The Collaboration Between Humanism & Technology

By: Skylar Locke

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In the introduction of Roopika Risam’s novel, New Digital Worlds: Postcolonial Digital Humanities In Theory, Praxis, and Pedagogy, Risam focuses on this central idea that “humanities and sciences can meet as equal partners in digital humanities” to create a new digital realm that is diverse, culturally inclusive, and does not reproduce the racist, sexist, and biased ideas embedded in our museums, libraries, education systems, etc (Introduction, 21). 

Before technology was invented, people depended on the foundation of literature, music, art, philosophy, and history to educate themselves. I will refer to this level as the foundation of humanism. This level is dominated by White men that have the power to decide what stories and information can be learned. This created a level that has predominant issues of racism, sexism, and single perspectives that are extremely biased and limit the reality of people’s lives.  After technology was invented, the foundation of humanism began to be transcribed into a digital cultural record that consists of online databases, virtual libraries and museums, interactive maps, etc. Risam states “the opportunity to intervene in the digital cultural record⸺to tell new stories, shed light on counter-histories, and create spaces for communities to produce and share their own knowledge should they wish⸺is the great promise of digital humanities” (Introduction, 5). Instead of taking the foundation of humanism that is embedded with single stories and reproducing it to the digital cultural record, Risam wants to create a digital world that is filled with multiple, complex stories that is culturally inclusive.

As I was reading Risam’s introduction to her novel, I was reminded of this danger that Chimamanda Adichie portrays in her TED talk as “the danger of a single story”. According to Adichie, the danger of a single story is “[showing] a [person] as one thing, as only one thing, over and over again, and that is what they become.” In the foundation of humanism, White men created stories that only show certain races and people as “one thing, over and over again”. Risam does not want this bias to continue into the digital cultural record. In Risam’s introduction, she states “the digital cultural record is in danger of telling the story of humanity from the perspective of the Global North” which will result in cultures “whose languages are underrepresented, histories are suppressed, and stories are untold” (Introduction 4,6). Risam believes that in order to push against these single stories embedded within our history and literature, we must change what proceeds into the digital record. 

After doing further research on Roopika Risam, I came across a blog post that was written in response to a workshop and lecture that was given by Risam. The writer of this blog added a quote from Risam that I wanted to share with you all: “If we want to be sure that communities who have typically been marginalized in knowledge production are part of the digital cultural memory of humanity, we have to do the work to put them there. And we can do it – with our knowledge in the humanities, with attention to the ethics of curation, digitization, and display. We can create usable digital projects that expand representation and that are contextual, pedagogical, and informed” (Losh).

Discussion Questions:

  1. In Risam’s introduction, she mentions a couple of digital projects that have been created to help educate people on certain social problems. For example, the twitter #blacklivesmatter, the twitter #prmapathon, The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, and Mapping Inequality: Redlining in New Deal America. What other digital projects have been done? If you do not know any, feel free to do some research on this question.
  2. If you were to create a digital project such as a map or a hashtag to start your own digital movement that would help diverse society, what would you create and why?
  3. Before reading the introduction by Risam, did you believe that humanities and sciences were two separte things that should not be combined? If so, how has your perspective changed after reading the introduction and my blog post?

Work Cited

Adichie, Chimamanda. “The Danger of a Single Story”. TED, July 2009.

“Introduction .” New Digital Worlds: Postcolonial Digital Humanities in Theory, Praxis, and Pedagogy, by Roopika Risam, Northwestern University Press, 2019, pp. 3–21.

Losh, Liz. “Roopika Risam on Digital Humanities and Social Justice.” Roopika Risam on Digital Humanities and Social Justice, 3 Apr. 2017,

12 Replies to “The Collaboration Between Humanism & Technology”

  1. Hi Skylar,
    great post! I really liked all the points you made, especially the relation to Adiche’s TED talk. As a person who is deeply involved in the humanities, I had often been a big advocate that all fields need to work together as we continue to figure out this digital age. As Risam mentioned in the article, ” the fraught space of the internet requires attention to how we thoughtfully cultivate new communities to create new worlds in the digital cultural record”. In this sense, the humanities and the sciences need each other as we grow as a society. Risam’s points throughout the article only confirmed the things I knew to be true: all fields must work together to make a cohesive and successful environment for technology to thrive.
    In response to your question about digital movements, one movement that was followed heavily both online and in public, was the March for Our Lives movement. The young men and women from Parkland spread a message that got out to young people from all over, starting one of the largest anti-gun political movement of our time. This is just one example of how much can be done online for political movements. Overall, this was a really great post with a lot of interesting points and connections!

  2. Hi Skylar, I enjoyed reading your post! Before technology was created, individuals relied on music, art, literature, philosophy, and history to educate themselves. This demonstrates that white men had the authority to decide what stories and information can be learned. As a result, issues of sexism, racism, and biased ideas that were embedded into libraries and education systems (21). After technology was created, the foundation of humanism started turning into a digital cultural record. The author states, “ These “new” methodologies, however, are not conjured out of thin air by digital humanities practitioners, but are built on the histories and traditions of humanities knowledge production that have been deeply implicated in both colonialism and neocolonialism. In response, postcolonial digital humanities attends to the practices necessary for engaging faculty, librarians, students, and those employed by galleries and museums in the vital work of deconstructing these influences and remediating the digital cultural record.” (4). In addition, Risam does not want these biased ideas to continue. It wants to create a digital world that is culturally inclusive.Furthermore, it is important that all fields work together to make a successful environment so that technology is able to thrive. In response to one of your discussion questions, one movement that spread virally was the Me Too Movement. The hashtag was used online as an attempt to demonstrate the widespread of sexual assault.

  3. Hi Skylar,

    You had a great blog post here! I really liked that you did some outside research to enhance the topic that you spoke about- it really added to the emphasis on this topic. I think that the quote, ““[showing] a [person] as one thing, as only one thing, over and over again, and that is what they become.” (Adichie) is so critical. If a minority group, for example, is portrayed in a certain way by an individual or another group, it can be damaging to their reputation and mental state. Giving people a platform to come together and speak about something, comfortably, is extremely important in making all people feel validated and acknowledged. To answer your question, I think a good example of a movement that occurred was the Me Too Movement. This gave victims of sexual assault the opportunity to share their stories publicly, and served as an inspiration by many to not feel ashamed of telling their truths.

  4. Hi Skylar,
    I enjoyed reading this article very much and I think it accurately portrays the spread of various narratives and those who influence the spread of them in contemporary society. I specifically liked the part where you talked about how influential, wealthy, white men have shaped the narratives we hear today and how this limits the human experience. This makes me think of the lessons I’ve been taught in countless English classes that white men constantly control canonization of literature, which is why the majority of authors who are socially accepted are white men. If I were to create my own digital wormhole I would most likely educate people on the deaths of native American women and how they are never covered by the media. I would most likely do this through twitter as I believe it is the most prominent social media platform for our generation.

  5. Hi Skylar!

    I enjoyed your blog very much. I like how you included an image (that drew me directly to your blog) and how you included outside sources such as the TED talk and your further research on Risam. This allowed us to see other connection and know more about Risam.
    Before we entered the digital age it was books, art, music, etc. where people primarily expressed and educated themselves. Now we live in a world where a majority of society cannot live without a phone or some sort of technological device. We now use these resources to read/watch the news and together information about topics and people. However, the internet is hard to trust because you don’t know who is the face behind the screen that published that article and you do not know if all of the points made are accurate. Weren’t you ever told, “don’t believe everything you read on the internet”? I know this may just be something we say to our grandparents who tell you about this crazy article the read that could clearly never be real. But, the truth is, we need to listen to that. We do not know about everything that is put on the internet and typical a white male has control over everything. How are we about to have a white man tell us about African culture like he has experienced it first hand? Especially when minority groups are “disruptive to dominant cultures” (Risam, 14).
    This is where we must make a change. That is why I think a project including a powerful hashtag that can spread over all social media could be powerful. Just think of hashtags that are already so well known and made an impact like #blacklivesmatter or #endthestigma. These two hashtags widely known, people recognize them very well. I would want to focus on letting all people be recognized through hashtags like #beheard, #beseen, or something along those lines.

  6. Hi Skylar,

    Really well-thought-out blog post, especially the connection you made to The Danger of a Single Story, and how easy it would be to perpetuate that digitally even with platforms seemingly open to almost everyone. Your question about digital projects reminded me of the Native Land project to map out First Nations land in Canada and the United States, and to help inform people whose land they are on, to counteract the erasure of Native people from their own land and history. I think it’s important to remember space when we talk about the digital, placeless knowledge that’s becoming more and more common. When it’s possible to try to know everything while remaining distant from its origins, we’re likely to fall into the practices of, as Risam puts it, “devaluing black and indigenous lives and perpetuating the legacies of colonialism in the cultural and digital cultural records alike,” (14).

  7. Hi Skylar!
    I really enjoyed your blog post and I like all of the information you’ve used to support your argument. I like this concept Risam develops in this article which is the separation between beliefs and opinions. Through digital spaces, Svensson believes that it “needs to support and allow multiple modes of engagement between the humanities and the digital [to] maximize points of interaction, tackle large research and methodology challenges, and facilitate deep integration between thinking and making” (Introduction 16). Digital spaces can be used to create somewhat of common ground between people apart from different races and backgrounds.
    Before reading I did believe that humanities and science were two different things but after reading it’s interesting to see how they sort of work off of one another.

  8. A digital project that was created was the Me Too Movement to bring together survivors of sexual violence. This movement is to remind people that they are not along and bring people together. It also makes people more aware of sexual violence and gives them a place where they can reach out to people. It was founded in 2006 and was made to help people affected by this but it mostly was for women of color and for other young women from low-income communities.

  9. Hi Skyler,
    I really liked your blog post. It really made me think deeper than the article. I feel like before reading this article I never thought of of humanities and sciences being connected. I think taking these two different fields helps us with looking more throughly into the article. I feel like it also lets people use multiple different intelligences. This article and your blog post have overall changed how I think about this subject

  10. Hi Skylar! I enjoyed reading your outlook on the passage. Stories that were once told on paper are now being changed and put onto the internet, so it is easier to read, and it is also eco friendlier. The problems about books is that they most of the time pick a side, most books don’t talk about both sides of the story. If you were in a history class in America your books are going to say information about America and how we did everything right, Although if you look at English history books you may see how the English had a different education because their books say what is important for their country. In the article it stated, “whose languages are underrepresented, histories are suppressed, and stories are untold” (Introduction 4,6). This shows that we are living in our American perspective and we won’t see the world in a different way. Being able to understand our history while using technology is something that hasn’t been done properly because I don’t think we give a voice to the underprivileged countries and don’t learn about those countries.
    I think that one problem with bringing social media is being able to include everyone fairly in the history and not to force someone’s brain to think that one nation is bad just because it says it in a book or article.
    Countries all over the world have information that was not put into American textbooks because it either didn’t involve America or it made America look like bullies. I traveled to Amsterdam with my Brothers and when at one of their museums we saw that there was a whole entire war that we didn’t learn about in school or had no knowledge whatsoever.

  11. Hi Skylar!!
    What an insightful interpretation! I like how you brought in the topic of the danger of a single story. With all the technology we have today we are so able to see many different views and information. On the flip side, there are so many negative groups and algorithms against minority groups. This is very damaging for children because they are unable to see different things. The quote from the text“[showing] a [person] as one thing, as only one thing, over and over again, and that is what they become.” really highlights this in the way that if the internet is telling you you are x,y,z over and over again you will begin to believe it.

  12. Hey Skylar!
    You did an amazing job organizing your analysis of the reading and reciting the information in a new way throughout the blog post! My eyes automatically are drawn to the picture you posted of the tack of textbooks with he Kindle tablet laying on top. This picture really shows how the traditional act of reading a book and looking for information is replaced with technologies, such as the featured Kindle. Aside from killing trees and wasting paper, the new generation grew up with these advanced technologies rather than a traditional book so, naturally, they are more attracted to a device that can do the same work faster and better.

    I liked how you mentioned what came before technology, which was the fact that people depended on foundations of literature to further educate themselves, but the information that they learned from were again, controlled by dominant, wealthy white men. Due to their level of power, Risam revealed that they had control of what was said in these stories that people read and educated themselves with so, that is all they knew. These selected subjects that were learned by people in the past is what created the conflicts of racism, sexism, and class rankings. Risam argues that the digital world is still like this because these powerful white men who controlled our stories from history controlled it then and is still controlling it now and there needs to be change. I truly believe that we need a more diverse angle in the digital world which includes all perspectives of events and will teach the truth instead of a concealed story, which on most occasions, protect the wrongdoings of these white powerful male figures.

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