DH Event on campus Speaker Series

DH Speaker Series: Alex Gil

Join us for a talk by Alex Gil, the Digital Scholarship Coordinator of the Humanities and History Division at Columbia University Libraries.

Monday March 13, 2017
Hillel 101
Lunch provided, please register

The Globe is Not a Circle: The New Life of Words and the Broken Scholarly Record

In this talk, Alex Gil follows the present and possible future of our scholarly production and its uneven flows around the world.Although “the scholarly record” as a concept does not translate well into other languages, and its outlines are difficult to define, its existence is not in question. At a time when our archives and libraries are in a period of transition to hybrid registers—both analog and digital—we see a shift in the divisions of labor and interpretive frameworks resulting from these changes in the production of this record. An opening for understanding these developments and design sensible practices can be found in the idea of an *infrastructural critique* advanced by Liu, Verhoebenand as a recasting of digital humanities as a hermeneutic praxis with material consequences. In particular, Gil will argue for a form of this infrastructural critique which he and others call minimal computing.

Alex Gil Alex Gil specializes in twentieth-century Caribbean literature and Digital Humanities, with an emphasis on textual studies. His recent research in Caribbean literature focuses on the works and legacy of Aimé Césaire, including work in Aimé Césaire: Poésie, théâtre, essais et discours published by Planète Libre in 2013. He has published in journals and collections of essays in Canada, France and the United States, while sustaining an open-access and robust online research presence. In 2010-2012 he was a fellow at the Scholars’ Lab and NINES at the University of Virginia. He is founder and vice chair of the Global Outlook::Digital Humanities initiative and the co-founder and co-director of the Group for Experimental Methods in the Humanities and the Studio@Butler at Columbia University. He serves as Co-editor for Small Axe: Archipelagos and Multilingual Editor for Digital Humanities Quarterly. Alex Gil is actively engaged in several digital humanities projects at Columbia and around the world, including Ed, a digital platform for minimal editions of literary texts; the Open Syllabus Project; the Translation Toolkit; and, In The Same Boats, a visualization of trans-atlantic intersections of black intellectuals in the 20th century.

DH Event on campus Speaker Series

Report on “Digital Humanities, Data Analysis and Its Possibilities”

As part of the DH Speaker Series, I attended the talk by University of Richmond Assistant Professors Lauren Tilton and Taylor Arnold in which they discussed data analysis and how they have used it in different ways in their digital humanities research. Lauren and Taylor’s presentation of the critical role of statistics and data analysis in DH was really interesting. They pointed out that statisticians often just throw out data without analyzing the information critically and presenting their findings in an interesting manner to a larger audience. They posed the question: how do we communicate our results to a PUBLIC audience? I think that their project, titled Photogrammar, is an awesome website that effectively communicates statistical analysis in a really cool way.

Taylor and Lauren were interested in analyzing the Library of Congress’ archive of photography from the FSA era. The photographers hired by the FSA were tasked with documenting poverty, largely in the American South, during the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. Taylor and Lauren worked closely with the Library of Congress staff in order to turn their photographic collection into a user-friendly database. They computed the data and began to analyze the statistics. Lauren said their analysis caused a “fundamental change in our understanding of this collection” and opened up a whole news series of questions. For example, the data analysis showed that the number of FSA photos from the war era and the number from the New Deal era are actually quite similar. Many people associate the FSA photographers with the Great Depression and the New Deal, and may not even know that the FSA continued their photographic endeavor into World War II.

The database is super user-friendly and much easier to find what you are really looking for than the search engine on the Library of Congress webpage for the collection. On Photogrammar, you can find images based on the county they were photographed or even find images based on color palette. In the most recent segment of the project, Taylor and Lauren used a computer software to identify faces and certain images in a photograph, looking for repetition or patterns, in order to rebuild entire photo strips from a specific photographer’s camera. This feature is amazing because it allows the user to track the photographer’s line of vision, tying the visual images and story of their production together.

I became really interested in photography after taking a History of Photography course during my sophomore year winter term. Taylor and Lauren’s discussion of their project was so helpful because it showed me how data analysis (a term that somewhat intimidates me) can help people better understand and engage with a topic in the humanities. Photogrammar answers so many research questions, just through the different features of its interactive map of the U.S. It lets me see the main regions that Walker Evans photographed in or the counties that were photographed the most during the Dust Bowl. As Lauren and Taylor stated in their talk, photographs can tell us a lot about the culture and background of an era. Their project provides a simpler yet more interesting way of understanding these photographs and the culture that surrounded them.

-Hayley Soutter, DH Undergraduate Fellow

This program is made possible by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.


Conference DH Event on campus

Report on UNRH Conference 2017

This year’s UNRH (Undergraduate Network for Research in the Humanities) Conference was hosted at W&L. For those who are not familiar with them, UNRH is a group of undergraduate students interested in learning about and experimenting with innovative research methods in the humanities. Two W&L students, Lenny Enkhbold (’17) and Lizzy Stanton (’17), were part of the founding group that started the conference in 2015. “Having worked on this project for over two years, it was very rewarding to have received so much support and being able to actually experience the results. I know Lizzy feels the same way as well,” Lenny said. “We listened to the feedback from last year and tried to make the adjustments on any category that the participants from last year thought we could improve on.”

The various sessions for this year’s conference were hosted in the new Center for Global Learning. Over the weekend of January 20-22, students from different colleges and universities across the country gathered to discuss their projects and to attend DH workshops.

Formal presentations began Saturday morning. (check out the full schedule here) During the morning session, four different groups presented the cool projects they have been working on.

In the first presentation, titled “Digitizing a Church,” two students from Lake Forest College told us about their four week endeavor of creating a virtual reality of a church near their campus. The most interesting aspect of their project was it’s interactive nature; you could simply click on the stained glass windows of the church and a pop-up window would detail their importance. The students demonstrated their belief that virtual realities can help change the education industry, by allowing students to really engage with the material in a digital representation and could even replace field trips in the future.

Students from the University of South Carolina presented their app called “Ward One,” which they created in a classroom setting. The students wanted to heighten awareness about Ward One, a historically African American community that has been destroyed by development. The app allows people to explore the community as it was and highlights historical monuments in the area. The students have received immense positive feedback from the city. During the presentation, a taped interview showed a woman who had lived in the neighborhood stating that the app made her feel like “finally someone cares.”

One group, who detailed their experience creating their online game titled “Chronicle of Swashbuckling Rubbish,” were asked why they created the project. In response, they replied, “We wanted to create something and so we did.” Although the two presenters are English and music education majors at Cornell College, they found a way to manifest their different skills into a digital project.

The afternoon consisted of round robin sessions, which I was unable to attend. But Lenny, a host contact for this year’s conference, said that the afternoon was a great way to wrap-up the day. “It was nice to change up the presentation style and keep everyone fresh rather than having two more hours of sit-down formal presentations,” he said. (see photos from this year’s conference here)

Lenny, Lizzy and the rest of the leadership team seemed really excited about their progress and are already seeking volunteer’s for next year’s conference. I thought the conference was a really awesome event that allowed students to present their work to a wider audience of their peers from different schools, majors, backgrounds, etc.

Check out all the tweets from the conference here:

DH Event on campus Speaker Series

DH Event: Digital Humanities, Data Analysis and Its Possibilities

Visiting us from University of Richmond, Assistant Professors Lauren Tilton and Taylor Arnold will give a talk on exploratory data analysis methods, which have received limited visibility in DH. In this talk, they will give an overview of the historical developments of exploratory data analysis and statistical computing. They will show, through examples from their work on visual culture, how both have the potential to shape digital humanities projects and pedagogy.

Thursday, February 2nd, 2017
IQ Center (Science Addition 202A)
Please register

Lauren Tilton is Visiting Assistant Professor of Digital Humanities at the University of Richmond and member of Richmond’s Digital Scholarship Lab. Her current book project focuses on participatory media in the 1960s and 1970s. She is the Co-PI of the project Participatory Media, which interactively engages with and presents participatory community media from the 1960s and 1970s. She is also a director of Photogrammar, a web-based platform for organizing, searching and visualizing the 170,000 photographs from 1935 to 1945 created by the United States Farm Security Administration and Office of War Information (FSA-OWI). She is the co-author of Humanities Data in R (Springer, 2015). She is co-chair of the American Studies Association’s Digital Humanities Caucus.

Taylor Arnold is Assistant Professor of Statistics at the University of Richmond. A recipient of grants from the NEH and ACLS, Arnold’s research focuses on computational statistics, text analysis, image processing, and applications within the humanities. His first book Humanities Data in R, co-authored with Lauren Tilton, explores four core analytical areas applicable to data analysis in the humanities: networks, text, geospatial data, and images. His second book, the forthcoming A Computational Approach to Statistical Learning (CRC Press 2018), explores connections between modern machine learning techniques with connections in statistical estimation. Numerous journal articles extrapolate on these ideas in the context of particular applications. Arnold has also released several open-source libraries in R, Python, Javascript and C. Visiting appointments have included Invited Professor at Université Paris Diderot and Senior Scientist at AT&T Labs.

Incentive Grants Pedagogy

DH Incentive Grant Report: Writing a Digital Argument

img_3402This semester, Sascha Goluboff, Professor of Cultural Anthropology, was awarded a DH initiative grant for her course titled “Writing Seminar for First Years: Terror and Violence.” I was invited by Professor Goluboff to view her students’ final DH projects in Stackhouse Theatre. The class was tasked with analyzing the popular video game “Grand Theft Auto” in terms of the racism and violence portrayed. Professor Goluboff asked students to pair up to create an iMovie that would analyze the depiction and their reactions to the violence in the game.

After completing a four page paper, the students were told to read their papers as narration in their iMovie project. While many of the students grumbled about disliking the sound of their own recorded voices, the students generally preferred creating a movie over writing a paper. “I liked iMovie more than the traditional paper. Images and scenes from iMovie can convey concepts and ideas in ways that are hard to describe on paper,” said first-year student Mikki Whittington. Most pairs came to the conclusion that the game promoted various sexist and racist stereotypes. For example, the students found that drug dealers were typically Hispanic, while more violent criminals were portrayed as black. The central, hyper-masculine male character was typically surrounded by highly sexualized women dressed in minimal clothing. One group argued that behaviors in this game could even lead gamers to believe this game is a mirror of reality.

The students incorporated images and clips from the video game into their iMovie project, which reinforced their arguments about the offensive stereotypes and harsh violence. “Their arguments about violence against women and minorities within the game were much more persuasive when paired up with actual footage. So, in a sense, the topic lent itself to a digital argument,” Professor Goluboff said.

Students said that they spent many hours on the project, but I felt that many of them really enjoyed the process of creating an iMovie project. The students were able to creatively manifest their ideas in the digital sphere and the video clips also strongly supported their argument. Since students often don’t get the chance to experience each other’s work, it was fun to see the students engaging with and enjoying one another’s final products (with some help from popcorn and soda provided by Professor Goluboff!)

-Hayley Soutter, DH Undergraduate Fellow

This program is made possible by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Announcement Incentive Grants

CFP: DH Incentive Grants for Winter/Spring 2017

The DH team is now accepting proposals from faculty interested in developing a digital humanities project for a course to be offered in Winter or Spring 2017. We want to promote hands-on projects that foster critical thinking through research-based digital methods.

Applications are due by November 18th!

All faculty developing and assigning projects that relate to the humanities, broadly defined, are eligible. Projects that carry the weight and significance of the traditional term paper are eligible for a $1000 award. Projects that amount to the equivalent of an assignment are eligible for a $500 award.

Please contact the Digital Humanities action team at for an initial consultation. All applicants must meet with the DHAT prior to submission.

Download the incentive grant proposal form to learn more about the application process.

Event on campus Speaker Series

Suzanne Churchill to speak October 17

Monday, October 17, 2016
Science Addition 201
Lunch provided. Please register. 

Avant-Garde Feminism and Digital Humanities

Suzanne Churchill has published books and articles on modern periodicals, poetry, and pedagogy, including The Little Magazine ‘Others’ and the Renovation of Modern American Poetry (Ashgate 2006) and Little Magazines and Modernism: new approaches, co-edited with Adam McKible (Ashgate 2007). Several recent articles are products of collaborations with students at Davidson College, who also contribute to the ongoing expansion of the website, Index of Modernist Magazines.

Her current scholarly projects include co-editing a special Harlem Renaissance edition of Modernism/Modernity; collaborating with students on a study of racial silencing in the little magazine Contempo; and investigating Mina Loy’s migration from Italian Futurism to New York Dada.
DH Undergraduate Fellows

Third and Final Fellow Intro: Hayley!

Hi all! My name is Hayley Soutter and I’m the most recent student to join the Digital Humanities Fellowship program. I want to start off by saying that, before I was offered a spot on this team, I really wasn’t sure what it would entail. I thought I might be required to code (which I did not know how to do whatsoever) or design a webpage all on my own. But because I am a Mass Communications and Art History major, I figured I would apply for the program to see if it would combine my humanity-driven interests with my desire to learn more about digital media.

I have always been a student who favored the humanities. I was never very good at science or math growing up. In high school, I was heavily involved in the photojournalism department; I worked as both a reporter and an editor for our yearbook- writing stories, designing page layouts, taking photographs or proofreading copy. While I loved working for my yearbook during high school, I wasn’t sure how I wanted to continue my passion at W&L. I knew early on that I didn’t want to pursue a degree in journalism, but I wanted something that combined writing, creativity and technology under one umbrella.
This past summer, I was an intern at The High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia. During my eight weeks there, I enjoyed working on many social media and technology-related projects. I wrote Instagram and Twitter posts for the museum, in addition to enhancing their Tumblr presence. I also helped the digital technology team redesign the museum’s entire website. I loved the digital media aspect of my internship and I wanted to develop my technological skills further once I got back to school. I learned of the DH Fellowship through an outreach to the journalism department and thought it sounded like the perfect opportunity for me! I’m only a few weeks in, but so far, the internship has been a great experience and I have learned a ton already (including how to code a little). I know the skills I am learning will help me when I enter the “real world” in just a few short months by opening up more opportunities for me in my prospective career path. The DH team is awesome, and I’m so excited for the projects and collaborations to come this year.