On April 30th, I had the opportunity to attend the DH showcase in the Center for Humanistic Inquiry, and I will be highlighting a few of the things I learned. If you are confused about what Digital Humanities is, you can check out my previous blog about it here.
Professor Parham, whose also the director of the Five College Digital Humanities, introduced the showcase by stating the necessity of having such an event. She mentioned how creating informal settings where individuals can comfortably share their works, generates better conversations and encourages people to be more involved in DH projects. She also emphasized the power of social media in establishing connections within the DH arena.
Unfortunately, I was only able to stay for two of the presentations, but I thought that the works done by these two speakers was really cool. The first was Professor Martin Norden, who is a film historian and a professor of communications at Umass. He teaches an interesting film course that utilizes multitudes of digital, online historical newspapers to convey to his students how history is ever changing. In the course syllabus, students are required to engage with past films in conjunction with articles that were produced at the time. It seemed like a really fascinating course, and I might even take it some time before I graduate.
The second speaker was Alana Kumbier, a librarian for the Social Sciences and Digital Pedagogy at Hampshire College. She has been leading a DH project known as Zine Scenes, which will be offered as a course in the upcoming fall semester. Zine Scenes “evoke[s] the relational, highly interpersonal modes and cultures of zine dissemination and to help ‘digital natives’ understand what it was like to encounter and participate in communities of zine makers and readers before the spread of email, online social networks, and digitized collections.” Hampshire students have actually contributed to a lot of the project’s success, and the lead student, Norah, even got to present her piece in the beginning of the day. You can access the project here if you want to find out more.
A while ago I attended Jessica Johnson’s presentation on history and memory in the digital age, and struggled to think about what her presentation meant to me, and how I may interpret it in the context of this course. Levees has really been a turning point for me in Lee’s filmography, and has provided a way to think through a lot of concepts I’ve struggled with throughout the semester, including some of Johnson’s conclusions.
One of the most interesting concepts posed by Johnson is the role of statistics and data in understanding history and shaping memory of slavery. She discussed how statistics, to
A few weeks ago, I attended the presentation of poems and music by the organization Sing Our Rivers Red to raise awareness of missing and murdered Native American women across the continent. Every performance was incredibly powerful and meaningful, and I really showed how space can be made to talk about what is painful, what is forgotten, and what feels otherwise invisible through art– the presentation also set up an exhibit of earrings to represented the missing women. (I’d really recommend everyone looking up this organization and learning more about their message, by the way).
While watching Levees, I was reminded of Sing Our Rivers Red in that Lee uses his documentary, as an art form, to raise awareness of what is otherwise forgotten and covered up– the suffering of those neglected by the state. Obviously the contexts and
I wanted to continue the conversation we had in class on Thursday when Professor Parham introduced the question of: Why does representation matter? Keeping in mind the role of data and art. I felt like most people valued art a lot more than data, and I wanted to push back a little of the undervaluation of numbers in representation.
Data is important- in the simplest of terms- for documenting experiences with an evaluative function in a more concrete way than artwork may. I do agree with many students that often times data can be seen as reducing experience into statistics, but I think it’s also important to remember how difficult it would be to create art without being able to draw on historical data. In our class discussion, we placed an emphasis on pitting these two modes of storytelling against each other, (this is a little late but I wanted to tie in Professor Johnson’s talk from March as well) but I think there is a definitive value in combining these two resources.
The inclusion of data in story telling is particularly compelling. These numbers are useful in terms of providing a tangible way to evaluate an experience. I think the incorporation of data can often elevate an artistic work by bringing in elements of truth and reality. In Professor Johnson’s talk on digital humanities, she introduced this new concept of evaluating and telling history. Through incorporating data from historical archives with mediums of technology, a comprehensive depiction of the past can be created.
“Richard Bridgens, West India Scenery…from sketches taken during a voyage and seven years in….Trinidad (London, 1836, plate 20)”
“Digital humanities uses research and technology to create a new realm of knowledge which can allow for a different understanding of the humanities which would otherwise be inaccessible.” – Kathryn
Professor Johnson’s discussion revolved around the use of digital blackness as a resource. She focused the initial part of the conversation on the use of data in re-visualizing the modern understanding of slavery. Since digital forms have demonstrated potential for radicalization, she mentioned how there have been newly developed archives that revisit Southern texts and data, in order to produce a better perception of the day-to-day nature of black lives during slavery.
Within her presentation, Professor Johnson portrayed forms of art, from the enslavement period, such as the one on the left. I decided to do more research on that specific sketch by Richard Bridgens, and I found something even more amazing. The pictures you see below are all from Pinterest. Along with each post is a brief description of the history associated with the image.
LEAD Technologies Inc. V1.01
“What role do items in slavery’s archives play in the drive for data and the embodying of a politics in which all black lives matter?
How do we use the ephemerality of social media in the service of history/memory that does not reproduce humans solely as data?
What does it mean to do a hypertextual history of a people who did not leave any texts?
How do we capture humanity in these mediums without detaching from it or over-emotionalizing it?”