Blog Post Two

The four literacies that were discussed last week which include ethics, privacy, copyright, and licenses made me realize how as historians being critical and careful of the sources we use and how we use them is of utmost importance. It might seem a little silly and obvious, but when doing research in high school and such I didn’t particularly give any thought to the resources I was using, they were sort of a means to the ends. I was not thinking about the ethical aspects such as sensitive data. When reading the Protocols for the Treatment of Indigenous Materials it was interesting to read that APS, although having a policy of free access, can place certain restrictions on resources that are deemed culturally sensitive; I think it’s important to respect and keep these sensitivities in mind as historians doing research. Connecting this respect and focus on ethics, the journal article Radical Empathy in the Archives talks about the difference in an ethics and care-based framework which really stuck with me. The authors state, “while in a human rights framework individuals are held accountable by a rationally derived set of laws by states and international governing bodies, in a feminist ethics framework subjects are constructed relationally, intersecting structures of violence are interrogated, and injustice is viewed as both structural and “multi-scalar,” that is, operating on both the micro and the macro levels, in private and in public.”1

The other literacies, privacy, copyright, and licenses, seem a little more definitive as compared to the multifaceted framework(s) of ethics. These are more like rules to follow and keep an eye out for when doing research or using resources for research. In a time where individuals heavily rely on using the internet and access social media, terms and conditions are accepted that give corporations and others access to tons of data about habits, demographics, and other intricacies of an individual. This, lack of privacy, some may call also stresses to me that when doing research, I need to be careful of privacy laws and in general the privacy of the contents of the resources I’m using. In terms of copyright, it’s important as historians to research if works are copyrighted or not and to keep in mind that just because something is on the internet does not mean it is a part of the public domain. Although I’ve heard of phrases such as fair use, public domain, and licenses I wasn’t entirely sure of the meaning and what they encompass. I was surprised to learn about how fair use gives the right to a user to utilize a copyrighted work without having to gain permission from the copyright owner and also paying a license fee. Another definition I was also surprised to learn was licenses which is a “contract not to sue.” I’m not sure what my definition of a license was in the digital sense, but it definitely wasn’t what I thought it was. Many of these literacies have legal aspects and when doing research now and in the future, I will be using librarians and online sources as a way to answer questions I might have concerning licenses, copyright issues, and privacy, and other conditions of literacies.

Some important considerations before beginning a digital humanities project would be to think about how if the topic you have chosen might have any issues regarding the four literacies discussed. For example, if a topic is sensitive then how should one go about finding data and what to do if some of that might be restricted. When thinking of privacy and copyright laws as well as licenses it’s important to consider none of those are being violated and to obtain the right permissions when necessary. Overall, before starting out a project it’s vital to check off that the bounds of these literacies are intact and to make use of resources and conduct research in a respectful and critical manner.


Caswell, Michelle, and Marika Cifor. “From human rights to feminist ethics: radical empathy in the archives.” Archivaria 81, no. 1 (2016): 23-43.

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