Why Are the Digital Humanities So White? or Thinking the Histories of Race and Computation

Mcpherson, Tara

This chapter argues that the difficulties encountered in knitting together discussions of race with technological productions within the digital humanities (or in studies of code) are an effect of the very designs of our technological systems—designs that emerged in post-World War II computational culture. These origins of the digital continue to haunt scholarly engagements with computers, underwriting the ease with which we partition off considerations of race in our work in digital humanities and digital media studies. The chapter draws analogies between shifting racial and political formations and the emerging structures of digital computing in the late 1960s to highlight the ways in which the organization of information and capital in the 1960s responds—across many registers—to the struggles for racial justice and democracy that so categorized the United States at the time.