Notes from Decolonizing Environmental + Digital Humanities Panel

THATCamp at University of Cincinnati 2015

Panel: Decolonizing Environmental + Digital Humanities
(Alternate title on schedule: Decolonizing Environmental and Digital Technology)

Panel Chair: Vinamarata “Winnie” Kaur

Panel Collaborators and Attendees: Vinamarata “Winnie” Kaur, Elizabeth Meyer, David Sandor, Michele Vialet, Pam Bach, Amy Koshoffer, Arlene Johnson, Garrett Cummins, Karen Cudjoe, Eira Tansey

Primary Notetaker: Eira Tansey

Winnie kicked off our session with framing her interests as a scholar in environmental theory, feminist theory, and DH. Uses intersectionality theory and how disciplines are related to each other. For example, the intersection of environmental humanities and digital humanities: viewing it through a feminist lens.

Winnie: Digital data by its nature is meant to be more eco-sustainable. Some issues of possible interest:
Intersections of EH + DH (+feminism+ecoability+intersectionality)
Issues related to politics and ethics of access to digitized “environmental” data
How can we avoid biopolitical racism, classism, and sexism of media so as to avoid the digital binary?
Creation of a digital subalternity and minority voices
Status of “things,” property personhood, differences between human machine, animal
Role of media in fostering an awareness about environmental issues

Eira: Technology is often very exploitative and resource-intensive. Big data is monetizable and that contributes to heavy resource use.

Winnie: How do we ensure newer forms of technology are not exploitative?

Pam: Big data — Little data is often very important [[NYTimes article]]

Winnie: Shifting notions of personhood — what does it mean if Google does not allow you to control your own data? Intersections of human rights and environmental humanities

Garrett: Nietzsche’s idea of 3 different types of historians — antiquarian, monumental, critical

Eira: Discussed the concept of archival appraisal and how it’s antithetical to the idea of saving everything

Garrett: How does digital decay affect the sustainability of the human record?

David: The web enables people to tell their stories who may not have been able to tell their stories before. There are now so many more potential stories, but is that potential realized as effectively as it could be? New Republic article about the Oglala aquifer — who tells that story besides the person who wrote the magazine article? And this is in this country, but it’s in slow motion

Winnie: Digital divide — internet access and creation is not universal. Most of the information on the internet, however, is often in the language of the colonizer. How do we assess cost, right to education, accessibility? How do we not recreate an Eastern vs Western binary? Global South is providing a lot of the digital labor but does not necessarily benefit from the wealth of information accessible in the Global North

Also, how are property rights privileged over human rights? #BaltimoreUprising How does preserving the status of things manifest itself in digital culture? Changing representations of intersectional identities. How do we represent interactions with the environment? Naturecultures: technologies, nature/environment, social, and lived realities.

Arlene: Alex Gill’s “Around the World with DH in 80 days” — focuses on lower-level technology DH in other countries + Alex Gil is a leader in the GO::DH organization I recommend this site and to follow on Twitter. Alex’s sessions at UC Libraries brought the term “minimal computing” to light.

Winnie: Digital divide and access to information in public vs private sectors

David: Expanded on Oglala aquifer issue — windborne metal particles and downstream health effects

Winnie: Environmental justice and people of color’s role in food politics and supply chains. Intersectionality and anthropocenic privilege.

Eira: the slow-motion nature of climate change and related environmental issues makes it difficult to get people to take things seriously

Amy: People think in short-terms. A documentary on wolf reintroduction in Yellowstone showed the downstream effects of how it changed water systems.

Winnie: False use of media — for example, cruelty-free products that might protect animals but have child labor.

Garrett: Slow reporting — is fast reporting antithetical to long-term analysis? Is the strength of digital humanities in this realm the ability to do the slower arguments and discerning effects?

Winnie: The impulsivity enabled by social media is often necessary to immediately bring attention to injustice

Garrett and Winnie: How does Global South get included in the digital conversations they are often shut out of?

Winnie: How do we decolonize our disciplines, minds, bodies, and practices?

Eira: Talked about issues of exploitative journal vendors and how we need faculty buy-in to OA

Pam: Things like disruptive technologies like BitCoin in Argentina have the potential for equalization +

Garrett: Textbooks can be limiting, used example of Putting things on Blackboard makes them invisible to larger communities

Arlene: A lot of this is determined by RPT. Used example of David Trowbridge’s work — how do we open our work up to beyond a few publications?

Michele: Focusing on content and not digital vanity

Karen: Are ebooks more sustainable?

Michele: Books are more environmentally friendly and have proved that they can survive for centuries without costly technological updates. When they decay they return to dust. Digital media have a lot of hidden costs in comparison.

Winnie: That’s an open-ended debate. Technology can help make things more accessible (eco-ability). Internet as a “religion”: a space for virtual congregation. Internet elitism.

Garrett: Disrupting gospel of English Department by moving away from textbooks

Winnie: Other things collectively discussed in our group and for future consideration: lower-level computing, digital vanity, Ecology, Economy, Equity book (thanks Eira for the suggestion), library databases as injustice (open access), disruptive technologies.

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