Critical Digital Humanities is an emerging, intersectional field that emphasizes questions of power, social justice, and critical theory in making and analyzing digital technologies. This is a version of digital humanities that places anti-racist, decolonial, feminist, and queer/trans/non-binary work at its core, and which understands our current historic shift in digital technology as an opportunity for social and political transformation. Critical Digital Humanities foregrounds creative praxis, co-creation, public engagement, and community-based research.
The Critical Digital Humanities Initiative (CDHI) at the University of Toronto enables trans-disciplinary collaborations that emphasize questions of power, social justice, and critical theory in digital humanities research. Its vision is to harness the very tools of the digital revolution to forge a new paradigm of critical humanities scholarship, one that bridges the humanities’ emphasis on power and culture in historical perspective with the tools and analysis of digital technology. The CDHI is new mix of research workshop and design atelier, equipping humanities researchers with the technical and design expertise to use digital tools to ask new questions, share new knowledge, and analyze power and inequality in historical perspective.
The CDHI emerged in 2020-2021 out of a lengthy planning process at the University of Toronto, convened by the Digital Humanities Network (DHN). The CDHI is a tri-campus research initiative was funded by the University of Toronto’s Institutional Strategic Initiatives (ISI) Program in December 2020 for 3 years (Jan 2021-April 30, 2024). The CDHI has the financial support of four divisions at the University (UTM, UTSC, the Faculty of Information, and FAS); their contributions, along with that of the ISI, provides a budget of $2,424,215 to support collaborative critical digital humanities research for the next three years.
As critical digital humanities scholars, our grand challenge is to understand how digital technologies are reshaping the production and circulation of knowledge while, at the same time, to use these technologies—along with our training in questions of ethics, power, and inequality–to create a more equitable world. Our vision is to create a new mix of research workshop and design atelier, equipping humanities researchers with the technical and design expertise they need to use digital tools to ask new questions, to share new knowledge, and to analyze the power and inequality in historical perspective.
We recognize that equity, diversity and inclusion strengthen our research community, the quality, relevance and impact of research, and the opportunities for the full pool of potential participants in digital humanities research and training at the University of Toronto. Members of under-represented and/or disadvantaged groups, such as persons with disabilities, LGBTQ2+ people, Indigenous peoples, and members of racialized groups, face systemic barriers to equity and inclusion. We commit to reducing and eliminating these barriers through anti-racist, feminist, and decolonial praxis in every aspect of our work, from the composition of adjudication committees and governance structure to our programming and fellowship programs. We are including an emphasis on anti-racist and decolonial praxis in our Strategic Planning Process and will make our plan available here, once this process is complete.
We wish to acknowledge the land on which the University of Toronto operates. For thousands of years it has been the traditional land of the Huron-Wendat, the Seneca, and the Mississaugas of the Credit River. Today, this meeting place is still the home to many Indigenous people from across Turtle Island, and we are grateful to have the opportunity to work on this land.