Race, Computation, and the Analysis of Culture

Friday, April 13, 12:00-1:15 pm
Innovation Hub Program Room (Shores, first floor – map)

Race, Computation, and the Analysis of Culture

For many humanists working in or across data-driven spaces, the understanding that “race” is a simultaneous implication in the history of computation and impetus for the further development of “big data” projects and mechanisms raises daunting questions about the ethics of their research. Indeed, humanists’ commitment to patterned (distant) reading methods stems from their critical and historiographic desires to diversify “condition[s] of knowledge” (Moretti, Distant Reading, 2013). At the same time, such methods may texturize certain historical facts at the expense of other cultural canons, or in ways that further encode racial bias (McPherson, 2013; Gallon, 2016).

This need not be the case. For our final session of the academic year, Digital Scholars hopes to work through this dilemma in videoconference with Dr. Richard  Jean So, Assistant Professor of English and Cultural Analytics at McGill University, and current Faculty Fellow at the University of Pittsburgh Humanities Center.  Author of Transpacific Community: America, China, and the Rise and Fall of a Cultural Network, and incoming Director of the McGill .TxTLab, Dr. So pursues scholarship that fulfills dual aims: seeking positive versions of DH methods that can be applied to questions of race/racial difference, while also furthering critiques of algorithmic reliances in the humanities that perpetuate colonizing orientations toward culture.

All are welcome at this culminating discussion, where there is no barrier to entry — ethnically, disciplinarily, methodologically, or otherwise. Participants are invited to read the following in advance:

We hope you can join us.


Museum Informatics

Wednesday, April 4, 12:30-1:45 pm
Innovation Hub Program Room (Shores, first floor – map)

Involving Users in the Co-Construction of Knowledge in Museums

Beginning in 2015, the Lightbox Gallery at Harvard Art Museums served as an exhibition space for two installation projects combining data visualization with collections management. The first, Lightbox, “use[s] digital tools to reveal connections between objects and play with traditions of display” (HILT). The second, S.M.S. NOs 1-6s, offers a digital re-rendering of William Copley’s 1968 multimedia portfolio. Themselves digital complements to existing exhibitions at Harvard and Wellesley College, both projects reflected overlapping interests in manipulating metadata to study (and document the study of) visual culture. Both projects acted as highly participatory interfaces in which information networks could portray “cybernetic systems of aesthetic immanence.” In fact, both projects featured museum curation as their installation object and invited participants to perform meta-curation.

In “Collections and/of Data,” Matthew Battles and Michael Maizels liken these meta-installations to the “distant reading” practices of text-focused digital humanists, arguing that the process of visual curation allows researchers to observe (in data patterns derived through technical systems) how museum identities gradually shift. Digital Scholars is pleased to welcome Dr. Paul Marty, Professor in the School of Information at Florida State University, to help us consider the critical import of these shifts in museum identity.

Situated in the middle space between museum studies professionals and cultural heritage librarians, Dr. Marty focuses his own scholarship and teaching on recontextualizing the territories in which museum resources operate, a question that he sees as central to digital museology. In a hybrid session, part discussion and part application, Dr. Marty will introduce us to a collection of different crowdsourcing projects developed by museums and cultural heritage organizations — supporting transcription, translation, annotation, and curation — so as to better explore the various ways that museums are engaging their visitors as active participants in the knowledge creation process.

All are welcome. Participants are invited to bring tablets or laptops, and to read the following in advance:

We hope you can join us.

Prototyping as Pedagogy

Friday, March 23, 2:30-3:45 pm
Williams 013 (English Common Room, basement level)

From the Lab to the Classroom: Live Methods and Prototyping in the Arts and Humanities

Fabrication objects and physical computing objects — digital matter — have been the historian’s medium since communication scholars first cast digital inquiry as a “matter of intercepting and decoding transmissions from some remote place and time … [a way] to ground conversations about the past and our relationship to it” (Elliott, et al, 2017). Yet, beyond fabricating objects related to historians’ own interests, the making and remaking of digital matter can offer a medium for teaching and learning even among novice groups. Digital Scholars is pleased to welcome Dr. Jentery Sayers (via videoconference) to discuss some of the critical and practical implications of involving arts and humanities undergraduate students in prototyping and fabrication.

As a pedagogy that emerges from assertive approaches to speculative computing, prototyping offers students “live methods” (Back and Puwar, 2012), or methods that privilege multiple registers of knowledge-making (including, but not limited to, talk and text). With an emphasis on Material, Dr. Sayers will survey the benefits and risks of establishing “a practice of making things think, sense, and talk” (Sayers, et al, 2016, p. 4) in two particular courses — “Technology and Society,” and “What’s In A Game?” — drawing primarily from experiences teaching speculative design, indie games, and, more generally, techniques for prototyping pasts and futures.

All are welcome, and participants are invited to read and browse the following in advance:

And for additional reading or optional interest:

We hope you can join us.

Postscript to Our Meeting: Dr. Sayers has generously offered the dedicated github page for distribution [https://jentery.github.io/fsu/]

Rigorous Peer Review in Digital Publishing Environments

Friday, February 16, 2:30-3:45 pm
Digital Research & Scholarship Commons (Strozier, lower ground level)

Digital Publishing Environments and Rigorous Peer Review

The Digital Scholars / DH Reading & Discussion Group is pleased to announce our first guest speaker of Spring 2018, Dr. Cheryl Ball, currently director of the Digital Publishing Collaborative at Wayne State University Libraries, project director for Vega, and editor of Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy. Dr. Ball will ask us to consider how the relationship between “open-access,” “digital” and “publishing” can be both generative and speculative, raising questions about the affordances for academic freedom as well as the constraints for valuation of circulating, publishable objects. Ultimately, Ball will ask us to consider how the implications of this conversation might speak to three principal concerns widely shared among digital humanists: (1) the nature of online scholarly community building; (2) the accessibility of research infrastructures; and (3) the need to maintain rigorous peer review in an open-commenting environment.

All are welcome, regardless of mindset or expertise, and all are welcome to read or peruse the following articles and white papers:

We hope you can join us,

2016-2017 Retrospective

Wednesday, January 24, 12:30-1:45 pm
Williams 415 (4th floor, L off the elevator)

2016-2017 Retrospective: “New” Directions and Contentions in the Digital Humanities

The organizational meeting for Spring 2018 Digital Scholars will be dedicated to a brief retrospective of discussions in 2016 and 2017 surrounding issues of computation, publishing, and pedagogy. Some of these discussions have occurred as critiques of data ethics, while others have served as calls to spatial justice. Many of these discussions invite us to delineate the boundary between mechanisms for and practices of the digital humanities, and all of them have moved incrementally forward in the past two years. The meeting is primarily for enrolled graduate students, but all Digital Scholars participants are welcome to read and join us for conversation on the following:

  • Ball, Cheryl E. “Building a Scholarly Multimedia Publishing Infrastructure.” Journal of Scholarly Publishing 48.2 (Jan 2017). 99-115. DOI: 10.3138/jsp.48.2.99 [access at FSU]
  • Battles, Matthew and Michael Maizels. “Collections and/of Data: Art History and the Art Museum in the DH Mode.” Debates in the Digital Humanities (2016 edition) http://dhdebates.gc.cuny.edu/debates/text/78
  • Hsu, Wendy F. “Lessons on Public Humanities from the Civic Sphere.” Debates in the Digital Humanities (2016 edition) http://dhdebates.gc.cuny.edu/debates/text/75
  • Sayers, Jentery. “Dropping the Digital.” Debates in the Digital Humanities (2016 edition) http://dhdebates.gc.cuny.edu/debates/text/88
  • So, Richard Jean. “All Models Are Wrong.” PMLA 132.3 (May 2017): 668-673. DOI: 10.1632/pmla.2017.132.3.668 [access at FSU]

Enrolled participants are asked to read any 3 of the 5 articles listed above so as to chart a matrix of concerns for grounding our discussions throughout the term. We hope you can join us,


Political Ideology in Electronic Objects

Friday, December 1, 12:00-1:15 pm
Williams 013 (“Common Room,” basement level)

Political Ideology in Electronic Objects: A Conversation with Rob Duarte

Students, scholars, and aficionados of visual and material rhetorics, new media poetics, gaming technology, user experience, and speculative fiction may be especially interested in our final meeting of the semester. Digital Scholars welcomes Rob Duarte, Assistant Professor in Art and co-Director of the FSU Facility for Arts Research, for a discussion of the relationship between people and their technologies. More specifically, Duarte will invite us to consider the potentialities of critical making, the parameters of critical engineering, and the relationships between the material world of electronic objects and the im/materialities of language, poetry, and text. Drawing on his recent artist-in-residency at University of Colorado’s Media Archaeology Lab, Duarte will also ask us to attend to the political ideologies “embedded” in the electronic objects we use and with which we interface with relative ease—what Jean Baudrillard might have called experiencing the pleasure of the integrated circuit (Xerox and Infinity, 1988). On the one hand, when does our usage afford us a powerful form of critical coding or distance? On the other hand, when does our usage become the embodiment of caricature (Dunne, 2014, p. 22), or little more than an ideological enslavement (Virilio, The Art of the Motor, 1995)? Participants are invited to read the following in advance of our meeting:

All are welcome. We hope you can join us,


“Black at Bryn Mawr” and Technologies of Recovery

Thursday, November 9, 3:30-4:45 pm
Williams (WMS) 415 [turn L off elevators, then R]

Being “Black at Bryn Mawr”: Past as Legacy and Project

For our third meeting this term, the Digital Scholars group will peruse some recent legacy projects and engage in conversation about technologies of recovery. Central to our discussion will be “Black at Bryn Mawr,” a collaborative project begun by Emma Kioko and Grace Pusey in the Fall of 2014 under the guidance of Monica Mercado and Sharon Ullman. Initially conceived as a cross-disciplinary attempt to re/build institutional memory of the College’s “engagement with race and racism,” BBW represents a growing number of legacy projects that hope to re-situate institutions’ relationships to their past and present communities. While the digitization project is ongoing, during the AY 2017-2018, Bryn Mawr has also begun discussions about installing other physical projects and/or naming physical landmarks on campus to highlight some of the content amplified by this work. We may take up the following questions:

  • How might projects like these satiate or provoke ongoing concerns about the “whiteness” of Digital Humanities?
  • Is “legacy” an appropriate term for data-oriented projects driven by models of data-gathering that may potentially flatten?
  • Since Digital Scholars first raised this question in 2011, how far have we come in considering how a “critical code studies” might inform (or transform) this work?
  • Assuming their interest in the material and cultural implications of technologies of recovery, what seems an appropriate set of questions for digital humanists to ask, or with which to build such projects?
  • What stands in the way of authentically anti-racist dialogues surrounding technology within DH?
  • How is DH complicit in barring such dialogues from occurring?

Participants will be encouraged to share their perspectives on and experiences with other inclusion projects, and all are invited to read and view the following in advance:

All are welcome! We hope you can join us,