Posts Tagged Net Neutrality

Stop: Collaborate and Listen

Jan 26th, 2014 Posted in Public History | no comment »

Good, now you too can have a Vanilla Ice song stuck in your head. I saw a post on Facebook by a clever mom using the lyrics to “Ice Ice Baby” to get her children to clean their rooms. Sadly, the sentiment was probably lost on them. At least Vanilla Ice has house flipping on his resume today, I’m sure he’ll be financially fine – in case anyone was concerned.

But this post is supposed to be about Digital Humanities. I just read The Digital Humanities Manifesto 2.0, and couldn’t help but have that one song lyric stuck in my head the whole time; which is unfortunate, because I am not and never was a fan. But I digress. The Manifesto was written by a collaboration of over a hundred people, which is exactly what the digital humanities are about. ¬† The Manifesto states the digital humanities believe “that copyright and IP standards must be freed from the stranglehold of Capital.” An interesting comment for me to just now read, in light of recent news about “Net Neutrality” and its implications for the digital humanities, scholars, and not to mention genealogists (see article here). Digital humanities promotes a global community of researchers and scholars, which is also exactly the network in the genealogy community. The internet has facilitated the communication and ability to collaborate with and listen to others, as well as get across volumes of information in so many different forms that are continuously evolving. If Net Neutrality rulings empower the cable companies to dictate what content gets favored over others, what might the issues be for, as an example, the blog communities? Or those that share their family history with others in the hopes of connecting with someone else researching the same family, closing the distance gap? Genealogists and researchers rely heavily on their search engines to find the information they are looking for – perhaps a ruling such as this will foster the open source community to develop a search engine that can get around these limitations. But at the moment this ruling seems to go against everything the Digital Humanities Manifesto promotes. It brings back that question, “Who owns the internet?” Certainly not the cable companies/ISPs. Is the internet the last great frontier?

Image courtesy of Witthaya Phonsawat/

Image courtesy of Witthaya Phonsawat/

This controversy¬† is a great example of the need for public historians and the digital humanists to “seek to understand and interrogate the cultural and social impact of new technologies”¬† (Digital Manifesto 2.0) What is the cultural impact of the power given to ISPs to regulate the content delivered to its subscribers? Or is there one?

What about the cultural impact of this new public sphere that everyone can participate in? Scholars are no longer the only voice on a subject. Digital Humanities discussed the advent of Wikipedia, the quintessential example of an open source and creative sharing of information that embodies the digital humanities. It illustrates the issues facing the academic sphere – things will need to evolve for the classic university to remain viable! Already even knowledge sharing has opened up to the masses. You no longer need to be a degree holder to publish your knowledge – YouTube allows every Tom, Dick, and Harry to upload videos on whatever it is they know about, from car repair, to product reviews, to sharing recipes; right alongside the Harvard professor’s lecture on the Constitution. The internet has opened up a vast array of possibilities for cultural and academic pursuits. This poses the question of who owns the knowledge and who administers it and makes sure it’s right? Apparently ‘ownership’ is part of the issue surrounding the Net Neutrality controversy. But why does anyone need to own any of the internet or the content it contains? If there is concern that “just anyone” is doling out information (and I don’t know that it is a concern, it just came to mind while I was reading DH), then maybe we should look back on the so-called “correct” information we were given in grade school and high school about American history. Remember the Alamo? How about Washington and the cherry tree? Yeah. That’s what I mean.

One of the things I need to work on as I study the digital humanities is the visual aspect. I branched out on this new blog a little bit, I haven’t been using many photographs on my other blogs. But the visual – all the multimedia elements, really – is/are fundamental to the digital humanities. The possibilities for the dispersal of knowledge and data are endless in a digital environment.

"Wild Red Fox" Courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography/

“Wild Red Fox” Courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography/

"Hedgehog in a Glass" Courtesy of Sommai /

“Hedgehog in a Glass” Courtesy of Sommai /