Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Digital Diversity 2015 Wrap Up

I am back from Edmonton, Canada and am still processing the Digital Diversity conference (http://digitaldiversity2015.org). I want to thank Susan Brown and Kathryn Holland for putting together an amazing conference. I caught up with long time friends and made some great new ones. Susan organized a lunch time shoe shopping trip (my very first Fluevogs....). I had a great dinner at Wildflower. But the papers and the people.....

I've been a bit downhearted about the state of digital humanities over the last few years. There is infighting and continued attacks from the larger profession. I suppose we are not any different than any other academic field, but it is frustrating that people must spend their valuable time defending themselves rather than working. This conference and the attendees, though, made me feel hopeful.

I was reminded of the centrality of the early digital projects that grew out of women's literature and history including Orlando, The Women Writer's Project and the Dickinson Electronic Archive. The conference was launched to commemorate 20 years of the Orlando project, but the project is far from finished. I attended a pre-conference workshop titled Orlando 2.0: Diversifying Literary History Online led by Susan Brown, Isobel Grundy and Kathryn Holland. I was most impressed with the development of a system that allows  tags that overlap. In digital work we often run up against the limitations of technology in defining complex cultural materials. The Orlando approach to tags allows us to tag individuals in multiple ways. One might tag how an individual defines her race or ethnicity while also tagging how the same such categories were applied to the individual by, say, national organizations. This approach resists the binary of identification often found in technology systems.

The conference papers and keynotes highlighted the far ranging new work of digital humanities. From Wendy Hui Kyong Chun's "Post-Recovery: Shadowy Absences and 'Found Collectivity" to Moya Bailey's "#transform(ing)dh Writing and Research: An Autoethnography of Digital Humanities Feminist Ethics," from Whitney Peoples' "Whose Cartographies Do we Believe?" Mapping Women's Reproductive Health On and Off Line" to Jo-Ann Episkenew's "Indigenous Youths' Relational Wellbeing in the Digital Age," the amazing panel I chaired (which, as I tweeted, rocked), and many more papers, I am now confident that digital diversity work is growing and expanding.

At the end of the conference, organizers launched the Digital Diversity Timeline/Map.

The organizers are soliciting events to add to the timeline, so be sure you contribute your piece of digital diversity history: http://digitaldiversity2015.org/digital-diversity-timeline/

Again, I thank the conference organizers. I left Edmonton feeling connected to a long history of diverse digital projects and hopeful for the future of the endeavor.


  1. Thanks so much, Amy, for the wonderful blog posts about the conference and for your contributions to it! It was great because so many people threw themselves into the collective effort. And to those reading this, may I second Amy's plea to help us populate the timeline! We only tried to seed it, and there are so many visible and invisible gaps: please help us make this timeline represent many different takes on digital diversity beyond and within the academy. We hope people will contribute themselves (and get a little taste of working in TEI if they haven't before) but we'll also take suggestions for events if you simply don't have time! Feel free to contact us through the conference email address (also the one given in the helpful step-by-step instructions).

  2. Thanks Susan! I do hope that others will participate in this very important project.