One More Voice engages with literary and historical scholarship in a manner that shifts critical debate in new directions. The project also models a way of encouraging such scholarship while bringing it to other practitioners and the public at a time when funding options have been cut back and normal publishing practices disrupted. Our project’s design both animates and informs this critical contribution through the application of minimal computing, a low-tech form of digital humanities development that has gained considerable traction among practitioners in recent years.
A fundamental element of minimal computing lies in its emphasis on creating digital projects that rely on reduced resource use, as in the early case of the Periodical Poetry Index (2010-present) and as later elaborated in work by Alex Gil, Jentry Sayers, Roopika Risam and Susan Edwards (PDF), and others. By building on such scholarship, we have engineered a site development method that is self-empowering and that allows for contributions from scholars with a range of technical competencies. We have anchored our minimal computing approach on two key elements: digital recycling and agile publication. This emphasis, in turn, has freed up considerable time and resources, thereby enabling us to prioritize accessibility as a foundational component of our site design.
At its core, our minimal computing approach centers on digital recycling, i.e., the strategic reuse of existing digital materials and tools. We have turned to such recycling in a number of ways:
- Foundational code for our main HTML and CSS site files has been appropriated from the Fieldwork of Empire minimal computing website (2019), a site expressly built to serve as a prototype for the present site.
- By positioning One More Voice as a descendant or “imprint” site of Livingstone Online, we have made it possible to draw on the latter's primary materials, publication strategies, and workflows as needed.
- We have streamlined the existing Livingstone Online coding guidelines to create the coding guidelines for the One More Voice site.
- We have used open online repositories like the HaithiTrust and Internet Archive to supplement the materials available from Livingstone Online.
The use of digital recycling has enabled us to avoid some of the challenges involved in new site development. We have also been able to capitalize on work already done by affiliated projects or by projects with which we are working in solidarity. We, in turn, have ourselves created an open access resource – the One More Voice project site – that might itself now be recycled in other contexts, as in the case of the affiliated Undisciplining the Victorian Classroom website, which draws on key elements of our site code.
Our minimal computing approach has also led us to develop an agile publication strategy that prioritizes the production of high-quality, peer-reviewed, short-form critical interventions, a term inspired by Matt Gold and Lauren Klein's use of “provocations” as a way of characterizing the short essays published through the Debates in the Digital Humanities book series. In particular, the emphasis on such interventions extends our minimal computing approach to the realm of critical argument, while opening a practical, reduced-commitment way for individuals to contribute to the site and stay active professionally at a time when many are distracted by the Coronavirus pandemic or working under challenging conditions, and when access to the archival sources often required for longer-form scholarship has been curtailed.
Finally, in applying a minimal computing approach, we have freed up time and resources that we then applied to prioritizing accessibility in all components of our site design. For instance, we rely on a color blind-safe color scheme for the main site pages. We consistently incorporate semantic HTML, ARIA attributes, and descriptive ALT text to enable access by assistive devices. We provide clear and consistent navigation, while using a simple but elegant aesthetic framework that cuts down on visual noise and clutter. Key features of our encoded archival texts (such as color, justification, and rotation) can be toggled on and off as needed.
The site also includes a number of elements that support keyboard accessibility, including fully-operational Tab navigation and options to skip repetitive content like menus (all pages) and YouTube video controls (Motion Pictures page). Finally, the addition of the Google Translate widget has made it possible for visitors to generate rough translations of each of our site pages into over 100 languages. Together, these features help open the site to users with disabilities and ensure that we can deliver content around the world, to multiple kinds of devices, at a low cost, and in environments of varying bandwidths.
In turning to a minimal computing approach, the One More Voice site has been able to forgo a variety of digital bells and whistles and instead rely on the strengths of simplified web development and refined reuse of previously developed digital resources. The project has been also been able to start up quickly (a single individual built the entire site via a high-powered, month-long code sprint in May 2020); work at a manageable scale; produce high-quality, short-form scholarship on a consistent basis; and place accessibility at the heart of its design practice. Ultimatley, by relying on such development practices, we have been able to build a robust project foundation overall and are now in a good position to scale up our development work along well-tested lines in future stages of development.