Sarah Hughes

Sarah is a PhD candidate in the Joint Program in English & Education at the University of Michigan, where she is also a Graduate Student Research Assistant with the English Department Writing Program, a member of the Digital Accessible Futures Lab, and a Sweetland Digital Rhetoric Collaborative Fellow. She has taught Developmental, First-Year, and Upper-Level Writing courses at U-M and various community colleges and universities in Ann Arbor and Chicago. Her research interests center digital rhetoric, gender and discourse, and gaming studies, and her dissertation project explores how women (used inclusively) use multimodal discourse—grammatically, narratively, and visually—to navigate online gaming ecologies.

Cantay Çalışkan

Cantay is an assistant professor of instruction at the Goergen Institute for Data Science at the University of Rochester. He studied political science, computer science, and statistics during his Ph.D., and received his degree from Boston University in 2018. Cantay received his BA from Brandeis University and his MA from Koç University. Before joining the University, he was a visiting assistant professor in the Department of Data Analytics at Denison University and a visiting assistant professor in the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science at Ohio Wesleyan University. His research interests include computational social science, emotion quantification and face/gesture recognition, social media, US Congress, and networks of lobbying.

Amit Ray

Amit is an Associate Professor in the Department of English at Rochester Institute of Technology. He is the author of Negotiating the Modern: Orientalism and Indianness in the Anglophone World. Dr. Ray’s current research examines the accelerating impact of new technologies on language and culture. He has been developing the concept of “autocolonialism” to explore how information and biological technologies transmogrify our late human condition.

Justin Murphy

Justin Murphy is a reporter for the Democrat and Chronicle, covering education in the Rochester area with an emphasis on the Rochester City School District. He has worked at the Democrat and Chronicle since 2012 and before that was a reporter for The Citizen in Auburn, New York. He grew up in Penfield and attended the University of Chicago and the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. His book “Your Children Are Very Greatly in Danger” examines school segregation in Rochester. He lives with his wife and children in the Cobbs Hill neighborhood.

Joshua E. Introne

Josh is an Assistant Professor at the Syracuse University School of Information Studies. He received his Ph.D. in computer science from Brandeis University in 2008. Following his degree was a post-doctoral fellow and research scientist at the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence, where he served as chief architect for the MIT Climate Colab ( Josh studies collective intelligence in socio-technical systems. He draws on his training in cognitive science, human computer interaction, and computer-mediated group decision making to investigate how to design sustainable systems that benefit those who use them as well as society more broadly. He also draws heavily on complex systems theory to understand patterns of stability and change in socio-technical systems and focuses on both social dynamics and knowledge production in online communities.  Much of his current work considers how social technology can influence the formation of peoples’ beliefs, and in particular beliefs that are motivated by misinformation.

Whitney Phillips

A scholar situated between the humanities and social sciences, Whitney Phillips draws from science and technology studies, critical theory, and media history to explore the context and consequence of mediated communication, with a focus on the ideologies, assumptions, and stories that shape what we observe on our screens. She is the author of several books on digital culture and politics. Most recently, she and Ryan M. Milner published You Are Here: A Field Guide for Navigating Polarized Speech, Conspiracy Theories, and Our Polluted Media Landscape (MIT Press, 2021), which they subsequently, and very loosely, adapted for middle grades readers. That book, forthcoming with Candlewick Press in early 2023, is titled Thinking Ecologically about Social Media. In the Fall of 2023, Phillips will be joining the faculty in the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication.

“Hooked on a Feeling: Quantifying Emotions in US Politics” — A Mellon Digital Humanities Conversation with Cantay Çalışkan

The Andrew W. Mellon Fellows in the Digital Humanities are pleased to announce their second DigiTalk of the Spring 2022 semester. This session on March 17th at 3 PM will feature a conversation with Cantay Çalışkan, an assistant professor of instruction at the Goergen Institute for Data Science at the University of Rochester.

In this DigiTalk, Dr. Cantay Çalışkan will discuss his innovative quantitative framework for analyzing the emotions of candidates in US presidential debates and the significance of these emotions in determining who holds our nation’s highest office. Using multinomial probabilistic machine learning and deep learning algorithms along with the help of face recognition, speech-to-text conversion, and speaker diarization techniques, Çalışkan has dynamically quantified emotion from 25 presidential debates, illuminating both the theoretical and political importance of emotions and the public’s perception of politicians.

Cantay Çalışkan is an assistant professor of instruction at the Goergen Institute for Data Science at the University of Rochester. He studied political science, computer science, and statistics during his Ph.D., and received his degree from Boston University in 2018. Cantay received his BA from Brandeis University and his MA from Koç University. Before joining the University, he was a visiting assistant professor in the Department of Data Analytics at Denison University and a visiting assistant professor in the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science at Ohio Wesleyan University. His research interests include computational social science, emotion quantification and face/gesture recognition, social media, US Congress, and networks of lobbying.

For more information about this event, visit the RSVP links above and below, or contact

Downstream: Navigating Polluted Media Currents — A Mellon Digital Humanities Symposium with Whitney Phillips

A symposium organized by the Mellon Fellows in the Digital Humanities at the University of Rochester. Co-sponsored by the Departments of Art and Art History, Digital Media Studies, English, History, and Modern Languages & Cultures, the Center for Community Engagement, and the Writing, Speaking, and Argument Program at the University of Rochester

*All public events were held in Conference Room D, Humanities Center, 202 Rush Rhees Library

Downstream Symposium

Whitney Phillips and Ryan Milner’s 2020 book, You Are Here, offers an  ecological framework for the understanding of digital media, emphasizing their interconnectedness and the ease by which “pollution” spreads across networks and communities. Noting the many historical and structural factors that led us here, Phillips and Milner argue that it’s now the users ourselves who must take an informed, ethical approach to our online activities and the effects they might have downstream.

Drawing inspiration from Phillips and Milner’s ecological metaphor for our current media landscape, the Downstream symposium brings together humanists, social scientists, and journalists to discuss this moment. 

In the introduction to You Are Here, Phillips and Milner write: “The polluted-information frame allows us to table the question of intent and focus instead on how the pollution spreads, why it was allowed to spread, and what impact the pollution has both at the initial waste site and, later, downstream.” (5)  

“Polluted information is as damaging as it is perfectly calibrated to our contemporary information ecosystem. It thrives when technological and economic systems function at peak efficiency. It thrives when platforms maximize user engagement. It thrives when publications pursue clicks. It thrives when everyday people do the clicking. It thrives when everything is working well—at least working well for some.” (You Are Here, 10)

While events like January 6 or the spread of conspiracy theories on COVID-19 have made our interconnectedness more apparent, the current situation is only an intensification of larger, systemic problems. After all, Phillips and Milner argue, “efficient systems have long yielded catastrophic outcomes.” Piecemeal solutions are not only ineffective, the authors contend, they also often exacerbate harm. The massively profitable corporations that own these social media platforms push automated moderation tools, promising to “innovate” their way out of the problem. Like the extractive industries’ wanton destruction of the planet’s ecology, their profits are contingent on the continued and increased circulation of these informational currents, whatever damage is done to the informational ecosystems in which we live.

The Downstream symposium is a gathering to focus on, and facilitate conversation about, media pollution as a problem that requires radical reformations to the way information flows. To do so, we must speculate on solutions while simultaneously attempting to “make sense” of the cacophonous and rapidly transforming maelstrom of information. The difficulty of this task is precisely what makes it absolutely necessary, because in the end, we’re all downstream, together.

Putting Theory to Practice: A Discussion of Data Feminism

In coordination with the 2021 Neilly Author Series lecture with Catherine D’Ignazio & Lauren F. Klein, the Mellon Digital Humanities Fellows are hosting a discussion panel, Putting Theory to Practice: A Discussion of Data Feminism, on April 23, from 1:00 – 2:30 PM EST via Zoom.

Register for the Zoom link here

As a follow-up to D’Ignazio and Klein’s lecture, panelists from the fields of data science, digital humanities, data literacy and pedagogy, and philosophy will discuss the seven principles from Data Feminism (MIT Press), specifically how “working with data from a feminist perspective” can: “examine power, challenge power, elevate emotion and embodiment, rethink binaries and hierarchies, embrace pluralism, consider context, and make labor visible” (17-8). This panel will explore what these principles look like in practice by providing examples of practitioners whose current research and projects speak to and actively engage with questions of power and justice. Panelists will introduce their own work with data science, participate in a moderated discussion, and end with a Q&A. We are excited to be joined by the following panelists:

  • Amy Bach, CEO, Measures for Justice
  • Jonathan Herington, University of Rochester, Department of Philosophy
  • Darakhshan Mir, Bucknell University, Department of Computer Science
  • Emily Sherwood, University of Rochester, Director of Digital Scholarship
  • Whitney Sperrazza, Rochester Institute of Technology, Department of English

Being Human, Being Robot: A DigiTalk featuring Andrew John Wit

Tuesday, April 13, 2021, at 3:30pm to 4:45pm via Zoom.

Register for this free event here.

Event Description:

Andrew John Wit is an Associate Professor at the Temple University Tyler School of Art and Architecture, where he leads research in emerging technologies and their relationship to the built environment. He is a co-editor of the book Towards a Robotic Architecture, an associate editor for the journal Construction Robotics, and an elected editor for the International Journal of Architectural Computing. His work has been presented and published in a wide range of international conferences, journals, and galleries. Andrew is also the Co-Founder of WITO* (pronounced we – toe), Laboratory for Intelligent Environments.

In this talk, Andrew will discuss novel tools, methods, and materials that are helping to redefine the design discipline and the built environment. Typically situated either within the arts or engineering, this talk will discuss how the field of architectural design has been transformed through the integration of AI, robotics, mixed reality, and novel composite materials and their relationship to human makers and inhabitants.

Event Video:

Digital Places, Physical Spaces Schedule

Friday, May 1, 2020, 11 AM–4 PM EDT on Zoom.

11:00: Opening Remarks, Daniel Gorman Jr., University of Rochester

11:10 – 1:00: Digital Places
Moderator: Alexander Zawacki, University of Rochester

  • Sarah Thompson (Rochester Institute of Technology), “Reconstruction à l’identique: Restoration, Authenticity, and Digital Models in French Gothic Patrimony”
  • Jason Tercha (Binghamton University), “Mapping the Social Effects of Antebellum Railroad Development in Northern Virginia”
  • Stephen Jacobs (Rochester Institute of Technology), “Mordechi Marches to Manchuria: Building”

1:00 – 1:30: Lunch Break

1:30 – 3:00: Digital Spaces
Moderator: Madeline Ullrich, University of Rochester 

  • Suchismata Dutta (University of Miami), “Schools in Community Conversations: Digital Analytics and the Formation of Hybrid Communities”
  • James Rankine (University of Rochester), “Messy Data, Neat Maps”
  • Sanaa Khan (University of California, San Diego), “Beyond Bodies: Critical Race Perspectives on Digital Embodiments”

3:00 – 4:00: Keynote Lecture
Moderator: Erin Francisco, University of Rochester 

Henry B. Lovejoy, Department of History, University of Colorado Boulder, “Follow the Drums: Mapping Yorùbá Migrations to Cuba, Brazil and Sierra Leone during the Abolition of the Slave Trade”

Digital Spaces, Physical Places: A [Revised] Digital Humanities Symposium

This symposium was originally scheduled for April 16–17, 2020, to be held on the University of Rochester River Campus in Rush Rhees Library, Humanities Center, Conference Room D. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 outbreak caused the cancellation of all in-person events at the University. The Mellon Fellows have changed the symposium to a virtual event, which will occur via Zoom on Friday, May 1, 2020, from 11 AM to 4 PM / 11:00 to 16:00 EDT.

To RSVP for the event and receive the Zoom meeting ID, please complete the form that is linked below, under “Symposium Update.”

In the meantime, we hope you all remain safe and healthy.

Original Call for Papers (CFP)

Digital technologies have forever altered our understanding of place and space by dividing physical presence from telepresence, birthing the hybrid and sometimes messy field of digital humanities. At the most basic level, email, forums, and social media have enabled lightspeed asynchronous communication, changing the way we live, work, and perform scholarship. Physical places—real, historical, and fictional—can be reconstituted in electronic form and made interactive through the use of augmented or virtual reality, posing new opportunities for experiencing the past and the present alike. Emergent online platforms present new and accessible sites of learning.

And yet, while these real, historical, or fictional spaces may indeed be re-envisioned in other forms, how do we keep in mind the specificities and origins that come with a connectedness to particular physical spaces or locales? Scholars in the fields of feminist, post-colonial, and critical race studies have kept these questions at the forefront of their digital humanities practice. As digital humanities scholars, how do we ensure that, for example, the political and social dimensions of gender, race, sexuality, and class—dimensions that exist in physical space—do not get lost in newly emerging digital forms? While thinking through digital space reveals new modes of experience, such as opportunities for community, accessibility, and activism, we might also consider how digital technologies expand, compress, and transform different spaces in specific ways for specific bodies. 

This symposium invites contributions that explore the nature and functions of digital spaces, as well as their connection to the physical world. How does spatial thinking figure into digital projects? How do events and debates in digital spaces transfer to the “real” world, and vice-versa? Is a distinction between analog and digital spaces still valid? Possible topics may include and are by no means limited to:

  • Avatars and representations of bodies in digital spaces.
  • The relationship between digital and physical archives.
  • The implications of “big data” for spatial analysis.
  • The transformation of geography as a discipline in the computer age.
  • Social, cultural, political, and/or religious activity in the digital realm.
  • Digital preservation of archaeological, historical, and cultural sites.
  • Scholarly applications of GIS and network analysis technology.
  • Theoretical approaches for conceptualizing online spaces, bodies, and communities.
  • Hybrid communities spanning the digital and analog worlds.
  • Augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) projects.
  • Uses of spatial thinking and technology in the classrooms.
  • The geo-political implications of digital spaces.

We invite individual submissions on past and ongoing digital humanities projects, as well as theoretical examinations of the above topics. We also welcome pre-constituted panels of 3–4 presenters. All submissions should include 300-word abstracts for each 20-minute paper presentation and 100-word bios for each presenter. Please submit all materials via email to UR Mellon Fellows,, by January 31, 2020. Successful applicants will be notified of acceptance by February 15, 2020.

This conference is organized by the current Andrew W. Mellon Digital Humanities Fellows at the University of Rochester. Please contact at the email address above with any questions.


Henry B. Lovejoy, Assistant Professor of History, Center for Research Data and Digital Scholarship, University of Colorado Boulder.

Henry B. Lovejoy, Assistant Professor of History, Center for Research Data and Digital Scholarship, University of Colorado Boulder.

Follow the Drums: Mapping Yorùbá Migrations to Cuba, Brazil and Sierra Leone during the Abolition of the Slave Trade

While scholars have amassed large amounts of data related to the transatlantic slave trade, a more pressing question lingers: Where did those 12.7 million people come from within pre-colonial West Africa before boarding slave ships destined for the Americas? The answer is complex for two reasons: 1) many sub-Saharan peoples did not have written orthographies until the mid-to-late nineteenth century (suggesting their histories were largely undocumented); and 2) Africa lacks reliable historical maps compared to other heavily populated regions of the world (meaning internal geo-political transformations are frequently misunderstood, especially before the colonization and decolonization of the continent). This digital mapping project seeks to visualize and calculate the probabilities of African origins of enslaved people in diaspora by using two open-source applications: Quantum Geographic Information System and R Project for Statistical Computing. By presenting geo-referenced data of intra-African conflict alongside slave ship departures, it is possible to generate statistical models capable of predicting large-scale, inland migrations on an annual basis. This experiment traces Yorùbá migrations during the collapse of the Oyo empire between 1817 and 1836, while emphasizing bàtá drums as a form of literacy that have contributed to the making of the Atlantic world. This interdisciplinary project appeals to scholars interested in exploring the relationship between conflict, slavery and abolition in the Atlantic world.

Symposium Update, April 23, 2020

Dear Colleagues, 

Like many university events, our digital humanities symposium “Digital Spaces, Physical Places,” scheduled to take place on April 16-17, was cancelled due to COVID-19 precautions. However, in the spirit of our symposium theme—an investigation of how the digital complements and alters our sense of physical space—we have decided to move our event online for a virtual symposium. We invite you to join us for our virtual symposium “Digital Spaces, Physical Places,” taking place over Zoom on Friday, May 1st from 11am–4pm EST. Our keynote speaker, Henry Lovejoy, has kindly agreed to give the keynote talk at 3pm that day. More information about his research can be found on his faculty page.

We will post a full schedule here in the following days; until then, we invite you to RSVP to the symposium using this form: A link to the Zoom meeting event will be provided through this event sign-up page. 

We are looking forward to this event in its new format, and hope you will join us for this virtual opportunity to engage in digital humanities scholarship, from scholars in the Rochester area and beyond! 

The UR Mellon Fellows


THATCamp (The Humanities and Technology Camp) “unconferences” are informal and participatory events in which most sessions are group discussions, hands-on workshops, productive working sessions, or pop-up collaborations among participants. By following the model of a THATCamp, we hope to foster an open and spontaneous environment to engage an interdisciplinary group of scholars and practitioners. THATCamp Rochester will be organized around the intersections between digital technologies  and the public’s experience of material objects in museums, archives, and new media. We also welcome sessions more broadly related to digital scholarship and pedagogy.

The University of Rochester hosted a featured speaker, Michael Phelps, on Thursday, March 22, at 5 p.m. Phelps directs a multi-spectral imaging project at St. Catherine’s Monastery in the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt where he uses digital technologies to recover damaged and previously unknown ancient manuscripts.  St. Catherine’s Monastery has one of the oldest continuously operating libraries, founded in the fourth century.  Phelp discussed his work as the director he Early Manuscripts Electronic Library (EMEL), and was present as an interlocutor at THATCamp on Friday, March 23.

THATCamp Rochester is a collaboration between the The Digital Humanities and Social Sciences program at the Rochester Institute of Technology, the Andrew W. Mellon Graduate Program in the Digital Humanities at the University of Rochester, and the Memorial Art Gallery.

THATCamp 2018

THATCamp Rochester 2018, Memorial Art Gallery, March 23rd.

The Andrew D. Mellon Program is delighted to announce THATCamp Rochester 2018, a Digital Humanities “Unconference” created in partnership with The Digital Humanities and Social Sciences program at the  Rochester Institute of Technology and the Memorial Art Gallery.    THATCamp (The Humanities and Technology Camp) is an event that embraces an informal, spontaneous, inclusive and participatory style, a unique approach that encourages group discussions, practical joint workshops and on-the-spot collaborative efforts in the digital humanities.

THATCamp Rochester 2018 will be held at the Memorial Art Gallery, March 23rd, from 9.00am to 5.00pm.  In keeping with the venue, participants are encouraged to (but not limited to) explore the role of material objects, archival materials and new and old media as experienced by scholars and the broader public.

Michael Phelps will give a keynote address at the University of Rochester on Thursday, March 22nd, at 5pm.  Phelps will discuss his work as the director of the Early Manuscripts Electronic Library (EMEL) and multi-spectral imaging project at St. Catherine’s Monastery in the Sinai Peninsula.  Phelps will also be attending THATCamp as a participant and interlocutor.

To be a part of THATCamp, participants are encouraged to register here and to visit the THATCamp Rochester 2018 website for more information.

Location: Memorial Art Gallery, 500 University Ave., Rochester NY 14607.
Time: 9am – 5pm.

Decolonizing Digital Networks: Women of Color, Feminism, Open Access, and What It Means to be Woke

Lisa Nakamura, Professor of American Cultures, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Thursday, October 19, 2017
Gamble Room, Rush Rhees Library 361

Lisa Nakamura is the Gwendolyn Calvert Baker Collegiate Professor in the Department of American Cultures at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She is one of the leading scholars in the field of critical digital media studies/digital humanities. From coining the concept of “cybertype” as distinctive ways that the internet propagates, disseminates, and commodifies images of race and racism, to locating the internet as a privileged and extremely rich site for the creation and distribution of hegemonic and counterhegemonic visual images of racialized bodies, Nakamura has significantly contributed to the theory of racial formation in digital cultures. Her publications include Race After the Internet (2011, co-edited with Peter Chow-White) and Digitizing Race: Visual Cultures of the Internet (2007).

DH Lunch: Playing with Digital Histories in the R-CADE

Friday, September 22, 2017
Humanities Center, Conference Room D

James J. Brown, Jr., Assistant Professor of English and Director of the Digital Studies Center, Rutgers University-Camden

Robert A. Emmons, Jr., Assistant Professor of Fine Arts and Associate Director of the Digital Studies Center, Rutgers University-Camden

In 2014, Robert Emmons and Jim Brown launched the Rutgers-Camden Archive of Digital Ephemera (R-CADE), a collection of digital artifacts made available for research and creative activities. Scholars are free to take apart, dissect, and repurpose artifacts in the R-CADE as they attempt to understand their historical and cultural significance. While the R-CADE does not preserve in the sense of keeping objects in their “original” condition, the archive is in fact an exercise in the preservation of digital culture. The R-CADE has expanded and changed in the intervening three years, and this presentation will discuss the genesis of the project, its theoretical underpinnings, and how the annual R-CADE Symposium has grown. Emmons and Brown will share some of the work that has emerged from the R-CADE and will discuss some of the project’s future directions.

Recap: The DH Grad Student and the Job Market

After completing her PhD in the Department of English at the University of Rochester, Szabo took a position as an Instructional Multimedia Specialist at Grinnell College. Shortly thereafter, she was offered a position at Stanford University where she worked in Academic Technology in the Stanford University Libraries. While at Stanford University she helped to develop numerous digital projects for both teaching and research. Her diverse skill sets and experiences helped prepare for her current position as an Associate Research Professor in the Department of Art, Art History, and Visual Studies at Duke University. Szabo wears many hats at Duke University where she is connected with the Information Sciences, Computational Media, Wired! Lab, the Franklin Humanities Center, and Bass Connections. The wide range of responsibilities and positions helped to inform her discussion with digitally minded graduate students about the academic job market.

Szabo stressed the importance of flexibility for graduate students as they approach the job market. As traditional tenure-track jobs continue to dwindle, she argued, the digital humanist should recognize the fluidity of their skills. Digital humanists are valued assets to libraries and other departments where a skillset is more desirable than the departmental affiliation associated with a Ph.D. As a result graduate students involved in the digital humanities should build a portfolio of work to demonstrate skills learned as well as their application. With a field as young and broad as the Digital Humanities, Szabo urged graduate students to be proficient with one, or two, digital tools. By building a (manageable) digital project or incorporating a tool into one’s traditional dissertation, graduate students can better prove their competencies in DH.

Digital humanists might never be considered a “traditional” faculty members. Szabo demonstrated that this reality is not necessarily a bad thing. She pointed out that she has had the opportunity to travel abroad for research, work on numerous digital projects, and collaborate across disciplines. Her publications and projects demonstrate a productive and rewarding career path. Szabo’s skills are valued and her perspectives are unique. The inherent flexibility of DH, she argued, is increasingly sought out in an age where boundaries between disciplines are beginning to break down. As departments begin to incorporate digital literacies into their curriculum, digital humanists will be a valuable source of knowledge for those disciplines now facing the realities of 21st century technologies. Ultimately, she argued, the changing landscape of academia requires graduates students to be flexible, optimistic, and creative—essential traits of the digital humanist.

Camden Burd is a PhD candidate in the Department of History at the University of Rochester. He is a 2016-2018 Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in the Digital Humanities.