All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace
Dr Lorna-Jane Richardson
Lecturer in Digital Humanities
Interdisciplinary Institute for the Humanities
University of East Anglia
In the Global West, our understanding of how we can use digital technologies in the niche area of heritage reflects the transformative power of technology and its profound impact on (some) societies and communities. However our ethical values, and the frameworks within which we work, whether in data collection, data analysis, or data dissemination, MUST adjust and expand to take into consideration all the present, as well as future as-yet-unknown, technological, social and political developments that impact our work. We have, according to the United Nations, ten years to prevent irreversible climate change and we cannot escape the effects of the Anthropocene. We, then, have to also face the fact that digital technology is not harmless. Our digital infrastructures are built on ecological exploitation, rapid technological obsolescence, and human suffering. Globally, we are drunk on the digital and it is time to discuss digital sobriety. This paper will ask if we are taking ethical considerations in digital heritage seriously enough, and explore what we can we do to change our own sphere of influence, in a small and underfunded part of the cultural industries, in order to meet the demands of a rapidly changing climate.