media studies

Yohei Igarashi, Assistant Professor of English

1. What initially intrigued you about research/teaching in digital humanities or media studies?

I was immersed in media studies from the very start of grad school, but not really before then.  One of the first courses I took as a masters student at Columbia focused on media studies, and later, when I was a Ph.D. student at NYU, there was much intellectual activity around media, mediation, etc.; NYU was – and still is, I would think – an exciting place to study those problems.  The intrigue for me was in the tensions between literature and what is prioritized by other communications media and technologies, and I wrote a media studies-influenced dissertation on Romantic poetry.  As for digital humanities: that too was becoming a part of the conversation during grad school, especially in relation to what has been the main interpretative technique of literary study, “close reading,” but also in connection with (then newish) scholarly resources like ECCO (“Eighteenth Century Collections Online”).  Since then, I participated in a UK project based at Cambridge called The Concept Lab, which involved intense – and sometimes insane – debates about how computationally to model concepts, which brought us into linguistics and other disciplines.  It was a lot of fun working with that group, and we all piled into a van at one point for a brainy road trip in California.  Around that time, I also sat in on a computational linguistics course at UConn, and that was very informative.  A little before I joined The Concept Lab, I wrote an essay on early 20th-century word frequency counts and their unlikely ties to the advent of close reading. That was a fun essay to write, dealing with the pre-digital history of digital “distant reading,” and it drew a little bit on all of the above.

2. How has entering the DHMS realm changed your approach to research and teaching in general? If so, how?

As for research: I tend to be invested in Romantic poetry, media studies, and digital humanities (among other things) and try to keep up with all three, but I don’t ever feel that I exclusively or primarily belong to any one of the them.  Some of my ideas come from wandering somewhere between those three coordinates, and at other times I’m more deliberate about relating them to one another. In terms of teaching: this semester, I’m teaching undergraduate courses, an already memorable and boisterous one on Vladimir Nabokov, the other the gateway course for the English major, and we’re reading Lydia Davis in that one at the moment. All that to say, “DHMS” doesn’t figure too much in my teaching currently.  But, a few years ago, I taught a grad seminar on “Literature, Media, and Technology,” in which we read a lot of media studies and adjacent things, including some of my favorites (e.g., Raymond Williams’s Television which often feels like Williams saying, “Let me show you how to do it right.”) And I’ll be teaching the new “Introduction to Digital Humanities” graduate seminar next year, the first time it’s being offered as such, and I’m looking forward to that.

3. You have three (commitment-free) wishes to receive support for your research/teaching in DH or media studies: what are they?

What a cruel constraint that one is introduced to the elusive genie but the three wishes must be about “research/teaching in DH or media studies”! Time is important and so maybe something that frees up the time of faculty and grad students to learn new disciplines from scratch and be uncomfortable?  See below.

4. First struggles and successes: do you have any best-practice advice?

I don’t, but I would say that I am very behind the idea of this DHMS initiative and graduate certificate, covering and combining as it does “digital humanities” and “media studies.”  It’s still very early on with DHMS endeavors at UConn, but I would like to see more connections with disciplines and departments like linguistics, computer science, statistics, digital media and design, and so on.  I realize that English folks, for example – I include myself – have a repertoire of things they like to say and do with literary and other cultural works (Rita Felski’s The Limits of Critique describes well this now familiar repertoire). But I think it would be exciting too if there were more attempts to go very deep into very different disciplines with very different ways of looking at things. There would be a lot of learning of new languages, terms, concepts, technical skills, etc. This is maybe my idiosyncratic view not of “best practices” but “potentially promising practices.”

5. How would you like to challenge yourself in DH or media studies? Or what is a project you most seek to realize?

Maybe one challenge for me is that I’m what Zadie Smith calls a Person 1.0, which makes certain DHMS topics difficult for me to write on. The Smith essay is now an old essay, but it touches on things like Facebook, and it still sums up a how I feel, for the most part.  But I know too that there are interesting questions to consider in areas like digital sociality, and that might be a new challenge for me, at some point. In the book I’m finishing writing, I talk at one point about how poetry can model a form of mediated interaction that can both encourage and discourage connection – it is another way to talk about introversion and the pressing need for both of those options – and so I might be beginning to engage some of these topics, but in my own oblique way.

 

 

Digital Humanities Is for Humans, Not Just Humanists: Social Science and DH, by Kitty O’Riordan

In an article published online last month by The Guardian—“AI programs exhibit racial and gender biases, research reveals”—the computer scientists behind the technology were careful to emphasize that this reflects not prejudice on the part of artificial intelligence, but AI’s learning of our own prejudices as encoded within language.

“Word embedding”, “already used in web search and machine translation, works by building up a mathematical representation of language, in which the meaning of a word is distilled into a series of numbers (known as a word vector) based on which other words most frequently appear alongside it. Perhaps surprisingly, this purely statistical approach appears to capture the rich cultural and social context of what a word means in the way that a dictionary definition would be incapable of.”

This tool’s ability to reproduce complex and nuanced word associations is probably not surprising to anyone familiar with digital humanities—and the fact that it returned associations that match pleasant words with whiteness and unpleasant ones with blackness, or that associate “woman” with the arts and interpretative disciplines and “man” with the STEM fields shouldn’t be surprising to anyone who has been paying attention. The distressing prospect that AI and other digital programs and platforms will only reinforce existing bias and inequality has certainly garnered the attention of scholars in media studies and DH, but one could argue that it has received equal attention in the social sciences.

As a graduate student in cultural anthropology drawn to DH, I sometimes find myself considering what exactly demarcates digital humanities from social science when apprehending these kinds of topics; somehow, with the addition of ‘digital’, the lines seem to have blurred. Both ultimately represent an investigation of how humans create meaning through or in relation to the digital universe, and the diverse methodologies at the disposal of each are increasingly overlapping. Below are just a few reasons, from my limited experience, as to why social scientists can benefit from involvement with digital humanities—and vice-versa.

1) Tools developed in DH can serve as methodologies in the social sciences.

Text mining, a process that derives patterns and trends from textual sources similar to the phenomenon described above, is particularly suited for social science analysis of primary sources. Programs like Voyant and Textalyser are free and easily available on the web, no downloads or installations required, and can pull data from PDFs, URLs, and Microsoft Word, plain text and more. Interview transcripts can also be analyzed using these programs, and the graphs and word clouds they create provide a unique way to “see” an argument, a theme, bias, etc.

Platforms like Omeka and Scalar can provide an opportunity not only to display ethnographic information for visual anthropologists, but can give powerful form to arguments in a way that textual forms cannot (see, for example, Performing Archive: Curtis + “the vanishing race”, which turns Edward S. Curtis’ famous photos of Native Americans on their heads by visualizing the categories instead of the categorized).

2) Both fields are tackling the same issues.

Miriam Posner writes that she “would like us to start understanding markers like gender and race not as givens but as constructions…I want us to stop acting as though the data models for identity are containers to be filled in order to produce meaning and recognize instead that these structures themselves constitute data.” Drucker and Svensson echo that creating data structures that expose inequality or incorporate diversity is not as straightforward as it seems, given that “the organization of the fields and tag sets already prescribes what can be included and how these inclusions are put into signifying relations with each other” (10). Anthropologist Sally Engle Merry, in The Seductions of Quantification, expounds on this idea in the realm of Human Rights, proving that indicators can obscure as much or more than they reveal. Alliances between DHers as builders and analyzers of digital tools and platforms, and social scientists as suppliers of information on the effects of these on the ground in various cultural contexts, provide benefit to both.

3) Emerging fields in the social sciences can learn a lot from established DH communities and scholarship.


Digital anthropology
, digital sociology, cyberanthropology, digital ethnography, and virtual anthropology are all sub-disciplines emerging from the social sciences with foci and methods that often overlap with those of digital humanities. Studies of Second Life, World of Warcraft, or hacking; the ways diasporic communities use social media platforms to maintain relationships; or projects that focus on digitizing indigenous languages all have counterparts within digital humanities.  Theoretically, there is much to compare: Richard Grusin’s work on mediation intersects with
anthropologists leading the “ontological turn” like Philippe Descola and Eduardo Viveiros de Castro; Florian Cramer’s work on the ‘post-digital’ pairs interestingly with Shannon Lee Dawdy’s concept of “clockpunk” anthropology, influenced by thinkers both disciplines share like Walter Benjamin and Bruno Latour.

Though I am still relatively new to DH, one theme I find repeated often, and which represents much of the promise and the excitement of digital humanities for me, is the push for collaboration and the breaking down of disciplinary boundaries. Technologies like AI remind us that we all share the collective responsibility to build digital worlds that don’t simply reflect the restrictions and biases of our textual and social worlds.

 

Kitty O’Riordan is a doctoral student in cultural anthropology at the University of Connecticut. Her research interests include anthropology of media and public discourse, comparative science studies, and contemporary indigenous issues in New England. You can reach her at caitlin.o’riordan@uconn.edu.

Digital Spaces and Designing for Access, by Gabriel Morrison

AccessThere has been a lot of talk about how digital humanities scholarship has the potential to be democratizing, and the internet allows for connectivity that extends across cultural, geographical, and institutional boundaries. DH scholarship can directly reach the public outside of academia, and digital spaces allow for collaborative enterprises that have seldom been attempted by humanities scholars. But are all things digital inherently more accessible, or do we simply imagine them to be so? Are we designing for access or just assuming that access is no longer an issue?

Tara McPherson points out that exclusionary practices and ideologies (based on class, gender, race, sexuality, language, or ability) are often built into software in ways that are not always immediately visible to privileged users. This limits not only who has access to and ownership of DH work but also how diverse users can develop their work. One of these exclusionary ideologies is what disability theorist Tobin Siebers has termed the ideology of ability. This ideology assumes able-bodiedness as a “default” state. It either elides difference or else assumes that the disabled body must find a way to be “accommodated” rather than acknowledging any responsibility for designers to create spaces and environments that are inclusive to the diverse range of human ability.

Just as physical spaces are often inaccessible by design (e.g., stairs and stairsdoorways that do not permit wheelchair access or loud, brightly lit public spaces that can result in sensory overload for persons with autism), there are many ways in which digital space is constructed to include only the able-bodied, including text fields with small or difficult-to-read fonts, videos without captioning, podcasts without transcripts, images without descriptions that can be read by screen readers, web spaces that cannot be manipulated by users, and so-called “accessible” software that is built for the able-bodied and only retrofitted to “accommodate” diverse users when they complain.

Those engaging in digital humanities scholarship cannot hope to dismantle oppressive ideologies (something which is part of the core work of the humanities) while uncritically using technology that reifies these same oppressive structures. We must realize that part of digital humanities scholarship involves critical and intentional design. In order to truly encourage access, digital scholarship should include principals of universal design.

How can we do this? While it’s true that no design can be said to be truly universal, the Web Accessibility Initiative offers important guidelines for more inclusive digital publishing, and Yergeau et al. lay out a theoretical groundwork for accessibility in digital and multimedia work. The National Center on Universal Design for Learning, CAST, and Jay Dolmage address concerns specific to integrating digital media and technology for access in the classroom, and Composing Access advises on how to prepare for conferences. Here are a few tips for more accessible design:

  • Think critically about the implicit ideologies coded into the platforms you use, and consider the affordances of your technology before using it. As Johanna Drucker and Patrik BO Svensson point out, middleware incorporates various rhetorical limitations—do these constraints limit access?
  • Aim for commensurability across modes. While multimodality can be a great way for users to interact with your text in different ways and with different senses, if information is not presented redundantly through different modes, it increases the chance that users may not be able to access your text. For instance, if a video delivers information both visually and aurally but doesn’t include captioning and description, then it becomes inaccessible for both blind and deaf users. And of course, delivering information through more than one mode helps all Captions, for example, allow hearing users to access the text in a noisy place, on an airplane with someone sleeping in the next seat, or on a device without audio capability.
  • Digital projects are more accessible when they are easily manipulable by users. For example, text that cannot be copied/pasted, as is the case in an image or some publishing platforms, might not be easily read with assistive technologies such as screen readers or braille pads.

Though digital media can present accessibility issues, when used critically and conscientiously, multimodal affordances open up the possibility of creating content that is more accessible to all users, regardless of level of ability.

Gabe Morrison is a first-year doctoral student in Rhetoric and Composition at the University of Connecticut. His research interests include multimodal writing and graduate student writing instruction. You can contact him at gabriel.morrison@uconn.edu.

New Graduate Certificate in Digital Humanities and Media Studies

graduates-4555027fc37869a5The first brainbytes blog of the spring semester serves as an announcement: UCONN has a brand new Graduate Certificate! Welcome back. Pending final approval by the Board of Trustees, the Humanities Institute is pleased to announce a Graduate Certificate in DHMS. This certificate will supply interested graduate students with crucial training and with marketable skills and approaches for careers within and outside of academia. As the initiating director of this certificate, I am providing a summary of the contents below.

Need for the DHMS grad certificate

The UCONN grad certificate in DHMS is unique insofar as it is fundamentally interdisciplinary: it will not be solely oriented, as certificate programs are at other schools, towards digital humanities methods, research, and practice, but also towards integrating media studies as an interdisciplinary and international field of critical inquiry and theory. It seeks to enhance the talents, interests, and success rates of our humanities graduate students entering the academic job market, as digital humanities and media studies research and scholarship has proliferated across North American campuses at the undergraduate and graduate levels, as well as internationally. In addition, employment opportunities for graduate students with training in digital humanities and media studies have increased in non-governmental organizations, libraries, museums, and other public and corporate entities as such training is often closely linked to public humanities.

Educational Objectives of the Graduate Certificate

The certificate prepares students to conduct humanities research with digital tools by providing digbookparticipants with the knowledge about same tools, about methods, and, importantly, about theoretical issues central to the interfaces between digital humanities and media studies. These may include: text analysis, data mining, visualization, geo-spatial inquiries and mapping, multimedia and digital storytelling, hybrid and digital publishing, information or knowledge design, network analysis in combination with the history of media, media archeology, media aesthetics, media theory, media philosophy, digital cultures and game studies.

Outcomes include:

  • a DHMS Portfolio (see requirements below)
  • a deepened and theoretically sound understanding of the interfaces between Digital Humanities and Media Studies
  • an in-depth practical and theoretical understanding of the humanities in the digital age as they apply to sectors within and beyond the academy
  • an understanding of and experience with collaborative practice in the humanities, social sciences, and the arts as such practice applies to research and teaching with digital tools

Course Sequence and Educational Objectives

The Graduate Certificate in DHMS for graduate students enrolled in CLAS or Fine Arts PhD or MA/MFA programs will require a total of twelve credits: 3 credits in one of the core courses, two 3-credit electives, and one 3-credit independent study, working on the DHMS Portfolio.

Electives (students take two electives and one independent study, with 3 credits each)

Electives will be chosen based on the student’s major field of inquiry, her/his departmental home, and her/his dissertation or thesis research, in consultation with the student’s PhD or MA/MFA advisor and the director of the DHMS grad certificate. One of the courses as well as the independent study can overlap with the requirements in the home department. Other courses might qualify as electives if they meet the following criteria: electives should deepen the student’s understanding and theoretical and practical application of DH and Media Studies and facilitate her/his direct translation of these skills and knowledge to her/his scholarship.


DHMS Portfolio

dig_scholThe DHMS Portfolio serves as an independent research project, realized alongside and as a product of the independent study and culled from work accomplished over the course of working on the DHMS grad certificate. Students should be able to communicate the intellectual rigor and theoretical foundations of their project. They should also address some of the evaluation guidelines put forth by the Modern Language Association, the American Historical Association, or the College Art Association, as listed below:

  • describe the process underlying creation of work in digital media (e.g., the creation of infrastructure as well as content) and their particular contributions
  • describe how work in digital media requires new collaborative relationships with clients, publics, other departments, colleagues, and students
  • explain and document its development and progress and its contributions to scholarship
  • include colleagues and take advantage of opportunities to explain how your work contributes to the scholarly conversation in on-campus forums, professional meetings, and print or online publications
  • consider process as a form of scholarship and as a valid, even essential, part of knowledge creation

The final product must be publicly accessible on the web and include examples of the student’s work as well as how the project contributed to the student’s growth as a scholar (process writing). The portfolio must include a short statement of purpose.

More information on the application process and certificate details will be available on the DHMS website. The first core course, “Digital Humanities, Media Studies and the Multimodal Scholar” (LCL5020), is on offer this semester. Feel free to ask questions, share with colleagues, and join in on the conversations and events at DHMS in 2017!

 

 

Jennifer Terni, Associate Professor of French (Literatures, Cultures, and Languages)

screen-shot-2016-10-18-at-1-20-12-pm1. What initially intrigued you about research/teaching in digital humanities or media studies?  

My interest in media studies is a longstanding one and is no doubt rooted in my inter-disciplinarity.   My MA in history was about the ideological valences of one of France’s most successful early pulp fiction writers, Eugène Sue.  Working on Sue forced me to consider the problem of distribution and audience. I realized from correspondence about him that different groups had very different investments in Sue’s work. Because of the difficulties of describing reception, the explanations of these differences were often uncomfortably reductive (class interest, commercial distraction for the masses, etc…).  As I developed a potential subject for my Ph.D., about the ways in which theater was rooted within Parisian cultural networks, I realized that what I was really after was to imagine new ways to account for and describe these differences.  This is how my Ph.D. project evolved into a much broader study of early mass culture.  The research has led me, over the years, to explore the countless ways that media in the 1830s, ’40s and ‘50s transformed how people were positioned—and positioned themselves—in terms of a reality that was increasingly defined by large numbers of other people. And though it is true that media could be a weapon, what we find when we look more closely was that it was more often—and very self-consciously—a resource that helped people to make sense of how they were being redefined as individuals and as collectives.  The active investments of individuals in media as well as in countless other practices that media helped support played a major role in propelling the rise of a culture increasingly defined by scale.

2. Has entering the DHMS realm changed your approach to research and teaching in general? If so, how?

This past semester I taught a new graduate course on 19th-century media.  It would have been impossible to give this course even a decade ago, since it was built on the shoulders of major digitized archives including Gallica at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Hathi Trust, and ARTFL, to name but a few.  To make use of them effectively, however, I had to build an extensive website as a platform from which to organize the many primary sources that we explored as a group as well as to give a picture of what 19th-century media would have looked like. What is more, I tried, as much as possible, to get the students to experience what it would have been like to consume media in the 19th century, for instance, by reading a pulp fiction novel in installments in a newspaper.  This experiment was more successful than I could have hoped.  What is more, occasionally I sent the students to the Dodd archive to encounter 19th-century artifacts more directly (illustrated newspapers, daguerreotype, stereoscopes, photographic technology).  The impact of those encounters was intense in large part because the students had been engaged with primary sources throughout the semester: they had seen the exploding variety of media forms in the 1800s, but also knew firsthand how even very disparate forms were interconnected. They had also read theoretical and historical articles that helped them think about what kinds of cultural work these different genres and platforms were performing.  Touching the actual artifact was meaningful because to them it was already embedded in a web of references and ways of thinking about media, but also because it contrasted with all of the digital content they had been using throughout the semester.  It was thus doubly a material encounter with material culture.

3. You have three (commitment-free) wishes to receive support for your research/teaching in DH or media studies: what are they?

  1. I would love to get support for teaching students how to conduct big-data research on historical sources and to also become critical about the strengths and limits of such research.
  2. I used a digital lab for this graduate class.  It was essential to the conduct of the course.  Each student was seated at a desktop computer.  We often looked at things together in class (illustrations, plays, newsprint, exhibition sites, audio and early film recordings) either as a group or did individual research on a question that was raised in class in real time (this is where the website I built was indispensable as all the resources we needed were centralized and accessible).  Making sure such classrooms are available was essential (and it was, it turns out, a struggle to find such space especially for a graduate class).
  3. I put in a good hundred hours building my website.  Some support for this would have been great too.

4. First struggles and successes: do you have any best-practice advice?

  1. Imagine your course as an overall process of active engagement and experimentation as opposed to being about a set of materials or themes.  Organize it it in terms of activities versus readings.
  2. Try to step out of your normal reflexes in designing your class.  As I got more deeply into the selection of my materials, I worried about the quality of individual samples — their canonicity in other words.  It finally dawned on me that this was exactly the wrong approach.  Letting the students be exposed to media more randomly and giving them tools for engaging with it meaningfully was far more useful pedagogically in terms of the development of their critical and interpretive skills.  They learned how to make fine distinctions between medium, platform, genre, device, formula, topos, so they actually learned to become better readers in a literary sense.  Even as they became increasingly fluent in these distinctions, they also became aware of how much, especially after the 1830s, the development of one genre and platform affected the development of others, even if they did not seem to share obvious affinities.
  3. Do not worry about the interest of any one artifact.  It turned out that the students were interested in everything, precisely because it fit into a whole web, both at the level of 19th-century media production, but also in the conversations we were having about it in class.

5. How would you like to challenge yourself in DH or media studies? Or what is a project you most seek to realize?

To learn about a new media form as a tool for teaching, but even more as a subject for research.  This applies as much to 19th-century media as to the latest platforms.  I am most invested in considering the problems media raises and solves in terms of communication, cognition, socialization, cultural impacts.  I am always interested in mastering new digital tools to be able to create new learning environments (while noting that in many of my classes I have a “no computer/phone” policy).  Ideally, I’d love to happen upon a question in my research that might lead, organically, to being able to develop a meaningful crowd-based research project. qa

As We Think: Designing Knowledge in a Maze of Hardware, Software, Middleware and Wetware

computerlibTwo weeks ago, I featured Jeffrey Schnapp’s video on Digital Humanities where he mentions emerging genres within DH that “don’t look like anything we are familiar with.” The go-to concept here has become knowledge design, a kind of humanist merging of information design, graphic design, and communication design. In truth, the more conventional – and boring – term would be scholarly communication. There’s no debate, however, that the changes communication is undergoing are profound.

Seriously: we are at the point of an epistemological turn in our digitized cultures. How do we gain, analyze, and disseminate knowledge? How is knowledge curated and archived? How do we translate ideas? How do (not only Western) notions of creativity, imagination, and production evolve and change in a multi-media environment? It is the task of the humanities to contribute to the shaping of new knowledge that is not accessible only in print and linear forms.

Ok, then. How do we do that? This scholarly-communication-cum-knowledge-design question presents, actually, a poignant issue for DHMS perspectives. Media studies scholars have engaged these design challenges for a while now, with Katherine Hayles’ how we think (2012) announcing that the “Age of Print is passing” and that we better acknowledge the accompanying changes in our wetware (aka neuro-network). Her title, of course, is a play on a much older piece by Vannevar Bush, “As We May Think” (1945), in which he describes the concept of the “Memex.”

The Memex, then, foreshadows Ted Nelson’s “hypertext,” coined in 1965. And his Computer Lib/Dream Machines already in 1974 emphasized the use of computers for knowledge design, decidedly a creative process in collaboration with audiences and through open access.memex

So knowledge design is not new. The end of books is not near. The humanities aren’t dead. But we are finding ourselves in the non-linear, multi-media, digitized universe of scholarly communication that appears to scream Nelson’s “You can and must understand computers NOW” at us. So as we may scramble somewhere between hardware, software and wetware, reaching for the comforting book or printout, it’s the middleware I find particularly interesting.

In 1986, the media theorist Friedrich Kittler declared that “media determine our situation.” Johanna Drucker and Patrik O. Svensson, based on their just published “The Why and How of Middleware” (2016), would argue that “middleware determine our knowledge design.” Whether it’s PowerPoint or Scalar or Zotero, middleware presents a “set of mediating and remediating protocols,” compelling us to look under the hood of the platforms we use as their design is set up to structure our thoughts. “At stake is how we may think as well as what we may think as we struggle to design environments that contain tools for thinking in arguments.”

Information Overload in Network Time II: How to Find Your Media Studies Community

Remember how last week I described trying to find the DH crowd that speaks your (disciplinary) language – only in “digital” – as getting lost in network time? Unsurprisingly, the same applies to trying to look for aspects of your work that overlap or integrate with media studies. Here, too, I predict you will need perspectives and platforms to rest upon. But “rest upon” becomes more like a balancing act on a tiny pole that struts out and may disappear again, should you linger too long. That’s because DH communities seem to be a lot more organized and structured compared to media studies folk. Which, of course, is part of media studies folk characteristics, what with interests in virtual reality here, cyberpunk lit (WHA???) there, game studies over yonder, and media theory as cultural theory way up back there. As maddening and disorienting as that may be, here are some coordinates to start with:

 

As Mitchell and Hansen, in their Critical Terms for Media Studies introduction, pointed out (see Blog #1), there are really two sides to media studies, empirical and interpretive. One is primarily focused on mass media, the other on the constitution of media and on knowledge design (see video in Blog #2), based on pretty classic humanities questions: how do media and technology change us over time? How do we change ourselves using media and technology? Here’s how media archeologist Erkki Huhtamo approaches these questions (think materialist anthropology by way of media studies):

 

 

 

Or watch DJ Spooky present The Secret Song and walk us through the mediation and remixes of music by way of – who’d have thunk it – Dziga Vertov:

 

 

 

 

How did I get to Paul Miller? By way of Martin Irvine’s ever-evolving introduction to Media Theory and Meaning Systems. For those with less time but in need of some basic terminology, the Keyword Glossary from the University of Chicago remains helpful. You could also get into the 7-volume International Encyclopedia of Media Studies, but, nah… not so much. Just saying.

 

I often find my vantage points by looking at the medium itself. What are some developments in books and literature and our reading habits? Visit the ELO and decide for yourself. The video essay, as mentioned by Miller above, is gaining traction for creative and scholarly communication, and there are different ways to explore it, for example, with media commons, especially [in]Transition, or by pinning down what it actually is. Interestingly, you will find most of them on vimeo, not youtube. For someone else to analyze… Then there is media art and a great many variations on the theme, including Leonardo, or ISEA. The Society for Cinema and Media Studies is the largest scholarly organization in the US to promote and study these different forms of media. Their site includes a long list of media studies journals. However, SCMS does not including really interesting works like ADA or Imaginations or Game Studies or Vectors, or… These gems you have to find on your own!

 

Information Overload in Network Time I: How to Find Your DH Community

As definitional efforts in Digital Humanities and Media Studies are ongoing – which better be the case in any field deeming itself vibrant (see last week’s post) – news items in these fields become a maze of hyperlinks. So you want to find out what’s going on? Where the workshops, conferences, unconferences, not-so-much-talks and virtual happenings are? This requires some structuring. Which topics do you seek to learn more about, which skills should YOU like to acquire, organizations to tap into? Or, for now, finding the crowd that speaks your language, only in “digital”? Not so user friendly. Because once you get lost in network time (I roughly define that as a virtual dangling off vines: you swing from one link to the next, working the rhythm of however fast your wifi allows, while utterly losing connection to a world that hosts material objects or human needs; just read Kenneth Goldsmith’s new book, Wasting Time on the Internet, he knows )… Because once you get lost in network time, I predict you will need perspectives and platforms to rest upon. Here are some:

 

DH organizations and tools exist aplenty, with the global network of institutes a good bet for basic information. Their publication initiative, DHCommons, provides a plethora of information on “how to”, “with whom,” “where,” including peer reviews of projects in progress or completed. Ditto for the ADHO, who also offer all kinds of resources. If playing with tools is your thing, a good place to start remains the DIRTdirectory. It pretty much provides a list of what you can do in DH with links between your desired task and the program that may help you accomplish it. Experimenters welcome. Alan Liu’s DH Toychest is another collection worth exploring, with clear connections between task and tool. Alert for your calendar: Alan Liu will join us at the UConn Humanities Institute in February 2017!

 

Individual clearing-house-type news outlets exist abundantly as well. I usually benefit from MIT’s Hyperstudio mailing, “h+d insights,” to which you can subscribe on their site. Info galore on conferences, blogs of interest, hot topics and more. DH Now is another informative outlet for digital scholarship. This week I applaud the Editor’s Choice on selecting Jason Heppler’s syllabus for Teaching Digital Public History. He has some great pointers, including a list by the untiring Beth Nowviskie, director of the Digital Library Federation, on how to start your digital project without incurring immediate headaches…

 

Then there is HASTAC, “reputed to be the world’s first and oldest academic social network.” ‘Nough said. Just visit and click, join a group, follow your interests. Especially graduate students are invited to become HASTAC scholars and benefit from the enormous network the organization makes available. A great teaching resource is also Hybrid Pedagogy, a journal that offers info on conferences, tools, critical perspectives on teaching with tech, and professional development.

 

Phew… This just a quick intro from my own vantage point to some DH resources out there, but this virtual dangling off vines can be exhausting. I invite you to take a break and view this lucid narrative by Jeffrey Schnapp, founder and director of Harvard’s metaLAB, on how computers and the digital realm entered the traditional humanities and move us beyond print knowledge into ‘knowledge design’:

The Digital in the Humanities, the Media all around Us

Welcome to a new academic year, welcome to a new initiative by the UConn Humanities Institute: Digital Humanities and Media Studies (DHMS) will feature prominently in future UCHI programming with talks, workshops, resources, news, dialog. Most importantly, we seek to build our nascent DHMS community across campus and beyond. Networks already exist between the library, the Department of Digital Media and Design, the Humanities Institute and the departments it brings together. However, a strong community still needs creating. What do I mean by a DHMS community at UConn? Faculty, grad students, and librarians who have expressed interest or are already experienced in exploring digital scholarship and media studies should feel welcome to meet, hang out, experiment, learn, seek support, and trade practices for research and scholarship in DHMS territories. Ideas and suggestions welcome!

 

These sister territories, despite established canons and modes of work, continue to require definitional efforts; integration with traditional academic scholarship; a multitude of technical support; and collaboration, an essential concept or tool for work in DHMS. For those new to DH scholarship, I recommend taking a look at the ongoing interviews with DH scholars in the LA Review of Books. Choose one, choose a couple, get hooked and read them all. The views presented will provide insight into diverse and interdisciplinary areas of inquiry with digital tools (in other words, don’t ask “what IS DH???”, just begin somewhere and continue). The views may also wet your appetite, whether you are an experienced participant or not, to (re)think, (re)do or (re)quest, based on where you are in your own intellectual scouting. As for media studies – and there is considerable overlap between DH and MS – I recommend the introduction to Critical Terms in Media Studies, edited by Mark Hansen and W.J.T Mitchell. Frankly, I myself have given up on definitional efforts. Media Studies, as most scholars willingly admit, is interculturally amorphous, pretty much all-encompassing if you go by the definition of “medium” and rich with a very long history, reaching back to classic philosophy (think Plato’s cave). Given this potential agoraphobia, sub-fields that have established their own canons by now help with orientation: media theory, media aesthetics, media ecology, media history, mass media, media archeology, software studies…

 

As the (brand)new Assistant Director for Digital Humanities and Media Studies at the Humanities Institute, I invite you to join me: come to events, share resources, collaborate, exchange ideas, brainstorm projects, request support, and look at this new UCHI initiative as a hub for coming together and join. Please write to me (anke.finger@uconn.edu) any time about information you seek, with information you seek to share, ideas and suggestions. Time permitting, I also invite you to write one of the weekly blog posts: present projects, discuss issues of general interest, or bring attention to items as yet underexplored. I look forward to hearing from you!

Anke