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Reading Documentary Social Networks, from the Book to the Database

Alison-Booth Alison Booth, Professor of EnglishUniversity of Virginia@alison_booth
MITH Conference RoomTuesday, September 30, 201412:30 pm

Almost a century ago, Virginia Woolf lamented the absence of biographies of housemaids in the great national prosopography circa 1900, The Dictionary of National Biography.  Recent feminist scholarship continues to overlook other widespread records of women’s lives in print well before 1900, in collective biographies. Booth’s book, How to Make It as a Woman, called attention to this genre of prosopography, a rich repository of networked nonfiction narratives with far more varied female roles than in novels or sermons of the same period. Collective Biographies of Women (CBW) (Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities) is a digital platform for research on more than 8600 persons and 13,400 narratives in 1200 books (most by men, published primarily 1830-1940) in the bibliography (Scholars’ Lab).  CBW devised an XML stand-aside schema, Biographical Elements and Structure Schema (BESS), to develop a morphology of this genre, locating types of elements of biography at the level of the paragraph, within samples of collections. In planned collaboration with Social Networks and Archival Contexts and other prosopographies, we will contribute the only comprehensive study of printed biographies of women to the quest for global unique identifiers for all known persons. . . . Continue Reading

Spectacular Stunts and Digital Detachment: Connecting Effects to Affects in US Car Movies

Caetlin Benson-Allott Caetlin Benson-Allott, Assistant Professor of English and Core Faculty Member, Film and Media StudiesGeorgetown University @VideoPhD
MITH Conference RoomTuesday, April 22, 201412:30 pm

Car movies—movies that subordinate plot and character to chases and collisions—typically appear in cycles that coincide with breakthroughs in visual effects production, concomitant changes in production cultures, and—not coincidentally—devastating advancements in corporate globalization. Comparing the construction and ideological framing of automotive effects from the 1970s and 2000s US car movie cycles, I demonstrate how digital effects cultures are promoting neoliberal economies of spectacle through the same tropes their predecessors established to critique corporate culture. This analysis refutes prior critical dismissals of spectacle as mere visual stimulation, suggesting that its sensation also inspires political feelings

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New Voices in Digital Curation

Margo Padilla Margo Padilla, National Digital Stewardship ResidentLibrary of Congress and MITH@margo_padilla
MITH Conference RoomTuesday, April 15, 201412:30 pm

Residents from the National Digital Stewardship Residency cohort in Washington, D.C. will present on the digital stewardship projects they are engaged in at their host institutions. Margo Padilla, resident at MITH, will present her work on developing access models for born-digital collections. Molly Schwartz will discuss her project to make digital resources accessible in research libraries and the development of the Accessibility Toolkit for the Association of Research Libraries. Erica Titkemeyer will talk about her work at the Smithsonian Institution Archives, identifying the digital curation requirements of time‐based media art. Lauren Work will discuss the evaluation of at‐risk media to support digitization initiatives at PBS. More information about the residents and the residency program can be found here.

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There Is No Internet

Lori Emerson Lori Emerson, Assistant Professor of EnglishUniversity of Colorado at Boulder
MITH Conference RoomTuesday, April 1, 201412:30 pm

Emerson will discuss her current two-part book project, titled OTHER NETWORKS, and how it moves through both technical and user-based accounts of networks that outside of or before the Internet, asking both how and for whom each network works (in this case the “whom” will mostly be writers and artists). The project then looks at how the shift from rhetoric that celebrates liberationism via telecommunications networks in the 70s and 80s to rhetoric that calls for libertarianism via the Internet starting in the early to mid-90s may have actually been a kind of release of a repression. While you can trace an almost complete reversal of the meaning of ‘free’ and ‘open’ in relation to distributed networks to communitarian and even socialist, networks in the early 70s such as Community Memory and Project Cybersyn, you can also trace an even earlier reversal – perhaps the true seed of what’s called “cyberlibertarianism” – to the 1960s, in the conceptualization and design of ARPANet and ARPA-related networks that, in the spirit of the managerial theory of the day (just as much or perhaps more than in the spirit of the 1960s counter-culture), emphasized creativity, cooperation, and community. . . . Continue Reading

On Not Looking: Ethics and Access in the Digital Humanities

Kimberly-Christen-Withey Kimberly Christen-Withey, Associate Professor of EnglishWashington State University
MITH Conference RoomTuesday, March 25, 201412:30 pm

The digital humanities has its roots in fields of study dedicated to textual analysis and historical examination. The present moment is filled with DH practitioners creating visualizations of ‘big data,’ mapping connections between people and ancient cities, and building archives dedicated to long-dead authors. These worthwhile academic and practical pursuits point us to the center of the digital humanities landscape. But, if we move to the margins and begin to look at the projects and tools that emerge from indigenous communities, archivists and cultural specialists, we see a different pattern: images are purposely removed, archives are not ‘open to the public,’ maps of sacred sites are consciously not created, defined or linked to. How do we integrate these varied practices and philosophies into the possibilities offered by digital humanities scholars? It is one thing to call attention to difference, it is another to alter our display practices, question access parameters, and redefine our own ways of knowing based on systems of accountability that define an ethical field of visuality based on not looking. If seeing is believing and a picture is worth a thousand words, what can we learn from the act of not looking, or perhaps, more specifically, not seeing? . . . Continue Reading

What Falls Out: Preserving Our Digital Heritage with BitCurator

Porter Olsen Porter Olsen, Ph.D. candidate; BitCurator Community Lead (MITH)University of Maryland@pwolsen
MITH Conference RoomTuesday, February 25, 201412:30 pm

Take a moment and open your bottom desk drawer, the one with your old files in it. Rummage around for a bit and push way back until you see the inevitable papers, notes and detritus that have slipped out of various file folder and now lay at the bottom of the drawer. You will undoubtedly find papers back there, but you may also have a floppy disk or two, maybe a CD-ROM from a project long since set aside, or perhaps a flash memory card that has slipped between the folders. However, unlike the paper that surrounds them, these digital media are increasingly inaccessible as the hardware and software needed to access the data they contain are lost to disrepair, obsolescence and bit rot. It is worth taking a moment, while it is still at least possible to recover the data on these legacy drives, to think about what they contain: drafts of work since published, data accumulated over the course of a project, images and design work once painstakingly pored over. Like the leavings at the bottom of a drawer, these digital objects are frequently “what falls out” as we create, research, record and publish our digital work. . . . Continue Reading

Heavy Data, Cultural Memories: Lessons from the AIDS Memorial Quilt Digital Experience Project

Anne Balsamo Anne Balsamo, Dean and Professor of Media StudiesThe New School for Public Engagement@annebalsamo
MITH Conference RoomTuesday, February 18, 201412:30 pm

“Epidemics, like wars, mark a generation for life.”

The AIDS Memorial Quilt was created 25 years ago as a work of community activism to protest the appalling lack of attention by the US health agencies to what was then, in 1987, an increase in improbable fatalities among previously healthy gay men in the United States.  Its first inception unfolded in October 1987 on the National Mall in Washington DC as part of the March for Gay Rights; it included 1,920 Quilt panels.  Now 25 years later, the Quilt encompasses more than 48,000 panels, representing 60 countries and commemorating more than 93,000 names.   It is the largest living memorial of its kind in the world.

The Quilt is also an “activist archive” of the late 20th century.  The activities that gave rise to the Quilt in 1987 are part of the history of the campaign for gay and lesbian rights in the US. The Quilt literally stitches together a million memories, a million stories, a million lessons about the relationship between individual lives, public culture, and political activism.  In its textile form, it is an unwieldy archive.  . . . Continue Reading

An Eliminativist Ontology of the Digital World—and What It Means for Data Curation

Allan Renear Allen Renear, Interim Dean and ProfessorGraduate School of Library and Information Science (GSLIS), University of Illinois
MITH Conference RoomTuesday, October 15, 201312:30 pmco-sponsored by University Libraries

It seems we have quite a bit to say about things that don’t exist.  This is fine as long we don’t confuse ourselves — and, indeed, idiom and metaphor are indispensable to ordinary communication.  But increasingly information systems design, policies, procedures, and documentation are based on logic-based knowledge representation strategies that are profoundly literal, and profoundly unforgiving. Accommodating these strategies will require developing ontologies that revise our common sense conceptual schemes in ways that are sure to be unsettling. These ontologies may be more accurate, and, in the long run they may even be more serviceable, but they will not be familiar, and they will require substantial revision of our descriptions of common activities and processes.

Click here to download Allen’s presentation slides.

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Archiving Folk Culture in the Digital Age

Nicole Saylor, Head, American Folklife Center ArchiveLibrary of Congress
MITH Conference RoomTuesday, October 29, 201312:30 pm

The American Folklife Center Archives, established in the Library of Congress in 1928, is home to millions of items of ethnographic and historical documentation, including folk songs, stories, and other creative expressions of people from diverse communities. Providing access at digital scale to a myriad of audiovisual formats in the context of complicated cultural and copyright issues inherent in documentation of expressive culture is a significant challenge. So is ensuring that the archives continues to collect and provide access to contemporary folk culture documentation in ways that meet the changing demands of scholars. Toward that end, AFC has recently piloted a distributed model of field collecting that relies on documentarians across the country to provide new cultural documentation to the archives via a web-based tool. AFC also hopes to embark on a “vernacular web” archiving project that enlists digital culture scholars to help shape and guide collection priorities. This Digital Dialogue will focus on archival collecting efforts that increasingly rely on curatorial partnerships with scholars.

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Accessibility in Digital Environments: Language, Law, and the Question of Inclusion

George Williams, Associate Professor, Department of EnglishUniversity of South Carolina Upstate@GeorgeOnline
MITH Conference RoomThursday, October 3, 201312:30 pm

Everyone agrees that accessibility in digital environments for people with disabilities is an important goal. (Well, not everyone…) And yet most resources in digital environments present accessibility obstacles. Why? And what can we do about that? Everyone agrees that the Digital Humanities is an increasingly important field of activity in the humanities, a field that emphasizes openness and inclusion. (Well, not everyone…) And yet many scholars report feeling unwelcome and excluded. Why? And what can we do about that? This presentation will address these topics and consider how these two sets of questions might be related.

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