I’ve never fallen for that one, thankfully, but I have actually used it on people and they have! But I can admit that I felt a little gullible after spending thirty minutes reading a blog (that I honestly was kind of enjoying) that ended up being fake. The Last American Pirate was well done and had a distinct, relatable voice to it. Even though some little things were weird, I fell for it. Learning that the whole thing was a hoax made me realize how crafty and believable things can be on the internet. Pages do not have to be outrageously stupid for the information to be fake. Everyone knows the cliché “Don’t believe everything on the internet” spiel, but in academics and therefore Digital Humanities, the line between what’s a hoax and what’s legitimate becomes unclear.
To be ethical online and in Digital Humanities, you have to be transparent and correct in everything you do and put up. You need to correctly cite all of your sources to prove that your facts are real. You need to provide the links to where you used online resources. You need to use correct spelling and grammar. You need to use the best technology available to you. You need to be clear about who you and the other creators are and how you have the resources to put together the project. Being clear about everything shows that you have nothing to hide and that you are being truthful. But The Last American Pirate pretty much did all of these things plus with personal anecdotes, and it was still fake. Alongside all of the ethical steps digital humanists have to take to create ethical projects, researchers and scholars must look with a careful eye. They need to analyze all the contributors and their credentials, who is supporting the project, their sources, as well as cross-checking the information to see if it is accurate.
One problem with using the computer and internet to create and present projects with is the impermanence and changing nature of the internet. It costs money to create and maintain a domain. Digital humanists often become disinterested with the upkeep of the project or do not feel the need to keep paying the domain fee, so the domain becomes unreachable. This causes problems and frustration for researchers when they fall upon a site that might be very useful to their project, only to find that the domain cannot be reached. From personal experiences, this really sucks. Or, like in the case in one of our required readings for this class, the link on the syllabus did not take us to the page because the whole webpage had been redesigned and we could not find what we were assigned to read. Historical analysis comes to blows in these types of situations because despite the potential the DH projects have for the field of history, they still are flawed and not always the best form for academic research.
These obstacles come with the advancement of technology and the benefits that come with Digital Humanities projects. As researchers, we just have to sift through what is real and what is fake as well as hope for the best when falling upon awesome sounding DH projects that could actually lead to nowhere.