Data, Ethics, and Society

“You take the blue pill—the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill—you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”

–”Morpheus”, The Matrix, 1999

The question of how technology shapes contemporary society is not a simple question. We live in an age of surveillance capitalism and struggle with the impact of technology on every aspect of our lives. While the contemporary conversation is dynamic, we have wrestled with this reality in humanities since the widespread impact of technology for decades. An introduction to the digital humanities should start with considering the meaning and values inherent to the impact of new ideas as embodied by technological innovation. In this way, we hope to call attention to how concerns about the humane have often loomed over digital humanities as a field. This concern with people and how they experience technology has a history and form that supersedes any particular technology and calls our collective attention to fundamental questions about the how and why of technological tools and their impact on society.


This section offers a broad set of materials that engage with the values, vision, and communities linked to technology. A basic history of the internet by Melih Bilgil opens this section, providing that basic information many students lack. Questions of gender and erasure of women’s contributions are offered by Sharon Leon’s “Getting Tenure in Digital and Public History, as a Non-Man”, while the challenges and opportunity linked to Black Digital Humanities approaches are considered by Christy Hyman in “Black Scholars and Disciplinary Gatekeeping” and Ravynn K. Stringfield in “Breaking and (Re)Making”. Black Digital Humanities emerged as a distinct subfield growing from the work of Dr. Kim Gallon. In her essay, “Making a Case for a Black Digital Humanities”, Gallon articulated a link between digital humanities and black studies to highlight how race is constructed. Jada Similton’s “A Black Data Architecture: An Exploration Data, Ethics, and Community in the Black Experience” offers a series of digital humanities projects that shed light on projects that enable “critical conversations about blackness” in the digital world. The implications of uneven experience created by racialized technological use are made clear by Safiya Umoja Noble’s examination of Google in her lecture, “Just Google It: Algorithms of Oppression”, Dr. Chris Gillard’s “Banking on Your Data: The Role of Big Data in Financial Services”, and Coded Bias, a documentary by Shalini Kantayya. The section concludes with a consideration of copyright and a list of digital data projects.



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

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