In this week, I read Thomas Padilla’s Conditions of Possibility, Miriam Posner’s What’s Next: The Radical, Unrealized Potential of Digital Humanities, and our own Tim’s Unremembering the forgotten. I noted that each article touched on the themes of social responsibility and the ethics for recoding digital heritage. A talking point was the need for inclusion and respect for minorities. This got me thinking on the importance of impartiality in reporting and the accurate presentation of history. Miriam’s piece was filled with personal opinions – such as a very sociological perception of gender. For the binary biological male/female gender concept, she said that ‘no self-respecting humanities scholar would ever get away with such a crude representation of gender. Or at least I hope not’. Her view contradicts much of the scientific consensus in the neuroscience, biology and psychology fields. Does that make all these scientists ‘bigots?’ I would say not, but for Miriam, who is ‘writing’ history and is pressing the need for fair and accurate presentation, she is clearly demonstrating personal bias. Of course, political and social opinion is important but not when it undermines the need for inclusion and respect of all people – including those privileged, white cis-gender males. This is important also, because social attitudes change and are constantly in-flux. The author’s opinions may change many times over their lifetime and societal opinion can change drastically over generations.
The biggest danger is that people who hold strong opinions with certain political or belief systems will often suppress or reject evidence or information which contradicts their narrative. The History of the Peloponnesian War written by the ancient Greek Historian, Thucydides, would be of a much lower quality source if he was to place opinions and criticisms as higher importance over the accurate recording of events. History should not be written as a Buzzfeed post, plagued by the opinion of the writer, but as a third-party without prejudice.