Digital Humanities Conference Keynote: Tim Sherratt and History

Tim Sherratt (@wragge; famous for “The Real Face of White Australia” project) gave the final keynote on “Unremembering the Forgotten” at the Global Digital Humanities Conference on July 3, 2015. He discussed memory and how certain information is considered important and worth remembering, and other info is discarded. He also provided several examples of Twitter bots that automatically tweet and can be powerful reminders of history that might otherwise be forgotten.

Some of the highlights were:

  • Problematizing the WWI Centenary
    • Ernest Rutherford and others were subsidized to travel to Australia during WWI, while German scientists in Australia were interred with many others because believed to be spies.
    • Commonwealth Handbook called Aboriginals the most backward race.
    • Celebration of the centenary does not deal with the legacy of racism. A half billion Australian dollars have been spent on activities, caught up with issues of nationhood and identity.
    • How are other deaths memorialized? What about worker deaths? Or childbirth deaths? Could we use Trove to learn about other deaths not being celebrated?
  • Memory
    • Fragmentary, uncertain, and colored/clouded by context.
    • Not like a query where you get the same answer every time.
  • Access
    • We think of it like a searchbox, but really it constrains us and constructs things (control not liberation) [Google’s algorithms].
    • Open Access vs. Closed Access: how can you have closed access?
    • Cannot simply be given; at some level it has to be taken.
    • Is political.
    • Data is not just a product of government, but an instrument of power.
  • Example of Practical Tools
  • Takeaway: It’s not about making things; it’s about making a difference.