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Is Author Credit an Issue With Collaboration?

The idea of collaboration being critical to the success of DH projects is thread across all of the readings, and we can plainly see successful examples of it when browsing the sites. Specifically, the creators of Torn Apart/Separados left a note that they plan to make the maps and workflows available through Nimble Tents Toolkit, which is powered by the open sourced GitHub. They’re inviting others to continue to build on the work they’ve already started, and/or to copy the workflows for presenting a different issue. I completely agree with the benefits of collaboration covered in this week’s readings: faster publication, amplification of diverse and marginalized voices, recruitment of experts with different skillsets to help build more powerful tool, peer review etc. But I wonder how challenging it becomes to credit the authors of highly collaborative work. Is it a concern that a group might split off and run with some or all of the base work to create their own project? Maybe this flexibility is what makes DH truly powerful, and authorship and credit aren’t as important since digital humanists are all working towards the same goal of curating and learning from the information presented.

The readings also told us that similar to how expansive the definition of DH is, its impact has shifted away from scholarship to responding to the larger world. This made me think of the popular Citizen app, where a team monitors police reports and shares an alert that’s then pinged out to registered users. Passersby with the app can stream live video of the activity, and a comment thread is created for each event where neighbors can ask questions and share additional information. Each incident is left up on a local map for about a week. Related to the earlier paragraph, who are the mysterious Citizen authors/reporters? Does it even matter who gets the credit between the public users and the reporters as long as the information is being shared?

One last thing that left an impression on me this week was from the “Digital Black Atlantic Introduction” — the idea that memory isn’t only about invoking the past, but linking to the present and future. Toni Morrison called it “re-memory”, that by remembering a memory in the present we’re reconstructing the past. The authors mention an example from the essay, “Access and Empowerment: Re-discovering Moments in the Lives of African American Migrant Women” of returning to lost texts by Black authors. By working with the material in the classroom, students not only learn about archiving and history through preserving the memories, but they’re also cultivating a lasting interest in the material and themes. By using digital tools, we can recover and reclaim what’s been forgotten while connecting to the present. This entire theme was really interesting to me, and I find it inspiring that current generations can build and adapt the past through technology to learn about today and the future.

One thought on “Is Author Credit an Issue With Collaboration?

  1. Brianna Caszatt (she/her/hers)

    I’m also curious to know more about author attribution/credit best practices in DH.

    In scientific publishing, it is very common for there to be many many authors on a study, and someone came up with a convention for how to detail attribution for each author based on 14 standardized contribution roles (the system is call CRediT, for Contributor Roles Taxonomy), and when it came out I thought it was a really fabulous idea. I believe in the community there was concern that perhaps people were being given authorship on papers where their contribution didn’t actually merit it (which I suppose is a whole other conversation unto itself), and there was also concern that women and BIPOC were being pigeon-holed more often into very minor contributing roles, but there was no way to really see how this was happening without having metrics by which to measure it. Thinking back on this system now, I wonder how much this taxonomy contributes to the piegon-holing of author contribution by trying to force everyone into the same set of categories, as much as it brings this issue to light important issues about lack of representation. And I also wonder, is there really such a thing as a contribution that is too small to merit mention?

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