Editors’ Choice: Beyond Binary: What the Vampire Squid from Hell Can Teach Us About Access and Ethics in the Digital Humanities

The following talk/workshop was presented at the Digital Humanities Summer Faculty Workshop at Northwestern University on Tuesday, September 7, 2016. 

Two years ago, I began thinking about what exactly our common and popular platforms—both social and scholarly—might privilege, and how that privileging shapes our work, stories, new knowledge and culture in general. After a personal leave of absence, I’m just now starting to get back to catching up on and thinking about these issues, so this is still a work in progress and we have a lot of ground to cover. I’d really like this to also be a conversation, so please feel free to chime in whenever you want, and after each section of this presentation there will also be time to reflect on your projects specifically.

So, the squid! We’ll get to the squid in a minute, but it’s our organizing metaphor, an animal to admire but not exactly emulate; a creature who is defined by its environment and so also trapped in time.

And then there’s us. Often times, the digital nature of our work both speeds things up and obscures things that should be of central concern. Things like access and ethics. When I say access, I mean both the production and publication of digital content, and the sharing and consuming of it. By ethics, I mean the slowing down of these processes to consider the effects digital production and dissemination might have in a wide variety of social, political, and cultural spaces and circumstances. In a way, it’s a call to center empathy in the digital creation and sharing of new knowledge, and to acknowledge both the differences the digital affords circulation, impact, and scale.

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