The DSRL’s mission is framed around inclusive and reparative scholarship about historical slavery and related themes. Slavery is a crime against humanity and has resulted in transgenerational traumas that shaped modern society resulting in racism, discrimination, persecution, physical injury, and death. Historical materials often render enslaved people nameless and silenced. Primary sources, whether oral or written, mostly reflect skewed perspectives that support systems of power imbalances, racist ideologies, and the commodification of human beings. It is paramount to consider unethical implications of referring to numbered lists of people obtained from such sources as “data,” a term frequently used in computer sciences and by extension its application to digital humanities. DSRL is committed to regenerating digital identities of enslaved people and their forced migrations in a respectful, humane, and ethical framework, which we hope will reconstruct deeper analyses of global history.
Digital training and skills development are integral components to DSRL initiatives. We strive to pursue a variety of sources in multiple languages, read against the grain of dehumanizing biases, and discuss diverse positions within larger power systems. Our international and interdisciplinary team engages with academics, independent researchers, and students of diverse cultural and religious backgrounds, gender orientation, and educational attainment. To observe best practices that underpin digital knowledge mobilization, all researchers who are involved in any phase of DSRL projects are duly identified, suitably compensated for completed work whenever appropriate, and wherever possible, acknowledged in project histories, academic publications, and social media. We are transparent in our research activities and funding primarily supports faculty and student salaries, technological support, and resource acquisitions.
DSRL works collaboratively with descendant communities to implement best practices that respect the legacies of enslaved children, women, and men. Any digital identities generated at this lab are intended as open source under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International license, although we respect copyright and the wishes of descendant communities who may or may not want any digital identities to be freely and openly shared. In partnership with Walk With Web Inc., DSRL observes versions of the “Collaborators' Bill of Rights” because individual scholarly contributions are important to credit within larger digital projects, especially by emerging scholars. We also consider Digital Accessibility Programs as per the Americans with Disabilities Act and aim to develop low-weight HTML versions of our digital projects for increased usability elsewhere in the world with unstable internet connectivity.
We welcome recommendations to improve our ethical principles as we continuously reflect upon best practices in digital humanities research.
Statement of Ethics Resources:
- Boyles, Christina, Anne Cong-Huyen, Carrie Johnston, Jim Mcgrath, & Amanda Phillips, “Precarious Labor and the Digital Humanities,” American Quarterly 70, 3 (2018): 693–700.
- Clement, Tanya, et al., “Collaborators’ Bill of Rights,” Off the Tracks: Laying New Lines for Digital Humanities Scholars, http://mcpress.media-commons.org/offthetracks/part-one-models-for-collaboration-career-paths-acquiring-institutional-support-and-transformation-in-the-field/a-collaboration/collaborators%E2%80%99-bill-of-rights/.
- Di Pressi, Haley, Stephanie Gorman, Miriam Posner, Raphael Sasayama, & Tori Schmitt “A Student Collaborators’ Bill of Rights,” in HumTech Blog, Los Angeles, Center for Digital Humanities, https://humtech.ucla.edu/news/a-student-collaborators-bill-of-rights/, (accessed 2021).
- Foreman, P. Gabrielle, and Jim Casey, et al., “Colored Conventions Project Principles,” Colored Conventions Project, https://coloredconventions.org/about/principles/.
- “Ethical Commitments,” On These Grounds, https://onthesegrounds.org/s/OTG/page/ethical-commitments.
- Imbler, Sabrina, “Training the Next Generation of Indigenous Data Scientists: A New Workshop Explores the Right of Indigenous People to Govern the Collection, Ownership and Use of their Biological and Cultural Data,” New York Times, 29 Jun. 2021.
- Johnson, Jessica Marie, “Markup Bodies: Black [Life] Studies and Slavery [Death] Studies at the Digital Crossroads,” Social Text 36, 4 (2018): 57–79.
- Liboiron, Max, et al., “Anti-Colonial Science,” Civic Laboratory for Environmental Action Research (CLEAR), https://civiclaboratory.nl/2017/12/29/feminist-anti-colonial-science/.
- Wilkinson, Mark, Michel Dumontier, et al., “The FAIR Guiding Principles for Scientific Data Management and Stewardship,” Scientific Data 3, 160018 (2016): 1-9, online access: https://doi.org/10.1038/sdata.2016.18. See also “FAIR Principles,” GO FAIR, https://www.go-fair.org/fair-principles/.
- “Information and Technical Assistant on the Americans with Disabilities Act,” ADA.gov, https://www.ada.gov/.