The Stainforth Project and Digital Humanities at Dartmouth College

The Stainforth Library of Women Writers digital archive project now has a second home on Dartmouth’s new Digital Humanities website and among other DH projects at Dartmouth. Projects that it has the most in common with include The Occom Circle project as well as the Media Ecology Project. See below for project descriptions and links.

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The Dartmouth DH website situates the Stainforth project among other DH projects underway at Dartmouth, including (and there are more!)

  • The Bregman Research Studio’s study “Brain, Music, and Auditory Representational Space” (BMARS) and work on the nature of audio-visual experience seeks to answer questions like: What makes music move us? How do we derive meaning from music and images? What new types of experiences and technologies are possible in the audio-visual domain? What is the future of audio-visual art and music?
  • The Dante Lab: Dante Lab is an online application that allows students and scholars of the Divine Comedy to read and compare up to four text editions from the site’s database simultaneously. The objective of Dante Lab is to create a virtual workspace that accounts for the needs of both students and novices to the poem, as well as serious scholars engaged in contemporary Dante Studies. The Dante Lab reader was inspired by the ‘analogue’ workspace of the professional Dantista, who needs quick and easy access not only to the text of the poem’s three canticles, but also to the early commentaries, notes from numerous recent editions, and a concordance that facilitates philological research and interpretive criticism.
  • The Media Ecology Project (MEP) is a digital resource at Dartmouth that will facilitate the awareness of and critical study of Media Ecology: the dynamic ecology of historical media in relation to the public sphere and public memory. The Media Ecology Project provides online access to primary moving image research materials, and engages dynamic new forms of scholarly production and online publishing.
  • Metadata Games: a digital gaming platform for gathering data on photo, audio, and moving image artifacts. The platform entices players to visit archives and explore humanities content while contributing to vital records. Metadata Games is free and open source software (FOSS) developed by Tiltfactor, Dartmouth College‘s socially conscious game design laboratory, with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the ACLS.
  • The Occom Circle Project: a freely accessible, digital edition of documents by and about Samson Occom (1727-1792) housed in Dartmouth College. Occom was a Mohegan Indian, Presbyterian minister and missionary, intertribal leader, public intellectual, and important Indian writer. Dartmouth’s archives hold a wealth of primary materials pertaining to Occom and his circle, which included Eleazar Wheelock, founder of Moor’s Indian Charity School in Lebanon, CT, other Native American students at Moor’s, and a wide range of prominent figures in North America and Great Britain involved in Indian missionary efforts.

What does this mean for the Stainforth Project?

At base, it means that the Stainforth project team has a community of digital humanists at Dartmouth, in addition to those at CU-Boulder, to work with and alongside. Even if this community is a sort of virtual community, it is within an institution as well as between several institutions. For most of my time as a DHer, dating back to 2008, I have rarely felt like my institution housed a community of DH scholars and projects in addition to the one project I happened to be working on and/or the one DH scholar I happened to be working with. For example, this one scholar and project was, at Miami U, Laura Mandell and The Poetess Archive or whatever NINES or Romantic Circles project she was involved with. At CU-Boulder, the library started building such a working group last year, and Special Collections, in particular, supports several initiatives and projects that fall within DH methodologies and products. This kind of institutional support, for me, is new. The Media Archaeology Lab at CU-Boulder is an example of a project there that helped make a DH “community” of scholars and work in addition to the Stainforth project.

Having an institutional population of projects means, for one, that DH work has a shot at being perceived as scholarly production, and it also has a shot at counting toward promotion and tenure, despite the fact that DH projects tend not to fit a singular mold or genre, like a book project does. The range of scholars and departments represented in Dartmouth’s DH website hub traverses a spectrum of disciplines, including history, musicology, physiology, art history, women’s studies, literary studies, American Indian studies, and film studies, to name a few. The projects themselves range from games to digital archives.

Having a DH hub here also means that we can, I hope, share our resources and knowledge on campus to get more done, or do things we might not on our own know how to do, in a shorter amount of time and on a skinnier budget. For example, when brainstorming how to approach designing interfaces for the Stainforth, I will approach the DALI lab or Tiltfactor for ideas in addition to my own initial plan to use Processing and ideas the CU-B team has. I recently had coffee with an editor of the Occom Circle Project and compared my own editorial procedures for transcription and markup of the Stainforth catalog with their markup and transcription procedures. I learned that, in this particular instance of wanting to transcribe first and then revisit to markup the transcription, my instincts were correct. I also confirmed hunches for things we will need to change during our editorial passes.

What are we doing right now, and how does that relate to the group of DH projects at Dartmouth?

Right now, the Stainforth team is completing raw transcription of the manuscript’s 508 pages of acquisitions–the list of the books that Stainforth acquired through purchases or other means. Transcribers (myself, Michael Harris, and Deven Parker) are about 50 pages away from finishing this massive effort. Our next step is to edit the transcription files and then apply TEI tags to the elements in the transcription in order to make them searchable. The Occom Circle’s editorial team in the English Dept. and the library, in particular, will be a very valuable resource to consult in establishing the guidelines for our post-transcription editorial and tagging phases.

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Digital Crucible Presentation, Oct. 6-7 (Dartmouth College)

I recently presented a talk at the Digital Crucible conference at Dartmouth College, Oct 6-7, 2014. Here is my original abstract as a placeholder. In the near future, I will post a revised and updated version of the talk I delivered, along with my slides. I am in the process of making revisions to account from some very helpful feedback I received from conference participants. Special thanks to Amanda French, Kelli Towers Jasper, Dan Shore, Ivy Schweitzer, and Tom Luxon for your responses and questions.

Original title:

19th-c. Library Catalogs & Stainforth’s Feminist Archive of Women’s Writing

Abstract:

My talk considers one history of the gathering, manipulating, and analysis of data in the nineteenth century: that which originates in the field of bibliography. I address the “book fever” of the nineteenth century specifically as it produced the symptom of “library catalog fever” as well as how those catalogs related to the household space of the library and a gentleman’s study—rooms that were without question gendered. I will argue that that Rev. John Francis Stainforth’s library catalog manuscript (1867) offers a feminist interpretation of a nineteenth-century library and its catalog. Studying the Stainforth library and catalog has the potential to help scholars recognize our own ideologies, systems, architectures, and discourses that govern current digital archiving practices.

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Dissertation Abstract

The Diorama and the Book in the Romantic Era and Nineteenth Century (1780-1860): “Still Craving Combinations of New Forms”

Dissertation Committee: Jeff Cox, Lori Emerson, Jillian Heydt-Stevenson (Director), Laura Mandell, Paul Youngquist

(Defense completed July 2014, degree conferred August 2014)

This media archaeology project draws critical attention to the diorama as a Romantic-era mixed-media art form that included an important print component—an accompanying booklet—in each show, and that also had long-lasting intermedial effects on book history in the nineteenth century that have not yet been studied. The diorama’s early life in print contributes to its identity as an enigmatic media miscellany as well as its varied influences on authors throughout the nineteenth century. I show that whether writers like Rodolphe Töpffer reacted negatively toward the diorama, or those like James Hogg incorporated textual dioramas into their work, they used the diorama to innovate new forms of the book and to subvert established narrative formats and techniques. I also suggest that we can use the dioramic as a lens to better understand the delicacy and illusory qualities of romantic book collections and related heterotopic spaces, such as Walter Scott’s library in Abbotsford.

The traits that made the diorama desirable for authors to adopt include its relationships to the genre of the miscellany and to picturesque travel writing and drawing. That is, the diorama participates and contributes to a widespread culture of artistic creation and authorship by collecting and recombining material or media in such a way that they do, indeed, generate something new. However, the dioramists’ illusions and their re-expression in books often hide the precise recipe of media and technologies behind the rhetoric of magic. This is one indication of how Romantic-era authors coped with profound changes in book production similar to those occurring now, in the twenty-first century, as technological advances have drastically increased the number and kinds of texts and platforms available for consumers. Due to the superfluity of books in circulation in the Romantic era, authors felt empowered to create by combining previously published texts or by incorporating existing media, like the diorama, in new ways—a mode of authorship we know as remixing. The diorama’s re-expression in books in the Romantic era, as I uncover in this dissertation, marks a moment of innovation as well as anxiety about the value of new artistic technologies and authorial methods.

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Better Answers: What are “Digital Humanities” and “Alt-Ac”?

Yesterday I presented on a panel in Katherine Eggert’s professionalization seminar for graduate students in English literature at CU-Boulder. I talked about my experience on the job market this past year and the steps that led to the postdoc position I will begin in the fall with Dartmouth’s Neukom Institute for Computational Science. On my handout, I mentioned “Digital Humanities” and “DH” a number of times as well as “alt-ac” to refer to a job I applied for and did not get — Director of the Albert Greenfield Center for the History of Women’s Education at Bryn Mawr. My presentation, in general, gave advice for how to apply for a postdoc and what to expect during that process.

Deep in the Q&A session, I got two questions that surprised me:

  1. What is Digital Humanities?
  2. What is alt-ac?

These questions caught me off-guard because I work from within the Digital Humanities and with a wide group of colleagues who all know, or who I would expect to know, about alt-ac jobs. My answers were sufficient for a quick conversation, but these topics deserve more real estate than that — hence this post. The questions were also very good nudges to remind me that these fields and expressions are discipline-specific and new scholars need to know about them since they are emerging (or already emerged) issues in our shared Humanities fields. The introductions that follow are just introductions. (For DH in particular my “further reading” recommendation list would be long. That’s a blog post for another day.)

So:

What is “Digital Humanities”?

  • Wikipedia entry: The Digital Humanities are an area of research, teaching, and creation concerned with the intersection of computing and the disciplines of the humanities. Developing from the fields of humanities computing, humanistic computing,[2] and digital humanities praxis (dh praxis[3]) digital humanities embrace a variety of topics, from curating online collections to data mining large cultural data sets. Digital humanities (often abbreviated DH) currently incorporate both digitized and born-digital materials and combine the methodologies from traditional humanities disciplines (such as history, philosophy, linguistics, literature, art, archaeology, music, and cultural studies) and social sciences [4] with tools provided by computing (such as data visualisation, information retrieval, data mining, statistics, text mining) and digital publishing.
  • Digital Humanities and What It’s Doing in English Departments” (Matthew Kirschenbaum). Excerpt: “At its core, then, digital humanities is more akin to a common methodological outlook than an investment in any one specific set of texts or even technologies. We could attempt to refine this “outlook” quantitatively, using some of the very tools and techniques digital humanities has pioneered. For example, we might use a text- analysis tool named Voyeur developed by Stéfan Sinclair to mine the proceedings from the annual Digital humanities confrequencies or collocate key terms or visualize the papers’ citation networks. We could also choose to explore the question qualitatively, by examining sets of projects from self-identified digital humanities centers. at the University of Maryland, where I serve as an associate director at the Maryland Institute for technology in the humanities, we support work from “Shakespeare to Second Life” as we’re fond of saying: the Shakespeare Quartos archive, funded by a joint grant program administered by the United Kingdom’s JISC and the NEH, makes a searchable digital facsimile of each of the thirty-two extant quarto copies of Hamlet available online, while the Preserving Virtual Worlds project, supported by the Library of Congress, has developed and tested standards and best practices for archiving and ensuring future access to computer games, interactive fiction, and virtual communities. Yet digital humanities is also a social undertaking. It harbors networks of people who have been working together, sharing research, arguing, competing, and collaborating for many years. Key achievements from this community, like the Text Encoding Initiative or the Orlando Project, were mostly finished before the current wave of interest in digital humanities began.” (56)
  • Digital Humanities” (Matthew K. Gold) entry in Johns Hopkins Guide to Digital Media

Digital Humanities at CU-Boulder:

  • We have a Digital Humanities Task Force in the Libraries that works on developing DH at CU-B.
  • The Computer Science department has a series of events that are often relevant to DH and they have a mailing list you can subscribe to for announcements.
  • Digital Art and Textuality Alliance (DATA): “DATA (Digital Art and Textuality Alliance) is a collaborative, interdisciplinary research initiative focused on emerging forms of practice-based research at the interface of electronic writing, digital art, cultural technics, new media theory and new modes of scholarly publishing. The research initiative was founded by University of Colorado Professors Mark Amerika (Art and Art History) and Lori Emerson (English). As part of their research mission, the members of DATA have been building two practice-based research labs in the digital arts and humanities: the TECHNE practice-based research lab in digital art located in the Visual Arts Complex and the Media Archaeology Lab (MAL) located on Grandview.”
  • Media Archaeology Lab (Lori Emerson, Director): “Founded in 2009 and based at the University of Colorado at Boulder, the motto of the Media Archaeology Lab (MAL) is that “the past must be lived so that the present can be seen.” Nearly all digital media labs are conceived of as a place for experimental research using the most up-to-date, cutting-edge tools available. By contrast, the MAL – which is the largest of its kind in North America – is a place for cross-disciplinary experimental research and teaching using obsolete tools, hardware, software and platforms, from the past. The MAL is propelled equally by the need to both preserve and maintain access to historically important media of all kinds – from magic lanterns, projectors, typewriters to personal computers from the 1970s through the 1990s – as well as early works of digital literature/art which were created on the outdated hardware/software housed in the lab.”
  • The Stainforth Library of Women Writers is a DH project that I collaborate on with CU-Libraries. We are building an electronic version of a 19th-century library that contained a vast and important collection of women’s writing dating back to the 15th century. If you are interested in learning more about this project email me (Kirstyn.Leuner@colorado.edu). I would love to walk you through what we’re doing and how we’re doing it.

DH Resources on the Web, esp. for grad students:

  • Be a HASTAC Scholar: Apply in the fall to be a HASTAC Scholar and blog about your work in relation to teaching, computing, and the humanities. I have been a HASTAC Scholar and I loved it. “The HASTAC Scholars program is an innovative student community. Each year a new cohort is accepted into the program, and the Scholars come from 75+ universities, and dozens of disciplines. We are building a community of students working at the intersection of technology and the arts, humanities and sciences. As HASTAC Scholars, we blog, host online forums, develop new projects and organize events. Much of our work here centers around rethinking pedagogy, learning, research & academia for the digital age. Join us!”
  • Join HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory): “HASTAC is an alliance of more than 13,000 humanists, artists, social scientists, scientists and technologists working together to transform the future of learning. Since 2002, HASTAC (“haystack”) has served as a community of connection where members share news, tools, research, insights, and projects to promote engaged learning for a global society. Issues of access and equality are as important to HASTAC’s mission as the latest technological innovations; creative contribution is as important as critical thinking. Keywords representing this perspective include: learning and teaching, education design, digital humanities, media, communication, social engagement, and the collaborative workplace. We are dedicated to sharing information, ideas, and practices about the future of learning.”
  • Find a DH Mentor: I highly recommend that if you are interested in learning more about DH or working on a DH project in order to gain experience and knowledge of the field, you may want to find a mentor in the field to work with. The Association for Computers and the Humanities and DHCommons have teamed up to offer a mentorship program. Follow these steps to find your mentor.
  • Browse/Read Digital Humanities Quarterly: a major peer-reviewed academic journal in the field
  • Browse DHCommons: Find DH Projects to work on or look for collaborators for your own project. Here you can get a sense of what DH projects are active right now. “DHCommons, an initiative of centerNet, is an online hub focused on matching digital humanities projects seeking assistance with scholars interested in project collaboration. This hub responds to a pressing and demonstrable need for a project-collaborator matching service that will allow scholars interested in DH to enter the field by joining an existing project as well as make existing projects more sustainable by drawing in new, well-matched participants. Additionally, DHCommons helps break down the siloization of an emerging field by connecting collaborators across institutions, a particularly acute need for solo practitioners and those without access to a digital humanities center.”
  • Twitter: Create a Twitter account and search for “digital humanities” and/or “DH”. You will find a large number of scholars, librarians, computer scientists, and organizations related to this field. Follow and join the conversation.

 What Is “Alt-Ac” and what does it stand for?

“Alt-Ac” refers to “Alternate-Academy” track, or non-tenure track jobs that are within the larger Academy “orbit” in traditional academic institutions, like universities and colleges, but also in other kinds of organizations or institutions that study and produce cultural knowledge, as libraries, museums, humanities organizations, and presses. To read more, see this very thoughtful and evolving e-book project: #alt-academy: A Media Commons Project

“The #Alt-Academy project features contributions by and for people with deep training and experience in the humanities, who are working or are seeking employment — generally off the tenure track, but within the academic orbit — in universities and colleges, or allied knowledge and cultural heritage institutions such as museums, libraries, academic presses, historical societies, and governmental humanities organizations.

The work of such institutions is enriched and enabled by capable “alternative academic” humanities scholars. Although they are rarely conventionally-employed as faculty members, the people contributing to this site maintain a research (or R&D) and publication profile, and bring their methodological and theoretical training to bear every day on problem sets of great importance to higher education. For some, keeping their considerable talents within — or around — the academy can be more difficult than making a switch to private-sector careers. Class divisions among faculty and staff in higher ed are profound, and the suspicion and (worse) condescension with which so-called “failed academics” are met can be disheartening.

For all that, we love our work. Many on the #alt-ac track will tell you about the satisfaction of making teams (and systems, and programs) work, of solving problems and personally making or enabling breakthroughs in research and scholarship in their disciplines, and of contributing to and experiencing the life of the mind in ways they did not imagine when they entered grad school. This site is for them, and for the next generation of hybrid humanities scholars — people who are building skills and experience in precisely those areas of the academy that are most in flux, and most in need of guidance and attention by sensitive, capable, imaginative, and well-informed #alt-ac scholar-practitioners.

Founding editor Bethany Nowviskie describes the genesis of the #alt-ac project in her introductory essay, “Two Tramps in Mud Time” and talks more about the phrase “alternative academic” here (hint: it’s really about an alternative academia, a new imagination for the systems in which we operate), — while coordinating editor Katina Rogers describes work we are doing to discover more about the current make-up of the community and its needs.

Readers may also be interested in resources to be found at projects like the Versatile PhD and GradHacker. You can follow ongoing conversations about alternative academic careers marked with the “#alt-ac” hashtag on Twitter, and see a list of some of our twittering community members.”

For an Alt-Ac job search:

Resources for an Expansive Job Search: Humanities and Social Sciences: “This page includes a mix of sites that discuss larger issues involved in converting graduate training in the humanities or social sciences to a nonacademic career, and sites that include job listings.  Because individuals’ career trajectories can be so varied, a big part of successfully transitioning from graduate school to satisfying employment involves plugging into the broader conversation about the wide range of careers actually pursued by those with this training.  While many of these resources are specifically geared to some of the problems faced by those with Ph.D.s, much of their advance is relevant and valuable to those with master’s degrees who either seek employment, or who are considering continuing to the Ph.D.”

As always, I invite comments and additional links to resources.

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Day of DH 2014 and The Annual Monitor

Day of DH 2014 has come and gone, but as always, there are blog posts and tweets to mark it. This year I spent the majority of the DoDH writing my dissertation chapter on nineteenth century libraries, which is a media history project and not at all a DH project. However, I have Stainforth data research queries to work on almost every day and The Annual Monitor was an important scenario to think through.

Here is the blog post on The Annual Monitor research for the Stainforth project. And here you will find my Storify for Day of DH 2014. I will likely post the Annual Monitor bit on the Stainforth blog as well.

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Guest lecture, 1-27-14, “Digital Curation” grad seminar (Mél Hogan, JOUR6871)

I tailored this guest lecture about the Stainforth Library of Women Writers project for Mél Hogan’s graduate course in digital curation (JOUR6871). You will find my slides below. Students came from a variety of departments and, in this course, will build their own archives in WordPress. One important point I wanted to make was to convey the way that the Stainforth project thinks about the archive in contrast to the way traditional humanist scholarship makes use of archives. I also emphasized a theory of the digital archive as creating versions of and access to textual artifacts.

During and following the presentation, we had a very productive discussion about the form of archives. We asked: Can we think of artifact dispersal as not necessarily a negative, but perhaps just another iteration of the life of the archive? How are archives affected by the gender of their contents and historical gendering of spaces, like the gentleman’s library (versus the lady’s dressing room)? How do we assess the value of artifacts archived if different collections assign different values? Are all archives “nutty” (we said) in their own way — meaning, they all collect for a certain reason and impose that meaning on their collection? How can we design an interface that will make the Stainforth digital archive more participatory and annotatable (sp?) for users — instead of just files and images to look at? (Mél and others — please insert comments for ideas and questions that I missed. Thank you!)

Useful links (slides below are just images):

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Stainforth Library of Women Writers Exhibit at MLA 2014, in Inside Higher Ed

Here is a link to the digital exhibit I made for the recent presentation at MLA on Saturday, December 11, “Digital Humanities from the Ground Up” (session 528). Click on the image of our TOC to go there:

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The Stainforth exhibit at MLA appeared in an Inside Higher Ed article that covered recent Digital Humanities sessions at MLA14, held in Chicago this past weekend. Clearly, I should have tattooed our project URL to my right arm.

Stainforth demo at MLA in Inside Higher Ed

Stainforth demo at MLA in Inside Higher Ed

The article covers the diverse content and popularity of DH sessions at this year’s MLA, and it notes that more scholars now understand that the digital tools and practices driving their research are DH practices and are important to present to their colleagues as DH methodologies. The article also touches on the “Digital Humanities from the Ground Up” session in which the Stainforth collaborators presented as well as the session that followed, which covered the evaluation of digital projects for tenure and promotion.

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