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

Digital Humanities Seminar

The Digital Humanities Seminar, co-sponsored by the Hall Center for the Humanities, provides a forum for sharing and discussion of new digitally-enabled humanities research efforts, with a specific focus on what digital humanities tools and practices can do for a range of humanistic research.

Unless otherwise noted, beginning in October 2017 all sessions take place 3:00pm - 4:30pm at the Hall Center for the Humanities.

Please scroll down for a list of all seminars, 2011 - present, with abstracts and video recordings for most of them.

Fall 2017


Monday, September 18, 2017
HathiTrust Research Center: Strategic approaches to opening research opportunities on closed data
J. Stephen Downie, HathiTrust Research Center

Abstract
The HathiTrust Digital Library (HTDL) contains some 15.8 million volumes (over 5.5 billion pages). Unfortunately, roughly 10 million HTDL volumes are under copyright restrictions and cannot be shared with users. To overcome this problem, the HathiTrust Research Center (HTRC) is creating a set of "non-consumptive research" services to make these closed materials more open and thus more useful to scholars. This talk introduces such non-consumptives services as "Data Capsules," "Extracted Features" and the "Bookworm + HathiTrust" tool. Each HTRC service is designed to open new points of access to otherwise closed data while still respecting all copyright limitations. Examples of real-world Digital Humanities research projects and services that have been using the HTRC data and resources will be highlighted. Future research ideas, building on recent grant-funded projects, will also be discussed.

Friday, October 6, 2017
Spenser and Historical Stylometrics Medieval and Early Modern
Anupam Basu, Department of English, Washington University of St. Louis


Monday, November 20, 2017
Digital Humanities and Ethnic Identity in WWI American Immigrant Poetry
Lorie Vanchena, Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures, University of Kansas


Wednesday, December 6
Touching on Archival Absence: Early Modern Women and the Digital Humanities
Whitney Sperrazza, Postdoctoral Researcher, Hall Center for the Humanities, University of Kansas


Spring 2017


Wednesday, January 25
Mapping Testimonies of Children Who Survived the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda​
Musa Wakhungu Olaka, KU Libraries

Abstract
Voices of children who survived the 1994 genocide in Rwanda have to a great extent been muted, ignored, and excluded from discourse as if these children are invisible and do not exist. However, children were never spared from atrocities that were committed and one of the major killing fields was Gitarama Prefecture. In late 1999 and early 2000, IBUKA, the umbrella organization that advocates for the welfare of survivors of the 1994 Rwanda genocide collected close to 1000 testimonies of children from Gitarama Prefecture who survived the genocide. To-date, this is the most comprehensive collection of testimonies of child survivors of that genocide yet the collection had remained inaccessible. Very sparse analysis of experiences of children during the genocide in Rwanda genocide has been undertaken. This presentation is about a project being undertaken by Musa Wakhungu Olaka to explore and analyze experiences of these children in space and time across the various administrative levels of Gitarama Prefecture.

Monday, Feb 20
Reconstructing Moses Grandy’s World: The Interplay of GIS With Enslaved Narratives
Christy Hyman, University of Nebraska

Abstract
For enslaved people surviving during the period before the Civil War the southern landscape was shaped y political, social, and geographical boundaries and obstacles to freedom that are almost unimaginable to modern observers. “Reconstructing Moses Grandy’s World” exposes the human costs associated with running away from enslavement like distance, navigational literacy, access to resources of shelter. This talk explores how geospatial digital humanities tools change and enrich our understanding of the history.

Wednesday, March 15
De-centering Centers of Digital Humanities
Brian Rosenblum, KU Libraries & Phil Stinson, Dept. of Classics

Abstract
Where does Digital Humanities best fit into the university and academic mission? Digital Humanities centers arose in the 1990s as largely bottom-up, scholar-driven initiatives. Today DH centers are widespread at institutions of higher education, often implemented in a top-down manner. Despite their proliferation, they are still seen as fulfilling a kind of peripheral or emerging role (like DH itself). As Smiljana Antonijevic notes in her recent book "Amongst Digital Humanists", the goal, scope, focus, size, and institutional positioning of these centers varies according to the environment and circumstances at each home institution, yet DH centers generally position themselves in some way as agents of change within the academy. Indeed several of them have played a significant role in advancing technology-driven humanities scholarship not just through development of tools, but in promoting discussion around pertinent and wider issues such as evaluating scholarly work, academic labor, and attention to new epistemological implications of digital scholarship.

In this seminar Brian Rosenblum and Phil Stinson will discuss the role(s) of Digital Humanities centers, along with current trends in digital humanities practices and ongoing challenges and debates within the field and here at KU. We will then lead a discussion about the current state of DH infrastructure and practice at KU.


Monday, April 17
A Portrait of Venice: a ‘Virtually’ Digital Exhibition
Kristin Huffman Lanzoni, Duke University

Abstract
Visualizing Venice, an interdisciplinary, cross-cultural collaboration of scholars, architects, and visual-media analysts involves the study of Venice’s urban fabric and its monuments using digital technologies. The most recent project, A Portrait of Venice: Jacopo de’ Barbari’s View of 1500, an exhibition to open at Duke University’s Nasher Museum of Art in September, will be the focus of the talk. The exhibition, curated by Huffman Lanzoni, will bring to life the Early Modern city of Venice through the display of a number of thematically coordinated digital engagements alongside the first state print from the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. The mural-sized woodblock print, published in Venice in 1500, was instantly recognized as a groundbreaking marvel as well as an extraordinary work of art. Combining traditional art historical research with visualization technologies has resulted in new insights into this important historical document and opened up possibilities for further study.

Fall 2016


August 29
Global Medical Humanities and the Horizons of Digital Health Innovation
Kathryn A. Rhine, Associate Professor, Anthropology, University of Kansas

Abstract
In this seminar, I describe a new curriculum initiative I am proposing in collaboration with the SLLC and over 30 faculty members across KU. This project will provide undergraduates an interdisciplinary perspective onto novel developments in global health and medicine, particularly as these initiatives unfold in virtual spaces. Students will consider questions such as: (1) In what ways are these new assemblages of knowledge embedded in local and global contexts? (2) How is the language used to describe health and development enmeshed in particular cultural values and structures of power? (3) How might these digital innovations reveal particular ways of knowing, seeing, and experiencing disease, community, and social change? (4) And, how are social inequalities being reproduced in and through these domains? We intend to analyze these concerns through an array of methodologies, with an emphasis on the interdependent relationships between theory, method, critical practice, and social justice. The centerpiece of this initiative will be an experiential learning course that uses the Work Group for Community Health and Development’s Community Tool Box as a virtual laboratory for students to address linguistic, cultural, and structural barriers to health promotion and social change.

September 19
New Technologies and Old Things: Why Study Ancient Sculpture and Monuments in 3D?
Philip Sapirstein, Assistant Professor, Department of Art and Art History, University of Nebraska, Lincoln

Abstract
The study of the ancient world is currently undergoing a revolution. Many scholars are moving away from traditional approaches for recording artifacts, architecture, and landscapes, instead embracing a new array of highly accurate and realistic 3D methods for capturing, modeling, and representing the material remains from the distant past. In this talk, I will describe the impact of these recent transformations in archaeological recording, especially as they relate to my research on ancient Greek sculpture and architecture. First, I will describe the 3D modeling of a richly decorated temple at Corfu using a powerful yet affordable laser-scanner as well as another project at Olympia based on a very new approach-photogrammetry-to generate detailed 3D models of a large site. Next, I’ll discuss some of the potential trade-offs in shifting from traditional methods like hand-drawing to less intuitive, high-tech digital recording and explain why 3D should nonetheless be seen as the way of the future for art historians, archaeologists, architects, preservationists, and the many others whose research interacts with complex real-world objects and spaces. Finally, I will consider the new possibilities for analysis and publication of 3D data which would be difficult to imagine in the flat world of the printed page.

October 17
Digital Humanities Pedagogy in Theory and Practice
Jessica DeSpain, Associate Professor, Department of English Language and Literature; Co-Director of IRIS Center, Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville

Abstract
Although the digital humanities has become increasingly important for scholarship, it is still rarely practiced in the undergraduate classroom. Professors fear they don’t have the knowledge to instruct their students in the use of digital tools, that it will consume valuable time, or that digital assignments will distract from critical thinking and writing. Dr. Jessica DeSpain, an associate professor at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, who has recently co-edited a collection of essays about using the digital humanities in the nineteenth-century American literature classroom, will discuss how to introduce digital scholarship to undergraduates to enhance traditional methods like close reading. DeSpain has spent nine years training undergraduates to work on digital humanities projects, integrating DH methods into her classes, and developing a minor in the digital humanities and social sciences. She will discuss best practices for introducing DH into a variety of learning environments and share her most successful assignments.

November 21
Critical Protocols in Indigenous Game Design
Joshua Miner, Assistant Professor, Film and Media Studies, University of Kansas

Abstract
This seminar explores Native/First Nations digital games and other procedural media that operate as critical responses to mainstream game mechanics and neocolonial environmental policy. As a cultural medium whose systems are embedded with dominant ethics of interaction, mainstream videogames tend to reflect Eurowestern social and ecological values. Observing critical games’ ability to pose alternative values through gameplay, Dr. Joshua Miner will discuss how Native/First Nations designers develop game mechanics that express Indigenous protocols for environmental stewardship. At a time when Indigenous lands and waters are continually threatened by corporate energy development, Native digital games generate epistemological conflicts that disrupt settler society’s instrumentalization of environment, positioning players to experience alternate systems of interaction. Games such as *Mawisowin* (2012), *Spirits of Spring* (2014), *Never Alone (Kisima Inŋitchuŋa)* (2014), and *Invaders* (2015) express Indigenous ecological protocols and construe digital gamespace as a valuable symbolic site for political occupation.

Spring 2016


January 25
Head-and-Shoulder Hunting in the Americas: Walter Freeman and the Visual Culture of Lobotomy
Miriam Posner, Coordinator, Digital Humanities Program University of California, Los Angeles

Abstract & Video
Video

Between 1936 and 1967, Walter Freeman, a prominent neurologist, lobotomized as many as 3,500 Americans. Freeman was also an obsessive photographer, taking patients’ photographs before their operations and tracking them down years — even decades — later. In this presentation, Miriam Posner details her efforts to understand why Freeman was so devoted to this practice, using computer-assisted image-mining and -analysis techniques to show how these images fit into the larger visual culture of 20th-century psychiatry.


February 15
Trusting Data: A Technologist’s Perspective
Perry Alexander, AT&T Foundation Distinguished Professor, EECS Department, Director, Information and Telecommunication Technology Center, University of Kansas

Abstract
Big data as a driver for research has enormous potential. So much so that we increasingly see interactions and collaborations among computer scientists and researchers across academic disciplines. Computers never tire, they quickly perform increasingly novel tasks, and their work is repeatable and precise. However, the promise of big data depends on the origins and workflows associated with data. We must trust our data. In today’s research environment we must trust our data with ever decreasing control of its acquisition, processing, and storage. This talk will focus on establishing trust in remote systems and their data. I will define what trust means in an information processing environment and describe operations necessary for trust. With those principles, I will describe protocols for establishing trust. Finally, I will discuss research ongoing in ITTC to establish trust in cloud-based computing environments.

March 21
Digital Encryption, or, Messages Against the Medium
Andrew Lison, Post-doctoral Fellow, Hall Center for the Humanities, University of Kansas

Abstract
Over the past 25 years, we have grown accustomed to thinking of the digital as a universal medium, capable of incorporating text, images, and sounds, and even translating between them. Yet there is another aspect of digital media that is often overlooked: the process by which discrete information becomes fixed, rather than rendered interchangeable. As scholars such as Shawn James Rosenheim have noted, these two concepts have in fact been intertwined since at least the Second World War, when Claude Shannon’s work on developing unbreakable communications systems gave rise to his seminal papers theorizing both information and encryption mathematically. Shannon’s information theory has been extensively discussed in the humanities as the rise of the personal computer has transformed our cultural landscape, but his work on cryptography has received far less attention in such contexts, and this despite the latter concept’s subsequent periodic emergence—as with the current controversy between the FBI and Apple Inc. over decrypting the contents of one of the San Bernardino shooters’ phones—as an issue of significant social, political, and intellectual import. Looking at today’s encryption controversies in light of those that arose at the beginning of the multimedia era some 25 years ago, however, can help us understand both the paradox and the promise of digital media.

April 18
Recovering the Past through Digital History
Jennifer Guiliano, Assistant Professor, Department of History, Indiana-Purdue University Indianapolis

Abstract
Recovering the Past through Digital History explores the ways in which historians have been exploring digital tools for both research and teaching. Seeking to define how the definition of what constitutes “digital history” might challenge historical methodology and how we might begin constructing a future of scholarship built upon values of collaboration and open source, public scholarship, this presentation will explore two current projects, “O Say Can You See”: the Early Washington, D.C. Law and Family Project (OSCYS) and Transforming the Afro-Caribbean World. OSCYS explores multi-generational black and white family networks in early Washington, D.C., by collecting, digitizing, making accessible, and analyzing over 4,000 case files from the D.C. court from 1808 to 1815, records of Md. courts, and related documents about these families. Uncovering the web of litigants, jurists, legal actors, and participants in this community, and by placing these family networks in the foreground of our interpretive framework of slavery and national formation, OSCYS offers new methods for historians to uncover fragmentary histories of oppressed peoples. The Transforming the Afro-Caribbean World (TAW) project brings together scholars of the Panama Canal, Afro-Caribbean history, and experts in the digital humanities, data modeling, and visualization to facilitate a large-scale effort to explore Afro-Caribbean labor, migration, and the Panama Canal.

Fall 2015


Monday, August 31
When a Project Demands to be Digital: Reflections by Reluctant DHers
Laura Mielke (English) and Marty Baldwin (English)

Abstract & Video
Video

In this presentation, a faculty member and a graduate student from the English Department will recount their experience of beginning to work on a traditional (i.e. print) edition of a nineteenth-century text only to realize the necessity of transporting the project into the digital environment. In the process of discussing the specific, bizarre historical and materials contexts for their particular project, the presenters will reflect on: the sources of reluctance to work in DH; the process of identifying and acquiring necessary DH skills and tools; the discovery of DH support networks; the problems that arise in the conversion of a print editorial project to a digital one; and most important, the impact of DH scholarship on collaboration between graduate students and faculty. This presentation is aimed to spur conversation about how scholars who are hesitant to enter the DH world might do so for practical reasons–and happily survive.


Monday, September 21
What Is Digital Humanities and What’s It Doing in the Classroom? Toward a Digital Pedagogy
Pamella Lach (KU Libraries)

Abstract & Video
Video

Incorporating digital humanities into the classroom, while rewarding, can be difficult and messy—for instructors and students alike. In this talk, Lach will share her experiences experimenting with DH in the classroom. She will discuss a range of attempts along a pedagogic spectrum, from undergraduate blogging about digital objects to graduate students implementing self-designed digital projects. Her talk will address some of the challenges of adopting a digital approach in the classroom, and gesture towards some best practices. This talk is especially geared to those curious about or interested in integrating DH into their teaching.


Monday, October 19
3DGIS for Discourse, Analysis, and Interpretations of Ancient Maya Architecture and Landscapes
Heather Richards-Rissetto, Anthropology, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Abstract & Video
Video

Archaeological projects increasingly acquire and create 3D data of objects, buildings, and even landscapes; however, it is still a challenge to make these data accessible for researchers and cultural heritage managers and link these models to geo-referenced data sets for visualization and analysis. To address this issue, the MayaArch3D Project (www.mayaarch3d.org) is working to develop a 3D WebGIS-called QueryArch3D-to allow 3D models and GIS- to “talk to each other” for studies of architecture and landscapes-in this case, the eighth-century Maya kingdom of Copan, Honduras. In this talk, I will discuss how we are using 3D WebGIS to develop new visibility methods to explore the visibility or inter-visibility of monuments and buildings to or from common pathways that inhabitants of different social quarters may have taken while moving through the city of Copan. I will also present on an affiliated project--MayaCityBuilder--recently begun at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln that is using procedural modeling, rapid proto-typing of 3D models from a set of rules, to allow for the efficient and low-cost creation of alternative ancient Maya landscapes in order to foster discourse, analysis, and interpretations.


Monday, November 16
Lori Emerson- Lab-based Tinkering and Open-ended Play in the Era of the Posthumanitie
Lori Emerson, English, Media Archaeology Lab, University of Colorado, Boulder

Abstract & Video
Video

Nearly all digital media labs are conceived of as places for experimental research using the most up-to-date, cutting-edge tools available. However, the Media Archaeology Lab (MAL) is a place for hands-on, cross-disciplinary experimental research and teaching using still-functioning but obsolete tools, software, hardware, platforms from the past. What the MAL does best is that it provides direct access to defining moments in the history of computing and digital literature. The MAL is also a kind of thinking device in that providing access to the utterly unique, material specificity of these computers, their interfaces, platforms, and software makes it possible to defamiliarize or make visible for critique contemporary, invisible interfaces and platforms. It’s an approach to media of the present via media of the past that aligns the lab with the vibrant field of “media archaeology.” In her talk, Lori Emerson will discuss the history and philosophy of the Media Archaeology Lab along with how her current research projects - “Other Networks” and “The Lab Book: Situated Practices in Media Studies - are part-and-parcel of the lab.


Spring 2015


Wednesday, January 28
Mapping the Complexity of Landscape and Law: Capturing the Elusive History of U.S. Homesteading
Sara Gregg (History) and Rhonda Houser (Libraries)

Abstract & Video
Video

This presentation will trace the process of discovery and exploration of a set of historical maps chronicling the process of land distribution in the United States, as well as the future stages of research on the history of the U. S. Homestead Acts. A set of investigations of historical maps demonstrates the potential to create an entirely new environmental understanding of the effect of federal land law on the landscape of the American West by employing new technology and formerly unmined cartographic and statistical materials. During the introduction to this project the researchers will reflect upon the challenges and opportunities posed by collaborative research, as well as the power of the spatial humanities to transform our understanding of land policy.


Wednesday, February 25
Saeculum: Approaching (Ancient Roman) Culture Through Game Design
David Fredrick, Classical Studies, University of Arkansas

Abstract & Video
Video

This talk outlines the use of the Unity game engine for classical studies research and teaching, using three examples. The first is a development of Unity as a lecture presentation platform (3D Powerpoint), using an analysis of the distribution and meaning of representations of Hermaphroditus in Pompeian houses. The second and third review the development of game-based online courses in classical mythology and Roman civilization—what is working and what is not, and the value of building this curriculum with in-house student developers, despite the risks.


Wednesday, March 25
Random Borges | Infinite E-Lit: A Look from Hispanic Legacies
Élika Ortega, IDRH

Abstract & Video
Video

Part of the interinstitutional collaborative project Hispanic Legacies in Electronic Literature, in this presentation Élika Ortega proposes a juxtaposition between Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges’ imagined figures of infinity such as The Library of Babel, The Aleph, and The Book of Sand and contemporary examples of Electronic Literature (E-Lit) that analogously and literally enact endlessness in reading and writing. Media figures of infinity (as Ortega terms the conceptual and structural strategies used by writers to create infinites) underscore the tensions between the life span of artworks, the machines and code that materialize them, and the people reading them. Furthermore, the spatial-temporal dimensions of infinite E-Lit works put into question the role of readers and archivists dealing with literary works whose end will not be seen but are likely to stop working or become obsolete and inaccessible.


Wednesday, April 22
Literary Geography of the Twentieth Century: Computational and Statistical Models
Matthew Wilkens, English, Notre Dame

Abstract & Video
Video

Computational methods allow literary scholars to test their claims against a much larger and more diverse body of texts than would otherwise be possible. Recent examples include work on the evolution of poetic diction in the nineteenth century, on comparative social networks in American and Asian modernism, and on urban space in several centuries of British fiction. But there has been very little such research on contemporary literature, where problems of scale are most acute. This talk presents new computational work on neoliberalism and the literary geography of the twentieth century. To shed light on the extent to which fiction today is shaped by the logic of late capitalism, it assesses the relationship between the century’s significant changes in economic output and the shifting distribution of geographic attention in 10,000 American novels published between 1880 and 1990, finding a surprising – and growing – degree of geographic conservatism in postwar US fiction. This result calls into question the widespread critical assumption that neoliberal ideology demands an increasingly close alignment between market functions and aesthetic production.


Fall 2014


Wednesday, August 27
The Case for Close Textual Attention in the Age of Text Glut
Amanda Gailey, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, English

Abstract & Video
Video

This talk will discuss how the field of literary studies should preserve the scholarly and pedagogical value of close reading even as the digital humanities and the culture at large increasingly prioritize big data. I will discuss some of the blind spots in big data approaches to literature in order to show the continued importance of smaller-scale digital studies, drawing on examples from The Walt Whitman Archive, The Tar Baby and the Tomahawk, and Scholarly Editing, which I use in my research and teaching. I will also talk about how coursework on digital editing can be very effective in teaching students to be careful readers and writers.


Monday, September 29
The first part of ‘text analysis’ is ‘text’: Applying digital methods to an under-documented language
Matt Menzenski, Slavic Languages & Literatures

Abstract & Video
Video

The digitization and curation of large bodies of text has inspired and encouraged new methods of research into language and literature, but only into those languages for which such corpora have been established. What sort of strategies are available to a researcher wishing to apply these research methods to a language which is not yet represented in a digitized collection? Is construction of a text corpus a feasible task for a researcher more interested in human languages than in programming languages? This talk provides a case study of the creation of a small text corpus for Tohono O’odham (an endangered language of the Southwest), the use of that corpus to investigate questions about the way that verbs are used in narratives, and more broadly, the sometimes unexpected ways in which the development of a text corpus can influence the research process.


Wednesday, October 22
Virtual Reality on Stage
Mark Reaney, Department of Theatre

Abstract & Video
Video

For almost 20 years, KU has been a world leader in the field of digitally mediated theatre production. Starting in 1995 KU’s University Theatre has mounted a series of ever-increasingly complex productions in which real-time computer-generated graphics or “Virtual Reality” has been used as the scenic medium. In this talk, Prof. Mark Reaney will discuss the underpinning artistic philosophy behind this body of work and present an overview of the 9 VR/Theatre productions mounted at KU.


Wednesday, November 19
Ghosts and Our Machines: Digital Scholarship for Religious Studies
Christopher Cantwell, University of Missouri-Kansas City, History


Spring 2014


February 6
Ancient Chinese scribal hands: recording, searching and visualizing scribal practices in the fifth-century BC Wenxian Covenant Texts
Crispin Williams, KU East Asian Studies


March 6
The Spatial Self: Location-Based Identity on Social Media
Germaine Halegoua, KU Film and Media Studies

Abstract
As the incorporation of geocoded information into text, images and video on social media platforms continues to grow, so do the norms, practices, and meanings that surround these digital-physical traces. Public officials, urban planners, technology developers, and researchers have begun to gather and analyze geo-tagged photos and videos, status updates, and location-announcements in order make claims about the use and design of public space, urban infrastructure, mobility patterns, local sentiment, and experiences of place. These efforts raise many questions about the use of location-based social media and the representation and documentation of physical mobility and physical presence online. This presentation will present the concept of the “spatial self” as a lens through which to read and understand how people harness location-based technologies in order to represent themselves through social media. Building on previous studies and theories of online and offline identity and self-presentation, critical and feminist geography, and presentations of place on social media, this presentation will illustrate how and why location-based information produced on platforms like Foursquare, Facebook, and Instagram should be reconsidered and re-conceptualized by researchers as performative rather than precise.

March 31
Literary History in Conversation with Computer Science
Ted Underwood, University of Illinois

Abstract & Video
Video

The term “digital humanities” tends to stage contemporary developments in the humanities as a confrontation, not with specific ideas or disciplines, but with digital technology itself. That’s part of the logic of the term’s success, but for good or ill, this talk will aim at a narrower, socially concrete topic. I’m interested, not in the web or in computers as such, but in the human beings who study computer science. To the extent that humanists discuss CS at all, we tend to imagine it as a narrowly instrumental discourse. And there’s some truth to that: a large part of what I want to do is show off some neat tricks computer scientists have invented that turn out to be useful for the humanities (and especially for literary history). I’ll focus on topic modeling (which casts new light on the history of humanistic disciplines), and on supervised learning algorithms (which provide an interestingly flexible way to approach the history of genre). But I also want to suggest that the conversation between computer scientists and humanists needn’t be purely instrumental, or fully contained in “tools” that we borrow from CS. In some ways computer science is a surprisingly flexible hermeneutic discourse, and humanists may have more in common with it than we imagine.


April 3
Inside a 13th Century Water Clock: Multi-Disciplinary Teaching Across Computing and the Humanities
Paul Fishwick, UT- Dallas, Computer Science

Abstract & Video
Video

Can the connections between the humanities and computer science include arts and humanities informing computer science? We are familiar with the idea that computer science results in technologies, and that these are then used as tools by artists and humanists. Going in the other direction is also possible, where deep concepts in computing are covered through cultural artifacts. We will include practical examples of this approach, including al Jazari’s water clock. These examples create new possibilities for humanist-computer science collaborations, and they also suggest that computer science can be viewed as empirically-driven rather than existing purely as an “artificial science.”


May 1
Editing Walt Whitman’s Marginalia Today: Digital Humanities Methods at the Edge
Matt Cohen, UT-Austin, English

Abstract & Video
Video

This talk is about methodology in the humanities. It begins with a discussion of the most basic practice of humanities research: note-taking. Annotations, marginalia, all of the methods of sifting, highlighting, and gathering: these are the substrate of our larger claims and discoveries. Such is the case even when we are working with “big data,” topic modeling, natural language processing, and other automated techniques for what Franco Moretti has called “distant reading.” The talk then reflects on the claims for methodology in and as what is being called the digital humanities. These observations emerge at the junction of two occasions. The first is a project to digitize the poet Walt Whitman’s annotations and marginalia, his personal metadata on his reading. This NEH-funded project is at the end of its first phase, and will be published later this year for free access at the Walt Whitman Archive. The second spur is the active conversation about the digital humanities as a methodological crucible or fountain; both the tenor and the content of that conversation are occasions for considering the status of method in the humanities.


Fall 2013


September 5
The Light Commodity of Words: Digitizing the Material Book
Jonathan Lamb, English

Abstract & Video
Video

This talk will explore the issues that arise when material objects are converted into digital form. Although such questions have received much attention from a throng of scholars, librarians, and computer scientists, I wish to address them from the perspective of a ‘domain scientist’ of literary and textual culture—a user perspective, as it were. Taking as my subject the Early English Books Online (EEBO) database, along with EEBO’s newish Text Creation Partnership (TCP) full-text tool, I will argue that book digitization makes possible (and necessary) a material-digital dialectic. Such a dialectic, which privileges neither material nor digital artifacts but allows a researcher to jump like a spark between the two poles, becomes especially visible and productive when studying books from the early modern period (1500-1700). Each domain (i.e., the digital and material) offers medium-specific forms of resistance and friction, and each therefore provokes new insight with respect to the other. The talk will feature a multitude of examples and only light theorization, no prior knowledge of EEBO or EEBO-TCP is required.


October 3
Poems on the Page: Reading the Visual Codes of Victorian Books
Natalie Houston, University of Houston

Abstract & Video
Video

The digitization of nineteenth-century texts offers us the opportunity of asking new research questions that could transform our historical understanding of Victorian culture. My research explores how we can use computational tools with large sets of digitized texts to gain a broader sociological understanding of poetry’s circulation, consumption, and function within Victorian culture.

All printed texts simultaneously convey meaning through both linguistic and graphic signs. Printed poems, for instance, are typically framed by the white space created by line endings, creating a distinctive visual signal of the genre on the printed page. In Victorian books of poetry, rhymed lines were frequently indented the same distance from the left margin to visually indicate the poem’s form and structure. Rhyme is thus simultaneously a linguistic, poetic, and graphic feature of many Victorian books. Most scholarly digital archives recognize the value of this graphical meaning and provide users with page images as well as OCR text, but most tools for large-scale computational analysis focus only on the linguistic content of texts.

In this talk, I will discuss how the visual aspects of printed texts contribute to their cultural significance; how computational analysis can facilitate the identification of unique or representative items, historical trends, and comparisons not accessible to the human eye across large document collections; and present some initial research findings from the current development of VisualPage, a prototype software application for the large-scale identification and analysis of the graphical elements of digitized printed books.

Bio: Natalie M. Houston is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Houston. Her research on Victorian poetry and print culture has appeared in journals such as Victorian Studies, Victorian Poetry, and the Yale Journal of Criticism. She is the Project Director for VisualPage, an NEH-funded project to develop a software application to identify and analyze visual features in digitized printed books and she is currently writing a monograph entitled Reading Victorian Poetry Digitally. She is also a Project Co-Director and Technical Director for the Periodical Poetry Index, a research database of citations to English-language poems published in nineteenth-century periodicals. She contributes regular columns on productivity, pedagogy, and technology to the ProfHacker blog hosted by the Chronicle of Higher Education.


November 7
Revising Ekphrasis: Using Topic Modeling to Tell the Sister Arts’ Story
Lisa Rhody, University of Maryland

Abstract & Video
Video

For the past 20 years, the story of ekphrasis—poetry to, for, and about the visual arts—has been told as a long-standing, gendered contest between rival media, fraught with political, cultural, and religious anxieties. Although skeptical of the necessity of gendered rivalry as a principle of ekphrastic creation, literary scholars have struggled to present a compelling alternative model that sufficiently accounts for the genre’s representational complexity.

This talk begins by asking if computational methods might offer new insights into the canon and tradition of ekphrasic poetry and suggests how topic modeling—one form of computational text analysis—might begin to refocus the aperture of our critical lens on the genre’s conventions.

Oriented toward the non-expert, this presentation will assume no prior knowledge of topic modeling or social network analysis. I will provide a gentle introduction that builds toward an understanding of the potential uses for topic modeling and network analysis as a means for exploring large collections of poetic texts.

Poetic collections, dense and rich with figurative language, require revising how we as humanists interpret topic modeling results. Therefore, this presentation will also address how changes in interpretation affect the questions we might ask and the assumptions we can make about “topics” generated by latent Dirichlet allocation (LDA)—one type of topic modeling algorithm.

Rhody is Research Assistant Professor of History in the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University. She is an editor for the Journal of Digital Humanities and project manager for the Institute of Museum and Library Services’ (IMLS) signature conference WebWise. In 2012, she was the recipient of a Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH) Winnemore Dissertation Fellowship. Her work has appeared in the Journal of Digital Humanities and ProfHacker, and she is co-author with Wendy Hui Kyong Chun of a forthcoming article in Differences, “Working the Digital Humanities: Uncovering Shadows between the Dark and the Light.”


Spring 2013


February 5
All Quiet on the [Virtual] Front: Traversing the Digital/Physical Divide
Ben Rosenthal, Visual Art

Abstract

Benjamin Rosenthal’s work centers around the strategies of how we perform—the systems of control we set in place, and the ways we negotiate our psychological, tangible, and virtual positions. Benjamin will talk about the trajectory of his creative work and his current ongoing research in both digital and non-digital forms. He will address how he, as an artist, engages with the nature of the digital landscape—negotiating the boundaries between physical and mediated experience.

Benjamin received his B.F.A. in Art (Electronic and Time-Based Media) from Carnegie Mellon University in 2006 and his M.F.A. in Art Studio from the University of California, Davis in 2011. While his formal training is primarily in film/video and related forms, his practice extends into performance, animation, web-based interactive work, installation, drawing, and sound.


March 5
Genealogy, Bureaucracy, Correspondence, Transportation-Networks and Network Analysis Methods in Humanities Scholarship
Elijah Meeks, Digital Humanities Specialist, Stanford University

Abstract & Video
Video

Network analysis in the sciences and social sciences typically focuses on citation, social, communication, logical, and neurological networks, and a broad set of methods and research has developed along those lines. However, network analysis in the humanities has grown in visibility and popularity recently and focuses instead on similar but distinct forms that have their own methodological concerns. The role of evidence and agency, for instance, distinguish them from traditional, big data and API driven research on telecommunications and social networking services. This talk will focus on four distinct humanities network types: Genealogical networks of British cultural elites and their families, correspondence networks from the Republic of Letters, transportation networks of Imperial Rome, and Bureaucratic networks from medieval China. The application and adaptation of established network analysis methods will be demonstrated, along with an exploration of methodological problems and techniques for addressing them in humanities network analysis.


April 2
Digital Humanities and Electronic Texts: Proliferation, Interoperation, Illumination
Brian Pytlik Zillig, Center for Digital Research in the Humanities, University of Nebraska

Abstract
“Interoperability, and what comes after.” Digital texts encoded in TEI format can, in theory, be gathered into large text corpora for text analysis. With the growing number of digital text collections, it ought to be possible to combine and search across them for patterns that would be simply impossible to discern without the aid of computing. Regrettably, text collections typically employ their own markup schemes, incompatible with others, that reflect editorial intentions and purposes related to the goals of that specific project. While those purposes are no doubt clear and sensible to their respective editors, the resulting structural differences among collections constitute deep and problematic gaps in what might otherwise represent interoperability. Nevertheless, should it be achieved even for the limited purpose of text analysis, interoperability is a goal worth pursuing. But beyond that end, what do we imagine might follow? What new things can be done once we have large corpora of interoperable texts?

May 7
Communication and Collaboration: Digging into Digging into Data
Anne D. Hedeman, Judith Harris Murphy Distinguished Professor of Art History & Heather Tennison, MLS and MA in Art History University of Illinois

Abstract & Video
Video

This talk is about finding beauty in what we would normally describe as mundane experience and then finding a way to make art from it. Since my expertise is in working with sound and music the focus of the talk will be on the phenomena of sound and audio. I will argue that in our everyday lives we are literally surrounded by interesting things, beautiful things, and even profound things. But that we mostly ignore the enriching possibilities inherent in engaging with these “objects”. Beauty can be found anywhere but in order to ‘see’ it or ‘hear’ it we need to be receptive. This talk will examine the Buddhist notion of the Senses and then identify means by which we can create gateways to the experience of beauty in everyday experience. The particular focus will be on how to use digital processes which extend, alter, or confound our senses to “elevate” the mundane.


October 2
Recovering the Recovered Text: Diversity, Canon Building, and Digital Studies
Amy Earhart -English, Texas A&M

Abstract & Video
Video

This paper examines the state of the current digital humanities canon, provides a historical overview of the decline of early digitally recovered texts, literature designed to expand the literary canon, and offers suggestions for ways that the field might work toward expansion of the digital canon. My research shows that a subfield of early literary digitization work, mostly projects unassociated with humanities computing/digital humanities, sought to negate early canon bias found within print and envisaged digital literary scholarship as a tool to reinsert women, queers, and people of color into the canon. The DIY sites built during this period were labors of love and allowed scholars to self publish materials found buried in difficult to access library archives or dusty journal editions. The early wave of small recovery projects has slowed and, even more troubling, the extant digital projects have begun to disappear. If we lose a large volume of texts from the expanded canon we will be returning to a new critical canon that is incompatible with current understandings of literature. In addition, the turn to increased standardization (TEI) and big data troubles our efforts at small-scale recovery project, as DIY scholars, outside the DH community, have difficulty gaining access to required technical skills for small projects, leading to a decline in small-scale digital recovery projects. The poor literary data sets impact digital humanities efforts to experiment with visualization and data mining techniques. If Matt Kirschenbaum is correct and preservation is not a technical problem but a social problem, then it follows that the digital humanities community should be able to address the lack of diversity in the digital canon by attention to acquisition and preservation of particular types of texts. We need a renewed effort in digitizing texts that occurs in tandem with experimental approaches in data mining, visualization and geospatial representations. This paper offers several possible ways of addressing this troubling problem.


November 6
Playing without Power in Videogames
Mark Sample, English, George Mason University

Abstract & Video
Video

Players and scholars alike have characterized videogames as fantasies about unlimited power. In this talk I explore how some videogames have rejected the core mechanic of “leveling up”—in which the player’s character grows increasingly more powerful—and have instead emphasized the vulnerability of the game’s protagonist. Such games test the limits of playing the powerless and the doomed in videogames, allowing us to explore the outer edges of our empathy and our imagination.


December 4
Joining Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Humanistic Research: The Traditional Karez Water System in Southern Afghanistan
Phil Stinson, Classics, University of Kansas


Spring 2012


February 7
Emerging Opportunities for Visual Analytics in the Digital Humanities
Chris Weaver, School of Computer Science, University of Oklahoma

Abstract & Video
Video

Research is a complex process of exploration and analysis that encompasses observation, collection, interpretation, discourse, and collaboration. That the digital humanities community aims to marry human and computational capabilities puts it squarely in the vanguard of emerging methodologies. As a growing methodological subdiscipline of the information sciences, visual analytics seeks to facilitate the research process by augmenting innate human visual and cognitive capabilities with interactive computational tools. The commonalities and potential for exchange between the digitial humanities and visual analytics is conspicuous.

Useful but specialized applications of visual analysis now exist in numerous domains that tackle complex, voluminous information sources; well-represented domains include intelligence analysis, emergency response, business logistics, finance, and epidemiology. However, there is of yet little support for an open-ended, user-driven process of broad and deep digital engagement in which data processing, graphical depiction, and human interaction adapt to evolving research needs and goals, particularly in examinations of idiosyncrasy. In this talk, Chris Weaver will offer a vision of humanities scholarship infused with highly interactive, visual, computational facilities for interpretation and discourse. He will also present concrete progress on developing methods, techniques, and tools in support of that vision.

Bio: Chris Weaver is an Assistant Professor in the School of Computer Science and Associate Director of the Center for Spatial Analysis at the University of Oklahoma. He holds a B.S. in Chemistry and Mathematics from Michigan State University and an M.S. and Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He was a post-doctoral Research Associate with the GeoVISTA Center in the Department of Geography at Penn State, where he helped to found the North-East Visualization and Analytics Center. His research in information visualization and visual analytics focuses broadly on synthesis of highly interactive visual interfaces for exploring and analyzing heterogeneous multidimensional data sets.


March 6
Patterns in the transmission of cultural texts: the case of medieval miscellany manuscripts
David Birnbaum, Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, University of Pittsburgh

Abstract & Video
Video

Medieval Slavic miscellanies are a type of free-form encyclopedia, compilations of texts of various genres from various sources. Compilation in medieval literary culture was as much a creative act as the authoring of entirely new texts, and the producers of new manuscripts were free to draw on all available sources, creating compilations whose originality was not constrained by any attempt to reproduce earlier compilations literally or faithfully. The variation that occurs in miscellany manuscripts is nonetheless surprisingly constrained; it is almost unheard of for two miscellanies to correspond perfectly in their contents, but there are nonetheless frequent partial correspondences that cannot be explained by genre, subject matter, or any other organizing principle, and that are inconsistent with a hypothesis that scribes compiled manuscripts without explicit constraint–even if that is what they thought they were doing. This presentation describes some of the patterns of agreement that emerge from comparing the structure of miscellany manuscripts, leading to a conclusion that despite the scribe’s complete freedom to choose his texts, the contents of miscellany manuscripts were nonetheless severely constrained by the tradition, and in specific ways.

Bio: David J Birnbaum is chair of the Slavic Languages and Literatures department at the University of Pittsburgh. His specialties include humanities computing (particularly the computer processing of medieval Slavic manuscripts), Slavic linguistics (particularly diachronic and synchronic phonology and morphology), and medieval Slavic texts.


April 3
Writing Practices in Early New England: An Electronic Database Tool for Charting the Recorders of the Salem Witch Trials
Peter Grund, Department of English

Abstract & Video
Video

In my presentation, I will report on my ongoing collaborative project (with Margo Burns and Matti Peikola) on the recorders that took down the some 1,000 documents from the Salem witch trials. Our goal is to produce an online tool that identifies as many of the approximately 250 recorders as possible, and provides bibliographical data as well as data on their scribal practices. At the same time, the plan is to make the tool available to other researchers to use in the charting of handwriting and scribes in other historical contexts. The talk outlines the principles of the work, demonstrates the preliminary setup of the tool, and discusses some of the future avenues for the project. Among other things, I show how collaborative research is crucial in a project of this kind, and how the electronic format of this scribal tool allows us to approach age-old questions not only about the Salem trials but also about writing practices, scribal copying, and literacy.

Bio: Peter J. Grund is Assistant Professor of English Language Studies at the University of Kansas. His research interests include English historical linguistics, early American English, corpus linguistics, electronic editing, and the vernacularization of science. He is co-author of the recent Testifying to Language and Life in Early Modern England, including a CD containing An Electronic Text Edition of Depositions 1560–1760 (ETED) (John Benjamins, 2011), and co-editor of Records of the Salem Witch-Hunt (CUP, 2009).


May 1
‘Grounds more relative than this’: towards Semantic Computation in Digital Literary Studies
Patrick Flor, Department of English and Department of Computer Science

Abstract & Video
Video

In recently published research in Digital Literary Studies (DLS), more and more projects are moving beyond the well-established model in which the computer is used to obtain descriptive statistics about textual parameters (such as sentence lengths and token frequencies), which the researcher then interprets to mean something about the text’s literary style, subject, or authorship. Researchers are beginning to explore tools and resources from computational linguistics such as part-of-speech taggers, semantic role labelers, topic modelers, and deeply tagged texts/corpora, which allow them to ask new kinds of questions about literary texts.

In this seminar, I will explore the nature and extent of this incipient change in DLS through, appropriately, a diachronic analysis of a corpus of research paper abstracts. I will then describe my own literary research with such computational resources, which is primarily concerned with software tool creation and adaptation for literary interpretational usage. Among other things, I hope to show: that this trend in the field can be broadly characterized as an increasing involvement of the computer in the interpretational aspects of literary research; that this involvement is proceeding (naturally) first via lexical and sentential semantics; and that a possible next step is software tools that extract limited semantic models as they proceed through a text, and make classification and processing decisions based on these models and their correspondence with latter parts of the text.


Fall 2011


December 6
Longitudinal Language Learning: How the Digital Humanities Can Expand Your Research
Nina Vyatkina, Germanic Languages and Literature

Abstract
I will report on an ongoing project that aims to annotate, analyze, and make publicly available a digital longitudinal corpus of writing samples collected from American learners of German at dense time intervals over several semesters. I will show how Digital Humanities tools allow me to effectively access, explore, and represent linguistic data. The focal corpus (a large electronic collection of texts) is developmental, or diachronic, i.e. it represents slices of learner language (German as a Foreign Language) use collected over time. I will begin my presentation by describing how I collected and organized this corpus to enable its subsequent annotation and exploration with digital tools. Next, I will show how some of these tools allowed me to create visual multidimensional text profiles and to find and analyze patterns in learner linguistic development. In particular, I will demonstrate how analytical constructs such as linguistic categories and temporal relationships can be graphically represented for both research and dissemination purposes by “positioning, shape, color, size, and typography” (Stone, 2009). I will conclude by arguing that digital analysis and visualization tools are universally suited for any textual explorations.

November 1
Social Networks as a Tool for Visualizing Linguistic Data in Greek Tragedy
Jeff Rydberg-Cox, English, UMKC

Abstract

This paper will describe ongoing work to study the use of social network diagrams as a tool to explore the language of Greek tragedy. In this project, we are constructing social networks for each surviving Greek Tragedy by Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. These diagrams are augmented with linguistic data associated with each character in the plays, thereby allowing users to more easily access and understand complex linguistic data associated with each of these characters. For background, see: RYDBERG-COX, J. “[Social Networks and the Language of Greek Tragedy.](https://letterpress.uchicago.edu/index.php/jdhcs/article/view/86)”. Journal of the Chicago Colloquium on Digital Humanities and Computer Science, North America, 1, Jul. 2011.

Bio: Jeff Rydberg-Cox is a professor in the English Department, director of the Classical and Ancient Studies program, and affiliated faculty in the Computer Science Department at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. His research focuses on statistical approaches to Ancient Greek and Latin texts. He is the author of two books including Digital Libraries and the Challenges of Digital Humanities and a student commentary on selected speeches by Lysais. He regularly teaches courses on classical mythology and representations of the ancient world in film.


October 4
Digital Cartography and Collaboration in Maine: Transcultural Map Design with the Penobscot Nation
Margaret Pearce, Geography

Abstract

Indigenous place names delineate political territories, establish ancestral ties, locate and interrelate knowledges about environmental resources, demarcate travel routes and conditions, reenact transformer tales, encode climate change and climate adaptation strategies, and track the movement of communities during seasonal cycles. They are themselves manifestations of traditional cartographies, stored in the landscape and animated through engagements with that landscape. Maps are perceived to be necessary devices for the representation of these names, yet any translation of Indigenous to Western cartographies is challenging, and the maps that result from place name remappings often inadequate in their expression of the meanings and functions of the names. This dilemma is now strongly felt in the current explosion of interest in the digital mapping and dissemination of Indigenous place names, now newly urgent from the time pressures of language loss and climate change, inspired into action through the technological capabilities of digital dissemination.

This presentation explores the methodological and design challenges inherent to cartographic translations of place name landscapes through the example of my collaboration with the Penobscot Nation Cultural & Historic Preservation Department to map the Wabanaki place names of Penobscot territory. I will focus on how and why we are combining both manual and digital mapping tools in our collaboration, whether as mode of inquiry or means of visual expression.


September 6
Textual Behavior in the Human Male: Computational Text Analysis and Gender
Stephen Ramsay, English, University of Nebraska, Lincoln

Abstract

Does digital humanities represent an attempt to “scientize” humanistic inquiry? Some would welcome such a move, and much work in digital humanities is closely aligned with practices and methodologies usually associated with the sciences. This talk places digital humanities within the context of a broader history involving the rise of the social sciences in the twentieth century, and suggests ways that we can think about computation and computational work without abandoning methodologies unique to humanistic study.

Bio: Stephen Ramsay specializes in computational text analysis and visualization. He teaches courses in both theater history and digital humanities. He has lectured widely on subjects related to critical theory and software design in digital humanities, and serves as a member of the Executive Council of the Association for Computers in the Humanities and as a member of the Computer Studies in Language and Literature committee of the Modern Language Association. Ramsay is the author of the book *Reading Machines: Toward an Algorithmic Criticism* forthcoming from the University of Illinois Press.


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