What ethics can offer the digital humanities and what the digital humanities can offer ethics

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Abstract

Digital technologies help researchers gather, analyze, store, and share data in novel ways. But how do digital humanists ensure that these new practices help us also achieve the good life and further moral progress? What new challenges does digital humanities research bring to our ethical values of the equitable distribution of knowledge, balancing risks and minimizing harms to research subjects and researchers themselves, and respecting autonomy? This chapter outlines key contemporary ethical questions that digital humanities scholars face today. These include dilemmas about the ethics of data storage and curation of cultural materials, consent of users in the context of big data research, data use and re-use, open-access and meeting moral obligations to share research outputs with non-academic communities, researcher reflexivity in scholarship, the ethical complexities of research funding while maintaining humanist ideals. While researchers have always wrestled with many of these ethical dilemmas, the particular characteristics of digital humanities scholarship and its contextual position in the academe raise novel facets. After describing some of the pressing ethical questions facing DH today around storage and curation, consent, data use and re-use, open access, reflexivity, and maintaining humanist ideals, this chapter argues that digital humanists, as part of their work, need to engage in what Brey (2000) describes as disclosive ethics. Disclosive ethics facilitates practitioners in identifying morally opaque facets of digital work, flagging situations in which our previous models of thinking fall short and helping us navigate moral vacuums when answers to these dilemmas are not readily available in rules or guidebooks. Disclosive ethical analysis can help researchers interrogate the embedded values of storage and curation, consent, data use and re-use, open access, reflexivity, and maintaining humanist ideals, with an eye to how we can refines these practices to uphold equitable distribution of knowledge, appropriate balancing of risks and minimizing harms to research subjects and researchers themselves, and respect autonomy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationRoutledge International Handbook of Research Methods in Digital Humanities
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Pages416-427
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9780429671746
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)

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