Minimal Computing can be productively oriented around answering the question: “what do we minimally need from computing to help us achieve our goals?” For Alex Gil, building any project using minimal computing principles means building computing projects, as Ernesto Orazo would call them, using “architectures of necessity.”
“Computing minimally” therefore means thinking about digital and public humanities projects in ways that reorient our thinking around ease of use, ease of creation, increased access, and reductions in cost, electricity, etc.
Minimal computing projects strive to:
We believe it’s important to engage in critical reflection about our own practices and positionality when undertaking any computing project. Critical reflection is especially necessary when confronting the overlapping concerns of culture and technology, since computing in the humanities in the 21st century has tended to be distorted by hype.
In his essay, “Minimal Definitions,” Jentery Sayers lays out a series of critical questions and cautionary reminders that might help guide our efforts and complicate the assumptions of minimal computing projects. Sayers encourages us to ask:
When moving forward with any minimal computing project, what we’re interested in asking is:
How can we leverage minimal computing principles to imagine new “architectures of necessity” (or projects that help give us what we need), while continuing to unsettle and to question the consequential dimensions of technology for our labor and practice as workers in the digital and public humanities?
Minimal computing is not a thing so much as an approach to (re)thinking how computerization can be an ally in the formation of digital and public humanities projects. While goals for such projects can be as varied as the kinds of projects themselves, what we have in common at ground is that each of us would seek to renew, disseminate and preserve the scholarly or public record.
Digital reading editions in particular present us with an opportunity to embed in them a dialectic between what we might consider the more traditional and intuitive bases of literary and cultural interpretation and new forms of digital literacy, less bound by the constraints of the codex and the economics of print publication.
Digital reading editions can also be productively contrasted with what Susan Schreibman or Bethany Noviskie would call digital scholarly editions, such as the William Blake Archive or the Women’s Writers Project (WWP), which tend to be large, NEH grant- and/or institutionally-funded projects with sprawling technical infrastructures.
With low barriers to access and minimal technical skills needed for deployment and maintenance, we think digital reading editions can:
Most importantly, digital reading editions might work in the public or in the classroom to help empower oftentimes marginalized voices, especially in decolonial, indigenous, Black studies, cultural and critical ethnic studies, and intersectional feminist interventions.
For additional resources and information about minimal computing (minicomp) check out the minicomp working group’s GitHub repository.