Journal 5 – Digitization Fundamentals

American Research Libraries (ARL) Code of Best Practices for Fair Use infographic
American Research Libraries (ARL) Code of Best Practices for Fair Use infographic

Our fifth and final day of class was split into two parts: a class session in the morning, and “show and tell” in the afternoon. There was also a lecture on the ethics of digital humanities research in the afternoon. In the morning we discussed the problem of copyright in digital humanities projects, and also the question of code literacy.

Copyright is certainly a tricky thing to figure out, and sadly there are no solid answers except for court judgements. There are, however, some guidelines that can be followed for fair use, or fair dealing practices. The notion that no one can really tell you what is, or what is not, a copyright violation can have a chilling effect on academic scholarship. Important for our discussion was that academics can rely on fair use legally. Following a set of best practices can help ensure that works under copyright remain protected, while also allowing for new and innovative scholarship.

The second portion of our discussion on code literacy was even more contentious than questions of fair use. The night before we watched, or rather listed to, a roundtable discussion posted to Rhizome’s Vimeo page. Although the audio was terrible, the discourse was quite interesting. At the heart of the matter was defining “code literacy” — is it a scientific or technical goal, focusing on engineering and programming aspects — or is the objective humanistic, centering on the idea that code is everywhere in our modern lives and that we have the power to direct or our own futures, digital or otherwise?

There was no clear answer of course, it was more so a point of reflection on digital technology and DH overall. As we worked through the week in Digitization Fundamentals, we learned technical skills and we also learned how to use those skills for creative and meaningful production. Balancing these two facets of code literacy, the scientific and the humanistic, will remain a central feature of our digital projects to come.