Best Practices > Sustainability

In recent years, it has become increasingly important to address concerns about the long-term sustainability of Digital Humanities projects. When beginning a project, it is important to be aware of two major perspectives:

a. The long-term sustainability of digital platforms and the content they store

b. The impact digital platforms have on Earth sustainability and the environment

The first perspective is how Digital Humanities scholars look into various aspects of knowledge and technology when planning, developing, and bringing to life projects. Especially how long-term perspectives of those projects are understood as part of various infrastructures. The latter can be universities, their technical system, and international cooperation. The second perspective relies on the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals (sdgs.un.org). For instance, images and videos are stored, then downloaded, and may be stored again can require quite a large amount of energy. Another issue is how various content inside developed digital services are available to all. In this MOOC, we will explore the relationship between digital humanities projects and sustainable systems and mindsets. The goal of this MOOC is to assist researchers in making informed and responsible decisions when it comes to the environment and sustainability of digital resources.

Sustainability of digital platforms

The first long-term perspective encompasses competence. IT staff and researchers on all levels do start and may leave their positions during a digital humanities project. It should be mandatory to reflect on how to ensure the data and all information necessary is accessible. Losing data and results do not support sustainability, and unfortunately, this situation is quite common and can happen everywhere. A second long-term perspective is regarding the software used in the project. Software companies are often bought by others, changed, or lose support. In addition, another problem may occur when moving from one obsolete system to a new one. It takes several people, works from technical staff but also from the experts and the researchers that need to be sure the data is moved in the correct manner. This is quite expensive and needs to be addressed from the start. In general, creating a digital service is time-consuming and includes several years of effort and investment, and not planning for a long-term perspective does not support sustainability.


As mentioned, the second SDG addressed the consummation of energy. Digital Humanities projects are often data and computational-intensive. Storing data in data centers has several drawbacks. It not only conceals the amount of power used by the user but also has a significant impact on the environment surrounding the data center. The reason for this is that they are typically constructed in close proximity to hydropower stations or areas where energy costs are lower. Energy consummation increase also when the same image is downloaded or stored multiple times across various web pages and resources. This can result in unnecessary energy consumption. Instead, linking to a central storage location for the images is more practical. The latter also reduces traffic flow, which is quite energy-requiring.

A design approach

The interface also has an impact on the sustainability of a digital service. The design and how easy the system is to use and be accessed may reduce the environmental impact. For instance, the seven principles of Universal Design (universaldesign, n.d.) address if the digital service is suitable for people with diverse abilities. It caters to various individual preferences and abilities. It is easy to use and comprehend, regardless of the user’s experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level. The design effectively communicates necessary information to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user’s sensory abilities. It reduces the risks and adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions. The design allows for efficient and comfortable use with minimal fatigue. It provides appropriate size and space for approach, reach, manipulation, and use, regardless of the user’s body size, posture, or mobility. In section X.X of this MOOC, additional perspectives on designing for a better user experience are presented.

Equal access to all

Focusing on sustainability when developing a Digital Humanities service is also about sharing the data with all users. SDG 4 - Digital illiteracy - explain this as crucial to ensure inclusive and quality education, especially for underdeveloped countries allowing people to escape poverty. Open access does support sharing, and universities have national rules that are mandatory to follow. In addition, the European Union requires sharing of research data and articles when national funding is used. Conclusion The following points may help in looking at different sustainability perspectives of a digital service:

• Reflect upon what type of resources is necessary for the digital service. Does it support a digital sustainability approach? • What is important about your research data and assets? • Keep the system continuously updated • Is it possible and easy to update the content of your service?


universaldesign. (n.d.). The 7 Principles Centre for Excellence in Universal Design. Retrieved July 2, 2023, from [https://universaldesign.ie/what-is-universal-design/the-7-principles/]{.underline}](https://universaldesign.ie/what-is-universal-design/the-7-principles/));