Ways Past Facsimile

Friday, June 26th, 2009 | jgsmith

I’m wrestling with how we can move past the electronic facsimile as the standard digital humanities web-based presentation.  Projects such as The Valley of the Shadow (to select a well known one at random) are presentations of static objects.  The meta-data is usually searchable and there are other tools sometimes for slicing and dicing the objects to help in doing research.  Is there a way to move forward to something that plays more of the role of the monograph?


Building a better web by linking better

Friday, June 26th, 2009 | dan chudnov

Here’s my original proposal:

Been thinking a lot about what it might mean to make Linked Data reliable and resilient. We can do better than just “the LOD cloud” – we can make a web of data that can survive the temporary or permanent loss of a node in the big graph or a set of data sources. Since Linked Data is a natural extension of the web, we have all the knowledge and experience of 20+ years of web and networking developments to apply to building Linked Data systems. We’ve learned a few things about proxying and caching, in particular, and those concepts should apply equally well to linked data. If you’re interested in the “web of data”, whether as a consumer of it in the course of your research or as a producer of digital humanities resources or both, I’d like to highlight some of these issues for you by demoing some work we’re doing in the realm of digital collections in libraries, and to leave you with a few ideas for making your own stuff more resilient.

But then the King of Pop died.

So instead, I would like to demonstrate the shot-for-shot recreation of the famous Thriller video I made last night with an Arduino, Omeka, Processing, crowdsourcing, rectified old maps from NYPL reprinted using e-ink, and a native RDF triple store.

more on digital archives, libraries, and social networks

Friday, June 26th, 2009 | tclement

I’ve lost my thatcamp proposal (go figure) but since I’ve been concerned about the same issue for some time, I think I can piece it together again briefly here. I’m very interested in what another camper has posted here as making static archives more social by using something like Omeka. My particular focus is a digital edition of poetry written by a Dadaist poet that I’ve created called In Transition: Selected poems by The Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven (see it here: user: dcr; password: dcrstaff). The thing about the baroness is that she was super popular during the 1920s New York bohemian art scene. She published poetry in The Little Review but she also performed on the street in outlandish dress and pretty much provoked the world at large by flaunting her sexuality, chiding men like Marcel Duchamp and William Carlos Williams for “selling out” and becoming popular, and otherwise behaving hilariously obnoxious. Point is, what made her poetry the talk of the town at the time was in part due to her social network and the collaborative audience that both responded to and provided fodder for her art.

Now, someone anonymous has created a mySpace page with over 700 friends for the baroness (see The interesting thing is the response her persona attracts. People upload videos and poems and some just comment on their adoration. Very few, however, mention her poetry. So, what happens if we bring her poetry into this scene? How will this popular response change? Would it? What would people find in her poetry that may have been missed in an anthologized, normalized rendition of “A Dozen Cocktails, please?” How might people respond to each other in this space, a space imbued with her poetry?

This brings me to my third and final point. These questions are what has provoked my interest in Omeka, but why Omeka? Why not try and start up an edition in Facebook or MySpace? What would that look like? Well, . . . good question. I have found–in my humble experience–that digital projects are in part restricted by the digital means to which one has access. That is, currently the edition I have created is on a server waiting to be incorporated into the official University of Maryland digital repository which is supported by Fedora. Currently, the library doesn’t have an exhibit application that they use for projects like mine. (The whole library world is trying to figure this stuff out, after all.) I think incorporating Omeka (as opposed to trying to figure something out in FB or mS) would provide for the social network I’m trying to tap into as well as a very real structure that the library community could embrace and incorporate in the existing infrastructure. Thoughts . . . ?

Museum & University: Creating Content Together

Thursday, June 25th, 2009 | drszucker

Are others interested in discussing strategies for bringing museums and colleges/universities together to create content? In my field, art history, graduate students chose either a curatorial or a teaching path and rarely look back. Of course a professor and curator may share a particular interest and collaborate, but these are isolated instances. Wouldn’t our students and museum visitors be better served if collaborations were on-going? Can the ease with which we now publish high quality images, audio, video, and text be used to coax institutions beyond their cloistered walls?

"Us" vs. "Them"

Thursday, June 25th, 2009 | alxjrvs

One interesting discussion occurred on twitter a few weeks back. Dan, Brian, and a few others were discussing the future of the Digital Humanities, and I (attempting to make what I believed at the time would be a “funny” science fiction joke) said that the definition of the Digital Humanities would be much cooler in the future. Dan Cohen’s response stuck with me, though. He said that, in the future, it would just be called “The Humanities”, and that stuck with me. The idea that the Digital Humanities is a transitional form, a sort of leap ahead into what everything should be. Now, Dan might not even agree with that statement (it was, after all, just a tweet) but I think it is an interesting thing to consider; are we simply what comes next, or will there always be classic (albeit technologically improved) academia and that group of Nerds in the corner using Zotero? To turn it into geek terms: Are we Homo Sapiens (Homo Superior if you are a Bowie fan), or are we X-men?

Running parallel to this topic is the notion of the “Digital Native”. That word has always caused a little discord for me – after all, according to the definition, I am one of them! However, it has always struck me as an odd term, either oddly placed or oddly defined. If oddly placed, it is because I have seen my fellow “digital natives” stare coldly and run frightened from a wiki page, or even saving a word document. There are so many in my generation that refuse to go deeper than surface level, and in many cases, repel technology as an unwanted obstacle. This is not an insignificant minority, by my observation. If it is oddly defined, then the problem comes with the expansion of the phrase. What I mean to say is that while the strict definition I’ve heard is “Someone who has grown up with technology”, of which my generation applies, but always comes with the adage “and is therefore more comfortable with it and probably very knowledgeable”. For the same reasons as above, this is not always true – regrettably – and therefore creates a sort of double-blind issue; it seems that the digital natives are under-performing for the seemingly powerful title, and those deeming us with the title are overestimating the meaning of it.

I bring this up because they both highlight an issue that has seemingly existed since the playground: The Us vs. Them mentality. are the Digital humanities a breeding ground for ideas that will one day be excepted, or are they a toolbox that the professors and academics of tomorrow will turn to in a time of experimentation? Will there always be geeks, or will everyone eventually be logged on? For complications sake, do you think that the Digital Humanities are sort of “reaching far”, and only the more median of pedagogies and academic memes will gestate into the population as a whole? For instance, Digital Archives will be obviously used in the future, but in-class use of wikis will not? iPhones, but not EBooks?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

P.s. Thatcamp is my very first academic Conference. I am immensely excited, and look forward to seeing you all there!

Developing, but not overdeveloping, a collaborative space

Thursday, June 25th, 2009 | Boone Gorges

For the past few months, I’ve been involved in the development of the CUNY Academic Commons, a new project of the City University of New York whose stated mission is to “to support faculty initiatives and build community through the use(s) of technology in teaching and learning”. This is no small goal, given the mammoth size and unruliness of CUNY: 23 institutions comprising some 500,000 students, 6,100 full-time faculty, and countless more staff and part-time faculty. The Commons – built on a collection of open-source tools like WordPress MU, Mediawiki, Buddypress, and bbPress – is designed to give members of this diffuse community a space where they can find like-minded cohorts and collaborate with them on various kinds of projects.

My work as a developer for the Commons pulls me in several directions. Most obviously, I’m getting a crash course in the development frameworks that underlie the tools we’re using. These pieces of software are at varying stages of maturity and have largely been developed independently of each other. Thus, making them fit together to provide a seamless and elegant experience for users is a real challenge. This kind of technical challenge, in turn, leads me to consider critically the way that the site could and should serve the members of the CUNY community. How do you design a space where people with wildly different interests and wildly different ways of working can collaborate in ways that work for them? By making the system open enough to accommodate many ways of working and thinking, do you thereby alienate some of those individuals who need more structure to envision the utility that the site could hold for them? How do the choices you make when developing a tool – decisions about software, about organization, about design – mold or constrain the ways in which the site’s uses will evolve?

In light of these varying challenges, there are a couple different things that I would be interested in talking about at THATcamp. For one, I’d like to get together with people working with and on open-source software to talk nuts and bolts: which software are you using, how are you extending or modifying it to suit your needs, and so on. I’m also very interested in talking about strategies for fostering the kinds of collaboration that the CUNY Academic Commons has as its mission. I’m also anxious to discuss more theoretical questions about the design and development of tools that are meant to serve a diverse group of users. In particular, I’m interested in the interconnections between the designer, the software, and the designer’s knowledge and assumptions about the desires and capacities of the end user.

Scholarly arguments in non-text-based media

Thursday, June 25th, 2009 | mary litch

I’d like to meet with others who want to discuss the publication end of digital humanities. I’m particularly interested in how scholarly argumentation can be represented in or strengthened by the use of non-text-based  media. What are the possible bearers of argumentation? How exactly does this work outside the traditional essay format? I’m an analytic philosopher who has done some work on the representation of (philosophical) arguments in film and I’m thinking that some of the analysis done in this context might also apply to questions such as:  Do articles in Vectors Journal offer arguments? Can a map mash-up offer an argument? Can a series of images offer an argument? Are there limitations to the sorts of arguments that non-text-based media can offer? Are non-text-based media better than the traditional essay at presenting certain types of arguments?

While a starting assumption of mine is that scholarly communication in the humanities involves at a minimum the presentation of arguments, perhaps this is also something that could be opened for discussion.

I have some ideas on reasonable answers to these questions based on the analogy with argumentation in film and on recent discussion at UCLA’s Mellon Seminar and DH09, but my thoughts haven’t gelled to the point that I feel comfortable saying “I want to present on this topic.” — So, anyone want to join me for a discussion?

Omeka for an Education Dept.

Thursday, June 25th, 2009 | bethrharris

I’m worried this sounds a little boring compared to everyone else’s topics, but here goes!

I would be interested in talking about using Omeka in a somewhat un-likely way — to develop an archive of materials for a museum education department. The archive/”collection” would primarily include images and video of our programs and participants.

I am currentlybuilding two sites that primarily use the exhibit builder functionality of Omeka (not the collections functionality), but I would be interested in extending our use of Omeka to include creating an archive of department material and enabling some of the interactive features of Omeka like the Contribute plugin and “My Omeka.”

Taking a Rich Archive of Learning from Static to Social

Thursday, June 25th, 2009 | michael coventry

I’m interested in sharing the 4b2288;text-decoration: underline">Digital Storytelling Multimedia Archive with folks and brainstorming ideas on taking the site from its current, unfinished, static state to a truly social environment for students, teachers, and scholars of teaching and learning.

I see ties between this idea and those expressed around making digital archives social and also around taking archives and libraries public.  My apologies for how long this post is–I probably  have way too much detail in here!–so I put some stuff in bold after the next paragraph to facilitate a skim.  The real heart of it is in the last couple numbered points.

The Archive presents the results of a multi-campus study of the impact of student multimedia narrative production (or digital stories).  Digital stories are short (3-4 minutes) films combining text, music, voice-over, intertitles, and are used as an alternative tool for expression of academic arguments.  The Archive currently contains mostly interview clips with students and faculty from classes in Latina/o studies, American studies, media studies, and American history.  We have additional clips from ESL classes that we want to include at some point.

These interview clips are currently presented within a traditional hierarchical website organized by our three research questions. The three main sections present our ‘argument’ or ‘findings’ and folks drill down through statements of findings to evidence from student interviews.  We have an additional section which presents our findings within a ‘grid’ that ties together ‘dimensions’ of learning (the ‘grid’ is a little opaque at present, but it is cool to click around).  Finally, we have the ‘archive’ section, which at present is only a list of clip names with a link.

We are working on lots of obvious things like general clarity of writing.  We also have tags for all of the interview clips.   We want to make these tags public every time the clips appear (currently they are in a backend database).  In addition,  we have more digital stories to include and we want to tie examples of stories to interview clips.  We are also working on creating short, one-minute video “talking head” overviews of each section and also a screencast of how to use the grid.

However, what we want to do ultimately is to expand out the archive section and/or create a new social exhibits section.

1)Within the archive (really, throughout the site) we want to give folks the ability to add video of other interviews or of digital stories and to engage in their own commenting, tagging and adding tags to the existing archive.  We also love for there to be a way for folks to create their own grid, but marking tags that they think are important and linked and having those pulled together for their own presentation.

2) We’d like to also (perhaps using Omeka?) to create an exhibits section. This could allow faculty to showcase stories and interviews from their own classes, to pull together multimedia essays about what they think they’re learning about multimedia work, or to have students play in putting stuff together.

And so, I’d love to get input from folks on these and other ideas, how best to implement, what tools we can possibly use, what other ideas for increasing the ‘social’ nature of the site.

Also, see some additional stories at:

modelling subjectivity in space & time

Thursday, June 25th, 2009 | Bethany Nowviskie

This is just a tardy post to say that I’d love to see this year’s THATcampers engage seriously with the notion of subjectivity in spatial and temporal visualization.  I’m picking up here on ideas by Amanda and Brian, and also on a series of conversations I’ve been having this week at the annual Digital Humanities conference (hashtag #dh09, for the few THATcamp Twitterati who haven’t already experienced the deluge!).

At DH09, I presented one particular cultural artifact that has become a touchstone for me in thinking about the geospatial tools and services we’re building at the UVA Scholars’ Lab.  This is a little journal from 1823, in the private (open-access!) map collection of David Rumsey.  I hope to publish something on it in the coming year (so be a sport and let me share my find with you without worrying about getting scooped!).

It’s Frances Henshaw’s book of penmanship, a wildly imaginative collection of spatialized textual representations of states in 1820s America, together with hand-drawn, -lettered, and -colored maps. If you check it out, you’ll see what I mean and why the subjective and aesthetic qualities of the document are so interesting.  I’d be happy to give a brief guided tour at THATcamp as well.

I want our analytical tools for spatial information to become attuned enough to the interpretive aims of humanities scholars to help us say something about the Henshaw document.  What do we need to articulate and know in order to get there?  The Scholars’ Lab will be hosting some conversations through SCI (the Scholarly Communication Institute) and our NEH-funded Institute for Enabling Geospatial Scholarship, but — as I found last year — there’s no place like THATcamp!

That’s space.  Then there’s the subjective dimension of time.  I never go to a conference without having at least one person ask me about the Temporal Modelling Project, which was a prototyping project I undertook when I was a grad student, in collaboration with Johanna Drucker.  Temp Mod aimed to create a fluid kind of sketching environment in which humanists could model time and temporal relations as they interpreted them in their objects of study.  So you could map time in, say, a Faulkner novel, and concentrate on those subjective qualities of temporality that particularly interest humanists: moments of disruption, anticipation, regret, catastrophe, joy — and create graphical expressions of moments that seem to speed by or drag on.  Out of that iterative sketching, you’d get a formal data model you could use to encode (primarily, we imagined) texts in XML.

Temporal Modelling lost its (bizarre) corporate sponsorship unexpectedly after 9/11 and never really recovered, but the intellectual work was good and I think the time is ripe to consider these ideas again — especially in the broader context of geo-temporal visualization for the fuzzy, inflected, madcap, subjective humanities. Could we look at projects like Temp Mod and artifacts like the Henshaw journal to open a discussion at THATcamp?

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