Fall Updates: IIT Lecture in “Defining Boundaries and Goals in the Digital Humanities” Series

Talking fab labs and Raspberry Pis at IIT.

On September 20th, I had the pleasure of traveling to the Illinois Institute of Technology to deliver the first talk in IIT’s fall series, “Defining Boundaries and Goals in the Digital Humanities.” My talk, entitled, “Digital Humanity: Foregrounding Human Traces in Technological Systems (and Why We Should Care),” was followed by a lively and engaging Q&A session with faculty, grad students and staff. In addition to discussing the current state of, and the potential for, the digital humanities to highlight and unveil human traces in digital technologies, we talked about platforms that provide the potential for humanizing digital tools and creating space for alternative perspectives in technical systems; indeed, the Raspberry Pi that I brought along was a particular hit. The abstract for the talk follows below; thanks to Dr. Marie Hicks and all those at IIT who made my visit such a treat.

Taken from the perspective of the academy’s long view, the “digital humanities” as a concept is nascent and its precise definition remains a moving target, with a variety of methods,  disciplinary perspectives and approaches finding a home under its ample umbrella. Yet the fluidity around its precise meaning affords opportunities for scholars to apply the critical lens of the humanities to the study of the digital, and to ask questions about who benefits, how and why, in the context of an ever-increasingly networked, computerized and digitally enclosed world.

In this talk, I will discuss current research in and several practical applications of technology that foreground the humanity in the digital and that offer and model alternatives. In some cases, these examples unveil hidden or obfuscated traces of humans within digital systems, literally and in the abstract – in labor, representations, and by other means – and the implications that such erasures engender. I will also highlight practical examples of platforms, systems and tools that endeavor to challenge existing paradigms extant in many mainstream or instantiated technical systems. This talk is intended as interactive dialog with opportunity for the audience to offer their own experiences, tools and solutions for discussion and inspiration.