Originally posted on the Scholars’ Lab blog on March 11, 2019.
Over on the Scholars’ Lab blog, Ammon Shepherd has been leading a series of collaborative blog posts about the challenges of archiving or preserving digital humanities projects. The first post in the series, by Ammon, is here.
With Ammon and UVA Library colleagues Lauren Work and Brandon Butler, I co-authored a piece of the second post in the series, which goes into the challenges of archiving DH projects in more detail. I recommend you read that whole post here, but I’ve also copied my piece (on the issues resulting from the humans that underlie all technology) below:
The human labor underlying technology is not easily sustainable; even when you have folks committed to the work, the kind and amount of labor required to maintain and update a project can shift away from what someone is willing or able to support, and external pressures (job changes, family, other projects, aging, retirement) also arise. I (Amanda, hi!) am particularly interested in how technical sustainability is impacted by the human labor of moderating online spaces, from my experiences moderating both my digital dissertation project Infinite Ulysses (a social platform for annotating/commenting on James Joyce’s novel) and the Digital Humanities Slack I started (a set of themed chat rooms with over 2,000 digital humanist members; co-moderated by Alan G. Pike, Sam Abrams, Alex Gil, Brandon Walsh, Ed Summers, Paige C. Morgan, Jeremy Boggs, Eleanor Dickson, Liz Rodrigues, and Erin Pappas).
Moderation is both the work of controlling spam and intentional harassment in a community, as well as designing and implementing practices such as a code of conduct to both address the negative and encourage positive community behaviors. It’s been exhilarating using technology to collaborate with folks I don’t know and create online communities together with them: if you’ve taught DH in the classroom, think of the students who respond along the lines of “DH is exactly what I do or want to do, I just didn’t have a term for it before” but expand them to include folks from all over the world and more diverse walks of life. But this work has also been a significant source of anxiety, balancing my responsibility to the community with my desire to help folks learn to be more positive influences on that community, and needing to enforce the line after which a community member cannot healthfully continue as a community member. That stress was largely why I moved Infinite Ulysses from a Drupal site allowing commenting, to a static archived version without commenting. (Relatedly, I’ve just blogged on some of the work I’ve been doing to make online moderation of academic communities more sustainable!)