Hard Habits to Break: Breaking Up with Colonial Research Attachments in Digital Research & Publication... or, Getting Over Compulsory Dispossessive Normativity
1University of Toronto, Canada; 2University of Toronto, Canada
This paper considers the colonial research methods that have marked and sustained academic scholarship as an affective orientation and attachment to the rewards of discovery, extraction, possession and hygiene. In our research and experience in the fields of transgender, feminist and queer (digital and analog) media and techno-culture, performance, art, activism and theory, we've come to recognise that our attachments to colonial research methods are more than rational and seem remarkably impervious to rational critique or undoing. We want to speak to an infrastructure - naming it for the moment, compulsory dispossessive normativity (borrowing from Adrienne Rich, Aileen Moreton-Robinson, Lisa Duggan) - of emotional and more-than-rational scholarly apparati of feeling that compel and reward intimate intellectual occupations. In particular, here we discuss the ways that the augmented scale of digital technocultural affordances, as they impact scholarly research and publication, make particularly apparent the imperial and colonial logics that continue to shape Western epistemologies, authorship and communications.
MEDIATED DEATH AND DIGITAL MARTYRDOM: ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS FOR VISUAL SOCIAL MEDIA RESEARCHERS
Queensland University of Technology, Australia
The digital mediation of visual content depicting death and martyrdom as a trope of resistance and contestation is increasingly employed within social media platforms by transnational activist cultures and popular social movements. I refer to this phenomenon as ‘digital martyrdom’. The emergence of digital martyrdom, and its memetic circulation within visual social media platforms, points to the materialisation of a new, affective and ritualised protest dynamic. Through which posthumous visuals become diffused, reappropriated and politicised within global publics. This raises new ethical implications and moral dilemmas for digital and visual social media researchers, and requires more reflexive and critical thought beyond established ethical considerations. Necessarily, this paper raises ethical questions and provocations for digital and visual social media researchers in relation to the design, collection, presentation and publishing of academic work in the context of death and posthumous imagery online. The questions presented in this paper have emerged out of a systematic study of this phenomenon, with a particular focus on case studies drawn from the Middle East, the United States and Europe. This paper argues that digital and visual social media research in this field merits specific ethical considerations and amplified scholarly deliberation. This is of particular importance for visual social media research that extends beyond a Western context and considers the cross-cultural, transnational dimensions of digital activism.
Applied Media Studies as Epistemic Infrastructure
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, United States of America
Recent turns toward materiality have influenced scholarship and pedagogy in Media Studies, Science & Technology Studies (STS), and Communication Studies. Often, these turns manifest in calls for “hands-on” humanities and social sciences practices that, as Kirsten Ostherr describes, “can be ‘applied’ to solving ‘real-world’ problems, while also establishing feedback loops that bring new lines of inquiry back to more theoretical research.” Like related scholarly movements in the digital humanities, Applied Media Studies engagements are often cast in the contexts of incorporating maker spaces, critical software labs, and hackathons into media pedagogy. However, if Applied Media Studies are to truly operate not as an “interdisciplinary bridge,” but rather as a force to resolve and heal the divides between computational/technical practices and interpretive/critical scholarship, we must begin to take seriously the kinds of epistemic-infrastructural contexts STEM disciplines are embedded in, as well as the understand the ideological histories that have shaped those contexts.
Ethnography of scanning: Archival digitization at the National Library of Israel
1University of Haifa, Israel; 2Columbia University
Over the last couple of decades, libraries, archives, museums and other cultural institutions have gradually begun to scan historical materials and convert them into digital objects. Scanning—this crucial yet mundane and overlooked human-computer interaction—shapes the ways in which archival sources will be preserved for future access. Following a tradition of studies that sought to open scientific black boxes (Bijker, Hughes, & Pinch, 2012; Winner, 1993), this ethnography of the National Library of Israel (NLI) suggests that contrary to the technical view of conversion, archival digitization is an ongoing, unresolved human endeavor in which on-the-ground decisions and practices actively shape the contours of future knowledges.
To capture this transition from the traditional-physical archive into the digital one, we conducted participant observation between 2013-2016 at the Digitization Center of the NLI and other archives digitized by the NLI. We sought to learn about the practicalities of converting analogue archival materials into digital formats by watching the interaction between humans and scanning machines. Analyzing the field notes, we find that digitization is mediated through human action. The cameras and the scanners, at the same time, are elements in a meta-discourse about digitization, signifying the NLI's expertise and performing accuracy. So, the seemingly technical, universal conversion of analogue to digital formats is in fact a manual, labor-intensive, performative enterprise conducted within local communities of practice that develop on-the-job standards.