Manifesting the manifesto: DH and the climate crisis:

paper, specified "long paper"
  1. 1. Anne Baillot

    Le Mans Université

  2. 2. Alexander Gil Fuentes

    Columbia University

  3. 3. Kaiama L Glover

    Barnard College

  4. 4. Alicia Peaker

    Barnard College

  5. 5. Torsten Roeder

    Bergische Universität Wuppertal

  6. 6. Walter Scholger

    Karl-Franzens Universität Graz (University of Graz)

  7. 7. Jo Lindsay Walton

    University of Sussex

Work text
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In 2021, an international group of DH scholars drafted the manifesto “DH and the Climate Crisis”. It argues that the climate crisis is bound to move the lines not only of DH research and teaching practices, but also of the self-understanding of the discipline.
The digital is material. As digital humanists, every project we create, every software application we use, every piece of hardware we purchase impacts our environment. In her 2014 DH keynote address, Bethany Nowviskie exhorted us to “attend to the environmental and human costs of DH.” As a field, we work adjacent to fields whose research relates to environmental crises: to science and technology studies scholars concerned with their relations to Land/land (Liboiron, 2021); to archivists describing how their approaches to digital preservation are environmentally unsustainable (Pendergrass et al., 2019); to artificial intelligence ethics scholars investigating the intersectional harms of large language models, some of whom have been fired by big tech for speaking out, others of whom only feel able to speak anonymously (Bender et al., 2021); to historians quantitatively analysing the disinformation tactics of big oil (Supran and Oreskes, 2021). Yet climate justice and environmental impacts remain under-researched in the field of digital humanities and underrepresented in our conferences and literature.
In response to this need for greater awareness, an international group of digital humanities scholars and practitioners gathered virtually to share knowledge and experiences and build momentum. These virtual meetings resulted in the drafting of the manifesto “
DH and the
Climate Crisis,” which was published in the summer of 2021. The group’s shared values around open access, open collaboration, minimal computing, and environmental responsibility drove decisions about what form the draft would take, where and how it would be published, and how our community could shape its directions.

The publication of a
first, already collaborative version of the manifesto text was met with interest and annotated by community members over the course of several weeks. Some commenters expressed scepticism about the role of DH as a research field in relation to the climate crisis, others about the form of the manifesto. These comments sparked vibrant discussions and led to the publication of the
current version. The goal of our paper is to foster stronger awareness and concrete initiatives regarding the consequences of the environmental impacts of research and teaching practices throughout the DH community at large. We argue that the climate crisis is bound to move the lines not only of DH research and teaching practices, but also, at an epistemological level, of the self-understanding the discipline has of itself.

In the first part of the paper, we will present the major arguments of and for the manifesto. It can hardly be denied that Digital Humanities research is in many regards more resource-intensive than most of the Humanities disciplines. But this is not the only reason why the community should feel particularly concerned: DH is also positioned to recognize, describe, and tackle the practices across the Humanities that are carbon intensive and resource extractive, and in that sense it has the potential to engage a new approach to research and teaching in an age of climate crises. We will also argue that Digital Humanities have elaborated their self-understanding based on a deconstructive approach of the canon in which the computational analysis of large data sets is a significant factor (Moretti 2000), and that rethinking research practices according to a minimization of environmental impact - in a context where growth remains a core value - is an opportunity to reframe our understanding of the originality of our approach.
In the second part of the paper, we present a series of actions and initiatives that have emerged following the publication of the “DH and the Climate Crisis” Manifesto. The first consists of a “
Next Steps” document, linked to the manifesto, where we are collectively sharing the disparate, but interlinked, actions that we are taking in our various institutions, sharing experiences and best practices. Second, we will present environmental initiatives emerging in Europe that aim at fostering communities of action, and supporting one another to take practical actions both immediately and in the longer term. Throughout this second part of the paper, we will highlight connections between the local and the global, and explore how DH communities around the world can collaborate to address planetary challenges.

The next few years are crucial if the world is to meet the target of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees. To work effectively on such a timescale, our practice will need to evolve rapidly. We therefore expect that our paper in July may also reflect new challenges, opportunities, collaborations, and points of interest to emerge in the first half of 2022, which are not yet known to us. Through this manifesto and paper, we aim to find and build resilient communities within digital humanities—to connect, encourage, and support the ways we are already responding to the global climate crisis, and all the ways to come.

Bender, Emily M, Timnit Gebru, Angelina McMillan-Major, and Shmargaret Shmitchell. ‘On the Dangers of Stochastic Parrots: Can Language Models Be Too Big?’, 2021, 14.

Liboiron, Max. Pollution Is Colonialism. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2021.
Moretti, Franco. Conjectures on World Literature. New Left Review (I. Jan/Feb 2000):

Nowviskie, Bethany. ‘Digital Humanities in the Anthropocene’. Digital Scholarship in the Humanities 30, no. suppl_1 (1 December 2015): i4–15.

Pendergrass, Keith, Walker Sampson, Tim Walsh, and Laura Alagna. ‘Toward Environmentally Sustainable Digital Preservation’. The American Archivist, June 2019.

Supran, Geoffrey, and Naomi Oreskes. ‘Rhetoric and Frame Analysis of ExxonMobil’s Climate Change Communications’. One Earth 4, no. 5 (21 May 2021): 696–719.

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Conference Info

In review

ADHO - 2022
"Responding to Asian Diversity"

Tokyo, Japan

July 25, 2022 - July 29, 2022

361 works by 945 authors indexed

Held in Tokyo and remote (hybrid) on account of COVID-19

Conference website:

Contributors: Scott B. Weingart, James Cummings

Series: ADHO (16)

Organizers: ADHO