I really enjoyed Monica Muñoz Martinez’s talk “Lives are not Metadata” because I found it to be a very useful insight into the process of creating a digital humanities project. As a public history student, I am always very curious to see how professionals in the field are tackling public history and I found both the topic and tactic that Dr. Martinez is pursuing to be very interesting and influential. The topic of “Mapping Violence” is particularly valuable as it is one that will be of interest to many Americans and because of this it is great that it is being conducted on platform that hundreds of thousands of people will have access to. The information that can be found on the “Mapping Violence” site will be beneficial for all types of people and Dr. Martinez and the Mapping Violence team did a great job of making sure that the site is user friendly to people that may not be technologically inclined.
The part of the talk that I found most enlightening was when Dr. Martinez discussed the issues that she and the Mapping Violence team found in using mapping as a digital medium. When Dr. Martinez first introduced the site in her talk and explained what it was and how it worked it seemed almost perfect to me. Maps are a platform that most people are comfortable with because they have been viewing them all of their lives and being able to simply touch a button and have information appear seemed like an excellent way to showcase the material in a way that people would enjoy. However, after Dr. Martinez said that the team feared their creation would seem like a cold online creation and not the memorial that it is intended to be, I began to understand her fears. Upon looking at the black and white map, the red dots that signify the locations of violence do appear to be small bloodstains throughout the state of Texas. The simple red dot that lacks any kind of personality or connection with the particular victim/victims of the crime can make the map seem cold and impersonal. There is an issue that can arise with “reducing an event to a dot on a map” like Dr. Martinez said, but by formatting the map in this way, it makes every dot (and by that notion every crime) equal. No crime or victim outweighs any other. Each event is on an equal playing field and can be explored without prejudgment. Of course, after looking into and researching the crimes, visitors of the site can decide on the events that they personally find the most valuable to them, but the simplicity of the site leaves that up to each viewer. By providing a way for interested parties to see this material on a digital platform as opposed to in an article or book, Dr. Martinez and her team are giving this information a much larger audience. There is no question that if all of this was in a book (which much of it is in Dr. Martinez’s new work The Injustice Never Leaves You: Anti-Mexican Violence in Texas) many people would read it. But, by putting it on a digital platform like “Mapping Violence” many people (especially younger generations) will be more likely to look at it and therefore learn from it, making the work done by Dr. Martinez and her team that much more influential.