Refracting Digital Humanities was a five-day course at Humanities Intensive Learning and Training (HILT), at University of Maryland, in August, 2014. The course was meant to be a process-based course through which students work collectively to use critical race and gender theories as method to explore digital humanities tools and communities of practice.
The methods and tools used and produced by Digital Humanists function as organizing principles that frame how race, gender, sexuality, and ability are embodied and understood within and through projects, code-bases, and communities of practice. The very ‘making’ of tools and projects is an engagement with power and control. Through a critical theoretical exploration of the values in the design and use of these tools and methods, we begin to understand that these methods and practices are structures which are themselves marginalizing and reductionist. By pairing hands-on learning/making with Critical Race Theory, Queer, and Gender Theories, we can interrogate the structures of the tools themselves while creating our own collaborative practices and methods for ‘doing’ (refracting) DH differently.
Each day was arranged around a set of readings, methods, and research questions which, when placed within the site of the public restroom, enabled us to engage with and to create our own theoretical practices.
Day 1: See
tools & activities: cameras, paper prototyping
Why do we look?
How do we look?
Who is doing the looking?
How are race and gender deployed in the public bathroom?
How do the histories of racism and gender discrimination play a role in the design and use of the public bathroom?
How might we explore and redesign the public bathroom?
Day 2: Hear
tools & activities: audio recording, Audacity (sound editing software), makey makeys
What do race and gender sound like? How do we hear race and gender?
What happens to how we hear in the public restroom? How might we sonify race, queerness, and gender to counter our visual analysis of bathroom spaces and the people within?
Day 3: Know
tools & activities: code samples, basic circuits, arduinos
How is code, software, hardware already raced and gendered? Does digital humanities as a field and community of practice perpetuate systems of oppression? How might we understand code, makey makeys, and arduinos as feminist tools for learning and thinking?
Day 4: Move
tools & activities: maps, cameras, audio recording, web-based softwares
How does geography and mapping reify raced and gendered knowledges? How might we rethink the map in order to understand the many knowledges that comprise a space? What happens when we begin to historicize race and gender within particular mappings?