Special Topics in Information Studies: Digital Archives for Minoritzed Material: Ethics and Praxis


This course will introduce students to the emerging field of digital research ethics, including ethical protocols for the online publication of non-digital materials in a scholarly archive or other collection and for the use and collecting of born-digital materials in our research. In particular, the course will model intersectional decolonizing, queer, transgender, feminist and anti-racist justice frameworks and methods that prioritize accountability to the communities whose materials are being collected and/or published as a significant component of scholarly rigor. For scholars and information professionals committed to a justice-oriented digital research ethics is of prominent concern today in the intersecting fields of information studies, digital humanities and digital media studies.

This course is intended to prepare students for the unique ethical challenges of creating online archives from the materials of minoritized—precarious, targeted, vulnerable—communities. While it may seem that the objective of digital archives is their capacity to be “open access,” many communities want to use digital technological affordances to make their materials open to people within the community, and to limit access to those outside of it. What we are discovering is that filtered access protocols are required on a case-by-case basis, and thus the researcher producing the archive needs to be in close consultation with their research subjects about how the materials will be accessed and by whom. Furthermore, unlike a brick and mortar archive, a digital archive will often require a great deal of contextual, curatorial, interpretive content to be generated alongside the primary materials in order to contend with the potentially very diverse public accessing these materials. We will begin by studying several case studies of digital archives that have been led by Indigenous peoples on the Mukurtu and Local Contexts CMS platforms, in order to understand the impacts and practices of decolonizing archival practices on digital information architectures. We will also study online archives of Transgender and Queer materials, learning from the project leaders of the Mirha-Soleil Ross collection at the Canadian Lesbian & Gay Archives. Ultimately, students will design their own online archive, contextual information and ethics protocols based on the materials and community practices of their research subjects.