Remixing as an example of DH in action

After reading the introductory DH texts, I admittedly have become obsessed with thinking about the impossibility of (terminally) defining DH. It seems plausible that thinking about the “big tent” and “expansion of the field” and the “alchemical move” of juxtaposition all point to DH as an actively moving, changing, and static-resistant line of inquiry. 

Consequently, the focus of defining DH can shift to exploring and illuminating the relationships between all and various elements of DH (some might be: constituents of the DH community, topics, modes of scholarship, academia/beyond academia, activism & politics). DH becomes about exploring our webbed nature, without ever arriving at a single stable map.  We can train a variety of mobile lenses on a variety of interests and ask questions about mutual influences, dependencies, and the wider consequences of connections. 

I think one salient verb — a defining verb within the ECDA (Early Caribbean Digital Archive)— that addresses the active engagement of the aspects outlined above is REMIXING. As an example of remixing in the context of digital archiving, ECDA shares the “extraction” of slave-narratives embedded in the accounts of colonizers and collecting and arranging them separately to forge a new narrative path, a “re-archive”. 

From the ECDA website, a passage the underlines the centrality of remixing:

“But the digital archive, we believe, offers new possibilities for re-archiving (remixing and reassembling) materials from existing archives as well as archiving new materials. This is not just the promise of recovery—not simply a question of finding materials that have been hidden in the past. Rather, this is a formal possibility—one linked to the new affordances of the digital archive which invite (if not require!) us to disrupt, review, question, and revise the colonial knowledge regime that informs the archives from which we draw most of our materials.”

Remixing leaves room for multiple and layered versions of creating history and developing counter-narratives.  It’s a supremely creative and, I’d say, fundamentally scholarly endeavor (as it consciously builds on existing materials). Remixing proposes and makes use of juxtapositions and honors iterations. So, remixing is one definition of DH in action.

While looking at ECDA and thinking about its use of remixing in digital archiving, I was reminded of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “The Danger of the Single Story”. The act of remixing to achieve retelling mitigates the single story. I was also thinking of Adam Banks’ Digital  Griots:  African  American  Rhetoric  in  a   Multimedia   Age, which  compares the story-teller to a DJ (see: sampling, remixing) and explores the narrative power of the mixtape in this context. 

[Revision and annotation are also basic maneuvers of remixing (which we engaged in while working on this week’s assignment). Because digital tools allow for easy revision and annotation, there’s also a chance to play with them, go beyond their basic application, and to unearth their creative and political potential. Which is what ECDA is demonstrating. ]