works with students to apply fair use to their work.  Roxanne is the GC’s dissertation research librarian, which means that she works with students when they are ready to publish their capstone projects and dissertations.

The workshop was structured this way:

  • We received a brief overview of fair use, including the basics.
  • Review of fair use in nonfiction work
  • Review of some fair use misconceptions
  • Suggestions on using content outside of fair use
  • Q & A

The workshop was also recorded via Zoom.  If you would like to see it, contact Jill or Roxanne for the link.

 Fair Use Basics

Under certain conditions, fair use is recognized by US copyright law.  Here is an official definition by way of the US Copyright Office:

“Fair use is a legal doctrine that promotes freedom of expression by permitting the unlicensed use of copyright-protected works in certain circumstances.  Section 107 of the Copyright Act provides the statutory framework for determining whether something is a fair use and identifies certain types of uses—such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research—as examples of activities that may qualify as fair use” (US Copyright Office).

The doctrine permits the use of copyrighted works without permission or payment to the copyright holder.  The theory behind the doctrine is that we, as a society, give people limited ownership rights to the content they create (e.g., writers and photographers and film-makers), and we give other people rights to discuss that content (e.g., like critics and scholars and reporters).  There is no rigid formula we can apply to determine if fair use fits a particular incident. Still, there are four factors the courts consider when a fair use case comes before them.

  • What was the purpose and the character of the use?
  • What was the nature of the work being copied?
  • How much of the work was copied?
  • Did the copying of the work affect the use of the original work in the marketplace?

When seeking to determine if a piece falls within the doctrine, the court may ask if the material’s unlicensed use transformed it, for example, by using the content for a different purpose (like a critic doing a review of a book) or giving it a different meaning (like a researcher using Google N-Gram to determine how certain words or phrases are used within their corpus of digitized texts).  In other words, the new use does not merely repeat the content for the same intended purpose as the original.  The court may also consider the nature of the copyrighted work and if the new use is to support an argument.

Fair Use in Nonfiction Works

When considering using another’s work, there are four guiding principles the nonfiction author should consider.  Each was discussed with examples of case-law provided.

Guiding Principle One: Critique

Fair use applies when the copyrighted material is used for criticism, commentary, or discussion of the work itself.  In this use case, the entire work may be reproduced within the new work, so it may be closely examined within context.  The ability to freely critique a work also protects society against intimidation.  However, the doctrine expects the amount copied will be limited to what is needed to make the analytical point. Furthermore, appropriate attribution should be given to the original author.

An example offered was Warren Publishing Company v. Spurlock.  In this civil case, an author created a biography of the artist Basil Gogos that included reproductions of Gogo’s artwork, commissioned for specific magazine covers owned by the plaintiff.  The publisher lost their case because the court found that the “defendant’s use of the artwork to illustrate a particular stage of Gogos’ career was transformative, considering [the] plaintiff had originally used the artwork for purposes related to the advertising and sale of magazines.”

Guiding Principle Two:  Proving a Point

Fair use can apply when the copyrighted material is being used to illustrate or prove an argument.  Here, the material is not reproduced for commentary but rather to establish a more significant point.  As ever, the amount copied should be reasonable, and it should not be purely decorative or inserted for entertainment.  In other words, do not reproduce something because you like it or simply want to make your content more attractive. Instead, create a clear connection between the material being copied and the point being made.

Here the example used was New Era Publications v. Carol Publishing Group.  In this case, an unfavorable biography of L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of the Church of Scientology, contained extensive quotes from Mr. Hubbard.  The plaintiff argued that because the excerpts had been used without their authorization, it was a copyright breach.  The court found that the biography, A Piece of Blue Sky, was fair in its use of the material because said use was designed “to educate the public about Hubbard, a public figure who sought public attention,” and [that it] used quotes to further that purpose rather than to unnecessarily appropriate Hubbard’s literary expression.

Guiding Principle Three:  Digital Databases

The court has found that digital databases developed to perform non-consumptive analysis (or non-expressive analysis) of copyrighted materials is permitted for both scholarly and reference purpose.  An example of non-consumptive analysis is when content is digitized, and the computer then does a textual analysis.  However, this data may not be re-employed in other ways, e.g., providing ordinary reading access.

In Authors Guild, Inc. v. Google Inc., the plaintiff sued when Google made unauthorized digital copies of millions of books and then made them available to search via its Google Books service.  The court found this was fair use because digitizing the material and making it public was transformative:

“Google’s making of a digital copy to provide a search function . . . augments public knowledge by making available information about [p]laintiffs’ books without providing the public with a substantial substitute for matter protected by the [p]laintiffs’ copyright interests in the original works or derivatives of them.”

Some Fair Use Misconceptions

  • A maker cannot use material if their request is refused or if they received permission, and then it was revoked. Even if you do not have permission, you can still rely on fair use if your expression of the material falls within the law.  In Wright v. Warner Books, Inc., the court found the defendant Margaret Walker was within the fair use doctrine when she quoted from selections of the poet Richard Wright’s unpublished journals and letters.  This, even though Wright’s widow had rejected Walker’s request to use the material.  The court found that the “analytic research” contained in [the] defendants’ work was transformative because it “added value” to the original works.
  • A maker cannot rely on fair use if they are using unpublished material. In 1992, Congress amended the copyright act to explicitly allow fair use of unpublished materials.  An example was Sundeman v. The Seajay Society, Inc.  Here a scholar wrote a critical review of an unpublished novel by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, following the author’s death.  “The court ruled in favor of defendant’s fair use defense, finding that the critical review was a scholarly appraisal of the work.  While the paper extensively quoted or paraphrased the novel, its underlying purpose was to comment and criticize the work”.
  • A maker cannot rely on fair use if they are using the entire copyrighted work. While the amount of the work copied is one of the factors considered, it is more important if there is a transformative purpose.  In Bill Graham Archives v. Dorling Kindersley Ltd., the author reproduced multiple Grateful Dead concert posters to show a time-line within their text.  In this case, the court found that the small size and low-quality of these reproductions did not hurt the actual posters’ marketability or underlying value.
  • A maker cannot rely on fair use if they are using highly creative copyrighted work. That factor is rarely decisive on its own.  In Blanch v. Koons, the artist created a collage painting that included a commercial photograph of a pair of high-fashion shoes.  “The court deemed the collage transformative because the defendant used the photograph as “raw material” in the furtherance of distinct creative or communicative objectives.”
  • A maker cannot rely on fair use if they are making commercial use of a copyrighted work. In Leibovitz v. Paramount Pictures Corp., the marketing arm of Paramount parodied the famous nude picture of a pregnant Demi Moore by superimposing Leslie Nielsen’s face onto the body of a naked pregnant woman posed similarly to the Annie Liebovitz original.  “Noting that a commercial use is not presumptively unfair, the court found that the parodic nature of the advertisement weighed in favor of a finding of fair use.”

Suggestions on Using Content Outside of Fair Use

How might we proceed if our use of copyrighted material is not intended to be fair?

  • Modify the intended use.
  • Ask the copyright holder for permission to use the content or for a paid license to use the work.
  • Use work disturbed under open licenses like Creative Commons.
  • Use works from the public domain.

Considerations Outside of Copyright

Sometimes there are contractual terms governing access to a work (e.g., archives, museums, specific databases, or websites) that can restrict your availability to apply fair use.  If you are using a source with these restrictions, you have bound yourself to that agreement by using that source.

Fair use does not protect against claims based on legal rights other than copyright (e.g., privacy, rights of publicity, trademark, or defamation).

Contracts can override the native rights that you may have had to fair use.

Screengrab with Link to Author Alliance

Visit the Author Alliance for more helpful resources

The Authors Alliance

The presentation was created by the Authors Alliance.  Their mission is to “advance the interests of authors who want to serve the public good by sharing their creations broadly. We create resources to help authors understand and enjoy their rights and promote policies that make knowledge and culture available and discoverable”.    You can find the presentation in its entirety at

Questions and Answers

Q: How can I be sure I can use something?

A: While a lawyer can help you determine the probability, in the end, you will only know if something is fair use if you are sued and a court decides it.  Now, publishers have policies about using content based on their internal risk assessment, restricting the amount of content, etc.  However, their corporate best practice is not a rubric designed by the court.  It is recommended that you use a fair use checklist to test your own thinking for your own research purposes.  Keep that with your research notes in case the validity of the use is ever questioned.   Here are two resources:

Q: Are teachers covered by the doctrine within the classroom?

A: Yes.  However, public presentations could be different, depending on the forum.  When possible, look for images that are public domain.

Q: What about personal photos of a subject, such as those found in archives?  Many biographies contain them, but they don’t always support an argument.

A: They often are included with permission, have been secured via a license, or were in the public domain.

Q: What about lifting passages with attribution but not within quotation marks?

A: Keep the quotations and show good faith with attribution within the text, as well as any footnotes.

Q: Are University Presses considered commercial presses?

A: They have different standings; some are commercial, and some are nonprofit.  The entity is not the issue. It is how the work itself is being used or being repurposed that falls within the doctrine.

Work Cited

Authors Alliance. “Resources.” Authors Alliance, 6 Aug. 2019,

Authors Guild, Inc. v. Google Inc.  No. 13-4829-cv (2d Cir. Oct. 16, 2015).  United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. US Copyright Office

Bill Graham Archives v. Dorling Kindersley Ltd.  448 F.3d 605 (2d Cir. 2006).  United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. US Copyright Office

Leibovitz v. Paramount Pictures Corp.  137 F.3d 109 (2d Cir. 1998).  United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. US Copyright Office.

New Era Publ’ns Int’l, ApS v. Carol Publ’g Grp.  904 F.2d 152 (2d Cir. 1990).  United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. US Copyright Office

Sundeman v. The Seajay Soc’y, Inc.  142 F.3d 194 (4th Cir. 1998).  United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. US Copyright Office

Warren Publ’g Co. v. Spurlock.  645 F. Supp. 2d 402.  United States District Court, ED Pennsylvania. US Copyright Office

Wright v. Warner Books, Inc.  953 F.2d 731 (2d Cir. 1991).  United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. US Copyright Office

US Copyright Office. “More Information on Fair Use.” Copyright, US Copyright Office,

2020 Tools for Digital Humanities Workshop

Tools for DH

Title Slide from the Presentation

On September 2nd, I attended an introductory workshop on some of the tools we use in the Digital Humanities (DH).  The workshop was held via Zoom, with thirteen participants, including the instructor, Filipa Calado, and Rafael Portela, their helper.  Filipa is a Graduate Center Digital Fellow and a Ph.D. candidate.  She has been running these introduction workshops for a few years, but this was the first time she had done it remotely.  The workshop was structured this way:

  • Filipa did a brief overview of DH, stressing the collaboration is very important because most projects involve teamwork.
  • We broke into small groups to introduce ourselves.
  • Then we returned to the full group, and Filipa discussed the five areas of Digital Humanities (DH), some of the tools used, covered contextualizing methodology, and offered links to additional readings. 
  • We ended with an online evaluation.  

We began with an overview of DH, including the use of the word “tool” in the computational sense and that DH brings these tools to its methodology.  Generally, DH brings digital methods of research to the humanities, with most projects either producing data or processing data to organize, clean, manipulate, or transform it. 

RESOURCE: Read Johanna Drucher’s article on “Humanities Approached to Graphical Display”, see

Where does data come from?

It can be audio/visual, web scraped (taken from other sites), text analysis (using programs), text encoded (tag it so the computer can read it), and geocoded (tagged to use with digital maps). 

How do we capture audio/visual data? 


When it comes to audio capture, begin by reading Kelsey Chatlosh’s blog post on their GCDI workshop on sound, see  Generally, open-source tools are recommended because they are free and have great support around their user-community. 

Web Scraping

This is when we use software to gather specific content from static websites and social media platforms.  It is always wise to consider the terms of service on the sites you scrape. 

Text Analysis

This is when we use programming to extract the data we want from text.  Examples like Word-clouds were shown.

Text Encoding. 

This is when we use a mark-up language to encode a text for specific details.  We reviewed in some detail how XML was used in the Shelley-Godwin Archive, including some pages from Shelley’s Frankenstein, which showed her text and her husband’s edits; see


These software tools let us make our own maps.  QGIS is the most often used tool for this need.  

RESOURCE: GC has a very active mapping group on the Commons named GIS Mapping; join it if you are interested. 

We reviewed in some detail the work done by Mapping Arts NYC, which shows where cultural events are supported in the five boroughs over time using funding as its primary marker. 

Displaying and Analyzing Data. 

Some tools automatically create a display when given data.  For example, spreadsheets can be used to generate basic graphs and charts.  This implies an analysis.  What do you show, and what do you leave out? Have a critical awareness of the tools you use.     

Display / Analyze it: Visually

Some time was spent on the Quantifying Kissinger site, which did “A Computational Analysis of the National Security Archive’s Kissinger Collection Memcons and Telcons” and then presents this data in 3-D map form, see

Display / Analyze it: Narratively

Archiving platforms like OMEKA, the CUNY Commons CMS, or Manifold were cited as platforms that store digital assets and can also be used to present them. 

RESOURCE:  The Graduate Center Digital Fellows (GCDI) team can help you figure out what tools to use for a project.  Visit their site and sign up for a consultation.   

RESOURCE:  Visit the GCDI calendar to learn about future events, see

RESOURCE:  Here is the link to their slide presentation:

I learned a lot in a short time.  Please do read their slide presentation, as it has links to all the tools mentioned. 

Getting a Sense of the Professional Culture in DH

I began this week’s readings with the Stephen Ramsay and Geoffrey Rockwell piece, Developing Things: Notes toward an Epistemology of Building in the Digital Humanities, in part because the word “epistemology” is one whose meaning I forget.  At its base, we might call it the theory of knowledge. Still, in form and in its use within the academy, the word takes on a gravitas that can be confusing to this lay-person, particularly when the gatekeeping function of peer review enters into the conversation.  I was surprised when I read these lines (emphasis is mine):

“Increasingly, people who publish things online that look like articles and are subjected to the usual system of peer review need not fear reprisal from a hostile review committee. There is, however, a large group in digital humanities that experiences this anxiety about credit and what counts in a way that is far more serious and consequential. These are the people …who have turned to building, hacking, and coding as part of their normal research activity.” (Ramsay)

It surprised me because I did not know there was a history of hostility by review committees to online scholarship.  And also, because I have worked with digital technology for most of my working life, I know the value it can bring and the power it has within the business world.  However, the tension between using a digital tool to create an effect versus seeing the tool itself as the embodiment of a theory was something I had not considered.  After several readings, I came to agree with the authors that the tools we use in the digital humanities are “theories in the very highest tradition of what it is to theorize in the humanities because they show us the world differently” (Ramsay).

If the theory is a pot, then what we cook in that pot is data.  Catherine D’Ignazio and Lauren F. Klein encourage us to see the intersectionality behind the data-points in Introduction: Why Data Science Needs Feminism.  Inspired in part by the work of the Combahee River Collective, who recognized the need for a “development of integrated analysis and practice based upon the fact that the major systems of oppression are interlocking” (D’Ignazio 5), the authors seek “first to tune into how standard practices in data science serve to reinforce these existing inequalities and second to use data science to challenge and change the distribution of power” (D’Ignazio 9), albeit in the direction of greater power for people who are not “elite, straight, white, able-bodied, cisgender men from the Global North (D’Ignazio 9).  That is a tall order, particularly when you consider that many available data-sets already have their inequalities baked in.  An example the authors offer is PredPol.  Created to assist law enforcement in determining where in Los Angeles, more police patrol was needed, it used historical data for its forecasting.  However, since U.S. policing practices have “always disproportionately surveilled and patrolled neighborhoods of color, the predictions of where crime will happen in the future look a lot like the racist practices of the past” (D’Ignazio 13).  In other words, PredPol created a feedback loop which amplified existing racial bias.  

In Making a Case for the Black Digital Humanities, Kim Gallon invites us to consider “how computational processes might reinforce the notion of a humanity developed out of racializing systems” (Gallon) and sees in Black digital humanities a mechanism to trouble “the very core of what we have come to know as the humanities by recovering alternate constructions of humanity that have been historically excluded from that concept” (Gallon).  We see this put into practice by Professor Kelly Baker Josephs, when they write about the challenges they faced creating a syllabus in Teaching the Digital Caribbean: The Ethics of a Public Pedagogical Experiment, particularly ”work that directly addressed digital technology and the Caribbean” (Josephs).  One of Josephs’ solutions was to enlist their students to participate in generating course content.  They explain it this way, “my students’ blogging was not simply a supplement to the course; rather, it played a cognitive role in the distributed structure of the class, moving it from knowledge consumption to knowledge production” (Josephs).  However, this approach was not without its difficulties, in part because the student blogs were visible on the World Wide Web and soon became primary source material for other entities.  Here Josephs learned a critical development lesson; the content could be “decontextualized from the pedagogical frame that produced that work” (Josephs).  As a developer, this was a powerful take-away and one that I hope we will explore more in the syllabus, namely, what rights do sources have and how should their data-sets be protected.

In Todd Presner’s Critical Theory and the Mangle of Digital Humanities, I appreciated the author’s history lessons on the development of critical theory.  But what really grabbed me was their willingness to embrace the “kludge at the core of their practice” (Presner 59), meaning the work of the digital humanitarian is often messy, full of workarounds and compromises even though the product produced may appear completely stable to the end-user.  It is that messiness which creates an opening for DH “to go beyond the limits and boundaries erected by prior formations of the humanities … many of which were deeply exclusionary and remain stratified in countless ways today” (Presner 61).  In other words, the tools we use can reveal the world in new ways, especially when the stakeholders and contributors are understood to go beyond the academy. 

From the examples that he cited, I was drawn to Mukurtu (MOOK-oo-too), which is a content management system developed to support Indigenous communities if they want to build and share their cultural heritage digitally (Mukurtu Editors).  One of the controls Murkurtu offers is the protection of some (or all) information regarding the content, depending on the needs of the community.  Of particular interest was the Tribesourcing Southwest Film Project; it has collected almost 500 films, of which many were made in the mid-1900s.  While the images are often true reflections of cultural lifeways, the narratives are not.  This project uses the images but introduces new narration, created by members of the communities reflected in the films.  The editors explain it this way: “Each film in this project will be streamed with at least one alternate narration from within the culture” (Mukurtu Editors).  These are people mining artifacts from the popular culture and repurposing them to tell a different story, one that is more reflective of their lived experience.

Part of this week’s reading included visits to the sites below, so that we might get a sense of the professional culture in DH.  I spend about fifteen minutes on each, so my analysis is not very nuanced.  I approached it with the question: is this an organization I want to join?

  • Association for Computers and the Humanities.  Their website was basic in its design, just text, and hyperlinks.  Its pages aren’t updated regularly; for example, on the Membership page, they advise, “As of November 2015, we have 463 members (among nearly 800 individual members of the various ADHO constituent organizations)”.  Not updating your membership number for five years is not a good sign to me as a potential member; it makes me wonder what else is out-of-date.  On the first read, the value here was the low dues cost and 40% discount on books from university presses. 
  • Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations.  As an association for digital humanities associations, this site has real appeal for me.  It offers a wide umbrella that can aggregate information from its organization members for the benefit of individuals.  Interestingly, they do not encourage people to join them directly, but rather, join one of their constituent organizations (COs), see  
  • Humanities Commons.  I like organizations that publish their roadmap, in part because it tells me what they are actually developing and where their real values lie.  The HC does this.  While not complete, it does allow members to up-vote on current initiatives via a Trello board.  However, the HC’s primary function is the maintenance of a social network targeted at humanities scholars, where they can “create a professional profile, discuss common interests, develop new publications, and share their work.”  Creating an account is free, but some material is visible only if you use an email address registered with a society that is one of its members, see
  • Digital Humanities Quarterly.  I really enjoyed this site.  The peer-review process is not something I have ever been engaged with, so being able to understand how it works within DH when done through this platform, was very enlightening!  My only critique as a potential user is the site doesn’t appear to support RSS.  As a user, I would like to be able to see alerts on new papers as they appear via a feed, so I could then follow the ones that appealed to me. 
  • Debates in the Digital Humanities.  We are already hip-deep in this site, given many of our readings are published there.  This class is my first exposure to the Manifold platform, and so far, I like it.

As a user, I will join the Association for Computers and the Humanities because of its low price-point, and because that will give me “free” access to the Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations and Humanities Commons sites.  I will likely be able to get a better sense of the professional culture in DH after spending time lurking on the HC site and reading the DHC. 

Some closing thoughts about this week’s readings: growing up is hard work, and it’s messy.  The Digital Humanities is still at the beginning of its journey, and people like the folks in our program will affect its development over time.  Openness and inclusion are wonderful concepts that are challenging to orchestrate the bigger a project becomes.  I, for one, am very excited to learn more and see where the journey takes us!


D’Ignazio, Catherine, and Klein, Lauren. “Introduction: Why Data Science Needs Feminism.” D’Ignazio, Catherine, and Klein, Lauren. Data Feminism. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2020. 1 – 27. eBook. <>.

Gallon, Kim. “Making a Case for the Black Digital Humanities.” Debates in the Digital Humanities 2016. Ed. Matthew K. Gold and Lauren F. Klein. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2016. eBook. <>.

Josephs, Kelly Baker. “Teaching the Digital Caribbean: The Ethics of Public Pedagogical Experiment.” The Journal of Interactive Technology & Pedagogy, Issue 13 (2018). Electronic. <>.

Mukurtu Editors. Our Mission. n.d. Website. <>.

—. Tribesourcing Southwest Film Project. n.d. Website. <>.

Presner, Todd. “Critical Theory and the Mangle of Digital Humanities.” The Humanities and the Digital. Ed. David Theo and Svensson, Patrik Goldberg. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2016. 55-67.

Ramsay, Stephen, and Rockwell, Geoffrey. “Developing Things: Notes toward an Epistemology of Building in the Digital Humanities.” Debates in the Digital Humanities. Ed. Matthew K. Gold. Version 2.0. Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 2012. eBook. <>.

The Colored Conventions Project and DH

Screen-capture from the Colored Conventions Project,

The international advocacy initiative the 4Humanities charged that makers within the digital realms have “ …a ‘special potential and responsibility to assist humanities advocacy’ because of [their] expertise in ‘making creative use of digital technology to advance humanities research and teaching’” (Gold).  For this post, our focus is the Color Conventions Project (CCP), which defines itself as “a scholarly and community research project dedicated to bringing the seven decades-long histories of nineteenth-century Black organizing to digital life” (Introducing the Colored Conventions Project).  This site was chosen because its makers made innovative use of a spectrum of technologies, offered users direct engagement, and explored a part of U.S. history about which I knew very little.

The site focus is a seventy-year span, from 1830 through the 1890s, when Black people organized across the U.S. and Canada in pursuit of suffrage and the legal recognition of their human rights.  The mechanism they used was State and National political conventions.  The main site breaks this history into a variety of exhibits that go beyond a specific event.  For example, the section on Black women’s economic power details the important role Black women played in supporting these conventions, from housing travelers in their boarding houses, feeding the convention goers, and supporting the event with monetary contributions. 

However, what makes the site come alive is the astounding collection of ephemera the site makers were able to collect, including the convention minutes from many of the events.  These assets have been digitized, categorized, transcribed, and then given their own OMEKA database. There are dozens of photographs, cartoons, and renderings from the era.  Moreover, many interactive maps help to focus the mind on how challenging it was for Black people to travel and assemble during this time.  Nevertheless, for me, the ability to click a link … open a file …and to then be able to read the actual Minutes of the Fourth Annual Convention that was held in the Asbury Church in New York City on 12 June 1834 was profound and reminded me of something Professor Gold wrote in Digital Humanities: The Expanded Field:

Rather than requiring that the tool-building work of an ImagePlot or a Bookworm, to name two recent contributions to that domain, speak directly to their objects of analysis, we might explore how the creation and deployment of such tools perform distinct but equally valuable functions—functions that must be considered in relation to each other to achieve their maximal effect. (Gold)

It is that “relation to each other,” which the CCP does so well!  The exhibits are given their historical context, but it is the primary source material that gives the site its soul.  In Lisa Spiro’s thought-piece This Is Why We Fight”: Defining the Values of the Digital Humanities, the author asks that digital humanists “focus on a community that comes together around values such as openness and collaboration” (Spiro).  Here the makers of the CCP also excel.  On the site’s Principles page, the makers explain that “CCP seeks to enact collective organizing principles and values that were modeled by the Colored Conventions Movement” (Colored Convention Project Principles).  The fact they chose to model this modern endeavor using the same principles and values of the people who were the objects of their scholarship has a satisfying symmetry and shows this reader their respect for those now long dead. 

Finally, the makers of the CCP project do not limit their scholarship to the Academy; instead, they actively recruit any user to submit materials they may have found.  This is a critical step for scholars who do not want to risk falling into the trap of only talking to each other.  This is also consistent with an observation Professors Gold and Klein made in A DH That Matters, where they wrote: “the digital humanities has always seen itself as a field that engages the world beyond the academy—through its orientation toward the public in its scholarship, pedagogy, and service” (Gold and Klein).


Colored Convention Project Principles. n.d. Website. 31 Aug 2020. <>.

Gold, Matthew K., and Lauren F. Klein. “Introduction. A DH That Matters.” Debates in the Digital Humanities 2019. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2019. eBook.<>.

Gold, Matthew K. “Introduction. Digital Humanities: The Expanded Field.” Gold, Matthew K., and Lauren F. Klein. Debates in the Digital Humanities 2016. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2016. eBook.  <>.

Gold, Matthew K. “Introduction: The Digital Humanities Moment.” Gold, Matthew K. Debates in the Digital Humanities. Ed. Matthew K. Gold. 1. Vol. 1. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012. eBook.  <>.

Introducing the Colored Conventions Project. n.d. Website. 28 Aug 2020. <>.

Spiro, Lisa. “This Is Why We Fight”: Defining the Values of the Digital Humanities.” Debates in the Digital Humanities. Ed. Matthew K. Gold. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012. eBook.  <>.