Browse Category: NEH

Patrick Burns and Jon Stanfill named as Fordham’s 2012-13 HASTAC Scholars

The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, in collaboration with the Digital Humanities Working Group, is pleased to announce the second year of Fordham’s GSAS-sponsored HASTAC Scholars with awards to Patrick J. Burns, a Senior Teaching Fellow in the Department of Classics, and Jon Stanfill, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Theology.

Patrick Burns (Classics)
2012-13 HASTAC Scholar

Burns’ digital research focuses on the application of corpus-linguistics methodologies, such as tree banking, annotation, and the use of the Python Natural Language Toolkit in the study of Latin literature.  Burns participated in the NEH-sponsored Summer Institute on the Perseus Project held at Tufts University last summer that explored many of these topics. He has also been at work on a digital teaching resource, the Tin Latin Reader, which he uses in the Latin courses he teaches.

Jon Stanfill (Theology)
2012-13 HASTAC Scholar

Stanfill will be investigating both the pedagogical possibilities of experiencing the world of Byzantium in the virtual realm, and the promise of cladistic analysis, which uses evolutionary biological algorithms for the editing of medieval manuscripts. Stanfill traces his interest in cladistic analysis to a seminar taught by Center for Teaching Excellence Director and medieval studies scholar Erick Keleman.

HASTAC (an acronym for Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory, pronounced “haystack”) is an international network of undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, librarians, archivists, museum curators, publishers, and IT specialists. Members of the HASTAC community blog, host forums, organize events, and discuss new ideas, projects, and technologies that reconceive teaching, learning, research, writing and structuring knowledge.

The HASTAC Scholars program fosters an innovative community of graduate students nominated and sponsored by their institutions to participate in an online community focused on digital scholarship, pedagogy, and publishing. The award comes with a modest honorarium and access to campus digital humanities mentorship, as well as the opportunity to participate in the dynamic online community that includes HASTAC Scholars from more than 75 universities from around the world.

The 2011-2012 Fordham HASTAC scholarship, which marked the university’s inaugural year participating in the program, went to Elizabeth Cornell, a pre-doctoral fellow in the Department of English, for her work on the Keywords Collaboratory, an interactive project directed by Fordham English professor Glenn Hendler and University of Washington professor Bruce Burgett.

The Digital Humanities Working Group and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences plan to make the HASTAC Scholars program an annual award, with application deadlines in early September 2013. Stay tuned for more information.

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.

Travel Blog: Finding Joy at the 2011 NEH Vectors-CTS Institute at USC

The Institute for Multimedia Literacy, USC (Richard Neutra Building)
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 first installment of her report. Welcome, Elizabeth!


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On a recent plane trip to Los Angeles, I read Jennifer Kahn’s New Yorker profile of Jaron Lanier, a pioneer of virtual reality. According to Lanier, digital technology should aim to enhance and deepen “human interaction”:

“One of [Lanier’s] most recent ventures has been to help Microsoft construct a new, joystick-free gaming system, called the Kinect, which uses a computerized camera to match the movements of a player’s body to the avatar in the game—allowing someone to kick a virtual ninja using her actual foot.”

Lanier considers Kinect, “the fastest selling-electronic device of all time, … an example of technology that could ‘expand what it means to think.’” To me, a real human kicking a computerized ninja is a strange, if not depressing, example of digital technology expanding the mind and deepening human interaction. Maybe I’m not fully appreciating the technological expertise behind a joystick-free video game.

Perhaps my reaction to that comment is because in the digital humanities, real human interaction and collaboration, exciting thinking and knowledge production, is taking place through the use of technology. Some of it is happening at the National Endowment for the Humanities Vectors-CTS Institute at USC. For one month this summer, twenty researchers from various North American institutions are attending the Institute to learn about software platforms designed specifically for use by humanities scholars. The projects this summer are contextualized within the field of American Studies, but the similarities end there. And, no joysticks are in sight.

For example, Curtis Marez, an associate professor in ethnic studies at UC San Diego, is developing a project that uses Cesar Chavez’s video library to explore the role that video and photography and played in struggles between California corporations and workers of color in the agricultural industries of the San Joaquin Valley from the 1940s to the 1990s.

Nicholas Sammond, an associate professor of cinema studies and English at the University of Toronto, is creating a project that examines the relationship between the industrialization of American commercial animation and blackface minstrelsy. Why, he asks, does Mickey Mouse wear white gloves?

Like many people attending the Institute, both Curtis and Nic are using historically significant archives of film and photography to build on the material in their print-based books on related subjects. To create their projects, they’ll use two different but connected software platforms called Hypercities and Scalar. Unlike a book, which is static, these two platforms allow users to add additional visual material to the database, as well as detailed commentary, audio, and interactive maps. Visitors can leave comments; in some cases they can add their own archival material and create new links and paths to related web sites and archives.

If Lanier and, for that matter, his boss, Bill Gates, really want to see digital technology in meaningful action, they should visit USC’s NEH Vectors Institute this summer, where people are using technology to expand the way we think and using it to produce knowledge in innovative, significant ways.

I’ll be at the Institute until mid-August, where I’m exploring ways that Scalar and Hypercities might make Prof. Glenn Hendler’s Keywords Collaboratory a more dynamic, multimodal space for students and researchers. In my next blog entry, I’ll write more about that.

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!

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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