By Kurt Fendt on February 28, 2013
HyperStudio recently launched a new Fellows Program! The HSF gathers a range of postdocs and visiting scholars in the humanities, librarians, technologists, artists, curators, and other members of the MIT community to generate questions and energy around the Digital Humanities. This spring, our Fellows meet bi-weekly and attend DH-related events to brainstorm possibilities for potential programming, incubate projects, and discuss our varied but shared scholarly, pedagogical, and publishing practices in the digital age. The HSF program aims to cultivate community and collaboration at the edges of disciplines and fields, finding overlaps, and investigating productive tensions that suggest opportunities for new creative and critical engagements through digital realms. By bringing together staff and non-permanent faculty at MIT, the HyperStudio Fellows program hopes to grow a hub of DH activity not only within HyperStudio and between existing MIT departments, but also as our Fellows interconnect with the Boston DH consortium, and beyond.
Our inaugural HyperStudio Fellows for Spring 2013 include:
Gretchen E. Henderson
Elizabeth Anne Watkins
If you are interested in participating, or have suggestions of good candidates, please keep watch for an application for the HyperStudio Fellows program for the 2013-14 academic year (to be posted later this spring). We welcome suggestions about our evolving mission, as we seek ways to address existing needs at MIT, to reach out and tap members of the community with relevant experiences and interests, and to encourage cross-disciplinary collaborations.
Questions? Ideas? Interest? Please contact Gretchen Henderson at hendersong [at] mit [dot] edu.
Text: Gretchen Henderson; photo: Kurt Fendt
By Jason Lipshin on December 5, 2012
As is often the case with DH conferences, this year’s Chicago Colloquium on Digital Humanities and Computer Science was something of a grab bag. Featuring a hodge podge of panels on everything from network analysis and data visualization, to locative media and alternate reality games, the conference certainly lived up to the ethos of inclusiveness often characterized as DH’s “big tent.” And yet, despite the diversity of research questions being addressed, I also think that the conference had a great sense of coherence, with a lot of scholars operating in the tradition of humanities computing. Coming out of disciplines such as classics, English, and history, many of the scholars at DHCS were interested in mining large corpuses of data, visualizing such data, and analyzing the results to ask new kinds of research questions.
Although I found many of the projects interesting, two presentations stood out as particularly relevant to the kind of work being done at Hyperstudio. On the first morning of the conference, Diane Cline from the University of Cincinnati presented a fascinating project working firmly within the humanities computing vein. Drawing on her dual background as a classicist and an intelligence analyst for the NSA, she attempted to apply the insights of network analysis and graph theory to study what she called “the social network of Alexander the Great.” Using the NodeXL program created by Ben Schneiderman (of “Direct Manipulation” fame) from the University of Maryland, Cline color-coded each edge within her network to indicate the type of relationship, whether it be family, officer, courtier, enemy, ally, or peer. Affording a kind of macro scale view which is alien to the classicist’s typical tool set, Cline argued that she was able to see “the bridges, brokers, and hubs” which were central to Alexander’s relationships, contributing a new understanding of her topic that would have been unavailable to her without the tool.
This emphasis on network analysis was also echoed in Hoyt Long’s fascinating presentation on modern Japanese poetry. While many DH projects have thought about citation as a way to quantitatively measure networks of influence, Long’s presentation instead focused on less explicit metrics of influence like poetic style and content. Although these elements are less quantifiable, and thus must be coded by an expert researcher rather than automated by a machine, visualizing these influences helped Long to arrive at new insights about the relationships between different schools of aesthetic thought within Japan, as well as to discern which nodes and clusters were most central. As was the case with so many of the panel discussions that day, he ended his presentation with an advocation for visualization tools as part of the humanistic scholarly process, rather than as a means to simply generate “evidence” as part of a research product.
Overall, I believe DHCS was a successful conference, in that it was able to balance the impulse towards creative (and often, chaotic) interdisciplinary collaboration with a sense of common goals and directions for the future of this particular niche within the digital humanities. Importantly, it also proved to be a great space for meeting and exchanging ideas with researchers who are working on similar issues – I, for one, met many faculty and graduate students located on the east coast, and even some in the greater Boston area, who I believe have many overlaps with Hyperstudio’s research goals. Since Hyperstudio is constantly looking to strengthen its connections with other DH researchers outside of MIT, DHCS proved to be a wonderful space for both getting our ideas out there and for learning from others producing innovative projects in the field.
*All photos are from Peter Leonard.
By Katie Edgerton on November 15, 2012
On Monday, November 19, HyperStudio’s Research Assistants Jia Zhang and Jason Lipshin will be presenting a collaboratively authored paper about HyperStudio’s ongoing Comédie-Française Registers Project (CFRP) at the Chicago Colloquium on Digital Humanities and Computer Science. Joint authors are: MIT Professor Jeffrey Ravel, HyperStudio’s Executive Director Kurt Fendt, Jia Zhang and Jason Lipshin.
The paper entitled “Visualizing centuries: Deep insights into cultural production before the French Revolution,” centers on the challenges of visualizing historical data. For several years, the HyperStudio team has been working with Professor Ravel in MIT’s History Department and the Comédie-Française in Paris to digitize paper registers containing more than a century of box office sales. This wealth of information – covering over 113 seasons – is a vital resource for theater and literature scholars as well as humanists interested in the political, social, and cultural history of France and the Western world.
The Comédie-Française Registers Project addresses two main audiences. The first is French theatre historians, to whom the project will provide greater disciplinary knowledge by giving them digital access to rare archival materials and offering innovative research tools that allow them to detect patterns in cultural production and consumption in the 17th and 18th centuries.
The second audience is digital humanists. Through the Comédie-Française Registers Project, HyperStudio is developing innovative methodologies that enable macro and micro-level analysis. Many of these methodologies turn on the development of tools for data visualization that can enlighten both the research process as well as the outcome.
These new kinds of data visualizations will enable scholars to address questions beyond the scope of traditional humanistic research methods. For example, what do sales records and repertory trends tell us about changing patterns of author, play, and genre popularity in the years leading up to the French revolution? Integrated research tools such as faceted browsers allow for complex and fine-grained filtering of all data and enable their analysis in novel combinations.
The Comédie-Française Registers Project team will tackle these issues on Monday’s visualization Panel, beginning at 11:15 am in Ida Noyes Hall at the University of Chicago.
For more information, please visit the Comédie-Française Registers Project website.
By Ayse Gursoy on July 19, 2012
I sat in on several sessions today, the first day of conferences. In the morning I checked out the short paper session, and later I went to two long paper sessions. All of the talks were interesting, quick paced (only ten minutes each for the short paper sessions, something to watch out for tomorrow!), and made me think of digital humanities in, if not a new, a richer light. The twitter stream (hashtag #dh2012) was lively throughout the day and offered many a chance to respond to the talks (only a few minutes for questions, unfortunately—though questions were many). Some of the key issues according to the twitter stream: the constant issue of digitized versus born-digital projects, the openness of data and access, and the insufferable hardness of the chairs in the lecture halls (no, really).
There were a few talks that resonated with my background and interests, and I’ll probably get to each of them in some way. But I’d like to focus one one of the long papers, and the questions of design, purpose, and audience that it made clear. The talk in question is Claire Ross, presenting “Engaging the Museum Space: Mobilising Visitor Engagement with Digital Content Creation”. While at first glance this might seem like an interesting topic that isn’t directly related to academic research in Digital Humanities, the central question was actually an extremely important one for any DH researcher: how do you get audiences engaged with digital content? Ross’s case study, the use of QRator at UCL’s Grant Museum of Zoology, offered one approach to this question. If you have a discussion forum tied to the object on display, accessible with a smartphone or tablet, then give your visitors a tablet and let them talk! We could go on for days about the actual mechanics of this approach or the validity of competing approaches such as short URLs and established social media sites. What I’d like to suggest, however, is that Ross’ talk asks us to reframe the question.
It isn’t about engaging with digital content.
It’s about engaging through digital content.
We need to design systems that unobtrusively let people do what they are already good at doing, that step back and make conversations happen. I know this is hard. I know it might mean changing the definition of “conversation”, or expanding it a teensy bit. But I do believe this will impact digital engagement in a positive way.
I’d like to offer the example of the games Demon’s Souls (From Software, 2009) and Dark Souls (2011). These games feature a unique and much-discussed multiplayer engagement in an essentially single-player game: the two games are always-online (unusual for a single-player game), allowing other players to intrude upon your game. The game has been written about in many places and in better ways than I could right now. But there is one particular engagement that I think is highly relevant here: players can leave messages tied to in-game locations, that appear to any player who accesses that location. Yes, it takes an active will to leave a message, but once that message is placed, any player, not just a player with the equivalent of a smartphone, can read it. The systems that we design for digital engagement with physical spaces need to, dare I say it, intrude upon the corporeal experience of the visitor. And doing this is hard. I don’t pretend to have a solution, but it’s something that’s been on my mind.
By Kurt Fendt on May 7, 2012
Text by Elyse Graham and Jia Zhang.
By Kurt Fendt on April 9, 2012
We are happy to announce that HyperStudio has received a Level II Start-Up grant from the Office of Digital Humanities (ODH) at the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) for “Annotation Studio – Multimedia Text Annotation for Students”.
Annotation Studio is an open-source web-based application that actively engages students in interpreting literary texts and other humanities documents. Initial features will include:
1) Easy-to-use annotation tools that facilitates linking and comparing primary texts with multi-media source, variation, and adaptation documents;
2) Sharable collections of multimedia materials prepared by faculty and student users;
3) Multiple filtering and display mechanisms for texts, written annotations, and multimedia annotations;
4) Collaboration functionality;
5) Multimedia composition tools.
While strengthening new media literacies, Annotation Studio will help students develop traditional humanistic skills including close reading, textual analysis, persuasive writing, and critical thinking.
By Ayse Gursoy on October 10, 2011
Hear ye, hear ye!
Join us for “Fluid Texts and Critical Archives: Textual Studies in the (Digital) Humanities” on Friday Oct. 14th, 1:00 – 2:45 pm., in E51-095. This session – free and open to the public – will be introduced by Wyn Kelley (MIT), followed by a presentation of recent work by HyperStudio – Digital Humanities at MIT and will conclude with a panel discussion with John Bryant (Hofstra University), Amy Earhart (Texas A&M University), Kurt Fendt (MIT), Laura Mandell (Miami University of Ohio), and Martha Nell Smith (University of Maryland). This session is part of the three-day Melville Electronic Library Camp (MEL Camp) at MIT.
This session will focus on the concept of “fluid texts”, introduced by John Bryant in his 2002 book, The Fluid Text. Looking at works as “fluid texts” calls attention to the processes that go into the construction of a text, and how these processes are often interactions between a writer and an editor, an editor and an audience, a writer and an audience, and so on. What tools does the digital age give us to study texts as fluid texts, and to capture the dynamism of these texts?
The sketches are part of Jia Zhang’s work on textual visualization and reader interaction as a HyperStudio Research Assistant. “They have 2 main objectives, the first is to map interactions recorded on Frankenstein as students/readers/scholars annotate and explore the text to build thicker layers of context around it. The second goal is to be able to express the text as a whole, an object, relating it back to its book format. The end result of this exercise being to design a navigation which will allow people of different levels of expertise to gather around a particular text and to move with ease between the text itself on many scales and different types of supplemental materials.” Jia Zhang is a Graduate Student in Comparative Media Studies (CMS) at MIT.
By Kurt Fendt on October 6, 2011
Check out the premiere of Augmented Harvard by our friends “down the road” at Harvard’s metaLAB. It’s a mystery tour across the Harvard campus, full of curatorial experiments, ranging from an archive of ephemeral Cold War films to a mysterious hanging aluminum tube to a collection of participatory stickers that guide journeys across the campus. Full details can be found here. Have fun!
Video of Michael Cuthbert’s and Matthias Röder’s Talk “Listening Faster – How Digital Humanities is Transforming Music Scholarship” is online.
By Kurt Fendt on May 19, 2011
Please check out the video (QuickTime streaming) of Michael Cuthbert’s and Matthias Röder’s fascinating talk “Listening Faster – How Digital Humanities is Transforming Music Scholarship” given on April 22, 2011 as part of HyperStudio’s humanities + digital conversations in collaboration with Harvard’s metaLAB.
Image of a fractal visualization of Philip Glass’ music by Russian artist Tatiana Plakhova (http://www.complexitygraphics.com/)
Talk: Culturomics: Quantitative Analysis of Culture Using Millions of Digitized Books, May 10, 12:30 pm Pound Hall, Room 100, Harvard Law School
By Kurt Fendt on May 10, 2011
From the announcement by Erez Lieberman Aiden and Jean-Baptiste Michel:
About the speakers:
Erez Lieberman Aiden is a fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows and Visiting Faculty at Google. His research spans many disciplines and has won numerous awards, including recognition for one of the top 20 “Biotech Breakthroughs that will Change Medicine”, by Popular Mechanics; the Lemelson-MIT prize for the best student inventor at MIT; the American Physical Society’s Award for the Best Doctoral Dissertation in Biological Physics; and membership in Technology Review’s 2009 TR35, recognizing the top 35 innovators under 35. His last three papers – two with JB Michel – have all appeared on the cover of Nature and Science.