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Notes from National Digital Forum (NDF) Conference 2018

National Digital Forum (NDF) Conference 2018

Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand (Wellington, New Zealand)
November 20-21, 2018

The NDF Conference this year was another good, inspirational, and thought-provoking one, with a great line-up of keynote speakers and other presenters. The keynotes offered a range of insights as well as challenges to how to make GLAM more diverse and be more thoughtful about how and why it collects material. The opportunity to check out the Mahuki Labs at Te Papa was also welcomed – everyone was excited to share their projects and see what others thought. The hashtag was #NDFNZ and many of the presentations are available on NDF’s YouTube channel – well worth watching!

Day 1 – November 20, 2018

Official Welcome and Opening Address – Prof Rawinia Higgins

Higgins discussed how the normalization of the Māori language cannot be left just to the schools, universities, etc. The GLAM sector can take a role and find ways of getting people to use digital repositories and tools. We shouldn’t just replicate what we already have in other mediums. There should be gateways where people can connect to their heritage and culture. Although Māori were largely an oral culture, they also have been early adopters, and history shows how they embraced literacy and had a variety of Māori newspapers. Colonization takes a toll – it just takes a generation to lose a language. She challenged the sector to not just protect knowledge but connect ancestors to our communities so it becomes their vernacular today. The Crown’s Māori Language Strategy has its efforts being led by the Māori Language Commission. Digital tools are still just tools – it is people and connectivity at forums like this that are important for discussing issues.

Keynote: Michael Edson

Edson began with a story about a pottery class where the teacher said half the room would get a grade based on one pot, and half the room would get a grade based on weight (e.g. making 200 pounds will get you an A, 50 pounds a C, etc.); the ones who made the most pots actually were more creative because they weren’t stuck on perfection and just got on with it. He provided several observations for thought: that cultural organizations must seek new ways to share (leverage, scale) their vitality and power, much of that vitality/power will come from outside our institutions, and that the lives of individuals and community are far more dynamic, creative, and amazing than we give them credit for. He said we must ‘cut the knot’ and achieve more direct paths to action, including finding ways to think outside of the institutions (cut the Gordion knot).

Then he had us play a Rock Paper Scissors game with each other, making the whole auditorium erupt into sound and liveliness. He showed us the super-fast Rock Paper Scissors robot that wins every time because it can see the movements of a human’s hand. Edson said that groups that face each other far outperform in creative, cognitive tasks, innovation, problem-solving than groups that don’t. This includes groups like surgeons. He discussed ‘leaning in’ activities and play, and how you can get 10x more human interaction at a farmer’s market than a grocery store [something that is likely to continue with increasingly automated check-outs].

He asked us to reflect on the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals and the one we like the most for a minute. Then he moved on to discussing UN Live: The Museum for the United Nations. It’s about connecting – they intentionally made the beginning of the mission statement a verb – it’s also about catalyzing global effort toward its goals. He said it helps clarify what you’re doing when you’re planning. They call themselves a museum on three platforms: Building, Network, Online, with a physical building in Copenhagen, a network of other institutions, and a digital presence to bring it all together.

People tend to be interested and involved when it’s in their local community (e.g. best pizza pies on the block gains more interest than best pizza in the city). People tend to care about climate change when it affects their garden, and research backs this up. Many of us think that if people have an emotional reaction to a problem, they are more likely to take action. But there is not a lot of evidence of this. Also, we think that if people know or learn about something, they will change the way they act in the world. But there are not a lot of stories about this happening. In fact, actually the opposite can be true, especially if it contrasts with their ideas, or if they think they are doing something about it by just knowing. Doing something (maker space) can be a skill in itself. This is why they’ve chosen to design with head, hands, and heart to try to tie all of the above in.

Rather than looking for a target demographic, they are looking for a target ‘psychographic’ (people who are open to change rather than ‘teens who read such and such’). They know online videos with playful element are successful and plan to use vloggers to create videos. They don’t have time or need to create a new audience for UN Live but instead will borrow (like Wikipedia borrowed Slash Dot’s). There are already festival of/for change around the world; they can start with them and then build their own.

Michael Edson slide 2He then discussed one of the ways they went about designing a museum space by getting kids involved. They used Lego and asked kids in Denmark to design a space to improve the world without telling them it was a museum until afterward. Then when he told them it was a UN Museum, their faces fell, indicating that the word museum held a negative impression for kids. He asked them what they thought about museums and they said ‘Eck…’ And he asked them what they thought about libraries and all said ‘shh’ and motioned with their fingers. But then he asked them where they went to hang out, and it ended up being the public library. And the same with the children’s museum. Despite this issue with terms, he said some framing is necessary. When he tried the design experiment without using that term they were lost.

Michael Edson slide 1He explained that using a game scenario is another way to solve problems. Science fiction can be a good way to level the playing field in that people don’t feel like they have to be an expert to solve problems on a hypothetical ‘Earth 7’ because it doesn’t exist, unlike something on real Earth. He said he has been in some awful meetings with museum staff where they say they want to change the world but ‘Stan’ here really just wants me to fill in this form.

In the Q&A, someone asked why he had us do the reflective exercise on the UN’s SDGs; his answer was that he wanted to take a risk and have people think about it and get in contact with him. Another question was about whether the push to get people to take action abdicates responsibility from organizations that should be doing stuff, like Occupy doing work of FEMA. His reply involved saying that it seems to be a ‘hack’ on the system and a way to give more people a seat at the table where decisions are being made. He doesn’t think this is a way to necessarily abdicate.

Thomasin Sleigh – DigitalNZ reflects on ten years

Sleigh noted that DigitalNZ points to over 206 institutions and lots of content. She admitted that she at first questioned whether the service was that useful, but she now believes that it is. She said that the big players (GAFA: Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon) actually control a lot of the information now, and people may think of these as the Internet and get all their news from them. But there is a lack of control here. Mark Zuckerberg can turn off a website’s traffic with the switch of an algorithm (ex. Recent Spinoff example). There is the post-truth environment and election tampering. She mentioned Jamie Bartlett’s The People Vs Tech: How the Internet is Killing Democracy (and How We Save It) (2018) and Safiya Umoja Noble’s Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism (2018). People sometimes ask her, why wouldn’t I just Google to look for information? But Google only has a veneer of neutrality; it is in its best interest to make us forget it’s a business. When you Google things, there is often not a lot of diversity, including a lack of women – 50% of population.

Katie Breckon, Johnny Divilli, Pete O’Connor – Activating collections in remote Western Australia

They discussed having to travel to very remote places only accessible by 4-wheel drive or helicopter, and having to hike for an hour in the long grass where snakes live! Dolord Mindi (the cave) is home to the Mowanjum Community Collection and Media Space. Arts and cultural workers receive on-the-job training and are supported to attend workshops and mentor fellowships. This helps them build local capacity as they care for the collections. They also are helped to develop their digital media skills and do drone training so they can record their cultural sites. Kids are the most frequent users of databases, and they are looking forward to getting more computers in.

They also discussed some of the arts and cultural projects, like the Junba Project (Junba is a form of storytelling through song and dance). O’Connor said he didn’t have a chance to learn the cultural practices and dances when he was young, so he wants to make sure the young men and women have the opportunity to. There is a poster of the different meanings of paint on the body, and they want to have an app where users can touch a part and then read what the meaning is in a more interactive way. Kids use iPads to film themselves dancing and then reflect on their efforts and improve. For example, they might be trying to look like an emu and see that they need to work on their posture more. At the close of the presentation, they showed us the 3-D mapping of a cave that they are working on.

Karyn Brice – NZSL at Te Papa

Brice discussed the journey of having an interpreter at an exhibit at Te Papa, filming them, and having that for New Zealand Sign Language Week. She mentioned ConnexU, which works with GLAM institutions in Australia and now some in New Zealand to provide NZSL and connect with deaf communities. They film a video of an interpreter for you. When the Te Papa team asked for feedback on the NZSL interpretation, they received it. Some preferred presenters who were deaf because they have learned NZSL as a first language and have a different perspective. This also raises the visibility of people who are deaf in the museum. People also indicated they would like to have New Zealand presenters and the option to turn the captions on/off.

A lot of the Gallipoli exhibit relied on audio stories, so one person was disappointed that he wasn’t able to have the full experience. Another woman came with her children and a host started talking to her but didn’t realize she couldn’t hear. She felt like she was missing out on important information that she couldn’t convey to her children. When people were asked to do a thought activity about designing a magic mobile device (if you could design any phone for an exhibit, what would it look like?), they received comments about something that would float because people’s arms get tired, would be able to locate their children, would provide easy directions to toilets and parents’ rooms, and would display what the rules of the museum were. In taking feedback into consideration, how Te Papa hosts receive NZSL training.

Adam Moriarty – Do we still need a Museum collections online?

Moriarty said the best decision they at the Auckland War Memorial Museum made was to partner with DigitalNZ. They get more hits from there in one month than they get in 3-4 months on their site. He once asked a scientist where they got their data and it wasn’t from museum websites. It was from portals like Atlas of Living Australia. People may not know Auckland exists, but they probably know that New Zealand exists and will be more likely to use search portals to find information. The mission isn’t to get people to visit or come back or to click through but to connect with museum content. The museum had a Wikimedian in Residence last year and it started to change the culture. They had some volunteers upload 100,000 images for them and classify and catalogue them. These are now used on 2,000 Wikipedia pages in 83 languages.

Kirsty Farquharson and Elizabeth Jones – Learning resources Aotearoa : How do teachers and students discover, access and use learning resources?

Learning resources Aotearoa 3 They discussed how most young people are overwhelmed and inundated with information and resources. They are a bit like drowning in a digital sea. Their project was not about creating more content or discovering how young people use it but about engagement and learning. Resource channels are very fragmented. Many schools can still have classrooms that never get past the search results of Google. They looked at key opportunities and barriers. They also looked at young people’s emotions (e.g. anxiety, confusion) when searching for information. Learning resources Aotearoa 2 They said don’t think ‘put it out there and they will come’ – people won’t necessarily find your stuff or the great stuff in the sea of the internet. Also, teachers don’t just want digital – they want lots of different types of resources. Teachers can determine when is print the perfect format, when is digital really good, when is the most powerful thing to go outside. Learning resources Aotearoa 1The National Library website has a great resource of curiosity cards with fertile questions that are open-ended and support inquiry learning. There is a danger when students think learning is Googling something and copying and pasting info in their paper. That’s just information transfer.

Digital Creators Panel – Luke Rowell (musician), Nicky Hager (author and investigative journalist), Jem Yoshioka (illustrator and comics artist)

One of the first insights from the panel was that it is much harder to ring-fence what a body of work is, compared to years ago. The first question was: What of your work do you want the future to have access to? Rowell said he wants everything to be available, including his bad sessions if anyone would be interested in listening to those. Hager said he has to be careful about whistleblowers who gave information on condition of anonymity. He discussed the challenge of how to sort through hundreds of files, and the issue that files and computers can become lost over time. Yoshioka said she has a file sorting system but also lots of old hard drives. Her iPad has become her sketchbook as she stopped using physical sketchbooks last year. But this means that she doesn’t go through files in the same way; there’s not the opportunity to have a nostalgia session flipping through physical books.

The second question was: To what extent do terms of use factor into your thought processes? Yoshioka said that you have to think about it as a digital artist, but there’s not a lot of choice in trying to get your work out there. The third question was: Is it important to have your work available to monetize in future? Rowell answered yes, you constantly have to get files and put on different platforms. Others always want higher fidelity and quality.

Another question was: If you could have access to work from creators who influence you, what would that be? Yoshioka is a fan of seeing other people’s sketches and thus tends to put up her own for others to view. Hager said he would like to see others’ original sources but it is usually not possible unless you are close friends with them. He goes to the Internet Archive/Wayback Machine a lot to see material that’s disappeared or has changed, such as a press release. He gets a sense of how impermanent the internet is and tries to save what he can, but he thinks we need to have more of us saving internet material. A related question was: How can New Zealand collections archive material like the Internet Archive? with the response being that we need a version of the Internet Archive that grabs widely (websites) for each country.

A final question was: How do you want people in the future to be able to consume your work? Hager said he would like all of his books to be available in the future but he’s not sure if it will ever be possible to safely make some of the research material available. Yoshioka said she has had success with Creative Commons licenses, and Rowell said he uses Creative Commons noncommercial licenses. Hager added that the thing about archives is that they usually don’t gain value until later, almost by definition. That makes it a challenge for researchers, who may not see the value that others will give to their material.

Amie Mills – Growing great Kiwis: Reaching young New Zealanders online

Amie Mills on storiesMills gave an overview of New Zealand On Air’s Hei Hei initiative for young viewers. NZ On Air exists to fund public access content like Radio NZ. The challenge was that YouTube now rivals TV2 as the biggest single source of media for children. Yet 9 out of 10 parents agreed that kids need NZ content. She said stories are very important. They launched a website and app in May this year. They had to keep it simple and similar to other apps; otherwise it would be a barrier to 5+. They focused on kids ages 5 to 9 because kids 10 and up have more agency over what they watch. She said they have smashed their targets with over 160,000 users. They didn’t aim to compete with Netflix or YouTube but get good weekly views and on weekends. She said the tablet is the golden device for kids and that it is good to see Hei Hei is being used across the regions, not just in the big cities.

Lightning Talks

Tim Sherratt – A GLAM data workbench for reluctant researchers

Tim Sherratt and Jupyter notebookSherratt opened by saying there are carpentries (e.g. Software Carpentry) and the Programming Historian but not everyone wants to go that route into coding. He showed the audience live code using an API from DigitalNZ and the benefits of the Jupyter notebook for Humanities people to use as a starting point to play around with.

Mike Dickison – A Wikipedian at Large

Dickison is being funded by Wikimedia to do a year of being a New Zealand Wikipedian in Residence. The first reaction from organizations is: So you’ll fix our Wiki page? *insert heavy sigh GIF. He said his job is to show organizations how they can use their resources and encourage them to put content on Wikipedia. He said if you’re not aware of Wikidata, get aware of it.

Asaf Barrow – Wiki + Data: Wikidata (and why you should care)

Barrow discussed Wikidata in more detail and called it the nexus allowing one to jump across institutions.

Hannah Benbow and Chantalle Smith – Reflections on a (pilot) D&D oral history project

They said they chose to focus on the game of Dungeons & Dragons because it is 40 years old, people still play it, and it appears in popular culture, such as in the show Stranger Things and The Big Bang Theory. Neither of them had played it before but were walked through it by others. They know oral history is important and uncovered personal and traumatic stuff that they hadn’t expected. They thought gender diversity would be an issue, but actually other types of diversity were more of an issue (e.g. it is mainly privilege, university types who play). Games are meant to be played, and to get that information and the history surrounding them, they said, you have to actually talk to the players.

Rhys Owen and Andrew McGhie – Wrestling with Qilin: The Challenges of Chinese OCR

They discussed ways to deal with the challenges of scanning Chinese characters. They chose to put their content in figshare, an online repository, so it’s public source and out there for others to look at.

Teina Herzer – Breaking content: Taking a design-led approach

Herer challenged the audience to rethink personas, indicating that they can be 90% BS, misleading, and biased. If you rely on them too much, your content can end up being generic. One of their flaws is that they are created by people trying to pretend to be someone else.

Jessica Moran – Preserving our digital lives: Now and for the future

Personal Digital Archive ToolkitMoran sees collecting and archiving born-digital materials as a digital literacy issue that needs to be addressed. Different countries’ people use social media differently. For example, only 9% of New Zealanders use Twitter. So even though we may be good at collecting from that, we aren’t perhaps collecting from a more-used site like Facebook, which has much more content. The Personal Digital Archive Toolkit is one way of teaching people how to take care of their digital content.

Keynote: Tara Robertson – Blah blah blah: Diversity and inclusion

Open source white and maleRobertson described herself as a data-driven feminist storyteller and did a mihi in Māori at the beginning – what a great opening to a keynote presentation. She gave a plug for Mozilla and its new quantum browser. She said Mozilla only has one share-holder: the nonprofit Mozilla Foundation. She asked the audience to share with someone next to them what is something that someone has done to make you feel included, and this led to some good conversations amongst the full auditorium. She also had a collaborative document that she invited us to contribute to with ideas (bit.ly/NDF-2018).

She challenged us to think about whose voices are here, which ones are automatically respected, and which aren’t. Mozilla’s Community Participation Guidelines discuss things you might not have thought of, such as use of the kiss emoji. She mentioned the way that orchestras helped debias their hiring practices, which involved having to put up a curtain to hide the sex of people, but then they also had to have women take off their heels because these would still click on the floor. She said that Mozilla had recently removed meritocracy from its policies. She challenged us to think about the pipeline for future librarians as being very white, whether or not it was necessary to have certain qualifications be mandatory, and that the idea of ‘cultural fit’ can be shorthand for ‘they look and think like us’ and promote a monoculture.

Librarianship ethnicity dataNext she discussed some different consent issues and ways of dealing with them. An idea to promote more consent around photographs at conferences is to use different colored lanyards to easily differentiate who is comfortable being photographed and who isn’t without people having to actively opt out. There are also consent issues with digitization of sensitive materials where people never agreed to have it online on the internet; these shouldn’t be open access.

Day 2 – November 21, 2018

Keynote: Bergis Jules – The community is the archive: Documenting the social justice activism in the age of social media

Jules discussed how people can use social media to discuss an event before the main media gets control of the narrative, and can have their tweets used by mainstream media and help control the narrative and define the terms of the debate. But then this can get away from them as the story gets more popular. The Documenting the Now project began after Michael Brown’s murder in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014. Jules said that as archivists, he and others started thinking about how they could document the event. This one was different – the first time it had played out in the age of social media. It was also the first time people could see the thoughts and feelings of others around the world about the events. They were thinking about how they could better document the history of marginalized communities by looking at social media activists, what solutions they pose, and how they educate the public. Activists are closest to the issues and have solutions to offer (for example, Black Lives Matter on a national level and other initiatives in local communities re voting rights, mass incarceration, etc.).

Jules discussed the Center for Media Justice, which is working on surveillance issues for activists and communities of color, and Madonna Thunderhawk, who co-founded Women of All Red Nations in 1978 and continues to work on issues such as water rights. He asked, what can we learn from social media activism about those traditionally left out of our historical record? Such activism is an increasingly important tool for social justice. It’s a centrepiece of their strategy.

Jules mentioned some examples of archiving of activism. The Interference Archive’s objective is “Exploring relationship between cultural production and social movements”. Occupy Archive is an archive of the Occupy Movements from 2011. He also mentioned Colored Conventions: Bringing 19th century Black Organizing to Digital Life, which examines the collective organizing of African-American people in the U.S.

There was a national forum on ethics and archiving the web in March 22-24, 2018, featuring filmmaker Elizabeth Castle, Madonna Thunderhawk and her daughter, and Jules showed a clip of Thunderhawk speaking at this forum. One of the issues with social media and activism was illustrated in that Facebook brought young people to Standing Rock, but there was also a security firm called TigerSwan documenting protest activity on behalf of local police department, so it is easier for activists and movements to be tracked as well (e.g. #NoDAPL No Dakota Access Pipeline hashtag). The Intercept news organization has a seven-part series of leaked documents on how social media was used in the fight over the Dakota Access Pipeline. Basically, police are finding new ways to use social media to go after protestors and activists and for evidence gathering. Geofeedia was offering a free public safety webinar and saying they can predict, monitor, and prevent risk in/around protests. There are ‘threat actors’ rap sheets from the cyber security company ZeroFox almost labelling them as terrorists. Jules said he shares these because it’s important to understand how activists can be harmed online if archivists are going to work with them to archive events. Prosecution and reputation harm, are real issues. We don’t want to replicate the behavior of the surveillance state and try to ensure we’re not exploitative.

He said in his experience, activists say that archivists should not just watch from afar but come in person and document their whole lives not just activism. Archivists also plan to put on workshops so activists can gain more control of their own narratives, such as learning how to safely gather and store content during protests so it can be later used in courts if needed to show another side of the narrative.

Keynote: Tuaratini Ra’a – Moana Pacific Storytelling: Unlocking Secrets

Tuaratini Ra’a storytellingTuaratini Ra’a is the Project Manager at the Pacifica Arts Centre in Auckland. She is also a Takitua, or storyteller, which comes from Taki (to guide, to lead, to carry) and Tua (story). She treated us to a story of the Pacific as she moved across the stage in her vibrantly colored outfit and had us think about the messages therein.

She said storytelling is an artform, not just about talking a lot. To tell stories with integrity and authenticity to her ancestors, she felt she needed to go back home to the Cook Islands and connect to the land and the people. But going back home and talking to people was a difficult step. She collected stories via video as well as audio with phones, which made it convenient. She went into caves and found skeletal remains and carvings (they were hidden there after Christianity came and people had to hide stuff).

Then she discussed the Pacifica Arts Centre Mamas and showed a YouTube clip of them. She said she did a participatory video project and gave the Mamas cameras, so they were in control of the stories they told. In 2017, she co-founded the Turou Takitua Storytelling Network, which seeks to connect the past and present through storytelling.

She emphasized that each person who holds that story has the right to determine whether or not you can receive it. She questioned the idea of free and easy access, and everything being so easily shared online in mass email, via Twitter, etc. She asked us to think about why we are doing it and whether others might take it out of context. This is why she specifically didn’t have her storytelling streamed today.

Mahuki Labs Tour

Mahuki Labs at Te PapaI went on a tour of the Mahuki Labs, which is an innovation accelerator program at Te Papa Tongarewa. It focuses on solving challenges within the GLAM sector and takes applications form people who want to work on entrepreneurial projects related to the cultural sector. The space was beautiful and inviting, with lots of bright colors and vibrancy. I was particularly interested in Merge Creative Agency’s augmented reality (AR) game idea to help interest young people in libraries or museums by having them play as a character and hunt around the building to find clues. I think having more dynamic experiences is going to become a necessity in the future to engage new audiences.

Adrian Kingston – Beyond foot traffic and vanity metrics: The Audience Impact Model

Kingston opened by stating that not everything is about ‘big dumb numbers’ (such as statistics). He used a modified Lean Canvas to think of a different way to measure impact, and started with David McClure’s Pirate metrics (AARRR) but it wasn’t quite right because it was too focused on money in a way that Te Papa didn’t need to be. There was also Google’s HEART framework, the Kirkpatrick model for assessing the success of organizational thinking, and Ethan Zuckerman’s engagement spectrum. They finally ended up with this sequence: Attention Reaction Connection Insight Action. As an example, looking at the Minecraft simulation featuring an earthquake that Te Papa had, there were kids going home and encouraging their parents to add safety measures at home like they had done in the game. He said that we could be better about longer-term impact, perhaps measuring through asking visitors when they return what they liked last time and why they’re back. Another thing to consider is mapping an organization’s impact onto the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The slides from this presentation are available here: https://t.co/Urxsbvjzt5

Paula Bray and Thomas Wing-Evans – DX Lab + 80Hz // More punk than GLAM

DX Lab projectThey focused on user-led thinking and want to change the way audiences think about what a library can be in the 21st century. They discussed the case study of the State Library NSW in Sydney’s DX Lab turning paintings into sound in an exhibit installed in front of the library. They used data from digitization and turned it into sound values (such as scale, overtones, etc.). Instead of doing live music, they used a computer to generate the music and ended up giving the computer more agency, which meant it had less human bias and avoided the uncanny value of sounding kind of human. Observations of how people encountered the installation is that it seems to have had a global reach. The impact isn’t all about numbers, also about audience engagement and seeing and hearing their own impressions.

Keynote: Tahu Kukutai – Demography, Digitisation and Data Sovereignty

Professor Tahu Kukutai is from the National Institute of Demographic and Economic Analysis, and she quickly put to rest any fear that a presentation on demographic data would be uninteresting. She said as a demographer, her bread and butter is data, so she has to consider issues like whose data, whose control, whose ethics, and whose benefit. She admitted to us that even she has a ‘semi-secure repository’ (i.e. trunk of stuff) in a garage behind some bikes.

She said there’s always a whakapapa (genealogy) ninja in a family, and she is that person in her family. She would ask her dad questions and record info and put it in her trunk to store it. She likes the lens onto a population, the lens onto us as a people that demography gave her, and it’s not just about looking at age ranges. She explained how it was one of the most rapid urbanization movements in the world, when Māori moved into cities in the 1960s. The descriptive picture (e.g. older Māori dying out which correlated with a lower te reo fluency rate) leads demographers to ask further questions and explore the data. She felt mainstream demography was very ill-equipped to why indigenous demographics looked the way they did.Professor Tahu Kukutai data sovereignty

She discussed historical demography and modeling the impacts of colonization on iwi and hapu population health (like mortality). There is the European Fertility Project, PRDH (Quebec), and DDB (Sweden) but nothing in New Zealand except for the Scots in Waipu. She received Marsden funding for a project to reconstruct three generations of tūpuna (ancestors) using mid-19th century census lists as the spine.

It assembles whenua data into a whenua database and correlates changes in mortality with changes in land tenure, use and settler settlement. The database was owned by Ngāti Tiipa, not her as researcher, and the information has to stay with whenua, not be shared on Ancestry.com, etc.. It is important to remember that everything is just fragments if you don’t have local intelligence to weave it all together and make sense of it. A data classification guru helped them classify their data. The goal is clear and transparent tikanga.

She discussed the importance of data sovereignty. Te Mana Raraunga is the Māori Data Sovereignty Network, which advocates for Māori rights and interests in data to be protected. The U.S. has the US Indigenous Data Sovereignty Network. Australia has the Maiam nayri Wingara Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Data Sovereignty Collective.

There was an attempt to take an abstract concept and make it more concrete, and Brief #1 from October 2018 “Principles of Māori Data Sovereignty” is available. Part of the problem with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is it focuses on individual rights, not on collective rights. Data is a national, strategic resource.

Keynote: Shaun Angeles Penangke – Ayeye digital-kenhe arntarntareme: Protecting our digital cultural heritage

map of AustraliaPenangke is the Artwe-kenhe (Men’s) Collection Researcher at the Strehlow Research Centre, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory. He first situated himself in Australia and where his ancestors are from as he displayed a map of the country, and he also asked the audience to repeat some of his language.

He said there is a huge tie/bond between the land and the body – children are believed to be a reincarnation of certain totems like a kangaroo or water. You had to take care of the land because you were connected to it and if it weren’t taken care of, this wouldn’t be good for your spirit. He explained that he was raising the issues of his people being in Western hospitals, having a lower life expectancy, and selling land to corporations because they are important context for him being in charge of a large, largely digitized collection of his people’s history.

He said he has noticed lots of similarities in his language and te reo Māori, including terms for things like taonga. At the research center, all research is done face-to-face – no public access. It’s not ours; it’s theirs. Staff are supposed to have an understanding of the culture to be able to work with the collection, including fluency in the language (Arrernte). So it makes sense to have indigenous working there, but he is only the second indigenous person to work there. It has mostly been researchers, which has been problematic. He said it’s imperative to the health of the collection to employ elders.

He discussed a project of cultural mapping and how it was necessary to go on foot to some places inaccessible by car. He is working on adding more meaning to the yellow pins of sacred sites on Google Earth. He discussed what he called a type of indigenous intervention – having an elder add annotations to a map document that had been sitting ‘sick’ for 60 years.

He cautioned that digitalization is important but has large risks, including how to avoid losing USBs with restricted sacred content, and that if not managed properly, it has the potential to remove the need for elders (overreliance on digital domain). A challenge is that elders don’t understand cloud storage and digital stuff, and they don’t yet have terms or protocols around the digital world. For example, is it sacred if it’s on USB? He wants to get young people involved and working in museums.

Keynotes: Ask Me Anything with MC Courtney Johnson

There is a move toward more nuanced, collaborative, complex, and sovereign relationship with objects and what they stand for (away from white, Western approach). Tuaratini Ra’a admitted that NDF sounded like it would be full of dry, boring people and/or robots but was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t! Tara Robertson said she thinks the cultural protocols are more real here than elsewhere and really likes how it is here at NDF. There was the question of what could the GLAM sector do for Year of Indigenous Languages next year? Tahu Kukutai said it is hard as a second language learner to understand the lifeworld; it is more than grammar rules. Tuaratini discussed the fact that not everyone likes language weeks, one has to know the reasons and tikanga behind it; language is not alone without a culture. Thus, signs during language weeks aren’t a be-all, just a step. Bergis Jules said there is a tension between when you’re making a living as a researcher or employee working with data and ethical issues. Shaun Angeles Penangke said we’re governed by policies, etc. that aren’t ours; he tells people this is yours, come in anytime, don’t worry about checking in with reception, etc. Courtney Johnson agreed that these are challenges and that Te Papa is a bicultural institution but doesn’t yet have bicultural governance. Robertson said there is a theme of ‘not for general consumption’ that the sector is trying to figure out how to do well. Tuaratini said that seeing Robertson get emotional over the Māori whakataukī (proverb/saying) reminded her that we do have it good here in Aotearoa New Zealand, and that although there is heaps to do, we should acknowledge ourselves too. Robertson pointed out what some in the audience must have been thinking, that the stage was all speakers who were people of color/indigenous people. She also pointed out the contrast with the mostly white audience. Kukutai said that for true bicultural governance, we need co-governance, not just letting in people to see their objects and treasures but not being involved in their care.

Notes from aaDH Digital Humanities Australasia Conference 2018

aaDH Conference 2018: Making Connections

Australasia Association for Digital Humanities (aaDH) Biennial Conference
September 25-27, 2018
University of South Australia (Adelaide, Australia)

The theme of this biennial aaDH conference was “Making Connections”, and this was effectively woven through many of the presentations (and not in a way that was overly corny). Compared to the last conference, I noticed the theme of a need to upskill students (both for changing workforce needs and research needs) kept popping up, so it appears this is still a concern that is not being adequately addressed. There was also more discussion of mobile apps and issues of ethics. The conference got off to a great start with beaded name badges that help provide revenue to women who have been trafficked, and everyone was talking about it and wondering why every conference doesn’t go down this track. Overall, I found the presentations interesting and informative and felt inspired to continue along the DH track. What follows are some of my notes on ideas and resources and avenues for further exploration. The hashtag for the conference was #DHA2018, but some of the frequent Twitter posters were at an archives conference so the feed was not as active this time around.

Day 1 — September 25, 2018

Dennis Del Favero – AI and Advanced Creativity: An Emerging Horizon

Favero said Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (which he hoped everyone had seen) has shaped how we see AI and its relationship with humans. He provided several examples to illustrate his points about the intersection of AI and creativity. Discussing Flora Petrinsularis, he said the database is the new medium, defining a database as data structured in a way that can be retrieved, and the machine enables the human to organize and interpret the data. With T. Visionarium, it has a database of films and you can select say, Sandra Bullock playing different roles simultaneously (it can show around 200 films at a time) or choose a color like orange to see orange scenes, and these will be displayed in the room. With mARChive, the idea of co-agency allows for machine autonomy rather than just reflecting human desires. The Scenario example featured a creepy baby assembled by users with headsets and black [later said to be dark gray] AI figures trying to stop them. With Nebula, you make dots into a sphere and topography of worlds. With iBauprobe, you can design sets with the help of 3D model and AI, looking at things such as configuration of angles, line of sight, etc. Lighting is one of most difficult things to calculate; AI can show what it will look like with different lighting combinations.Theatre Model

He noted that Manuel DeLanda was writing back in 1919 that even rocks and mountains that we see as stable are actually changing and breaking down, just at a slower rate than biomass.

In the Q&A, he said that we need to become coders ourselves; maybe the primary or complementary literacy is coding; need to democratize it. He said half of his PhDs now are coders even though working in art/humanities areas. There was a question about stark race differences in white and black figures, and he said they’re actually shades of gray but yes, this is a problem. He said his interest in AI is its experimental use in art and how that can be translated to other areas. It shouldn’t be a castle for elite (like Mark Zuckerberg) but available to everyone, but we need computational literacy to enable this.

Panel: New Directions in DH Infrastructure: Adventures in Collaboration and Scale

DH Panel

Del Favero
Favero discussed how STEM have traditionally used numbers in understanding data and things; we could bring our skills in visualizing and imagery to their disciplines (ex. In one project the Arts perspective was able to see climate patterns that the numbers didn’t reveal; now an Arts perspective is part of project.) PhDs traditionally work alone/not in teams but this is not viable going forward; need innovative culture where people work together in teams. The one-dimensional primary and secondary education doesn’t have computational literacy. One can be seduced by lure of STEMification (even in STEAM – Arts often evaporates in this equation).

Hamish Maxwell-Stewart
Maxwell-Steward said we need a way of seeing datasets and databases as journal articles/publications and allowing people to access them and see who was involved. Gene sequencing is easy; the cultural context, etc. is more complicated and that’s where Humanities comes in. He would like to be teaching digital and visualization skills to history students in the very near future. He offered an example of how a well-liked presentation recently was, somewhat surprisingly, by an undergraduate math student who was given a bunch of data.

Tully Barnett
Barnett discussed how we need to understand digitization as a cultural practice not just a technical thing, and we need to talk more about labor behind digitization projects. Infrastructure in humanities is people-focused. Longitudinal value has to be recognized (value goes beyond funding cycles). She mentioned the Algorithms of Oppression book and how infrastructure catalyzes, according to scholar Deb Verhoven.

Bill Pascoe
Pascoe also mentioned Verhoven’s work. He suggested smaller grants and much more rapid funding cycle (big, year-long ones are too slow for IT and mean only small groups of people get to do DH projects). The current situation can be self-defeating and miserly where people don’t share, and it needs to change.

Rachel Hendery
Hendery said that what makes people angry in seeing government funding going to things is seeing new buildings and yet no investment in people (staff, casual, etc.). She mainly needs basic infrastructure like a computer and library. She suggested we first think about community we want to build, not the tools or system (sometimes those turn out to be white elephants anyway). We need to make ‘3rd space’ workers more visible (ex: big grants that public complain about that seem excessive, but actually going to a postdoc, PhD scholarship, etc., and we need to make that job creation more visible).

Katherine Bode
Bode suggested that perhaps universities aren’t doing as good a job as GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums) at communicating with the public via digital technology and infrastructure. She said we need to put money into open access publishing; let’s not look to publishing companies to solve our problems. We also need more skill sharing and data sharing.

Q&A
It was discussed that we think we know how to tell stories, but actually we could get better at showing impact. Someone asked is there a tension between coding and how it chunks and categorizes information and the humanities? The panel responded that no one should be doing coding if they don’t critically reflect. We need to be infiltrating STEM and showing STEM students how to critically reflect. It is hard to critique as an outsider. Also, we need to remember that all languages are coding too. We can think about how do we share coding and bring our understanding to STEM. Think of collaboration as something to do at the beginning, rather than the end. Someone said it was great to see the theme of inextricability of infrastructure and people, but historically DH is male and white; how do we ensure greater diversity and inclusion? It was discussed that one thing we need to do is to recognize all involved with DH projects; not just puffed-up DH researchers but also women of color (for example in Google Books digitization).

Session on Making, Learning, Exploring

Simon Musgrave – DH and Disciplinary Frontiers
Musgrave discussed how when applying computational methods to literary texts, we can ask whether semantic/conceptual patterns in the texts support traditional close reading. He said not all of his DH work is interdisciplinary, but that doesn’t mean it’s not DH. Research is driven by creative tension that comes from unambiguity of the digital with inherent ambiguity of humanities, and he clarified this as meaning that once data becomes digitized and structured, there are limitations on it so in general it allows for much less ambiguity than humanities content broadly. He said he could write sole-authored papers, but he doesn’t like to anymore. He acknowledged that we’re often not doing/dealing with research questions that computer scientists find interesting; this raises the question: should we try to change that or just get technical people who code? Another question to think about is when are we ‘bilinguals’?

Jeanne-Marie Viljoen – Mediating between the physical and the digital with a location-based mobile learning game
Multi-modality affordances
Viljoen said she is always looking for ways to engage students with digital media. The class she was discussing was called English for Academic Use in Australia and designed for multilingual students, new arrivals in Adelaide. Many come from tech-savvy backgrounds in Asia but are used to more passive pedagogy styles and are more likely to drop out because of problems socializing. Her mobile learning game introduces students to local culture and history, including things like street art and statues. It aims to merge the digital and natural world into a virtual experience. It uses digital design and evocation of hearing, touch, taste, smell, and feelings though the visual. For example: “run your hands along smooth bronze possum”. She tried to rely on sound and touch rather than the English language. It was built in Mobile Learning Academy.

Benjamin Matthews – Teaching DH for Creative Industries: Immersion and Making
bit.ly/DHA2018-BJM  
Matthews thinks Creative Industries students will benefit from DH literacies. He discussed a 1st year core subject called “What is Creativity” and gave the example of asking students what will Newcastle be like in 2049? This encourages them to use history to inform their vision of the future. He worked to give them ‘skin in the game’ by making them have an exhibit at the end, and this seemed to work to motivate them.

Maya Dodd – Collaboration in the DH Classroom
DH-India Dodd gave the background context of her university first, saying that India was moving from a British model to a more liberal education model so students were not locked into a major, and this is a good opportunity for DH. She said her work on digitizing copies of an official report that was being suppressed showed her the power in these kinds of projects (see Southasianculture.wordpress.com and Publicarchives.wordpress.com).

She said usually research is done at higher levels (i.e., postgrads or faculty), but the faculty are having undergrads do research because there is such a need, and it can create timely projects. She discussed some examples of interesting student projects, such as an Omeka project on student protests, slam poetry as a vehicle for student voices, and children’s literature from India. She used documentation on assessing DH projects from others; like with Arts projects, it’s incremental (looking at factors like rigor).Children's Literature in India

 

Kunjika Pathak and Anjali Chandawarkar – The Garba Archives
Pathak, who is one of Dodd’s undergraduate students, discussed her joint project on the community art form of garba (Thegarbaarchives.wixsite.com/thegarbaarchives).  She and Chandawarkar translated songs and created an audio file for an archive. They discovered limitations with doing the project, which included issues with living cultures such as caste, gender, etc. She said she saw it as a way of connecting with her cultural heritage, especially since she knows she is immersed in Western pop culture a lot of the time. She also realized how little digital documentation there is for these kinds of things in India. As a side note, she said most of her English class is women and there are some really tech-savvy women, and they were able to assist others who were not as capable.Garba Archives

Birds of a Feather Session: Teaching DH

Simon Musgrave explained how a DH course at Monash University worked and some of the learnings from running it. They decided that all assessed work had to be done on a WordPress account, and they assumed nothing (for knowledge on the part of students). Students had to buy their own domain, but this was cheaper than buying a textbook. One issue was that some were getting spam because their details were on WHOIS (they had to use the non-free version of WordPress because they needed plugins), and this shows how little awareness students can have of these kinds of website issues. Instructors tried to run ‘place’ through all content, and this theme is easier with digital technology. They also asked students to draw maps to document campus without tech (unplugged pedagogy). Rather than using Moodle, then, they used an outside domain of their own: Monashdh.xyz.

Tips from the session included using Bigg’s SOLO taxonomy instead of Bloom’s, which is a bit dated, looking at how to get students to justify their use of methods rather than just cherry-picking info, and potentially setting students up with a dataset which has things they can stumble across (design, etc.). We worked on designing learning outcomes in groups for a sample DH day workshop, which was a valuable exercise.

Day 2 — September 27, 2018

Day 2 kicked off with a session where the continually evolving area of data visualization was explored in some interesting ways.

Session on Data Analysis and Visualization

Vejune Zemaityte in “Data-driven Cinema Studies” discussed her work with Deb Verhoven on the big data in film available from Kinomatics.com, where they are analyzing the distribution of 3,000 films across 40 countries. Monika Bednarek in “Discourse of Diabetes in Australian News Media: A Corpus Approach” provided three paper copy handouts [this is so rare nowadays!] about how diabetes is discussed in the Australian media and how she used Wordsmith, a corpus linguistics tool. She recommended Antconc if you want a free version that is still powerful. Helen Caple in “Introducing a New Visualization Tool: Kaleidographictalked about this tool that is freely available and lets you has as many or as few variables in your spreadsheet as you want. She said after you prepare your data and load it into the builder, the data is saved to a zip file for you and isn’t kept on the tool’s end, which addressed some privacy concerns. KaleidographicPenelope Aitken and Susan Luckman’s “Adding Structural Value to Cultural Value: A Case Study of APO and UniSA’s New Cultural Policy and Creative Industries Collection” explored apo.org.au, which was established in 2002 and is both a database and alert service. Aitken said the government is the biggest audience and that policy makers tend not to read journal articles. Therefore, it is ‘gold’ if you put up something they are going to read, like a two-page executive summary of your research. Luckman discussed a current ARC LIEF Project to enhance collections. They are seeking ideas for how to get people to use collections, such as perhaps a competition, how to engage end-users as co-creators/editors of meta-data, and how to gain feedback and a review of the content. She encouraged the audience to join APO and contribute to the site.

Jean Burgess – What’s Next for Social Media Research? Digital Methods and Ethics after the API Apocalypse
Burgess discussed Digital Methods by Richard Rogers (2013) and made a joke about pie charts being very science-y, an idea which was played off in later tweets. She said we need shared dynamic infrastructure to support datasets, rather than ad-hoc ones that are only available on a grant-by-grant basis (ex. through LIEF). She mentioned AlgorithmWatch, algorithm audits, a data donation project, and ‘civil disobedience’ through data scraping on a platform like Instagram through ‘Instagrab’. She asked whether our institutions have the ability to back us in these risky activities. In discussing the creation of a timeline to document changes in Twitter, she gave a shout-out to Timeline.JS tool. One question concerned whether academics can use the public internet defense to argue for being able to scrape and interrogate this data even though or because companies are private.

Mahendra Mahey – Building Better ‘Library Labs’
Mahey’s presentation was an interesting whirlwind tour of some of the British Library Labs’ projects and its vision for supporting access to its collections. He said only 3% of the physical collections are digitized, and that they used to rely on government funding but are increasingly reliant on private funders and corporate funding. He reiterated that if you want to set up a lab, you have to go out and talk to people. And one of the most important things for collections is, do you have a real person at the library who can answer questions about it. Their Digital Research Support is able to offer 5 days of support per project. There are over 1 billion views of British Lab projects. An early lesson was that services that allow useful exploration of cultural heritage data are rare! He said the role as a national library should be to find a way to support everyone who wants to use the digital collections anywhere in the world.

One project had them using OCR to ‘cut’ images from digitized books and use algorithms productively (see “Peeking behind the curtain of the Mechanical Curator”), and they discovered it did better with female faces because there seemed to be fewer obstacles like beards. Another project had them create the provocation mechanicalcurator.tumblr.com to post images every 30 minutes and put the images on Flickr Commons. But ‘real innovation breaks infrastructure’ and the IT team was annoyed that servers were slowing because so many people were clicking the links to the lab’s services on Flickr Commons images. The Victorian Meme Machine was also popular. One interesting thing about the taggers behind digitization and categorizing is that they may not be whom you’d expect. One of their most prolific ones is an elderly bed-ridden man in LA who has tagged over 45,000 images!

They are currently working on a ‘cookbook’ to help guide national, state, university, or public libraries that want or have a lab (if you want to help, send him your email). One version of the cookbook will be open-access, and there will also be a printed version (coffee-table book) that you can buy that will fund travel bursaries. Slides available: https://goo.gl/xNwrHY

Organize and Digital Session

Renee Dixson – Skullbook: A Bone Library of 3D Digital Models of Animal Crania
Dixson discussed 3D model-making and said that part of the purpose was to provide employability skills to students for the future, because employers expect digital skills. It appeared there were two ways of making them: either through 3D scanning or photogrammetry. Two examples were passed around so the audience could hold and compare them. 3-D Animal Skulls

Mapping Transformation Session

Angus Veitch – Mapping Last Century’s News: Constructing a Geo-Thematic Index of the Brisbane Courier
Veitch discussed his research into mapping information from newspapers, available at www.oncewasacreek.org. He created transparent overlays with old maps on Google Maps and explained how words on maps can be just as interesting as the maps themselves because they can show what the landscape meant to people at other points in time. He said he used Knime rather than R or Python to acquire and analyze data, and it ended up being a shortcut to learning coding. He used LDA to do geoparsing and figure out which place words go together (what he calls geotopics).

Emotion, Memory and Experience Session

Tehri Hurmikko-Fuller – Tweet, Death and Rock’n’Roll: Social Media Mourning on Twitter and Sina Weibo
Hurmikko-Fuller discussed the project that she worked on with her Chinese student which was able to analyze how people mourn on social media sites such as Twitter and Sina Weibo (Chinese version of Twitter). She said they noticed that Twitter users were trying to connect with and mourn with the widow of the Linkin Park band member who had died, whereas Weibo users made posts that were more emotionally distant and about sharing news. They determined that information cascade was not the cause but herd behavior was. She said they are now collecting data on social media mourning of the burning down of the Rio Museum, which is interesting because it is not a person but a GLAM institution.

Rachel Neaman – Making Connections in a Digital World
Rachel Neaman public lecture
Neaman gave a public lecture at the university in the evening to a quite large, packed-out lecture theater. She said many of us find digital connectivity astounding, but young people take it for granted. She said her background was not as a technologist but as someone who studied languages. She mentioned the 4th Industrial Revolution term being coined in 2016 and that the book Robot-Proof (2017) by a U.S. academic, Joseph E. Aoun, talked about the importance of ‘soft skills’. This book talked about three types of literacy (tech, data, and human) and coined the term humanics. She offered an anecdote about how Amazon’s Alexa digital assistant in people’s houses heard a comment over the radio about a girl ordering a dollhouse and ordered doll’s houses for them too.

Neaman said digital is no longer just for IT and technical teams, and vice versa; those teams need to know more about customers’ needs and business side of things. Alongside an image of sheep, she told the audience that leadership is not about following the crowd but asking the right questions. I was very disappointed to hear her use the terms ‘man’ and ‘mankind’ just as she discussed the need for more women and diversity in the industry. Slide mentioning 'man and machine'She mentioned that Honeybot had done a Women in Tech report and produced an index on women in OECD countries. There was an interesting quote from Professor Dame Wendy Hall about diversity: “We cannot allow our world to be organised by algorithms whose creators are dominated by one gender, ethnicity, age, or culture”.

Neaman did try to clarify that AI is more of sophisticated computational statistics than advanced robots, but I don’t know that that message really made it through based on audience questions. She noted that 21% of adults in the UK lack the five essential digital skills defined as digital literacy. Even though Australia doesn’t have the same measure, around 10% aren’t online as shown by the digital inclusion index. She said today it’s more about outcomes than technical skills and we need life-long learning. Few schools formally teach these skills, but it’s not just for kids in schools; we need future-proofed policies so we feel empowered and able to thrive. She mentioned the World Economic Forum’s 2022 Skills Outlook, which has columns for growing and declining, and the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer.Wendy Hall quote

There was a question about the difference between digital competency and literacy. Neaman responded by saying that teaching about these topics needs to be mainstream from the very beginning of kids’ schooling, and that it is disappointing to be still having this conversation in 2018. I didn’t agree that reading and writing won’t be needed in the future due to podcasts and YouTube becoming more dominant. There was a question about whether AI will be able to have or tap into other ways of knowing (i.e. indigenous knowledge) in the future, and this question signaled to me that the audience would have benefited from a clearer definition of AI.

Day 3 — September 28, 2018

New Learning and Collaboration Models Session                     

Roger Edmonds and Richard McInnes – Enhancing Humanities Learning Experiences with Location-Based Mobile Learning Games
Edmonds discussed the expansion of games from an initial Business & Society course to 13 disciplines. Originally, students had to go out to discover their city in this course with pen and paper in all sorts of weather and didn’t like it. Now there are 193 games that have been played almost 3000 times. The ‘Torrens Walkabout’ was the same as the one Jeanne-Marie Viljoen talked about. It is not just a tour but interactive, push-pull, and about a story/narrative. A game was also created for the Aboriginal Cultures gallery in the South Australia Museum using a floor plan rather than Google Maps. Edmonds said that just being able to create a game is a really rewarding and engaging experience for the students, and it built their ICT capability and capacity. See bit.ly/2QymiZ6 for slides and Pedago.online for more information on the project.

Kara Kennedy and Jakob Kristensen – Exploring the Impact of Digital Humanities on Students’ Engagement with Technology
We presented on our study that explores how Digital Humanities tools and methods in undergraduate courses are impacting students, especially in their engagement with digital technology, and how DH is affecting women in particular. We presented the context and reasons for the study, including the gender gap in STEM and the limited data on what undergraduates think about DH and how it impacts them. We gave an overview of the methodology and sample questions, and asked for people to get in touch if they have students who could be interviewed. 

Philip Marriott – Building Collaborative Real-Time Research Tools for Mobile Devices
Marriott began with the context, an advanced web design course where students had been using WordPress, which was pretty uninspiring. He suggested mobile phone web-based software instead and this ended up being more interesting of a project for them. Fifty of the 60 students were women, not from a STEM background, who already had basic idea of HTML, CSS, and PHP that he’d taught them earlier. They had great ideas but no mechanism for realizing them/doing anything with them, and there were lots of barriers to overcome. As a side note, he said it was helpful that Google allows you to use all their stuff if you sign up as a developer. He encouraged and empowered the students by telling them that anything you see out there on the web, you can do it too. It turned out that they were happy to use code as a way to do what they wanted.

Julian Thomas – DH and Digital Inequalities: Current State, Problems and Prospects
Thomas is head of the Digital Inclusion Index and defined digital inequality as an uneven distribution of digital skills, infrastructures, and resources. It is a problem because these are increasingly important for participation in contemporary economic, social, and civic life. Interestingly, he noted that young people are not the future of Australia – old people are! –according to the changing demographics. We assume mobile media is associated with sophisticated, intensive use, but that’s not necessarily the case. Their study showed that single parents, people with disabilities, Indigenous people, and other marginalized groups were likely to use mobile media more. He said we need to think hard about the ramifications of the next wave of automation. In the Q&A, Rachel Neaman asked if there were a standard for measuring digital ability (the UK, for example, has 5 prongs). Thomas said there isn’t the same thing as the UK, and that it’s nice to have international comparisons, but the cultural and human geography is different here in Australia, so he thinks there is need for Australia-specific measurements about digital strategies and inclusion. He acknowledged that yes, North America and Europe also have a divide between the country and city, but there are still unique geographies in Australia. He mentioned Broadband for the Bush as working in the space of digital inclusion in Australia. Digital Inclusion Dimension

Kristin Alford – Designing Research Experiences in the Technology Museum
Alford introduced herself as an engineer who has worked in mining and thinks in processes, and that her experiences with dance and gymnastics have critically shaped her thinking as well. She reflected ruefully that she sees the same percentage of women in her classes now as when she was a student. She said she reads a lot of fiction to take her to different worlds and is a futurist who likes the possibilities that fiction provides.

Her talk focused on how the MOD (Museum of Discovery) (where the conference opening reception was held) was designed and intentionally wants to be different than a typical museum. She mentioned the focus on the future that other places have and that this could be something to strive for, such as how in Dubai they’re already planning for a 100-year anniversary rather than a short-term one. She asked how do we showcase science in a way that doesn’t privilege one way of knowing, that allows for Western and Indigenous and other knowledge. She said kids aren’t inspired by the ‘get a job’ rhetoric around learning STEM, so she wants MOD to be different. Giving people more science doesn’t necessarily lead to better understanding; thus, the recent shift to more narrative and story-based museum experiences (ex. Museum of Tomorrow in Brazil).

She mentioned Kevin Kelly as a futurist from Edge.org. She said the fact is that if you tell the public, come learn about cancer, or tell young people, come learn how to transform industry, they’re going to think they have better things to do with their Friday night. She specified that MOD is deliberately not doing educational outreach or programs. Its aim is to try to get people to think of themselves as people who like science, rather than overtly encouraging them to like science. She mentioned the current exhibit on pain informing people that 90% of chronic pain is from your brain expecting signals and not a real physical cause. Finally, she provided some statistics about responses to MOD. Over 9 out of 10 rate is as good or excellent, and they are getting 1 in 3 visitors from their target 15-25-year-old target demographic. Since it has just recently opened, it will be a while until they have more data on visitors.

One of the questions was about whether there is any evidence that visiting a cultural institution about science will have an impact on going into STEM, or that it’s influencing academics. There doesn’t seem to yet be evidence on this. Another question was about how they recruited the teens they had involved in the design studio and workshops, and she said she focused on local teachers with whom she already had contact.

Digital Humanities in the Era of Linkage, Impact, Engagement and Innovation

Joanne Tompkins – ARC-funded DH Research

Tompkins noted that DH projects have more partnerships with industry and as a sector, DH should apply for more Linkage and LIEF grants. One tip in applying is that because the decision panel for Linkage grants is made up of a general audience, the project needs to be able to be understood by laypeople.

Panel: Joanna Tompkins, Penelope Aitken, Katherine Bode, Richard Maltby, Hamish Maxwell-Stewart

DH PanelAitken again urged academics to write outputs other than journal articles and believes it’s a skill that needs to be learned alongside traditional ones. Maltby called himself an occasional academic and observed that most people creating DH infrastructure are on short-term contracts (<2 years) even though sustainability is supposedly something that funders like ARC are concerned with.

Maxwell-Stewart said that unfortunately, putting data in a data repository tends to kill it off, so partnering with industry is critical for getting people to use it (basically, it needs a public interface). He finds it challenging to find postgraduate students who have skills that he doesn’t that he needs to do research. He spoke of GIS, math, and computer science and a frightening skills gap in the humanities. He said those who do have certain technical skills can end up being stretched thin because they aren’t that many of them. Bode mentioned the gap between those considered academics and those considered professional staff. There was a comment about needing better postgraduate training in DH and a question about how to get more complex assessment, so students don’t have to write 80,000 words every time to show their learning. Maxwell-Stewart suggested that more data visualization would be helpful and that that is the future.

Birds of a Feather: Upskilling Approaches

This session was presented by Greg D’Arcy, an informatics specialist for HASS, and Nicole Laurent, a project archivist for the Find and Connect web resource, eScholarship Research Centre. Slides are available: go.unimelb.edu.au/ofc6. The context was that Chang et al.’s abstract for eResearch Australasia Conference shows that information professionals and library staff need expertise in lots of data-related skills. SCIP (scip.unimelb.edu.au) was designed to help break the ice for people who aren’t comfortable with digital stuff. They found there was a low response to ‘come learn about data visualization’, and that the just-in-time element was missing (many didn’t have their data ready). We know there is a lot of content out there (ex. YouTube), but it still needs to be packaged for students and it can be difficult when you’re working in isolation trying to learn stuff like Python. Another issue is that a lot of humanities researchers don’t see their data as data, and this can create discord when discussing it in that way with them. Learning with a purpose works well. There were questions about which tool to learn to start with (basically, whichever one is most relevant to the data you have and what you want to do with it, or what is used in your future career), what pitfalls there are to learning technology (having a learning group to collaborate with is helpful), and whether humanities researchers should do more to discuss their methodology to enable others to follow it in their research like scientists do (yes). The Future Humanities Workforce project in Australia was mentioned.

I didn’t attend the workshop with 3-D modeling of networks, but it looked fun, with LEGO and other craft materials used to make the models. 3-D modeling

Digital Humanities Article

I am excited to share that my Digital Humanities article on digital literacy has been published in the open-access journal Digital Humanities Quarterly (DHQ) in a special issue (11.3) on undergraduate education. The article is titled “A Long-Belated Welcome: Accepting Digital Humanities Methods into Non-DH Classrooms” and argues that there is a place for DH methods in all Humanities classrooms and that women especially can benefit from increased engagement and confidence with digital technology in the subjects in which they comprise the majority of students.

I look forward to reading all of the other articles in this issue and appreciate being able to share it widely because DHQ is open access! Thanks to all those who have supported me in the two-year journey from start to finish.

Hidden Figures of Digital Humanities

Watching the film Hidden Figures reminded me of my research on women in computing and some of the gender issues in the field of Digital Humanities. In a discussion after the screening that I had both attended and helped to organize/promote with other women (as a special fundraiser to help create an undergraduate scholarship for a woman to study STEM), I mentioned how frustrating it was that women had been written out of the history of computing at large, not just in regards to the space program. It was only after seeing the quizzical looks on the women’s faces around me that I realized the presence of women in computing is not common knowledge either. The stereotype that seems to predominate in the popular culture is that computing belongs to Silicon Valley and male computer programmers.  I have been fortunate to have discovered more of women’s history in computing due to my involvement with Digital Humanities, but it is important that the involvement of women become more widely known. So I write this post as a brief introduction to some of the insights I have come across – to share with those who want to learn about some ‘hidden figures’ and to wonder about whose stories are still left to be discovered in the field of Digital Humanities. Because in fact, women have been instrumental to computing since the beginning…

Hidden Figures posterFor those who haven’t viewed the film (highly recommend! – nominated for three Academy Awards), Hidden Figures follows the stories of three African-American women – Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, and Katherine Johnson – in the U.S. during the Space Race whose efforts in computing, mathematics, and engineering were crucial to the success of the mission to put astronaut John Glenn into orbit. Each woman must overcome various obstacles including racial and gender biases in order to be taken seriously and be respected by her coworkers, and to succeed at her job. For example, one building lacks a bathroom for black women (bathrooms were segregated at this time), and it is not until this issue impedes on the mission’s ability to meet a deadline that something is done about it. The film showcases the genius and resourcefulness of these women whom I and others I talked to admittedly had never heard of before. This film did a great job of bringing their stories and brilliance to life.

Ada Lovelace

Ada Lovelace

Ada Lovelace, first computer programmer

Ada Lovelace (1815-1852), born Augusta Ada Byron, was a gifted mathematician who is now considered to be the first computer programmer, given that she wrote instructions for the first computer program, all the way back in the 1800s. She was the daughter of the famous poet Lord Byron and his spouse, Lady Anne Isabella Milbanke Byron. She met Charles Babbage, known as the father of the computer, when she was 17 and he mentored her and enabled her to study advanced math with a University of London professor. Although Babbage invented the difference engine and analytical engine, after Lovelace was asked to translate one of his articles, she added her own ideas about his machine which were about how codes could be used to handle letters and symbols, not just numbers. She also came up with a theory for repetition of instructions, now known as the looping process that modern computer programs use. Though few paid attention to her article when she was alive, she is now honored through the celebration of Ada Lovelace Day, first held in 2009.

*Source: Ada Lovelace Biography.com (2017)

Women Computer Programmers in the 20th Century

During World War II when there was a need for ‘human computers’ who could solve equations by hand and also program computers, women stepped up to fill these roles. Jean Jennings Bartik was one of six female mathematicians who created programs for a new machine belonging to the U.S. Army called the ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer), which was one of the first all-electronic general-purpose computers. Men built the hardware and circuits but didn’t think the programming was an important job. Bartik said in an interview in 2008 that even though the women were responsible for getting the machine to work the night before its first demo, they weren’t invited out to dinner the next day and weren’t named in the photos. They were basically invisible. Adele Goldstine was another key woman in the development of ENIAC who created a systematic method of programming and the program manual, yet has only recently been acknowledged for her work in the field.

After the war was over, Bartik and her team moved on to the UNIVAC, a major commercial computer. They worked with Grace Murray Hopper, who was a tenured math professor in the Navy Reserve. Hopper discovered a way to program with words instead of numbers, which became a programming language known as COBOL (Common Business Oriented Language) that is still used today. She retired from the Navy with the rank of rear admiral and is sometimes known as being the Queen of Software for her work in developing programming languages. There was even a 1967 article called “The Computer Girls” in Cosmopolitan magazine which quoted Hopper as comparing programming to planning a dinner, where you have to plan ahead and schedule everything.

Computer Girls magazine article

“The Computer Girls” article in Cosmopolitan magazine

She said women are ‘naturals’ at computer programming and her goal was that all people should be able to use and program computers. Another woman who worked on the UNIVAC, Adele Mildred Koss, actually found that working in computing was quite accommodating to female programmers who were mothers, making a work-life balance more possible. Many women did not actually have formal training in computing but took advantage of the opportunities that it provided and found success.

*Sources:

Further information: 2014 documentary film Top Secret Rosies: The Female Computers of World War II and interactive iPad book app The Computer Wore Heels

Women in Early Digital Humanities

This brings us to the history of women in the field of Digital Humanities. For those who haven’t heard of Digital Humanities, it is a relatively new field which sits at the intersection of digital technologies and the humanities (like English literature, philosophy, and history). It sometimes functions more like the sciences in terms of having labs and teams rather than individuals working alone, and can include projects that involve making websites for cultural material, using databases, creating network analyses, examining social media, and doing other tasks that further the study of human culture and generate new ways of teaching and researching. Before it was known as Digital Humanities, however, it was sometimes called Humanities Computing, and its history goes back to the 1940s with its father, Father Roberto Busa in Italy, and what is considered to be the first Digital Humanities project.

Father Busa was a Jesuit priest who thought that the newly developing computing technology could be harnessed to help him create an index of the works of St. Thomas Aquinas. He went to the U.S. to visit Thomas J. Watson at IBM and received some assistance to process punchcard data to make his index, which included some 9 to 11 million words of medieval Latin. What is often left out of this story is the fact that Father Busa then employed dozens of women to do the programming, and he proudly believed he was helping them attain valuable job skills through their work on the project. I only know about these women due to Digital Humanities scholar Melissa Terras’ work on uncovering the stories of these women. In fact, she has written a blog post (for Ada Lovelace Day, 2013) about her research, which included traveling to Italy and obtaining permission to share several photos of the women with permission from the CIRCSE Research Centre at the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Milan, Italy with a Creative Commons license (CC-BY-NC), which are also in the blog post. I have included three of them here:

Women in Busa Project

Women working on Father Roberto Busa’s index project (1950s-60s) CC-BY-NC CIRCSE Research Centre

 

Women in Busa Project

Women working on Father Roberto Busa’s index project (back left: Rosetta Rossi Bertolli; bottom right Livia Canestraro) (1950s-60s) CC-BY-NC CIRCSE Research Centre

 

Women in Busa Project

Livia Canestraro working on Father Roberto Busa’s index project, being overseen by visiting dignitaries (1950s-60s) CC-BY-NC CIRCSE Research Centre

(This last photo is my favorite, with Ms. Canestraro reminding me of Princess Leia, surrounded by men but seemingly unperturbed.) I consider it a point of pride that women were so instrumental in working on this pivotal Digital Humanities project. But the pioneering work of women in computing leads me to wonder how we moved from women being so connected with computers to the present, where research continues to show that women often feel alienated from computing.

*Sources:

Disappearing Figures

Despite women’s instrumental roles as ‘computers’ themselves and as programmers, by the 1980s, when Steve Jobs and Bill Gates began to appear in the media and personal computers came about, the number of women who majored in computer science began to drop. From the 1980s to 2010, females went from being 37% of college students receiving bachelor’s degrees in Computer and Information Sciences to 18%. This happened even though the overall percentage of female college students was increasing and women were a majority.

There may have been several reasons proposed for this gender shift. Men may have wanted to get into the challenging tasks of programming and with their entry, the field may then have become more prestigious. Professional associations that excluded women may also have prevented them from entering the field. Personal computers were often marketed as toys for boys and the stereotype of the male computer geek became more prevalent in the popular culture.

In just a few decades then, computing and information technology became seen as male-dominated fields, and computing culture became decidedly more associated with masculine traits. The history of women’s achievements is only recently being recovered, with many girls and women unaware at how influential women have been in the field.

*Sources:

Where are the Women?

I see this as relating to Digital Humanities in that I have seen the field struggling recently with issues of diversity, access, and privilege, and that people are speaking out to try to address them. During Digital Humanities scholar Deb Verhoeven’s speech “Has anyone seen a woman?” at the 2015 Digital Humanities Conference, she boldly took the stage and called for men to exit it to allow more women to be heard and recognized. She was addressing the invisibility of women after a “parade of patriarchs” had dominated the stage on the opening day of the conference.

Deb Verhoeven speech

Deb Verhoeven’s speech “Has anyone seen a woman?” at 2015 Digital Humanities Conference

Soon her words ended up having a direct impact on me because just days later I was asked to speak on that very same stage at a small gathering of people for an annual meeting. At first I balked but then was encouraged by two men who were trying to heed her words, and it ended up being a positive experience. Her voice had raised the consciousness of many, and it helped persuade me that it was important for women to be heard even if they may not feel comfortable with public speaking.

Raising women’s visibility – both past and present – and reclaiming women’s history and stories is an important part of feminism; there are countless achievements to celebrate, from small to large. The question becomes how does a field like Digital Humanities avoid making the same mistakes as the history books have with the African-American women at NASA and women in computing? How does it avoid obscuring the labor that often goes on behind-the-scenes in Digital Humanities projects?

If we were to construct a narrative or timeline of women in Digital Humanities, what would it look like? How many ‘hidden figures’ in labs, teams, and projects might be in Digital Humanities?

National Digital Forum (NDF) Conference 2016 – Day 2

NDF Conference 2016

Annual Conference of National Digital Forum (NDF)
November 22-23, 2016
Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand (Wellington, NZ)
Conference program PDF
Twitter feed #NDFNZ
Recordings of sessions on NDF YouTube channel

See Cool Things to Check Out and Stand-out Presentation on my Day 1 post.

The following are my notes from the sessions I attended on day 2 of the NDF Conference. Most sessions were recorded and are available on the NDF YouTube channel.

Day 2 – Wednesday, November 23

Keynote: Ngāi Tahu Cultural Mapping Project – Takerei Norton (Ngāi Tahu Archives Team)

Norton began Day 2 of the NDF conference by stating that this is not a technical talk at all; it is more about how a community tells their story. He said that he found historical evidence through his elder that had a paragraph about a part of land from the 1800s, and they were able to get the tenure review from the government to create a conservation/preservation area of a particular lagoon. Then he had the idea to start mapping all of the Ngai Tahu cultural sites in the high country so they could try to protect more of them. At first, people were adding stickers to 30 maps with different colors of labels (green means food gathering site, blue means river, etc.). It was very laborious but also was a good activity to help people learn history and participate. Then they started taking trips to the high country and bringing 30ish people along. This became a time when they were reconnecting with their landscape.

Eventually, they ended up with over 4,000 place names on the South Island mapped on Google Earth! This is known as the Ngāi Tahu Cultural Mapping Project.

Twitter photo:

Every place name is referenced and validated by locals. They are trying to create an official portal for Ngāi Tahu history. Almost all the sites are on Crown land, and Norton only has access to copies of the original documentation. The originals are in Auckland and Wellington – he asked what are people who want to access their tribe’s history supposed to do if they can’t get to those places? They are also making travel routes and trails on the South Island (in green lines on Google Earth). Little red rectangles are the land that was allocated to the Maori by the government (not necessarily in the same area either). It was not 10% like it was supposed to be.

He said that we owe thanks to Pakeha historians like Beattie and Taylor because without them, we wouldn’t have a lot of history. But they did make mistakes, and it’s the job of our generation to correct them and build on their work to make it better. They have to make a decision on spelling when there are discrepancies. They want schools and other groups to use this resource they’ve created. He believes that it matters that the project hasn’t been done FOR us; we’ve done it ourselves. We’ve got skin in the game.

Keynote: See New Zealand clearly: Using numbers to understand who and where we are, where we’ve been, what’s going on and where we’re heading, or Creating a Data Democracy – Lillian Grace (Figure.nz) @GracefulLillian

Grace began by asking several questions about data. How many Labrador dogs are registered in NZ? How many young people aged 20-24 that should be getting on with their lives but don’t seem to be are in certain areas? (28% in Gisborne/Hawke’s Bay)? How many NZers have there ever been?

For all of time, it’s been hard to share information widely and communicate with other people. For the first time ever, now it’s easy. Devices enable us to share information widely and communicate with lots of people in multiple directions. Back in the day, there needed to be smart people to be great leaders and digest information. Now it can be done differently. We can make decisions in different ways. People are scared to change because they think it means that what they were doing before was wrong. But she thinks that it should be seen as an opportunity instead.

We have finally moved to thinking learning to read is for everyone, but we still don’t do this with numbers. We allow the experts to figure out numbers and use them in their thinking. Figure.nz is trying to change this. She likes to think of numbers as holding stories that not everyone is capable of understanding. Why don’t we use numbers in our thinking?

Datasets were set up before the Internet, so sharing wasn’t even thought about. No standards, etc. But now, people with information are expected to make it open and share it. But this is also terrifying for people who collected datasets, because they are asked to share it and they hadn’t been thinking they would have to do that. Having datasets sorted by source and institution and country is like having a dictionary where the words are sorted by the country they originated from. It’s too hard to deal with and not very helpful to have New Zealand data trapped on each individual website.

She gave the example of her brother, a truck driver, who gets excited about knowing how many accidents happen in a certain area or certain times of year. So people understand the importance of numbers when you present them in a different way. But most people don’t use data, and most of NZ’s data isn’t used.

Figure.nz is a charity and the first organization in the world to assert that everyone can use data. Their mission is to enable everyone to make sense of data and see New Zealand clearly, in a way that inspires us forward. They charge places that have data like the Treasury or other government sites to process their data and tables. [But do these places actually want people to look closely at their numbers?…] Currently on their website you can look at a Pinterest-style page of figures. They know that at the moment, people still have to know what to search for on their website. Ex. A florist in Nelson might not just want to look at data in the floral industry, because it might be more helpful for them to look at other relevant data, such as funeral trends. We need to create a culture where people are encouraged and inspired to learn things and seek out things for themselves [yes, self-directed learning].

Youth, digital agency and encounters with the past and present – Louise Saunders (UNITEC)

 Louise Saunders was filling in for the originally-scheduled speaker. She said that she started as a student, became a leader, and then got published  [great trajectory for young students]. She was in a Communications class that had an assignment to make a community-based oral history project on WWI because of the centenary. It aimed to introduce students (outside of fields like history or cultural studies) to digital storytelling and content, to help them build a transmedia narrative. Her group produced an interactive exhibit called Help Me Tell My Story (www.helpmetellmystory.co.nz). She mentioned that ePress at Unitech is an online publishing platform. The rest of the projects can be seen at www.morethanawar.com.

Even though they considered themselves marvellous Communications students, they quickly realized they didn’t have much digital technology skills, so had to partner with back-end and front-end developers [again reiterating the importance of digital literacy]. She said it was probably the best learning experience they had as students. Students in the class not from New Zealand (like those from Asian countries) said that participating in this activity meant that they could actually relate to the First World War. Once they had something to focus on (WWI), all the things they had been learning about in their degree really came to life (blogging, social media, etc.). Before it was just like ‘blah social media’, etc. Leith Haarhoff asked a question about how the logistics between GLAM and academia worked and if there were any problems. Saunders said that the issues were usually about who would take responsibility but they were always worked out. Strong leadership is needed to see the project through.

A model for relevant technology programming in libraries – Leith Haarhoff (Palmerston North Libraries) and Tyler Benson (Massey School of Engineering)

Haarhoff and Benson took turns discussing the Technology Summer Challenge and Technology Challenge project that involved the Massey School of Engineering and Palmerston North Libraries. Haarhoff began by talking about problems that face the world and then looking at how these can catalyze a solution. There is a pressure on libraries to prove relevance and do that through technology. He said they feel pressure to use 3-D printing and new technologies but don’t necessarily know why. Research shows that 75% of primary school kids are loving STEM, then something happens in the translation to their NCEA choices and it goes down to 25%. Massey is not getting enough students.

Benson is an engineer and made the comment that he was glad to see so many ‘older’ people who know technology in the audience, that it was a great environment to be in [some of them may have been a bit ruffled over that comment!]. He explained that the Technology Challenge used 3-D printers to make stuff and kids were dragging their parents to come over and participate. There was good energy. He saw five factors that made it successful: Real-world context; Hands-on experiments [tinkering]; Peer-to-peer interaction and group collaboration (challenge/problem/project-based learning); Interaction with parents/parental involvement; and Key mentors that are committed. What they learned was that the library can help facilitate the STEM program. This was a key aspect. The library might have the stuff but doesn’t know how to use it in a very advanced way. By bringing in engineering students, this then leads to more expertise around the local city (like engineers who know how to use 3-D printers). One question was about whether there was any transference of skills to library staff. Someone did learn how to solder. If you’re interested in something, it doesn’t take that long to learn a new skill. People felt a lot more confident by the second time.

A fireside chat with Seb Chan in conversation with Courtney Johnston (Chan from ACMI, @sebchan; Johnston from DOWSE Art Museum, @auchmill)

Chan said that he used to say that virtual visitors need to be paid attention to just like physical visitors. Now he realizes that they are differently important. The fact is we are spending more time on screens. Mobile hasn’t reduced the time on screens but has actually increased it. Americans spend about 8 hours on average a day on screens (according to new Pew research).

He discussed a difference between museums in the UK, Australia, NZ which have the idea that things are for the public, and museums in the U.S. There, the nonprofit educational aspect is why donations to museums incur a tax benefit. This seems more paternalistic than NZ and Australia. Chan thinks that the U.S. is a decade ahead in museum practice but a decade behind in terms of funding that practice. The certainty of financial security isn’t there. There are much larger boards with stakeholders (up to 40+). There is also the sense that “digital is done”. It was a way to be seen to be showing innovation but wasn’t necessarily about a structural change. He gave a case study of Cooper Hewitt.

Whenever we do digital projects, we never spend enough time marketing them. You need to demonstrate that your organization is outward-facing. Institutions need to be looking out to the world. We need to get out there. People don’t look down here. We’re far away.

Johnston asked a final question about visitor research vs. surveillance. There are issues of privacy and harvesting data with no real purpose. She says, don’t collect data if you don’t need to (how many people walk by a building with a phone, example).

Panel: Labs and incubators for the rest of us

Tui Te Hau (Mahuki lab at Te Papa) @Mahuki_TePapa
Seb Chan (ACMI) @sebchan
Julia Kaganskiy (New Inc.) @juliaxgulia
Paula Bray (DXLab at State Library NSW) @paulabray

ACMIx at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image is a new coworking space (for filmmakers, VR developers, gamers, etc.) for making connections, fostering ideas, and building a community. It has been open for seven months now and has two universities in Melbourne that have postgrads and academics in this space as well.

Mahuki at the Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand is an innovation incubator.The Mahuki outreach program works with tertiary institutions, the start-up ecosystem, and the wider community. They provide $20,000 funding for teams. They get 6% equity in the businesses so are invested in their success. There is a priority on diversity (gender, Māori, Pasifika).

Kaganskiy runs New Inc., founded by the New Museum in New York. They have 8,000 sq. ft. with 100 creative practitioners. It seemed like every area had an incubator lab except for the arts. Artists lacked business and entrepreurial skills to stay in NY. It costs $600 a month for full time or $350 for part-time, so people pay for desk space. They are trying to offer scholarships and funding for those without means.

Bray talked about the DXLab at the State Library of New South Wales, which is more about Digital Humanities research than being an incubator program.

Question: Why are labs important? How can they be sustainable?

Kaganskiy: It extends the public service that your museum is doing for the community. It is sustainable because of membership fees (60-70% of operational budget) and they have some foundational funding as well.

Chan: Working with universities has removed the need to do things like build labs or studios (specialist physical resources).

Te Hau: They embrace fast failing, so speed is a good thing. Then people can move on to another project.

Q: What does success look like? How do you measure this?

Chan: They need to cultivate an alumni program like universities do, so they can help show the influence they have. The first step is making the lab and naming it. Then it takes more work to go from there.

Te Hau: They are hoping that 8 out of 10 will finish the program (looking like they are on track to do so).

There was a question from Andy Neale: What about organizations that won’t set up these incubators? Kaganskiy responded that these were filling a gap and a need. They weren’t competing with things that were already there. She thinks that the community value-add aspect is the most important. There was a question about whether or not incubators try to encourage people to use their content. It seems to depend on whether they are connected to an institution. New Inc. isn’t a collecting institution, but ACMI does encourage people in incubator to use museum space and ‘try out’ exhibits.

Should you start an incubator? Consider these factors: Real Estate, Community Value-Add, Strategic Partnerships, Business Model, Experiment and Iterate.

Keynote: Incubating culture and creative economies – Julia Kaganskiy (New Inc.) @juliaxgulia @Newinc

Kaganskiy mentioned the ‘Color the Temple’ activity at the Met Museum (Egyptian art being lit up with light). She highly recommended the MoMA R&D website/blog.

She said that incubators can help breathe life into struggling communities. They are most effective when they are site-specific and situated in a specific community. By the year 2020, 40% of the workforce will be freelance. Innovation doesn’t just come from the Sciences. It comes from the Arts too!

Twitter photo:

Virtual Reality is really hot at New Inc. right now. She gave a brief look at some of the exciting ideas coming out of the incubator.

Monegraph is trying to make it easier to share digital works.

Print All Over Me turns virtual designs into real world objects. It is run by a brother and sister duo. After this, the next year they started Kokowa, an easy tool to create 3-D environments. The process is still quite hard, so their startup made a drag and drop interface tool. You can view it cross-platform.

Artiphon is designed to make music really accessible for beginners. It can scale with you as you grow. Professional musicians could use it as well.

Micromuseums are another interesting concept. It is a mobile museum about 6 ft. high by 3 ft. wide, features 15 exhibitions, and is designed to go into places like DMVs and hospital waiting rooms that are classified as dehumanized zones.

Powerplnt is giving free art lessons to teens in Harlem.

Disability is a focus at New Inc. as well. Alice Sheppard is working on a new performance with ramps that she wants to disseminate. For her it is very much an advocacy project.

Elia Life (Education, Literary, and Independence for All) wants to redesign Braille to be more intuitive, because currently it’s very difficult to learn.

Kaganskiy discussed how we need to re-envision the incubator model to foster cultural value not just capital value. They initially had social impact as one of their objectives or focus areas, but then they decided to take it out because it was such a weighty term. But it has ended up happening anyway and has been something they support. Museums act as a credentialler and when connected with an incubator are possibly even more important than physical space.

Closing Remarks – Matthew Oliver (Chair, NDF Board) @talkingtothecan

Oliver offered some reflections on the tumultuous year, including the death of the icon David Bowie and the assault on human decency that Trump brings. Is it the end of Parliamentary democracy; do we need a discussion on neoliberalism? Our sector (cultural heritage) needs to be involved in these conversations. We need to help build society and communities where people want to help each other [empathy]. The future is about building a better world where hate can’t survive. He mentioned issues like sexism. He said that we need to stop trying to prove we’re relevant and just get on with our work. Then the award winners were announced, and the conference was over.

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