Digital Humanities (DH)

  • Antonio Roberts, f(Glitch), (CC BY-SA 2.0)

     

    Summer 2016 Syllabus: "Digital Humanities," MLIS Program, University of Pittsburgh

    Please find a link here and below to the most recent version of the course that I teach in the Digital Humanities to the MLIS students here at the University of Pittsburgh. This and my PhD-level course have been going through iterations over the last three years. 

    Categories: 
    • Visual Knowledge
    • Faculty Work
    • VMW
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    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.

    Categories: 
    • Temporalities
    • Current Projects
    • Graduate Work
    • VMW
  • Digital Tools

    Image Source: https://mydigitalhumanity.wordpress.com/

     

    Digital Tools of Interest: Winter 2015-2016

    Below please find a curated list of the digital tools I am currently recommending to people when they come to me with particular humanities-based tasks that they'd like to accomplish.

    Text Processing

    Data Visualization

    Blank Slates

    Time and Place

    Data FitnessTM (Matt Burton)

    Time-Based Media

    Still-Image-Based

    Text Annotation

    App Creation

    HTML Creation

    Network Analysis

    Another nice, not ovewhelming, list is found here from the Carolina Digital Humanities Initiative: http://digitalhumanities.unc.edu/resources/tools/

    Categories: 
    • Agency
    • Faculty Work
    • VMW
  • ADHC

    The Alabama Digital Humanities Center, https://www.lib.ua.edu/using-the-library/digital-humanities-center/, October 2015 (Photo: Alison Langmead)

     

    Resources for the Network Analysis Workshop: Alabama Digital Humanities Center, October 28th, 2015

    For a general introduction to network analysis, start with Scott Weingart's work here: 

    Second, see Elisa Beshero-Bondar on her own applications of this material, and secondly a glossary of hers:

    If you'd like a bit more background on XML, might I suggest yet a third of my colleagues (!), David Birnbaum:

    On the visualization of networks, you can consult apost by Elijah Meeks to start (he jumps right in, though):

    Tools for Playtime:

    A Few Topics to Consider (i.e. if you can describewhat these are by the end of the workshop, I'll have gotten somewhere!):

    1. Degree
    2. "The Centralities"
    3. Co-Citation Networks
    4. How GIS and Network Analysis require somewhat similar mindsets...

    And, for reference, here are a few projects that are currently discussing issues surrounding network ontologies in the Early Modern World:

    Categories: 
    • Visual Knowledge
    • Faculty Work
    • VMW
  • VMW in Summer 2015

    The Visual Media Workshop in Summer 2015...waiting for Fall Term to begin!

     

    To My (Once and Future) Undergraduate Research Assistants

    Please read this article, "An Undergraduate's Love Letter to Digital Humanities Research," by Tiffany Chan...and let me know your feedback (either below in the comments if you have worked here before...or to adl40@pitt.edu for everyone). For those interested in working and learning here in the Visual Media Workshop (VMW) in the future, this essay, written by an undergradate about her experiences in the digital humanities, provides a taste of the potential opportunities in the field. We strive here in the VMW to create a community where all ideas are heard, and where we sincerely want each other to succeed.

    Categories: 
    • Agency
    • Identity
    • Visual Knowledge
    • Undergraduate Work
    • VMW
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    Syllabus for the PhD Seminar, "The Digital and the Humanities," Fall Term 2015

    Please find a link here and below for the (draft) syllabus for this Fall Term's PhD seminar, "LIS 3600: The Digital and the Humanities," It's being held in the iSchool from 9-11:50 on Thursdays. We are lucky to be having seven local luminaries visiting the seminar this term, so the class will not only provide a graduate-level introduction to the digital humanities (and allied social sciences), it will provide an introduction to the DH community in Pittsburgh.

    If you're interested in taking the course, and you a grad student at Pitt or CMU, do shoot me an email letting me know (adl40@pitt.edu)!

    Categories: 
    • Visual Knowledge
    • Faculty Work
    • VMW
  • New York Public Library, Billy Rose Theatre Collection photograph file / Productions / Don Quijote (cinema 1915)

    New York Public Library, Billy Rose Theatre Collection photograph file / Productions / Don Quijote (cinema 1915), http://digitalgallery.nypl.org/nypldigital/id?TH-09130

     

    Brief Introduction(s) to the Digital Humanities

    A number of the members of the DH community at Pitt have put together the following list of texts that do a good job of introducing the overall state of the Digital Humanities in North America at the current moment. It begins with a section called, "Articles and Shorter Pieces," which has been kept intentionally brief so as to give you a good taste of the field without being overwhelming. Should you end up with a desire to read more, the next section entitled, "Larger Works," should satisfy many a curiosity. Finally, this post ends with a "Projects" section which includes just a few projects, some created here, others elsewhere, that have captured the attention of this community.

    Articles and Shorter Pieces

    David M. Berry, “The Computational Turn: Thinking about the Digital Humanities,” Culture Machine 12, 1-22. http://culturemachine.net/index.php/cm/article/view/440/470

    • Berry is a theorist and a maker, but his texts often take the long view, which makes him an apt choice here.

    Anne Burdick, et al, “A Short Guide to the Digital_Humanities,” in Digital_Humanities, 121-135. Entire book can be found here: https://mitpress.mit.edu/sites/default/files/9780262018470_Open_Access_Edition.pdf

    • Provocative and useful overview of DH from creation to assessment.

    Matt Kirschenbaum, "What is Digital Humanities and What's it Doing in English Departments?" https://mkirschenbaum.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/kirschenbaum_ade150.pdf

    • A history about the formation of DH as a "proper" field than it is about English, and it covers how DH became a thing of note at the MLA conference.

    Tara McPherson, "Introduction: Media Studies and the Digital Humanities,” Cinema Journal 48, 119–23. JStor link: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20484452

    • Another fine introduction from a slightly different point-of-view.

    Christof Schöch, “Big? Smart? Clean? Messy? Data in the Humanities,” Journal of Digital Humanitieshttp://journalofdigitalhumanities.org/2-3/big-smart-clean-messy-data-in-the-humanities/

    • Those wanting to know something about "data" in the humanities can start here. Others may have a more provocative approach, but this one is pretty even keel.

    Larger Works 

    Anne Burdick, et al, Digital_Humanities, https://mitpress.mit.edu/sites/default/files/9780262018470_Open_Access_Edition.pdf

    Johanna Drucker, DH101, http://dh101.humanities.ucla.edu/ 

    Matthew Gold, ed., Debates in the Digital Humanities, http://dhdebates.gc.cuny.edu/

    Projects

    The Hermeneutics of Shipping Logs
    http://sappingattention.blogspot.com/2012/11/reading-digital-sources-case-study-in.html
    http://sappingattention.blogspot.com/2014/03/shipping-maps-and-how-states-see.html
    Ben Schmidt, Northeastern University, NULab

    Itinera
    https://itinera.pitt.edu/
    Alison Langmead and Drew Armstrong, University of Pittsburgh

    Music21: A Toolkit for Computer-Aided Musicology
    http://web.mit.edu/music21/
    Mark Cuthbert, MIT

    NYPL Building Inspector
    http://buildinginspector.nypl.org/
    NYPL Labs in collaboration with the Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division at the NYPL

    Quantifying Kissinger
    http://blog.quantifyingkissinger.com
    Micki Kaufman, CUNY Graduate Center

    Categories: 
    • Identity
    • Faculty Work
    • VMW
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    Itinera Got An Upgrade

    We reworked Itinera because it was glitching on some tour stops for agents.  Now that it's been updated, all the tour stops are functioning, and it looks a lot nicer.  This is great because coincidentally, my FE-R presentation is next week.

    Today, I finished up all the goals that we were trying to achieve with inputting the Parthenon Marbles into Itinera.  All the sculptures are linked to each other, the people are linked to each other and (hopefully) I inputted all the relevant data.  I've done a lot of mouse-clicking in the past couple months, and I'm happy that we've been able to complete so much for this project!

    Next week, I'll be able to go back into Itinera and fix anything that I missed.  I'm relieved that I finished most of the programming today, because I was a little nervous that I wouldn't be able to input all the Marbles in time.

    Photo courtesy of the new Itinera site: https://itinera.pitt.edu

    Categories: 
    • Mobility/Exchange
    • Visual Knowledge
    • Current Projects
    • Itinera
    • Undergraduate Work
    • VMW
  • Image Credit: MacRumors

     

    Alison's Stab at Defining the Humanities in the Age of Big Data

    Trying to explain what humanists do and how they take an interest in their object(s) of study...

    Humanists study humans in all of our variety. The art that we create, the writings we leave, the receipts we generate, the programs we write, the games we generate, the music we compose, the poetry we craft, the buildings we design, the policies we implement, the dances and plays and movies we produce—all such activities are the stuff of the humanities, and humanists often study them through the only means left to us: their records, data, traces, leavings. Sometimes we study this material closely, one piece at a time, sometimes we study it in the aggregate, finding large-scale patterns and shapes, but at all times we study and describe what it means to be human.

    Humanities scholarship has always been deeply invested in, and tied to, its research data. Indeed, the totality of the source material studied by humanists is amongst the bulkiest, least thoroughly-investigated, most valuable data that humankind possesses. It fills millions of cubic feet of space in the archives, museums, libraries, attics, and crypts of the world. It now also fills terabytes and petabytes of storage space on computers scattered across the globe—sometimes in places inaccessible even to their creators. The material that the humanities takes as its primary sources comprises the totality of the enduring records of human existence.

    Here at the beginning of the twenty-first century, many disciplines of humanist inquiry are acknowledging and confronting the vast amount of source material not yet tackled by our predecessors. It is almost as if it had not previously been possible for us to fathom what it would mean to grasp at the totality of the information stored in all the various sites of human recordkeeping. While it is doubtful that any humanist assumes that we can read it all or know it all about ourselves—generations of past humanists have already made it clear that this is not a fruitful line of attack—digital technologies have offered us the power to transform our approaches to this immense amount of material, allowing us to make thinkable many issues and questions that we had not dared approach previously.

    What is more, the very means by which all scholarship is being produced is undergoing radical transformation. Before the global reach of the Internet, before the assumption of instantaneous communication and collaboration across the planet could be made, humanities research had the habit of being a solitary activity—the researcher against his/her currently available sources. At the present historical moment, however, collaborative research, often enabled by technology, has not only become possible, it is showing its advantages. For one thing, it allows the disciplines of the humanities to interact and reinforce one another, as different perspectives are often present to challenge and transform assumptions that do not always hold true. For another, working together, we can see more than we could individually. Indeed, final research products are also taking on new forms—such as interactive digital projects or publicly-available web sites—that not only allow researchers to investigate new methods for visualizing and presenting their studies, but also allow them to reach audiences and publics that proved more difficult to address when academic print publishing was the de facto norm.

    Categories: 
    • Temporalities
    • Decomposing Bodies
    • VMW
  •  

    What's Been Going on in Itinera for the Past Couple Weeks

    For the month of January, I've been researching for Itinera to catalog the travels of artists and artifacts around Europe during the 18th and 19th centuries.  The project has had its ups and downs, but so far, all is well.

    When I first started working in Itinera, my graduate mentor Jen assigned me to input information straight into the database.  I have no past experience with computer programming.  This was actually one of the reasons why I chose this research project, in the hopes that it would prepare me for more tech-oriented positions in the future.  I was a great programmer, when Jen sat directly next to me and dictated instructions on how to individually do each step.  But it wasn't all that great when she let me do it on my own.

    NB: Right now, I am really bad at computer programming.

    The information that goes into Itinera is important and public.  You're tracking the cross-country movements of real people who have lived and died, and real art that has existed for hundreds of years.  This is not something an undergraduate researcher wants to mess up.

    Since then, Jen has taken pity on me.  I'm now directly researching information and prepping it to go into Itinera.  So we've taken a couple leaps back.  This task is much less stressful and requires more page turning than button clicking.

    I'm currently researching the Elgin Marbles (or the Parthenon Marbles), which is a collection of antique sculptures, inscriptions and architectural pieces that decorated the Acropolis in Greece from about 447 BCE up through 1800.  By that time, Athens was pretty miserable and sketchy in term of being a city.  But they had their Marbles!

    Cue: Lord Elgin.

    Around the turn of the century, a Scottish diplomat named Thomas Bruce (but I'll call him Lord Elgin, since that's one of his titles), decided to seize the Marbles from the Parthenon and send them over to London.  Elgin initially sent a group of artists to Athens under the assumption that they would just sketch and study the sculptures at the Acropolis.  But after a lot of back and forth, he decided that he wanted the Marbles, so he basically just took them.

    The Elgin Marbles are tricky to track because rather than being one solid object, they're broken up into seperate sculptures and friezes at different countries and museums throughout Europe.  Most of the collection is either in London or Athens, but Paris, Copenhagen, Vienna, and parts of Germany have some sculptures as well.  Since Elgin was a diplomat, he traveled a lot between England and then-Constantinople.  Elgin also sent other people on Marbles-related missions around Europe during this time.

    The overall story of the Elgin Marbles is pretty dramatic, laced with political controversy and ethical questions.  So far in my research, at least two people have been imprisoned.  There is a lot of sneaking around and stealing about this affair, too.  I've even found one account of adultry between Elgin's wife and her lover.  It'll be interesting to see how the Elgins' marriage [spolier] fell apart.

    Tracking the movement of the Elgin Marbles and all the people involved is pretty fascinating.  It's interesting to see why there was (and continues to be) all this controversy about the Elgin Marbles when, with an unsentimental eye, they're really just a couple hunks of old rock.  But caring about history means being sentimental about old things, so I think the Elgin Marbles are pretty awesome.

    Photo courtesy of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elgin_Marbles#mediaviewer/File:Elgin_Marble...

    Categories: 
    • Mobility/Exchange
    • Visual Knowledge
    • Current Projects
    • Itinera
    • Undergraduate Work
    • VMW

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