Category Archives: Conferences and Workshops

WordCamp Ed: Conference on WordPress for Education

From CHNM‘s Dave Lester, one of founders of THATCamp: The Humanities and Technology Camp, comes WordCamp Ed:

WordCamp conferences are taking the blogging community by storm as one-day events to meet fellow WordPress users in regional communities. WordCamp Ed has been organized to specifically focus on WordPress and Education. The day-long event to take place November 22, 2008, and will bring together a wide-range of institutions of higher-ed, professors, high school teachers, and students.

WordCamp Ed will be hosted at the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University, and is co-sponsored by the Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship at Georgetown University.

Dave and many others, including CHNM’s Jeremy Boggs, have been hacking and creating plugins for the open-source WordPress blogging platform for some time now. This seems like a great opportunity to see what others are doing and to exchange knowledge and ideas.

Digital Humanities and the Disciplines, Day 2

The second day of the “Digital Humanities and the Disciplines” conference at Rutgers was so full of thought-provoking talks and conversation that it’s taken me a few days to digest it. The highlights:

Chris Kelty (who has recently moved to UCLA’s Department of Information Studies) gave a talk about his book Two Bits: The Cultural Significance of Free Software. After providing an excellent history of software from the origins of Unix to Richard Stallman, Kelty, who is an anthropologist by training, argued quite persuasively that free software is far more than a technical movement. In Kelty’s words, free software “creates a public” around the software project, a civic notion that relates directly to the arguments about the public sphere that have permeated academic thinking for the last two decades. Free software is thus important not only for its functionality and its freedom, but also because for a lot of people it creates a consciousness of and participation in the public sphere—and it gives them a set of practices for bringing about that public sphere.

Classicist Greg Crane of Tufts and Perseus fame spoke of many aspects of “Humanities in a Digital Age.” Perhaps his most intriguing point—one echoed by others during the conference—was that the digital humanities allow for a far wider participation in the process and products of scholarship than in the age of paper. Crane fascinated the audience by showing how his undergraduates actually contribute to, not just read about, classics, by adding to a “treebank,” or linguistic database and concordance that Crane and others are building. In other words, in a digital age classics need not be the sole province of the Great Professor/Editor of volumes of Greek and Latin. Crane also spoke of the enormous potential of automated translation and large-scale computational analysis to address complex questions such as the influence of Plato on the Islamic world, a topic that requires language skills and a breadth of reading that few professors, if any, possess.

Martha Nell Smith of the University of Maryland and the founder of the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities then shook up the room with her challenging talk, “Enclaves: Perils and Possibilities.” Despite being a promoter of the digital humanities, Smith thought it was important for those in the field to be self-critical. She worried that, as Cass Sunstein pointed out in, we might be talking too much amongst ourselves, without competing perspectives. We’ve gotten too swept up with what our technology can do, rather than what the humanities can do. And we need to let critical thought, such as feminist analysis, unsettle the way that the digital humanities has been proceeding. Smith’s talk unsurprisingly touched off a vibrant discussion; thanks to my followers on Twitter for sending me additional comments that I could feed into that discussion. To be honest, I think that much of what Smith was looking for in the digital humanities—e.g., the importance of bringing together divergent views and democratizing the process of authoring and editing a text—has already been factored in, or certainly been factored in far more than in the analog world. After all, this is the medium that gave us Wikipedia. But Smith’s overall point is well-taken; any new field must engage in serious self-criticism. Frankly, this has been an often unmentioned problem with the digital humanities.

David Jaffee of the Bard Graduate Center wrapped up the proceedings with his talk on “Thinking Visually with Historians: The Challenge of New Media for History.” He noted that we tend to forget that visual materials were used in the classroom even before the digital age. The digital age has accelerated the use of such material, but we still haven’t really thought about effective ways to turn the visual into understanding, regardless of the technology. Jaffee argued that we need to think in terms of learning modules rather than slides—i.e., we can’t just put visual material out there and think that students will comprehend what to do with it. He then showed some terrific projects he’s worked on, including the forthcoming Picturing U.S. History.

Digital Humanities and the Disciplines, Day 1

Aside from a talk from yours truly on new directions in digital history, the first day of the “Digital Humanities and the Disciplines” conference at Rutgers featured a talk by Hilary Ballon entitled “Rethinking the Journal in Multimedia.” Ballon is the Associate Vice Chancellor at New York University and the editor of the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians.

She spoke about the complexities of prototyping a new media version of the JSAH. If any field in the humanities could benefit from moving from paper to the web, it is architectural history. The SAH has always been restrained by paper: color images were too expensive for the journal, not to mention the possibilities of dynamic media like video or 3D models. So for the JSAH, the move online will be liberating and possibly even transformative.

The prototype Ballon showed us has an embedded media viewer and a sidebar with all images and architectural plans referenced in the article, so you can jump back and forth from the narrative to the visual evidence. Unlike images in the paper journal, you can also pan and zoom to closely examine the evidence. The prototype also permits linking to external software such as Google Earth (for situating buildings in space).

Beyond the prototype, Ballon made several interesting points about the way in which new media might change the practice of architectural history. She noted that the rise of the slide projector in the early twentieth century not only changed pedagogy in her field, but also led to the centrality of certain formats—specifically, the side-by-side comparison. The 3D models she showed in the JSAH prototype suggest that architectural historians can now do more with the visitor’s experience of a building versus the prior overriding interest in the architect’s vision for the building. (Note here the parallel with the discussion in literary studies about the balance of power between the author and reader.)

Moreover, new media might allow the JSAH to cover and review forms of scholarship beyond the monograph and article. For example, exhibitions by architectural historians are often overlooked even though they are serious scholarly work. JSAH does currently review exhibitions, but not that many and these reviews are often published after the exhibition has closed because of the long time lag in paper publication. The JSAH hopes that web publication will narrow this gap while also allowing new media recreations of the exhibitions so others can witness them.

Digital Humanities and the Disciplines

On Thursday and Friday, October 2-3, 2008 (that is, starting tomorrow, if you’re reading this immediately from my feed) I’ll be at Rutgers University for the conference “Digital Humanities and the Disciplines,” sponsored by the Center for Cultural Analysis. If you’re in the area, please stop by—the conference is open to the public. If I can find some wifi I’ll also do my best to blog the conference and send brief updates via my Twitter feed (which I’ve been neglecting lately; sorry, been a little busy).

New Horizons Keynote

New Horizons LogoFor readers of this blog within easy travel distance of Charlottesville, Virginia, I’ll be giving the keynote address on May 19 at the second annual New Horizons conference at the University of Virginia, showcasing technology in teaching, research, and scholarship. My talk is entitled “Creating Scholarly Tools and Resources for the Digital Ecosystem,” and will include much of what I’ve learned in the Zotero project.

3rd Annual Chicago Digital Humanities/Computer Science Colloquium

Looks like a good and timely topic for this year’s Chicago DHCS Colloquium:

The goal of the annual Chicago Digital Humanities/Computer Science (DHCS) Colloquium is to bring together researchers and scholars in the Humanities and Computer Sciences to examine the current state of Digital Humanities as a field of intellectual inquiry and to identify and explore new directions and perspectives for future research. In 2006, the first DHCS Colloquium examined the challenges and opportunities posed by the “million books” digitization projects. The second DHCS Colloquium in 2007 focused on searching and querying as tools and methodologies.

The theme of the third Chicago DHCS Colloquium is “Making Sense”- an exploration of how meaning is created and apprehended at the transition of the digital and the analog.

The Vision of ORE

ORE logoOne form of serious intellectual work that could use much more respect and appreciation within the humanities is the often unglamorous—but occasionally revolutionary—work of creating technical standards. At their best, such standards transcend the code itself to envision new forms of human interaction or knowledge creation that would not be possible without a lingua franca. We need only think of the web; look at what the modest HTML 1.0 spec has wrought.

The Object Reuse and Exchange (ORE) specification that was unveiled today at Johns Hopkins University has, beyond all of the minute technical details, a very clear and powerful vision of scholarly research and communication in a digital age. It is thus worth following the specification as it moves toward a final version in the fall of 2008, and to begin thinking about how we might use it in the humanities (even though it will undoubtedly be adopted faster in the sciences).

The vision put forth by Carl Lagoze, Herbert Van de Sompel, and others in the ORE working group for the first time tries to map the true nature of contemporary scholarship onto the web. The ORE community realized in 2006 that neither basic web pages nor advanced digital repositories truly capture today’s scholarship.

This scholarship cannot be contained by web pages or PDFs put into an institutional repository, but rather consists of what the ORE team has termed “aggregates,” or constellations of digital objects that often span many different web servers and repositories. For instance, a contemporary astronomy article might consist of a final published PDF, its metadata (author, title, publication info, etc.), some internal images, and then—here’s the important part—datasets, telescope imagery, charts, several publicly available drafts, and other matter (often held by third parties) that does not end up in the PDF. Similarly, an article in art history might consist of the historian’s text, paintings that were consulted in a museum, low-resolution copies of those paintings that are available online (perhaps a set of photos on Flickr of the referenced paintings), citations to other works, and perhaps an associated slide show.

How can one reliably reference and take full advantage of such scholarly constellations given the current state of the web? As Herbert Van de Sompel put it, ORE tries to identify in a commonsensical way “identified, bounded aggregations of related objects that form a logical whole.” In other words, ORE attempts to shift the focus from repositories for scholarship to the complex products of scholarship themselves.

By forging semantic links between pieces entailed in a work of scholarship it keeps those links active and dynamic and allows for humans, as well as machines that wish to make connections, to easily find these related objects. It also allows for a much better preservation path for digital scholarship because repositories can use ORE to get the entirety of a work and its associated constellation rather than grabbing just a single published instantiation of the work.

The implementation of ORE is perhaps less commonsensical for those who do not wish to dive into lots of semantic web terms and markup languages, but put simply, the approach the ORE group has taken is to provide a permanent locator (i.e., a URI, like a web address) that links to what they call a “resource map,” which in turn describes an aggregation. Think of a constellation in the night’s sky. We have Orion, which consists of certain stars; a star map specifies which stars comprise Orion and where to find each of them. The creators of ORE have chosen to use widely adopted formats like RDF and Atom to “serialize” (or make available in a machine-readable and easily exchangeable text format) their resource maps. [Geeks can read the full specification in their user guide.]

In the afternoon today several compelling examples of ORE in action were presented. Ray Plante of the NCSA and National Virtual Observatory showed how astronomers could use ORE and a wiki to create aggregates and updates about unusual events like supernovas, as different observatories add links to images and findings about each event (again, think of Van de Sompel’s “logical whole”). Several presenters mentioned our Zotero project as an ideal use case for ORE, since it already downloads associated objects as part of a single parent item (e.g., it stores metadata, a link to the page it got an item from, and perhaps a PDF or web snapshot). Zotero is already ORE Lite, in a way, and it will be good to try out a full Zotero translator for ORE resource maps that would permit Zotero users to grab aggregates for their research and subsequently publish aggregates back onto the web—object reuse and exchange in action.

Obviously it’s still very early and the true impact of ORE remains to be seen. But it would be a shame if humanities scholars fail to participate in the creation of scholarly standards like ORE, or to help envision their uses in research, communication, and collaboration.

There has been much talk recently of the social graph, the network of human connections that sites like Facebook bring to light and take advantage of. If widely adopted, ORE could help create the scholarly graph, the networked relations of scholars, publications, and resources.

Spring 2008 Rosenzweig Forum on Technology and the Humanities

[An announcement from Matt Kirschenbaum and our good friends at the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities.]

This spring the Rosenzweig Forum on Technology and the Humanities is pleased to present:

Ken Price on “Edition, Project, Database, Archive, Thematic Research Collection: What’s in a Name?” Ken’s abstract:

What are the implications of the terms we use to describe large-scale text-based electronic scholarship, especially undertakings that share some of the ambitions and methods of the traditional multi-volume scholarly edition? What genre or genres are we now working in? And how do the conceptions inhering in these choices of language frame and perhaps limit what we attempt? How do terms such as edition, project, database, archive, and thematic research collection relate to the past, present, and future of textual studies? Drawing on a range of resources including the Walt Whitman Archive, I consider how current terms describing digital scholarship both clarify and obscure our collective enterprise. In addition, I’ll use the final term, thematic research collection, to discuss yet-to-be-developed parts of the Whitman Archive dealing with place-based cultural analysis and translation studies as a way to illustrate the expansive possibilities of this new model of scholarship.

Our speaker will be Professor Kenneth Price, of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Price received his B.A. from Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, and then earned both M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Chicago. He is University Professor and Hillegass Chair of Nineteenth-Century American literature at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where he also serves as co-director of the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities. Price is the author of over forty articles and author or editor of nine books. His most recent book is co-edited with Ed Folsom and with Susan Belasco, Leaves of Grass: The Sesquicentennial Essays (University of Nebraska Press, 2007). His other recent books include Re-Scripting Walt Whitman: An Introduction to His Life and Work , co-authored with Folsom (Blackwell Publishing, 2005) and To Walt Whitman, America (University of North Carolina Press 2004), a main selection of The Readers Subscription, a national book club.

Since 1995 Price has served as co-director of The Walt Whitman Archive an electronic research and teaching tool that sets out to make Whitman’s vast work, for the first time, easily and conveniently accessible to scholars, students, and general readers. The Whitman Archive has been awarded federal grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the U. S. Department of Education, and the Institute for Museum and Library Services. The Whitman Archive has received many honors, including the C. F. W. Coker award from the Society of American Archivists and a “We the People” grant from the NEH to build a permanent endowment to support ongoing editorial work.

We will meet on Tuesday, March 11 fom 4:00-6:30 PM in the McKeldin Special Events Room (6th floor, room 6137), McKeldin Library, on the University of Maryland campus in College Park. There will be an informal dinner downstairs in MITH after the forum, at a cost of $10 per person. Please RSVP to Matt Kirschenbaum (mgk[at]umd[dot]edu) by March 7, 2008 if you would like to have dinner (money will be collected at the door–please have cash).

Co-sponsored by the Center for History & New Media (CHNM) at George Mason, the Center for New Designs in Learning & Scholarship (CNDLS) at Georgetown, and the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH), the Rosenzweig Technology and Humanities Forum explores important issues in humanities computing and provide an opportunity for DC area scholars interested the uses of new technology in the humanities to meet and get acquainted.

McKeldin Library is located at the top of McKeldin Mall at the center of the University of Maryland, College Park campus. There is free shuttle service to campus from the College Park Metro station (Green line). Best parking for visitors is the lot next to Stamp Student Union, less than five minute walk to the Library.

THAT Camp Almost Full

THATCamp LogoAlthough the official deadline is not until March 15, I wanted to remind readers of this blog who are interested in attending THAT Camp 2008 to apply as soon as possible. The available slots are filling up very quickly; we’ve gotten a lot of great applications already. So don’t delay if you would like to attend! Instructions for how to apply are on the THAT Camp site.

Join Us for THATCamp!

THATCamp LogoWhile everyone is zigging, we’ve decided to zag here at the Center for History and New Media. The professional organizations may have their formal meetings with set panels and preplanned events; we’re pleased to introduce a completely informal—but we hope more productive and enjoyable—”unconference” called THATCamp: The Humanities and Technology Camp.

Join us at George Mason University from May 31 to June 1, 2008 for a totally spontaneous, participant-generated 48 hours of collaborative advancement of the art. Want to learn about an existing digital humanities tool or resource or interested in extending scholarly software or creating new software on the spot? THATCamp is for you. Please check out the full announcement for details. Seats are very limited, but dirt cheap, so please contact us as soon as possible if you would like to participate.