About this page

These summaries were written by and cover the DH 2011 panel sessions that Mary Beth Clack attended. Constraints of time and space come into play, so these notes are necessarily brief. The conference sessions described research based on complex methodologies for data gathering and analysis, deep reflection (and much hard work), producing conclusions and more research questions that merit a closer look.

Links to the abstracts for the authors' fuller and more precise descriptions of these rich, multi-dimensional presentations and papers are posted, inviting further reading. DH 2011's excellent documentation makes this possible.

Virtual Cities/Digital Histories

Virtual Cities/Digital Histories
Chair: Elizabeth M. Lorang with Speakers: Robert C. Allen, Natasha Smith, Pamella Lach, Richard Marciano, Chris Speed, Todd Presner, Philip Ethington, David Shepard, Chien-Yi Hou, & Christopher Johanson     Abstracts

Notes: Robert Allen spoke about Main Street Carolina, an open source digital history toolkit and a collaboration between Professor Allen and Wilson Library’s Carolina Digital Library and Archives. which grew out of his Going to the Show: Mapping Moviegoing in North Carolina.

MSC is intended to be a more collaborative system that balances technological sophistication with usabilityand accessibility. Cultural organizations in the state are creating and tagging interactive historical maps based on Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps made between 1896 and 1922 (in the public domain and held by the UNC Libraries. (See the six pilot projects currently on the site).

HyperCities: Todd Presner presented this digital cultural mapping project. HyperCities' layering effect of memories in a given space outlines a rich narrative of "polyline stories," made visible through time. HyperCities Now provides an expanded public sphere in several regions: visualizations of tweets from Libya and Egypt and live streaming and an archival map of tweets from Sendai, Japan. The "Community" section of the site combines GIS applications and storytelling in Historic Filipinotown, Los Angeles. Youth are creating content distributed on multiple platforms.

Richard Marciano, Professor and Director @ Sustainable Archives & Leveraging Technologies group (SALT) at UNC, spoke about the ILMS-funded project, T-RACES: Testbed for Redlining Archives of California Exclusionary Spaces. Maps used to make home mortgage decisions in the 1930s are included for eight cities in California, allowing users to view the maps and perform various data queries to learn more about the effect of these maps on urban neighborhoods.

Marciano concluded this segment of the presentations with the announcement that he and Allen will be forming the UNC Digital Innovation Lab to partner in promting projects for free public use, that are scalable, reusable, have social and cultural value and are of interest to multiple audiences.

Chris Speed, Edinburgh College of Art, was introduced as a "reader of digital spaces," whose work in digital architecture is joined with his interest in social history. He humorously described two projects. Touching the City is an iPhone app allowing for adding tags and links to historical maps of Edinburgh while walking through streets and spaces of the city.

Tales of Things is a project in beta which allows for associating previous owners' stories with objects for second-hand sale. Data is stored in QR codes that become "memory holders" for the story related to the object for sale in Oxfam stores in the UK. Speed played the audio for one such story (to the general amusement of the audience), commenting that objects can be "repossessed by memory."



New Models of Digital Materialities

New Models of Digital Materialities     Abstracts
Chair: Trevor Muñoz
Jean-Francois Blanchette, Johanna Drucker, & Matthew Kirschenbaum   

This panel was devoted to theory from the perspectives of Blanchette (Assistant Professor of Information Studies, UCLA),  Drucker, Martin and Bernard Breslauer Professor of Information Studies, UCLA) and Kirschenbaum (Associate Professor in the Department of English at the University of Maryland, Associate Director of the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH). Blanchette argued that programming (or "computational thinking') is but one skill in the dh toolkit and presented his ideas about what should be included in a core course for teaching digital humanities, especially if it is the only course that students will take. He builds a more subtle argument that materiality is key to "analyzing the shape and evolution of the computing infrastructure." He characterizes this materiality as diffuse and distributed throughout the computing ecosystem. Understanding software design and the principle of modularity is at the heart of his pedagogy.

Drucker spoke on performative materiality, "where poststructuralism meets the computer environment." She draws on her knowledge of literary critical studies in this talk and suggest that digital humanists apply these insights into current practice. Performative materiality has a dual significance: it produces meaning as a performance and it suggests a way of designing a content model and its expressions. To quote her, " The “structure of knowledge” becomes a “scheme of knowing” that inscribes use as well as provoking it.

Kirschenbaum's talk, "Checksums: Digital Materiality in the Archive," began with a brief history of the concept of “materiality” in digital media, citing work by  Markley 1997; Hayles 2002 and newer models, his own “formal materiality” and accompanying work on digital forensics (2008) and the “media archeology” paradigm. He uses a case-study approach in his paper to consider media archeology, in his words, "putting theory through its paces, using archival content as a “checksum” for critical debate. He concludes with posing the question of the gulf between digital humanities and archival communities. "If digital humanities can offer a forum in which the artifacts and objects of contemporary cultural heritage, many of which will be born-digital rather than digitized, can serve as the basis for critical and technical inquiry then it will be well positioned to take part in the increasingly urgent societal conversation around the future of our digital and material present"

The Interface of the Collection

The Interface of the Collection      Abstracts
Chair: Claire Warwick
Geoffrey Rockwell, Stan Ruecker, Mihaela Ilovan, Daniel Sondheim, Milena Radzikowska, Peter Organisciak, & Susan Brown

This panel addressed two questions: "How has the interface to scholarly collections or corpora changed from print to the web? What interfaces are possible?" Rockwell introduced the questions and spoke about the interface of the Corpus of Contemporary American English. Sondheim discussed the "lowly citation," as an important interface and Stan Ruecker described Paper Drill, an interface in development that navigates collections of articles through citations. Mihaela Ilovan's paper, "Diachronic View on Digital Collections Interfaces," discusses a comparative study of Project Gutenberg, Perseus Digital Library, and the Victorian Web, sites that have undegone multiple interface designs over at least a ten-year period.

Links of interest: Corpus of Contemporary American English (Mark Davies of Brigham Young University);  INKE: Implementing New Knowledge Environments, a study of print and digital interfaces; Internet Shakerspeare Editions (University of Victoria); Bruce Brace Coin Collection at McMaster University.

The Big Tent

Networks, Literature, Culture

Networks, Literature, Culture
Chair: Neil R. Fraistat with Speakers: Franco Moretti, Zephyr Frank, Rhiannon Lewis & Ed Finn      Abstracts
Franco Moretti introduced the panel on network theory, presented via examples of social and literary historians collaborating and finding common ground through digital projects undertaken at the Stanford Literary Lab from Fall 2010+.

Reading Writing and Reputation: Literary Networks in Contemporary American Fiction
Ed Finn, Innovation Fellow at Arizona State University spoke about his dissertation, The Social Life of Books." The talk was limited to describing data collection and analysis for two of the three authors under study: David Foster Wallace and Junot Diaz. Exploring changes in literary production through participation in "previously closed literary conversations," Finn analyzed book reviews from two sources, professional reviews and amazon's automated recommendations (including the "also bought" category).  He enumerated points of comparison between the professional reviews (1987-2011) and the amazon reviews (1996-2011) as a basis for his study of new perspectives on relationships between writers and readers and "between the arts of fiction and the market for books (Radway)." His evolving conclusions will shed light on the development of authorial fame over time and its relationship to "wider systems of social distinction."

Plot as Network: Quantifying the Evolution of Dramatic Style
Rhiannon Lewis, PhD student at Stanford, spoke about her research on the behavior of networks in plot, genre and character interactions in selected Shakespearean plays. (The corpus of her research included 70 plays from classical through Renaissance drama). Her remarks centered on Shakespearean tragedies and comedies; she spoke in some detail about patterns of speech and "measures of centrality," (how characters were connected to other characters in verbal exchanges). One of her discoveries was that speeeh travels through more channels in the comedies (creating a higher density of exchanges with fewer characters involved). By comparison, in the tragedies, more plotting and secrecy is present, yielding a lower density of connections spread over more social circles and more characters. She discussed displays of the supporting data and also talked a bit about other findings in the areas of semantic analysis of dialogue. Her research models reexamine traditional binaries of character analysis (for example,  protagonist vs. minor characters).

Social Connections and Space in Nineteenth-Century Rio de Janeiro
Zephyr Frank, Director of Stanford's Spatial History Project and Associate Professor of Latin American History, discussed his research on character networks in five nineteenth-century Brazilian novels by Machado de Assis, Jose de Alencar and Aluiso Azevedo. His work centers on understanding social networks in Brazil related to thems of tragic love/ambiguous identities, marriage then social reconciliation, failure of adjust to circumstances, social reconciliation then marriage and determination to indetermination. He also explores time and space in relation to these networks, using visualizations to connect "inflected literary criticism to social history." The tour de force of the results of his research is an animated graph of the field of exonomic and social power from the 1850s to the 1880, plotting network centrality and narrative sequence to demonstrate his conclusions about the interplay of hierarchy and gatekeeping in social connections of the period.

Digital Historical Representations

Reforming Digital Historical Peer Review: Guidelines for Applying Digital Historiography to the Evaluative Process     Abstract    Summary
Joshua Sternfeld, Senior Program Officer, Division of Preservation and Access at National Endowment for the Humanities

This session focused on applying a methodology for evaluation of a web project through the lens of digital historiography. Sternfeld points to work done in the field of literature (see abstract for citation to the MLA guidelines) and argues for a similar approach in digital history. He spoke specifically about the application of a four-step evaluation process --and, more broadly, about the implications for peer review of digital scholarship in history.He discussed key sample questions first (related to historical content, interpretive possibilities, repurposing of data and the extent to which search and navigation facilitate humanistic inquiry). Then Sternfeld described a "three-axis framework for peer review." He selected examples from Digital Harlem to illustrate aspects of his talk.

The Born-Digital Graduate

The Born Digital Graduate: Multiple representations of and within Digital Humanities PhD theses / Sharon Webb, Aja Teehan, John G. Keating   Abstract

Sharon Webb, Department of History, National University of Ireland, Maynooth, presented on her research with representations of digital scholarship on nationalism in Ireland, 1780-1830. Dynamic research objects were created for chapters of theses and accompanying data such as timeleines and contextual information were displayed as spring graphs and relational graphs (mapping sources to other sources). Audio and video learning resources were also included in these digital representations of scholarship. The Abstract provides much more detail and examples.

The DH Curriculum

Knowing and Doing: Understanding the Digital Humanities Curriculum   Abstract
Lisa Spiro, Director, NITLE Labs (National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education)

Spiro spoke in detail about the area of her research that concentrates on analysis of a collection of 200+ syllabi for digital humanities courses in universities and colleges, taught in departments such as English, History, Media Studies, library and information science, computer science and digital humanities. Questions about these courses focus on course goals (and how explicitly these are stated), assignments, degree and kinds of collaborative work, use of peer review of work, how courses reflect the influence of the sponsoring department, what kinds of readings are assigned (and whether a core set of readings can be identified), etc. Spiro's research is still in progress, but emerging conclusions include: readings are often openly accessible and available, many courses focus on text, but, increasingly, geospatial analysis and scholarship, multimedia design and visualization of information is being taught. Projects are required, produced either by individuals or groups.

(News note from this presentation: Zotero users may join the Digital Humanities Education group and thereby connect to her collection of 1100 items related to the 51 courses that were under study. See the abstract for helpful links).

The "#alt-ac" Track

The "#alt-ac" Track: Digital Humanists off the Straight and Narrow Path to Tenure   Abstracts
Chair: Stéfan Sinclair
Bethany Nowviskie, Julia Flanders, Tanya Clement, Doug Reside, Dot Porter, & Eric Rochester