Archive for March, 2011

GIS: Geography as Digital Art

Learning to make maps with GIS is  the most profound way to learn geography. Learning by doing. Learning by making.

Unlike pre-packaged images, creating a map with GIS is also like designing artwork in Photoshop or Illustrator. You control the pen, the color, the thickness of the line.  You chose to highlight the items you want people to see and fade the less important ones.

And if you like math, you can compare areas or geographic shapes, measure distances, calculate angles.




Digital texts, online identity and political blogging

English Professor Jerome McGann, of the University of Virginia, writes, “Electronic scholarship and editing necessarily draw their primary models from long-standing philological practices in language study, textual scholarship, and bibliography. As we know, these three core disciplines preserve but a ghostly presence in most of our Ph.D. programs.” Do McGann’s comments take on a special relevance now that a judge has limited the ambitious and commercial aspects of Google Books? What should be the future of electronic libraries and who should edit the texts in their new format? (I write more thoroughly about the issue here).

How can students and faculty create productive online identities? How should online instructors model for students as they create an online identity? What constitutes too much information in the world of Facebook and iPhones?

As a longtime progressive political blogger, I wonder about these questions: What is the future of blogging as more and more words and multi-media artifacts crowd the information highway? Can open source platforms, such as Word Press and Drupal, keep current and relevant against the continuing commercialization of the Internet? What about archival systems when it comes to saving a written political history without a hard copy?

Reproduction, Technology, Narrative

I would like to discuss research or teaching people are doing in the area of reproductive technology and its representations in popular culture and online. The community of Assisted Reproduction Therapy (ART) bloggers is huge and growing, as is online activism surrounding reproductive choice issues. Stories about surrogacy and in vitro fertilization like the New York Times’ recent Meet the Twiblings continue to inspire strong reactions. What relationship does/should exist between these narratives and digital humanities? How does reproductive technology (now including cloning, stem cell research, etc.) complicate how we discuss “technology” and “reproduction”? Can texts about reproductive technology and ART be used productively in the classroom?
I have written a little about class issues in the ART blogosphere and have taught a class on the Literature of Birth Control in which we discussed connections between technology and reproduction, so I have a few thoughts, but I’m mostly interested in getting together with others to brainstorm approaches, texts, and teaching ideas for getting at this ideological/mechanical/political/biological nexus.

Literature and GIS

My ideal session would be one in which participants discuss their experiences with GIS and literature projects. My contribution would be the presentation of a current project which uses Google maps to mark locations and routes of characters in James Joyce’s Dubliners and A Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man. Specific topics the session might explore would be how best to present the relationship between original texts and the visualization of geographic spaces, how best to represent patterns between texts while also thoroughly treating each individual text, the potentials and limitations of data migration when using Google maps for such projects, and the benefits and drawbacks of open collaboration on web-based projects.

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Text Tools for Grad Students

Here’s my second session idea: I’m a member of the Linguistic Society of America’s Technology Advisory Committee, which is putting together a panel on tech tools for linguistics students. I’d love to learn as much as I can on what’s currently being used in working with text data so that I can spread the word at the next LSA meeting in January. I’m seeking ways to encourage more use of relevant tech tools by grad students: Especially, what do current gatherers of language materials need to know how to do? What tools are being taught in other programs? Are they fit into existing courses or set up as separate informatics type classes or workshops? Aside from social networking, linguists sometimes use tools specifically for dealing with text files, including concordancing tools like AntConc, database tools like Flex, and some UNIX scripting, maybe in perl or R.  What others are key in your discipline? (This may be the hands-on aspect of the more conceptual framework raised by Jessica’s session suggestion.)

Compiling a contemporary corpus

There are two topics I’m interested in right now. Here’s my first session idea: I’m compiling a corpus of both old and new media vernacular texts as part of a semantic/anthropological examination of American beliefs about health. (It’s called CADOH—Corpus of American Discourses on Health). I’ve been using the pilot stages of it to look at the distribution of terms such as fat, stress, cold, and oil.  I’m envisioning its final form as a mix of vernacular discussions. While good corpora exist already for prose from contemporary magazine, newspaper, and fiction (e.g. COCA), I’m aiming to include more transient conversations about health, including blog posts and their comments, listervs, online forums and wikis, letters to the editor, and radio transcripts. So I’m proposing a helpathon in order to hear from others who have dealt with compiling current materials. The bootcamp sessions on the text encoding initiative, managing digital projects, and using regular expressions should all be helpful. But I’d also like to compare information on ways to gather, annotate, and share text samples. In using xml to annotate the metadata, what have others have found most useful– hand coding? Oxygen? Other resources? To make it useful for others, I’ll need to get copyright access for sharing. What ways to request copyrighted info have been helpful? (besides a big pot of money.) And, once the copyright issues are dealt with, what’s the best way to make the corpus accessible? Would this be a good Omeka project?

Theorizing Digital Archives for Graduate Students

In Fall 2011, I will be teaching a graduate class on digital archives of medieval and early modern materials (description: What I want to deal with in this class is not only the “traditional” research that can be conducted using the abundance of digital archives that are out there, but also the interpretive and theoretical moves that must be made on the development side before the archive even becomes available. I want to help my students think critically about how everything they encounter (printed books included) is mediated in some way. The conversation about how to talk to students about these issues of interpretation and theory in digitization work could be a very fruitful one. How does one explain TEI, for example, to someone who sees herself primarily as a reader of printed books? Or how does one get a student to ask questions about a “repository” he’s been using for years?

Using the Government to Grow Digital Humanities

I would like to propose a session on how the U.S. government can help  create programs that grow the digital humanities environment.  Currently there are publicly funded organizations such as the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), however  the implementation of more organizations and programs  that specifically focus on digital humanities could enable others to discover and learn about  more about the field. Additionally this could lead to research and studies that  enable us to find new  innovative ways of using digital humanities within different industries.

Right  now everyone is pretty much aware that there are many unresolved  ongoing issues regarding the federal budget, however if we properly invest I believe that we will definitely receive a great return on investment. I  also suppose  that the bigger question is how to manage the programs to make sure that they are not only able  sustain, but also effectively utilizing the taxpayers dollars.

I may not have all  the answers to the questions I have proposed,  but i do have a few suggestions to bring to the table. I believe that we all will have something to contribute if this session is implemented and I’m looking forward to meeting  and discussing these issues with all of you.


The 21st Century Canon: Iconic Texts and the Internet

Perhaps the best way to describe my session idea is to provide some detail information on my current project.  This project is an article that concerns lucidity in communication and derives from my advanced composition class.  It concerns the comparison of the internet as an iconic text with canonical (or iconic) literature from the twentieth century.  The article focuses on using the internet along with literary material to teach composition and rhetoric, particularly to help college students identify how icons are formed in contemporary western culture and how that formation imbues objects with meaning.  It begins with a discussion with students over iconography and ideas of physical space on the internet.  For example, how one displays his or her facebook or myspace page identifies images or styles that can actually be numerated as icons.  With myspace, one can enumerate what font (Helvetica, Times New Roman, etc…) is predominantly used and why.  Also, with the rise of twitter, subject matter creates new communities of people communicating together.  The internet basically establishes a democratization of icons at a certain level that previous media did not.  Finally, the utilitarian aspect of the internet as a form of individual communication drives western iconography away from a postmodern concept of detachment, freeing the student of the disengagement demanded of icons of postmodernism.  Keeping up with the technological advances in communication allows for a more cohesive community, especially when that community is marginalized.  Therefore, I would like to have a discussion session concerning how icons and memes over the internet can not only strengthen marginalized communities, but also propel those communities into popular culture.

Social Media for the Academic Institution

It is more or less clear the power that various social media platforms have for individual to individual interaction but how can a university or a department build a similar connection? The session I propose regards how different institutions – libraries, academics departments, universities – can use various social media platforms to engage their respective audiences.

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