Tuesday 12 February 2019 – Ethics and Digital History Panel (Kelly Foster, Sharon Webb, Julianne Nyhan, Kathryn Eccles)

This seminar is 5:15 pm – 6:15 pm, 12 February 2019, in Room 203 (the John S Cohen Room), second floor, Institute of Historical Research. The IHR is in the North block of Senate House, University of London. Find Senate House on Malet Street, London, WC1E 7HU. It will also be livestreamed via our YouTube channel.

Session chair: James Baker

Methods and practices in digital history present ethical challenges: how we do share without imposing? how we do connect without exposing? how do we model without abstracting? how do we use material collected without the possibility of gaining consent? This panel brings together historians working in digital history to present reflections on their ethical practice. The ensuing panel discussion will ask what roles ethics plays in digital history work and what role it should play in the future and each of the speakers will discuss different aspects.

Dr Eccles outlines the challenges and opportunities of using social data to understand histories, and engagement with History, using both text and image. Just because we can access data, doesn’t necessarily mean that we should.  How do we justify these choices? This talk will discuss ethics in the context of data mining social media content, with particular reference to working in partnership.

Dr Webb will reflect on her current work with Queer in Brighton, a community organisation and project in Brighton, and on efforts to create a digital archive with community involvement. It considers some of the obstacles related to archiving content of this nature and highlights the necessity for institutions, like universities, to engage in programmes to support community archives whilst protecting their autonomy.

Dr Nyhan is drawing on her oral history research to reflect on the ethical aspects of using oral history methodologies to research the ‘hidden’ histories of Digital Humanities. Among other questions she will ask: who ‘owns’ oral history interviews and transcripts? What are the implications of being an ‘insider’ of the (academic) community one is seeking to research? What about the ethical issues that can occur ‘downstream’ of oral history research, for example, the use of contingent labour to provide research assistance and interview transcription?

Speaker Biographies:

Kathryn Eccles is a Research Fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute, a multidisciplinary department of the University of Oxford dedicated to understanding life online. Her work is largely focussed on the impacts of new technologies on public and scholarly engagement with cultural heritage. Current projects include Cabinet, a platform for deepening engagement with objects through 3D imaging and AR technology, and a Knowledge Exchange project with English Heritage examining the potential for using social media to understand engagement with heritage sites.

Kelly Foster is a public historian, working both online and “on road” as a London Blue Badge Guide. She is the chapter lead for Creative Commons UK and founding organiser of AfroCROWD UK, an initiative to encourage more people of African heritage to contribute to Wikipedia and it’s sister projects. She has worked with community/independent archives in London for over 15 years and is a founding member of TRANSMISSION, a collective of archivists and historians of African descent.

Julianne Nyhan is Associate Professor of Digital Information Studies in the Department of Information Studies, UCL, where she leads the Digital Humanities MA/MSc programme. Nyhan is also the Deputy Director of the UCL Centre for Digital Humanities and is on the Leadership group of the UCL Centre for Critical Heritage. She is currently finishing a book about the overlooked and devalued feminized labour that underpinned the Index Thomisticus project of Roberto Busa, whence Digital Humanities is believed to have developed.

Sharon Webb is a Lecturer in Digital Humanities at the University of Sussex, History Department and a member of the Sussex Humanities Lab. She is a digital humanities practitioner with a background in requirements/user analysis, digital preservation, digital archiving, text encoding and data modelling. Her current research interests include community archives and identity, with a special interest in LGBTQ+ archives, social network analysis (method and theory), and research data management. She holds a British Academy Rising Star Engagement Award 2018.

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