Digital Humanities

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Overview

Thursday, 10:20am-12:00pm
Format: Introductory Lecture, Lightning Presentations and Moderated Discussion
Leads: Jeffrey Schnapp and Jesse Shapins, featuring Urs Gasser
Participants: Joseph Bergen, James Burns, Zamyla Chan, Ernst Karel, Jake Levine, Kara Oehler, Kyle Parry, Robert Gerard Pietrusko, Joana Pimenta, Julia Yezbick

This pillar session will address the current state of digital humanities, an umbrella term for new modes of scholarship and public knowledge practice that emphasize collaborative, transdisciplinary and digitally-engaged research, teaching, and dissemination. Digital Humanities is less a unified field than an array of convergent practices that explore a universe in which print is no longer the normative medium, and digital tools, techniques, and media have expanded traditional concepts of knowledge in the arts, human and social sciences. The session will address fundamental questions such as: How can traditional humanities skills be reshaped in multimedia terms? How and by whom will the contours of cultural and historical memory be defined in the digital era? How might practices of digital storytelling coincide or diverge from oral or print-based storytelling? What is the place of humanitas in a networked world?

Lightning Projects/Speakers

extraMUROS creates a multimedia-library-without-walls through an open source, HTML5 platform built on public APIs. The project aims to fundamentally change the way people discover, curate and share digital collections.

The Digital Archive of Japan's 2011 Disasters aims to collect, preserve, and make accessible as much of the digital record of the disasters as possible, to enable scholars and a wide public audience in the disaster area, in Japan, and around the world to understand these events and their effect. In the digital age, archives are no longer simply storage facilities for future generations, but are active public spaces immediately upon creation. Fundamental to this new paradigm is the reconfiguration of the archive as a living and dynamic place, where archives can be called into existence shortly following major events, the corpus is consistently expanding and the access to historical artifacts is contextualized through metadata derived from the public’s interaction with the archive itself.

Zeega is an open-source HTML5 platform for creating interactive documentaries and inventing new forms of storytelling. Zeega will make it easy to collaboratively produce, curate and publish participatory multimedia projects online, on mobile devices and in physical spaces.

Sensate is an online, media-based journal for the creation, presentation, and critique of innovative projects in the arts, humanities, and sciences. Our aim is to build on the current groundswell of pioneering activities in the digital humanities, scholarly publishing, and innovative media practice to integrate new modes of scholarship into the cognitive life of the academy and beyond.

Augmented Harvard is a multi-year, University-wide installation that is composed of a network of physical artifacts that unlock site-specific experiences. These artifacts, or hubs, consist of such devices as thermal receipt printers, hacked Kinects, speakers or programmable LEDs. Augmented Harvard allows faculty, students, curators and the public to link Harvard exhibitions to other spaces and objects across the University, and to see otherwise invisible features of the campus landscape such as long-ago demolished structures, alternative architectural plans, and inaccessible archives as they rove the campus core.

Known Unknown is a new experiment in audio and interactive documentary that immerses audiences in the particularity of places, while interweaving the ambiguities and surprising pathways that emerge during the documentary process. Known Unknown uses Zeega as its foundation, and combines aesthetic experimentation with ethnographic approaches to engage major news topics through the everyday, creating a new space for artistic invention in public media. The project is currently in early-stage development, with the long-term aim of modeling a new form of radio show that is developed from the beginning across broadcast, online and physical media.

The Harvard Law Documentary Studio (HLDOCS) aims to produce original documentaries that explore social and policy issues. HLDOCS will offer technical, artistic, and financial support for student-led projects.

The Graduate School in Arts and Sciences offers a Secondary Field degree in Critical Media Practice (CMP) for PhD students at Harvard who wish to integrate media production into their academic work. The CMP Secondary Field reflects changing patterns of knowledge production, and in particular that knowledge is increasingly incorporated into novel multi-media configurations in which written language plays only a part. Audiovisual media have a different relationship to, and reveal different dimensions of, the world from exclusively verbal sign systems.

Recommended Readings

Relevant Models

Related Harvard Projects/Initiatives

Other Projects

Other Centers

Student Reflections

Representing Harvard’s metaLAB, Jeffrey Schnapp and Jesse Shapins introduced the concept of Digital Humanities to the iLaw audience, and facilitated a lightening round highlighting specific Digital Humanities projects. Digital Humanities was described as a choral voice from a distributed network, a voice meant to produce knowledge in, for, and about the language of the world wide web (our new public domain). This new scholarship is not solely about the digital medium, but rather the opportunities and challenges that arise from the conjunction of the term ‘digital’ with the term ‘humanities’. Taking advantage of these opportunities will result in new modes of scholarship and institutional units of collaborative study, increasing the visibility of humanistic research.

After Jeffrey and Jesse’s introduction to metaLAB and Digital Humanities a number of groups (whose descriptions are given above) explained how they are addressing the opportunities that come from the conjunction of ‘digital’ and ‘humanities’, and how individuals can get involved.

Questions for Further Discussion

  1. How do we help citizens become curators of their own cultural history? Is the preserver or archivist an additional model of cultural behavior to Read-Only and Read-Write culture?
  2. How are those leading the Digital Humanities charge accounting for the technical fragility and legal ambiguity of link-based contributions and information?
  3. How do experiential, scruffy, and curatorial attitudes of digital humanities reshape the genre of research? Should Digital Humanities projects work to supplement or replace more traditional modes of scholarship? And how does this fit with Zittrain’s concern about scholarship and entrepreneurship in the university?