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Hu Con 2017

These notes are for the HuCon 2017 conference on The Once and Future Digital Humanities.

Note that these are being written live so they will be full of typos and lacunae.

Geoffrey Rockwell: A Deaf Ear to the Ground: Caring About Information

I gave the opening keynote and talked about the ethics of datafication. In the paper I:

  • First, discussed what I think has changed such that we need to return now to the question of the ethics of digitization.
  • Second, confronted one form of the ethical argument for digitization and access, the view that “information wants to be free.”
  • Third, introduced counter arguments around community knowing.
  • Finally, concluded with thoughts on the difficulty of thinking through these issues ethically.

I ended with the following:

The ethical problem is deeply rooted in our history of managing information and the infrastructure we have built up. The deep problems of the formation of what Bowker (2008) calls memory infrastructure cannot be solved, for example, overnight with a few gestures, like proposing a code of conduct to take into account a few differences in perspective, though a code might be a good place to start. Part of the problem is that we assume the Western way of conceiving information framed by our infrastructure is universal or at least the best, and therefore the bottle into which all wines should be poured. What would it mean to take seriously that some stories shouldn’t be told, or should be told, but not digitized, even when we have access? What would it mean to take seriously that some people and some communities would “demand to […] the right to opacity.” (Glissant 1997, 189)
What would it mean if we really cared enough about information to take responsibility for our work with it?

Panel on Media Memory & Material Culture

We started with a panel.

Julie Rak: Zombie publishing

People have been announcing the death of the book as we know it. In fact there is a close connection between the new media and the older print media. Rak talked about remediation and how mainstream media conglomerates started buying out other publishers to try to get vertical integration. Remediation was not smooth and it didn't work commercially. "The content stumbles into the new world and is perceived as a threat." In other words zombie

Rak then talked about two projects that took social media online and remediated them into books, films, and so on. The Julie/Julia project started as a cooking blog by Julie Powell when she decided to cook all the recipes of Julia Child's cookbook in a year. She seemed to think of the blog as an accounting. The blog is, however, public, unlike a diary. Soon her readers became part of the dynamic. Soon traditional media notice her and remediation kicks in. Then a film is made of the book. The film documents parallel lives - lives of women who themselves invented media (cookbooks and food blogs) and remediated styles.

Sh*t My Dad Says is also about someone in a crappy jobs turning to the internet to reinvent themselves. Justin Halpern didn't initially think his stuff was public, but eventually he published a book that was successful. The TV show was a flop, perhaps because they couldn't keep the foul language or the aphoristic style.

Now self-publishing is more about self-promotion.

Arlene Oak: Media, Memory and Material Culture: Managing Mess: Practice, Data and Design-Build

Oak started with Law After Method: Mess in Social Science Research. She does microsociology - looking at the interactions they have with material world. She is especially interested in design related interactions - how people learn to become designers, architects ... The interactions between students and profs in "real practice" are were a lot of learning happens.

She then talked about a SSHRC research/creation project on "Thinking while doing: connecting insight to innovations in the construction sector".

Most architecture is about models that are never made. Design-build education is instead about things that are then made. In D-b students get a very different experience. Oak is then studying the design-building taking place. She is interested in how order comes out of messy events.

Design Build Exchange is a web site they are building that gathers a repository of all the knowledge needed in D-b projects from materials to legal issues. The goal is to have data of real practice.

The architecture profs in D-b have the problem of being assessed for promotion/tenure. They are both designing and teaching students who also have a lot of creative input. They are trying to document how they are involved.

Oak has not gotten interested in the design of the web site and how it represents the messy work. The web site has language about RDF and a triple-store.

Julia Byl: Brutalist Bedrock: Rethinking Data in Ethnomusicology

Byl started by talking about getting a technology grant to get a bunch of esoteric drums. Are drums technology? Byl is an ethnomusicologist who goes to the field and learns how to play the instrument. Sapir talked about musical instruments as brutally convincing bedrock. Ethnomusicology used to have a comparative a colonial methodology. Instead there is a focus on close and thick reading. Now historical is coming in where the movement of instruments and music is important. She worked in North Sumatra, the Malay world, and now East Timor.

She talked about doing field work and area studies and how these approaches connect to imperial/colonial needs.

She then talked about esoteric knowledge - ritual knowledge that isn't meant to be understood to all. It still can be efficacious when people don't understand them. Yantras can endow a book with power. Can these books still be powerful when digitized? Is this information really free?

She then talked about the record of East Timor, especially during the period when it became independent and Indonesia tried to take over. She is looking at a political record at a personal/family level to see signs of musicality. Can the documents from the truth and reconciliation process of East Timor really be free? Can their horrors be available for analysis?

In the discussion Rak talked about heavy and light information rather than real and virtual.

Student Lightning Talks

Lucinda Johnston: the Mythstory of Bamfield

Johnston is interested in sound stories and played one for us about the four spirits.

Colonizing Pepe: Internet Memes as (Cyber)plances

Jeremie Pelletier-Gagnon and Axel Perez Trujillo Diniz presented on the Pepe the frog meme on 4-chan. Around 2015 the meme got associated with Alt-right and nazi imagery and eventually Trump. Later the meme was used by Clinton campaign and others to show association between Trump and alt-right.

Now Matt Fury and the anti-defamation league is trying to save pepe. The idea is that positive images should be shared. The hashtag is becoming a space of negotiation around a meme.

Then they stepped back. Daniel Dennett in Breaking the Spell talks about memes as parasites that latch onto something else. To understand memes one needs to understand the circuit of power and agency. They use space as a metaphor for understanding memes. Think of pepe as a space for colonization and anti-colonization.

Toby Grant: Troubleshoot your Tech

Grant walked us through a series of steps to fixing technology. Check basics ... restart ... and then explain carefully.

Zoe Cain: Letsplay Comments

Zoe talked about looking at You Tube? comments on Letsplay videos. She is interested in women letsplayers and how they get comments. She scraped a lot of comments on women letsplayers and looked for changes around gamergate. She didn't find a lot of derogatory comments. She also found chunks of comments deleted because there was self-regulation within the communities. Spam abuse clears out a lot of the worst stuff.

Kaitlin: Authenticity in the Online World

Kaitlin is interested in authenticity in archiving. How important is authenticity in virtual world to users? What are the markers of authenticity? She gave some examples including the Walt Whitman archive. She talked about high-rez images being made available. Such technology puts pressure on others by creating expectations. She will look at how authenticity creates expectations.

Rachel Osolen: Objects of the Dead and Online Memorials

Osolen is looking at the objects of the dead and how they are represented online. The internet lets us continue a relationship with the dead in a way that wasn't available before. She talked about example sites like the September 11 Digital Archive and the Hart Island Project.

She talked about how she is drawing on discussions of mourning to see if the tasks of mourning carry over to online memorials. In mourning a relationship with the deceased can change. Objects of mourning can help.

Richard: SLIS Crowdfunding Campaign

Richard talked about raising funds for the SLIS student association. They wanted to use Useed, the University platform, but they had to drop that. They shifted to another platform, but learned about the need to organize and identify roles. They did a lot of marketing.

Some of the things they looked at when choosing platform included:

  • Usability of interface of platform
  • Fees for the platform
  • How would they get access to the funds

They settled on YouCaring. The team was going to use their networks and social media.

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