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 new 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, 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. Additionally, our development method prioritizes a key set of design practices that – in combination – speak to the deeper values of our project as a whole: building for accessibility, agile publication, and digital recycling.
Building for Accessibility top
In capitalizing on minimal computing practices, we have been able to build a site that is accessible to multiple audiences, a characteristic that unites a series of strategic design choices. 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. 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.
Agile publication top
One More Voice focuses 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. The emphasis on such interventions extends our minimal computing approach to the realm of critical argument, but also opens 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.
Digital recycling top
Minimal computing has also made us attuned to the advantages of digital recycling, i.e., the reuse of existing digital materials and tools, and we have turned to such recycling in a number of ways:
- The foundational HTML and CSS site files have 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.
In more general terms, the use of digital recycling has enabled us to avoid some of the challenges involved in new site development, while giving us more time to attend to the creation and delivery of quality content. We have also been able to capitalize on work already done by affiliated projects or by projects with which we are working in solidarity and, in turn, have ourselves created an open access resource – the One More Voice project site – that might itself now be recycled in other contexts.
The One More Voice site thus forgoes a variety of digital bells and whistles and instead relies on the strengths of simplified web development and reuse of previously developed and refined digital resources. In taking this approach, the project has 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, and produce quality scholarship on a consistent basis. The approach has also enabled us to create a site that is easy to maintain and sustain long-term because of its simplified file structure and small digital footprint. The entire site, for example, is less than 100 MB. Most importantly, by relying on the development practices set out above, 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 should such expansion become a priority in the future.