Cecilia Marquez, a doctoral candidate in history at UVA, spoke in our class on Wednesday about a topic we hadn’t really discussed before. One theme of the talk was to think about who has access to digital humanities and what voices are being heard in a digital setting. In her talk she pointed out that the digital humanities has tended to be dominated by white males, which leaves a lot of perspectives excluded. We then looked at some of the ways in which other groups can find an audience through digital humanities avenues like blogs or internet shows. We looked at a few of these as examples during class and talked about how in these online spaces, real issues of race, gender, and class can be talked about because the preliminary assumption (that these issues are important and should be talked about) is already in place. So, the creators of these blogs and videos do not have to first convince their audiences that the issues they are discussing are important, they take that importance as an understood fact. We also looked at some digital humanities projects that attempt to remedy the issue of under-representation of certain groups in digital humanities. This was a very interesting part of the class and even helped us think of some ideas for our own project.
We also looked at how this idea relates to the postcolonial digital humanities mission statement. That mission statement sees these issues of representation of all genders, races, and classes in digital humanities as one of the most important issues to discuss. We talked briefly about our own views about the mission statement and whether we agreed with it, then started talking about how social media is used to discuss these issues.
We talked in class for a while how social media is used and what people generally use it for. For example, we talked about how people might be willing to say something online, using technology as a sort of barrier, which they would not have said if they were having a conversation face to face with someone. Further, if the online platform was anonymous, like tumblr or twitter can be if you do not include personal information on your accounts, people might be willing to say a lot more than they would in person, because in person they might filter their words more in order to not offend the person they are speaking to directly.
This was probably the most interesting aspect of the class for me because it is something I personally experience all the time while reading posts that people write on more anonymous online platforms, tumblr in particular. A lot of the things that are said on that website probably would not have been if the conversation occurred face to face instead of online. Overall this was a very thought-provoking class period that raised a lot of questions I had not really considered before.