Examining the Digital Humanities from a Geopolitical and Technocritical Perspective
Gimena del Rio Riande, a researcher at the Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET, Argentina), studies the development, use, and methodologies of scholarly digital tools, as well as how new scientific fields like digital humanities are ‘born’ in a country where technological issues are part of the social, cultural and economic context. At the upcoming XIX April International Academic Conference on Economic and Social Development, she will be giving a lecture entitled ‘Understanding Cultural Persistence and Change’.
Gimena del Rio Riande’s talk will be a reflection on digital humanities both from a geopolitical and a technocritical perspective, she said in an interview with the HSE News Service ahead of the conference during which she spoke more broadly on her research interests and ambitions. Some questions it addresses are: can we still talk about those so-called global digital humanities or should we focus on a regional or local scale? How does the technological development of a country impact on a scientific field in which digital infrastructures are needed when researching and teaching?
Building Collaboration with HSE
Gimena del Rio Riande has been part of the global digital humanities community for some time, which is how she met Dr Frank Fischer, who is now working at HSE. The two have collaborated on many European digital humanities projects together, and several months ago they met with a doctoral student, Tatiana Orlova, at the TEI Conference, an important event on the digital humanities that was held in Victoria, Canada.
‘We decided there that we should be doing more projects together, so we are also going to discuss ways of extending collaboration and projects in geographies that do not always appear in a central place in the digital humanities maps, such as Russia and Argentina,’ she said. ‘This is my first visit to Moscow, and I’m really interested in knowing more about research groups and projects on digital humanities in Russia…and visiting the city, which has always been one of my favourite literary destinations in my library’.
Gimena del Rio Riande works mainly with postgraduate students and researchers who have an interest in the humanities or social sciences, who often do not have equal access to technology and for whom the digital divide is a reality.
‘I am not teaching to millennials or to complete digital people, so I base my teaching in the idea of democratic digital humanities that can be “made” using open software and tools that take into account the situation of open access policies in Latin America, and that keep the idea of doing what “can be done” and not what others do in other latitudes’, she says. ‘We should all be focusing on a “think global, act local” speech for making digital humanities grow in non-Anglophone countries’.
Gimena del Rio Riande says she encourages students to start working with very intuitive tools and move on to more complex tools while also having a critical perspective on their work. She also encourages them to do a lot of research before starting their work in order to avoid ‘reinventing the wheel’.
‘Adapt, reuse, share, open should be part of their discourse and goals,’ she says.
Building a Digital Humanities Community
Since 2013,Gimena del Rio Riande has been creating and working with different digital humanities communities of practice in Latin America and Spain. A large part of her focus has been on Argentina, where she founded the Asociación Argentina de Humanidades Digitales (AAHD) and organized the first Digital Humanities Conference in 2014, which was held again in 2016 and will take place later this year for a third time.
‘I try to build bridges with other Spanish-speaking communities, so I co-founded the first Spanish digital humanities journal, the Revista de Humanidades Digitales (RHD), and the first digital humanities lab in Argentina, the Humanidades Digitales CAICYT Lab. I think I have achieved some goals in my region, although there are still many things to do!’ she says, noting that she learns a lot from her students and what they bring to class, including their previous experiences with technology or literature, as well as from what they want for their future.
‘It is a very different landscape from the scholars of my generation, who thought that we only had a future inside academia. My students envision research and work in other spaces outside universities,’ she says.
Gimena del Rio Riande says she always sleeps very little because she dreams a lot. ‘I believe that research today implies many more things than the digital,’ she says, ‘but digital technologies have completely changed the way we research and communicate our work. I think every researcher should be asking questions on the methods and tools he or she is using nowadays and how research would or would not be different without them.’
As for academia, Gimena del Rio Riande believes that there should be a critical examination of the epistemological, geopolitical, spatial, technological, and economic status of many countries considered as part the Global South, or others that are not part of the main Global North economy, as well as strategies for positively transforming scholarly communications on a global scale.
‘My dream is to work on a more equal and democratic conversation inside and outside the academy in relation to publication, technology, and access to knowledge,’ she says.
Anna Chernyakhovskaya, specially for HSE News service
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These days, no scientific research is carried out without the use of digital media for the production or dissemination of knowledge. The term ‘Digital Humanities’ reflects this process and constitutes a scientific field where humanists not only aim to use a certain software, but also to understand research using quantitative semantics. However, digital infrastructures are not the same globally. In her talk at the HSE April International Academic Conference Dr Gimena del Rio Riande addressed various issues that arise in connection with digital humanities.
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