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Ethical Collaboration in the Digital Humanities

This guide is for scholars of DH to use as they plan collaborative projects. It walks scholars through thinking about position, communication, documentation, with the ultimate goal of creating fair, equitable, and sustainable work.

Authors and Contributors

This LibGuide is a product of active collaboration between librarians, graduate students, and those who generously gave feedback. As such, this box will be updated as work continues on the LibGuide.


Katherine Laffoon (she/they), UNC-SILS Graduate student. Researched and created basic foundation for the LibGuide as part of a practicum, Fall 2021.

Resources at Duke

About this Guide

About this Guide.

If you are a scholar, student, or staff who even dabbles in the field of Digital Humanities, you understand collaboration is a core tenet of the field. 

This guide offers tools and resources beyond the IRB process to ensure that all contributors are treated respectfully and that the work produced is sustainable in the short and long-term.

I would encourage you to explore the rest of the pages more or less in order. From positionality and collaboration within the academy, to community collaboration, to practical tools.

Why does this matter?

With the pressure for scholars to publish to make ends meet, it can be easy in the hustle and bustle to think only in the short-term, in what needs to be done now to fulfill a project the fastest. However, the choices that scholars make about how to work together and with communities outside the academy can have long-reaching implications for your own work and the work of other scholars.

Digital Humanities is a growing field, and as David Roh explains, the pressure externally for DH to save traditional humanities may be another factor in scholars behaving more like Silicon Valley entrepreneurs: focused on performing innovation and rapid short-term growth, without considering the impact it might have on the rest of the scholarly community (Roh 2019).

The work produced and ripple effect of relational choices can shape the rest of the field. Sure, taking the time to think through power, risk/reward, and context takes time and effort, and you might finish your project faster without it. But what impact does that have on the rest of the field? On peers, students, and staff? How willing will they be to contribute again without those tools?

This guide encourages scholars to think about what their work might look like in ten years or in one hundred. How are your practices contributing to the ecosystem of scholarship? How do you want future scholars to interact with it? What do you want the effects to be inter-personally and in the field long after you have left it? How do you want your work to be sustained?

Using this guide

I would encourage you to explore this guide from start to finish Position to Practice. The order is intentional. If however, you need practical advice on creating collaborative contracts or communication, you, of course, can go right to Documentation and Practice.

If you’re considering joining a collaborative Digital Humanities project, especially if you would be working in a lower-level position, these resources are also here for you to gauge your potential supervisor for how the experience of working with them might be. These resources can also be shared with team members to establish working norms.



ROH, D. S. (2019). The DH Bubble: Startup Logic, Sustainability, and Performativity. In M. K. Gold & L. F. Klein (Eds.), Debates in the Digital Humanities 2019 (pp. 86–91). University of Minnesota Press.