Browse Category: Fordham

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: NEH Digital Start-Up Grant Awarded for Fordham-Initiated Compatible Data Summit

The National Endowment for the Humanities Office of Digital Humanities awarded a nearly $25,000 Digital Start-Up grant to Fordham University Sociology and Anthropology professor Micki McGee to convene a September 2011 meeting on fostering open access interoperable data. The Compatible Data Initiative, or CompDB, was one of just 22 projects funded in the competition. CompDB aims to focus scholars working in digital network mapping projects on developing conventions that will will make their data interoperable to allow for cross-project connections.  

Scholars from the University of Nebraska, the University of Southern California, the University of California-Berkeley, Indiana University-Bloomington, Lehigh Univerisity, and the University of Virginia will meet to brainstorm on data standards. This project has been developed in collaboration with The Corporation of Yaddo, one of America’s oldest and most distinguished artists’ retreats, and the New York Public Library’s Division of Manuscripts and Archives, where Yaddo’s records are housed. 

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!

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