Kimberly Christen-Withey, Associate Professor of English
Washington State University
MITH Conference Room
Tuesday, March 25, 2014, 12:30 pm
The digital humanities has its roots in fields of study dedicated to textual analysis and historical examination. The present moment is filled with DH practitioners creating visualizations of ‘big data,’ mapping connections between people and ancient cities, and building archives dedicated to long-dead authors. These worthwhile academic and practical pursuits point us to the center of the digital humanities landscape. But, if we move to the margins and begin to look at the projects and tools that emerge from indigenous communities, archivists and cultural specialists, we see a different pattern: images are purposely removed, archives are not ‘open to the public,’ maps of sacred sites are consciously not created, defined or linked to. How do we integrate these varied practices and philosophies into the possibilities offered by digital humanities scholars? It is one thing to call attention to difference, it is another to alter our display practices, question access parameters, and redefine our own ways of knowing based on systems of accountability that define an ethical field of visuality based on not looking. If seeing is believing and a picture is worth a thousand words, what can we learn from the act of not looking, or perhaps, more specifically, not seeing? In this presentation, I suggest an ethics of access that begins with jettisoning the notion of seeing/looking/knowing, to one that builds from indigenous systems of knowledge management to create a dynamic field for digital humanities relationships to flourish.