Report from the field: DH2016 in Krakow Day 1, 2

    The annual Digital Humanities conference is happening in Kraków, Poland this year. It is my first DH conference (thanks Alison for gently pushing me into the water!). It is also largest conference to date, with over 900 registered attendees from all over the world descending on an area roughly the size of Pittsburgh's Oakland neighborhood. (Sorry Oakland, Kraków edges you out just slightly in history and beauty! I will reserve judgment on the Pierogi situation for now.) Like many of the issues that circulate in the HAA department, this year’s theme is Past/Future. The opening talk by Agnieszka Zalewska, particle physicist at CERN, maybe neglected to address the soft humanities aspect of the conference in favor of hard science, but this nerd was totally into learning about molecular physics, and not about Chaucer or obscure dead languages for a moment. Indeed, although her talk focused on the ways in which CERN can *maybe* provide a model for the Digital Humanities, the particular poetic of her message was that CERN emphasizes the relationship between mentors and mentees, in order to pass knowledge and skills in a particular field of study.


    The intersections of, contrasts between, or even contestations in the Past and the Future have naturally been explored in many of the panels. Since it is impossible to visit all 9 of the simultaneously running panels per session, I am trying to attend talks that broadly touch upon the issues related to our interests in HAA, as well as my own particular topics and passions (woo dynamic network analysis!). On the first full day of paper presentations, I attended panels discussing Network Analytics, recognizing and extracting visual patterns, and the second of a series of panels devoted to Diversity within the field of DH. The Network Analytics panel was a pretty straightforward, short paper presentation of a variety of projects that examine and implement methodologies of analyzing network relationships. For my own research, this panel exposed a number of ways in which I could continue to look at actors and relationships within a network. A big point of contestation was whether the data required discreet static networks, and when, and how, a researcher should think about networks in a dynamic analysis.


    Because I am an art historian, the panel on recognizing and extracting visual patterns, which specifically dealt with implementing computational methods on Mayan Hieroglyphs, was a nice zone to be in. Finally, Art(?)! Icons! Symbols! All the papers in this panel examined ways to decipher, analyze, translate, and make available the Mayan system of language to broader publics. The researchers mostly come from a larger consortium of the MAAYA project, and the most public facing (and code intensive) project can be found here (including the HOOSC [Histogram of Oriented Shape Context] code source): http://www.idiap.ch/project/maaya/   

    Really fascinating stuff!


    The final panel I attended was on “Diversity” in DH. The scare quotes are intentional. As Padmini Murray Ray said in her presentation: the word “Diversity” is being used to erase bigger intersectionality problems within the field. Just because we as scholars recognize the problem does not mean we can just put the bandaid term “inclusivity” or “diversity” over the issue and call it a day. We need to be responsible for our own culpability in the continuation of systemic oppression. As she said: “I know I fail. The question is: How can I fail better?” How can what we do in the Digital Humanities allow us to help others (the underrepresented, POC, *queers) do the important work? Of course, I cannot help but think about the systemic oppression, violence, and social issues facing the United States right now, one of the major representative countries at the conference. Science is safe. Software is safe. Hardware is safe. Maybe the questions we should be asking of ourselves as scholars, academics, humanists, SHOULDN’T be safe. Maybe we should be breaking up that system of safety, while acknowledging it may also endanger our own sense of security. I will be attending more panels on this topic, because the conference is, at the very least, providing a space for these discussions during almost every session. But when is trying not enough?


    Sorry (not sorry) Chaucer, this isn’t your rodeo anymore.

    • Temporalities
    • Current Projects
    • Graduate Work
    • VMW