Blog Post 2

Consider the four literacies we discussed today (ethics, privacy, copyright, and licenses). How do these literacies affect your research and scholarship as historians or scholars? What surprised you about these literacies? What are some important considerations to think about before beginning a digital humanities project?

The four literacies we discussed in class affect our research and scholarship as historians and scholars because they signify the importance of being aware on what sources we are using and how much information is acceptable to use. For me personally, I never thought about these matters when I conducted scholarly research in the past; I just assumed that the information I found online was open to being used as long as I gave credit to the original source. To me, it seemed that if the author and publisher were able and willing to publish their work online where anyone could have access to seeing it, there wouldn’t be a need to question matters such as ethics, privacy, or licenses. I believe what surprised me the most was how many questions and concerns could truly arise from taking these literacies into consideration when researching historical topics and events, especially from an ethical standpoint. Understanding whether or not something is deemed sensitive or harmful to someone or a group of other people is essential in order to be respectful historians and scholars. An example of this comes from the “Protocols for the Treatment of Indigenous Materials,” and how the American Philosophical Society has placed restrictions on culturally sensitive sources even though they do generally allow free access to their materials. Although some may feel like it isn’t a big deal and argue that it’s “apart of history,” I believe it’s important to educate and remind ourselves to keep various sensitivities in mind when conducting research. This way we can still provide the same amount of knowledge to our audiences and also alter the way in which it’s perceived, so that the information can come from a respectful standpoint that wouldn’t hurt another person or culture. Aside from ethics, I believe some important considerations to think about before beginning a digital humanities project derives from the other elements of privacy, copyright, and licenses. Specifically, it is important to consider whether or not the topic you are thinking to research is sensitive or would show conflicts with one of the literacies. For me personally, copyright was always self-explanatory as I was taught in previous courses to always make sure I comply with the source’s rules and give credit to the original author for any of their information I implement in my research. Licenses would prevent sensitive information from being used which makes it essential to ensure that a person has permission to use their sources in order to avoid any legal consequences. Because of this I don’t believe I’ll have too many issues with these literacies, but privacy and ethics are a little newer to me, so I’ll have to make sure I keep them in mind. Specifically, privacy rules because I don’t want to accidentally leak too much information about the people involved in the topic I end up choosing if they prefer to be kept private. In the end, sensitive topics can still be researched in a respectful and thorough manner, but one would have to be careful and cautious with how they go about doing it in order to prevent conflicts with any of the literacies.

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