Building a DH Feminist Network

(Cross-posted from UC Humanities Forum)

**UPDATED 3/28 to correct the story of Mindr**

As I reported last week, I attended the THATCamp Feminisms conference at Scripps College in Claremont on Friday and Saturday. The weekend kicked off with an early feminist/PoC Wikipedia edit-a-thon called #tooFEW.

We were synched up with other #tooFEW and THATCamp Feminisms events around the country, and the experience of inhabiting the same virtual space as other participants working toward changing the landscape of Wikipedia and DH was just as affirming as I’d hoped, in both the technical sense (our group chat room was great for quick tech/Wiki support) and the community sense.

I’d like to tip my hat to Dr. Adrianne Wadewitz, Wikipedia ambassador extraordinaire and Mellon Digital Scholarship Fellow at Occidental College, who not only provided us with a pre-recorded intro lecture to editing Wikipedia but was also on hand to walk participants through the event. Her THATCamp session on Wikipedia in the classroom also got me thinking about the utility of teaching students to edit Wikipedia. Though it is by no means a new tool, Wikipedia represents an increasingly important source of information that students, professional academics, and the public alike consult. It’s one thing to lecture students about using Wikipedia responsibly, but quite another to put control in their hands. Session participants talked about the effectiveness of Wikipedia to teach writing, research, and a healthy respect for the Internet alike. Check out the google doc for more information and resources that we compiled during this session.

As with most THATCamp events, networking was the most rewarding aspect for me, and several sessions at THATCamp Feminisms dealt in one way or another with networking digital humanists, feminists, and feminist digital humanists together. Participant Tassie Gniady suggested creating a Grindr-like app for DHers to find each other at conferences, which Mia Ridge, who was visiting from Oxford to lead a session on data visualization, named “Mindr.” I was at the session on fandom at the time, so I can’t speak to the conversation that inspired it, but it seems like such an app would be useful to those of us who frequent non-DH conferences.

On the whole, I left THATCamp Feminisms feeling affirmed, but there were bumps along the way: true to any feminist academic event featuring a lot of junior scholars, there were many anxious questions. Where are the senior scholars? Are we allowed to ask for more support when they give so much already? How do I maintain the politics of my work while still being marketable? How do we reconcile different histories of DH and bring them in line with other supposedly radical traditions?

In this way, THATCamp Feminisms felt a bit different than other THATCamps I’ve attended. The infectious enthusiasm of DH was tempered here by the political, professional, and market realities that disproportionately affect marginalized communities. Not only is the work of women and People of Color held to higher standards than others, but the additional labor/playbor of DH adds more to that invisible load. Can you maintain a blog and activist work and mentoring while safeguarding your research against intensified scrutiny and harassment in public digital places?

At the end of the weekend, I was reminded why networks are so important and vital to success: as a colleague once told me, academia was designed centuries ago by and for rich white men who had the resources and help necessary to maintain their bodies while pursuing a life of the mind. The standards haven’t changed all that much. None of us are doing the work of one person. I mentioned in one of our sessions how I like to step into comment threads on behalf of my friends who just. can’t. do it that day but also can’t let harassment sit around on their blog posts or Facebook walls. From #transformDH to dhpoco to THATCamp Feminisms, these networks are gradually gaining steam in the digital humanities community, and I’m happy to be in the middle of it. Events like this are what initiate them and help us maintain maximum enthusiasm.

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