Querying Access, Power and Taxonomy in the Digital Humanities

I propose a talk session to explore some of the points that Miriam Posner presented in the keynote address to the Keystone Digital Humanities Conference, University of Pennsylvania, July 22, 2015. She is the coordinator of Digital Humanities at UCLA and a frequent author and speaker about the Digital Humanities. Point 1: Mapping platforms, including Google Maps, use a Cartesian model of space that embodies a colonialist project of empire building. While mathematicians may argue with this, the practice of visualizing space as flat with longitudes and latitudes grids the earth for identification and control. Point 2: Visualizing data tends to illustrate what is known when in fact scholars often realize that questions or parts thereof can be unanswered by lack of data or because they do not fit into predetermined categories. New programs and platforms, such as Topotime (visualizes time in nuanced ways with shapes, not chronological markers), are curatives that allow for uncertainty and approximations. Point 3: How accessible are the Digital Humanities? Are emphases on open source technology and freely available information on the Internet—and their formats—accessible in theory and in practice? We in Alabama probably know individuals and families with accessibility issues.

– Cynthia Kristan-Graham