The Complexities of Free Speech

Freedom of speech, I believe, is one of the most complicated and messy issues facing the world today. I would like to look at the United States in particular, where the freedom of speech is “protected by the First Amendment”; however, it should be noted that these arguments can be applied to other countries as well.

On a broad scale, I don’t see freedom of speech being an amendment that means that we should be able to say whatever we want, regardless of its impact on other people. Many times, people use freedom of speech as a defense to be racist, sexist, homophobic, bigoted, and/or intolerant. The first instance that comes to mind is when Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson gave an interview to GQ where he made numerous comments that offended many people, while others chose to support his right to make such comments. The show ended up suspending/firing Phil from the show, and the internet exploded. There were people calling left and right for A&E to retract this decision, claiming that Phil was under attack and his first amendment rights were being violated.

I’m inclined to disagree.

Freedom of speech means that you cannot be prosecuted or arrested for your opinions. (And, if that were the case, most of the people on my Facebook feed would be in jail due to disrespecting the President of the United States.) It means that laws cannot be created that limit freedom of speech, expression, the press, and/or religion. In an opinion piece, CNN Contributor LZ Granderson writes: “You can say some stupid stuff … and the First Amendment will keep you from going to jail. But it is not a get-out-of-jail-free card in the eyes of society.”

Freedom of speech does not mean that there are no negative repercussions for stating your opinion. If you openly denounce a large portion of the public in an interview, on television, in a speech, anywhere, really, you’re opening yourself up to criticism and the negative repercussions that may come.

In this sense, then, the freedom of speech should not be limited in any way. People should be able to say what they want without being prosecuted for it. There should not be laws made that restrict freedom of speech. There have been too many cases in our history of restricting the right to speak of those who were not intending to cause harm to others (see: The Red Scare). If we begin to censor and restrict the right to speak or write, there’s no saying that the power that comes with that would get out of hand. Those who get to decide what is censored and what is not then become those who are in power, and those in power are then able to distribute the knowledge to the rest of the population. But if those who are in power are corrupt, or do not share our particular set of morals, the situation becomes much more complicated.

It would be nice to believe that we could make a blanket statement and say that certain things should be not allowed. And I think it’s fine to make those limits ourselves. For example, I tend to not be friends with people who don’t think women deserve equal rights. This is different, though, from making laws that say people shouldn’t be allowed to say certain things.

I would like to end this post as I began it: by reminding readers that this is an incredibly complicated and messy issue. I am in no way an expert on the First Amendment, nor do I believe that what I wrote here is one hundred percent correct. The 600 words written here do not, and cannot, begin to skim the surface of the in’s and out’s of freedom of speech. But it is my hope that through an open and honest conversation about the different aspects of freedom of speech we will be able to come to a conclusion about how to treat freedom of speech in the digital world.

Journal Report: Ada: A Journal of Gender, New Media, and Technology

Ada is a web-only academic journal centered around feminist issues within the digital humanities. It covers a variety of topics under the heading of feminism and digital humanities, introducing a new focus with each issue.

The website for this journal has a simple layout. The clean, open background space and the toolbar at the top keeps it from feeling very cluttered. The search option could potentially be slightly less hidden, as it appears in the form of a button that unfolds into a search bar, rather than as an immediately visible search bar. The search option itself unfortunately cannot be used to search based on the names of writers, and instead only searches for terms in the title and body of the articles themselves.

The journal is relatively young; it started in 2012 and has published biannually, their most recent issue being the eighth. The issues and the articles are very easy to find, being listed right there on the main page. Once you navigate inside an issue or individual article, the left-hand sidebar makes it easy to identify both the number and general topic of the issue you’re in. The information will follow you as you scroll, eliminating the need to scroll back to the top to check the information or link to the previous or next article. The only downside to these sidebars is that the background images they contain tend to be low-resolution and blurry. They adapt the formatting of their article pages naturally and organically to the digital format, including both a comment system and options for sharing to various social media platforms.

The website is well-integrated with social media, also providing links at the top of every page to find them on multiple different platforms, as well as an XML view of the page you’re on. The social media links lead to pages not for the journal itself, but for the Fembot Collective, the group organizing the journal.

The journal and website is made for their writers as much as their readers. Their submission guidelines and review process are easily accessible from the toolbar at the top of every page. Information for writers is also found under the “issues” tab, which is slightly counter-intuitive, as the Call for Papers is the only thing missing from the main page which this tab adds. Writers have to go through here to find the email address to which they should send their submissions, which may not be entirely clear from the layout of the site.

The content of the journal is very accessible; despite the journal’s peer-reviewed status, it remains free to access, rather than being hidden behind a paywall. The greatest barrier to accessing the journal in the first place is that the journal is web-only. I find the writing style of the articles themselves to be very easy to process, contrary to my usual experience with peer-reviewed writing.

The discourse of the journal is greatly diverse; a quick glance at the titles of each issue reveals a clear effort at a diverse discourse. These issue titles point to an emphasis on intersectionality, which is an essential part of feminist discourse. They do, however, focus primarily on intersectionality with race and appear to focus less on intersectionality with other marginalized identities. Disappointingly, despite their focus on gender, the journal contains almost nothing about nonbinary genders; the only article that alludes to nonbinary genders at all is found, as expected, in Issue 5, “Queer Feminist Media Praxis.”

On the whole, however, Ada is a wonderful journal containing a variety of interesting discussion around social justice conversations that need to be had within the digital humanities community.

Passion and Enthusiasm

The very nature of Digital Humanities means that it is easier for members of the DH community to connect with each other. DH takes place on the internet, and with email, text messaging, Twitter, Facebook, etc. it is possible for people all around the world to talk about DH with each other. So, why have a one-day celebration to build that community?

Day of DH not only facilitates the building of that community, but it encourages it. Day of DH, from what I experienced, provides a reason for people to connect with others in the community just because they are passionate about DH. There isn’t the need to find someone to collaborate with a specific purpose. The members of the DH community can network and connect with people on a day that is celebratory. Everyone that participates in Day of DH feels passionately about DH, and that is clear.

I thought it was interesting that the blogs were all “Day in DH” themed. It was a bunch of blog posts of people sharing what their day in the field of DH looked like. This was a fascinating insight into what it looks like for people who work in DH. This class has given me a lot of insight to the theory and to some aspects of the community, but it was really interesting to see what a typical day looks like for some of these DHers. There were posts from people in a Spanish speaking country, people from all around the country, etc. This really shows how beneficial Day of DH can be for the community. Everyone can gain access to what it’s like for other DHers. They have the ability to see what projects other people are working on, see what work is like for them, and see how different people approach DH. Letting other DHers into their lives strengthens the community.

When a field of study is focused in the digital space, it’s important to remember that there is a community involved. The DH community actively tries to remain connected and be collaborative. Day of DH allows DHers to see what other DHers are working and to connect with people they might not already know. The connections made on Day of DH help keep alive the community and the collaborative nature of DH. Day of DH celebrates the aspects of DH that people love: the innovations, the connectivity, and most importantly the people. DHers, for the most part, seem to be very enthusiastic and passionate about their discipline. It is hard not to get excited about DH and the community around it when you see that amount of passion. Day of DH is the perfect outlet for DHers to display that passion, and it really is a powerful, supportive community. Day of DH may open up the doors for new DHers to become even more involved in the community, and that is a beautiful thing.

Connecting with Community

So, I’m sad that I missed participating in Day of DH on Day of DH because class, but I’m sad that I missed it just because how connected all these projects felt reading through them. Even with all of the blogs I read being entirely separate projects or tasks, there was still this overwhelming sense of community and closeness in the idea of there just being a whole day dedicated to DH.

And I really just love this idea of something as simple as a dedicated date making so many people come together. It’s part of the reason I really want to get into livestreaming myself, in that I can foster that feeling on the Internet. In hosting events in games or on my channel, I’ve enjoyed being part of this goal of bringing a bunch of people with maybe limited similar interests together just to celebrate the idea of community. And that’s what Day of DH, granted some days later, felt like. This but massive celebration of a diverse interconnected community.

And, that’s kinda the point, isn’t it? Even if we all have absolutely nothing else in common, we have this. We have this idea of wanting to make things better in the digital space. And maybe today it’s Day of DH. Maybe in a couple years this kind of thing will be a quarterly event. And then there may just be spontaneous eruptions of DH celebration. And in the long run, I really want to be part of that.

I’ve watched and helped foster some of these kinds of things in gaming communities. It’s an amazing way to watch people make new friends, renew their interest in a game, or look at something in a totally knew light from just some offhand comment or joke made at a totally nonsensical party. And in a field where we’re constantly striving to be constantly connected, that feeling would blend so well into what we’re already trying to do in digital humanities. Where we’re working to try and remove the barrier people seem to have about the person on the other side of the screen not really being human. This made, I guess in a way no other assignment as done, made DH feel like it was about being human and being connected to other humans.

That’s why I livestream. That’s why I have my channel. And all my blogs. And my mod responsibilities. All of it, to try and bring people together. And even if there was no one else posting on Day of DH today that shared that interest, there were so many people reaching out with the exact same intentions. It’s things like that that make you feel like you’re part of a whole and not just a rambling individual on their own blog.

Understanding DH through #DayofDH Projects

When I was in art class in high school, we consistently used the words “systematic investigation” and “creative problem solving” to the point where it almost became a joke: “My entire project just fell apart… I guess I have some systematic investigating to do!” The more the teacher used the term to guide us in creating, the more it made sense. We were using trial and error, asking questions, and working to solve problems in a creative way. I had never put together the experiences I had in art and digital humanities until I read David Lacho’s write up for his project for the Day of DH, “Mapping the Day of DH: Using Google Fusion Tables to build a map of #dayofdh and #dayofdh2016 from user’s location on Twitter.” 

One concept that Lacho touches on in the first part of his blog post is that of the archive, which we have written about on the blog before. He writes: “If anything [the project] will serve as an archive of a day where digital humanists participated in making a day that belonged to them.” The notion of making a space for ourselves as DHers made me oddly emotional. It reminded me that if there isn’t a space for something we want, or if there is information we want but can’t find, then we can create it (like the maps of day of DH). In elementary school, my friends and i created a holiday called nothingwhatsoever day where we would exchange gifts. It was in May, and we made it because we wanted to exchange presents, but there were no holidays in May where we could do so. We’re creating a Scalar project on humanity because we believe that it’s important to talk about. And with the globalization of the internet, technology, and ideas behind DH allow for ideas like this to be abundantly spread.

Lacho’s project also put into concrete terms for me the greatness of the open projects that exist on the internet, through the DH world. And the greatness comes from the projects and data collection all being open for interpretation. He writes: “I put the tools and the data in your hands.” The final post, where he links to the spreadsheet and all the data used, is even titled “And here be thy data: This project is for you.” The project demonstrates the DH community’s ability to interpret, share, and collect data. Through looking at the data and the maps that were created, I can draw my own conclusions. I didn’t have to do any of the problem solving of creating the tool or gathering the data, but now I can go into my own type of systematic investigation and close read the data to create an argument (if I wanted). It’s reminiscent of the “beginnings” of DH, where primary sources were uploaded to the internet so that people could gain access to these documents.

At the heart of it, Lacho defines DH in a way that is very similar to my experience in the art room:

To me, the digital humanities is exactly what I did today. I asked questions and I came up with a solution, which led to more questions. I would say the Digital Humanities is an iterative cycle in itself, always stepping towards another question, but remaining reflexive on our tools and processes.

It’s helpful for me to hear DH phrased in this way and looked at through this lens. Currently, I’m working in a group to create a project questioning the humanity in digital humanities. Many times, I’m finding myself having more questions than answers. And Lacho has assured me that this is just part of what DH is. If our project raises more questions, then it has done its job.

Digital Humanities: The Anthropocene Shows in Everything

Throughout the semester, we have learned about many ways that the digital humanities is very helpful to all aspects of research, academia, and even entertainment. All of the maps, graphs, and timelines and conglomeration of works to become more interactive may have produced a whole new era. The anthropocene could be seen as a metaphor for the technology age changing the social, science, and humanities communities, but some people actually believe the term could apply for how society and the environment are changing overall from more than just computer communication.

When reading Bethany Nowviskie’s article on the anthropocene, I struggled a little bit to understand what I was reading. I was wondering why biology and geology were being discussed in an English class. Reading more into the article, it becomes evident that the digital humanities are indeed making every aspect of knowledge more correlated and the lines between disciplines are becoming more gray. The subject material of this article was pretty dreary, but it was also very intriguing. The idea of humanity dying and that we have to accept the civilization dying together instead of just individuals dying a little at a time was difficult to read. De-extinction of the previous creatures of earlier geological eras seemed impossible to me before I read the article. I thought it could be a negative idea because of overpopulation, but when I looked more into it, I found that if only a few animals are brought back to life, then it could be very beneficial.

Comparing the resurrection of dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures is much like the resurrection of old books, poems, stories, and manuscripts of history. We could become extinct as well, which Bethany discusses, but we may not be able to be resurrected since we have the most power over all other species at this point. We never know if we really will become extinct or not though, so we might as well do as much as we can to educate others and ourselves with technology and research in the past and present humanities. Another species could always come after us and use the research we have found. We could be the first intelligent life form to leave enough of our knowledge for more individuals to use after our demise. The digital humanities are so important because they bring many old manuscripts that had never been seen in our lifetimes to the light to be studied and to bring advancements for further creations as well.

There are many people that are trying to learn about the anthropocene, display its importance, and maybe counteract its affects. Ms. Nowviskie talked a little about the Long Now Foundation and Dark Mountain. I preferred the Long Now Foundation because it was much more positive and it related towards more of a long term thought process of how past works and future works in the digital humanities can be helpful. Dark Mountain talked more about how we are bound to become extinct. The Long Now Foundation did discuss how the human languages we have now could be extinct in about 10000 years and that much landscape and even waterfalls will probably erode by this point as well. However, this project talks about long term plans. The Dark Mountain Project is very interesting and somewhat macabre because of its discussion of  what is happening that it most likely cannot be prevented. After looking on their website, it almost seems like they are trying to be lighthearted about the future and its demise and to focus our research on just how bad it will be rather than how to fix it. It seems to relate more with the Gothic literature of our society like Edgar Allan Poe. I normally prefer this type of writing, but when it comes to our future I think Long Now Foundation is more helpful and scientific.

Works Cited

Hine, Dougald, and Paul Kingsnorth. “Uncivilisation: The Dark Mountain Manifesto.” Dark Mountain Project. WordPress, n.d. Web. 11 Apr. 2016. <http://dark-mountain.net/about/the-dark-mountain-project/&gt;.

Jackson, Jaime. “Sign 11.” Dark Mountain Project. WordPress, Oct. 2013. Web. 11 Apr. 2016. <http://dark-mountain.net/other-stories/the-intertext-installation/&gt;.

– – -. “Sign 21.” Dark Mountain Project. WordPress, Oct. 2013. Web. 11 Apr. 2016. <http://dark-mountain.net/other-stories/the-intertext-installation/&gt;.

Turpin, Etienne, and Heather Davis. “Art & Death: Lives Between the Fifth Assessment & the Sixth Extinction.” Art in the Anthropocene: Encounters among Aesthetics, Politics, Environments and Epistemologies. Ed. Heather Davis and Etienne Turpin. London: Open Humanities, 2015. 3-30. Print.

Legacies

Nowviskie’s argument is something I’ve had to wrestle with a lot while being engaged to a self-proclaimed Nihilist, or at least, I’ve been contemplating whether it matters in the end and to what effect it does, if it does. To be fair though, my self-proclaimed Nihilist doesn’t really have a very clear definition on his opinions either. But that’s not the point.

Following this kerfuffle between Blizzard and Nostalrius Private Server, I’m sort of brought back to this idea of how do we want to be remembered. For reference, there are a large number of World of Warcraft fans who have been asking Blizzard for ages to create “legacies servers,” or servers that run older versions of the game, which Blizzard has somewhat inelegantly refused to do. It escalated recently when Blizzard shut down a non-profit fan server, Nostalrius Private Server, that was running the original WoW. This goes into copyright, but the largest arguments I have seen about why the community is so upset is because Blizzard is refusing to accept that the community’s fondness of the game is not with their current content, it is with the older content.

This produces an interesting idea. There are the developers’ idea of what WoW’s legacy will be, and that is the most modern iteration of the game. The community on the other hand largely wants to remember the older versions of WoW, either out of nostalgia or perhaps because of quality, but things start to get objective at the point. The point is there is a hard and large clash of perspectives on what a singular game’s legacy will be. Well, to be fair, WoW has shaped the online gaming atmosphere for years, so perhaps that legacy will have a huge effect on the genre for years to come. But, that being the case, then what legacy is “right.” It’s complicated because that’s an opinion, but is it fair for the developers to cling to heavily to something they released on the world and are struggling to control? At the same time, does the community have the right to take an IP and not let it evolve purely out of nostalgia? In the end, whatever gets remember will be a combination of these two major factors, but which one will be the more dominant one?

Fan-servers are becoming increasingly popular as time goes on. While I don’t follow the WoW ones, I am keeping an eye on a huge recreation of a game called Alicia Online. But as much as I am looking forward to the new AO, I’m always wondering if it’s worth trying to recreate an old title. What if instead of recreating AO, they just made AO 2? AO has made its mark, so why does it matter so much to recreate something that’s already had its run? Of course, there’s the issue of copyright that comes up here, but my point is more that why is there this resurgence of needs to recreate the old instead of trying to be innovative?

Nostalgia seems to be having a curious effect on how legacies are going to be shaped now, particularly with the tools to recreate some of those older materials into new mediums. If that’s the case, how do we classify the history of an event? From its original finale? Do we include the recreations? In wanting to make a mark, where does our mark end if it can just be brought back up over and over? And if that’s the case, where does our mark end in our own content and it becomes the product of an entirely different community?