Decolonizing International Research Groups: Prototyping a Digital Audio Repository from South to North

Abstract:  This article reflects on what it means to create a digital humanities (DH) project in the “Global South,” while it ponders some lessons it can offer to DH practitioners across the world, particularly from English-speaking academia. As a case study it considers the Digital Audio Repository for Latin American Sound Art and Poetry an initiative coordinated by PoéticaSonora, a research group formed by faculty members and students from Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM, Mexico City) and Concordia University (Montreal). The prototyping process has brought out some reflections on the correlation between access and participation through information and communication technologies (here termed “knowledge democratization”), in order to expound PoéticaSonora’s theoretical-political positioning, drawing not only from decolonial thinkers and their critics but also from feminist, new materialist, and border studies on technology, art, and society. Then it discusses how the coloniality of knowledge pervades the international distribution of labour in the digital world and academic milieus, particularly through what Leanne Simpson calls “cognitive extractivism.” After proposing some strategies to avoid an extractivist workflow while designing a DH project, it finishes by offering three insightful lessons learned from the PoéticaSonora prototype: online access does not equal universal access; well-intended digital projects are not beneficial per se for the target community; and we must bring back to discussion the political dimension of digital labor and the social practices around it.