By Evan Higgins on December 7, 2015
As HyperStudio’s other new resident Research Assistant, I’m finding it hard to believe that I’m nearly one fourth of the way through my time here. I’ve worked so far on a number of interesting Digital Humanities projects exploring topics as varied as US foreign relations research and methods of collaborative annotation. And while all these assignments have been fascinating in their own way, the one that has commanded the majority of my attention and interest is our new interactive archive that explores the history of African American physicians. This project, tentatively titled Blacks in American Medicine (BAM), has been in development for years but is now beginning to take shape as an interactive online archive thanks to the possibilities provided by Digital Humanities tools and techniques. As with several of the other projects here, BAM makes use of digital tools to tell stories that have been left untold for too long.
A Brief History of the Blacks in American Medicine
BAM has been in development since the mid 1980’s when Pulitzer Prize Finalist author, Kenneth Manning, undertook the herculean task of aggregating the biographical records of African Americans in medicine from 1860-1980. With the help of his colleague and fellow researcher, Philip Alexander, Ken set out to create a nearly comprehensive list of black American medical practitioners to not only make research about this community less arduous for scholars but also to test traditional narratives about African American communities in the United States.
Over the years, this team built up an impressive collection of biographical records for over 23,000 African American doctors. These records were collected through the careful combing of academic, medical and professional directories. Once a record was found, they were then stored in a digital database with the aim of one day making this content available to a wider audience. Each of these mini-biographies includes personal, geographic, academic, professional and other information about doctors that helps shed light on this unexplored corner of American history.
While searching for these biographical records, Ken and Philip also set about gathering documents associated with these doctors. Correspondence, reports, surveys, diaries, autobiographies, articles and other content collected from years of archival research help flesh out aspects of these doctors’ lives and allow readers to understand the complex situations and challenges that these doctors faced.
In my many hours spent searching through the archive, I’ve come across hundreds of documents that provide a window into the history of the black experience in America. One that continually comes to my mind is a letter written by Dr. S Clifford Boston to his alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania in 1919. In this letter, Dr. Clifford politely asks the General Alumni Catalogue to “kindly strike out the words ‘first colored graduate in Biology [sic], as I find it to be a disadvantage to me professionally, as I am not regarded as a colored in my present location.” This letter is an important artifact not only because it provides evidence of the ways in which blacks “passed,” but because it elucidates some of the complex societal challenges that many African Americans in medicine faced. The formal, detached way in which this doctor asks to be dissociated from his heritage gives a brief glimpse into the systemic racism and segregation that blacks of this era faced. These types of first-hand documents provide a chance to add nuance to traditional histories of the black experience in America that is too often told in large, overly simplistic narratives.
These unique stories in combination with our massive amounts of standardized, biographical information create a unique archive that allows for layers of interaction. By incorporating both a focused study into the history of specific physicians and a broader analysis of the trends within the African American medical community, this trove of content highlights untold chapters in the vast history of the black experience.
HyperStudio Takes the Project into the Information Age
With an eye towards the dissemination of this rare and important content, Ken and his team recently began working with HyperStudio to take better advantage of the affordances of digital humanities.
While still in the initial stages of formalizing the structure of the platform, we are working on a number of intersectional methods to display this trove of content. As with most of HyperStudio’s archival projects, content will be discoverable by both scholars as well as more casual audiences. To do this, documents and records will be encoded using established metadata standards such as Dublin Core, allowing us to connect our primary materials and biographical records to other, relevant archives.
We’re also planning on integrating our Repertoire faceted browser, which allows for both a targeted search given a specific criteria and the ability to explore freely documents that interest the user. Additionally, this project will feature our Chronos Timeline, which dynamically uses events and occurrences to present historical data. We also plan on incorporating geographic, visual and biographical features, as well as a storytelling tool that will enable users to actively engage with our content.
As I round the corner on my first semester at at MIT, I can’t help but be excited by this project. Too often existing narratives about marginalized groups go untested and unchallenged. By providing an multi-faceted interface and rich, previously inaccessible content, we’re creating a tool that will help interrogate these traditional views of African American history. For more information on the project as it develops follow us here on the blog.
Image: Leonard Medical School on Wikipedia (source)
By Rachel Schnepper on July 3, 2014
In recent years, academic professional organizations have adopted guidelines for evaluating scholars’ work in the digital humanities. The MLA, for example, after exploring the challenge in a series of articles in a 2011 issue of its journal Profession, adopted a series of guidelines in 2012 that encourages digital humanists to be “prepared to make explicit the results, theoretical underpinnings, and intellectual rigor of their work.” The same year, the AHA acknowledged that with the continued growth of digital humanities, history departments needed to “establish rigorous peer-review procedures to evaluate new forms of scholarship.” How to evaluate and assess the work of digital humanists continues to be an thriving discussion on an international, multi-disciplinary scale, with special issues of the Journal of Digital Humanities devoted to it and countless columns in The Chronicle.
As digital humanities scholarship grows, so too does teaching with digital humanities tools and methods. Just as the monograph as the preferred presentation of research is being challenged with digital humanities projects, so too is the traditional term paper with multimodal work. Increasingly, new technologies, media, and tools are being integrated into classrooms, producing a lively and expanding discourse on digital pedagogy in forums such as HASTAC and the Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy.
Just as new forms of scholarship require new approaches to assessment, so too do innovative digital pedagogies. Unfortunately, even as the discourse on evaluating digital humanities projects as scholarship for tenure continues to grow, the same cannot be said of evaluating the effects of using digital tools as pedagogical resources. In the lush landscape of literature on digital humanities, this is a glaringly depressing bald patch.
This is precisely the challenge we at HyperStudio face as we scale-up the use of our digital anntotation tool, Annotation Studio, in classrooms from local high schools to national and international universities. When Annotation Studio was in use exclusively in classes at MIT in 2012, we conducted a preliminary assessment investigation using surveys, focus groups, and interviews. The results of this research revealed that most students, despite a lack of experience with both analog annotation and online annotation, were extremely interested in using Annotation Studio. By the end of the term, students readily acknowledged the value of annotating, crediting Annotation Studio with helping them collect evidence from the texts to then construct better arguments in their papers.
The results of our initial assessment were encouraging.
But we want to know more.
One of HyperStudio’s goals in all our projects is to enable users to have a more meaningful experience with, to dig deeper into, whatever form of media they are engaging with. This is true whether it is a document from Mohammed Khatemi’s presidency in Iran from our US-Iran Relations Project or a piece of art. With Annotation Studio, however, in order to develop a tool that provides this deeper, more meaningful experience, we need to fully understand how instructors and students are using it in the classroom.
Consequently, HyperStudio is conducting an ongoing and intensive inquiry in several classes at MIT. We are beginning with extended discussions with faculty members who are using Annotation Studio in their classes, going over reading and writing assignments that use Annotation Studio. Instructors have identified the promotion of collaborative learning and evidence based classroom debate, careful examination and incorporation of textual evidence in writing assignments, and foreign language reading comprehension as some of the specific performance tasks they have used Annotation Studio for. By pinpointing the exact pedagogical purposes the instructor had in mind when assigning Annotation Studio, we can better evaluate the tool’s effectiveness through classroom observation, surveys, focus groups, and interviews with students.
While this past semester we conducted assessment with writing and foreign language classes here at MIT, we also recognize that Annotation Studio is increasingly being used in classes outside of MIT. Accordingly, we were excited to talk with professors from Yale University and the University of Washington about their experiences with Annotation Studio as well.
Our goal in conducting these assessment exercises is twofold. First, feedback from instructors determines the directions and priorities of our development of Annotation Studio. At HyperStudio, we believe that the functionality of the application should not determine its pedagogical uses. Rather, the pedagogical uses of Annotation Studio inform its development.
Second, we are committed to uncovering and enhancing student learning. If we want students to become more sophisticated and critical readers, learn how to work with textual evidence when writing essays, and develop enduring skills to increase understanding, then it is vital that we appreciate how these processes are taking place when students use Annotation Studio.
We are eager to unpack and analyze the results of our assessment this spring, to learn how Annotation Studio is transforming and enhancing student learning. As we move through the summer, we are developing with instructors an even more extensive assessment strategy to begin at the start of the fall.
Beyond evaluating the students’ transferability of the skills cultivated through Annotation Studio and their endurability, we are also examining the analytics data the tool generates. We are capturing the stats and metrics of student use of Annotation Studio, including timestamps on annotations, the use of tags, private versus public annotations. This data provides users of Annotation Studio with unqiue insights into how students are reading texts and interacting with one another in the social environment of Annotation Studio. With this data, we can produce visualizations of the reading process, which reveal trends in the reading process, the evolution of interactions with passages in the text, and provide practical feedback for instructors.
As we do learn more about Annotation Studio, we look forward to sharing our research. We intend to share the results of our research with instructors, so they can refine their assignments and improve their pedagogy. We intend to share the results of our research with students, so they can understand better their own learning processes. And, finally, we intend to share the results of our research with the growing Annotation Studio community, so they can be inspired.
By Desi Gonzalez on April 14, 2014
In the digital humanities, we often talk about how we can use technology and big data to accomplish what Franco Moretti calls “distant reading” of literary, historical, and artistic texts. But Wyn Kelley uses Annotation Studio, our web-based, collaborative annotation application, to engage her students in close reading and writing.
Over the last few months at HyperStudio, we’ve been busy at work with Annotation Studio . Last summer, we received an Implementation Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities’ Office of Digital Humanities. With this support, we are further developing new features that will create a more user-friendly experience. For example, in January we released a new version of Annotation Studio that enables users to navigate through a central dashboard, upload their own Word documents, and create annotations using a new, easy-to-use Annotation Editor that allows for styled text, web links, and online images and video. Check out our new website, www.annotationstudio.org, where you can learn more about the tool, find user testimonials, and get started with your own annotations.
We’re also taking on another challenge: exploring and assessing how this tool can be used for even more pedagogical purposes. Wyn Kelley, senior lecturer in Literature at MIT, has been using Annotation Studio (and its predecessor Miximize) to teach undergraduate reading and writing since 2011. Working closely with the HyperStudio team, Wyn uses her classroom as a laboratory for the many ways digital annotation can enrich a student’s understanding of a text. In this video, she describes two case studies in which she used Annotation Studio to encourage close reading and to support students in their own writing process.
If you would like to use Annotation Studio in the classroom or otherwise, please let us know! We would love to hear your feedback as we continue to develop Annotation Studio.
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 Kurt Fendt on January 26, 2011
Please join us for an all day Digital Humanities Workshop with Brett Bobley, Director of the Office of Digital Humanities (ODH), National Endowment for the Humanities, jointly held on January 27, 2011 at MIT and Harvard University.
Here’s the program for both MIT and Harvard:
10:00 to 11:45 (Spofford Room: Room 1-236, Building 1, Second Floor)
Talk by Brett Bobley, Chief Information Officer and Director, NEH Office of Digital Humanities
“Emerging Trends in the Digital Humanities & the NEH Funding Landscape”
Abstract: Brett Bobley will talk about emerging trends in the digital humanities in the context of NEH-funded projects. He will cover a wide variety of projects that cover numerous disciplines and technological methods. He will also talk a bit about projects that study the impact of technology on scholarship and the academy.
2:30 – 5:00 Three Part Digital Humanities Grant Workshop, Barker Center Room 133
1. MIT Faculty Presentations:
Prof. Jeff Ravel, History: The Comédie-Française Registers Project
Prof. Fox Harrell, Writing/Comparative Media Studies/Computer Science: Gesture, Rhetoric, and Digital Storytelling
Prof. Jim Buzzard, Head of Literature: The Serial Experience Project
Wyn Kelley, Senior Lecturer in Literature: Melville Remix and the Melville Electronic Library
2. Harvard Faculty Presentations:
Prof. Peter K. Bol, East Asian Languages and Civilizations
Ben Lewis: World Map
Prof. Afsaneh Najmabadi, Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
3. Brett Bobley (NEH):
Abstract: Brett Bobley, Director of the NEH’s Office of Digital Humanities, will highlight funding opportunities at the NEH for digital projects. He will also discuss and highlight some recently funded projects in a variety of humanities disciplines. He will provide examples of successful grant proposals and discuss grant writing strategies for digital humanities projects.
By Anna van Someren on November 1, 2010
HyperStudio participated in the MIT-Haiti “Best Practices for Reconstruction: Technology-enhanced and Open Education in Haitian Universities” Symposium (October 21-22), which brought Haitian University professors together with MIT faculty, staff and technologists to discuss rebuilding Haiti’s educational infrastructure. Based on HyperStudio’s experience in developing educational projects for language and culture, Executive Director Kurt Fendt shared a presentation describing an approach which would engage Haitian students in building identity awareness, linguistic, cultural, and global skills. Given the linguistic situation in Haiti – 90% of Haitians are native speakers of Kreyòl for whom French, as the official language in education, is inaccessible – these skills would be developed through two core educational components: documenting heritage by working closely with planned oral history projects in Haiti and strengthening cultural awareness by developing cross-cultural curricula and integrating them in a variety of university courses.
Links of interest:
Read MIT News article “Build Back Better” on the Haiti Symposium.
Photo credit: Jeff Merriman.
By Kurt Fendt on April 21, 2010
THE ROLE OF PROCESS AND DOCUMENTATION IN CREATIVE WORK /
A CASE STUDY OF MIT ACT’S FUTURE ARCHIVE PROJECT
Madeleine Clare Elish, Research Assistant
Part of HyperStudio’s ongoing research agenda in the field of Digital Humanities is to explore the ways in which digital tools can assist and augment humanistic research and education practices. This research paper is to explore what it might mean to create a digital platform that assists and facilitates a creative process. By investigating from a variety of angles a specific case, MIT’s Art, Culture and Technology (ACT) Future Archive Project, we hope to illuminate the possibilities of such an endeavor as well as potential sites of friction. Broadly, this case study stands as an emblem of a current problem facing many humanists – a problem that can and should be addressed through Digital Humanities projects. The complex necessity to gather, store and organize a range of material confronts many humanists, from artists to designers to historians to economists. A platform, such as that described for the Future Archive Project, might be expanded or adapted to any project that involves gathering and displaying material. Moreover, the concept of the walled garden allows this kind of project to be readily adapted to a classroom setting. Above all, this case study demonstrates the great potential digital tools offer in facilitating creative and research processes.
By Whitney Anne Trettien on November 4, 2009
Timelines: the blessing and bane of so many digital humanities projects. While tools like SIMILE’s Timeline have made it easier to represent a series of events within the limited space of the screen, the timeline itself — a visualization so natural, so transparent to most users — is increasingly coming under question as means of depicting the complex network of historical relationships. Given that our understanding of temporal modeling has come to a crossroads (ah yes, yet another linear, spatialized conceptual metaphors for time — they’re almost impossible to escape in the English language!), it seems valuable to indulge in some oversimplified teleological history, and trace how the timeline came to be naturalized as the tool for modeling temporally-related events.
By lisanti on July 27, 2009
Who would YOU call to hang the lanterns?
Rather than simply illustrate the historical narrative of Boston’s Old North Church using primary sources, HyperStudio’s Tories, Timid, or True Blue? asks students to fully assume the role of an historian. The recently launched educational resource, developed in partnership with the Old North Foundation, provides visual access to the social, political, and personal dilemmas of real people at the time of the American Revolution. As the inevitability of the Revolution grew, every person in the American colonies was faced with a difficult dilemma, whether to remain loyal to the Crown, avoid taking sides, or join the fight for liberty and freedom. Their choice: tory, timid, or true blue? (more…)
By mcelish on May 1, 2009
Last weekend my colleague Whitney Trettien and I presented a paper, “Acts of Translation: Digital Humanities and the Archive Interface, at MIT’s Media in Transition 6: Stone and Papyrus, Storage and Transmission conference. In our presentation and paper, we argued for an increased awareness of the importance of design (the presentation and organization of visual information) in Digital Humanities projects. Through the discussion of projects such as NINES, the CHNM’s Object of History, and SFMOMA’s ArtScope, our goal was to show that design is far from “an accessorizing activity.” (See Johanna Drucker’s critique of the reigning attitude toward design Digital Humanities projects.) Indeed, design opens and forecloses interpretative possibilities and essentially influences the ways in which scholars and students can engage with material. (more…)