Frankenstein’s Digital Monster: An Exploration of Community-Centered Digital Humanities Projects in Horror, Black Studies, and Gender Studies

An Exploration of Community-Centered Digital Humanities Projects in Horror, Black Studies, and Gender Studies

Nicole Huff

With an anxiety that almost amounted to agony, I collected the instruments of life around me, that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet. It was already one in the morning; the rain pattered dismally against the panes, and my candle was nearly burnt out, when, by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs.

How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe, or how delineate the wretch whom with such infinite pains and care I had endeavoured to form? His limbs were in proportion, and I had selected his features as beautiful. Beautiful! Great God!

Frankenstein, Mary Shelley, 1818


As someone invested in horror personally and academically, it seems fitting to use a Frankenstein analogy to the approach of this annotated bibliography and its contribution to both my project goals as well as to the understanding of community engagement in Digital Humanities. Like Victor Frankenstein, I have carefully chosen the features (projects) included in this annotated bibliography to create a unified body. Now, I seek to give life to this body. To animate my monster, I have included appendages that address the learning goals of the Digital Humanities minor with a focus on the theme/track of Community and Digital Humanities.

The major learning goals of the Community and Digital Humanities track at Michigan State University (MSU) is that a digital project must engage in culturally and socially responsible practices in community engagement and that the project must use Digital Humanities methods and practices to make a positive difference in a community (“Undergraduate Minor”). Thus, each project included in this bibliography utilizes Digital Humanities tools such as digitizing archives, blogging, and podcasting to ethically engage with particular communities and to make a positive impact on those communities. Further, the projects chosen all aim to create a space for marginalized people to come together and share thoughts and ideas as well as to provide open access to materials that may traditionally be blocked by paywalls or institutional access requirements. These projects each work to pull marginalized groups of people out of erasure using a digital platform, which also allows the creators to engage directly with the community they have created their projects for. While these projects all fit within the theme of Community and Digital Humanities, they also provide further exploration on how the stitching together of the digital and the humanities provides room for cross disciplinary and transdisciplinary work to be done.

The specific projects chosen for this bibliography are centered on a few topics that allow them to fit the Community and Digital Humanities theme and address its learning goals. The disciplinary topics engaged within these projects include Black studies, horror studies, horror fandom, queer studies, film studies, and women’s studies. These disciplines serve as the appendages to my own monster: a bibliographic website showcasing Black women and Black queer folks in horror. Each of these projects contains a particular method, style, or user interface that I find conducive to the creation of my project. By exploring these projects and focusing on how they engage with communities, I have picked out methods and approaches that I think are particularly helpful for assuring that my own future project also fits the theme of Community and Digital Humanities through community-driven digital practices and methods. While the first iteration of my project will be mostly archival in nature, I aim to develop it into a transdisciplinary space for discourse between those within and outside of academia as well as to emphasize open access to materials as many of the projects I have included in this list have done. Thus, the many appendages I have selected from queer, horror, Black history, and feminist digital bodies are sewn together to breathe life into my future monster by providing a blueprint for community-engaged Digital Humanities work.


Black Perspectives

Black Perspectives

This project serves as a medium for scholars who wish to share research on Black culture, history, and thought. When this project began, it only had about twenty regular contributors but has grown to include fifty regular contributors, plus guest authors. I chose this project as it has very specific requirements for submitting blog posts and roundtable ideas that emphasize the medium being for a general audience. In other words, it requires that its contributors use plain language or to provide definitions for concepts and ideas that a general audience may not be familiar with. For the purposes of my own project, I find this requirement for “plain language” a very useful model as I’d like to make my project suitable for a more general audience that would include Black fans and enthusiasts of horror as well as horror studies, queer studies, and feminist studies scholars.

Another reason I chose to include this project is because it has an established system and process for managing contributions. Specifically, the established and consistent contributors that are listed as “regulars” create a systematic way to keep contributions flowing and to create a peer editing system that can engage the contributors and editors. While this project’s goals of disseminating Black thought in a digestible way for a wide array of people mirrors my own similar goals, it should be noted that all of the listed regular contributors are scholars associated with an institution, which seems somewhat counter-productive for a medium targeting general audiences. Although this model for regular contributors seems like a significant model for maintaining constant content, I would like to expand to include those from the publics I am targeting that do this work outside of the academy to contribute blog posts to my own project. Overall, I find this digital project helpful in its system for maintaining content and for its specific requirements for that content to be more public-facing writing. Further, this project befits the Community and Digital Humanities principles and goals by using a digital platform to disseminate Black thought in “plain language”, which makes a positive impact on the Black community by providing access to thoughts and ideas that are normally shared within the walls of institutions.


Graveyard Shift Sisters

Graveyard Shift Sisters: Purging the Black Female Horror Fan from the Margins

Blackwell states in a more recent update to their site that it now operates as more of an archive of written work/scholarship on Black women in the horror (and sometimes science fiction) genre (Blackwell). However, the site began as a blog to create space for Black women in horror including fans, scholars, and creators. Currently, this site doesn’t have any stated regular contributors other than Blackwell, but it appears that these blog posts engage with other scholars and fans from the field in interviews as well as guest postings. The premise of this project echoes my own as I would like to create a space for scholars and enthusiasts to discuss Black women and Black queer folks in the horror genre. Thus, one part of this project that I’d like to emulate would be the content of the blog posts by directly engaging both scholars and enthusiasts in interviews and in guest-spot postings. However, I’d like this to be a peer-reviewed process which would involve having more than just me as the sole contributor to the site’s content. Further, I’d like to take up the blog postings as a secondary or even tertiary step in the building of my site as it would build off some of the bibliographic material that will be foundational to the project.

Another aspect of this project that contributes to the understanding of how I will frame my own project is the evolution of it. The evolution from a blog for discussion on Black women in horror to an archive of scholarly work on Black women in horror seems similar to my own plan in building out my website. However, I believe my website will start as more of an archive before it begins engaging with direct scholarship as a means for keeping the project accessible to those outside of academia who are simply interested in the creative works out there by and about Black women in horror. Overall, this site is very conducive to the understanding of my project but there are a few formatting things I’d do differently. Specifically, I’d like to assure that my site is easy to navigate, and that pages do not seem hidden. This site also engages with the theme of Community and Digital Humanities as it uses digital humanities tools, mainly blogging, to create a discourse community that will create a positive impact on the audience by allowing people to both engage with this discourse and take part in it.


Hashtag Lovecraft Country

#LOVECRAFTCOUNTRY: Primary Sources and Published materials at Penn State

This project provides access to and description of primary sources used or mentioned in each episode of the HBO series Lovecraft Country. For instance, under the “Episode 1: Sundown” page, there is an explanation of the history of the Green Book with direct links to scans of it as well as other texts and sources mentioned in the episode from Penn State’s special collections. While this is an academic-based project, it also has the possibility of reaching those outside of the academy such as people who watch the show and may have further questions about references made in each episode. This project provides open access to the mentioned sources by linking users to items in Penn State’s special collections, which also makes the show more accessible to viewers who will be able to understand the references made by being able to access them through this project. Thus, the project digitizes a physical collection and makes it accessible to a public who might not normally have access to it, which creates a positive impact on those publics and communities, thus putting the project in line with the Community and Digital Humanities minor track at MSU as well.

I’ve included this project due to its specificity because it focuses on a particular horror work that I am interested in including in my own future project. Further, the use of direct links to copies of the material mentioned is also something I’d like to take up in my project. The direct link to the materials mentioned helps make special collections and other works often kept behind a paywall or confined to the academy more open access, which is an overall goal of my project.

One thing about this exhibition that may not be as conducive to the goals I have for my project is its sustainability plan. Specifically, this project appears to begin and end with Lovecraft Country and, while this creative work has proved important in thinking about America’s racialized history and attention-grabbing for viewers, the project does not go further than the confines of the show. While this was most likely a goal of the creators of the exhibit, my own project will be something a bit more ongoing in that it will have many creative works included. Further, I am a bit concerned about links to resources being kept-up-with and I would have to assure a system myself to make sure that links do not expire, and so everything is housed somewhere that they are always accessible.


Black Film Archive

Black Film Archive

This project serves as an archive for Black films from 1915 to 1979 that are available for streaming and is updated at the beginning of each month to assure that the films are actively available. Cade explains that the purpose of this project is to make Black cinema more accessible and to showcase the variants in Black cinema. According to Cade, the collection stops at 1979 because, “After the commercial failure of The Wiz (1978), Hollywood studios used it as a reason to stop investing in Black cinema. The 80s ushered in an era of Black independent filmmaking that makes 1979 feel like a natural stopping point” (Cade). Overall, this project aims to provide access to Black films that are often overlooked, misrepresented, or simply not represented at all. Thus, the project engages a community that often does not receive credit for their innovations in film, which positively impacts the community it serves by re-casting these works into the spotlight.

Further, Cade allows those engaging with the project to play a part in the content it holds by allowing people to reach out about new or missing films that could be added to the archive. The direct engagement with the community the project is aimed toward is one of the parts of this project I strive to emulate in my own, as I would also like the audience my project reaches to have input in what they have access to. Another aspect of this project that inspires my own is the format and accessibility of the project/site itself. For instance, films are organized by both genre and year so that those interacting with it can easily navigate it. The site is also very mobile-friendly. Easy navigation of a project such as this one makes it all the more impactful on the community it engages. Overall, I find this project both beneficial as a model for creating my own archival-esque site and in its community-centered nature.


Crunk Feminist Collective

Crunk Feminist Collective

According to the project’s mission statement, The CFC aims to articulate a crunk feminist consciousness for women and men of color, who came of age in the Hip Hop Generation, by creating a community of scholars-activists from varied professions… (Cooper and Morris). Thus, the project has specific aims to better the community it is reaching—to create awareness of feminist consciousnesses for hip-hop fans, scholars, and those who are growing up in the hip-hop generation. Further, this project aims to create a discourse between the people of these various perspectives as well as support other Black feminist ideas through blog posts and by establishing a rhetorical community. By harboring a space for the hip-hop and Black feminist communities to come together, this project creates a positive impact on the community that it serves and reaches by encouraging coalition as well as it provides access to intellectual Black and hip-hop feminist think-pieces and reviews through its open-access format.

The accessibility to scholarly commentary on pop culture works is something that inspires my project as I hope that later iterations of my project contain intellectual and scholarly commentary from a Black feminist lens on Black horror. The desire to provide open access to intellectual work both in my own project and in the aims of the Crunk Feminist Collective’s project produces a couple of results: 1) it disseminates knowledge that those outside of the academy may not have access to; 2) it encourages community-building in showing a bridge between two overlapping modes of thought (Crunk and feminist and Black women and horror). Overall, the Crunk Feminist Collective’s project serves its target audiences (the Black community, the feminist community, and the hip-hop community) by encouraging exchanges of ideas by those inside and outside of the academy. Further, this project provides a blueprint for the rhetorical model I’d like to take up in my own work that creates discourse between these communities through blog posts and online discussion. More importantly, this project fits the theme of community engagement in the digital humanities in its attempts to create positive change in the communities it targets.


Horror Homeroom

Horror Homeroom

The Horror Homeroom project houses blog posts, podcasts, reviews, and special issues on all forms of horror works. The editors are also the regular contributors to the project as they have three podcast series, multiple blog posts, and written reviews of current and older horror works. In these various modes, the creators aim to discuss what they find important and interesting in horror and to allow other fans and scholars to participate as well. They allow guest postings with specific criteria for that process. Specifically, hopeful contributors must submit their pitch or draft with embedded links and photos so that readers can easily navigate the references made as well as the posts are shorter (between 600-1100 words), which appeals to a wider audience.

Like the other projects on this list, Horror Homeroom takes on both scholarly and enthusiast-based work to target both horror scholars and horror fans. One of the most community-engaged parts of this project is the “When the Woman Screams” podcast series in which they spend each episode looking at a specific woman’s scream from a horror film or show and discuss what this scream “suggests about the social and political context in which it was created” (Erwin). This work within this project fits the theme of Community Engagement in the Digital Humanities as it sheds light on social and political issues that both shape the horror works and are being questioned by these same works of horror. Thus, the horror community (scholars and non-academics) are benefited by this project as they are asked to think deeper about the roles of women in horror and what things horror has to offer for women as possible forms of resistance. Moreover, this project demonstrates a desire to build community between academics and non-academics by creating a discourse around both new and old horror works of all kinds. As it relates to my own project, Horror Homeroom serves as a solid reference for how to open the floor for those interested in the topics to participate in discussion of them in an easy-to-access way. Further, the user interface of this project is very straight forward with an easy-to-navigate toolbar and hyperlinks to references, which is another format I will engage in my future project.


LGBT Studies in Video

LGBTQ Studies in Video [MSU Authorized Users]

This project serves as both a survey and an archive of films documenting the lives of LGBTQ people, the evolution of LGBTQ politics, and LGBTQ history. The project contains documentary footage, interviews, and feature films and is primarily partnered with Frameline, a nonprofit that created the San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival. This project is available for free to those with an academic institution library proxy as well as it’s available to the public through a one-time fee for the purchase of the rights to the collection.

By pulling together LGBTQ films into this single archive, this project creates a positive impact on queer and gender studies, film studies, and on the LGBTQ community outside of the academy by bringing these often-erased works out of the margins. While there is a paywall for those without institutional access, the fact that they offer a 30-day free trial still provides people with the opportunity to utilize it. Allowing these films to be accessed by anyone within or outside of the academy opens these films to wider dissemination and thus creates a positive impact on the multiple communities it serves and targets by providing access to knowledge on the LGBTQ community, their history, and their political evolution.

As a digital humanities project, the LGBTQ Studies in Video project is also easy to use for those who are not computationally savvy as it does not require any additional software downloads and only requires someone to have their internet browser open. Thus, this project engages in culturally and socially responsible practices that consider what technology people may or may not have access to as well as it strives to make a positive impact on the community it engages with. Overall, this project’s commitment to community engagement is something I strive to replicate in my own project by bringing together a collection of works centered on and created by Black women that are often looked over or pushed aside. I hope to make my future site as easy to access and use as the LGBTQ Studies in Video project.


Black Lesbian Archive

Black Lesbian Archives

Another archival project, The Black Lesbian Archives serves to fill the gap in the digital representation of the Black lesbian community by creating a space to house Black lesbian stories. The project includes photos, articles, posters, videos, and more documenting Black lesbians’ lives, work, and history. Maekdo explains that the project is meant to serve Black Lesbians, allies and the LGBTQIA+ community to submit Black Lesbian Archives… (Maekdo). Therefore, the project not only aims to represent Black lesbians, but it is also informed and directly impacted by the contributions of Black lesbians and other members of the LGBTQIA+ community as well as allies of those communities. Thus, this project undertakes an ethical approach to community engagement by allowing the community for which it wants to represent and provide knowledge about to submit archival materials as well as to engage with the materials already on the site.

Maekdo’s site also includes a few mini-projects such as the “Digital Archival Project,” in which they are actively working on digitizing physical archival material to make it more accessible. To do so, they are encouraging their publics to collaborate with them in any way they can. This fits with their overall mission/website tagline [T]o build Community,and to [E]ducate and preserve our Culture (Maekdo). In these mini-projects within the larger project of the archival site, Maekdo fosters positive change in the community by encouraging coalition between communities and by showcasing underrepresented stories and lives making the project befitting of the Community and Digital Humanities ideals of both engaging in socially and culturally ethical practices of community engagement as well as in the project’s ability to make a positive change within the community it serves. This open-access archive also mirrors the work I’d like to do in my project by encouraging communal exchange of information through direct community engagement (encouraging submissions). The user interface is also particularly easy to use with a toolbar for easy navigation as well as it is engaging by using a continual slideshow of some archival materials included in the project at the heading of the homepage. Thus, the user interface of this project as well as its overall community-driven content approach are methods that I could use to sustain my project and to encourage more engagement with it.


The Future is Afrofemme

The Future is Afrofemme

Lawson’s in-progress project serves as a digital archive for [D]ocumenting what black women, femmes, GNCs, nonbinary, and feminine-adjacent people think about the future (Immersive Realities Labs). This project’s current iteration focuses on collecting the perspectives of black women, femmes, GNCs, nonbinary, and feminine-adjacent people about the future and what they think Afrofuturism is. To enter the site, one must provide information about themselves and answer what they think Afrofuturism is in a text box. After answering the question, you must input your email address which demonstrates your agreement to being committed to an afrofemme future. After this, you are subscribed to a newsletter to receive updates on next stages of the project. This first stage serves to make the voices of participants heard by sharing their perspectives of what Afrofuturism means as well as showing their commitment toward the afrofemme future they have agreed to.

While there aren’t current updates on what the next stage of the project will be, the goal of creating a digital archive of the afrofemme future by considering the perspectives of those who have supported and engaged with the project on what the future may look like makes the project community-centered. In other words, the project wants to both inform the community through future archival materials as well as be informed and shaped by that same community. By creating this discursive relationship between the community and the project, The Future is Afrofemme project participates in culturally and socially ethical community engagement.

As an interface, the first stage of the project is very easy to use as clicking almost anywhere on the first page takes you directly to the forms that need to be filled out and those forms are easy to follow as well. While I think that the interface is fairly simple to use, it seems important to include some information about the future of the project somewhere on the site. Therefore, in my project, I will be sure to clearly outline the stages of the project so that it does not seem like information is missing or that the site is incomplete so that my audience will know how to engage with it. The Future is Afrofemme project demonstrates some of the goals of my project in that it is informed by the perspectives of the community it serves.


The Queering Slavery Working Group

The Queering Slavery Working Group

This Tumblr page and digital project serves as a space to [D]iscuss issues related to reading, researching, and writing histories of intimacy, sex, and sexuality during the period of Atlantic slavery (The Queering Slavery Working Group). Further, the project both serves as an archive and discussion space for those engaging in Black and queer studies as well as anyone who wishes to learn more about this history. However, contribution to the page is geared toward scholars. To garner these contributions from other scholars, namely queer and trans scholars, the creators have linked a Google Form to their “About” page that allows scholars to express their interest in working on the project in a number of ways (sharing work, discussing materials, leading workshops, contribute to an on-going bibliography, etc.). Thus, this project takes on a community-centered approach that allows the scholars interested in the material to shape the project itself. Further, by encouraging collaboration with queer and trans scholars of color, the project aims to be socially and culturally ethical in what it includes and how it includes materials and discussions.

While the community-centered nature of this project is something I strive for in my own work, I am not sure I will restrict this to scholars only since my project’s focus also targets fans of the material as well as scholars studying it. However, the Tumblr interface is very easy to navigate and offers the ability to easily find older archived work, which is something I want to consider in later iterations of my project where blog posts and larger discussion will be included. Overall, the focus on a community-centered and community-accountable approach that this project takes harbors a space for discussion across disciplines and perspectives which can generate new ideas which creates a positive impact on the community it engages with.

Women in Science

Women in Science: Changing the World One Idea at a Time

Although the topic of this project does not necessarily align with my own or the others included on this list, I think its impact on the community it serves is important to note and provides insights to inform my future project. This project aims to provide access to texts by women scientists and biographies about those scientists. By providing direct access to these texts written by women in science, the creators are providing multiple communities with open access to texts that may normally be hard to find or kept behind a paywall; likewise, disseminating these texts highlights a demographic of people often not discussed in the history of science as a field. These efforts to re-cast works by women in science as well as to provide detailed biographies on them creates a positive impact on the communities the project serves by highlighting important works and innovations made by a marginalized group of people in science. Further, the open-access nature of the site allows those outside of academia to educate themselves on women’s impacts in science creating an impact that reaches outside of the academy.

The user interface of this project is easy to navigate, and each text is linked as either a .pdf or .jpg, making the texts accessible on both mobile and desktop internet browsers. By making the texts easy to access on multiple devices, the project can reach those who may not have the same access to technology as those with institutional connections may. However, the encouragement for contributions to this site is limited to MSU faculty and faculty from other universities. While this makes sense given the need for this material to be historically accurate, which often requires university ties and access to information, I’d like to avoid limiting contributions to my own project to only academics and those with institutional ties. Despite the contribution limitations, this project exemplifies a community engaged project in that it seeks to better multiple communities’ understandings of the impact women have had in science and brings women in science out from erasure.


It’s alive!

—Colin Clive as “Henry Frankenstein” in the film Frankenstein, 1931



Now that the electrodes are in place, the appendages stitched together, the monster can be animated. Although I look to create a monster, I hope that my monster differs from the one Shelley thought up in their novel. My monster will be nurtured, sustained, and treated with love so that it can continue to make a positive impact in the community (namely, the community of Black horror fans and scholars). By exploring the projects included in this bibliography, I have found methods for maintaining my monster, its happiness, and the happiness of those who encounter it. The blueprint these projects have created constitute a community engaged monster as opposed to one that is unloved and murders people like Shelley’s did. Specifically, the way each project takes up contribution, open-access materials, and the archive serve as the many beautiful limbs I’ve collected and sewn together for my monster’s body.

Special attention to how each of these projects approaches contributions and content management of their projects has provided valuable insights into how the Digital Humanities can be engaged with the community. For instance, the Horror Homeroom project welcomes contributions from anyone looking to explore works of horror and who wish to put their perspective into the world. This encouragement also includes those outside of academic institutions. The coming together of academics and non-academics creates a generative space that allows new ideas and approaches to the topic to emerge. Similarly, projects like Black Perspectives asks that contributors use plain language and avoid jargon so that they can maintain a wide readership. These very careful choices and guidelines for contributions to these projects assures that they will have an impact somewhere other than the academy as well as within the academy.

Another key takeaway from these projects is the emphasis on the open access of materials. For example, the #LovecraftCountry project provides direct links to texts and materials from Penn State’s special collections for references made in the television show Lovecraft Country. By providing easy-access to these materials, not only does the project encourage people to watch the show, but it encourages those who have already watched the show to dive deeper into the history it tells, thus, emphasizing the power of creative works on our society as well as educating people on an often-erased history.

Building on the emphasis of open access to materials, many of these projects engage in digitization of archival work. For instance, The Black Lesbian Archive was created to house various materials showcasing the erased stories of Black lesbians. To do so, the project creator encourages Black lesbians, allies, and other members of the LGBTQIA+ communities to assist in the digitizing of physical archival materials or to submit archival materials to the project that they come across. Thus, the project’s focus on making the archive digital becomes important community-impacting work.

These projects are all community-centered and community-driven in their focus on content contribution, open access to materials, and showcasing of archival material. Each project has a discursive relationship with their targeted publics and communities that help them sustain their projects while caring for their engaged communities. Based on their community-centered efforts, these projects reflect the minor track of Community and Digital Humanities at MSU as they each use Digital Humanities tools and methods to ethically engage with their communities while making impacts on those same communities. Overall, each of these projects exploring horror studies, queer and gender studies, and Black studies provides various parts and appendages I need to put together my body. Further, each of these projects has helped me begin to shock life into my own work by showing me approaches that will allow me to care for both my project and the community it engages.


Additional Works Cited

“Undergraduate Minor.” Michigan State University Digital Humanities.


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Making Sense of Digital Humanities Copyright © 2022 by Nicole Huff is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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