Introducing Documenting the Now / Ed Summers

In this introduction to Documenting the Now collaborative project, Summers provides background about the urgency and need for this type of open source application, especially for the Black community. He outlines two main goals of the DocNow project: 1) Create an open source app “that will allow researchers and archivists to easily collect, analyze, and preserve Twitter messages and the Web resources they reference;” 2) “Cultivate a much needed conversation between scholars, archivists, journalists, and human rights activists around the effective and ethical use of social media content.”

Summers, Ed. 2016. “Introducing Documenting the Now.” MITH: Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities. DocNow (blog). February 17, 2016.


Jules, Bergis. 2015. “Preserving Social Media Records of Activism.” On Archivy (blog). November 24, 2015.

everwhere, every when / Bethany Nowviskie

Nowviskie begins this talk by asking the question “where and when do Black lives matter?” in information sciences; she looks at Afropolitanism (space) and Afrofuturism (time), focusing on Afrofuturism; it is “self-possessed” and centers around the past, present, and future of blackness and locating/telling stories of the future while never forgetting the past. She advocates the need for digital cultural heritage systems affordance – a White-dominant field – to decolonize archives and “design for agency” so that Black communities and cultures as well as other marginalized communities have control over their stories and archives, their “philosophical infrastructure.” Instead of merely designing for inclusion, design for progress and spaces/places where Black lives are everywhere and every when.

Nowviskie, Bethany. 2016. “Everwhere, Every When.” Bethany Nowviskie (blog). April 29, 2016.
Presentation at Insuetude, Columbia University, New York City.

National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) Repatriation Policy

“Repatriation is the process whereby specific kinds of American Indian cultural items in a museum collection are returned to lineal descendants and culturally affiliated Indian tribes, Alaska Native clans or villages, and/or Native Hawaiian organizations.”

Repatriation at the NMAI is a uniquely proactive and collaborative process. Working closely with Native peoples and communities, the NMAI conducts research and makes decisions independent of other Smithsonian offices. This policy details who can be part of the repatriation process and what this process looks like. Provides an example for how to create a specific policy to demonstrate commitment to respecting Indigenous peoples and cultures.

National Museum of the American Indian. 2014. “Repatriation.” National Museum of the American Indian (Smithsonian Institution).

Why Are the Digital Humanities So White? or Thinking the Histories of Race and Computation / Tara McPherson

McPherson reflects on two experiences that reflect the disconnect between digital humanities and other modes of inquiry around race, gender, class, etc; instead of focusing on how to rupture oppressive infrastructures, conversations around tool-building and coding focused on how to build infrastructure. The answer to why the digital humanities are so white lies in this disconnect as well as the “effect of the very designs of our technological systems.” McPherson looks back at the 1960s, a time when UNIX (the basic philosophy/foundation for modern operating systems) was being developed, as well as the center of the Civil Rights Movement; she provides a compelling argument that these two extremely “different” camps are actually interdependent.

In the explanation of their vision for the UNIX, Kernighan and Plauger argue that modularity should be a priority; only the input and output should be visible to the user while the inner-workings, or the actual transformation process from point A to point B0 should not. This modularity resonates with liberal colorblindness; the “lenticular logic,” or fragmented lens, during the mid-1900s demonstrates how race is visible through its absence. “The emergence of covert racism and its rhetoric of color blindness are not so much intentional as systemic.” McPherson calls for a mergence of the two conversations that have continued to avoid each other: those on the side of technology might find new ways to understand culture, while those on the side of race discussions should “analyze, use, and produce digital forms.”

McPherson, Tara. 2012. “Why Are the Digital Humanities So White? Or Thinking the Histories of Race and Computation.” In Debates in the Digital Humanities, edited by Matthew K Gold, 139–60. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.