social media

Welcome back: It’s Year 2 for DHMS

As the semester gets under way, DHMS is ready to roll out a number of updates, news, and events for the new academic year 2017/18. Welcome back, everyone!

First a quick review of Year 1: following the creation of the brand new graduate certificate in Digital Humanities and Media Studies in February – with much-appreciated support from a number of colleagues in CLAS and the Graduate School – two students already graduated from the program. Britta Meredith (LCL/German Studies) and Elisabeth Buzay (LCL/French & Francophone Studies) each completed their course work and DHMS portfolios in the nick of time and with great aplomb (and, incidentally, helped the director navigate the new learning curve of certification processing). Importantly, both DHMS certificate holders are off to a tight conference schedule: Elisabeth Buzay received two invitations already, with presentations directly related to her DHMS certificate work, and Britta Meredith is continuing her jam-packed presentation tour with next-phase talks on her DHMS portfolio that is now getting integrated with her dissertation. Congratulations to both of them!

On video now from Year 1 on the Humanities Institute youtube channel: two of the events from last year, the inaugural DHMS Talks presentation by renowned University of Santa Barbara professor Alan Liu; and pivotal information on copyright issues (both analog and digital) for academics by University of Massachusetts lawyer/librarian Laura Quilter and our own UConn-local librarian Michael Rodriguez. Alan Liu’s talk is a must-see (my humble opinion) should you have missed his thought-provoking, à propos, and widely applicable discussion of “Toward Critical Infrastructure Studies: Digital Humanities, New Media Studies, and the Culture of Infrastructure.” Ditto for Laura Quilter’s and Michael Rodriguez’s talks, for very different reasons, of course. Both point to crucial elements concerning copyright and authors’ rights that take minutiae to a new level: watch for ALL the fine print in your contracts with book and online publishers to make sure you not only understand your intellectual copyright, but also what happens (or can happen!) once you’ve published that book or article and it all goes digital and multimedia… And, yes, there IS “Fair Use in Digital Scholarship.” 

Thank you again to Jennifer Snow, one of UConn’s Digital Scholarship Librarians, for making this important event possible.

Which brings us to Year 2. This fall and spring, we will take a break from the Digital Humanities Reading Group (for further notice please check DHMS Upcoming Events), but things will rev up in other directions. The list of Scholars’ Collaborative workshops for this semester is all set, with 5 workshops scheduled throughout the fall. Look out for Michael Young’s presentation on “Images and Permissions for Publications” (NEW) and two workshops on the popular Tableau by Steve Batt (also NEW). Suggestions for more workshops/tool intros always welcome.

Year 2 in DHMS will also inaugurate a new Fall/Spring rhythm with a roundtable discussion in the fall semester and the DHMS Talk in the spring. For the DHMS Roundtable, media studies scholar and NYU English professor Lisa Gitelman, interdisciplinary artist Emma Hogarth (RISD), and UConn’s own DMD department head Tom Scheinfeldt and I will gather to discuss “Interfacing Digital Humanities and Media Studies.” Please join us on October 12 at 2:30 on the 4th floor of Babbidge Library to participate in this conversation across disciplines and across media.

Another event to take part in is collaboration #2 between DHMS and the library on the occasion of Open Access Week in October. Director Jason Schmitt will come to campus to present his documentary film

“Paywall” (2018), a topic that is bound to invite debate on a number of fronts and issues. The screening and Q&A will take place in Konover on October 25 from 2-4pm. More information forthcoming very soon. Bring your students.

Finally, our once-a-semester DHMS Meet&Greet luncheon will take place after Thanksgiving on November 30 from 2-3:30pm. My colleague Jacqueline Loss (LCL/Spanish) will provide a glimpse into her work on “Finotype” that has been selected as one of the first Greenhouse Studios projects. The Digital Coffee Hour (ad hoc gatherings next to fountains of hot coffee!) will continue as well – however, the venue has switched from the Humanities Institute to Scholarly Communications in Babbidge Library – exact location TBA.

The brain bytes blog (bi-weekly as of this year) will continue to post ideas, information, events and more – and readers are welcome to contribute a guest blog and/or recruit more readers who might have an interest in sharing their DHMS-related work (or quests). While there are several Q&A features in the making, you should feel free to suggest topics of potential interest or colleagues whose work deserves to be noticed. Two new items have been added to the Resources page: a Social Media Guide for Academics (JustPublics@365 Toolkit) and Guidelines for Digital Dissertations in History and Art History (GMU). If you have any resources or projects to share that need to find their place on the DHMS website, please just send an email to anke.finger@uconn.edu. Better yet: join the DHMS mailing list or the DHMS facebook group. Wishing everyone a productive and inspiring academic year!

 

Where is the Body in Digital Activism? By Bhakti Shringarpure

screen-shot-2016-11-10-at-11-09-17-amDuring the recent protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline, staged by the Standing Rock Sioux, Facebook users were asked to “check in” to the site of the protest taking place at the reservation. Ostensibly, it was meant to throw police surveillance off track since Facebook locations were being used to track and arrest protesters. As the post to check-in went viral, it generated a counterpoint response almost simultaneously. Blogs decrying social media solidarity that appears lazy and without any actual risk or effort involved sprung up within hours of the check-in going viral. “No, Checking In at the Standing Rock Pipeline Protests on Facebook Will Not Confuse the Police. It’s a waste of time,” wrote Mother Jones. Another friend cringed on social media: “Solidarity is great, and so is media attention, but if you really want to help protesters: donate to the Sacred Stone Camp Legal Defense Fund, call elected officials, or fly your ass over there if you’re able – your body is a lot more useful than your “check-in” at Standing Rock.” Elsewhere, an article mocking the phenomenon appeared: “ISIS Flees After Millions of Americans ‘Check In’ to Mosul on Facebook.” It had not even been 12 hours.

Debates about digital activism have always questioned the significance of the protester’s body. The Arab Spring was heralded as crucial in allowing for a “digital revolution” to take root. But in hindsight, the moment of cyber euphoria seemed to have yielded mixed outcomes. Though digital media was seen as a catalyzing force and has resulted in an extraordinary collective convergence in Egypt and Tunisia, it was also seen as having negative effects; most notably the counter-use by governments to intercept dissent and use the digital for amping up surveillance. More recently, the #BlackLivesMatter movement started as a hashtag on social media and has since been used 12 million times according to studies conducted by the Pew Research Center. That the hashtag became a movement and that the movement is now ushering in the most resistant and radical thinking around race in the USA is not debatable. Yet the actual role of social media is moot unless the physical impact of these hashtags eventually becomes apparent, and this can generally be gauged through the amount of actual protesters, or through shifts it may bring about in local or governmental spheres.

While digital activism has certainly become entrenched in individual and institutional realms, it seems to have also given rise to the narcissistic clicktivist. Detached from any real action and armed with no more than a do-gooder mentality, the clicktivist tends to like, share, tweet, tumblr and post generously but is seen as not necessarily showing up when it counts and when the going gets tough. It is argued that their contribution cannot be ignored and that if solidarity goes viral so does the cause. screen-shot-2016-11-10-at-11-09-31-amThe Dakota Access Pipeline check-in protests on Facebook were less interesting because of the virality of the phenomenon itself; but they were unusual because they illustrated how much we have come to dislike the online activist, how quickly there has come about an “obvious” knowledge that there is a real dichotomy between the body and the digital. In my opinion, the significance of this particular clicktivist is yet uncertain, and I hope we can arrive at more incisive understandings of this phenomenon.

This conversation will be taken up in some depth by the Digital Humanities reading group sponsored by the UConn Humanities Institute. We will meet on November 17th, Thursday from 12-2pm at the Homer Babbidge Library, 4th floor, room 4-153. We will be working through a variety of readings that include the Black Lives Matter syllabus, surveys that ask how social media users see, share and discuss race and the rise of hashtags like #BlackLivesMatter, skeptic critics such as Robert McChesney, Micah White and Jessy Hempel who make strong arguments against online activism, and academics who have engaged in longer and sustained ways with the impact of these new media.

This meeting is open to all faculty and graduate students. Please email bhakti.shringarpure@uconn.edu for the full list of readings.

Bhakti Shringarpure is Assistant Professor of English and editor-in-chief of Warscapes magazine.

Who’s my Audience? Defining Readerships and Joining Conversations

On October 24th, about 25 people gathered for the first DHMS Meet & Greet at the Humanities Institute’s new library location. Representing different campus groups, including librarians, professors, graduate students and one undergraduate, the group discussed how to build our fledgling community, how to obtain training in digital tools, and how to translate familiar methods of scholarly inquiry and venues of publication into digital formats. Brendan Kane gave a superb and inspiring presentation of his “Project in Process”: “Reading Early Modern Irish” with the help of interactive texts in the original and in translation, complete with grammatical and lexical references built by an international network of scholars. While political issues surrounding the use of social media, for example, were on many peoples’ minds – what happens to privacy? – one particular question stuck with me: who is my potential audience outside of print formats? Indeed: how DO you determine, find, and even secure an audience for your scholarly blog, your tweets, your online exhibition or your video?

twitter-wants-youIn print venues, the path from author to readership is pretty much set in stone or paved in concrete: you present your research paper to small audiences at various conferences, in addition to soliciting responses from your peer reading networks or teaching some of the content in your classes. Following feedback and rewrites, you submit your article to an established, peer-reviewed journal, and, upon some more revision, the journal publishes your work. Voilà, your print article is available to those who subscribe to the journal or who search specific databases for your topic. Unless your publisher presents your article – or your book – to a larger public via open access platforms, your audience is limited to closed infrastructures. At the same time, you can rely on thorough quality control and on tapping into an established brand within your field. You know scholars in your field read the journal. There are slight deviations of this path, but this is essentially it. Ah yes, and then there are copyright issues and monetary transactions. But that’s not for this blog post…

media190139enDigital venues, in contrast, offer a MUCH bigger audience – a website or blog with, potentially, a global audience, and your social media accounts can invariably be found on the internet. So how do you reach those you seek to speak to or with whom you would like to engage in conversation? The Chronicle’s ProfHacker is a solid source for these sorts of questions, with Ryan Cordell addressing the benefits of tweeting, and Lee Skallerup Bessete reflecting on how twitter usage has changed over the years. For starting your academic or scholarly blog, InsideHigherEd published Liana Silva’s recommendations, while Pat Thomson’s recent article in the Times Higher Ed points to more selfish reasons to start your own blog: improving your writing. Of course, there is a top-10 list for this new enterprise as well, in this case assembled by Tom Crick and Alan Winfield. And it is always instructive to study some of the best, as curated and presented by Alexis Madrigal in 2013.

Most of these authors point to one important element of establishing an audience, no matter what part of your research you make available or which venue or medium you choose: you should not engage one without the other. If you are blogging, let others know on twitter or other social media that you just published a new post. Read others’ posts. Follow others on twitter. Mention your just-out print bobuild-audienceok on your blog or add the link to your twitter account on your website. You don’t just seek an audience – you also become one. You don’t just build networks within your research community and audiences “out there” that may find your work interesting – you also network within audiences yourself. So, it’s really not that different from print, it’s just much bigger and much more public. As Bianca Elena Ivanof and Caspar Addyman argue: it’s how to be an academic in the 21st century. Thank you, everyone, for coming on Monday!

Can’t Find Your Way to Victoria? Here’s a “How To” for Home Use Blog Double Feature

In last week’s guest blog Marc Reyes enthusiastically reported back from the DH Summer Institute in Victoria. It is by all accounts a terrific first step towards all things Digital Humanities, if one can swing it, time wise or money wise. For those who will have to wait or who just want to try another route, there are plenty of opportunities to find one’s very own answers to: How do I get started with Digital Humanities??? It all depends on what you want to explore: the theoretical, the practical, the experimental or the just plain playful? Because there are so many ways to go, this blog is extra-long and therefore a double feature.

Part I: Retracing Steps and Missteps

When I think back to my own “humanities + digital” beginnings, I recall

  • visiting my very first web page in 1993. The always up-to-date Lab Director pointed at the screen and said: “This could change a whole lot in language learning!” No kidding. Will this become part of my teaching?
  • getting involved in what used to be CALL (Computer Assisted Language Learning) and teaching myself HTML (remember Netscape?).  But I was also writing my dissertation, so I had no time. The motto was, expressly, “publish or perish”: how could I possibly squeeze in this new digital stuff?
  • receiving a grant in my first job that allowed me to buy two SMART boards, revolutionary technology at the time and quite a mystifying wall of multimodality to all who dared start teach with it. Not everyone was gung-ho, though. That experience begged the question: is all new tech fundamentally good?
  • co-founding an online peer-reviewed open access journal, against my peers’ and mentors’ advice. It would either not count for tenure or cast doubt on my scholarly integrity. To me, it was all about matching form with content, or, in this case, the other way around: a media philosopher’s work should also be presented and discussed digitally, no? Yet, would digital publishing be recognized in merit reports?netscape-navigator

Let’s face it, these are recurring questions for most of us, no matter whether we are at the beginning of our Digital Humanities explorations or well traveled. Often, engaging with DH is a start and stop process, testing our patience, our capacity for the new, and our skill sets. No one can deny that the humanities have long entered the digital realm. But can you define your own involvement with it?

 

Of course! You don’t have to pull all-nighters or pursue perfection to learn how to

  • build webpages for teaching or research. A profile of your own making matters today, and it is often the first thing you learn at DH workshops. But no rush: take days, take months, take a whole year – practice makes playful. My own webpage changes frequently, whenever I have a moment to try out a new widget or add a piece of media.
  • blog. It’s like writing a scholarly journal or reflecting publicly on any aspect of your work. Yes, it’s public. Yes, most of us are share our process only with a select few. Yet, most of the time, I am surprised about how learning to blog (or using digital tools in general) also helps me reflect on how I think. I started various blog writing enterprises on different topics, sometimes with colleagues. I found out that I am not that good at collaborating in the blog venue for practical reasons and just do better composing by myself.
  • participate in social media. Even if you have no interest in building a profile or tweeting to announce your latest article publication to the world, do set up an account and try it out. You can always delete your profile if it’s not your channel – but you move on and find out what is.
  • take your visualization skills to the next level. You like taking photos? You have made videos on your digital camera? You want to create images from your data? My own latest exploration is with digital storytelling and video essays: writing the script, assembling the imagery, recording my own voiceover, and producing. This took a number of missteps and misadventures, but the results are passable. That’s good enough. And it will get better with time. I was also thrilled to find that there was an audience – vimeo has scored the work at over 12,000 views.

Try and fail, and enjoy the process. You have no interest in coding? Don’t. You want to hold off on writing a blog, it’s just too personal or too public? No problem, a tweet only has 140 characters. No interest in data mining? Certainly – perhaps text editing is your thing! Entirely your choice, in your own time and your own place. Your medium at your leisure.

I continue to try numerous tools, depending on what’s new, what interests me, and what is of relevance for my research and teaching. Does that make me a Digital Humanist? I don’t know. I think of myself as working in media studies with DH proficiency or a DH intermediate with a strong background in media studies. I do not code. Ditto for mapping. I do not mine data; so far I’ve just had no purposeful interest in it, but that could change. I do not (yet) work in a large collaborative team on a big multi-level, multi-year project, with substantial grant support promising a formidable outcome. But I’d like to. That’s next – at least I will try.

 

Part II: Building your own map

So how can you start on your own way into the Digital Humanities? I remember looking at Lisa Spiro’s recommendations several years ago. Although her thoughts date back to 2011 – five years is a long time in DH – and some of the initiatives and/or links are out of date (thatcamps don’t seem to happen as frequently as they used to), I still agree with many of her pointers. Most everyone just insists: start somewhere! That “somewhere” can be anywhere, really. Ideally, it connects with your ongoing research or teaching, unless you just want to take a break from that very research or teaching and occupy a different part of your brain (as in, PLEASE give me a break so I can reboot!).

There are a great many “how to” pages that provide you with lists, similar to the one Spiro set up. She remains the most cited, with the Modern Language Association and the NEH still linking her site. Duke’s DH Initiative has put together a plethora of tips and resources that get you going. Our colleague Tom Scheinfeldt created his own list, making it exceedingly easy to get your feet wet. An excellent mélange of links and lessons comes from the College of Charleston, complete with videos and tutorials. Then there is the ACH’s Digital Humanities Questions & Answers section that connects your pressing issue with someone who can assist. In fact, most libraries or DH centers and initiatives now offer some sort of “How to Get Started” page or workshops that generate ideas. Just choose what appeals to you. And most everything gets explained on youtube these days anyway. Take a look at a series on Humanities + Digital Tools available from Stanford or search for the presentation of a particular tool.

A decided favorite (DH sleuthing!) still is Miriam Posner’s “How did they make that?” She presents the finished project (what is it?), traces it back to its origins (what you’d need to know), and then gives tips on how to do it yourself (get started). This reverse-engineering perspective is great for analyzing process because once your project is done you are most likely on to the next thing. And your failures and missteps cannot inform your succeeding projects or generate new ideas and approaches. Posner also produced a video about these steps – yet another way to show her own process.staedtereise_urlaub_leipzig_innenstadt_11

Well, here we are. Understood if this load of suggestions on how to get started is exhausting. You have not finished that article. Your students’ exams remain untouched. You haven’t read the report for the meeting that starts in 20 minutes…. And it’s time to get some fresh coffee! Then don’t start today, start tomorrow. Sleep on it. Or come to the “DHMS Meet & Greet” on October 24th from 12:30-2pm at the new UCHI location on the 4th floor in the library (209).

choosing-a-college

Meet colleagues who are thinking about DH, have started or are well on their way. Enjoy lunch together. Discuss the DHSI in Victoria with other participants. And if Victoria does not appeal to you consider a DH summer in Leipzig or Oxford.