Victoria Szabo — Omeka Workshop

To kick off Victoria Szabo’s visit, we actually left the Humanities side of campus and made our way to Carlson Library and its high-tech Vista Collaboratory, a visualization lab with a interactive, 24-screen tiled-display wall. With the help of support staff Jonathan Carroll-Nellenback and Carl Schmidtmann, Victoria had arranged a detailed, visually exciting guide through the basic structure, and some of the more obscure and difficult features, of the online archive platform Omeka.

 

Having pre-arranged specific Omeka accounts of for each of the 31 participants at the workshop, Victoria launched into the goal for today: to create an interactive display of notable graves in the nearby Mt Hope cemetery. We all signed up for a particular grave on a shared googlesheet, and got to work adding images as items and writing up funny (or not) captions and accompanying text. The first hour of the workshop was consumed with the business of creating these and adding tags, collecting them within new exhibits, producing relevant (or not) metadata, and otherwise exploring the basic functionality of the site. Meanwhile Victoria was everywhere around the room, helping those who were stuck, suggesting new or better choices, and prepping for the next stage.

 

Neatline is a plugin for Omeka which allows the user to represent geospatial information — and as we were working on the Mt Hope Cemetery, an apt choice for a display tool. Giving us a map of the cemetery, Victoria then guided us through the possibilities for collectively shaping the map with our newly-collected, newly-made material. There were far more features than we were capable of working with in the limited time for the workshop, but even just playing around with the colour and style of our additions let us feel like we were making substantial contributions to a group project. As Victoria presented it, Neatline was a great tool for adapting textual information to be accessibly viewed within a spatial environment, and as a medium which invariably complicated and challenged the simpler items we had originally made.

Over too soon, the workshop was definitely an enlivening way to start off Professor Szabo’s visit to Rochester.

 


Alison Harper is a PhD student in English at the University of Rochester. She is a 2015-2017 Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in the Digital Humanities.

Recap: “Cultural Approaches to Digital Heritage” Keynote Lecture

Dr. Victoria Szabo, Associate Research Professor of Visual and Media Studies from Duke University delivered the keynote lecture, entitled “Cultural Approaches to Digital Heritage,” to a group of engaged audience in the Welles-Brown room on March 2, 2017.

The word “cultural heritage” often invokes regressive politics and obsessive identification with one’s past, as historian David Lowenthal most famously contends “as hopes of progress fade, heritage consoles us with tradition.” Despite the antithetical relation between heritage and new technologies, Szabo’s keynote lecture offers a retort to the conservatism associated with the term. Specifically, by engaging the “Visualizing Cities” project in North Carolina and Italy, she explores how we tell stories about space over real time and how academics can inform “cultural heritage experience design.” Meanwhile, by experimenting with the lab model as the way in which to produce Digital Humanities scholarship, she also examines how traditional authorship could be questioned and restructured in this often collaborative and participatory process.

One example she mentioned is the use of Augmented Reality (AR) to juxtapose the history of Smith Warehouse with its current function as the Art & Art History Department at Duke University. Since Durham is undergoing processes of rapid gentrification, the site-specific experience provided by AR technology is especially meaningful. Because it gives the user a chance to see and indeed experience the space’s history as a tobacco warehouse which reminds the user just upon what our fortunes have been built. As she says,”in this case, the AR overlay experience becomes an opportunity to mediate or ‘haunt’ the location more visibly.” The most “haunting” example she mentions is perhaps the over-lay of a historic photograph from February 1969 when the African American Society occupied Duke’s administration building to advocate the need of black students which augmented a radical moment in the history of the Civil Rights movement with a recent protest against racism on campus. Needless, such juxtapositions is not only meaningful but also collapses space and time in space and time which reveals the cyclical nature and repetitiveness of history. Also mentioned in her lecture is the “Visualizing Venice” project which engages the city as a lab and offers the students and teachers an unusually productive pedagogical environment.

Watch the keynote.

 

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Harry Gu is a PhD student in Visual and Cultural Studies at the University of Rochester. He is a 2016-2018 Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in the Digital Humanities.

Laura Mandell: Visiting Scholar in Digital Humanities

Laura Mandell Visitor in Digital Humanities

The Andrew W. Mellon Fellows in Digital Humanities are pleased to announce the February 19-20 visit of Dr. Laura MandellDirector of the Initiative for Digital Humanities, Media, and Culture at Texas A&M University. Dr. Mandell is our first-ever Visiting Scholar in Digital Humanities. Her research focuses on visualizing poetry, developing software that will allow all scholars to deep-code documents for data-mining, and improving OCR software for early modern and 18th century texts via high performance and cluster computing. During her time in Rochester, she’ll lead and participate in several thought-provoking events that draw on her wide range of scholarly, pedagogical, and professional pursuits. We’re excited for her visit, and hope you can share the experience with us.

These events are open to the public.

 
Thursday, February 19
  • 10:30am — Presentation: “Big Data and the Humanities” (VISTA Collaboratory)
  • 12:30pm — Lunch with graduate students (Digital Humanities Center)
  • 5pm — Keynote: “Scaling Up: Search as Research” (Morey 321)
Friday, February 20
  • 10:30am — Panel: “Archives in Between: Cultural Preservation, Material to Digital” (Welles-Brown Room). With Joanne Bernardi, Associate Professor of Japanese and Film and Media Studies, and author/editor of ReEnvisioning Japan; Daniela Currò, Preservation Manager, Moving Image Department, George Eastman House; and Jim Kuhn, Joseph N. Lambert and Harold B. Schleifer Director of Rare Books and Special Collections.
  • 12:30pm — DH Lunch: “The Dark Side of Digital Humanities” (Welles-Brown Room). For this event, RSVP to urmellonfellows@gmail.com by February 13.
Keep your eyes peeled for more info about each event!

 

Event Posters:

Recap: Psychasthenia 2

The term “psychasthenia” originated in turn-of-the-century psychology as a counterpart to hysteria, broadly recognizable in more contemporary discourse as introversion and extroversion, respectively. Where hysterics seemed overly sensitive to and affected by their experiences, magnifying their presence in the process, psychasthenics appeared to disappear into their surroundings, choosing to withdraw rather than react. Psychasthenia meant the trading of one form of integration for another: obsessing often uncontrollably about the outside world replaces the synthetic processes of attending and adjusting to one’s changing subjective experience.

In more modern psychology, the term has largely been supplanted by more clinical diagnoses such as OCD and long-term anxiety. This has created room for its uptake in more metaphorical realms. In social biology, it was used to describe the ability of some creatures to blend into their surroundings, the most obvious example being the chameleon, an animal that protects itself by appearing to become a part of its environment. In the 1930s, Roger Caillois took this usage and expanded it into a meditation on social and corporeal experience in modernity. Often, perhaps too often, the ability to blend in turns inward on itself and results in an inability to stand out.

Psychasthenia 2 is an interactive artwork developed by Victoria Szabo and Joyce Rudisnky, a North Carolina-based new media artist. As they describe it on their website, the piece “explores the culture of psychological diagnosis and treatment within the context of a highly mediated consumer culture that often produces the ills it purports to treat.” During Szabo’s visit, we had the chance to view Psychasthenia 2 in the immersive setting of a 9-screen array, such that the game’s abstract and familiar mazes achieved a similarity to life size not usually encountered in video games. We thus moved through the game’s levels: historic and diagnostic psychological literature; the holistic marketplace of self-help books, medications, and binge eating; an alley of common fears; a coffee shop brimming with social anxiety; and finally the tedium of everyday “normal” existence.

The game is organized according to Maslo’s Hierarchy of Needs, a mid-century motivational theory that often appears in literary studies. This usage suggests something of the hierarchy’s tendency toward fiction, which figures in multiple forms in Psychasthenia 2 in the stories we tell ourselves in our quests for psychological help. What are we really afraid of? Will this book, this treatment, this attitude finally hold the key to self-actualization? Throughout the levels, one responds to intermittent survey questions modeled on self-diagnosis quizzes found in psychiatric practices and BuzzFeed articles alike. These questions push the player to maintain sight of herself despite the distractions or desirable escapes offered by the external world. And yet, as the game goes on, it slyly suggests that these questions might also function to imbricate us into the discourses they prop up, displacing a true sense of self-actualization with the document declaring it.

Playing Psychasthenia 2 was simultaneously fun and sobering. Particularly in the self-help marketplace, methods of seeking guidance that seemed at first easy to dismiss—reading, for example, I’m Ok, You’re Ok—quickly gave way to more socially acceptable but nonetheless still ameliorative strategies. But what was most intriguing about the game was its theoretical engagement with the medium of video games. To the extent that we might characterize the ailment of psychasthenia as being too immersed, Szabo and Rudinsky have selected the ideal platform for examining its diagnosis and treatment. Video games are in many ways distinguished from other media by their interactivity and even immersion, especially in the case of contemporary virtual and augmented reality technology. In this sense, Psychasthenia 2 provides a tool for thinking both about present-day psychological culture and for anticipating, and thus assessing, the ramifications of technology’s increased ability to disrupt and multiply our sense of reality.


Tracy Stuber is a PhD candidate in Visual and Cultural Studies at the University of Rochester. She is a 2015-2017 Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in the Digital Humanities.

Dorothy Kim, “How To Decolonize the Digital Humanities: Or A Practical Guide”


Dorothy Kim
Assistant Professor of English
Vassar College

Time: Friday, April 14, 1pm
Location: Gamble Room, Rush Rhees Library

Responding to digital humanities’ issues with openness, race, disability, LGBTQ, feminist, and other kinds of non-normative bodies in the field, Dorothy Kim will outline a set of practical steps to #decolonizeDH, or to make it less white, heteropatriarchal, male, and ableist. She asks what are the field, departmental, and institutional steps to #decolonizeDH? What are the considerations that must be addressed in terms of politics, local action, education, and resistance?

Co-Sponsored by the Central New York Humanities Corridor, from an award by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Department of Art & Art History, Department of English, Department of Modern Languages & Cultures, Film & Media Studies, Graduate Program in Visual and Cultural Studies, the Digital Scholarship Lab, and the Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship in the Digital Humanities at the University of Rochester.

Visiting Scholar Recap

Tweets and pics from events by our first “Visiting Scholar in Digital Humanities.”