DH Forum 2016 Abstracts

6th Annual University of Kansas Digital Humanities Forum

29-30 September 2016
Lawrence, Kansas

Keynote Speakers

Nicole Starosielski, NYU

Maylei Blackwell, UCLA

Roopika Risam, Salem State University

Recordings for the 2016 Forum are available on YouTube and made searchable through the IDRH Finding Aid.

Call for Papers

Notions of place, space, and site are theorized and put into practice in distinct ways across various academic fields. Spatial technologies and location services and tools, along with the rise of geohumanities work, are bringing the tensions among ideas of place, space, and site to the surface. Moreover, a turn towards internationalization and the global has been taking place in Digital Humanities scholarship and practice, further complicating our notions of space and place. Digital Humanities has the capacity to bring these tensions together in both conflicting and harmonious ways. The 2016 DH Forum seeks to explore the intersections, mutual critiques and/or coincidences among fields, and their practices and conceptual tenets.

Place in Digital Humanities has largely been explored in terms of its relevance or pertinence in departments, on campuses, in classrooms, in libraries, etc. In a global perspective, places can be viewed as sites of distinct academic practice (DH and otherwise), influenced by geopolitical, linguistic and social asymmetries, colonial histories, and neocolonial exploitation. The web, virtual spaces of collaboration, and online communities are reinventing and complicating our understanding of space and our place in the world. Furthermore, various notions surrounding the ideas of place, space, and site are at the center of the geo-spatial turn seen in many areas of Digital Humanities.

Still, what place, space, and site are remains subject to deeper reflection and articulation, even more so as their traditional definitions intersect with the digital. What are the implications of digital media and forms of data collection and encoding place/space/site? What are the challenges posed by historical notions of place/space/site to current thinking and technologies? Places/spaces/sites have overlapping physical, symbolic, affective, cultural, political, or metaphorical dimensions--how do spatial technologies help or hinder how we interrogate and represent them? What is the role of networked technologies to delineate, imagine, and create places/spaces? How does place determine our place in the world? What is the impact of race, gender and gender expression, age, able bodiedness and disability, language, ethnicity, and geopolitics on ideas of place/space/site? Does a place/site exist in a world we perceive to be in constant movement? How do notions of the local and the global complicate our thinking about place/space/site?

We welcome proposals on projects, research results, or critical/theoretical approaches that address such questions. Topics may include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Locative and spatial narratives
  • Location aware technologies
  • Migration and refugee digital studies
  • Border digital studies
  • Local/global uses of digital media
  • DH infrastructure and practice in global/local contexts
  • Commemorative sites, collective memory and the digital humanities
  • Online communities
  • Placemaking
  • Community building
  • Digital archaeology
  • Methodologies for analysing unstructured data in a spatial context
  • Virtual worlds
  • Recreations of historical and fictional places/spaces
  • Indigenous, queer, and/or feminist mapping strategies or projects
  • GIS and historical GIS applications in the humanities

Student Showcase

Visualizing the Red Summer of 1919

Karen Sieber, Loyola University, Chicago

The Red Summer, a series of dozens of riots and lynchings throughout the Unites States in 1919, is one of the most significant yet rarely told stories in American History. While lynchings and riots were not new occurrences, the sheer magnitude and frequency of the events were what made the Red Summer of 1919 unique. For some, it is a key moment in the civil rights movement, when African Americans began fighting back against their attackers and oppressive treatment.

Unfortunately, little research has been done on these events. Most existing research on the summer’s deadly events focuses on a specific location and riot, with only two short books that look at the summer as a whole. Thousands of primary documents exist on the events that summer but are both difficult to find and scattered in collections and archives across the country in dozens of locations, making it difficult for scholars to get the big picture. I created Visualizing the Red Summer in hopes that it would facilitate further, more comprehensive research on the race riots of 1919 by putting all of the available information and documents in one place, a website.

I traveled 7,500 miles during the summer of 2015 as part of my Senior honors thesis to collect over 700 primary documents related to the riots, from court records and newspaper articles to photographs and telegrams. Over 25 cultural institutions provided material for the archive I created. Users are able to filter results to only look at documents related to a particular city’s riot if they wish, but are also able to filter the archive by topic to help better gauge the interconnectivity between the riots, or to look at regional trends. The filter also allows researchers to easily track down ephemera related to their field of research, narrowing down the results to view only court documents or political cartoons.

In addition to the archive, Visualizing the Red Summer also includes a spatial analysis of the riots. This interactive map allows for better comparison of the riots as a group and helps answer questions like: How did Southern riots differ from Northern? Which were more deadly, urban or rural riots? What were the causes of the riots? By breaking down the information in this way it helps users better understand the motivations behind the violence of the summer of 1919.

With additional funding, I hope to expand the archive and map to include riots and lynchings that occurred in other countries in 1919, fueled by similar factors like the recent world war or the Bolshevik Revolution. Alternately, the project could also expand to include other riots throughout US History to analyze how race riots have changed throughout the years in scope, magnitude and instigating factors. Lastly, it is my top priority to create a proper memorial page for those who lost their lives or were wounded during the events, as no such list currently exists.

Commerce by Design: Beacons, Smartphones & The Production of Networked Commerce

Cole Stratton, Indiana University, Bloomington

In the past ten years smartphones have become one of the most pervasive and important technologies in our everyday lives. In addition to restructuring the daily practices of users, smartphones have become the premiere commercial platform within digital capitalism – offering sophisticated market research data, personalized advertisements, and a number of ways for users to purchase products and services. In addition, the ubiquitous connectivity and locative abilities of the smartphone enable a new kind of networked commerce that integrates the data-rich, personalized, online selling environment of e-commerce with in-person, brick-and-mortar store spaces. This kind of ubiquitous commerce doesn’t simply emerge accidentally, but is created by design. Such a system is constructed by a number of different components, one of which is a new, emerging technology called beacons. In this paper, I analyze beacons in order to better understand the smartphone’s evolving role as a commercial platform.

Beacons are small devices that when placed in physical locations allow a smartphone to precisely orient and locate itself, thereby enabling apps to perform context- and location-specific functions such as informing the user about what they are looking at, or directing the user to a specific location. Beacons are overwhelmingly deployed in retail contexts as a place-making technology designed to close the inherent open-endedness of space by offering marketers and retailers a range of tools to channel or guide users towards consumptive behavior. Beacons are thus part of a networked shopping infrastructure that enlists the smartphone in the production of new kinds of commercial spaces structured to support the interests of retailers.

In order to better understand beacon technology and the kinds of commercial place-making it enables, I offer a case study of Estimote, a leading beacon manufacturer that has played a central role in the deployment of retail beacons. I analyze the company’s website, its promotional materials, interviews, and trade press articles to describe the company, its product, its partners, and its vision. In the process, I draw on the work of Lisa Parks and Nicole Starosielski to offer a critical media infrastructure analysis of the beacon, as well as the theoretical work of Henri Lefebvre and Gilles Deleuze to make sense of the power dynamics at work in the production of such spaces.

My goal is not simply to think about beacons, but to think with them, and in the process to illuminate some important and problematic tensions between the smartphone as a tool for user empowerment and the smartphone as a tool for capitalist influence. Central to this tension is the question of user agency in a world designed and controlled by capital. As smartphones become necessary to participate in society, critical attention must be paid to their role in the imperializing strategies of powerful institutions. The smartphone as a commercial platform within digital capitalism is an important domain in which to consider how our most personal devices are simultaneously an important interface with the capitalist system.

The New Orleans Mortality Project: Using Spatial Analysis and Historical GIS to Uncover Nineteenth-Century Disease Terrains and Assess the Impact on Community Development

S. Wright Kennedy, Rice University

Ten years have passed since Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and gave the world a glimpse of the gross injustices under the surface of the Crescent City’s facade. Katrina thrust issues of environmental justice, socioeconomic stratification, and racial segregation into the national spotlight, yet, until recently we have lacked the tools and methods to study the nineteenth-century genesis of these detrimental processes. We cannot understand the urban development of the United States without understanding the conditions that molded cities, neighborhoods, and people. Disease, race, and poverty were central to this process.

This paper discusses new approaches to history, in particular historical geographic information systems (HGIS), which have enabled the examination of how health, environment, and socioeconomics impacted urban and community development in New Orleans, 1877-1910. Scholars from disciplines including history, geography, sociology, and economics increasingly have turned to HGIS to answer questions about the evolution and mechanics of urban processes in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries (e.g., Villarreal et al. 2014, Lafreniere and Gilliland 2014, Logan 2012, DeBats 2011). This paper builds on the methodological innovations of these recent groundbreaking studies. Furthermore, it explains the interdisciplinary methods used to construct and analyze an HGIS based on a large individual-level mortality dataset.

Spatial analysis and HGIS provide researchers with new ways to study the connections between health, race, poverty, and place. The New Orleans Mortality Project uses georeferenced historical maps and city directories to reconstruct the built environment of New Orleans. The individual death records, census records, and tax records have been geolocated through historical address locators to create the HGIS. Spatial analytical methods from epidemiology are being employed to reveal the spatial health processes at work in the city. These methods are generalizable and important to other studies in the humanities. Further digitization and standardization of historical vital records will significantly increase the possibilities for largescale comparative and cooperative studies, along with deepening our understanding of the past and present. This approach is only recently possible thanks to the development of computing technology and geographic information systems. The results of this analysis are revealing the process of the mortality transitions and the evolution and effects of the urban disease terrain on individuals and communities, crucial information in the history of public health and urban development.

The New Orleans Mortality Project is interdisciplinary in nature and brings fresh perspective and new approaches to understanding the genesis of urban problems. It has already begun expanding the source-base, with the development of a 50,000-person mortality database, and creating research tools for studying development and decline from the individual to the city level. This research promises to revise and expand the historiography of urban history, history of medicine, and America in the Gilded Age, along with broader notions of the limits of humanities research. This paper details the methods and findings of the New Orleans Mortality Project.

Poster Presentations

The Historic Urban Environments Lab at Notre Dame (HUE/ND) Cities in Text: Rome A Case Study in Digital Documentation

Selena Anders & Jennifer Parker

University of Notre Dame

Cities in Text: Rome is an exercise in digital investigation and documentation of the Eternal City’s transformation over three centuries, facilitating the intersection between traditional library resources and the on-site built environment.

Exploring the complex and historic layers of Rome through the digitization and geolocation of guided tours of Rome dating from 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, this project reveals the changes and continuity of the city over time. Selected historic travel guides have been digitized, translated, illustrated, and mapped; freeing those resources from the inherent limitations of the physical library space. This data was then added to a website and mobile application created for this project. From the website one can program the related mobile application to take the historic documentation on site through curated walking tours. Through a combination of archival sources, present day field documentation, and digital mapping, the goal of this project is to provide a tool to explore the complex layers of a historic city, in this case study, the city of Rome, by means of a dynamic website and interactive application.

The Historic Urban Environments Lab at Notre Dame (HUE/ND) is an interdisciplinary team of architects, computer scientists, librarians, programmers, anthropologists and GIS specialists whose goal is to create new tools to study the built environment. Intended for usage within multiple built environments, the methodological approach to digital documentation developed by HUE/ND in the creation of Cities in Text: Rome will serve as the backbone for further studies that can be added to the same platform. These studies will effectively exist as extension modules of the overall framework template and will continue to provide refinement and focus to the working method as those modules are utilized. Three earlier HUE/ND projects, the Seaside Research Portal, SPQR-ND, and Building South Bend, served as models for the development of this concept and will be transformed using the Cities in Text template with its completion in the summer of 2016.

This information template will be capable of handling not only the HUE/ND datasets, but will be customizable by external stakeholders and scholars to accept and process their own individualized research. By offering this framework to other DH scholars who do not have unlimited access to programmers, HUE/ND will be providing the means to those scholars to realize further specialized study combining historic resources and geo-location.

Collaborative Spaces and Archival Sites: Translating the “Freedom Papers” from the Local to the Global

Kathleen Antonioli and Melinda Cro

Kansas State University

 In 2014, Kansas State University Hale Library received 23 letters, correspondence to and from Charles de Gaulle (eventual President of France, at that time leader of the Free French forces) dating from 1941–1944. An unusual archive of official military correspondence from de Gaulle in French with the accompanying responses from various British military leaders, the “Freedom Papers” offer a fascinating look into the establishment of the Franco-Anglo alliance after the fall of Paris and de Gaulle’s efforts to build the Free French forces. In 2016, we decided to build a translation course around the collection, using the material as the basis for introducing advanced undergraduate and graduate students to the basics of French to English (L2 to L1) translation while simultaneously offering an introduction to the digital humanities. A common struggle presented in translation courses is the development of professional awareness and collaborative social competencies, intrinsic to success in the field post-graduation. In this paper, we explore ways that the implementation of a digital humanities project within the course helps to strengthen and clarify the need for collaboration both within the class and beyond, going from the local to the global.

Rather than offering a strictly demarcated approach wherein the digital humanities play a secondary role to the content of the course, we propose an integrated and interdisciplinary approach, utilizing various digital humanities tools to explore the notion of archival space and translating the local class experience into a global product accessible to all. In this presentation, we first describe the course broadly, then discuss the use of digital humanities tools (eComma, Trello, and Omeka) in this specific course and their contributions first to professional awareness of students, and then to their skills in collaboration. We are broadly interested in the ways that digital humanities work in general can increase student engagement and a student sense of responsibility and ownership over work created in the course. This course offers an especially meaningful example of student engagement with the digital humanities because of its link to a very real physical archive, offering students the opportunity to participate in a larger, public discourse about archives, history, scholarship, and the digital humanities. This project is about integrating digital work into the space of the classroom. Our paper will explore ways that we have shifted traditional, instructor-centered models of pedagogy to a student-centered and communicative approach, in which students participate in the creation of the parameters and guidelines for the digital humanities component of the class. Drawing on established models like the UCLA Student Collaborator’s Bill of Rights and the UVa Scholar’s Lab Charter, we encourage students to question models for contributing to, creating, and taking ownership over both the process and the product of this course.

Mapping Feminine Felonies in Chicago, 1870-1920

Rachel Boyle, Loyola University Chicago

In seeking to understand how the struggle over the direction of modernity played out in American urban centers, historians traditionally focus on masculine working-class culture and political economy in conflict with municipal reformers and business interests. Men’s leisure in particular remains critical to established narratives of life in cities like Chicago, where men sought entertainment outside of work by spending money on alcohol, prize fights, and sex. Yet police and court records from the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century repeatedly place women on the streets and in the saloons and brothels of Chicago. Aggressively pursued by reformers and neglected by historians, women who drank, fought, and engaged in sexual labor made working-class subcultures visible and viable through their labor, leisure, and violent femininity. Using geographic information system (GIS) technology to map female homicides reveals a complex intimate economy in late nineteenth-century Chicago dominated by mixed gender activities like communal drinking, physical violence, and prostitution. It also elucidates the close spatial and economic proximity of women’s work, leisure, and domestic arrangements in working-class neighborhoods, demonstrating the interconnectedness of public and private space in the intimate economy. As crucial links in networks of working-class life, public women emerged as targets of a bureaucratizing state and allied social reformers who attempted to eradicate their public presence and activities, deeming them immoral and criminal. In doing so, middle-class reformers and the state worked together to dismantle the economic and political power of public women and the broader working class.

As reformers criminalized and removed women from public spaces in the early twentieth century, the home became an increasingly lethal place. GIS mapping of feminine homicides show that domestic murders increased more than three-fold in the first two decades of the twentieth century, constituting nearly three-quarters of feminine homicides and affecting a larger percentage of Chicago’s population. Despite turn-of-the century ideals of loving marriage and stable families, women frequently faced romantic betrayal, economic instability, and domestic abuse. Finding themselves in untenable situations, some women chose to kill their lovers, their spouses, or their children. Women’s violent assaults against loved ones in the supposedly sacred space of the home represented public acts that challenged the cultural, economic, and political conceptions of gender and marriage. The subsequent criminalization of feminine domestic homicide was fiercely contested based on race, ethnicity, class, and sexuality. In cases involving white, heteronormative women of most classes, and eventually middle-class black women, violence stood so at odds with expected femininity that that defendants, press, and courts frequently understood and excused women by framing their actions in terms of hysteria or insanity. Ironically, the dominant ideologies of domestic femininity that produced the conditions under which women killed often excused defendants as long as they fit the trope of feminine frailty and respectability. The courts more routinely criminalized working-class black women, immigrants, and lesbians who killed, demonstrating how ideas of gender, class, and sexuality profoundly shaped the development of the modern criminal justice system.

Mapping Ossian: GIS and Environmental History

Eric Gidal, University of South Carolina

Michael Gavin, University of Iowa

This presentation will showcase preliminary efforts to create a digital archive for displaying and analyzing selections from the G. Ross Roy Collection of Burnsiana and Scottish Literature at the University of South Carolina in relation to the geography of Scottish industrial and environmental history. As a first stage towards developing this archive, we are building a prototype centered on maps and dissertations related to James Macpherson’s poems of Ossian (1760-73), specifically a cluster of statistical and geographical studies produced between 1790 and 1807. In a sequence of publications in the 1760s and '70s, Macpherson, a Scottish schoolteacher in the central Highlands, created fantastic epics of ancient heroes and presented them as genuine translations of the poetry of Ossian, a fictionalized Caledonian bard of the third century. But the poems speak more directly to the condition of Scotland in the eighteenth century, creating an elegiac experience of space in response to political, cultural, and economic transformations following the Act of Union in 1707 and the failed Jacobite Rebellions that followed. Later statistical and cartographic vindications of the poems amalgamated the poetry with the new media of natural history and political economy that were reshaping modern Scotland within a British industrial order. The databases, maps, and dissertations produced in defense of Ossianic poetry thus record not only cultural heritage and political history but also economic development and environmental change.

To capture some of these complex relations between poetry, cartography, and environmental history, we have curated a geospatially organized archive of texts and images related to the reception of Ossian. “Deep mapping” uses geospatial technology “to integrate, analyze, and make visual a vast array of data from different formats, all by virtue of their shared geography” (Bodenhamer, Corrigan, and Harris, ed., Deep Maps and Spatial Narratives, Indiana UP, 2015). Whereas cartography often relies on a positivist epistemology of space to create a simple, two-dimensional picture, recent advances in geographic information systems are designed purposefully to describe the complex layers of experience that produce our sense of place. No longer bound to the visual map as form, a geodatabase can represent space as a network of relations that pertain across maps and texts, binding together real and imaginary geographies while showing how they change over time. Modern GIS thus builds on a tradition of geographic reasoning that finds early expression in the Ossianic tradition.

Disrupting the Page: Blake’s Marginalia as a Digital Scholarly Edition of Multivocality and Unused Space

Elizabeth Potter, Kansas State University

Borrowing a book from William Blake entailed reading the printed text, his handwritten notes scattered across the margins, and synthesizing the discourses. Blake’s marginal commentary seduces the reader’s awareness that meaning is the product of interaction with the visual, verbal, and physical elements of the page or the book. Taking advantaged of unused spaces of the book, Blake intervenes into the dialogue of his time in a medium that prohibits dialogue. Like marginalia, digital humanities projects are not necessarily secondary spaces but are instead integral to imaginative innovation as a process. Disruptive reading patterns are crucial to better understanding Blake’s anti-Newtonian attitude towards sciences, art, and language and the digital scholarly edition is the best way of reimagining the instrumentality of language.

My project, (tentatively) titled “Hired to Depress,” endeavors to contextualize Sir Joshua Reynolds’ Discourses with William Blake’s annotations. This electronic scholarly edition attempts to restore the conversation by presenting the full text of Reynolds’ Discourses and Blake’s marginalia with additional historical, artistic, and intertextual interpretations with realtime pop-ups containing information, external links, and media. These digital tools enable an experience of art and literary criticism through downloading the media to personal devices, commenting and sharing features enabled on the site. The reader/viewer is no longer silent but becomes interactive and thus facilitates a richer conversation.

The initial phase of this project focuses on reproducing the print and written conversation between Sir Joshua Reynolds and William Blake, respectively. William Blake annotated The Works of Sir Joshua Reynolds and Discourses on Art edited by Edmond Malone (London, 1798). The three-volume book is a compendium of essays, speeches, and a biography of the British painter. The copy owned by Blake is heavily annotated and held by The British Library soon to be put away and no longer available for viewing purposes. In order to better establish an understanding of Blake’s thoughts on Grand Manner style, art education, and the eighteenth century business of art, it is important that the text is digitally reproduced to retain the original text. Digital scans of the volume are available on page, thanks to Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO). William Blake’s annotations are transcribed with reference to David. V. Erdman’s revised edition of The Complete Poetry and Prose of William Blake and the scanned document from ECCO. “Hired to Depress” invites the reader/viewer to join the conversation digitally by browsing Sir Joshua Reynolds’ Discourses, reading Blake’s marginalia, and immersing yourself within historical contexts, images of the artwork discussed, and a debate between two of the most influential British artists of the late eighteenth century.

Mapping Wordsworth’s 'Tintern Abbey'

Brennan Sadler,  Kansas State University

Like many of William Wordsworth’s poems, “Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey, Thoughts on Revisiting the Banks of the Wye During a Tour, July 13, 1798” is a locodescriptive poem that is firmly rooted in place. Through his speaker, Wordsworth expresses an emotional, psychological, and even spiritual attachment to the landscape and geography of the Wye Valley in Wales. As a result, the textual formation, as well as readers’ experience with the poem, depend largely on the features of the landscape and geography surrounding Tintern Abbey.

Though the Wye Valley was a hub for 18th century tourism, a majority of 21st century readers of this poem do not have the “picture of the mind” of this landscape that so strongly informs the readerly and writerly experience of this poem. I wish to respond to this deficit and provide students, scholars, and teachers with a stronger visual foundation for addressing this poem.

I propose creating an online, annotated, multimedia edition of “Tintern Abbey” that highlights these locational, topographic, and spatial features as critical elements for understanding the poem, its formation, and experience. This single-interfaced website will take the form of an interactive map through Google Maps API that allows users to change the map view settings to terrain, satellite, political, and street-view. This map can link users to other visual resources, including modern photos and videos of the Wye Valley, artwork of the area, as well as maps from the 18th and 19th centuries, which can then be overlaid with contemporary maps to help determine changes in landscape over time. These visuals help to form a concept of place that, though fluid and potentially manifesting differently between individuals, remains vital to this poem and the experience of it. Though landscape and geography are not the only components of Romantic scene-making, these lococentric visuals serve as references that can enhance users’ comprehension of the objects of reflection for both poet and reader.

Additionally, by incorporating images of various manuscripts and editions of “Tintern Abbey,” as well as those of esteemed 18th century travel writer William Gilpin, users can immediately access valuable contextual information about the Wye Valley during the period surrounding Wordsworth’s visits and the poem’s composition. To accompany these visual, digital resources, I will provide a diplomatically annotated transcription of the 1798 edition of the poem. Annotations will primarily focus on locodescriptive elements of the poem, and can directly link users to other scholarly works in an expansive bibliography or to Gilpin’s work. By opening separate and resizable windows, users will be able to easily examine the poem and its annotations, while simultaneously exploring the landscape and geography. Users can immerse themselves completely in the poem, and perhaps discover new avenues for scholarship and instruction based on these experiences. By highlighting these locational features in an accessible and interactive manner, I hope to provide a map tool that can expand students’ and scholars’ scopes of study, and also assist teachers in making this poem come to life for their students.

Mapping Film Festivals: Breaking the National Cinemas Paradigm

Maria (Masha) Shpolberg & Andrew Vielkind, Yale University

Film festivals are an integral element of film distribution networks and a key venue for film exhibition. A highly institutionalized venue for encountering films, festivals have persisted and even thrived in the age of digital streaming, while movie theaters continue to struggle. Despite their ability to bring disparate audiences into contact and to build communities, fim festivals carry the weight of a troubled history, tightly bound up with European nationalisms of the 1930s, the Cold War division of the world in the post-War period, and the neocolonialism of World Cinema.

In this presentation, we intend to critically examine the affordances of GIS mapping technologies as we have experienced them in building our project, which traces the proliferation of film festivals from 1932 onwards and which, in its second phase, will enable users to trace the circulation of a subset of films on the festival circuit. We explore the challenges inherent in tracing the circulation of cultural goods such as films, and in our attempts to allow a deep and highly ambiguous history to speak through seemingly ‘surface’ visuals.

Our project aims to address the current economic paradox of the film festival, while also shedding light on the political and social stakes involved throughout the history of the festival format. Ultimately, we argue that a big data approach to film festivals undermines not only the traditional history of the format, but also Film Studies’ tendency to think of post-War and World Cinema productions in terms of national categories or traditions.

A Whole World West of Worcester: Using GIS to reconstruct a Sense of Place in the United States, 1819-1850

Jared Taber

This project uses early nineteenth century gazetteers and geographies to construct a spatially organized archive that describes patterns of labor, commerce, and everyday life in western New England during the early nineteenth century. During this period, geographers mobilized extensive networks of correspondence to research, write, and publish gazettes and geographies that cataloged the economic, social, and physical landscape of the United States by county and town. This created a pointillist account of the country as the sum of several thousand jurisdictions, a process that contributed to regional and national placemaking. It reinforced regional identities while enabling the construction of economic and social connections across regions in a mobile and economically dynamic young country. This level of detail in describing the work, resources, and character of individual towns renders the gazetteers indigestible for scholars interested in exploring the textures of American life on any scale greater than individual towns. Although these limitations hamper the reading of these sources, the synoptic focus of these gazetteers and their highly standardized content makes them particularly suited to the use of TEI to isolate and standardize data while also encoding this information for visual representation with GIS. Gazetteers contain descriptions of towns and counties that detail everything from religion and tax base to patterns in economic activity. In developing this tool, I intend to explore how our account of the growth of manufacturing changes if we document the environmental consequences of intermingling manufacturing, commerce, and agriculture across New England rather than focusing exclusively on isolated sections of this region. This will provide a historiographical corrective to accounts of industrialization, which focus on highly capitalized textile mills in eastern New England cities such as Lowell by improving the accessibility of historical data describing small-scale manufacturing in western New England. In the small towns of New England, labor-intensive but capital-scarce industries proliferated, and “A Whole World West of Worcester” provides a means of understanding the cumulative impact of these disparate processes.

Digital Visualization of Transnationalism: Mapping Historical Migration of Hong Kong Migrants in Canada during the Handover Period

Sheng Zhang, University of Alberta

Human migration is a global phenomenon due to the transition of policy, economy, society, and individual perspectives. As well, the international migration can play an important role in both regional and global transition. Human movement can involve individuals, families, as well as large groups of people, which marks a turning point in the development and transition of society. In the meantime, those nomadic people retain and reconstruct the form of identities, experiences, and practices.

Hong Kong people have gone through a mass migration wave to Canada in 1980s and 1990s. The purpose of this research is to map a migration wave from Hong Kong to Canada and back to Hong Kong during the crucial moment of Britain’s 1997 handover of political control of Hong Kong to China, especially during 1984 (when the decision was made) and 1997 (the handover approached), and to help contribute to figuring out the process of reconstruction of Hong Kong migrants’ experience and the factors that reflect these trends of migration waves. The case study of Hong Kong migration is vital to the visualization of human movements, the creation and transition of kinship networks, and the understanding of the meanings of place.

The study involves a digital technology approach – QGIS technology, which is a technological application software that supports for data viewing, editing, and analysis. In order to capture the nodal Hong Kong migrant distributions in Canada by gender, age group and social class, and to gain insight into the strong relationships between transnational space between origin and destination, cultural values and identity complexity, as well as transition of affective meanings of place. To explore the relationship networks, one should visualize and represent the spatial distribution of migration from large-scale data collection.

This study is part of a body of research on transnational migration that across the nation border. Along with the concepts of the neo-institutional (Salaff, Wong, and Greve, 2010) and socio-structural framework, the complex of ethnic identities, diaspora and transnationalism, the lens of social and cultural profiles rooted in structures and cognitive meanings, and a place-based values, the motivation and practice of migration will be addressed. The neo-institutional structures principally play role in the practice of Hong Kong emigration to Canada, which was driven by the wide social forces – “institutional peer pressure”. The social identity that rooted in Chinese traditional cultures focuses on ties of kinship and friendship, which strongly impacted on the activities of Chinese migrants. Transnationalism that relates to diaspora triggered by globalization, the changing economic, political and social institutions, gendered practices in familial patterns, and racism in the receiving country, which maintains the transnational contacts between the place of origin and destination. Last but not at least, the dynamic affective sense of place influenced the destination of cities selection and the level of place affiliation with the place of origin and destination.

With academic work on the history of Hong Kong emigration and remigration and its complexity of causes during the handover period, this study contributes heavily towards an under-researched synthesization of various dimensions of the practice of Hong Kong migrants’ assimilation and heterogeneity in Canada. It has been reiterated that transnational migration and the concepts of neo-institutionalism, identities, and space and place are interrelated. Furthermore, the use of technological tool has a great contribution to map and visualize transnational migration in a digital way.

Paper Presentations

The Network Map Under Water (Keynote Address)

Nicole Starosielski, NYU

Mapping Indigenous LA:  Place-Making Through Digital Storytelling (Keynote Address)

Maylei Blackwell, UCLA

Mapping Indigenous LA is a series of story maps that uncover the multiple layers of indigenous Los Angeles through digital storytelling and oral history with community leaders, youth and elders from indigenous communities throughout the city.  A map of Los Angeles does not tell the story of its people. In a megalopolis like Los Angeles, this is a story that is often invisible to policy makers and even the city’s notion of itself as a global crossroads. This story includes layered, sedimented cultural geographies of Indigenous Los Angeles that includes the Gabrielino/Tongva and Tataviam who struggle for recognition of their sacred spaces and recognition as a nations, American Indians who were removed from their lands and displaced through governmental policies of settler colonialism, and indigenous diasporas from Latin America and Oceania where people have been displaced by militarism, neoliberal economic policies, and overlapping colonial histories. When we consider Pacific Islander and Latin American Indigenous Diasporas, Los Angeles has the largest indigenous population of any city in the US.  While many would argue that there is not one Los Angeles but multiple LAs, what is less known is that there are multiple indigenous LAs whose histories are layered into the fabric of the city. Indigenous LA is about how the original peoples of the Los Angeles- basin (and islands) relate specifically to this land and how subsequent relocations and migrations of indigenous peoples have reworked space, place, and the meaning of these new racialities and concepts of indigeneity.

Digital Humanities in (Other) Contexts: Locating Place as Method for Intersectional Praxis (Keynote Address)

Roopika Risam, Salem State University

The Musical Geography of 1920s Paris

Louis Epstein, Emily Hynes, Zhizhi Stella Li, Carolyn Nuelle, Samuel Parker

St. Olaf College

Musicologists have long used maps to contextualize the relationship between sound, time, and place, yet have been slow to embrace the potential of digital mapping for making “place” itself the focus of inquiry. With the advent of relatively accessible GIS tools, musicologists stand to benefit enormously from new research and data visualization methods. Applying insights from recent scholarship in the digital and affective humanities, our project focuses on developing a set of interactive, map-based tools for musicology research and pedagogy. In this presentation, we demonstrate how our attention to “place” rather than “text” provokes new research questions and brings music history to life.

The Musical Geography of 1920s Paris is a web-based resource that uses maps as spatial visualizations to reconstruct the musical life of a particularly vibrant period in music history. In the 1920s, artists, writers, dancers, and musicians from around the world flocked to the city for its abundant concert venues and relatively cheap cost of living. Paris additionally served as a home base for numerous performing organizations, including several ballet companies (notably the Ballets Russes and Ballets Suédois) whose international tours spread French music around the world. Traditional narratives of interwar French music focus on composers’ contributions to developments in musical style and aesthetics. Our maps turn attention instead to the place-dependent roles of musical institutions and individuals. For example, by mapping Parisian musical venues by style – jazz, classical music, lyric theatre, popular song – we can better understand the ways writers used places as metonyms for musical style (such as Montmartre vs. Montparnasse) and we can see where certain types of music were not being made. Crucially, several of our maps incorporate an interactive chronological feature, making it possible for researchers and students to explore the diachronic evolution of the Parisian “scene.” And unlike traditional scholarship, our web-based maps allow us to embed or link to digitized primary source documents like historical newspapers and other media – including sound – thus opening place-oriented visual, sonic, and contextual archival exploration to a wide audience. For instance, in one map users can virtually attend 1920s Parisian concerts by clicking on a map marker and listening to recordings of the music performed in a specific place on a specific night. As Todd Presner argues in HyperCities: Thick Mapping in the Digital Humanities, our context-laden maps “are conjoined with stories,” rendering them “infinitely extensible and participatory” (Presner et al 2014).

Our spatially oriented research has inspired new questions about music in 1920s Paris: exactly how did the French define “jazz,” and how often was jazz really heard? What music was made and consumed in the eastern third of Paris, where recent immigrants and working-class Parisians lived and where few formal venues existed? The research required to answer these questions renders Parisian spaces something other than mere context for traditional musicological analysis. The city stands as its own musical “text,” full of sound and awaiting further exploration via interactive mapping.


Kip Haaheim, University of Kansas

What I propose is to open up the potential of digital site, space, and place by having three musicians in widely different geographical locations perform a new composition of music in a real-time performance that would be presented ‘live’ in the conference space (and possibly also streamed on the web at the same time). The working title for the piece is ‘Contrails’ for clarinet, percussion, and computer. I have managed to interest Dr. Greg Haynes (percussionist) at Colorado State University in Gunnison and Dr. Jeremy Wohletz (clarinetist) at Dickinson State University in North Dakota to collaborate with me on this project. I chose both of them because they are truly world-class musicians who happen to also be working at ‘sites’ and ‘spaces’ that are remote and isolated in a way that precludes traditional options for musical collaboration. Because of the inaccessibility of these places the three of us would need to do the entire project using digital collaboration techniques.

The Concert Hall is a place/space of special significance in creating a musical experience for several hundred years now. Traditionally musical performance has been primarily limited to ‘sites of distinct academic practice’ that were designed (or appropriated) for the purpose of providing a defined space for a musical experience to take place – musicians and audience in a single encompassing space. I would argue that the development of recording, broadcasting, and now digital delivery technologies during the 20th century and beyond have transformed this role of place, space, and site in profound ways, opening almost anyplace where you can listen to your phone with earbuds into a site that can accommodate a potentially deep musical experience that can be separated from the performance of the music in time through recording, in space through broadcast or internet delivery, or both.

For technical reasons the musical experience has, until recently, been limited by the notion that the musicians themselves must actually perform at a site whose space accommodates them. Modern recording practices, particularly in Popular music genres, often negate this – e.g. very few of the musicians on M. Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ were ever in a room together at the same time. But, for the most part, the accepted norm is that the musicians must perform together to generate a meaningful musical experience. Current advances in internet technologies are beginning to change this opening the possibilities for extra-site collaboration in interesting ways.

Electronic music and its proponents have a long history of challenging this notion of place, space, and site – bringing ‘living’ musical experiences to people in non-traditional performance venues using non-traditional means of creating music. I look forward to contributing to this tradition in some small way.

Resisting Queer Erasure: Counter-Mapping As Artistic Strategy

Danny Jauregui, Whittier College

Despite developments made by critical cartographers to “undiscipline” the medium and scrutinize its assumptions through a critical lens (Crampton & Kryegier 2016), maps and other data visualizations still maintain an air of neutrality, power, and authority. The pervasive aura that continues to be projected on to GIS and other mapping technologies can be appropriated and used as an artistic strategy in resisting queer historical erasure and this talk will center on my interdisciplinary art project that utilizes such techniques. The talk will argue that a form of “passing” takes place when non­quantifiable datasets like memory, rumor, and creative-­misremembering (Rabinowitz 1993) are injected into mapping software thus allowing them authority and power otherwise not afforded them given their subjective, questionable, and non­scientific status. Thus a queering of the archive takes place – one in which the demand for purity in the texts that enter the archive is challenged and therefore its authority loosened.

“Disguised Ruins” is a multi­modal project consisting of a geospatial animation and accompanying video that maps and animates the opening and closing of every queer space that appears in the Los Angeles section of Bob Damron’s “The Address Book”. Bob Damron’s “The Address Book” is one of the most popular gay travel guides that emerged out of the nascent homophile movement of the 1950’s and early 60’s. The guide book was originally published by Mattachine Society member Hall Call and Bob Damron and later was self published and distributed by Bob Damron’s own Dorian Book Service (Meeker, 2006). Listing gay friendly bars, restaurants, and eventually sex clubs, bathhouses, and public cruising sites, “The Address Book” became one of the most popular ways for gay men to meet each other and form safe communities. Although extremely popular, the address book contained many inaccuracies and mistakes given that many of the “gay sites” included were largely added through word-of­mouth telling of trysts and personal experiences as well as containing many defunct spaces given the rapid turnover of gay owned businesses reliant on gay exclusive clientele (Meeker, 2006). Like many counter­memory projects before it (Harris & Hazen, 115; Wood, 2010) “Disguised Ruins” uses a data set – in this case addresses that is riddled with inconsistencies and inaccuracies that normally would disqualify them from having any real archival use­value given its perceived unreliability, yet this is exactly what makes them a ripe source for this particular counter­mapping project.

The talk will first contextualize the above project by embedding it in the discourse of critical cartographies while also comparing it to existing counter­mapping discourse and projects. Secondly, the project will be presented in two modes: the first as a standard GIS generated animated map and the second as a video art project that uses, but expands on, the original GIS animation. Lastly, I will use my project as an example of how counter­mapping can be used to queer the archive and counter queer erasure.

Challenging Napoleonic Mapmakers – Using Digital Technologies to Uncover Tolstoy’s Decentralized Literary Cartography in "War and Peace"

Ani Kokobobo, University of Kansas

 Russian literature and culture have been traditionally structured around two centers of meaning, Peter the Great’s European city and imperial capital, St. Petersburg, and Moscow, the center of the pre-Petrine Russian state in the 15th-17th centuries and later Soviet capital. The consensus among scholars is that Russia’s 19th century literary canon reinforces these ideas of center and periphery by rendering spaces outside St. Petersburg and Moscow as provincial and nameless – the quintessential “city N.” One notable exception to this symbolic, cultural geography is Tolstoy’s War and Peace. Truly epic in scale, the novel gives bountiful attention to Russia’s regions. In the midst of Napoleon’s invasion of 1812, the regions of Smolensk, Yaroslavl, and other cities embody the image of Russia as a larger whole that supersedes the existence and survival of Moscow or St. Petersburg. In fact, we can note a progressive move away from the centers in the novel, as characters originating in Russia’s two capitals relocate themselves in other parts of the country to escape the French. Similarly, the novel introduces several different European centers, such as Vienna or Paris that at times could be viewed as both more or less central than the Russian capitals.

In a course that has received a grant by the Institute for Digital Research in the Humanities  (SLAV 512: “The Russian Novel Through the Digital Humanities”), I will be working with graduate students and relying on strategies of “distant reading” (Moretti) like digital mapping to illustrate how Tolstoy challenges centric understandings of space in War and Peace. In this paper I present some of those results, by interpreting maps of War and Peace from a geocritical (Westphal) perspective in order to reveal how Tolstoy constructs the novel’s larger “literary cartography” (Tally). In many respects, War and Peace is the quintessential “hypertext” as a novel, with close ties to a broad corpus of embedded cultural, historical, biographical, and military sources. Through Digital Humanities tools such as Google Earth, ArcGIS, and CartoDB we can visualize these competing geographies embedded within the macro-geography of War and Peace.

As I argue, in a novel with a massive ensemble cast of characters that has been described as a narrative without a single center, Tolstoy uses literary cartography to create his own decentered view of Russia that challenges official geographies. Tolstoy repeatedly shows individuals interacting with cultural centers of meaning like St. Petersburg or Moscow. For instance, during the novel the novel’s epilogue, Pierre Bezukhov is drawn to the capital and away from his family’s center by political ambition. Similarly, in a gesture of absolute narcissism and megalomania, instead of gravitating toward a pre-established center the novel’s antagonist, Napoleon, seeks to remake himself into the center of the world. Tolstoy challenges Napoleon’s and other notions of centrality by creating a fundamentally decentralized novelistic cartography, as each character seeks a special place of their own, a pastoral locus amoenus, usually in the form of a gentry estate.

Decoding the Database: A Critical Analysis of Open Source GIS Tools for Humanistic Mapping

Alison Link, University of Minnesota

Humans have long been aware of the connection between spatial perception and human experience. Mnemonics such as the “method of loci” demonstrate that even our ancient ancestors recognized an intimate linkage between human memory and spatiality [1]. This suggests that space is, in some fundamental and essential way, a highly humanistic concept. And yet, existing geographic information systems (GIS) technologies often seem like an entirely different beast altogether. GIS is a child of the technocratic era: its language is jargon­y; its narrative structures – to the extent that one can say it has “narrative structures” – feel discrete, disjointed, and geometric.

A humanist examining geographic information systems, moreover, may well sit back and wonder: Where are all the people?  The current state of GIS affords for, at best, only oblique references to humans and human embodiment in spaces. If a line of inquiry can’t be crystallized into points, lines, and polygons, it is not likely to conform well to GIS analysis. GIS may indirectly reveal the effects of human activities, but does not afford for a highly robust exploration of the reciprocal relationship between humans and space. Indeed, GIS is a key example of what Drucker calls “a kind of intellectual Trojan horse, a vehicle through which assumptions about what constitutes information swarm with potent force” [2]. How, then, can humanists make sense of all this? With our current GIS systems, humanists must generally engage in some level of decoding, re­problematizing, or re­subjectifying information that has been stored in databases or formats that are not emically humanist.

This study focuses on GIS technologies and their unique potential and pitfalls within the humanities. My analysis will assume what Wilson calls a “techno­positionality” – one that is “simultaneously about and with the technology”, but that assumes the perspective of a “conflicted insider” [3]. I will turn a critical lens on existing GIS technologies by identifying some fundamental humanistic critiques of existing GIS paradigms, backed up by conversations occurring in humanities literature as well as semi­structured interviews I’ve conducted with humanists across several disciplines.

I will follow up these critiques with some technical “tidbits” that seek to expand the sense of possibility that GIS can offer to humanists. In the spirit of advancing open inquiry, I will focus my efforts chiefly on open source spatial and data analysis tools:

  • PostgreSQL + PostGIS for spatial data management
  • QGIS for spatial visualization
  • R for spatial data analysis

Ultimately, this study seeks to interject voices into what Pavlovskaya describes as the “silences that are produced by the prevailing narrative of ‘GIS as a quantitative tool’” [4]. This project will offer both narrative and code snippets representing a few critical angles to help humanists deconstruct and critique GIS in technical parlance.

Deep Mapping of Spatial Data in Testimonies of Children Who Survived the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda

Musa Olaka, University of Kansas

Voices of children in a genocide and in contested spaces in Africa have tended to be muted, ignored, and excluded in discourse as if these children are invisible yet they bear the brunt of atrocities committed during the conflict. To better understand experiences of children in a genocide, such as the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, the notion of place and time play a critical role when analyzing, interpreting and understanding these experiences. Situating what survivors of this genocide experienced in space and time during the genocide therefore becomes a critical component that could offer validity to their testimonies. It therefore becomes important to use spatial and temporal data analysis and visualization to bring to the fore subtle trends of activities reported in testimonies of survivors of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Despite the abundance of spatial information in testimonies of these genocide survivors including those of children who survived the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, spatial information has been sparsely used in trying to better understand what was happening at different levels in the country during this genocide. Gitarama Prefecture was one of the major killing fields during the genocide. It became a contested space with the government of the day and radical Hutu elements wanting to reclaim this prefecture devoid of any Tutsi. On the other hand, Tutsi whose homes were in this prefecture also wanted to reclaim this space as it is what they call home although they were outnumbered by Hutus – some of whom were extremists and whose sole objective was having Gitarama with no Tutsis. In late 1999 and early 2000, IBUKA, the umbrella organization that is the voice of survivors of the 1994 Rwanda genocide, undertook a pilot task of collecting testimonies of children from Gitarama Prefecture who survived the genocide. IBUKA collected close to 1000 testimonies and to date, this is the most comprehensive collection of testimonies of children who survived that genocide. This paper explores how deep mapping using GIS technology can be used to examine, analyze, visualize and help in interpreting spatial information in the testimonies of these child survivors by looking at aspects such as locations where various atrocities took place; places where the children escaped to; places where they hid; locations from which they were rescued; escape routes; places where they witnessed killings; distribution of atrocities across the Prefecture; comparison of atrocities based on different administrative subdivisions such as commune, sector and cellule; and a host of other issues related to spatial information.

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