On 14 October 2022, members of the project attended and represented ceditraa at the second Research Day of the Graduate School of the Humanities and Social Sciences (GSHS) at the Gutenberg University, Mainz. In line with ceditraa’s overarching topic, the theme of the second GSHS Research Day was ‘Digitality in the Humanities and Social Sciences’. Questions, like: “Will digital skills be indispensable for everyone working in the humanities and social sciences in future? What might this mean for research projects and their dissemination?” were leading the lectures and workshops as well as the following discussions. Concentrating on early-career scholars, the aim of the second GSHS Research Day was to connect those scholars and facilitate exchange on methods and meanings of digitality in the respective research projects and the academic fields they are located in.
In addition to lectures and workshops, scholars could present their projects at the ‘Market of Opportunities’ in form of posters and engage in dialogue with each other. Izuu Nwankwo, Artemis Saleh and Nico Nassenstein co-authored a poster, which Izuu Nwankwo and Artemis Saleh presented. The poster presentation was well-received and following dialogue was fruitful as well as interest for further exchange and even collaboration by other scholars was uttered.
Artemis Saleh also attended one of the workshops held by Dr. Diybadyuti Roy, a lecturer in cultural studies, media studies and digital humanities at the University of Leeds, and titled ‘Gender, Diversity, and Intersectional Inclusion in Digital Humanities’. One of the key arguments of the workshop was about supposedly raw data. Citing Tarunima Prabhakar, the co-founder and research and project lead of Tattle, “a community of technologists, researchers and artists working towards a healthier online information ecosystem in India”, “build[ing] tools and datasets to understand and respond to inaccurate and harmful content”, he states: “There is no such thing as raw data”. According to Dr. Roy, the neutrality of data is a myth as they are inextricably intertwined with the people they are produced by (Singh 2021). Defining data as given is misleading towards subjectivity of data. This misdirection should be concerning all scientists working with or in the digital humanities, whether quantitative or qualitative. In order to prevent the “substantial risk that data-driven research does not say anything new or meaningful”, models of interdisciplinary collaboration should be continuously focused on.
Another interesting tool presented in Dr. Roy’s workshop was the ‘axis of digitality and humanities’. The vertical axis displayed the spectrum between ‘digitality as a subject of study’ and ‘digitality as a tool of study’, while the horizontal axis enhanced possibilities between the ‘focus on technical developing’ and ‘focus on (theoretical) understanding’. Research projects can have different positions in different stages and aspects of the process.
After presenting the axis of digitality and humanities, Dr. Roy encouraged us to actively get to know and be able to tell our digital humanities research narrative. We were given time to think about questions on the amount of data needed for our purposes, the assumptions about the platforms and respective affordances involved in our projects, on the reliability of our data, whether the platform is open source, user-entered or mediated from another platform.
We were also encouraged to decide on how to query and analyze the data withing a critical methodological framework.
A key aspect to our digital humanities narrative was to allow the end-users or readers to continue to interpret our data narrative and to ensure that the end-users or readers would be able to fully understand where the data came from and their limitations, in order to mutually conclude, whether our data narrative would be sustainable. Reciprocity, Dr. Roy emphasized, should be implemented as a digital humanities practice.
He concluded with presenting the ‘Intersectional Inclusion Task Force’ located within the ‘Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations’ (ADHO) whose purpose it is to assist the ADHO implement nine statements made in the ‘ADHO Statement on Black Lives Matter, Structural Racism, and Establishment Violence’ in 2020, one of them being the foundation of the task force itself. In line with the reflections on data never being raw and many societal and scientific processes being transferred into digital spaces, those processes bear the chance to review policies and structures and be aware of potentially transferred biases or exclusionary structures. Stepping into the digital age and researching with and on digital phenomena and tools, scientists have the possibilities to engage in more inclusionary and intersectional practices and with that, broaden their focus and scope.
Last, but not least, we had smaller group discussions and a final group discussion with all participants, on questions provided by Dr. Roy and sharpening our positionality skills. Questions, like: “Do you self-identify as a Digital Humanist? Why or Why not? Do you think it is important to self-identify as a ‘digital humanist’ to participate and contribute in the global projects of DH?”, “How has your own identity position shaped your interactions with/in Digital Humanities?”, “What institutional affordances are available for you and your DH communities? In your opinion what forms of institutions, infrastructures and interstices are required to foreground the diverse lived experience(s) as/in DH theory and practice?” or “Your comments on how decolonized DH ontologies emerge from Critical Digital Humanities?” were asked.
Overall, the workshop showed that there are more commonalities between all scientists involved in data production and digital research. The second Research Day likewise did facilitate a variety of great workshops and discussions and it remains to stay curious for the following collaborations and exchanges as well as for the third Research Day in the coming year.