Austin College Digital Humanities Colloquium Wrap-up

Written by Matthew Windsor, Visiting Librarian at Hendrix College.

Austin College Humanities Division faculty recently hosted a Digital Humanities Colloquium, bringing together digital media experts from around the country (and Hong Kong) to facilitate a discussion on the intersection of the digital world with the humanities. For those of you who were unable to attend I have assembled a few of the highlights of the conference. This is by no means an exhaustive reference, but rather an aggregation of links and main points of the lectures.

Soweto Historical GIS (SHGIS) Project

 Ángel Nieves, Associate Professor of Africana Studies and Co-Director of the Digital Humanities Initiative at Hamilton College presented his research project, Soweto Historical GIS (SHGIS) Project. The highlights include:

  1. Nieves called on the DH community to include social justice and digital public access to create “living archives.”
  2. The DH community needs to adopt an ethical imperative to treat undergraduates as partners, rather than serfs (“digitization monkeys”) in the research process.
  3. Nieves stressed the need for deep collaboration with administrators, galleries, libraries, archives and museums (GLAM) for DH projects.
  4. Although GIS projects may look daunting to small liberal arts schools, Nieves pointed to many “off the shelf” options are available at the DiRT wiki rather than developing GIS tools from scratch. {I personally recommend HistoryPin, an easy to learn archival tool for incorporating historical photographs, audio and video with Google Maps to create GIS overlays for smartphone applications.}

Weaving Digital Humanities into Lit Courses

Katherine D. Harris, Assistant Professor in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at San José State University presented “It’s Not About the Tools: Weaving Digital Humanities into Literature Courses” which shared pedagogical advice on incorporating DH projects in the classroom. Harris gave 3 entry points for incorporating DH: in-class exercise, single assignment, and class wide scaffolding. As many DH projects involve collaboration, Harris recommended establishing a clearly defined grading rubric to insure equal participation. The DH project that really caught my attention was her Diablo 3 techno-literature project.

Being Human in the Digital Humanities

Spencer Keralis, Director for Digital Scholarship and Research Associate Professor with the Digital Scholarship Co-Operative, University of North Texas presented “How Soon Is Now?: Being Human in the Digital Humanities.” Keralis mentioned several tools available to DH scholars, Voyant text analysis, Google Ngram viewer in particular. Keralis also gave two specific points of advice on DH:

  1. Be open to failure, teach students iteration and restructuring.
  2. Spend less time talking about DH and more time practicing. Let the practice drive the theory.

Digital Pedagogy Keywords

Rebecca Frost Davis, Program Officer for the Humanities, National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education (NITLE) facilitated a discussion on “Digital Pedagogy Keywords.” Davis put forth several key aspects of DH

  1. DH enables students to be citizens in a globally networked world.
  2. Small liberal arts colleges need to capitalize on unique (long tail) opportunities (DH projects)
  3. Develop a process checklist for integrating DH projects into courses
  4. Important question: “are we using student involvement for free labor or is learning involved.”

Big Data, Visualization and Embodiment

Sarah Kenderdine, Visiting Assoc. Prof. CityU, Hong Kong, Director, Centre for Innovation in Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums (iGLAM) and Director of Research, Applied Laboratory of Interactive Visualization and Embodiment gave a presentation on “Cultural Data Sculpting: Big Data, Visualization and Embodiment.” I was in complete awe of the entire presentation. The visuals cannot be adequately described here. The (non-visual) highlights include:

  1. Exhibits with active, mobile, kinesthetic; embodied relations are key aspects of cultural data sculpting.
  2. Cutting edge visualization technologies include: stereoscopic and monoscopic 3-D visualization systems, accelerometer/magnetometer VR technologies (Ipad integration with large scale projection systems)

Copyright and Publishing in the Digital Humanities

Kevin L. Smith, Scholarly Communications Officer at Duke University gave a lecture with the unique title of “Copyright and Publishing in the Digital Humanities, or, ‘The first thing we do, let’s kill all the Lawyers.” Highlights of his presentation include:

  1. Advice on interacting with institution counsel: lawyers provide risk assessment. A preemptory “no” is a safe answer, but is not always the best solution.
  2. Joint copyright holders have equal shares in the rights of the material.
  3. Raw data is not protected by copyright and there is no right of attribution (For the United States)
  4. The best application of your original work/research will be done by someone else.
  5. Publication metrics have changed: downloads, tweets, reuse, mash ups, policy, pedagogy by others

 Re-Mediating the College Library

Bob Kieft, College Librarian, Occidental College gave a lecture on “Re-Mediating the College Library.” Highlights include:

  1. Libraries are evolving into an area of media workspace
  2. As the campus integrates into library spaces, the need for integration/collaboration becomes vital.
  3. Critical Making is the process of creating and interrogating scholarly artifacts. An example at Occidental is the media wall.
  4. Humanities need “lab techs” like the sciences.
  5. Librarians need to get outside of ALA: the humanities need experimentation in pedagogy and digital publication…ample material for interdisciplinary collaboration at humanities conferences.

All of the presentations were live tweeted with the #acdhcoll hashtag. This back channel discussion lent a unique perspective to each event with the real time comments and the ability to carry on multiple conversations without interrupting the speaker. Spencer Keralis compiled the tweets with Storify, a service that preserves social media conversations into a coherent, sharable narrative.

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