Providing resources and trai­ning in the practices and tools of the digital humanities

Digital Humanities Forum 2013

Return to the Material 

IDRH is pleased to announce our Fall 2013 Digital Humanities Forum, September 12-14, 2013 at the University of Kansas. The three-day Forum features the following events:

Thursday, September 12 & Friday, September 13
WORKSHOPS: A set of in-depth, hands on workshops on digital humanities tools and topics.

Friday, September 13
THATCamp Kansas 2013: An “unconference” for technologists and humanists, with conversations about topics defined on-site by the participants.

Saturday, September 14
RETURN TO THE MATERIAL: A one-day program of panels and poster sessions showcasing digital humanities projects and research.

Colin Allen, Provost Professor of Cognitive Science and History & Philosophy of Science; Director, Cognitive Science Program, Indiana University, Bloomington

Linking big data to fine analysis: the challenge of textual methods in the digital humanities.


In this talk I will illustrate and explain some of the guiding principles behind our efforts with the Indiana Philosophy Ontology (InPhO) and its partner projects. Although the term "ontology" in the realm of computer science has come to mean a formal structure primarily designed around the requirements of computers, our mantra is that ontologies are for people too. In the digital humanities, especially, this means a focus on representational flexibility and human interpretation should remain at the core of what we do. Furthermore, large-scale analysis alone is insufficient for the needs of humanities scholars: They (both scholars and algorithmic analyses) need to be connected to the primary texts in ways that help support scholarly interpretation. I will illustrate these principles through the "Digging by Debating" joint project between InPhO and other partners in the U.S. and U.K., which has been funded by NEH and JISC through the Digging Into Data challenge. In this project we seek to connect a high level views of large quantities of digitized text (such as selections from the HathiTrust/Google Books collection) to close analyses of specific pages containing philosophical arguments that are of significance to the history and philosophy of science.

Jentery Sayers, University of Victoria, Assistant Professor, English; Director, Maker Lab in the Humanities

Fabrications, or How to Lie with Computer Vision.


Since its initial role in artificial intelligence research during the early 1970s, computer vision --- defined, for the purposes of this talk, as the automated description and reconstruction of the physical world (including its subjects and objects) through algorithms --- has grown increasingly accessible to a wide variety of audiences through a broad range of consumer electronics. For instance, consider the number of cultural heritage projects relying extensively on optical character recognition. Or, in commonplace apps like iPhoto, note the use of face detection techniques for image description and searching. Elsewhere, web-based repositories such as Thingiverse are housing museum collections (e.g., at the Art Institute of Chicago) of 3D scans and print-on-demand models generated by both staff and patrons. And now Kinect hacks are practically ubiquitous on the web, with people regularly repurposing the sensor to create games, build DIY robots, and construct playful interfaces. Unpacking these phenomena across academic and popular domains, this talk highlights the need for digital humanities practitioners to not only engage how computer vision is embedded in our research but also explore how it actively transduces our materials, with an emphasis on the production of prototypes --- or "fabrications" --- that do not yet exist in the physical world. Here, the talk draws examples from recent research conducted by the Maker Lab in the Humanities at the University of Victoria, where --- through its "Z-Axis" research initiative --- practitioners are conducting experiments in stitching (i.e., translating 2D photos into 3D models), decimation (i.e., reducing the polygon count of models), and displacement (i.e., pushing and pulling the geometry of models to generate depth and detail) in order to articulate new-form arguments about literary and cultural histories. The Lab's Z-Axis methodologies develop existing digital humanities research in speculative computing (Drucker and Nowviskie), geospatial expression (Moretti), data visualization (Manovich), algorithmic criticism (Ramsay), and ruination (McGann, Sample, and Samuels) in order to: 1) build persuasive objects that, like written essays, function as scholarship, 2) explore the potential of 3D techniques, desktop fabrication, and critical making for humanities research, 3) open material culture and history to unique modes of perception and interpretation, and 4) resist quotidian assumptions that computer vision affords neutral, high-fidelity replicas of our lived, social realities. To "lie" with computer vision, then, is to tinker with its default settings and transductions, reconfigure them, and mobilize them toward novel and unanticipated forms of scholarly persuasion.

whitney trettien, PhD Candidate, Duke University, English

Short-Circuiting the Hardware of History.


The past is, as Wolfgang Ernst has provocatively written, the “artifactual hardware, so to speak, upon which historical discourse operates like a form of software.” Taking up the implications of Ernst’s statement, this talk explores how tinkering with the material weight of history, its hardware, through the creative/critical use of digital media has the power to update the software of our discourse. By deliberately engaging the charged differences of electronic media – their material strangeness in relation to historical artifacts – tactical methods of creative deformation and critical making have the power to short-circuit scholarly conventions, forcing current methods of reading, writing and communicating to run along new paths.

The Forum is free to attend and open to participants beyond KU, but space is limited.

Questions may be directed to the Institute for Digital Research in the Humanities,

Follow Us
Come to our collaborative research tornado on October 24 and find collaborators for our $15,000 digital humanities seed grants.
Lauren Kersey - Less is More: The Pursuit of Gestalts in Minimalism and Knowledge Discovery... Lauren Kersey, Saint Louis University Less is More: The Pursuit of Gestalts in Minimalism and Knowledge Discovery in Databases Graduate Paper, Digital Humanities Forum 2014: Nodes & Networks in the Humanities. University of Kansas September 13, 2014 -- As cultural marketplaces become increasingly saturated and fragmented, new forms emerge to compress, sort, and efficiently deliver messages. Minimalism, from the visual arts, and Knowledge Discovery in Databases (KDD), from the computer sciences, developed in tandem in response to this common pressure. This paper links these two movements from their origins to the present day to show how KDD appropriates principles and design elements from minimalism for competing purposes. Minimalism developed in the United States during the 1960s and 1970s. These works countered what they saw as consumerist impulses fueled by subjective forms of self-expression. Donald Judd’s arrays of freestanding boxes typify this movement. They reduce expression to essential conditions: the expressive object’s internal relationships involving basic materials, proportions, and the arrangement of simple geometric figures like lines and planes along with the object’s interactions with external elements like light and viewers’ positions within surrounding space. Around the same time computer scientists invented integrated circuit-chips and microprocessors that facilitated networks of personal computers. This Web accelerated the output and the fragmentation of human expression to such a degree that traditional centers of control struggled to monitor and regulate increasingly niche sub-communities. Thus, marketing firms became early investors in KDD: the process of discovering and displaying useful knowledge from large volumes of data. Since then, humanists have adapted KDD to condense literary corpuses into essential patterns and models. Specifically, KDD applies frequency thresholds to identify a corpus’s essential lexical materials. Analysts then identify the unique proportions of these materials by comparing one corpus to another through classification or clustering algorithms. Finally, the interpretive stage represents these essential materials and proportions as simple geometric shapes. Like minimalist art, KDD aims to be literal and holistic. Consider either Donald Judd’s boxes or a multidimensional, cube-shaped graph that reduces novels to data points. Its purpose is not to express the creator’s internal psychology or an external reality beyond the factual existence of the basic conditions for that aesthetic object itself. Both projects are holistic in that they suppress detail to pursue what Robert Morris called the gestalt: objects that “offer maximum resistance to perceptual separation” which force viewers to see the whole before or in synchrony with individual parts. In so doing, viewers account for individual relationships, later changes, and their own subjective roles in the object’s manifestation. Viewers who walk around Judd’s boxes are aware of their limited and shifting viewpoints because they have a preexisting image of the object in its abstract entirety. Analysts who condense literary history into gestalts are aware of their limited and shifting positions because they have a preexisting image of literary history in its abstract entirety. By surveying Franco Moretti, Matthew Jockers, and Google’s Ngram Viewer, this paper explores how KDD’s capitalist and anti-capitalist heritage influences these projects. In particular, it asks whether their visuals allow viewers to interact and experiment with the complicated networks that make up literature and culture or whether they disempower communities by presenting these conditions as empirical, constant, and impermeable.

Home to 50+ departments, centers, and programs, the School of the Arts, and the School of Public Affairs and Administration
KU offers courses in 40 languages
Graduates of the College have won Emmys, discovered new species, and been named to Forbes' "most powerful women" lists
No. 1 ranking in city management and urban policy —U.S. News and World Report
One of 34 U.S. public institutions in the prestigious Association of American Universities
26 prestigious Rhodes Scholars — more than all other Kansas colleges combined
Nearly $290 million in financial aid annually
1 of 9 public universities with outstanding study abroad programs.
—U.S. News & World Report
46 nationally ranked graduate programs.
—U.S. News & World Report
Top 50 nationwide for size of library collection.