From the resource:
Digital archaeology, as I have conceived it here, is not about computation in the service of finding the answer. It is about deforming, and thinking through, the various networks and distributed agencies that tie us to the past and simultaneously make it strange, that enchant and confound us. There are any number of courses on the books at universities around the world, any number of tutorials on any number of websites, that will walk you through how to do x using software package y, and when you know exactly what it is you need to do, these can be enormously helpful.
The best strategy for deformance however is to play. Play around – you’re allowed! Try things out. See what happens when you do this. But we – as the academy, as the guardians of systemized knowledge – have managed to beat playfulness out of our students. What’s more, when you’re just starting out, and you’re not sure of the terminology, not sure of even what it is you’re after, what question you’re really asking, it is easy to succumb to information paralysis – too much information means you’re not able to act at all. The strategy I take with my own students is to make it safe to fail, safe to play around, what Stephen Ramsay famously called the screwmeneutical imperative. To do this, you need to have someone model productive failure, to have someone to point to who is trying things out and reporting back on what has worked and what has not. Beyond this, there is therefore no magic recipe, no silver bullet:
Nan Z Da’s “Computational Case Against Computational Literary Studies” (CLS) in the latest Critical Inquiry has been making the rounds on my social media feed. It’s a thorough and inventive argument and I am impressed by its doggedness, cross-field erudition and commitment to its idea: she re-did studies, chased down data sets, and reconstructed analyses. My long critique below is simply a result of my being impressed enough to care about some subtleties of the argument. Because I have seen disagreements turn into blood sport in literary studies before, let me be crystal clear: nothing I say below should indicate anything other than admiration the author or her work.*
So, what’s my concern?
I think the critique overshoots its mark in claiming that because there are errors in the data science, data science should be greeted with suspicion by literary critics. I am about to publish a co-authored paper on some of the inflated claims regarding machine learning and audio mastering, so I am sympathetic to Da’s skepticism as a general stance, but I’m concerned about how it works out in this case.
For those who haven’t read it, Da’s article proceeds by careful readings of a few CLS texts in order to argue with their modes of statistical interpretation and their relevance for literary criticism. I’m not going to dispute any of the statistical criticisms offered in the essay, because for me the main issue is how humanists should think about computation, quantification, and truth standards. (And I expect that the CLS crowd will offer its own response, and leave it to them to defend themselves.)
I also think Da is asking the right question, which is to be posed to any new movement in scholarship: what does it contribute to the conversation beyond itself? This is especially true if a field claims to displace another. In other words, your burden of proof is higher if you argue that quantification should displace other modes of literary interpretation than if you argue that quantification can be useful along side other modes of literary interpretation. I am firmly in the latter camp.
So, my issues with the piece really come down to two places:
1. What are the standards to which we want to hold humanities work? The warrant behind the main arguments of the piece: the claims of CLS do not stand up to statistical scrutiny, or are artifacts of data mining, or if the results are true, they are banal. The problem is that no humanistic hermeneutic enterprise, apart from maybe some species of philology and bibliography, could actually withstand the burdens of proof implied by Da’s critique. Da’s suggestions for reviewing CLS work at the end of the appendix also suggest a kind of double standard for quantitative and qualitative work in literary studies…
DHNow is taking a week off for spring break. All posts nominated this week will be included for consideration when we return next week. Keep up the nominations!
From the ad:
Under the direction of the Faculty Project Investigator (PI), responsible for technical development and programming support for the METAscripta digital humanities project of the Knights of Columbus Vatican Film Library (VFL). The goal of the project is to build an online environment using IIIF technology, in which users will be able to search, discover, and research Vatican Manuscripts, digitized either from originals at the Vatican or from high resolution microfilms at Saint Louis University. IIIF technology functions through various open-sourced APIs and requires command-line programming of several virtual servers to support these. This position will build and integrate these servers using Amazon Web Services (AWS—Linux OS) and provide support in the development of other technical components of the project, including a MySQL database to enable a separate crowd-sourcing metadata template. The position also required writing IIIF manifests in JSON and managing digital images and derivatives in various file formats.
From the ad:
York University Libraries (YUL) seeks a dynamic and innovative individual with strong leadership potential for the position of Digital Publishing Librarian. This is a continuing appointment position with an interest in scholarly communications, academic journal publishing and research dissemination…
Reporting to the Director, Digital Scholarship Infrastructure, the Digital Publishing Librarian leads in developing policies and processes that underpin a robust library scholarly publishing program. Collaborating closely with the Open Scholarship and Library Digital Systems and Initiatives Departments, the Digital Publishing Librarian is an important member in a larger functional team that engages in campus-wide advocacy and targeted education to promote the values and opportunities of openness. The Digital Publishing Librarian will provide expertise with respect to systems and applications in support of scholarly publishing working towards scalability and sustainability of library digital offerings…
About the fellowships:
MHLonArchiveSpark Development for the Digital Humanities: Hosted by one of our member institutions in New York, Boston, New Haven, Philadelphia, or San Francisco, the fellow will develop a user-friendly web interface and author supporting workflows to make MHLonArchiveSpark functionality more broadly accessible to researchers and better facilitate: 1) using the MHL’s Advanced Search Tool to identify a set of texts meeting user criteria and retrieving all of them from the Internet Archive and 2) using ArchiveSpark to extract the full text of a results set (including metadata) for the purpose of performing additional queries against that set.
Education and Outreach Fellow: The Medical Heritage Library (MHL) seeks a motivated fellow to assist in the continuing development of our education and outreach programs. Hosted by one of our member institutions in New York, Boston, New Haven, Philadelphia, or San Francisco, the fellow will develop curated topical collections or sets for MHL website drawn from the over 280,000 items in our Internet Archive library.
From the ad:
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The School of Information Sciences, (iSchool), seeks an Associate Director of Research Support Services (RSS): HathiTrust Research Center. This position leads the day-to-day operations and contributes to setting the research agenda of the RSS unit of HathiTrust Research Center (HTRC). This position oversees the execution of research and development projects, from conception to implementation, revision or retirement. This Associate Director will facilitate co-ordination of RSS operations with other HTRC Associate Directors at Indiana University and University of Michigan. Working within a distributed, virtual research center, with staff and collaborators located around the world, Associate Director of RSS will also contribute to setting the research agenda of HTRC.
From the CFP:
The newly-formed Victorianist Data Network will host its free inaugural conference at the University of Virginia on November 15-16, 2019. Our conception of data encompasses British and North American practices for gathering and expressing information; cultural attitudes toward data; the rising disciplines and technologies that lead to today’s communications, new media, critical coding, and data science; digital collections; digital pedagogies; quantitative methods; data theory, and digital humanities. We welcome proposals from those working with historical and/or technical data, as well as the digital-curious. Together, we hope to move data from the margins of nineteenth-century studies by recognizing its centrality to research and methods of all kinds in this international long century (ca. 1780-1920).
We welcome a range of humanist fields and interdisciplinary areas, including literature, history, and art history. Come to share your work, ask your questions about how to get started in a new direction, and learn about what Victorianists have been doing with archives, maps, social networks, book history, sciences from social to physical, corpus linguistics or Natural Language Processing, spectral imaging and data visualization, 3D modeling and virtual reality, and many other possible ways to capture, visualize, and interpret data…
From the resource:
It’s unnerving that I have been teaching for 4+ years at a University level but was never taught how to teach. I certainly am competent enough to google “tips for effective lecturing”, and yet that never crossed my mind. Until now. It is with great wonderment and delight that I experience the world of pedagogical philosophy and principles for the first time. In this blog post, I’ll be experimenting with teaching frameworks for undergraduate course design in digital scholarship. I’ll predominantly cover the “getting started” floundering about, and then move onto the organizational tools and ideas that have gotten me out of that rut. Let’s begin!
When designing a course, the syllabus may seem like an intuitive place to begin. The syllabus provides a framework for the course, conveys expectations, and communicates what the students will learn. However, I quickly discovered that one must have a framework in mind before codifying it into a document. It seemed deceptively straightforward at first, I have taken 30+ university courses, surely from all that experience I can assemble and recreate the most effective ones? [*My own naivety is now endearingly laughable*].
What connects Open Source Software development, scholarly edition making, Linked Open Data, and Digital Sustainability? All of them rely our human capacity for managing fine detail as much as or more than they rely on technological infrastructure. Although Digital Humanities often tends to focus on the macroscopic, with text mining, visualization, and distant reading, it has important things to say about the small-scale too. And since in the end, most of what we do is built on a foundation of details, making digital scholarship more accessible, sustainable, inclusive, equitable, and diverse will require some attention to those details.
Watch the MITH Digital Dialogues talk here:
From the announcement:
The Intra-American Slave Trade Database contains information on approximately 10,000 slave voyages within the Americas. These voyages operated within colonial empires, across imperial boundaries, and inside the borders of nations such as the United States and Brazil. The database enables users to explore the contours of this enormous New World slave trade, which not only dispersed African survivors of the Atlantic crossing but also displaced enslaved people born in the Americas.
From the CFP:
This symposium creates space for critically considering digital mapping as both a method and an object of analysis. Specifically, we invite submissions that analyze or utilize spatial media so as to rethink and re-present distributions of capital, power, and privilege in historical, contemporary, and speculative contexts.
We center “mapping” as an organizing theme for understanding and engaging social (in)justice because of its expanding role in literally and metaphorically arranging contemporary life. The everyday adoption of new spatial media—such as web-based mapping platforms, geosocial applications, and locative data—increasingly orient how society understands the past, experiences the present, and plans for the future. To map social justice and injustice is to consider how spatial media can help draw together dichotomies such as medium/method, art/science, and ontology/epistemology so as to trace, represent, and rework matters of inequity…
From the ad:
A world leading research institute in its field, the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, is among the forerunners in the innovative application of digital methods for research in the humanities. To strengthen its digital research and take advantage of the growing opportunities of digital scholarship, the Institute is seeking an expert in Digital Humanities in the role of an IT Researcher (f/m) initially for two years, with the possibility of a permanent contract (up to TVÖD E14)
As IT Researcher you will be working together with individual scholars as well as research groups on projects in the History of Science that seek to employ Digital Humanities methodologies. You will be involved in projects that include e.g. automated analysis of text corpora, the creation of custom databases, data analysis using visualization tools, application of methods from network analysis, and machine learning and image recognition.
About the report:
This volume, comprising eight chapters from experts in a variety of fields, examines the use of three-dimensional (3D) and virtual reality (VR) technologies in research and teaching, and the library’s vital role in supporting this work.
3D modeling, 3D capture techniques, and VR enable faculty and students to engage with highly detailed 3D data—from cultural heritage artifacts to scientific simulations—in new ways. As 3D and VR projects scale up and move outside of the specialist disciplines where they have existed for decades, many academic libraries are taking the lead in supporting such projects because they are already centers for collaboration, instruction, research, and collection preservation. The volume seeks to prompt greater awareness for library professionals as they develop programs that use 3D and VR technologies and work to integrate changing scholarly demands and conventions with existing library services and policies.
Alison Booth and I are co-teaching a graduate course this semester on Digital Literary Studies. As a part of the course, we’re having a series of technical workshops – command line, Python, text analysis, encoding, and markup. The scheduling worked out such that these workshops wound up being on Wednesdays, with the discussions of critical theory on digital humanities and literary method mostly on Mondays. That’s all fine and good, but I worried that neatly dividing the class out in that way would create a divide between the one day of the week when the students were actively discussing the material in the course and the other when they were mostly in hands-on workshops. Rather than having a hacking day and a yacking day, I wanted to see what I could do to create an environment for hack-yacking. So when I taught the first workshop on command line, I wanted to try something slightly different from what I normally do by making more room for discussion. I wanted to bring the Monday readings and conversations back into the Wednesday workshops.
Teaching programming well is very difficult. An easy, low-hanging fruit way to get the material across to your students is to connect your laptop and type in front of the students, explaining your keystrokes as you go and asking them to mirror your actions. Another approach I’ve seen (and used) uses slides to do something similar – sharing code examples and interspersing theoretical concepts as you go. Both of those approaches are all to the good, but they feel a bit too much like lecturing to me. I was trained as a teacher of English literature, which means that my bread and butter is the seminar. My approach to the discussion seminar has always been to act as something of a void in the center of the class, asking questions that get the students to engage with the material and each other more than with me. Lecturing has its place, I’m sure, but it generally makes me uncomfortable and doesn’t reflect the kind of pedagogy I value. So when teaching this workshop on command line I wanted to push myself a little more to see how much discussion I could incorporate into a technical skills workshop. How could I use this experience to help the students begin to think about technology as something that they could engage critically with? as something that was not so alien from their normal work of thoughtful, critical discussion?
From the ad:
The Stanford University Libraries’ Center for Interdisciplinary Digital Research (CIDR) is seeking a full-time Digital Scholarship Research Developer to build sophisticated, sustainable, and generalizable projects and platforms in order to support interdisciplinary research in the computational social sciences and digital humanities at Stanford. Regular tasks will include analyzing, designing, developing, deploying, modifying, and maintaining computer programs in systems of moderate size and complexity or segments of larger systems… The successful candidate will be a skilled software developer with a deep understanding of scholarship in the social sciences or the humanities. The candidate will consult and collaborate with faculty on scholarly projects to identify technical approaches, processes and tools; evaluate and integrate existing software tools; and design and implement new solutions.
From the announcement:
The ARIADNEplus project is the extension of the previous ARIADNE Integrating Activity, which successfully integrated archaeological data infrastructures in Europe, indexing in its registry about 2.000.000 datasets (ARIADNE portal). ARIADNEplus will build on the ARIADNE results, extending and supporting the research community that the previous project created and further developing the relationships with key stakeholders such as the most important European archaeological associations, researchers, heritage professionals, national heritage agencies and so on. The new enlarged partnership of ARIADNEplus covers all of Europe. It now includes leaders in different archaeological domains like palaeoanthropology, bioarchaeology and environmental archaeology as well as other sectors of archaeological sciences, including all periods of human presence from the appearance of hominids to present times. Transnational Activities together with the planned training will further reinforce the presence of ARIADNEplus as a key actor. The ARIADNEplus data infrastructure will be embedded in a cloud that will offer the availability of Virtual Research Environments where data-based archaeological research may be carried out. The project will furthermore develop a Linked Data approach to data discovery, making available to users innovative services, such as visualization, annotation, text mining and geo-temporal data management. Innovative pilots will be developed to test and demonstrate the innovation potential of the ARIADNEplus approach. ARIADNEplus is funded by the European Commission under the H2020 Programme, contract no. H2020-INFRAIA-2018-1-823914. The project started on 1st January 2019 and runs for 48 months.
About the workshop:
The goal of this workshop is to offer a very practical introduction to the many other methods of using large digitized archives only possible with direct access to the data. Participants will learn how to organize and analyze textual data and get an overview of advances in natural language processing and machine learning. Hands-on training will use textual data from History Lab, an NSF-funded project that has aggregated the largest database of declassified government documents in the world. Participants will also learn how to get their own data by “scraping” websites and downloading from online databases. More specifically, we will examine how to bring textual data into Python and R, how to use Python for web scraping, and how to explore textual data using string functions. These methods make it possible to grapple with old research problems with new rigor, and launch entirely new kinds of inquiries.
From the CFP:
In this Blog Carnival, we hope to spark an interdisciplinary conversation surrounding the key role of multimodal design in fostering social advocacy within and across the fields of digital rhetoric, multimodal composition, and technical communication. We understand design as a capacious term applicable to the design of multimodal composition projects, course syllabi and assignments, website interfaces, user experience tools, DIY makerspaces, industrial products, and software applications, among other forms of design practices. Through the process, we encourage Blog Carnival participants to address one or more of the following questions or to explore other relevant questions.
Like many Americans, I have a love-hate relationship with technology: I inwardly cringe when my preschooler clamors for screen-time with our iPad instead of storytime with a book. Our municipalities, our government, our insurers, and even the vendors of books are awash with technology as well. At a recent hackathon, the expert from the local transit authority confessed that with logs of accidents, and data about the wealth and race of inhabitants, they have too much data to inform decision-making.
Understanding how the humanities have traditionally approached big problems can inform how experts in data science can model meaningful conclusions based on the same skillful concern with answering questions based on a serious inquiry. Humanists, after all, are experts at probing the largest questions of our species. One example might be mastering what philosophers have said about topics like justice or gender since Aristotle, unpacking the values behind those concepts, and coming to a new understanding of how those ideas are changing in our own day. The traditional role of the humanities is to elevate the ambitions of human beings, asking what it means to be a citizen, an heir to the legacies of learning on many continents, or an individual with the capacity of dissent.
Now more than ever, it is important for those who work with big data to train in the questions of the humanities – as for those in the humanities to make clear the relevance of their tools of critical thinking to data scientists. The values of the humanities are the values of treating those questions – and many smaller ones – through skillful scholarship.
The particular skills of humanities scholarship take many forms, but they all agree in emphasizing serious engagement with texts and their contexts. They ask about the nature of the evidence at hand,the values that govern the inquiry,and the many ways of modeling those concepts. These skills, among other things, allow scholars to produce both a strong consensus about truth where it is found, while simultaneously making room for dissent about issues of interpretation, identity and meaning. Skillful interpretation of the data allows scholars to agree about the facts (for example, which manuscripts are the authentic production of a particular medieval scribe), while establishing room for dissent about the interpretation of those facts (for example, characterizing the perspective of Biblical literalism versus historical interpretation).
I recently proposed the concept of “Critical Search” as a general model for how humanistic values translate into the world of data. Critical Search has three major components that mirror how traditional humanists have approached big questions in the past: seeding a query, winnowing, and guided reading.