Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

more on digital archives, libraries, and social networks

Friday, June 26th, 2009

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

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?

Scholarly arguments in non-text-based media

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

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?

modelling subjectivity in space & time

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

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?

Visual Art and DH

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

I expressed two ideas in my proposal, both of which have been expressed in some form or another by others.

One, I am interested in the tools people use for digital projects and why they use them. The reason for this is that both I and the Programmer where I work are fairly new to the position and sometimes I feel like we are grasping at straws, recreating what others may have already figured out. I suspect that this may not take a session of its own, but will come out of talking to people and hearing about other’s projects.

The other thing I suggested was this:

I am really interested in visual (fine) art and the digital humanities. There was a session last year on fine art and the DH, which was only attended by myself and two others, but I had a great time. Since then, I’ve thought more about how fine art and art history might be supported by DH. I also blogged about the possibility of an artist in residence at a DH center, perhaps supported by the Fellowship at Digital Humanities Centers grant. I would love to hear what others think on this topic and would be very willing to do a little overview of what’s out there right now.

I’m not so sure about the overview part- partly because I have not had much time to research this in depth, and partly because my cursory look hasn’t turned up much. There seems to be a split between fine art and digital humanities centers. David Staley’s post, for instance, talks about a visually oriented humanities project- but the work (and the title of the post, even!) make me think “artwork” and “artist.” I find it really interesting that just about the same exact work could be “digital humanities” or “fine arts” depending on who is doing the work. The point was driven home during Lev Manovitch’s plenary speech at DH ’09. Manovitch os a Professor in the Visual Arts Department, and the kind of things his lab does could be considered both fine art and digital humanities. I’m interested in talking about the overlap, as well as how to involve artists in DH, not only in the areas they have been (maily web design) but also in more theoretical conceptual roles such as visualizations.

I’m not sure if this could stand on its own, or if it should be combined with a more general session on visualizations (which also seemed to be a hot topic at DH ’09).

mining for big history: uncouth things i want to do with archives

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

woohoo THATcampers!  i’m so psyched to hang out with you.  actually, i need to learn from your enormous brains…

a major theme of my graduate course in digital history at the u of c was the opportunities lying around unprecedented scale of access and manipulability.

historians, for instance, typically train to write 20- to 40-year studies, at most 100-year histories; they frequently teach by the century, at most the five-hundred-year time period.  proposal: digital archives, as a revolution in access, radically open the horizons for legitimate big history of long-term trends.

ideas for sessions:

* how would you text mine a 500-yr history?  how bout a 5000-yr history?  many of the tools for text-mining (cf philologic) look narrower and narrower within a peculiar text; how could these tools be used to crunch many texts across large time periods (off the top of my head: graph for me, computer, the top verbs used around the word “eye” in medical texts since Greece …  )?  how can timelines more usefully render the results visual (and interactive!)?

* how bout images.  here we’re talking about 200 years   what can you do with 1 billion photographs?  what happens when you automagically photosynth ( the entire nineteenth- to twentieth-century city of London?  what about “averaging” photos: ?  what does the average house look like, decade by decade?  what does an average coal miner look like?

* how bout maps.  doug knox (hi doug!) and i have been talking with the newberry map librarians about how you’d collate atlases of place names, travelers’ diaries, and maps to annotate an interactive atlas of chicago where any given block could be peeled back, year by year.  how would you make a 300-year thick map of the american west?

Digital Archive

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

Just wanted to post briefly to update my application essay. I’m a faculty member at Brown and have just returned from a semester at the University of Melbourne, Australia, where a colleague and I co-taught an American history honors seminar called “American Publics.” Next year at this time, we will teach the course at Brown AND at Melbourne and link the students digitally.

That’s what I wrote in the application, now I have to figure out what I mean when I said “link the students digitally.” I explored and rejected wikis (the two campuses assign different kinds of writing and the students have different stakes in the writing) and existing social networking tools. I think what we want to do is design a lightweight, experimental “archive” to which students can upload texts (scanned documents, websites, images, sound files) to share across campuses. The new Center for Digital Scholarship at the Brown University Library will build a password protected web environment (using PHP and SOLR) within which students may upload, describe, and annotate digital resources. Students will be able to search and browse their resources, and arrange them into sets based on catalog records and/or student designed taxonomic tags. The interface would create XML records for submitted assets and then post that data to the index. We have done this for other student research projects at Brown and plan something easily portable, that could also be used or hosted at the University of Melbourne. We want to make this project experimental and quickly set up so that we can change it and modify it as we go.

We would hope to be able to share such a tool once its designed and tested and would love to hear thoughts about what we should and shouldn’t include and any possible challenges you could foresee.

All that said, I also teach a graduate course called “Digital Scholarship” for humanities and social science students and look forward to a discussion of what kind of tools, competencies and knowledge graduate students need.

Using web tools to let students reach the public

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

I want to learn about how to use new web-interaction tools for teaching classes that have a public product. Students in the Brown public humanities program do exhibitions and programs for the public, and it would be good to add web outreach projects to those. A few of the tools that I’ve played with, but want to know more about:
•    Crossroads (shared markup of documents)
•    Voicethread (commenting on images, words, video)
•    Dipity  (creation of timelines)
•    Omeka  (collections)
•    Flickr (images)
And I’m sure there are others… I’d like to know more about them, especially tools that can be combined with oral history projects.
Several challenges here…
One is doing these as group projects – how to get a class, or several small groups from a class, to work together on these.
Another is how to automate the process of moving between these tools, and more traditional databases. Can we, for example, pull pictures from a historical society’s PastPerfect system, put the pictures onto Flickr, the objects in Omeka, and display a timeline on Dipity, without doing it all by hand. Can we take a community-curated collection from Flickr and move it into Omeka, or into a library system with better long-term storage, metadata, control, etc., without having to re-enter the data that’s there – and to continue to collect data from the public and capture it long-term?
Lots of questions!


An actual digital revolution?

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

I’m very new to this kind of community but I’ve been struck by how often a rhetoric of “digital revolution” versus a “conservative” establishment has been used in these posts. I wonder if there should not be time to discuss what appears to be a set of digital revolutions that are actually taking place, such as the current crisis in Iran, the censorship program in China/Burma etc. It’s striking to me how a technology like Twitter that has been widely derided in the US as self-indulgent narcissism has come to play a central role in disseminating ideas and information in situations such as the Bombay bombings and the current Iranian crisis. For me, the humanities must pay attention to developments such as these in making claims for the significance of networked critical practice. Or is this so obvious a thought that it’s taken for granted in digital circles, in which case I apologize!?

Travel practicalities?

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

I know there’s been a bit of dicussion back and forth about the best ways to get to and from GMU, but I thought I’d try to get it all together in a central location.  I’m told by the folks at the Hampton Inn (where I’ll be staying, and I’m sure there are others as well) that it’s best to take the Orange Line (presuming everything is more or less normal on it after yesterday’s news) to Vienna/GMU and take a cab.

I’m sure there will be a few people gathering in the lobbies of both hotels Saturday and Sunday mornings – will people be sharing taxis to the campus, or is it walkable?  Google Maps offers a bit of a zigzag walking path and I wondered if there was a short cut.

I saw that the shuttle to GMU from the Metro is normally reserved for students – do they let conference attendees aboard?

Anyway, I’m just looking to get some advice from locals – I’m sure others have similar questions.


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