When imagining the possibilities of spatiotemporal models to depict a new world view, consider the Haitian anthropologist Michel-Rolph Trouillot’s understanding of sovereignty as part of a family of words described as “North Atlantic universals” – concepts that do not seek to merely describe the world but to constrain it’s possibilities.
Bonilla and Hantel argue that a foundational code of mapping as we know it is the notion of political development along an evolutionary timeline, a discourse which “produces a naturalized view of the nation-state”. The presumption of the importance of the nation-state is one critical element of understanding the authors’ point that cartography “spatially produces and reproduces political-economic arrangements while retroactively naturalizing them.” But varied cultural groups have varied ideas of, and relationships to, autonomy. The nation-state model is but one emerging from an eccentric minority on Earth (a tiny political class in Western Europe, not even representative of the full range of perspectives found in their own territories).
I’m reminded of, German anthropologist, Adolf Bastian who emphasized the concept of Psychic Unity (a common ability to learn and think across all cultures). Bastian was scorned by his peers for suggesting, in the mid 19th century, that European supremacists delude themselves by assuming that Europe is more advanced than other societies and that this position causes them to misrepresent reality. He further suggests that questions of human nature (which inform questions of human social organization) ought to be approached by studying the majority- noting that, from this lens, European intellectual tradition constitutes a minority culture.
In a similar light, American anthropologist, Marshall Sahlins, would later demonstrate the inaccuracy of categories like “pre-state societies”, noting the disingenuousness of evolutionary political discourse. Sahlins points out that some societies are simply non-state, and others can even be considered state averse (see: “The Original Affluent Society” by Sahlins)
Bonilla and Hantel also suggest that places without “ordinary sovereignty” can be “fertile site[s] from which to contest, disrupt, and reimagine notions of sovereignty, autonomy, freedom, liberty, and self-determination beyond the canon of political theory.” A good example of this is Kurdistan.
Kurdistan is the largest nation on Earth without a state (approximately the size of Italy) and the Kurdish people are an ethnic group living across a naturally defined mountainous region spanning 4 nation-states (Iraq, Iran, Syria, Turkey). An agreement between Britain and France during the first World War employed a map and a ruler’s straight edge to arbitrarily separate regions formally controlled by the Ottoman Empire, after it’s dismemberment (See: Sykes-Picot agreement). The process created new political entities relegated to colonial spheres of influence. Much like the colonization of the Caribbean, the borders enforced by colonial powers did not correspond to the actual sectarian, tribal, or ethnic distinctions on the ground – and the Kurds’ territory was formally cut apart. Partly due to this history, Kurds organized one of several anti-state models asserting their nationhood on the foundation of an alternative ethics. As the nation state is viewed as a failed historical option, a confederation of municipal governments and committees is prescribed. Similarly, as patriarchal domination is viewed as an obstacle to legitimate self-determination, feminism is prescribed (See: “Democratic Confederalism, by Abdullah Öcalan). There’s a practical embrace of multiculturalism which incorporates the region’s most marginalized groups, historically excluded by other democratic projects. This includes women, homosexuals, transgender individuals, anti-statists and minority ethnic and religious groups alongside men, heterosexuals, communists and members of majority ethnic and religious groups (See: “Charter for the Social Contract of Rojava. January 29, 2014”).
Two more inspiring examples of autonomy and self-determination which “contest, disrupt, and reimage sovereignty”:
– The Zapatista Movement, an active indigenous resistance in Chiapas Mexico
– The Mondragon Corporation, a federation of worker cooperatives based in the Basque region of Spain.
All this is food for thought when thinking about
1. Just how many dimensions of reality are missed by the “North Atlantic universal” language of sovereignty,
2. What spatiotemporal models could work (or already do work) outside the ideological coordinates of “Western” thought,
3. What spatiotemporal models can grasp and even utilize Sylvia Wynter’s posited “new opening” made by “the current collective challenge… to symbolic representational systems”, and
4. What precautions and visual techniques can be applied to investigate or, better yet, counter a viewer’s internalization of tacit ideological leanings contained within a map.
“The human being is the answer, no matter the question”. With the risk of sounding too Western I wish to begin my remarks quoting the surreal writer, poet and anti-fascist Andre Breton (who, among other interesting things about his life, opposed colonialism and traveled to Haiti for that matter). I am not indicating nationality because I wish to put the accent on his words and not his background. The reason why I chose to begin with these words is because I want to lay emphasis on the generic aspect of humanities.
After reading Kim Gallon’s chapter on black digital humanities, the following thoughts were generated in my mind:
- Accentuating the element of ‘blackness’ in several of our social constructions and norms in life, instead of underlining the common denominator behind them which is none other than our human condition (the triptych reason/spirit/appetite) impedes a constructive dialogue between technology and the service of human needs. I believe that black studies have done very well to identify and criticize the fact that digital services offered to black populations have been racialized, however, black studies must avoid the peril of self-entrapment.
- The future challenge in digital services will be the degree of customization. One size DOES NOT fit all. That is a given in today’s digital humanities bibliography. With reference to black digital humanities, the problem begins when “Type A” group of people attempt to create a system for the “Type B” group. Discrepancies are bound to occur. However, when we think how fast technology revolutionized the democratization in the use of means of communication, pluralism in digital products design should be a relatively widely accessible process, overcoming these discrepancies.
- Talking about becoming the very producer of the projects you will one day use yourself, I would like to mention a successful example by the Greek immigration authorities: The introduced the “Home New Home” program which aimed at training young refugees in digital filming. The purpose was to enable them to become the creators of their own digital projects. Instead of being the object of observation, the beneficiaries of the program became the subject. That is a crucial dimension in digital humanities because it diminishes the anxiety of being left out, or being dictated what to do, or how to respond.
Kim Gallon is the founder and director of the BPRC (The Black Press Research Collective). The Black Press Research Collective (BPRC) is an interdisciplinary group of scholars committed to generating digital scholarship about the historical and contemporary role of black newspapers in Africa and the African Diasporas.For those ones they want to have a look here is the link: http://blackpressresearchcollective.org/about/
Although it was hard to deep understand some meanings of the text of D.Fox Harrell story I ended up with some personal questions that pointing out my thoughts :
How can you evaluate immaterial labor in the context of DH? Is it the product of scholarship assessed by experts or the product of a cognitive process assessed by its users? Can the users who are by no means experts serve as the reviewers of an application? Is science so pure that anything which is not theorized in writing can be disregarded as non-scientific? It seems to me that this is a matter of “what comes first? The chicken or the egg”? “Theory or action?”.
An interesting view on this comes from Bruno Latour who in 1993 wrote that western science has been subject to a process of purification; a process that dissembles the fact that modern science is characterized by a hybridization of artifacts. In this sense, it is interesting to ask why there is the need in contemporary academia to be able to compartmentalize knowledge in such a way that alienates its different parts from each other?
Especially since evaluation is also something that should be tested for its scientific merits. If evaluation that is also a product of intellectual labor stands unchallenged then it comes down to configurations of power within academia which elevate evaluation as a solid body of knowledge and reduce the evaluated labor in spare parts of human intellect that need to be checked not in relation but in separation with the process that created them. So it all comes down to who, why and how decides what knowledge and its different manifestations is.
Roopika Risen in her text “What passes for Human” is trying to express the way in which DH should approach different cases of technology such as the creation of robots with AI.
As long as the Digital Humanities centers produce and expand that kind of technology, they do reproduce the same cultural and aesthetic models with those of the western society.
Regarding to the question who is well-educated or uneducated, handsome or ugly we will keep representing of a variety of races, nationalities and other human attributes. Taken such analysis we realize that we can’t talk in any case about technology that imitates the human being, as it is clear that this human being is not exclusively the white Eurocentric model.
Language and Textuality, as said, are the core dimension of DH and they played an important role in the valuing of universalism. The huge textual producers of Europe, like Homer, Shakespeare or Cervantes are valued for their universality and their articulation of a “human condition”. Artificial Intelligence is supposed to mimic human cognition but instead of replicating the model of white Eurocentric male cognition, it should always consider another “human” areas such as humor, in order the natural language processing software to produce normative forms of the human. Humanoid text manages only to reinforce cultures and aesthetics of dominant culture paradigms .DH practitioners, therefore, should resist such types of universal human subjects in their scholarship as many times digital humanities projects that take up computational approaches, mostly at the level of textuality, often fail to address the cultural dynamics.
As per which data can be found in supporting research and scholarship in Digital Humanities, DH practitioners should broaden include and regenerate in their data as much Information as possible from culture, race, ethnicity, nation, gender and language resulting positively everybody globally based on the same principles that DH was created to serve. Advanced technologies, under the umbrella of data, could give the opportunity to the researchers of Digital Humanities to join the mainstream of the digital age with new challenges: accessing and reusing large volumes of diverse data and most importantly to bring the knowledge of the complex intricacies of human society to light. Challenges and opportunities co-exist, but it is certain that Data, having the ability to achieve big insights from trusted, contextualized, relevant, cognitive, and consumable data at any scale, will continue to have extraordinary value in digital humanities. In the digital era, it is common for people to only think of data in terms of digitally available formats. The connection between digital data and data analytics is correct, but we need to fully understand that the terms “data” and “digital data” are not equivalent.
My Intro to Digital Humanities
My apologies for the uber late submission!
Prior to the first day of class, my definition of DH was a short statement— an interdisciplinary field which merges computational methods in pedagogy and research. Of course, my statement was further explored after reading “How Do We Do Things with Words: Analyzing Text as Social and Cultural Data.” The exploration of DH was outlined as follows: identify research questions, proceed with data selection, conceptualization, and operationalization. Then, ends with analysis and interpretation. Though not an assigned reading, but text I stumbled upon, I find this breakdown applicable to my quest to further comprehend DH.
Torn Apart/Separados, a powerful visual study, could be interpreted with this breakdown. Research questions that may have probably been asked were, “How can we engage and inform internet users about an ongoing geopolitical crisis? What information can we provide? How can scholarly journals/works receive a visual renovation? How, in the form of visual research, provide a solution?” Other questions might also be those Matt Gold asked in The Digital Humanities Movement, Debates in the Digital Humanities (2012) — “Does media studies leave off and digital humanities begin? …Can it save the humanities?” Selected data seen are state and district’s financial contributions to ICE, but to counteract, a list of organizations which support undocumented immigrants. Much more data can be found when exploring the site. Under “Reflections” tab, it was made a point that a small group of historians, activists, artists and writers supplemented the site with writings of their own. More context was added to generate discussion of the crisis. Under the “Credits” tab, these two sentences instantly grabbed my attention: “Torn Apart is a part of our Mobilized Humanities interventions. Mobilized Humanities brings together digital tools to equip broad social awareness and help in a global critical situation.” This explanation of “Mobilized Humanities” both aligned with my original definition of DH, as well as provide a concrete conceptualization of the project as a whole. To reflect, the operationalization of the study was one I have not seen before– an interactive map which information will spill at just a swipe of your cursor. My interpretation of the site was that it empowered viewers to be resources of their own. The “Allies” tab alone gave me the sense of empowerment of possessing useful information in this critical geopolitcal crisis.
I want to revisit my definition of DH at the end of the semester, as I explore more outlines, similar to the one I mentioned above, to more coursework, to create a collective definition.
In case my hyperlink does not work, here is the direct link to the text I mentioned above: https://arxiv.org/pdf/1907.01468.pdf
Three years ago, my department decided to address a problem: teaching grammar. Our anecdotal evidence told us that our traditional method of teaching “proper” English simply wasn’t working. First, we were turning a lot of students off to the joy of language. Second, contrary to our hopes, the students who earned the highest grades—those who technically mastered the lessons—were sounding dry and alike rather than finding their own voices. Worst of all, we were building a class of kids who felt superior for knowing that data is plural or that whom is an object, and those kids often enjoyed mocking those who didn’t get it.
Our department decided to embrace a new model—one of inquiry where we isolated grammatical concepts across the work of a host of powerful writers and asked students to consider and experiment with some of the many ways those writers employed or subverted the technique. The result was powerful and immediate: students started writing more effectively and more originally, not because they were writing “correctly” (which, ironically, they more often were), but because they were exploring how to communicate their ideas in ways that played into and played with their readers’ expectations. In short, we were asking them explore the expansive nature of language rather than to whittle it down to a single, “right” expression.
A decade ago, novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie warned of the danger of a single story in a TED talk that now boasts over five million views. It’s hard to imagine any digital humanists who would disagree with her, even those who dedicated that decade to works in the Eurocentric canon. And yet, Roopika Risam’s piece, “What Passes for Human? Undermining the Universal Subject in DH Humanities Praxis” reminds us how quick we often are to accept a singular perspective when it comes to methodology. We may be expansive when it comes to narratives or content, actively seeking to broaden our scope. But, we often remain expediently reductive when it comes to process. (Harrell takes that one step further: we are reductive even in the logic that drives our computing.) In our search to create lifelike machines of the future or algorithms that decide what images are memorable, the field assumes a universal human—one that springs too quickly from the white legacy of the ivory tower from which many DH centers spring themselves—and we often build from there without reflection.
Risam’s examples of the results of such single-view methodology are harrowing. She relays the disastrous effects of assuming a universal ideal of language, of beauty, of humanity. Tay, Microsoft’s AI chatbot, became a racist, Holocaust denier in just hours of “learning” from American social media. Hanson Robotics, in an attempt to make its humanoid Sophia “beautiful” (and therefore approachable), created a thin, white female akin to a sentient Barbie. I found a New York Times article about a similarly flawed project, Google Photos that, because of the preponderance of white faces fed into the original data set, mistagged pictures of at least two black Americans as gorillas. That article conveys Google’s response to this singular thinking saying, “The idea is that you never know what problems might arise until you get the technologies in the hands of real-world users.”
But Risam says otherwise. She notes that we can anticipate such problems if we re-examine the lens through which we come to our processes and methodologies. In her words, “Given the humanity ascribed to such technologies, it is incumbent on digital humanities practitioners to engage with the question of what kinds of subjectivities are centered in the technologies that facilitate their scholarship.” (O’Donnell et al. note that those questions are relevant to the processes we use to seek out collaborators or to choose locations for conferences, and Harrell notes that those questions are relevant to the very electronic processes of our CPUs.)
Perhaps worse still is that even with evidence that a given praxis is fraught with gross cultural bias, many companies choose to eliminate the symptom rather than grapple with the problem. Instead of coding Tay to engage meaningfully with challenging subjects, she was was re-versioned as a vapid chatbot who avoids any suggestion of political talk, even when the prompt is mundane, such as, “I wore a hijab today.” Instead of feeding more and better pictures of humans of color into their photo-recognition data set, Google deleted the tags of “gorilla,” “monkey,” and “primate” altogether. (The term “white washing” seems appropriate on a variety of levels here.)
Perhaps, to me, the most seemingly benign example of this proliferation—and, in many ways therefore, the most insidious—of a singular view of what it is to be human is that of Jill Watson, IBM’s Watson project that now serves as a digital TA to college students. There is the very fact of her: a narrowly defined version of a human (like Sophia and Tay) who is, beyond being born out of a Eurocentric mindset, also now a gatekeeper to Western knowledge. But more frightening still, she is scalable. That same, singular voice could respond to hundreds and thousands of college students. She is, in effect, legion. She and projects like her (from Siri and Alexa to even Google, I suppose) repopulate the globe with a monolithic way of thinking, despite more expansive shifts in national and world demographics, replicating exponentially a sliver of all that humanity has to offer.
By defining Digital Humanities I found a well-targeted way by borrowing a phrase form “A DH That Matters”. It’s an excerpt that highlights the fact that the website Torn Apart/Separados shows “how digital humanists, scholars and practitioners in an expanding set of allied fields can contribute in meaningful ways to improve different situations and clarify their commitments to public scholarship addressing not simply to public but also to specific communities and the needs that they identify as most pressing”.
While Torn Apart/Separados visualizes in Vol 1 the transfer of funds within United States regarding the actions of ICE and also the “zero tolerance policy”, in Vol2 tries to provide with an answer in issues that came up during the investigation of additional evidences.
Such efforts, that have to do with social –political and also economic issues contribute significantly towards to the main scope of Digital Humanities. As the intro of “A DH That Matters “ relates, DH, through visualization and mapping of its projects achieves to impress the audience and also to make them attractive and acceptable as much as possible by the public. This is the only way to spread the word through the dissemination and criticism so that public requires quick responses and respectful answers by the political authorities.The good thing is that, this is being transformed in a powerful leverage of public which includes not only scholars and humanists but also the average citizens.
In such cases of humanitarian crisis, in our modern era the role of Digital Humanities could help effectively towards the direction of what the science of humanities advocates. The use of data through digital humanities approves practically that all the humans who are engaged with different social or educational background and also the new digital technology (coding, mapping, social media etc) could give a significant added value to humanities. That said, both of them could raise awareness to scientific issues in a clear way and mobilize the humans in a different and more interactive way, if we compare it with traditional media especially in cases such as that one that Torn Apart/Separados deals with.
A similar way in which digital humanities could achieve unlimited effectiveness is the example of the humanitarian crisis that took place in 2015 in Greece and Italy due to the war in Syria That resulted a huge number of refugees immigrants and other asylum seekers who, under inhuman conditions have crossed the Mediterranean sea border using smuggler-provided (rubber inflatable) boats tried to find a shelter in northern EU countries. As a result we faced governments in panic without the experience to tolerate such issues, detention center along the borders with thousands of people and a European Union in front of a big dilemma of how to handle such a large number of people approaching each borders and the same time European countries trying to preserve basic values that were constructed upon Second World War based on solidarity and social state.
Non-governmental Organizations and volunteers from around the world were mobilized through traditional and social media to help on the spots. But Digital Humanities tools could guide through the use of data to the management of aid and transfer the people in a more effective way as well as to reactivate academics, scholars, students and European citizens towards a true solution to integrate smoothly and constructively those people in the European society. Years later it seems that the problem never existed as everybody stopped talking about it once the traditional media haven’t included it into their hot- topics agenda. Asylum seekers keep coming in European borders without a certain plan on behalf of the host European countries. In this case Digital Humanities projects could exert a powerful influence for a wide-European solution. As the data mapping project, Torn Apart/Separados, quickly captured the imagination of all humans and gained national media attention, similar DH tools could also gain potential insights providing an amazing example of how technology can be used to depict vividly a real story.
* Just now realizing I had misplaced my week 2 post in the Commons Forum *
Looking at Torn Apart/ Separados:
One of the maps affects with regard to shinning a light on recipients of ICE money is to present an identifiable network with data which, though public, remains obscured by the separation of its many individual nodes. Developing an understanding of what a practical application of DH is about around the work presented by this site would position DH as a method of asserting a right to the information commons and using that public “space” as a lever of power. What’s more, the diversity of methodologies required for this sort of project presents DH as practice akin to spatial tactics and coalition building between otherwise separate social justice movements, methods which have grown in popularity and efficacy in the 21st century. In both fields, this signals a recognition of the necessity of developing stronger new tactics for unmet goals and ways of tapping into the power of individuals who reproduce culture from the ground up.
Developing an understanding of what DH is about on a theoretical level, around this project and site which reflects on its team as “scholars of space, race, gender, and the digital,” falls in line with Patrik Svensson’s comments in the 2012 Debates in the Digital Humanities about DH as a “trading zone” for tackling difficult data methodologies. Also in line with Svenssons comments, in this instance regarding the facilitation of “deep integration between thinking and making,” the team behind Torn Apart/ Separados expresses their working assumptions as the “knowledge that data is imprecise, impure, and as much a tool for incarceration and control as it is for revealing the truth.”