Excellent analysis of use of educational technology in rural Peru, questioning many basic assumptions of programs based on simple hardware distribution rather than addressing social settings and context. Useful for considering digital archival projects where community partners are in areas with little hardware and network service. Also provides analysis of factors leading to success, again providing guidance for community archives projects where there may be participants with a variety of hardware and network access.
Diversifying the Digital Historical Record
The Diversifying the Digital Historical Record website has essential coverage of a series of national forums, led by co-PIs Michelle Caswell and Bergis Jules, “focusing on community archives integration in a national digital platform and the potential impact for representation of diverse communities in our digital cultural heritage.” See also the publications and final report with important conclusions, particularly for software development, including for example that “Rather than create a central digital repository for community archival materials, community archives practitioners instead express a need for a structured online space to create a network, share resources and best practices, and leverage each other’s expertise.”
User Participation and Democracy: A Discussion of Scandinavian Research on System Development / Gro Bjerknes and Tone Bratteteig
Excellent introduction to the history of and philosophical underpinnings of Scandinavian participatory design, a foundational movement for current participatory design, values in design, and critical technical practice movements. Notable for emphasizing the political nature of the practice of participatory design, in that in its beginnings it was seen as a method for democratizing the workplace. This article, written in 1995, suggests that a move towards ethics de-emphasizes the political aims of earlier participatory design projects, and that political (i.e. social justice) aims should be re-introduced. An excellent reading that will expose systems designers to the long history of participatory and user-centered design that would be well-paired with more recent readings that incorporate additional intersectional analyses, allowing system designers to contrast the Scandinavian emphasis on a class analysis (through a focus on the democratic rights of workers) with later work incorporating race, gender, and disability.
CWRC Ontology Specification – 0.99.6
The CWRC Ontology Specification (at version 0.99.6 as of this posting) is an excellent example of a thoughtful technical specification showing the process of both creating methods for standardizing data while grappling with the difficult process of distilling human experience into data definitions. The intellectual context included in the robust documentation would be helpful for any project dealing with questions of standardization in cultural heritage data. The ontology itself offers a rich vocabulary for literary study and history with a strong emphasis on representing concepts through careful gender and intersectional analysis. The ontology is a project of CWRC, the Canadian Writing Research Collaboratory, which “brings together researchers working with online technologies to investigate writing and related cultural practices relevant to Canada and to the digital turn.”
Archival Absence: The Burden of History / Ashley Glass-Falzetti
Beautifully argued and written, suggesting (and further analyzing) practices of marking absences in history, and it is quite productive for those in processing, cataloging, digitization, and system design to consider how they might mark absences. From the article: “At saakaciweeyankwi, the annual Myaamia language camp in Indiana, a non-Miami man showed up one evening to speak with elders. He hoped to learn more about the history of the land where his wilderness preserve is located. After some conversation, we figured out that he wanted some tidbits to put on signs around the property with Miami names for landmarks and maybe something about the Miami who lived there. After those of us who run the camp discussed our response, we told him that there is no doubt that Miami people lived on that land. Unfortunately, there are no Myaamia names for those landmarks because those Miami were either forced to migrate west of the Mississippi River or they were massacred. Either way, those particular place names were lost along with the names of the people who kept them. I sincerely suggested that he put that on a sign.” Falzetti analyzes the potential of similar such markers in archives and special collections, which has interesting implications for the design of digital collection systems.
Introducing Critical Race Theory to Archival Discourse: Getting the Conversation Started / Anthony Dunbar
An excellent introduction to and definition of key terms such as critical race theory, microaggression, and social justice, clearly linking those terms to core archival concepts and processes such as how one defines and structures an archival “record”.
“This article introduces the application of Critical Race Theory (CRT) to archival discourse in order to demonstrate how such a critical and analytical approach can help identify and raise social and professional consciousness of implicit racial bias. To demonstrate the potential of CRT, the paper discusses how the terminology and methodological structures of CRT might be applied to some aspects of archival theory and practice. The paper concludes that CRT can contribute to a diversified archival epistemology that can influence the creation of collective and institutional memories that impact underrepresented and disenfranchised populations and the development of their identities.”
Democratizing the Digital Collection: New Players and New Pedagogies in Three-Dimensional Cultural Heritage / Jane-Heloise Nancarrow
“Three-dimensional modeling and printing of museum artifacts have a growing role in public engagement and teaching—introducing new cultural heritage stakeholders and potentially allowing more democratic access to museum collections. This destabilizes traditional relationships between museums, collections, researchers, teachers and students, while offering dynamic new ways of experiencing objects of the past. Museum events and partnerships such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art “Hackathon”; the MicroPasts initiative; and Sketchfab for Museums and Cultural Heritage, encourage non-traditional methods of crowd-sourcing and software collaboration outside the heritage sector. The wider distribution properties of digitized museum artifacts also have repercussions for object-based and kinesthetic learning at all levels, as well as for experiential and culturally sensitive aspects of indigenous heritage. This article follows the existing workflow from model creation to classroom: considering the processes, problems, and applications of emerging digital visualization technologies from both a museum and pedagogical perspective.”
‘Chuck a Copyright on it’: Dilemmas of Digital Return and the Possibilities for Traditional Knowledge Licenses and Labels / Jane Anderson and Kimberly Christen
An in-depth look at the history and considerations behind the development of the Traditional Knowledge labels, which pairs well with an investigation in to the TK Labels themselves. “This article focuses on the creation of an innovate network of licenses and labels delivered through an accessible, educational, and informative digital platform aimed specifically at the complex intellectual property needs of Indigenous peoples, communities, and collectives wishing to manage, maintain, and preserve their digital cultural heritage. The Traditional Knowledge (TK) Licenses and Labels answer a grassroots, global call by Indigenous communities, archivists, museum specialists, and activists for an alternative to traditional copyright for the varied needs of Indigenous communities and the cultural materials they steward. Local Contexts is a project and educational website dedicated to the production of new intellectual property frameworks for Indigenous materials that depart from colonial histories of collection and Western legal frameworks.”
See No Evil / Miriam Posner
Software helps companies coordinate the supply chains that sustain global capitalism. How does the code work—and what does it conceal? Posner’s article is both brilliant and approachable, investigating the ramifications of the modular design of supply-chain software: the modular design of both the code and the supply chain make it impossible to fully know what happens at all levels of the supply chain, and thereby makes it impossible to ensure fair labor practices. This article pairs particularly well with discussions of object-oriented programming models.
Using Coyote to Describe the World / Sina Bahram, Susan Chun, and Anna Chiaretta Lavatelli
In November of 2015, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (MCA) launched a website with a rare accessibility feature. The website team had committed to making all of the images on the site accessible to the widest possible audience—particularly visitors with vision impairment—through visual description. To do so, the MCA worked with Sina Bahram and his team at Prime Access Consulting to develop a workflow tool, backing service, and API to support a distributed description workflow. The description project, Coyote, is an outstanding illustration of the principles of universal design, which argue that products designed to be useful to one community (in this case, people who are blind or have low vision) are likely to benefit a variety of users, not just those with disabilities. Invented to solve an unresolved need at the MCA and within the community, Coyote has in a short time expanded well beyond its original scope, bringing together a team of expert and poetic describers, passionate accessibility advocates, and open source developers and bringing needed attention to the ways that visual description might become a useful aspect of museum practice. In addition to discussing the policy, institutional, and technical implications around large-scale image description, (including both short and long descriptions), we also plan on presenting the latest enhancements, made possible by a museum technology grant from the Knight Foundation, to Coyote. These include a greatly enhanced representational model that can track visual descriptions of real world objects in addition to images, integration of concepts from the semantic web to facilitate rich search, the development of an organizational model that is used to offer a centralized Coyote instance to multiple institutions in a cloud-hosted version of the software, and enhancements to the Coyote API to facilitate broader third-party access such as Coyote being used for a treasure-hunt-like game based on visual descriptions.