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

DH Forum 2019 Abstracts


Allie Martin

Indiana University

Long Live Chocolate City: Sonic Justice in a Gentrifying DC

Like cities across the world, Washington, DC, is rapidly gentrifying. In many ways, this change is a violent process, transforming neighborhoods and erasing cultural institutions in the name of development and progress. In this paper, I explore the potentials of enacting justice in gentrifying spaces through sound. Specifically, I draw on soundscape recording analysis to argue that black sound holds space for black people, (re)transforming gentrified neighborhoods into temporary nightclubs, concert halls, protests, and gathering spaces for both affirmation and resilience. In Washington, DC, I focus on this enacting of justice in Shaw, a historically black neighborhood located in the fastest gentrifying zipcode in the city. In addition to a broader ethnographic fieldwork methodology of interviews and participant observation, I spent nine months recording soundscapes in Shaw. Here I use those recordings as a starting point to consider how locating the violences of gentrification sonically allow us to use the digital humanities to labor towards more equitable soundscapes. This paper is part of a larger project that listens to gentrification in the nation’s capital in the hopes of decriminalizing black sound and amplifying black life.


Amardeep Singh

Lehigh University

Brown Bodies in the Authenticity Economy: Datafication and Racial Performativity

How to interpret a poet’s Instagram feed? I would argue that in this new and evolving format, closereadings of individual poems can and should be supplemented with performance studies analysis as well as an acknowledgment of the way social media encourages the datafication of authenticity. Data in particular might lead to a richer mode of understanding, especially in light of the particular design affordances of Instagram, which foregrounds quantification (of likes, comments, followers), the interplay of text and image in any given Instagram post, and the huge amount of information about readership that can be gleaned from comments.

The case study here will be Rupi Kaur, often described as the most popular poet in the world. Kaur began her career and rose to fame first by posting her poetry on Instagram, where to date she has amassed 3.6 million followers. Kaur’s current Instagram praxis is to alternate images of her short poems with images of herself, strongly linking the image of the body of the poet to the reader’s experience of the text. Kaur’s poems evince a strong feminist sensibility, and many poems contain hand-drawn sketches that illustrate the theme of a given poem (the poems are presented as *image-texts*), while the poet’s photographic self-portraits frequently contain considerable textual exposition and narration. In Instagram, the reader-viewer can access the archives of Kaur's work via a checkerboard, with white tiles (poems) alternating with color tiles (photographs of the poet). In addition to textual analysis, the dense interplay of text and image in an Instagram poet’s work might be understood in the idiom of performance studies, where each post operates as text *and* image, with immediate audience reaction.

Preliminary quantitative analysis of Kaur’s Instagram feed shows some intriguing patterns, one of them being that Kaur’s poems (white tiles) tend to get more engagement in likes and comments than do most of her photographic self-portraits. The average poem tends to receive between 200,000 and 300,000 likes, while the average self-portrait might receive half that. Another preliminary observation is images of the poet in minimalist western clothing tend to receive far more likes than images in Indian attire (often glamorous saris and lehngas such as one might wear to Indian weddings). This discrepancy might support an understanding of Kaur’s Instagram persona (“brand”) as one oriented to the image of simplicity and authenticity. But readers’ disinterest from images involving direct expression of Indian or Punjabi cultural attributes suggests some of the limitations of racial performativity in the culture of Instagram poetry more broadly. On Instagram, it appears, Kaur can either be ‘authentic’ or she can be ‘Indian’.

As I continue to develop this research for presentation, I will hope to supplement these preliminary analyses with more data gleaned from Kaur’s Instagram feed. I will also consider whether and how these analytics might be transferable to other Instagram poets’ work.


An Sasala

University of Kansas

Please Provide

Short film (runtime approx 7-9 min)

In academic research, data often appears with its affect stripped away; human lived experience is thus reduced to a series of identifiable, understandable, commodified numbers and points. Feminist data visualization (FDV) recognizes the violence of “traditional” visualization practices and in response advocates for a critical approach to data use and visualization which acknowledges data’s partiality and situatedness. A feminist data visualization examines and exposes power structures, challenges binaries, renders artistic and design labor visible, embraces multiplicity, and legitimizes affect and embodiment within design processes (D’Ignazio and Klein 2016). “Please Provide:” adapts FDV for experimental filmmaking and offers a short film which explores the filmmaker’s personal and emotional experience of being reduced to data within the United States medical system following a broken ankle. The film exposes the dehumanizing effects of accessing and affording medical care through the constant reduction of patients to account and social security numbers, birth dates, bill amounts, etc. “Please Provide:” attempts to subvert this process by (re)asserting the presence of the human body and lived, felt experiences. 

A collage film merging found footage with images from the filmmaker’s CT scans, and cutout animations, “Please Provide:” attempts to make sense of how data accumulates and circulates around an individual human body—in this case that of the filmmaker. CT footage advancing from the filmmaker’s knee to the site of the break, viscerally reminds viewers of the filmmaker’s material body which also alludes to the human body lost in the amalgamation and aggregation of “big data.” Overlaid animations of itemized bills and paperwork represent how medical data often obscures the literal body which ironically seeks or depends upon care. 

A visualization accompanied by a soundtrack, “Please Provide:” additionally pushes feminist data visualization practice to incorporate non-visual knowledge(s) and affect(s). Soundtracks and voiceovers can intentionally heighten a scene’s emotional impact while also including a different experience of knowledge. “Please Provide:” thus includes: found footage from ephemeral films; recordings of complex phone menus—“Press 1 for Accounts. Press 2 for Scheduling.”—; demonstrative sounds, such as digital keyboard tones, screams, and crumpling paper; and recitations of the data. Found footage references the dream of humane medical care imagined in 1950s and 60s educational films. Recitations, which grow increasingly emotional, follow the information required to verify a patient’s account or to speak with a provider. The inclusion of sounds and voiceovers recognizes and preserves the emotional impact and experience of information which might otherwise lose its affect through just visualization. 

“Please Provide:” adapts, challenges, and experiments with feminist data visualization practices. The film resserts the human body as material, lived, and felt, and thus offers a chance to not just view data, but to experience it.


Arnab Chakraborty

University of Kansas

Rethinking Nature: Environmentalism and the Black Book

The Black Book Interactive Project (BBIP) is an expanding digital archive of mostly rare and understudied African American texts. The only archive of its kind, BBIP, together with the Philologic Interface developed by our partners at the University of Chicago, offers a central repository of novels and fosters new research opportunities. In our presentation, we will demonstrate the use of our database by identifying critical lacunae in our study of environmental writing. Refocusing on certain lesser known texts not only allows for a critical juxtaposition of canonical and non-canonical works but more importantly can help expand our views about black writing in particular and genres of environmental writing in general. A close reading of two texts from our database, Blood on the Forge (1941) by William Attaway and Stars in my Pocket like Grains of Sand (1984) by Samuel R. Delany will situate them within a tradition of black environmentalism that opens up a new conversation that is yet to be explored, one that challenges certain fundamental views within the precincts of literary environmental studies.


Brian M. Watson

Indiana University Bloomington

Subjects In Chains: Linked Data Vocabularies and Sexual Liberation

This paper offers a solution to a problem that has plagued information professionals, activists and researchers for the past half century: what to do with subject headings. Subject headings, used to classify and organize books and other material, have proven to be one of the useful tools for libraries. In an academic context, Library of Congress Subject Headings cover over 130 million items in academic libraries across the United States, and even more worldwide. Subject terms describing marginalized groups have been criticized as inappropriate, misleading or outrightly offensive, but unfortunately still remain essential for users. One proposed solution offered by researchers has been the use of tagging by members of the public. These proposals, however, have been matched by a near-equal amount of research pointing out issues with tagging and uncontrolled vocabularies.

A possible solution has only recently become available through the use of linked data—a cutting-edge digital technology that allows both computers and humans to understand various materials. It has heralded as the next step for the internet by Tim Berners-Lee, but the radical and subversive potential of the technology has gone largely unnoticed. First, this presentation will introduce and explain linked data, then it will offer a practical presentation of some of the current uses in digital archives. Finally, the author will discuss their current linked data project, which is an attempt to provide a historically-based controlled vocabulary for sex, sexuality, and more. This project intersects quite literally with each of IDRH’s themes; it is about nonnormative, ‘weird,’ ‘queer’ and “perverse” bodies; it is about creating a place and space of justice for those bodies; and it is about drawing on the archives and past of humanity in order to allow for possible futures for digital humanity.


Caitlyn Hunter

Duquesne University

#BlackGirlSuperHeroes

I created a website that categorizes and creates a timeline of black female superheroes. In this project I assess the hegemonic structure of black feminism and how this argument supports the need of refocusing black comic characters to include a feminine lens. With the rise of social media monikers like #BlackGirlMagic and #BlackGirlsRock there has been an evolving shift emphasizing a need for black female empowerment where visual representations in comics seek to mirror this demand. Through observing commentary from scholars such as bell hooks and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie who posit that feminism--especially when labeled “black”—needs to shift thought to include a socio-political perspective with regards to racialized experience, in comparing comic studies which largely centers on male mythology and characterization therein, I argue that this focus needs to include a black female perspective. Additionally, this project will focus on the evolving shift of the presence of African American women in comics which serves as a reflection of how the black female body is perceived within American society. While this expansion suggests that black women are more than capable of protecting and preserving humanity, they can only do so when they have also become associated with predominately white superhero groups like the Fantastic Four or the Avengers. This “alliance” eradicates the potentiality of individual capability to thwart evil, and aligns with black feminist arguments which stress that feminism does not include black women in larger conversations around gender equality.


Dave Tell 

University of Kanas

The Emmett Till Memory Project

The Emmett Till Memory Project is a smart-phone app designed to commemorate the murder of Emmett Till. It will take users to ten sites connected to the murder or memory of Emmett Till. At each site, the app provides historical narratives, photographs, site-specific archival documents and directions to the next site. The first version of the ETMP is slotted to go live on August 1, 2019--just in time for the 64th anniversary of the murder. I propose an interactive session in which participants will be able to interact with the ETMP. Following a brief (say, 10 minute) presentation, the audience will be invited to use the app, explore how the story shifts b/t sites, and experience the ETMP.


Denisa Kera

University of Salamanca

Justice Machines, Pacts with the Devil, and the Myth of Automation from Klepsydra to Blockchain

Is there any possibility of good governance in an age of algorithms, big data, cryptographic hashes, and decentralized ledgers, or are they symptoms of the “end of history” and politics? In this talk, Kera uses media archeology, prototypes, and design experiments to explore the myth of automation and discuss the surge of technocratic attempts at reducing politics and governance to some form of cybernetic control.  These “justice machines” serve questionable causes and bring new forms of injustice with their outsourcing of decision making and deliberation to blockchain “consensus mechanisms” and machine learning algorithms. They transform politics into rituals that achieve their ends automatically rather than through the agreement of wills or collective action and they change the relation between dominium (right to ownership), (e)mancipation, and citizenship. Who will be the nexus, slave, and free citizen in this fully automated future?


FC Zuke

University of Kansas

A New Word

A New Word presents viewers with a seemingly simple question. Participants must respond through one of several computer interfaces, one word at a time. As each user submits words, their word is added to a book in front of them and the books of all other users. Typed words are converted to speech in real time, keystrokes are translated to organ,voice, and bell sounds, and music is generated according to the responses of visitors. A New Word allows for individuals to express their beliefs while a highly responsive system translates their input into a complex musical orchestration that blurs the sacred with the secular.


Gwen Asbury and An Sasala 

University of Kansas

B.A.Bu.S.Ka. (pronounced: Basbuschka)

Play here!

Project Genre: Video Game
Platform: online, web-based
Recommended Devices: laptop, tablet
Estimated Playtime: 10-15min  
B.A.Bu.S.Ka. will be available online (.html link) and playable across tablets and laptops. Players can use their own devices. We request a few ipads set up in a designated area and at least 15 minutes of designated playtime.

In the near-future (2030), the United States service industries have begun the process of fullautomation, replacing human workers with A.I. programs, androids, and chatbots. Most of these digital entities exhibit homogenous personalities, saturating the market with the universally popular persona of a bright and accommodating, young, white woman. Rumors circulate that NanaTech, a new design firm shrouded in mystery and venture capital, plans to shake things up with the highly anticipated release of their first invention. Days before the debut, select journalists and business owners receive invitations offering an early beta-test of NanaTech’s program. Arriving at the main office, they find computer stations whose glowing screens read, “Hi, I’m B.A.Bu.S.Ka.” 

B.A.Bu.S.Ka., or the Basic Build-Service Kiosk Assistant, is a speculative, fictional chatbot designed to expose and subvert the social scripts and identities imposed upon A.I., androids, and chatbots. Intentionally designed as an elderly, white, trans woman, B.A.Bu.S.Ka. calls attention to the ways in which designers encode chatbots with normative gendered, sexualized, raced, and aged characteristics. A bit of a cantankerous grandma, B.A.Bu.S.Ka. gestures hopefully towards a future in which anthropomorphized technologies express personalities as complex and diverse as the humans they mimic and with whom they interact. B.A.Bu.S.Ka. is also a text-based video game created in Twine. Following a choose your own adventure structure, the game simulates conversation and other online interactions between a human player/user and the titular chatbot. Acting as beta testers, human players interact with B.A.Bu.S.Ka. across three service industry scenarios: grocery store check out, public library help desk, and movie theater ticket booth. As B.A.Bu.S.Ka. answers player questions, she places them into situations which are somehow shifted, exposing the ways in which they expected B.A.Bu.S.Ka. to fall into stereotypical personality traits and responses. The game includes opening slides which situate the players in the speculative world of 2030. Players then interact with B.A.Bu.S.Ka. by choosing one of the scenarios; once a scenario is chosen, players must play through to the end. They may then choose to explore another scenario. Each scenario lasts ~8 minutes. We will end the game with a research and sources page, which provides information about design processes and chatbot anthropomorphization. We will be available to answer questions; participants will recognize us by our NanaTech nametags/themed costuming. Through B.A.Bu.S.Ka., we imagine a more just, diverse, aware, and accepting future for A.I. programs, androids, and chatbots.


Hannah Alpert-Abrams

National Endowment for the Humanities

Surrogate Repatriation

Surrogate repatriation, or the return of cultural heritage to affiliated communities in the form of digital or material surrogates, promises a win/win solution for institutions and communities seeking to undo inequities in access to cultural heritage associated with colonialism and other power disparities. Traditionally, repatriation has prioritized the return of meaningful objects to communities who lost them under conditions of theft or war. Generally associated with guidelines like those first developed by UNESCO in the 1950s, and by national laws or international treaties such as NAGPRA in the U.S., repatriation has traditionally involved the formal transfer of objects from an institution to a sovereign nation. But institutions don't always want to give up their treasures and aren't always obligated to, while objects don't always have a single, legally recognized rightful owner. In these cases, surrogate return, or the return of cultural heritage in the form of copies, can increase access to objects among multiple communities. But surrogate return also introduces new and unexpected challenges, including multiplying claims to ownership, the contested meaning of surrogate ownership, and the changing value of surrogate formats over time. In this talk, I look at three examples of surrogate return between institutions and communities in the US and Mexico from the nineteenth century to the present day which include national, Indigenous, and individual ownership claims. With these examples, I seek to situate the increasingly popular concept of digital repatriation within a broader historical and cultural context, while outlining a framework for thinking about the implications of surrogate return in the digital age.


Jacob Groshek

Kansas State University

On the potential reality of Her: Examining human relationships with voice-activated disembodied personal assistants

In the 6 years since the release of the Spike Jonze movie Her, in which the main character, Theordore (played by Joaquin Phoenix) falls in love with his voice-activated disembodied personal assistant (played by Scarlett Johansson), there has been widespread diffusion and adoption of such technologies. Indeed, recent industry reports have placed the use of smart speakers like Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home systems at over 133 million homes in the US (Kinsella, 2019), and Apple’s Siri is reported to be have over 500 million users worldwide (Maggio, 2018) with other products like Microsoft’s Cortana and Facebook’s Portal rounding out the still growing marketplace. Given this context of extremely rapid
diffusion and adoption of voice-activated disembodied personal assistants (VADPAs), this proposal looks to explore and better understand the human relationships that are being formed, and if they show any tendency towards fulfilling the fictional drama outlined in Her.

Using a combination of digital humanities and survey data, the proposed study will look at and report on both how users are discussing VADPAs on social media as well as users self-reporting on their emotional connections with voice-activated disembodied personal assistants.

With this background in mind, this study has begun to monitor and examine social media output in this unique context by collecting social media data on #alexa, #siri, #okgoogle, and #cortana in order to focus and develop a better understanding how much and what types of discursive information is entering into this space, especially with regard to emotional relations being expressed.

Beyond the construction of models that algorithmically and visually identify the influential users within networks of hundreds of thousands of users communicating about these voice-activated disembodied personal assistants, this project will also engage survey collection from MTurk to triangulate how users of these VADPAs feel about them. This emotional connection will be modeled after previous work on parasocial interaction but extend more specifically to emotional relationships with devices, such as the apparatgeist phenomenon outlined by Katz and Aakhus (2002).

Altogether, this work is positioned to make a vital contribution to this event, particularly as it relates to the ‘bodies’ component of the outlined theme. By blending and crossing methodological boundaries, it likewise can be featured in a variety of presentation formats within this forum.


James Yeku

University of Kansas

Anti-Afropolitan ‘Buddies’ and the Scam of Digital Policing

This paper aims to examine the punitive politics of body shaming on scambaiting websites. My task is to show the way in which digital media imbeds epistemic violence which is obvious long before the social media era but consolidated by user-based media in various ways. I build on the work of Lisa Nakamura to argue that the sexual exploitation of black bodies on these websites can be read in the problematic frameworks of technology’s complicity forms of social injustices and epistemological oppression. My analysis is more attuned, therefore, to the racial and cultural politics that emerge around online scamming than in the act of scam itself, while exploring the conceptual possibility that, since scammers are digitally mobile subjects who inhabit multiple (web) localities, they are Afropolitans whose identities complicate and disrupt a romanticized and fixed notion of Afropolitanism. The fundamental impulse of my project is not to force an Afropolitan label on 419 scammers; it is to facilitate a reading of Afropolitanism grounded in virtual mobility, as an outgrowth of the real-life mobility of the Afropolitan subject first expressed by Taye Selasi, the progenitor of the term. I would suggest, following Moradewun Adejunmobi’s assertion that the online acting of 419 scammers constitutes a mediated and nontheatrical performance of what she calls the occupational self (185), that the mediatized performances of these 419 scammers transcend the mere enactment of abjection demanded by the unethical obligations of a media-inspired occupational identity. This performance of 419 scammers is predicated on digital mobilities which, though questionable and unethical, are reiterations of the Afropolitan capacity for mobility, even as it is a simultaneous enactment of a troubling black identity.


Janet Chávez Santiago

Oaxaca, Mexico

Indigenous Language and Culture Visibility in the Digital Age: Examples from Zapotec Activism

Languages and cultures evolve as fast as the new technologies. However, while the wide digital space is a part of our daily lives as a way to interact with the world, there is still scarce representation of a minority population already using the new technologies, that is to say, the indigenous peoples. As a member of a Zapotec community that holds its own language, its own culture and traditions, its own land and laws; in seeking how to make my community visible as a living culture I have found digital media a useful source for such purpose, allowing me to contribute to the preservation of our traditions, strengthen the use of the Zapotec language, and overall actively engaging native speakers and creating a bridge between them and the digital space.


Jasmine Sharma

Indian Institute of Technology, Ropar, India

Pornography and the World of Technocultural Consumption in Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake

The paper explores the consumption of digital cultures in Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake (2003). It describes the critical interaction between technology and culture within a dystopian frame of reference. The paper investigates the impact of technology on the individuals consuming it in different forms. It discusses video gaming and pornography in detail to validate the proposed argument.

First part in the MaddAddam Trilogy (2003-2013), Oryx and Crake showcases a bleak future of human race against an anthropocentric egotism. Characterizing Jimmy, Crake and Oryx at the center of the plot, the novel presents an advanced technocratic society constantly under discipline and surveillance. Within this panopticon structure inhabits a world of digital cultures which regulate the behavioral dynamics of the characters in the novel. Heavy indulgence in video-gaming and pornography are two such technocultural facets inviting theoretical attention. In the paper, usage of the term ""technoculture"" relates to a realm characterized by both desires and fears towards machines. It means that technologies have become both appealing and frightening within a culture that falls in thrall of their associated promises and the cultural logic which produces them is difficult to avoid. Thus in the novel, this amalgam of technology and culture charts the dystopian politics of digitalization and validates the presence of a cyborgian footprint on earth.

Divided into two sections, the paper examines an implicit equation between the real and the visual, between truth and illusion and between original and simulcra. The first section deals with video-gaming as a digital play of segregating forces, camouflaging the technics of cyberspace. It contexualizes Jimmy and Crake as tech savvy youngsters occupied in exploring techno-scientific gaming zones. The second section focuses on pornography as a consumable commodity, a hyperreality conducing digital sex and violence. It pays specific attention to the feminist politics of gazing and the role of media in promoting the interface between technology and gender. Both the sections detail pleasure principle and digital gratification as the prime motivators of techno-capitalism in the novel.. Both pivot to the technology driven consumerism dimensioned within a phallic standpoint.

The representation of technocultural consumption premises the fundamental theoretical impetus of the paper. The arguments channel a sociological definition of the word consumption that is""a process whereby agents engage in appropriation of a good, service, performance, information or ambiance, and which are a product of human work. This idea synthesizes consumption with power and exhibits a massive influence of the internet on the consumers. Relevant conclusions will be drawn from the aforementioned themes. The paper engenders holistic attention in digital humanities through the digitalization of technology and culture in a speculative framework."
 


Jason Zeh

University of Kansas and the Kansas City Art Institute

astto to me wor and wother 

This performance is part of a series of works that employ text generated by a recurrent neural network. For these works, I collected thousands of secrets from internet forums and used that data set to train a machine learning algorithm. Using this data, the computer generated its own secrets. In the resulting text, the speaker seems to be grappling with issues about identity and selfhood. In performance, I deliver these computer-generated secrets in a way that gives the illusion of vulnerability while actually erecting walls that prevent openness. 

The work deals with intimacy, confession, and identity by delivering text that seems to indicate that the speaker is making some admission about their gender identity or sexual orientation. However, the content of the speech becomes progressively more and more unclear over the course of the piece until it becomes virtually impossible for the performer to accurately deliver it. 

This performance combines live speech and live-collaged, voice, recordings into poetic confessions and cyborg utterances. 

The following is a selection of computer generated text used in this body of works: 

I'm not sure I can be him and I don't want to be happy to her and I can be high and starting to stay with my father and make me feel like I can be a long but on the family. I am so thengs and I can't see it.

All I'm a straight to me. I don't know what to do anything and I can stop this and they always seen and I don't know what I do not to be hard 

I could help him to something to see him a bot and they always had a boyfriend. I wanted to but I can't stop him. I didn't know what I'm a secretly and I don't want to start the same time. I've been an asshole. I didn't want to st. 

I'm a sister to me and I'm a lot of the single. I'm so servonse and I don't know what to be a bad of my life. I don't want to be about them. and I don't know what to do anything. I still let me feel the sexusl of the same single one of my life 

and I can't have a second sexuol things and I don't know what they are not to be a bad and I don't want to be able to stop. 

The following is a video demonstrating an early version of the piece: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fC_dE-_W5tM&t=359s"


Julia Kott

College of William and Mary

Catfish in the classroom: examining the role of the AI proctor in online courses

This proposal is for a paper presentation that will include visual elements that engage with the affective environments created by surveillance machines.

I will discuss some of the consequences of incorporating artificial intelligence powered proctoring services into the online classroom with reference to game designer mattie brice’s work on “catfishing”. To accomplish this, I will critically engage with the rhetorical strategies and marketing techniques of the online proctoring service Proctorio following the work of Stephanie Vie in “A Pedagogy of Resistance” as a way to bring human bodies into conversations about supposedly neutral tools.

Proctorio isn't a creepy person staring at you through a webcam. Instead, it's a system of computers that keep an eye on you while you take the test. Computers are great because they are unbiased and don't mind working long hours,” reads the text students receive when an instructor incorporates the online proctoring service Proctorio into their course. Proctorio equates technology with neutrality and presents a series of assumed definitions regarding what constitutes “creepy,” “comfortable,” and “embarrassing.” While students take the test proctored by Proctorio, artificial intelligence technology tracks their eye movements and listens for loud noises or the rustling of papers. Proctorio is a non-human that monitors the legitimate presence of human behavior. Students’ bodies are brought into the online learning classroom as objects of surveillance and suspicion.

Someone pretending to be someone they are not online is also called “catfishing,” a concept that game designer mattie brice has explored through autoethnography. A catfish presents a body online that does not align with the body they have in ‘real life.’ brice questions this definition of authenticity online, saying that in the online dating world “being trans makes you an automatic catfish" (Catfishing in 3 Acts). This is because unless brice adequately discloses that she is trans - often in multiple locations on her dating profile - she is banned from dating apps like Tinder for not properly representing her identity online. Transferring this insight into the context of online learning, Proctorio is a tool that demands students be who they say they are which might not always be as simple as it sounds. For my presentation, I will discuss the limitations of this type of tool and provide insights on liberatory ways to consider bodies in online learning contexts.


Julian Chambliss

Michigan State University

Mapping the Black Imaginary: Race, Space, and Power

In recent years, we have increasingly asked how digital inquiry rooted in black culture, thought, and action can change the narrative in digital studies and the humanities. In this talk, Dr. Chambliss will discuss Mapping Black Imaginaries and Geographies, a new project within the Consortium for Critical Diversity in a Digital Age (CEDAR).  Inspired by Black Digital Humanities ideology and aligned with the interdisciplinary practice of Afrofuturism, the project seeks to document, analyze, and present black spaces and ideologies that shape them. In doing so, African Americans often created communities which acted as an expression of black imagination. Within these spaces, African Americans articulated a vision space, race, and power. This project aims to document the dynamic networks linking these communities and how the ideas and actions connected to the project of black freedom evolved and expanded from these spaces. Key to the project is to utilize a range of digital methodology to break down barriers of geography and chronology by mapping, visualizing, and cataloging black ideological production


Kenton Rambsy

The University of Texas at Arlington

Edward P. Jones and the Shifting Demographics of Chocolate City

Despite the long history and dense population of African Americans living in or near the nation’s capital, the predominantly Black quadrants of Washington, DC have a relatively small presence in the scholarship on African American literature. Edward P. Jones’s stories, however, provide thorough and expansive depictions of neighborhoods and cultural landmarks in DC. Jones enacts a kind of cultural map-making by mentioning physical environments, streets, and locales. His references to specific locations throughout his stories provide impressions of the city that are geared towards social interactions of neighbors and community members. Even though geographic locations can be plotted on a map, the coordinates do not necessarily reveal the emotions embedded within a location at a given time and place. Pairing close reads of literary texts with historical analyses of real (and imagined) locations creates new opportunities for interpreting and visualizing literature.

In this presentation, I will share a map that plots more than 400 real locations in Washington, D.C., mentioned across Edward P. Jones’s two collections of short story Lost in the City (1992) and All Aunt Hagar’s Children (2006). Even though the locations in Jones’s stories can still be pinpointed on a map, people and places have changed over years. Homes and neighborhoods make up the majority of the settings in Jones’s stories. Over the last few decades, however, DC has witnessed a significant decrease in African American residents due to the rising costs in rent brought on by gentrification efforts. As a result, my map integrates census data to demonstrate the population shift over the last 30 years. Reading Jones’s storiesalong side the map will provide deeper insight to the extent, which social andresidential spaces for Black DC residents have changed.


Kristan M. Hanson 

University of Kansas

Vegetal Bodies: Visualizing Plant and Female Mobility in Parisian Horticultural Networks

In the second half of the nineteenth century, Parisian women of different classes embraced horticulture—the art of growing gardens and displaying plants—as a vocation and leisure pursuit. The remarkable role of these women as the primary distributors of ornamental plants throughout Paris challenges prevailing, albeit contested, beliefs about proscriptions against female mobility in public urban spaces. While feminist scholars initially argued that upper- and middle-class women were confined to the private sphere in their roles as wives, mothers, caretakers of the home, and domestic gardeners, historians have since revised these ideas to assert that female residents of Passy, genteel shoppers, saleswomen, laborers, and clandestine prostitutes walked in the city. Moving beyond the separate spheres model of gendered spatial practices, I combine mapping with traditional art historical approaches to advance new ideas about women who transported vegetation in horticultural networks. My project charts the movement of fresh cut flowers and potted plants from bouquet makers, all of who were women and some itinerant, to pedestrian-shoppers and beyond. For, upper- and middle-class women constituted the last link in a predominantly female distribution chain, transporting ethereal flora from commercial sites to private dwellings. Female mobility was central to a male-dominated horticultural industry, whose plant hunters, nurserymen, horticulturists, and gardeners profited from collecting “exotic” species from Africa, Asia, the Americas, and other world regions to cultivate and sell to Europeans.

My investigation of female and plant mobility moves, conceptually and geospatially, among five paintings and the locations referenced therein. Marie-François Firmin-Girard’s The Flower Market, Paris shows female vendors and shoppers at an outdoor marketplace on the Île de la Cité, and Jules-Émile Saintin’s The Bouquet Maker depicts an elite florist who markets pelargoniums, a flower native to southern Africa and hybridized in France, at a boutique in the second arrondissement. Additionally, Giovanni Boldini’s Crossing the Street portrays a prostitute who passes as a shopper by carrying a bouquet in the seedy quarter of Pigalle, Berthe Morisot’s Interior represents a social caller with a non-native false palm in the artist’s family home in the wealthy neighborhood of Passy, and Édouard Manet’s In the Conservatory pictures a chic female stroller with an “exotic” ixia in a painter’s glasshouse-studio on the rue Amsterdam.

My reading of paintings, by Firmin-Girard, Saintin, Boldini, Morisot, and Manet, situates them within the social-historical contexts of the French horticultural revolution and the greening of Paris, as well as the wake of French colonial botany and imperialism. Yet, I move beyond these traditional frameworks by using historical geocoding to visualize the locations artists show in relation to other horticultural sites that women frequented (e.g. flower markets, florist shops, and public urban green spaces) on an 1870 map of Paris. This visualization of Parisian horticultural networks not only enhances my interpretations of artworks but also supports a new conceptualization of Parisian women who participated in the ornamental plant trade as mobile within specific micro-geographies and across the public and private domains.


Leia Yen 

University of California, Los Angeles

Digital Syria: Decolonizing Digital Texts of the Syrian Refugee Crisis through Hypermediated Reading and Design

Although there are traditional works in print about the Syrian refugee crisis, an unprecedented amount of digital narratives demonstrates a shift in the body of diaspora literature towards using internet technologies to convey refugee stories. Mobile devices in the hands of refugees have made the crisis one of the most self-documented in history and yet the most prevalent and influential digital representations of Syria are often those created by third parties. While there is some scholarship criticizing depictions of the Syrian crisis in mainstream print and news media, digitally-born works have received little scrutiny. Rather, critics often applaud digital projects for humanizing the political through interactive, multimedia forms that engage audiences while also communicating first-person testimonies. The few articles that examine digital storytelling projects only compare them to traditional news media forms (ex. photographs and text) without considering alternative forms of mediation that can be achieved through digitally-born works. Thus, it is crucial to interrogate how digital literary forms affect diaspora narratives, especially when the texts are created by distant mediators.

This presentation examines the layers of liminality in digital narratives of the Syrian refugee crisis. The first layer is the migration narrative itself; the second layer, though, is a new type of liminality created by digital spaces in which narratives hybridize as they encounter alternative values, beliefs, and social constructs embedded within the structures of digital texts. Because digital texts are inherently hierarchical in design, the result is often a colonial framework that constrains the user to a western interpretation of Syrian refugee narratives, a perspective that goes unacknowledged by users who read digital texts as flattened, planar surfaces under traditional close reading practices. The limitations of archival processes can also further digital colonization as the web crawlers of internet archives like the Wayback Machine preserve the westernized frameworks of digital texts without their underlying content, distorting digital texts into new forms that create distinctive colonial impressions and presences.

The Digital Syria project intervenes by introducing the method of hypermediated reading, an attempt to synergize post-colonial theory’s attention to cultural representation with an expansion of postmodern deconstruction that critically reveals the constructedness of representations within digital media. Using Digital Syria’s case studies as references, I will demonstrate how hypermediated reading can begin the work of decolonizing digital texts as well as identify the ways in which hypermediacy—a constructed awareness of a medium’s presence—can be used for ethical design by making mediators and bodies within digital texts more visible.


Lindsay Ogles

Sarasota County Government 

Finding Overtown: recovering a historic community through digital methods

Florida is often defined by both its tourism industry and its status as a retirement destination. However, as the tourist industry presents idyllic views of sun drenched beaches, a surge in gentrification continues to alter the Florida landscape to meet the needs of a growing population of wealthy residents. This combination of reliance upon tourism and the gentrification of communities has led to the loss of marginalized communities. Not only are these communities being lost through migration of community members, but the physical communities themselves are being demolished to make way for luxury condominiums or high-end commercial sites.

In the case of Sarasota, Overtown was one such community which has been largely lost due to the migration of community members, the demolition of physical buildings, and the renaming of the geographical area. For many years, this community has been considered lost to time. However, through digital humanities techniques and the use of traditional source materials known to many historians, it is possible once again to find Overtown and study more completely than ever before. 

This presentation will discuss the source materials, methods, and considerations undertaken in this project. It will address how this approach can be easily transferred to use in other communities and how the methods can be both a great source for visualizing a demolished region and a great way to re-think communities like Overtown which are often remembered anecdotally. Discussion will include a brief history of Overtown, placing the community within the larger context of the region’s history, the insights gained from this project, and possible ways that this information can be used to educate residents about this historic community.


Lorena Gauthereau

University of Houston

US Latinx Digital Humanities 

The growth of digital resources and tools in schools, libraries, and in personal spaces has changed the way educators can develop courses, lectures, and assignments. Scholars, too, have begun to use digital tools to convey their research. Yet, despite this growth, the knowledge reflected through digital archives, digital projects, Wikipedia, etc. continues to convey a heavily Eurocentric epistemology. In response to this, the team at the University of Houston’s Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage (Recovery), along with other digital humanists of color, have begun to resist the narrative by actively creating content that reflects our own history, culture, and life.  

This poster presentation will focus on US Latinx Digital Humanities (USLDH) and will include an overview of some of the digital projects that focus on social justice as a starting point. Drawing from the rich Latinx collections at the University of Houston’s Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage, this poster will demonstrate how ethnic digital humanities can highlight untold stories of injustice and resistance, including projects on racial/ethnic discrimination, publishing networks, archival materials, and even Twitter Bots that post information about hidden histories. Paired with women of color feminist theory that emphasizes the embodiment of injustice, these projects call us to consider how to highlight the humanity of lived experience. Projects to be demonstrated include: “Are We Good Neighbors?”, “Visual Bibliography of Hispanic Periodicals in the United States,” Twitter Bots, and “Survey of Small Historical Societies, Libraries and Museums for Hispanic Materials and Their Management.”


Mike Shier

University of Central Florida 

“White Eyes, Red Lens: 19th Century Native Bodies, Civil Injustices, and an Alienated Future”

Current debates over citizenship focus on the idea of place as determinant of identity; these dialogues echo throughout the history of this continent. Now we fear “aliens” from the south, but in the early history of the United States, we were the “aliens” to the people who had lived in the Americas for thousands of years prior. 

Our research looks at the paintings and drawings of Native American prisoners of war in late 19th century America as an example of bodies that were controlled, justice that was denied, and futures that were forever changed by a process of “civilizing the savage.”

Lt. Richard Pratt, the US Army officer in charge of the prisoners, envisioned a process by which the Indian could be killed to save the man within. This process was enacted through a forced migration of prisoners from Indian territory via wagon, rail, and ship to St. Augustine, Florida in 1875. While imprisoned, the Native Americans produced a wide range of artwork depicting their lives before, during, and after exile from their country. Using Krista Ratcliffe’s theory of rhetorical listening, we explore drawings from the Cheyenne, Kiowa, Comanche, Arapaho, and Caddo prisoners who were held there. 

We incorporated these original documents into a short film production and collaborated with voice actors, musicians, and amateur animators to bring a new dimension to these stories. Our installation explores their journey through multiple modes by contrasting their artwork with other artifacts that shaped the situation, including drawings, maps, photographs, documents, news reports, and letters. We rhetorically listen to the drawings, approaching them as evidence of the prisoners’ marginalized, lived experiences. 

This presentation will highlight selected vignettes from our film as well as discuss theoretical and practical implications between this past and our current socio-political moment."


Perlin Trio (Brian Pytlik-Zillig and Stephen Ramsay)

University of Nebraska

Aves

Aves (2019) is a short, continuously-looping animation that evokes images of angels. Though common iconographic figures in the Abrahamic/Ibrahimic religions, cognates of the term “angelos” (messenger) appear also in the writings of the neoplatonists (in particular, the Greek writer Proclus) as intermediaries between the metaphysical and the mundane. The animation thus oscillates between the openly representational and the abstract (though perhaps not ever fully achieving the latter). 

The animations themselves were generated using Indigo—a custom-built tool that generates thousands of individual vector-graphic frames that are then combined into a continuous video. The accompanying score uses software emulations of modular (analogue) synthesizer hardware and other digital audio processing tools. 

The piece can be either projected onto a screen or a white wall, or viewed (perhaps more ideally) on a flatscreen television. The media file itself is high-definition, broadcast quality video and the audio is intended to be played at sample resolutions of at least 48 kHz (we often run our work at 96 kHz). We can provide the necessary audio hardware, including studio-grade near-field monitors and an audio interface with the appropriate cabling. 


Ramon Alvarado

University of Oregon

Epistemic Injustice in Data Science

Recently there has been growing attention in industry, government, and science to ethical questions concerning artificial intelligence and applications of data science. Problems like algorithmic bias with respect to gender, race and socioeconomic status, or the deployment of powerful surveillance tools, as well as other sociopolitical aspects of the implications of these emerging technologies are widely recognized and are garnering increased public attention. Here, I argue that a distinctive harm of the use of these emerging technologies is that we are being deprived of an important aspect of ordinary agency and autonomy that relates to explanation and understanding (boyd and Crawford, 2012). This harm is not simply in virtue of the fact that these processes are embedded in wider socially and ethically unjust contexts. Rather, the harm that some of these data science processes—in and of themselves—inflict on individuals and society can be best characterized by the fact that they are closed to epistemic recourse (Kitchin, 2014). In other words, I argue that the distinctive harm of data science and software technologies is that they inflict epistemic injustice—a harm done to an individual specifically in its capacity as a knower (Fricker, 2007). Recognizing both testimonial and hermeneutical injustice, which are varieties of epistemic injustice, can clarify and explain the harms specific to data science.


Shane Lynch 

University of Kansas 

Gila River Perpetuity: An Indigenous Video Game

Indigenous video games can be an expression and a continuation of culture. Video games are a form of digital storytelling and are way to transmit information into the future. Video games have been instilled within Western culture, but Indigenizing video games creates an inclusive mode for non-Western culture to thrive. The Indigenous video games field is fluid with multiple approaches that incorporates Indigenous knowledges and storytelling traditions into a digital format. Gila River Perpetuity is an Indigenous 2D video game, that encompasses the Gila River Indian Community. The game incorporates the two Gila River Indigenous nations, the O’odham and Pee Posh and their oral traditions that have been transferred into an interactive digital space. Gila River Perpetuity thus far is a one level demo with boss levels. The demo is based solely on the O’odham creation story and fuses O’odham language and traditional storytelling techniques to create a virtual experience. The game is visually done in an 8-bit pixel style with a view that is 3rd person, ¾ over head. The O’odham creation story is full of battles; thus, the game is a hack-and-slash based on traditional combat. This game is an act of inclusion and a representation of the O’odham culture in an interactive digital format. The demo is the first major battle in the O’odham creation story, and I plan to expand the game to include the rest of the O’odham creation story and all the Pee Posh traditional stories.


Maira Álvarez
University of Houston

Sylvia Fernández
University of Houston

Laura Gonzalez
University of Florida

Anette Zapata
University of Houston

United Fronteras: Borderlands Identities in the Future of Digital Culture

Roopika Risam, in her recent book, New Digital Worlds (2019), proposes that “those of us who are equipped with the capacity for humanities inquiry [and are committed to social justice] have a responsibility to intervene” in the legacies of colonialism by “creating projects to challenge the exclusions in the record of digital knowledge” (139-140). In this lineage, and bringing to this call to action the abundant colonialist production of border and borderlands representations, it is imperative to reclaim the humanity of communities, such as the ones along the Mexico-U.S. border, by critically contextualizing and reshaping the knowledge production through the use of digital methods and tools. 

With this in mind, in May 2019, after an intense period of collaboration among scholars from different institutions and disciplines, United Fronteras launched a call for collaboration to help grow its database by including projects with a digital component that works with material related to the U.S.-Mexico border region. The objective of UF is to serve as a valuable resource for encountering the border and its diverse practices, to seek out the critical work and local praxis held in this complex region, as well as to create alternative spaces by providing resources that can intervene and dialogue with negative and toxic representations of borderlands communities, cultures, and space. 

On this panel, four members of the project will present a theory, praxis and pedagogy framework that intervenes in the colonialism of the border. The creation of this postcolonial digital humanities scholarship foments a geographical and multicultural consciousness within the borderlands of the global north and south. Each speaker will present for 10 minutes with 15 minutes for discussion with the audience. Maira Álvarez addresses the creation of United Fronteras as a collaborative, non-institutional and non-funded project that uses minimal computing and GIS tools to visualize active and inactive digital works that present multiple notions, in its first stage, of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands from pre-colonial times to the present. Focusing on the narrative of various projects along the Rio Grande Valley in south Texas, Annette Zapata examines how they challenge patriarchal, economic and official histories through archives, poetry and social and political activism. Laura Gonzales discusses how principles from humancentered design and participatory research and translation can be used to encourage participation in collaborative DH projects that take place in binational and bilingual contexts. Following these examples of digital scholarship on the border, Sylvia Fernández examines the necessity to trace, recompile and document the cultural and digital record of the transnational area of the U.S.-Mexico border, to bring to the forefront the various ways in which historical realities, past and present socio-political conditions, and local experiences of this region are been showcased, imagined and explored. Together, these speakers articulate a vision for postcolonial interventions through a collaborative-based humanities project that evokes critical issues of border identities (race, gender, sexuality, indigeneity, etc) in the future of digital culture.
 


Taylor Vinson

Georgetown University

CLOSER

My art installation CLOSER, takes the famous lines, “I, too, sing America” from Langston Hughes’s poem, “I, Too,” as its symbolic statement. The installation uses an Arduino board, which allows me to program it to read text on an LCD screen. I also used a distance sensor that I programmed to change the legibility of the text, “I, too, sing America” depending on the distance of the individual standing in front of the screen and the sensor. The screen has three distances with the furthest reading a blank screen, the middle distance reading a jumbled version of the text and the closest distance reading the clear and full version of the text. The individual has to step closer to the screen in order to read the text clearly. The screen is attached to a brick foam board. Symbolically, CLOSER is made at the intersection of bodies, justice, and futures as it embodies the history that has come to pass into the future with the use of facial recognition systems as new tools for surveilling and marginalizing African Americans much like the surveillance of Hughes by the FBI in the 1940’s. Langston Hughes’s poem illustrates America’s inequality and dreams of a day when America is ashamed for oppressing it’s citizens of color. I hope to build new pathways of incorporating humanities work into technology as a means of participating in new innovative ways to express critical art works.


Trish Nixon

Artist

The House that Boi Built 

When we no longer seek approval from anyone but ourselves 
We become powerful and unstoppable 

My presentation will engage my studio practice and the digital body collaged through a trans lens. Through interdisciplinary research, I aim to deconstruct strict gender binaries and question the way nudity is represented for the male gaze. I will begin the talk by introducing my practice and how it is used as a mode for inquiry into creating a digital trans body where I am currently utilizing Photoshop for the process of editing and/or collaging images. Instagram is also a platform that I use as a way of puncturing stereotypes surrounding body, gender, and identity all at once. I would like to emphasize just how necessary it is for queer and trans folx to have the freedom and access to construct their own identities not only within a physical space but across a digital one too.

My body, identity, and desires are interwoven into my art. Within this space, my body shifts and changes. Gender shifts and changes. I fuck with the feminine and masculine, pulling them apart and messing them up. For example, one of my images, “Unsexed Body” centers my body where my genitalia are removed using a digital editing tool leaving my sex and gender in question. If I have no nipples, what am I? If I have no pubic hair and no sex organs, how does the viewer experience this full-frontal representation? Much of this identity construction takes place in performative gestures for the camera. The process of piecing myself together begins when I mine (in a chronological sequence) thousands of digital files of self-portraits that I’ve produced over the past couple of years. I then begin layering multiple images on top of one another, studying how composition changes, how my body is abstracted, and how lighting shifts. This process best describes the in-between space that I live in every day.

Sex and desire will be discussed at the end of my talk. This is a topic that I am particularly passionate about especially when it comes to expression of the sexual body in queer and trans art. “Digital biting” references my consuming of the body in a sexual manner. I express what it feels like to consume or be consumed using various digital tools and then present this work via printed image or various screens. The act of viewing crosses over/back and forth between a physical gallery space and spaces such as Instagram where the images reach a much wider audience.  I am interested in the bridge the connects these visual expressions. I hope that my work links both the physical and the embodied experience. I will bring to the forefront the importance of rupturing the status quo in a meaningful way.