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Race and DH: Pre- and Post-Production of Digital Work

“As scholars of the digital humanities, we must also acknowledge the complicity of technology in creating and magnifying inequalities.” – Roopi Karisam⁠1

In a space where black people have leveraged digital platforms to reclaim stories of societal contributions and cultural production (Black Twitter⁠2, chat rooms, blogs, web pages, all the rising and shining stars on YouTube, etc.), I knew the digital sphere was where I needed to go for the work of Dare to Remember: A Digital Memorial of Black Brooklyn. It has been upheld that through free access, the Internet affords “those previously cut off from intellectual capital to gain materials and knowledge that might be leveraged to change the social position of people of color⁠3.” This initial presumption of the Internet, amongst others, stands firm in the creation of this project. Speaking directly to Dare to Remember, this website allows “those who had been silenced to have a voice” and those who have chosen silence to have space⁠4. Spatializing and memorializing the community of Black Brooklyn in the digital sphere allows us to combat and move through this silence and erasure. Accentuating the geography of memory, a web-based environment also allows users to visualize movement (and displacement) in the urban geography and even encourages “the abandonment of the ideal of high culture” due to its faults in public history making. This is revelatory simply because this digital space permits Black Brooklyn to exist outside of the violent definitions imposed on them in the material environment while acknowledging their importance in critical discourse⁠5.

However, in the pre- and post-production of digital work, it is important to acknowledge existing critiques of the digital canon that has technologically mutated exclusions in literary and historical ones. This exclusion presents itself as dissension to the initial idea that “the open digital environment was unpoliced and unregulated, open to all who wanted to participate⁠6.” This is false because the granting model and surveillance mechanisms, particularly when tied to activism⁠7, has excluded women, people of color, and the LGBTQ community from digital production. And “if we do not theorize our technological approaches with a mind toward cultural constructions, we will continue to exclude certain materials from digitization.⁠8” Fortunate enough to receive grants in order to bring Dare to Remember: A Digital Memorial of Black Brooklyn to life, I pay particular attention to and evade the reproduction of the exclusionary one-to-one relationship between physical commemoration in the material environment and digitization on the web. I break this relationship through attention to silence and “ordinary” structures and sites, as well as the work of black women that enabled the existence of black people in Brooklyn. After a project is published, there are surveillance mechanisms that monitor what goes up, when, and by whom. Although not something I am confident will happen to impede upon the longevity of this project, it would be ignorant to not acknowledge how it has affected other digital efforts—be they social media⁠9, digital essays, etc.

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1 http://roopikarisam.com/uncategorized/on-disruption-race-and-the-digital-humanities/

2 http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/black-tweets-matter-180960117/

3 http://dhdebates.gc.cuny.edu/debates/text/16

how do you cite a digital essay?

4 http://dhdebates.gc.cuny.edu/debates/text/16

5 http://dhdebates.gc.cuny.edu/debates/text/16

6 http://dhdebates.gc.cuny.edu/debates/text/16 

7 http://dhdebates.gc.cuny.edu/debates/text/16 

8 http://dhdebates.gc.cuny.edu/debates/text/16

9 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/surveillance-black-lives-matter-cointelpro_us_55d49dc6e4b055a6dab24008