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How DH Empowers Others

Exploring the sites after completing the readings was extremely helpful for me in terms of solidifying a definition of digital humanities, or rather exemplifying just how flexible or “infinitely malleable” this definition is. Navigating each site, a question that was proposed in “A DH That Matters” continually came to my mind: “How can digital humanists ally themselves with the activists, organizers, and others who are working to empower those most threatened by [the charged environment of 2019?]” Beyond that question, I kept asking myself how digital humanists could utilize this field to not only inform and uncover problematic patterns in the data that further promote the disenfranchisement of marginalized groups, but how can we use our resources to promote change as well.  

I found Torn Apart/Separados to be a response to these proposed questions. It exposes the insidious financial regime of ICE, revealing myriad well-known political figures and companies who both profit and participate in ICE operations. It simultaneously provides information on notable allies along with links to their sites where those interested can learn more or donate to their cause. To me, Torn Apart/Separados is illustrative of the digital humanities that was defined in our readings; through the visualization of various sets of data into various charts, it informs while also providing resources that can be used to fight against this regime by means of donating to allies or no longer supporting companies that contribute to the problem.  

Another aspect of DH that is so appealing to me is just how capacious it is. Moreover, Spiros noted how DH should promote values like collaboration, openness and diversity among others. While Torn Apart/Separados is illustrative of DH, so is every other site in its own specific way, appealing to one or more of the various sub-fields within DH. This push for group collaboration and openness is exactly what drew me to this field, as I think it cultivates an open, flexible environment where digital humanists will continue to develop and evolve the ways in which we navigate academia, research, and empowering others.  

One thought on “How DH Empowers Others

  1. Phil Agee

    I whole heartedly agree that “promoting change” that empowers others ought to be a central concern in any assessment of the output (and internal processes) of the Digital Humanities (and any other collective and institutional endeavor). One question I have, though, is what do you think might distinguish a digital humanities effort from a data journalism effort? Perhaps at the end of the day, it does not matter. However, I wonder if there are important perspectives (with associated vocabularies and logics) in the humanities that can add dimensions to what would otherwise be considered data journalism. Perhaps the section in Torn Apart/Separados on “reflections” is a beginning of a “critical” analysis. The challenge becomes incorporating important understandings of humanities, including those of authors such as Michelle Alexander (The New Jim Crow) and Rashad Shabazz (Spatializing Blackness) and many others. (This kind of effort was in large measure done very successfully in the media work of Ava DuVernay in her 2016 documentary 13th)

    The stream of activist data journalism, heralded to some extent in 2015 by the The Guardian newspaper project “The Counted” which for the first time in mainstream journalism attempted to track police-related killings, has been an important force for change. However, much of journalism is necessarily focused on immediately unfolding events. As a result there is important context and conceptualization that is missing. Perhaps it is when this contextualization and conceptualization can be included in digital projects that we see the special contributions of the Digital Humanities truly shine.

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