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

Anne Balsamo

“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 Professor Graduate School of Library and Information Science (GSLIS), University of Illinois

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.

Allen Renear is Interim Dean and Professor at GSLIS. He teaches courses and leads research in information modeling, data curation, digital humanities, scientific publishing, and the conceptual foundations of information organization. Prior to coming to the Graduate School of Library and Information Science, he was the Director of the Brown University Scholarly Technology Group. Dr. Renear received an AB from Bowdoin College and an MA and PhD from Brown University. . . . Continue Reading


Archiving Folk Culture in the Digital Age

Nicole Saylor, Head, American Folklife Center Archive Library of Congress

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.

A continuously updated schedule of talks is also available on the Digital Dialogues webpage.

Unable to attend the events in person? . . . Continue Reading


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

George Williams, Associate Professor, Department of English University of South Carolina Upstate

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.

A continuously updated schedule of talks is also available on the Digital Dialogues webpage.

Unable to attend the events in person?

Archived podcasts can be found on the MITH website, and you can follow our Digital Dialogues Twitter account @digdialog as well as the Twitter hashtag #mithdd to keep up with live tweets from our sessions. Viewers can watch the live stream as well.

All talks free and open to the public. Attendees are welcome to bring their own lunches.

Contact: MITH (http://mith.umd.edu, mith@umd.edu, 301-405-8927). . . . Continue Reading


Scholarship In and Beyond the Database

Tara McPherson, Associate Professor of Critical Studies University of Southern California

“While digital humanists develop tools, data and metadata critically … rarely do they extend their critique to the full register of society, economics, politics, or culture.” – Alan Liu, Where Is Cultural Criticism in the Digital Humanities?

As exemplified in the above quote, the subject of digital humanities intersection with cultural theory has been the subject of heated online discussions, conference panels, various publications, Twitter wars and more.  Today’s talks considers some variations on this ongoing debate in the digital humanities around the role of cultural theory within the digital humanities and its close analogs, in order to argue for a theoretically explicit form of digital praxis within the digital humanities.

 

A continuously updated schedule of talks is also available on the Digital Dialogues webpage.

Unable to attend the events in person?

Archived podcasts can be found on the MITH website, and you can follow our Digital Dialogues Twitter account @digdialog as well as the Twitter hashtag #mithdd to keep up with live tweets from our sessions. Viewers can watch the live stream as well.

All talks free and open to the public. . . . Continue Reading


Documenting Science in the Digital Age: What's the Same and What's Different

Chris Prom, Assistant University Archivist and Associate Professor of Library Administration University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Like other forms of human knowledge, scientific knowledge is produced in particular times, places, and cultures, by a single individual or by a group of individuals.  Within particular areas of investigation, people produce this knowledge by using, developing, and extending practices that are based on the loosely defined concept known as the scientific method.

The precise way in which the scientific method is implemented varies among disciplines and researchers, but has been university transformed by the development and application of information technologies.  In this talk, a practicing archivist will describe how the University of Illinois archives is using anthropological concepts, archival practices, and digital technologies to preserve print and electronic records documenting the scientific process.   The talk will describe the methods the University of Illinois is using  to document the life and work of Carl Woese (1928-2012), a revolutionary microbiologist.  The talk will conclude with a discussion of the challenges and opportunities that digital technologies pose in preserving a record of the scientific process.

A continuously updated schedule of talks is also available on the Digital Dialogues webpage.

Unable to attend the events in person? . . . Continue Reading


I Kickstarted Your Project And I Didn't Even Get The Lousy T-Shirt

Ian Bogost Ian Bogost, Ivan Allen College Distinguished Chair in Media Studies and Professor of Interactive Computing & Founding Partner at Persuasive Games LLC. Georgia Institute of Technology

Crowdsourcing is a hot not-so-new trend that’s been heralded as a solution for funding creative works of all kinds, from films to games to manufactured products. Popular sites like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo are also venture-funded startups that facilitate distributed contribution to ideas, providing the appearance of investment or pre-orders. But even as more and more individuals source and fund projects through sites like Kickstarter, few realize that the satisfaction (or disappointment) they take away from the process has more to do with the experience of kickstarting, rather than from the product itself. As crowdfunding becomes its own form of entertainment irrespective of whether or not projects succeed or fail, the projects created risk becoming empty shells, lies that can never produce the results they promise because their existence was never meant to produce them in the first place. This talk offers a philosophy of crowdfunding as entertainment, and then presents a new project in development at Georgia Tech as a part of the Intel Science and Technology Center for Social Computing that tries to apply some of these lessons from popular personal electronics projects, including Kickstarted products like Twine, and related projects like Arduino and Raspberry Pi. . . . Continue Reading


Multilingual Users of Twitter: Social Ties Across Language Borders or How a Story Could Travel the World

Irene Eleta Irene Eleta, Doctoral Candidate College of Information Studies, University of Maryland

Social media is international: users from hundreds of different cultures and language backgrounds are generating and sharing content. As a result, language and national borders emerge in the communication landscape online. What can we do to make those borders more porous? Expatriates, migrants, minorities, diasporic communities, and language learners play an important role in forming transnational networks, by creating social ties across nations and communities. A closer look to their connections and interactions online might illuminate us in many ways, i.e. how to increase intercultural awareness, information diffusion across language borders, and promote international relations, outreach or activism at a global scale. Focusing on the personal social network of multilingual Twitter users, I will discuss how social network analysis unveils the intersections of language groups. In general, the use of social network analysis to discover patterns of intercultural connections constitutes an enriching approach that can be applied in many disciplines. Also, I will talk about the influence of the social network on the language choices of multilingual users, with particular attention to the use of English as a Lingua Franca. Finally, I will invite the audience to reflect on what prevents or encourages translation behaviors and cross-cultural awareness in the social media context. . . . Continue Reading


Finding Values Levers: Building Ethics into Emerging Technologies

Katie Shilton Katie Shilton, Assistant Professor, College of Information Studies University of Maryland

Designing and building information technologies involves an ethical component, as designers (consciously or un-) make values choices that influence the uses and impacts of their designs. This talk will discuss how the practices of design affect the social values materialized in emerging technologies, and explore how design practices can encourage ethical reflection and action. The talk will present data from two participant-observation projects. The first observed a laboratory that engineered software for mobile phones to track users’ locations, habits, and behaviors. The second examines the social values considered in the design of a future Internet architecture. In both cases, technical work raised ethical challenges ranging from avoiding surveillance to encouraging equity. The projects suggest that particular activities within design can help engineers agree on social values as important to design. I characterize these activities as values levers: practices that open new conversations about social values, and encourage consensus around those values as design criteria. Laboratory leaders and advocates can enable and strengthen these levers to encourage ethical reflection and action as an explicit part of design practice.


 

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From the Stacks to the Future of Research: Building a Scalable, Sustainable Digitization Program at the University of Maryland

RobinPike Robin Pike, Digital Collections Librarian University of Maryland Libraries

In February 2012, as the new manager of DCMR, I was tasked with revamping the digitization center, increasing production, expanding services throughout the Libraries, and expanding services to include audio and video digitization, in addition to managing digitization projects. After consulting with stakeholders throughout the Libraries, just over one year later, we have expanded our staff, acquired new equipment, are in a new facility, and are testing production-level workflows and standards. Our digitization center is modeled on other, larger digitization centers, but scaled to fit the Libraries’ estimated, near-future needs.

My colleagues and I have also worked to define the separation of digital unit responsibilities between production and preservation, digitization and digital projects. Though DCMR focuses solely on production-based on content-managers’ requests, we maintain a larger focus on overall digital operations. Beyond digitization request orders for patrons, many of the larger projects we undertake frequently include other presentation or digital humanities components. Some of these projects include: the digitization of Katherine Ann Porter’s correspondence to create a digital scholarly edition, in collaboration with various other units and departments; digitizing a collection of Civil War-era letters and diaries that may be used in future classes as education exercises to perform transcription and TEI; and digitizing multiple formats and series of materials throughout a broadcasting collection, providing an extensive picture of the collection for a Special Collections exhibit. . . . Continue Reading