‘Beyond the Margins: Intersectionality and the Digital Humanities’ respone

I have recently read Roopika Risam’s article on Intersectionality in the Digital Humanities.

This article speaks a lot about trying to create a more equal and fairer side to the relatively new academic part of digital humanities. Digital humanities scholarship has a role of difference and diversity. But many people, including McPherson, believe the digital humanities is still too white. Our relationship with diversity is ever present yet we still needed to reach out to those in under-represented groups such as people of colour, women and LGBT members. I agree with Risam when she says that this is showing  that scholars in digital humanities have recognized the need for intellectual diversity in the field.

Theory and practice are all closely related and is an integral part of digital humanities. This leads into the ‘hack vs. yack’ debate (Doing vs. theorizing). This has been complicated by the intimate link between building and knowing in the field which I believe is the main differing point of the digital humanities.

Many people, such as Earhart, believe that fewer scholars are working on digital textual recovery. I believe that not only is this true it may be the right way to go. We shall eventually diversify all available texts but the diversity of digital humanities means that there are many more projects to be working on. Especially projects that deal with cultural studies, race, feminism, postcolonial studies and queer studies. While the spotlight is on digital humanities we need to pay attention to our critical approaches of these works of intersectionality.

The lessons of Theory 

The responses to digital humanities now are taught of as a culture war as was the struggle between literature and theory in the early 1990’s. Many stipulate that digital humanities is changing literature to data which is destroying close reading. The backlash against theory came and many scholars were afraid that theory  opposed their work. But there were others, like Barbara Christian that wrote of the growing importance of theory on academics. I am on Christian’s side of things as I have found theory to be very relevant in studies today. history is repeating itself as digital humanities scholars working with difference worry for its viability as people feared for their relationship with theory years ago.

I am worried of what may happen to digital humanities scholars who engage difference in their work. Will we be stomped out by those afraid of change or will we be accepted across universities and work places worldwide ? Digital humanities is here to try and push the boundaries of studies today as well as being more accepting of inclusion and collaboration to create projects. For example, #transformDH aims to open explorations to disabilities, race, feminism and sexuality to name a few. Many others have been working on projects which ask difficult questions about difference and the internet for a while now such as Lisa Nkamura, Wendy Chun and Anna Everett.

Towards an Intersectional Digital Humanities

Risam goes on to speak of moving towards an intersectional Digital Humanities. She writes that we not only need diversity among race, sexuality etc. but we also need intellectual diversity to carry the Digital Humanities community. Risam cites Martha Neil Smith who says that embracing humanity and all it’s diversities is a necessity. Now more than ever is this true as technology has connected the world is ways that used to never be even imagined.

A main point is brought up again when Risam talks of digital humanities engagement and approach with difference. Many may think this a radical move by DH but it needs to be done. Intellectual diversity is needed in all areas of academics. By accepting intersectionality both the technical world and the world of disciplinary knowledge join. We are after all in ‘The digital age’ where everything relates to technology in one way or another. There are many projects that approach an intersectional Digital Humanities with open arms as it should.

I really found Risam’s article affects each and everyone of us in many ways. It speaks of connecting the world on an intellectual level and ignores all previous thoughts on both an academic level and a personal level. She shows us the reality that just because you are born and brought up a certain way your opinion is more perceived as being more valuable than another humans.

I leave you with this little not on Intersectioanlity

(1) Intersectionality in Digital Humanities – Roopika Risam

(2) Intersectionality Image – The blue triangle


My response to Stuart Dunn’s Crowd-sourcing and impact in the digital humanities.

I really liked this reading because not only was it short and straight to the point, but it also spoke a lot about my minor subject – Economics. Dunn explains how crowd-sourcing is such a broad term but is always taught of as a business model.

Around 2006, the phrase was coined and was mainly about furthering the aims of different profit businesses. These businesses only needed to have the time, the enthusiasm and more importantly, the internet. I believe these concepts of furthering aims may be used as fundamentals to further anyone in any aspect of life not just businesses.

The main point of crowd-sourcing is for the public to have an impact. This, in my opinion, is a fairer way to work. Crowd-sourcing is for the public.  Dunn puts it very well when he explains that crowd-sourcing is about the public impacting projects and reaping the rewards instead of them being impacted on.

When speaking of crowd-sourcing in academic contexts, we need to ask ourselves the question – What do the public have in common with academics? Dunn points his focus to the occasions where there is a alignment of intellectual interests and outlooks shared by both academics and the public. I think this is an excellent and proven way to lead to success but only when crowd-sourcing isn’t taught of as a business model. Early success was caused by the business model working but this was only chance. I feel we need to get completely away from the idea of crowdsourcing as a business model.

Dunn explains the early successes in academic crowd sourcing in two ways;

1 – There was a chance alignment between the aims of a research group and those of the public

2 – The application of intelligent means to bring together a small group to do the majority of the work

In the second case, crowd-sourcing begins to break down due to scale. There is very few crowd-sourcing success stories where there are loads of people doing straightforward tasks. For them to work, they need to reach out and collaborate with the public if they wish to have an impact. I believe that collaboration is obviously the key here. The ‘super-contributors’ in projects participate for many reasons. The main three are;

  • They want to feel useful
  • They want to see how the ‘inner circle’ works and how it’s organised
  • They want to actively participate

Above all I believe these contributors like everyone feel they want to be involved and have some sort of impact in this world.

It is undeniable that there will always be a conflict on some level between crowd-sourcing as a business model as Dunn said, this is inevitable. But if this view was to change even the slightest bit to involve more collaboration with the public then many projects would strive. Dunn also concludes by telling us his three key practices for ensuring reciprocated impact when working on crowd-sourcing projects, they are;

  • Pick your battles
  • Do not mistake large numbers for high impact
  • Out a mechanism in place for your contributors to talk to each other and you

I will try to remember these guidelines if and when I should collaborate on crowd-sourcing projects.

(1) Crowd sourcing and impact in DH

My response to Fred Gibb’s ‘Critical Discourse in digital humanities’

For those of you who have yet to read Gibbs’ essay, he asks about the lack of critical discourse in digital humanities to which he gets no reply. What Gibbs speaks of is the need for criticism from many sectors of humanities in different projects and I am on board with many of his ideas on this.

His thoughts are split into three sections. They are;

  • Moving towards a critical discourse
  • Value of digital humanities discourse
  • New kinds of peer review/criticism

Firstly, when Gibbs talks of moving towards a critical discourse, he explains how we need new means of evaluating digital humanities projects, which is easy to agree with as ‘digital humanities’ is a relatively new community. This lack of criteria for evaluation makes it difficult for us to be evaluated but I believe it may also make it difficult for us to collaborate. If we were to join with the traditional humanities for projects would we be a let-down due to our lack of criteria? I believe this could be the case to a certain extent.

When talking about the lack of discourse, I agree that this may be due to digital humanists being too encouraging through peer reviews. Maybe we are too welcoming to all and this leads to our lack of critical discourse. Perhaps our craving for expansion shadows the fact that we need criteria for criticism.

I feel that digital humanists need to distance our work from traditional humanists as we are categorized the same but our works are very different in several aspects. This fault is outlined brilliantly by Gibbs when he says:

We can’t be unhappy that traditional-bound humanists don’t appreciate the value of our work when we haven’t outlined how it’s different.

For the work of the digital humanities to strive and grow we need to show we are different and special and we need critical discourse to do this.

When Gibbs goes on to speak of the value of criticism in Digital humanities he poses the question of ‘Is there any need?’ My answer is there absolutely is a need. Discourse in the digital humanities works as a sort of collaboration. This criticism can be constructive for our work as it can question flaws and also highlight missed opportunities. New eyes on certain projects may lead to fresh ideas and perspectives which may prove helpful.

For our DH work to be deemed acceptable there needs to be boundaries put into place that are more than the ‘lines in the sand’ they are now. These blurred lines are, in my opinion, a big fault in our community perhaps due to our newness. We are still missing the set criteria needed for evaluating digital work as we have for evaluating printed work.  Steps have begun to be taken to create these criteria but have yet to be fully defined.

Finally, Gibbs writes about new kinds of peer review. I agree that we need new kinds of reviews and criticism but that doesn’t mean we should be ignored for scholarly reviews. I see this as a huge injustice to our work. Although it is obvious that we should not be subject to formal reviews, we should find a way to allow scholars to review our works fairly. We need a range of reviews that will give us useful criticism. What we need according to Fred Gibbs is;

  • More people to collaborate. This will provide discourse on DH projects and also work as a way to broaden our spectrum.
  • More efforts to publish critiques from this broader range.

One way Gibbs plans to combat this lack of critique is through the classroom. He believes if we were to teach critical methods across courses of DH, then this will lead to critical discourse helping DH. I would have to disagree slightly here as although we do need these methods to be taught in classrooms they also have to be set up into guidelines and given to existing critics both inside and outside of the digital humanities. We need a broad range of critics from across the spectrum to help our projects reach their full potential.

(1) Critical Discourse in DH

We made it this far…

So by some miracle I have managed to pass first year and am now a second year – let me repeat that  – SECOND YEAR (!) digital humanities and IT student (Celebrations – and panic)

So straight into it. I obviously have new modules , my main DH ones being called …. (drumroll please)

  • Concepts in collaborations in DH II taught by Donna Alexander
  • Research, analysis and knowledge creation in the digital age taught by Mike Cosgrave

These are the two modules i will mainly be blogging about here.

I do also have other modules, I dont just have two but they are all very computer sciency and don’t really require a blog.

Reclaim Hosting

For my fourth and final (sad face) assignment for my module “Digital tools and methodologies” we were asked to deploy a tool. This meaning we were to set up our own domain. The intention of this assignment was to gain familiarity with the deployment of a web service on our own server space and to appreciate the technology components that come together to allow it to function.

The tool I chose was Piwigo from ‘apps for photos and files’. I began by buying a domain from Reclaim Hosting which cost me $25 (about €23) for the year. I chose Piwigo in order to publish and manage my photos on my domain.

  • What is the purpose of the service or application you have chosen?

The purpose of Piwigo is to allow you to publish and manage collections of photos on your own domain. Features include a privacy setting which allows you to pick and choose what photos you want others to see and what you want to keep private. You can also set permissions on photos and albums for individuals. Piwigo also allows you to tagging your friends and family members which gives visitors another way to browse photos. Tag clouds are also used to help organize photos as are dates, which shows your photos on a calender. Piwigo also includes many other features including plugins, statistic and management tools and different themes.

  • Why are you interested in it?

I am very interested in the idea of seeing all your pictures in the one space especially when they are so easy to look through. I really do believe the phrase that “A picture says a thousand words” which Piwigo shows wonderfully, especially through the use of a calender. This calender gives the view of a timeline of images from someones life. This is a really unique feature as it is very nice to see your photos clearly separated by date or by geological location. This idea interests me very much as it is very visual.

  • How is it or might it be applicable to something you may do in the future?

I believe that Piwigo may be very useful to me in both the far and near future because I can document and remember my images very clearly. For me as for everyone, photos are a memory we can have and hold forever. With Piwigo, these memories can be stored and shared online to our friends and families. Any special occasions such as weddings, birthdays and holidays may be shown on a calender very clearly. Also should I (hopefully) travel in a couple years I can make a clear path both geologically and by date which may help me create a map of my images.

  • What steps were involved in the deployment process?

I began by first signing up to Reclaim hosting on a student deal which cost me €23.30. I then went on to Reclaim Hosting cPanel and searched through many applications and chose Piwigo from the Photos and files section. I then had trouble finding how to set Piwigo as my default page of my domain. This problem was not explained to me nor was I told how to fix it.  I could therefore not set up my domain properly and struggled to see how this may be useful to me.

  • What technologies are used and had to be configured to deploy your chosen application?

I used reclaim hosting to help set up my domain but I had a lot of trouble configuring it.

  • Who would benefit from access to such a service/application?

I believe there are many people who could benefit from using Piwigo both in personal lives and in business.  This application would be especially useful for those who may be selling many goods online. It may also be useful for businesses who are trying to expand and grow online. It may also be especially helpful to artists trying to publish and show their work to others. Piwigo may also be used for personal reasons as a storage space for memories or as visual book of memories.


Text Visualization – Emma Watson’s UN speech

For our next DH tools and methodologies assignment we were told to get “Intimate with text” (not in that way !). I decided to choose Emma Watson’s powerful HeforShe speech for the UN. In her impassioned speech she spoke on feminism and invited men and boys to join in the fight for gender equality. Through the use of visualization tools I could see that she repeatedly spoke of men and women in equal amounts. I tried a number of digital tools in order to try and help visualize the text.


I began with http://voyant-tools.org/ which I found very good. It was quiet helpful that the text was still on the screen in front of me. I was also given a word cloud but it was very small and squished into the corner of the page. One thing I didn’t like about Voyant was the fact that it included the common words – in, the, a, I, as, to, is – in the word cloud. These filler words took up a lot of space in the word cloud shadowing the important words. The overall page itself had a very flattering design and layout. I especially liked the ‘Word Trends‘ section which showed the occurrences of a selected word over the course of the text. This was very good to see when each word was focused on,  it was also good for analyzing the speech.

I also played around with http://www.wordle.net/ and I really liked the visualizations it created. The word cloud was both big and bright and easily edited to my specifications. The layout made it simple to vary the colours, fonts, layout and even language which allows you to remove all common words. Although Wordle made it very easy to visualize it wasn’t as easy to analyse the text with it. I could only see the most used words but not where in the text they occurred. But I would highly recommend it for visualizations. Wordle created this image from Emma Watson’s speech;


Another tool I tried was https://vida.io/ but I found it very complicated and awkward to use. It was so bad that I couldn’t understand it enough to even find how to visualize the speech never mind anything else. I also tried http://www.wordsift.com/ and found it was very like Wordle. Yet on Wordsift, it also showed a thesaurus of any selected word and gave an image search aswell which I found very useful. It was very useful when processing the text.


Using Open Street Map

In my Digital tools and Methodologies class we were given an assignment of mapping. The aim of this assignment was to contribute to the digital mapping world and to share our local knowledge with the wider community.

I must admit that when we were given the assignment of mapping I was a bit hesitant. Geography was never my thing but I have to say that it was actually quiet unexpectantly fun. I began the process by signing up for an account with http://www.openstreetmap.org/ which was very quick and easy as there was no silly questions of ‘are you a robot??’ or ‘enter this impossibly hard-to-read series of characters’. I liked that these were missing as really they’re just annoying ! I then looked at http://learnosm.org/en/ which I found very helpful and easy to follow. I was taken through a quick and easy tutorial of using the IDEditor after joining OSM showing me the ins and outs of mapping then I was ready to go !

The project I chose for this assignment was to map my local neighborhood. I chose this because I felt a lot more confident and at ease mapping an area I’ve known for all my life. It’s hard to believe that just contributing my local knowledge by marking in the missing points and areas of my hometown that it is now easier for people to find places in and directions to Duncannon. The implications of this goes far beyond just getting an assignment in by the due date. Now people can see many of the attractions of this village before even going there and that is pretty cool. Everyone together can contribute to map the world building a digital archive of what was and is very easily on a digitally visual level.

I have learned many things from this project. First, I have learned that I should enter into tasks with an open mind that it may be fun instead of seeing as a chore as I first saw this. Secondly, I have learned that it is very easy to join into this digital world of mapping and along with the help of others, create a base for physical knowledge in a very familiar and easy to view way. Mapping has been an eye opening experience which I have a feeling I will return to.

For those of you who don’t know, Crowdsourcing is a way of getting ideas, content or services through means of contributions from large groups of volunteers, especially from an online community. This involves regular people contributing small portions of content for a greater result.

So, crowdsourcing is very important to Open street map, maybe even it’s source of life. I feel that I may be able to use this initiative both now and in the future to further my work and also to help contribute and give to the larger community. I believe that sharing my work, however little the amount of work may be, may be a huge help in putting a larger puzzle together.