Week 3. Earhart Q4: Non-Textual Recovery
  • Though Earhart is using a fairly wide definition of the term text, the article does seem to primarily emphasize the recovery of written/printed artifacts. What does it mean to recover non-text works, and how can we create the conditions necessary for the sustainability of that recovery? Are they any different than the conditions for other recovery projects? And how might the implications of such work be of particular importance for specific groups (such as disabled subjects)?
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  • @adelinekoh You make an important point here. While Earhart advocates creating and preserving a multi-ethnic digital canon, her article seems to give preference to print texts. However, print text is often aligned with the interests of Westernized Anglo-centric interests (which is not to say that non-Anglo cultural groups do not have significant printed texts that need preservation). Yet, Earhart herself notes that there is a strong correlation between text preservation and canonized, Anglo-centric literature.

    This is why it is important to return to @alanyliu's call for DH to combine text preservation with New Media studies. By doing so, we can expand DHers perspectives on "textual" preservation so that it includes oral recordings of folklore, narratives, and interviews; aural recordings of music; images of artifacts; and even video recordings of events, rituals, interviews, etc. Not only will this expand the scope of our preservation efforts beyond the canon, but it will also break down the racially-infused structure of granting alphabetic texts authority over non-alphabetic texts (which is one issue that #dhpoco, in particular, has the affordances to address).

    Other members of the course have listed concerns with this approach--particularly the need to acquire funding, TT-positions, and tenure--and I agree that these are very difficult obstacles to navigate. I don't have any easy solutions to offer in this regard, but I do know that if we want to change the canon in a meaningful way, we will not be able to do so simply by sticking within its strict parameters. Perhaps we need to start by working on a small-scale or by collaborating with departments that are more open to non-traditional texts (Communication, New Media, Postcolonial Studies, Ethnic Studies, Gender Studies). Though these fields certainly exist outside the "core" of academia (which is, by their very structure, a necessity), they often provide the resources and support necessary to work outside the canon.

    We can also use the theory within these fields as a springboard for our own. Creating a stronger body of cultural criticism may give us the foundation we need to "validate" our work with non-traditional texts. (NOTE: I hate using the term "validate" here, but it seems to represent the reality of a lot of DHers).

    Any other thoughts?

  • Thanks @clboyles! Actually the question was posed by @meganfarnel. Megan, any thoughts?
  • @cyboyles, thank you for a really thought-provoking response. Your point about non-alphabetic texts as a challenge to the racial composition of the canon is so great, and though I agree with the barriers you and others have raised about moving forward, I think the idea you put forward here about small-scale, interdisciplinary/interdepartmental projects is wonderful.

    Perhaps a valuable example of this type of work, though its scope and scale is admittedly quite large, would be something like the Living Archives on Eugenics in Western Canada? In the interest of full disclosure, I interned with the project for a summer, but I do think there's some really interesting work being done there with how to recover and preserve experiences of marginalized persons in textual and non-textual formats. Given that so many people who were forcibly sterilized during this program were/are differently-abled, the question of accessibility and multi-modality is essential to the project's political aims, and I think some of the strategies they are using might be useful to DH scholars more broadly.
  • @meganfarnel Thank you for introducing me to the Living Archives on Eugenics in Western Canada. After looking at the collection, I'm really excited to see the mixture of narrative/blog/art/video used to describe the history of eugenics in Western Canada. I think the project is a great start and I hope that DH projects will continue to move in that direction.

    What are your perspectives on the archive? Was the combination of alphabetic and non-alphabetic texts intentional? Was it an effort to move away from alphabetic content? Does the use of multimodal composition change how viewers read the archive? Does it make the archive more accessible to diverse viewers?

    I would love to hear your perspective on any/all of these issues.
  • @cbyoles I'm glad you had a chance to look at the archives, and certainly I'm happy to discuss them further (though admittedly it's been a couple of years since I was involved directly).

    The combination of alphabetic and non-alphabetic resources is definitely designed to enhance accessibility. Many of the folks working with the archives (both community partners program and academics) experience various physical and developmental challenges that often make using digital resources really difficult, so there's been a lot of explicit attention to issues of multi-modality, screen-reader friendly platforms, etc. These types of questions extended not just to design decisions for the site, but were also strongly influential for how the Living Archives team itself structured meetings, discussions, and events. (I only note this because I think it's an issue of accessibility in scholarship that is frequently overlooked in favour of emphasizing the accessibility the final product.)

    The site was in its infancy when I was directly involved, so my knowledge of its reception is limited mostly to feedback from our community partners, most of whom did note that the ability to express their experiences or encounter the stories of others in multiple formats was critical. I would certainly be interested to hear more from the team now that the archives a few years further down the road about how the site has been used and by what types of audiences.

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