Browse Category: American Studies

“What Do Keywords Do?” – Keywords Collaboratory Talk This Week

The Keywords Collaboratory, a project of Fordham University English and American Studies professor Glenn Hendler and Professor Bruce Burgettt of the University of Washington at Bothell, has been the focus of presentations at two recent national conferences: the October 2011 Mobility Shifts Conference at the New School for Social Research and the January 2012 Modern Language Association Annual Meeting in Seattle.

In case you missed these events, you have another chance to learn about the Collaboratory  this week. Hendler and Burgett, who developed the Collaboratory to accompany their 2007 anthology Keywords for American Cultural Studies (NYU Press) will discuss the critical and creative potential of keywords to catalyze interdisciplinary conversation this coming Friday, February 10th, at 4pm at the Humanities Center of the City University of New York Graduate Center.  This public program is co-sponsered by the Revolutionizing American Studies Seminar and the CUNY-Graduate Center’s Ph.D. Program in English. 

What Do Keywords Do?
a talk by Glenn Hendler and Bruce Burgett
February 10, 2012 – 4pm
City University of New York – Graduate Center
English Lounge (Room 4406)

34th Street and Fifth Avenue, New York City

Food Historian Gabriella Petrick to Speak on Using Digital Technology to Map Urban Life

Gabriella M. Petrick, Ph.D.

Food historian and digital scholar Gabriella M. Petrick will speak on “Food and the Sensory City: Using Digital History to Map Everyday Life in 20th-Century New York” at Fordham University’s Bronx campus on Thursday, September 15, at 5:15pm. Dr. Petrick’s talk will explore the use of geographic information systems (GIS) for research on ethnic bakeries in urban contexts.  This is the first in a year-long series of public events highlighting the use of new digital technologies for humanities and social science scholarship.

Dr. Petrick’s book, Industrializing Taste: Food Processing and the Transformation of the American Diet, 1900-1965, forthcoming from Johns Hopkins University Press, analyzes how new food processing techniques transformed the foods available to American consumers as well as how housewives incorporated these new industrial foods into their family’s diet over the course of the last century. She is also working on a second book project entitled Sweet, Sour, Salty, Bitter: Taste in History, for the sensory history series at the University of Illinois Press.

Dr. Petrick earned her doctoral degree from the University of Delaware as a Hagley Fellow and is currently an Associate Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and History in the Department of Nutrition, and Food Studies at George Mason University.  Her interdisciplinary research on food combines the fields of the history of technology, sensory history, environmental history and the history of science. Additionally Dr. Petrick’s training at the Culinary Institute of America, Cornell University and at several wineries in Napa and Sonoma Counties has shaped her theoretical approach to taste.

The recipient of many awards for her scholarship, including the Hindle Postdoctoral Fellowship from the Society for the History of Technology, the W. Gabriel Carras Award for Junior Scholars from the Steinhardt School, New York University, and a National Science Foundation Grant, Petrick also publishes in the Journal of American History, Agricultural History, and History and Technology, among other journals and edited volumes.

Dr. Petrick’s lecture will take place at Fordham’s Dealy Hall (Room 204) on the University’s Bronx (Rose Hill) campus at 441 East Fordham Road.  The closest campus entrances to access Dealy Hall are just off of Webster Avenue and East Fordham Road, or at Fordham Road and Bathgate Avenue.  View map for directions.

This lecture is co-sponsored by the American Studies Program, the Urban Studies Program, the History Department, the English Department, the Dean of Fordham College at Rose Hill, and the Digital Humanities Working Group.

Scalar: An Option for Digital Humanities Publishing

Malibu Beach Surfer, 2011. Photo by R. Goldwitz

This post is by Elizabeth Cornell, a doctoral candidate in the Department of English at Fordham University. She’s been reporting on her recent summer residency at the NEH-Vectors-CTS Summer Institute at the University of Southern California. She is also the Project Coordinator for the Keywords Collaboratory, a wiki-based space where students and researchers can collaborate on keywords projects inspired by the book, Keywords for American Cultural Studies, edited by Bruce Burgett and Glenn Hendler. This is her last installment.

Oliver Wang has written a book exploring the social history of Filipino American mobile DJ crews in the Bay Area, forthcoming from Duke UP. His visual archive contains video footage of that scene and hundreds of different DJ crew business cards. These days, the web is great place to make a book’s visual archive available to readers. But dumping all that multimedia onto YouTube can defeat the critical purpose of offering it in the first place. And building a web site is time consuming and expensive. One solution, as I mentioned in an earlier post, is the publishing platform Scalar, under development at the University of Southern California, which allows for a clean integration of text and multimedia.

On the first day of the Vectors-CTS Summer Institute on Digital Approaches to American Studies, held at USC, Oliver and other participants presented the material they planned to develop with Scalar.

Another project was Carrie Rentschler’s “38 Witnesses: A Media Archive of the Kitty Genovese Murder.” The 1964 murder is well-known, in part because no witness came to the young woman’s aid. In her Scalar project, Carrie’s textual commentary complements archival resources and recent cinematographic attempts from student to professional film makers to show how the life and death of Genovese has been mediated in her life after death. Scalar allows Oliver and Carrie to interface text with image in dynamic, often nonlinear ways, greatly expanding the depth of their arguments.

After seeing these and other presentations with their rich visual, audio, and textual resources, I was elated. But I felt a little glum about my own project, a largely text-only endeavor. I was attending the Institute to explore how Scalar might at some point be used as a companion to Glenn Hendler and Bruce Burgett’s book, Keywords for American Cultural Studies. Another goal was to investigate how the Keywords Collaboratory—a MediaWiki where students around the country produce largely text-based essays on keywords they’re tracing in their coursework—might be transformed by a platform such as Scalar.

Fortunately, my glumness quickly evaporated. At the Institute I had a design team made up of deeply creative individuals: Tara McPherson, leader of the Institute; John Carlos Rowe, American Studies scholar; and Craig Dietrich, one of Scalar’s two main creators. The keywords project interests them because it does not have extensive multimedia material associated with it. They want to see how Scalar might be used in a largely text-based way and, at the same time, leave the portals open for people who wish to add multimedia. They also are interested in how Scalar might serve as pedagogical tool for collaborative work, an essential component of the keywords project.

Scalar does seem promising: Users can easily add text and upload multimedia; no HTML knowledge required. When it comes to collaborating, it’s possible to see who contributed what and when, and to view the project’s version history. The finished project looks clean and is easy to read, whether there’s only text or image on the page, or text and image. Readers and authors can leave comments for each other. Unique tags link to the book’s pages, sources, and images, revealing relationships among seemingly disparate elements and encouraging nonlinear navigation of the article or book.

Scalar still has some kinks that need working out. But for the humanities students who were born wired, Scalar might be the answer to the MediaWiki’s limitations. For the humanities scholar who feels frustrated by current digital publishing platforms, or simply fears the learning curve involved with new technology, Scalar might be the answer, too.

Travel Blog: Finding New Ways to Publish in the Digital Humanities

A visualization of media and their relationships to the pages in a Scalar book.

Post written by Elizabeth Cornell. This month Elizabeth Cornell, a doctoral candidate in the Department of English at Fordham University, will be reporting on her summer residency at the NEH-Vectors-CTS Summer Institute at the University of Southern California. She is also the Project Coordinator for the Keywords Collaboratory, a wiki-based space where students and researchers can collaborate on keywords projects inspired by the book, Keywords for American Cultural Studies, edited by Bruce Burgett and Glenn Hendler. This is the second installment of her report.

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For most students and researchers working in the humanities, Microsoft Word is an essential and, when it’s not causing a frustrating formatting problem, transparent tool. But Word’s usefulness is somewhat limited in the digital humanities, where people value collaborating with others; reaching a wide audience inside and outside the academic world; commenting on the work of others; and using multimedia. If Word can do any of these things, it does so in a very limited way.

Of course, there are blogs, wikis, and web sites. They are better at displaying images and pointing readers toward other multimodalities. Readers can comment on blogs and writers can collaborate on a wiki article. Web sites are a more involved product and most researchers would rather be researching and writing than taking the time to plan and design a useful site. The advantage to these forums is that, unlike a book, they are not static; the information they contain can be modified. But what about, for example, a cinema studies paper that needs to draw on a large amount of original source material? What about researchers with access to large, often personal, databases and visual, audio, and digitized print archives? How do you get that multimedia to interface with text and commentary in a seamless, elegant way?

Enter the software platform, Scalar. As I mentioned in my previous post, Scalar is under development at USC and designed specifically for people working in the humanities. It facilitates the kinds of analytical and contextual arguments that have long been central to humanities-based research. Scalar allows for a dynamic exchange between readers and writers. Authors can use multimedia to illustrate their essays or add a visual argument to them. Paths link different pages and sources together in varying configurations, releasing us from the linear, left to right hierarchy of the printed book. Unique metadata such as tags can be added to the pages and media in Scalar, allowing authors to devise their own nuanced systems of categorization and identification. This encourages connections between terms, subjects, and sources that otherwise may not be obvious. In addition, Scalar allows collaboration among multiple authors on a single work. Readers can leave comments and, in some cases, add to the book their own written and visual material.

Scalar makes it easy for users to draw directly from multimedia databases and archives such as Critical Commons and the Internet Archives, two sites with vast holdings of multimedia curated and uploaded by researchers and educators to be used for critical purposes. The material collected on these sites ranges from digitized books in the public domain to video interviews with Holocaust survivors to clips from “The Simpsons.” The use of the material is protected by fair use agreements and a code of best practices for copyrighted material used without permission. (For more information about fair use, see American University’s Center for Social Media website.)

For my next post, I’ll offer more details about my project at the NEH Vectors-CTS Institute in the Digital Humanities, which is to develop into a Scalar book several essays from Glenn Hendler and Bruce Burgett’s book, Keywords for American Cultural Studies.

News: Fordham Graduate Student Chosen for Prestigious Digital Fellowship

Elizabeth Cornell, a doctoral candidate in the English Department and Project Coordinator for the Keywords Collaboratory, has been selected as a fellow of the 2011 NEH–Summer Institute on Digital Approaches to American Studies hosted by Vectors and the University of Southern California’s Center for Transformative Scholarship.  While in residence at USC in July and August she will be working on the re-design of the Keywords Collaboratory website that just moved to Fordham. The revamped site will launch in 2012, coinciding with the publication of the second edition of Glenn Hendler and Bruce Burgett’s Keywords for American Cultural Studies.  Congratulations to Elizabeth, Glenn, and Bruce!

Digital Humanities: At Home at Fordham

History: In Spring 2010 a group of Fordham faculty, senior administrators, librarians, research officers, and information technologists began meeting to share our digital humanities projects and to assess the resources needed to foster digital and computational humanities scholarship at our university. The Fordham Digital Humanities Working Group meets regularly to promote digital scholarship at our university.

Jesuit Scholarship and Computational Humanities: One of the first things our working group learned was that digital humanities scholarship has been part of the Jesuit research tradition since the mid-20th century, when Italian Jesuit priest Roberto Busa, S.J., persuaded IBM founder Thomas J. Watson to support his a complete lemmatization of the works of Thomas Aquinas and a few related authors. It was 1951 when Busa and his IBM colleagues created the programming for the first machine-generated concordance.1 The Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations honors lifetime achievement in the digital humanities with an award named for this digital pioneer, the triennial Roberto Busa Prize.

Digital Scholarship at Fordham Today:  Digital humanities scholarship at Fordham is very much alive, with resources such as the Internet Medieval Sourcebook, maintained by Fordham’s Center for Medieval Studies, under the directorship of Professor Maryanne Kowaleski. At one time this groundbreaking project accounted for nearly three-quarters of all traffic to the University’s website. The Center for Medieval Studies is also home to multiple resources, including sites devoted to source documents on the medieval French in England, Italy, and Outremer.

Fordham art historian Barbara Mundy, in collaboration with Smith College professor Dana Liebsohn, produced Vistas: Visual Culture in Spanish America, 1520-1820 Cultura visual de Hispanoamérica, 1520–1820, the definitive online resource on colonial Spanish American culture. Vistas was supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, and a DVD version of Vistas was published in 2010 by the University of Texas Press.

This year Fordham welcomed the Keywords Collaboratory, the collaborative learning site that accompanies Glenn Hendler and Bruce Burgett’s American Studies classic: Keywords for American Cultural Studies.  Dozens of classes nationwide have used the Keywords wiki to parse the meaning of key cultural terms. Keywords Project Coordinator Elizabeth Cornell will participate in the 2011 NEH–Summer Institute on Digital Approaches to American Studies hosted by Vectors and the University of Southern California’s Center for Transformative Scholarship, where she will explore new possibilities for the Keywords Collaboratory.

Coming Attractions: Projects currently under development by Fordham faculty include the DigitalHudson, a library of searchable digitized materials about the history of the Hudson River curated by Roger Panetta; the Yaddo Archive Project, a cultural network mapping project that explores the lives and work of artists affiliated with Yaddo, led by Micki McGee; and The Latin Works of John Wyclif, a searchable digital collection of the Latin philosophical and theological works of John Wyclif, developed by Patrick Hornbeck.

Visit us often here at Fordham Digital Humanities for news regarding our planning, projects, and progress.

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