XML Version
Sayers, J., Gil, A., Martin, K., Rosenblum, B., Chan, T. (2016). Minimal Computing: A Workshop. In Digital Humanities 2016: Conference Abstracts. Jagiellonian University & Pedagogical University, Kraków, pp. 943-944.
Minimal Computing: A Workshop

Minimal Computing: A Workshop

Scheduled for 12 July 2016, this Digital Humanities 2016 workshop will explore the practice and influence of minimal computing from both a practical and theoretical perspective. We use “minimal computing” to refer to computing done under some set of significant constraints, including constraints of hardware, software, education, network capacity, infrastructure, and power. Minimal computing is also used to capture the maintenance, refurbishing, and use of machines to do work out of necessity, along with the choice to use streamlined computing hardware, such as Raspberry Pi or Arduino.

In essence, it calls for the reduction of the technical infrastructure required to produce, disseminate, and preserve digital scholarship. Put this way, it can reduce external dependencies (such as reliance on proprietary software, network infrastructure, or complex technology stacks), help communities to assert some control over their content, and facilitate sharing and preservation. This dichotomy of choice versus necessity underscores technology that is arguably not the high-performance computing of high-income economies. By operating within this tension between choice and necessity, minimal computing brings important concepts and practices within digital humanities to the fore. In this way it is also an intellectual concept, akin to environmentalism, asking for balance between gains and costs in areas including social justice, manufacturing, waste, and labor.

The workshop will engage questions such as (but not limited to):

  • What are best practices for application construction in order to maximize access, decrease obsolescence, and reduce e-waste?
  • How and in what ways does experience in mid- and low-income economies inform ongoing assumptions about how research and collaboration are conducted in high-income economies?
  • In terms of computing and culture, what meaningful differences emerge across economical, infrastructural, and material conditions?
  • In and beyond digital humanities, what is implied by minimalist design, and to what effects on practice?
  • In digital humanities and other contexts, what research is being conducted with which physical computing technologies, how, and why?
  • How do the different histories of minimalism in art, design, and industry form genealogies for minimalism in computers? Or what interesting work are people currently doing with minimal computing in areas such as art, design, and experimental media?

Despite its fundamental concerns, minimal computing still lacks a cogent research agenda within digital humanities. As such, this workshop aims to bring like-minded researchers from a variety of disciplines to the same space to share work in progress and collectively articulate lines of future inquiry.


The workshop will blend delivery of short papers (or thought pieces) with seminar discussion, demonstrations, and prototype testing.

9:30am-12:30pm: The first half of the workshop will consist of 8-10 presentations, together with focused discussion of the presenters’ minimal computing projects. Presentations and projects will be drawn from responses to a workshop CFP circulated in March 2016.

12:30pm-1:30pm: Lunch (on our own; not provided)

1:30pm-4:00pm: Participants will collectively develop a research agenda for minimal computing, with all participants collaborating to identify projects, build ideas, share and test prototypes, and articulate collective interests. Where applicable, participants will demonstrate workflows and projects involving physical computing platforms such as Raspberry Pi and Arduino.


Participation in the workshop may range from presenting a paper or sharing a prototype to responding to presentations, testing prototypes, or simply observing to learn more about minimal computing practice and theory.