full stack feminism

Full Stack Feminism in Digital Humanities (FSFDH) will embed intersectional feminist methodologies in Digital Humanities(DH). It will achieve this by developing an interoperable ‘Full Stack Feminist’ (FSF) methodology and toolkit. It develops this approach by focusing on 3 areas, referred to as stacks: data & archives; infrastructure, tools & code; access, experience & integration. We use ‘full stack’ as a metaphor, with the understanding that this term has specific uses and meaning in software development – we use it in a similar but not precisely equivalent way. Our high-level objective is to highlight and address specific points in project development that, often unconsciously, manifest inequalities or bias in, for example, data models, archival descriptions, access rights, and tool functionality.


Data and Archives supports a focus on the ways in which data, in all its manifest forms, is harvested, collected, described and stored. It is concerned with the foundations of knowledge and how certain data (or histories) are either silenced and/or side-lined in favour of others. Example areas in this stack include: digitisation priorities; archival descriptions, methods and standards; gaps in data collection; machine learning and biased training data sets. As Klein et al ‘Data Feminism’ (2020) states, ‘what gets counted counts’. 

Infrastructure, Coding & Tools considers the underlying architecture, systems and code upon which DH projects rely, asking how they are built, and what, if any, exclusionary practices manifest in this space. For example, how does a gender imbalance affect the functionality of a particular system, how do monolinguistic software languages affect how code is produced and how it is re-used. It allows us to ask questions in relation to the open software movement, gender imbalance in development teams and other considerations such as access rights and permissions (e.g. the use of infrastructures or platforms such as Mukurtu provides a wholly different perspective on access permissions). This stack is also concerned with data models, how they are created, and how they extrapolate and present a certain world view. 


Access, Experience and Integration is concerned with the way in which digital tools, resources, and ‘archives’ are accessed and experienced by users, by consumers, by archivists, and ways in which knowledge and digital cultural heritage is accessible or indeed inaccessible. It considers the developer’s point of view as well as the user/consumer’s point of view. Public understanding becomes central in intervening in DH and in creating milieux for intersectional cultural heritage. 


An analysis or investigation of the landscape within each stack, will help us inform future cultural imaginaries in each area. Drawing from ‘The Feminist Principles of the Internet’ (in ‘Beautiful Warriors’, 2020), we want to understand the machine and to reclaim it ‘down to the code’. The stacks will inform our analysis and scoping phases and will inform our interventions and the development of our FSF tool kit. Applying and rethinking, a feminist praxis throughout the full stack (to include a feminist ethics of care, FAIR CARE principles, feminist epistemologies, decoding existing epistemologies) will lead to an overall intervention in the creation of more inclusive digital cultural heritage in DH.                                         


This research/project was funded by UKRI-AHRC and the Irish Research Council under the ‘UK-Ireland Collaboration in the Digital Humanities Research Grants Call’  (grant numbers AH/W001667/1 and IRC/W001667/1).