Dear MITH Community,
As another academic year begins, I have the happy opportunity of welcoming you all back to MITH for what promises to be another exciting, event-laden year. While I’m at it, I’ll review some of the highlights from last year and provide a few coming attractions. Don’t worry if this email seems long: you have a whole year to read it before I send out the next one!
Events and Conferences
Notable MITH events from last year included an October visit to campus from acclaimed science fiction author and futurist Bruce Sterling, one of the founders of the cyberpunk movement; a January advanced seminar in TEI encoding for manuscripts sponsored by the Brown University Women Writers Project and supported by NEH; and a May invitational symposium on “Computer Forensics and Born-Digital Content in Cultural Heritage Collections,” attended by experts from the cultural heritage sector and computer and information science, as well as practitioners in government, industry, and defense, which was funded by the Mellon Foundation. Finally, in July, MITH co-hosted in London a very successful international summit of digital humanities centers and funders, supported by NEH.
This year we look forward to an October visit from Alan Liu, one of the foremost theorists of digital humanities and new media; a November MITH-hosted Rosenzweig Forum featuring renowned digital archivist Jason Scott, and a screening of his new film “Get Lamp: The Text Adventure Documentary”; a January advanced seminar in TEI encoding, sponsored by NEH; a January workshop on professionalization in digital humanities centers, sponsored by NEH; a February workshop on developing Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) for the digital humanities, sponsored by NEH; an April lecture by Richard Grusin, Director of the Center for 21st Century Studies (U Wisconsin-Milwaukee); a public symposium on the documentation and preservation of dance, co-hosted with the Kennedy Center, probably in April; and a June conference at the University of Toronto between centerNet (an international network of digital humanities centers) and CHCI (Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes) that we’ll be co-organizing.
MITH continues to be on a roll! During the past year we’ve worked on 11 significant grants, recently won two others, and are waiting to hear about a few more very exciting projects. Among these are projects funded by the Library of Congress, NEH, IMLS, and Mellon Foundation. Our projects continue to run a wide gamut: from computer forensics to the preservation of virtual worlds, performing arts, and born-digital material; to the building of digital tools; to the creation of multimodal editions; to the building of international community and cyberinfrastructure in digital humanities. Three new projects are worth special mention in this regard: (1) our collaboration with the Smithsonian and Microsoft on emerging interfaces for museums and libraries; (2) our work with the Library of Congress on the digitization and preservation of the Danny Kaye and Sylvia Fine Collection; and (3) our collaboration with the Kennedy Center, the New York Public Library, and Ohio State University on the documentation and preservation of dance. Each of these projects highlights our increasing focus on Public Humanities, the ways in which the digital humanities can address audiences beyond the academy. Other recent project partners include the Folger Shakespeare Library, the British Library, the Bodleian Library, the Huntington Library the Harry Ransom Center, Emory University, Stanford University, the University of Illinois, the Rochester Institute of Technology, the Walters Art Gallery, and Linden Lab, the creators of Second Life. We are currently in discussions with Google about collaboration in an upcoming project that we hope to be able to announce by October.
Continuing for a second year as a MITH Faculty Fellow is Frank Hildy, Professor of Theatre and Director of Shakespeare’s Globe (USA) Research Archive. Frank works as a theatre consultant for historic theatre preservation and reconstruction and is a member of the Architecture Research Group for Shakespeare’s Globe in London. As co-author with Oscar G. Brockett of The History of Theatre, a work generally known as the “bible of theatre history,” Frank is read world-wide by those interested in theatre architecture. He has been working with us on a prototype for a comprehensive global Digital Archive of Existing Historic Theatres, a collaboratively edited, peer-reviewed, online database of existing historic theatre buildings from the Greeks to the Romantics, covering all the still extant buildings from the Minoan “theatrical area” of c. 2000 BCE at Phaistos on the island of Crete, to the castle theatre of 1797 at Litomysl in Slovakia. A key component of this online database is the Collaborative, Ajax-Based, Modeling Platform (CAMP) being developed separately at MITH with funding from a NEH Level 2 Digital Humanities Startup Grant.
Joining Frank this year as a MITH Faculty Fellow is Leigh Smiley, Associate Professor in the School of Theatre, Dance and Performance Studies, where she also serves as Director of the MFA in Performance. Leigh is an internationally known theatre artist, professional voice, dialect and acting coach, performer and director. She has just finished directing text and voice for Shakespeare & Company in Lenox Massachusetts this summer and is Director of Dialects for Ford’s Theatre’s Christmas Carol and Carpetbagger’s Children in the 2010-2011 Season. Her professional engagements have included Dialect/Text and Voice direction with The Shakespeare Theatre, Folger Shakespeare Library Theatre, Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and Arena Stage. She will be working with us to create The Visual Accent/Dialect Archive (VADA), which will enable performers for the first time to research online authentic resources for hearing and seeing the gestural aspects of accent and dialect.
Our Winnemore Dissertation Fellow last Spring was Mirona Magearu, a student in the Comparative Literature Program of the Department of English, who is working on an ambitious and promising dissertation: “Comparative Textual Performances in Digital Poetry: Local Voices and Global Visions.”
Last year, we made two stellar additions to MITH’s staff: Dave Lester, who joined us as Assistant Director, moving across town from George Mason University’s Center for History and New Media, where he was legendary for his creativity, as well as his technical and organizational skills, and Elizabeth Kvernen, who joined us after completing her MFA at the University of Baltimore in Integrated Design, with special expertise in Arabic calligraphy. Adding further luster to our ranks is Dr. Tanya Clement, Associate Director of the Digital Cultures and Creativity Program, who has been appointed a MITH Research Associate. I’m delighted also to mention two much-deserved promotions: Doug Reside from Assistant to Associate Director and Chris Grogan from Business Coordinator to Business Manager. Joining Chris in our Business Office as of November 1 will be Meei-Ching Ma as Business Services Specialist. Two graduate student Program Associates who joined us in the middle of last year, Ketan Patil (iSchool) and Alex Quinn (Computer Science/HCIL), will be working with us again this year alongside of long-time Program Associates Rachel Donahue (iSchool) and Helen DeVinney (English). We were fortunate, also, this past year to have three terrific iSchool grad student interns: Diana Aram (U Maryland), Isabela Carvalho (U Michigan) and Walker Sampson (U Texas), supported by a three-year grant from the IMLS that is also supporting the internship this fall of James Neal (U Maryland). Charlie Pinnix, an undergraduate Art major, interned with us during the summer, and Jon Gilmour an undergraduate English major, will be interning with us in the Fall. We also greatly benefitted last year from the help of two undergraduate business majors, Becca Hale and Kristin Cesario; Tin Tin Nguyen, a computer science major, will continue to add his technical expertise to our staff this year. Finally, we bid a fond farewell this summer to Greg Lord, MITH’s longtime designer extraordinaire, who has taken a position as Lead Designer and Software Engineer for the Digital Humanities Initiative at Hamilton College.
Digital Cultures and Creativity
This past year saw the launch of the Digital Cultures and Creativity program, MITH’s first foray into the undergraduate curriculum, in partnership with the Department of Computer Science and the iSchool. DCC is an interdisciplinary living and learning program for first- and second-year students who will explore new media technologies through activities as varied as digital music and video production, digital art, creative electronic writing, virtual worlds, software development and entrepreneurship, and developing online communities. Directed by MITH’s Associate Director, Matt Kirschenbaum, with MITH Research Associate Tanya Clement as Associate Director, DCC’s first students are now in the process of arriving on campus. We are all looking forward to working with them over the course of the new academic year!
There is, as I hope you’ve seen, much to be excited about in the coming year, including another slate of Digital Dialogues on Tuesdays from 12:30 – 1:45, beginning on September 14, with a presentation by Zeynep Tufekci (UMBC) and Nathan Jurgenson (U Maryland) on “The iPad: The “Jesus Tablet” and the Resurrection of Consumer Society.” This year’s Digital Dialogues will mix our traditional format with specialized workshops.
Last year’s Digital Dialogues frequently had standing room only crowds and we believe that this year’s program is every bit as compelling. Stay tuned for the announcement of the full Fall schedule!
Finally, I am delighted to say that our campus digital humanities community has been substantially enriched by the recent College of Arts and Humanities cluster hire in the field. We are extremely fortunate to have Hasan Elahi (Art), Jason Farman (American Studies), and Tara Rodgers (Women’s Studies) joining us this year.
You’ll have the opportunity to meet them all at MITH. We’re looking forward to seeing many of you during the coming year!