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Head-and-Shoulder Hunting in the Americas: Exploring Lobotomy's Visual Culture

miriam-posner Miriam Posner, Program Coordinator, Digital HumanitiesUniversity of California, Los Angeles@miriamkp
MITH Conference RoomTuesday, March 10, 201512:30 pm

Walter Freeman, the world’s foremost proponent and practitioner of lobotomy, was also an obsessive photographer. He almost invariably took photos of his patients before and after surgery, often tracking them down years after the operation to capture their images. These cross-country trips to photograph patients, which Freeman called head-and-shoulder hunting expeditions, consumed the physician during the last years of his career.

What do we do with an archive like this? Its contents can tell us volumes about the medical epistemology that made lobotomy thinkable. But how can we avoid replicating Freeman’s own rhetorical moves, in which the photographs were mobilized as evidence during scientific presentations?

I’ll describe the visual rhetoric that defined the scientific moment from which lobotomy emerged, and demonstrate some digital methods I’ve used for placing them in context. Against the background of this history, I ask, what is the contemporary digital scholar’s responsibility for working with, writing about, and displaying images of human beings in distress?

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Kill Time, Make History: Building Inspector and other HCI Case Studies from NYPL Labs

mauricio-giraldo Mauricio Giraldo, Interaction Designer/DeveloperNYPL Labs@mgiraldo
MITH Conference RoomTuesday, March 3, 201512:30 pm

I’m currently an interaction designer at NYPL Labs, The New York Public Library’s digital innovation unit. One of our latest projects is Building Inspector, a tool to extract data from historic insurance atlases through a combination of computational (vectorization, computer vision, alpha shapes) and human (crowdsourcing, game design concepts) processes. This talk will provide an insight into the Building Inspector and other projects developed by NYPL Labs, with an emphasis on design and HCI-related challenges. For instance: how does one design tools that anyone can use regardless of prior knowledge, to validate computer-generated geographic data or to create stereographic images from 100-year-old photographs?

 

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Strata of Sentience: Deep Mapping the Media City

shannon-mattern Shannon Mattern, Associate Professor of Media StudiesThe New School@shannonmattern
MITH Conference RoomTuesday, February 24, 201512:30 pm

While “smart” cities and urban “sentience” seem to be products of new networked technologies, our cities have actually been mediated, and intelligent, for millennia. They’ve long been shaped by their roles as substrates for and containers of mediation, and they’ve long reflected the logics, politics, and aesthetics of their prevailing communications technologies. I advocate for an “urban media archaeology,” a materialist, multisensory approach to exploring the deep material history – that is, a cultural materialist history that acknowledges the physicality, the “stuff” of history and culture – of our media cities. This talk offers a preview of Deep Mapping the Media City, a book forthcoming (in March 2015) from the University of Minnesota Press’s Forerunners series, in which I investigate our material urban spaces as infrastructures for mediation, and I propose that archaeological tools, like excavation and mapping, might help us to acknowledge and understand our smart, mediated cities in the longue durée.

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The Platonic Network

Alex-Wright Alex Wright, Author, Designer and ResearcherEtsy, The New York Times, and IBM@alexgrantwright
MITH Conference RoomTuesday, November 11, 201412:30 pm

In 1934, a little-known Belgian bibliographer named Paul Otlet described something very much like the World Wide Web, sketching out plans for a network of “electric telescopes” connecting people to a vast collection of documents, images, and audio-visual material. He dubbed the whole thing the Mundaneum, describing it as a “réseau mondial” – a worldwide web.

Why should anyone still pay attention to the failed schemes of a long-dead Belgian bibliographer? Otlet’s work matters today not just as a kind of historical curio, but because he envisioned a radically different kind of network: one driven not by corporate profit and personal vanity, but by a utopian vision of intellectual progress, social egalitarianism, and even spiritual liberation.

This presentation will delve deep into Otlet’s alternative vision of a global network, in search of useful lessons that could reshape our understanding of what the Web could yet become.

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Strange Bedfellows: Digital Humanities, Internet Art, and the Weird Internet

Darius-Kazemi Darius Kazemi, Independent Artist@tinysubversions
MITH Conference RoomTuesday, November 4, 201412:30 pm

Kazemi will discuss the “Weird Internet,” a wildly popular creative internet-native subculture, and its intersections with Digital Humanities and Internet Art (in the fine arts tradition).

The Big Data approach to analysis of texts is painfully limited in the knowledge it can produce. This talk will take Bruno Latour’s Compositionist Manifesto as well as the speaker’s personal history as a professional “online metrics” analyst as a jumping off point. We will look at  the composition of autonomous  agents and static texts alike, specifically the weird internet and internet art. We’ll see what these things do and discuss ways to send probes out into the world, and what can tell us that we can never gain through analysis of corpora.

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Models of Code and the Digital Architecture of Time

Andrew-Johnston Andrew Johnston, Assistant Professor of EnglishNorth Carolina State University @a_johnston
MITH Conference RoomTuesday, October 28, 201412:30 pm

Andrew Johnston will discuss a portion of his forthcoming book, Pulses of Abstraction: Episodes from a History of Animation, which traces the emergence of real-time computer graphics and animation in the 1970s. Focusing especially on a programming language developed through funding from the National Science Foundation and that language’s use at the art and engineering collective called the Circle Graphics Habitat at the University of Illinois, Chicago, this presentation provides an archaeology of how time and models of perception are coded within early digital graphics systems. The talk will show how animation was fundamental to the creation of these real-time systems, not only because filmmakers worked on the code and platforms that were used, but also because these technologies were built around understandings of time and action taken from cinema. Through an analysis of this history, the presentation argues that real-time computer graphics mark an epistemological shift around the interdependencies of film and other media as well as a broader transformation in the mid-twentieth century of how technologies were modeling perception.

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From Transformative Works to #transformDH: Digital Humanities as (Critical) Fandom

Alexis-Lothian Alexis Lothian, Assistant Professor of Women’s StudiesUniversity of Maryland College Park@alothian
MITH Conference RoomTuesday, October 21, 201412:30 pm

The identity of the field, network, discourse, or discipline of “Digital Humanities” is a source of endless discussion among its practitioners and critics – from conflicting genealogies of humanities computing and new media studies, to the gendered and raced institutional logics critiqued in the recent Differences issue on “The Dark Side of Digital Humanities.” This talk aims to chart an alternative path through the welter of definitional tangles by reinterpreting the world of digital humanities by taking seriously one of its more informal dimensions: the fervor with which digital humanist nerds and geeks appreciate their objects of study. I argue that digital humanities is a fandom – and that there is much to learn from attending to its processes and practices through the lenses developed both by fan studies scholars and by fans themselves. Participants in creative fan communities have theorized their own knowledge production as in conversation with, yet distinct from both media industrial and academic models; drawing from these approaches enables us to understand “digital humanities” as a phenomenon that need not be contained within the bounds of the academy. . . . Continue Reading

Without Innovation: African American Lifeworlds and the Internet of Things

Marisa-Parham Marisa Parham, Associate Professor of English Amherst College@amplify285
MITH Conference RoomTuesday, October 14, 201412:30 pm

This is the second talk in a series. (The first was a TEDx talk given at Amherst College in 2013). Each talk is a speculation on a set of questions about technology, embodiment, and temporality. How can we build a future when we have already had a past? How might we account for how unremembered pasts impact the good work we desire for the future? How do we think about future in a time when futures arrive more and more quickly? What happens to metaphor? To history?

In this talk I take as my conceptual starting point Angela Davis’ reading of Frederick Douglass’ telling of his own movement into human freedom, a tale that ends with his assertion that “however long I might remain a slave in form, the day had passed forever when I could be a slave in fact.” I end with a consideration of what is at stake in recognizing emergent parallels between the historical lives of African Americans and how the industrialization of the Internet has enabled our growing desire to optimize every object as intelligent extension of a masterful self. . . . Continue Reading

Listening Bodies, Digital Production, and the Pursuit of Invigorated Sonic Experiences

Stephanie-Ceraso Stephanie Ceraso, Assistant Professor of EnglishUniversity of Maryland Baltimore County@stephceraso
MITH Conference RoomTuesday, October 7, 201412:30 pm

Steph Ceraso will discuss her in-progress book project, Sounding Composition, Composing Sound, which re-imagines the teaching of listening in relation to digital media and multimodal experience. Drawing from the listening and composing practices of deaf percussionist Evelyn Glennie, acoustic designers, and automotive acoustic engineers, Ceraso proposes an expansive, explicitly embodied listening pedagogy that is based on the concept of multimodal listening—attending to the sensory, material, and contextual aspects that comprise and shape a sonic event. Unlike ear-centric listening practices in which listeners’ main goal is to hear and interpret audible sound (often language), multimodal listening moves beyond the exclusively audible by emphasizing the ecological relationship between sound, bodies, and environments. In this talk, Ceraso will demonstrate how multimodal listening practices enable students to become more thoughtful, savvy consumers and producers of sound in digital composing environments and in their everyday lives.

 

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Prosopography and Crowding Attention

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