Note: As the dh+lib Review editors work behind the scenes this summer, we have invited a few members of our community to step in as guest editors and share with us what they are reading and why the dh+lib audience might want to read it too. This post is from Tierney Gleason, Reference and Digital Humanities Librarian at Fordham University Libraries.
My reading list this summer has focused on issues of labor, web accessibility, and the use of archives in digital humanities, with an eye towards seeking out new research partnerships, improving technical skills, and developing new projects and workshops in the coming academic year.
Risam, R., & Edwards S. (2018). Transforming the landscape of labor at universities through digital humanities. In R. Kear & K. Joransen (Eds.) Digital humanities, libraries, and partnerships : a critical examination of labor, networks, and community (pp. 3-17). Cambridge, UK: Chandos Publishing. (Pre-print available at https://digitalcommons.salemstate.edu/library_facpub/2/)
Written by an English professor and a librarian, this article documents the partnership between Roopika Risam and Susan Edwards to create the Digital Scholars Program for undergraduates at Salem State University. Situating their work in institutional and economic context, the authors describe their challenges engaging in DH scholarship in the library at a regional comprehensive university amidst shrinking budgets, a reduction in library staff, heightened research benchmarks for tenure and promotion, and new responsibilities created by digital projects outside of traditional job descriptions. Through naming multiple points of tension that place unequal expectations of labor on librarians, Risam and Edwards explain how positioning labor issues at the center of their DH work allowed them to explore a collaboration that championed student success, highlighted the university’s special collections, connected with the local community, and provided guidance for taking direct action to cultivate equitable research partnerships between contributors. I appreciated the mention of project charters, especially A Student Collaborators’ Bill of Rights from UCLA, since that is something I often stress to graduate students, as well as the example of Risam finding a way for Edwards to receive compensation for her work on a grant-funded project. With quotes from scholars and/or scholar librarians Lisa Spiro, Miriam Posner, Micah Vandegrift, and Stewart Varner, this is a great article for librarians working at schools with smaller budgets looking to renew their inspiration for what ethical collaboration in DH can and should look like for everyone involved.
Williams, G. H. (2012). Disability, universal design, and the digital humanities. In M.K. Gold (Ed.), Debates in the digital humanities (pp. 202-212). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
I have returned to this article as I move towards including web accessibility as a core component of my teaching on digital tools and the creation of born-digital scholarly communications. Williams challenges DH scholars to examine universal design principles in their work to reach the widest possible audiences. He recounts working on a project building an accessible website at the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH) in 2001 and describes how a blind person demonstrating screen-reading software led him to reevaluate his perspectives on disability. He began to see how traditional ways of accessing technology were socially constructed and conclude that “All technology is assistive, in the end.” (204) Besides exploring the importance of universal design principles, Williams recommends digital scholars begin exploring resources from the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), stresses the need for free and open source accessibility tools to work in tandem with content management systems like WordPress and Omeka, provides an example of how the tool Anthologize aids readers who are blind or experience low vision, and suggests tools to crowdsource and produce captions, subtitles, and transcripts. I look forward to researching what tools and plugins have been developed since this article was published to meet these needs since I have colleagues who are interested in producing digital editions in the coming year. As a librarian working in DH, I see incorporating web accessibility into my information management skill set as an opportunity for advocacy and inclusion within my libraries and broader communities. For those who are interested, resources on understanding How People with Disabilities Use the Web from the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) along with the Introduction to Web Accessibility from Web Accessibility In Mind (WebAIM) serve as useful companion resources to this article.
Jules, B., Summers, E., & Mitchell, V., Jr. (Apr 2018). Ethical Considerations for Archiving Social Media Content Generated by Contemporary Social Movements: Challenges, Opportunities, and Recommendations [White Paper]. Documenting the Now. https://www.docnow.io/docs/docnow-whitepaper-2018.pdf.
This white paper covers the work of the Documenting the Now project to create “new digital tools to facilitate the collection, analysis and preservation of tweets” with a focus on “social media content created by participants in the recent wave of African-American activism in response to police shootings” (2). The findings and recommendations in this report stem from research, data collection, software development, ethical questions, and most importantly community conversations, and come together to make this report a thought-provoking read for archivists, librarians, and researchers. The authors describe their work over a two-year period grappling with ethical issues ranging from Twitter’s Terms of Service, police surveillance of Black communities, discovering a fake account run by Russian operatives posing as a #BlackLivesMatter activist, and how professional archival practices can cause harm to Black communities. One of my biggest takeaways (and there are many!) from this paper is to increase efforts to challenge researchers to think more critically about social media data in my role as a librarian, particularly in terms of examining the data closely and encouraging complementary research to “educate oneself about a movement and its actors” (5). The other important takeaway is to encourage fellow librarians and archivists “to apply traditional archival practices such as appraisal, collection development, and donor relations to social media and web materials” (12). The internet may provide to the opportunity to scrape content from the web (3), but this content is most meaningful when collected ethically with community participation, needs, and safety as central to the archival process, and the collection is contextualized by personal engagement and additional sources to provide a fuller picture of the lives and activism of social media content creators.
Chaudhuri, N., Katz, S. J., & Perry, M. E. (Eds.). (2010). Contesting archives: finding women in the sources. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/460058258
I had read two of the articles in this collection in the past introducing me to the feminist research method of “reading against the grain” but chose to read the whole book cover to cover this summer. As a feminist practitioner of DH, my personal research aims to question archival records and look for new ways to circumvent archival silences. Additionally, honing these critical skills to think about different pathways for exploring the histories of marginalized groups (women, people of color, immigrants, LGBTQ communities, poor and working-class communities, people with disabilities, etc.) sharpens my ability to advise researchers on how and where to search for for specific sources. This anthology contains twelve papers from a diverse set of critical feminist historians describing their methodologies for stitching to together various archival sources to recover women’s histories from around the world addressing “the tired assumption that an archive is simply an immutable, neutral, and ahistorical place where historical records are preserved” (xiii). While this book does not directly engage with digital humanities or the library profession, it provides useful insights regarding feminist methodologies, challenges posed by archival records within the research process, and provides models on how to creatively interpret and recover information to develop scholarship about the lives of everyday women through traces in historical documents. Framing the difficulties in archival records as an opportunity rather than a deficiency, this book would be valuable background reading for those thinking about creating a feminist DH project from a fragmentary archive.