#FAIR enough? Building DH Resources in an Unequal World

A talk by Antonio Rojas Castro | 7 August 2020

The presentation slides are available for download. Watch the talk here:


The world that Digital Humanities practitioners inhabit is a place defined by uneven distribution of wealth and systemic oppressions. As Boaventura de Sousa Santos argues in his recent book La cruel pedagogía del virus (The Cruel Pedagogy of the Virus) (Sousa Santos, 2020), the COVID-19 has exacerbated the inequalities in the Global North and in the Global South; but the unmask of inequalities is not a new topic in the field of Digital Humanities. For the last decade many scholars have been defending a critical approach to open access, computational tools, algorithms and cultural datasets (Galina, 2014; Fiormonte, Numerico and Tomasi, 2015; Rio Grande, 2018; Earhardt, 2018; Risam, 2019; Noble, 2019). In addition to the work of individuals, group initiatives like Global Outlook::DH have also enabled debates on social justice, diversity and inclusivity.

In this presentation I aim to establish a dialogue with previous interventions that critique the Digital Humanities as a universalist, not situated and scientific field whose epistemological frameworks, methods and tools can be applied anywhere, anytime and under all conditions. To do so I will examine, expand and question the FAIR Principles initiated by FORCE11. These principles are four: Findability, Accessibility, Interoperability and Reusability. They implicitly suggest a moral idea of “fairness” or “justice” that should guide “data producers and publishers” to maximize the “added-value gained by contemporary, formal scholarly digital publishing” (Wilkinson et al., 2016). Although the FAIR Principles were originated in the context of e-science, they have already been adopted by library associations like LIBER and some DH scholars have also evaluated them (Dunning, Smaele and Böhmer, 2017) and used them as guiding principles for developing digital archives (Calamai and Frontini, 2018).

Drawing on examples derived from the Programming Historian en español (PHes) and the Proyecto Humboldt Digital (ProHD), I will argue that, while the FAIR Principles can guide how we build DH resources in the Global North, any attempt to apply them in the Global South (especially in Latin American countries) may replicate colonialist practices that ignore the digital divide and local needs and practices in favor of hegemonic standards (Priani Saisó, 2019). This caveat is especially relevant for cooperation projects that involve scholars, librarians, archivists and other professionals with different backgrounds, that are based in different countries, speak different languages and have different needs and motivations. In brief, building FAIR resources is a praiseworthy goal, but in order to produce an emancipatory knowledge, that (perhaps) will repair some inequalities, we should avoid cultural cloning and cognitive extractivism and instead sustain an ecology of knowledge.

Bibliographic References

Calamai, Silvia & Francesca Frontini, “FAIR data principles and their application to speech and oral archives”, Journal of New Music Research, volume 47, issue 4, 2018.

Dunning, Alastair, Madeleine de Smaele & Jasmin Böhmer, “Are the Fair Data Principles Fair?”, International Journal of Digital Curation, volume 12, issue 2, 2017. http://www.ijdc.net/article/view/567

Earhart, A.E., “Digital Humanities Within a Global Context: Creating Borderlands of Localized Expression”, Fudan J. Hum. Soc. Sci, volume 11, issue 357–369, 2018.

Fiormonte, Domenico, Teresa Numerico & Francesca Tomasi, The Digital Humanist. A Critical Inquiry, translated by Desmond Schmidt and Christopher Fergusson, Brooklyn, Punctum Books, 2015.

Galina Russell, Isabel, “Geographical and linguistic diversity in the Digital Humanities”, Literary and Linguistic Computing, volume 29, issue 3, 2014. https://doi.org/10.1093/llc/fqu005

Noble, Safiya Umoja, “Toward a Critical Black Digital Humanities”, Debates in the Digital Humanities 2019, edited by Matthew K. Gold and Lauren F. Klein, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis; London, 2019, 27–35. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.ctvg251hk.5 .  Accessed 29 July 2020.

Priani Saisó, Ernesto, “Codificación y buenas prácticas. Crítica a la delimitación de las humanidades digitales en América Latina”, Relaciones Estudios de Historia y Sociedad, volumen 40, issue 158, 2019. http://dx.doi.org/10.24901/rehs.v40i158.343

Rio Riande, Gimena del, “Humanidades digitales. Cuando lo local es global”, Humanidades Digitales: construcciones locales en contextos globales, edited by Gimena Rio Riande et al., Buenos Aires, Universidad de Buenos Aires, 2018. 10.5281/zenodo.1239201

Risam, Roopika, New Digital Worlds. Postcolonial Digital Humanities in Theory, Praxis, and Pedagogy, Illinois, Northwestern University Press, 2019.

Sousa Santos, Boaventura de, La cruel pedagogía del virus, translated by Paula Vasile, Madrid, Ediciones Akal, 2020.

Wilkinson, M., Dumontier, M., Aalbersberg, I. et al. The FAIR Guiding Principles for scientific data management and stewardship. Sci Data, volume 3,2016. https://doi.org/10.1038/sdata.2016.18

Diesen Beitrag zitieren als // Favor de citar esta entrada como:

arojascastro, "#FAIR enough? Building DH Resources in an Unequal World," in: Proyecto Humboldt Digital (ProHD), 06/08/2020, URL: https://habanaberlin.hypotheses.org/1730.

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