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Trans/forming Feminisms: Media, Technology, Identity Conference notes

The Trans/forming Feminisms: Media, Technology, Identity Conference was held at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand, on November 23-25, 2015. Twitter IDs were @transfem15 and #tf15. There was a large variety of papers, and while I didn’t agree with every viewpoint presented, I found every session that I attended interesting and added considerably to my knowledge about current trends in feminism in general and in this part of the world. The following are some notes from the conference.

The conference organizer, Rosemary Overell, opened by saying that we should be generous to our own challenges and boundaries while we were there and that capitalism wants us to feel disempowered, like we’re at the end of things.

Transgress, Translate, Transcend, Transform? Criminalized Women and Creative Writing – Keynote by Associate Professor Tracey McIntosh, University of Auckland

 McIntosh began by asking, How does prison work as an ideology? It relieves us from having to think about issues of racism, sexism, etc. (from Angela Davis). It’s a naturalized part of our social landscape but remains invisible. 51% of all prisoners in New Zealand are Maori. This is the most well-known social statistic in New Zealand (after sheep). 65% of all women in prison are Maori.

She goes into prisons and prisoners give her approval to share their stories and tell everyone what they’re going through and have gone through, but she wonders if they know who she is telling (i.e., the room full of us at the conference), that people will be analyzing it and seeing them as victims. As people who live under constant scrutiny and surveillance know, to be fully known is to be fully vulnerable. They want to know, Does mainstream society have to give up the sex, drugs, and money? Why do they tell us that we have to give it up?

McIntosh discussed the transformative power of the creative writing that they do and show her, often in the form of poetry. The power of memory through the power of narrative offers alternative ways of reviewing events. [I noticed that the power of the poems she was reading that were written by these women evoked more emotion and carried greater weight than the statistics she was also reading could.]

She told us how women know how to navigate the prison environment, but the outside world is very different. A girl might go in at 13 and come out at 21, too young to qualify for the self-care housing, and having no experience using an ATM or doing grocery shopping. She has no connections, and housing is a major issue for those trying to get out on parole. Also, everyone expects her to be the same as she was when she went in, although she has changed.

Female Dominated Narratives, Online Fan Culture, and the Gravitation Towards Jupiter Ascending – by Täg Hooper

Hooper discussed how the film Jupiter Ascending received bad buzz and was considered a flop, even though it did break even. It was criticized for using the trope of the Chosen One, even though many other films for men have it (Harry Potter, Star Wars, etc.). There is a 37 to 2 male-female film reviewer ration in the New York Times according to Meryl Streeps’ 2015 study. Rotten Tomatoes also skews toward male reviewers and its reviews are even featured on illegal torrent sites. Jupiter Ascending’s review percentages on Rotten Tomatoes are 22% critics vs. 51% fans, a larger disparity than is usual for the site [looks like this might have changed in the meantime. The studios are reluctant to put money toward female fantasy in science fiction, so it does matter that the androcentric reviews turn off filmmakers to take a ‘risk.’

‘I Will Go Down with This Ship’: Gay Slashfiction as a Manifestation of Women’s Eroticism – by Jean Sargent-Shadbolt

Sargent-Shadbolt is researching fandom communities dominated by women. She gave an overview of slashfiction as a genre of fan fiction that specifically includes sexual or romantic relationships (the first example being Kirk and Spock from Star Trek). Fan fiction is a grassroots, DIY medium (zines, comic conventions, the internet). It raises issues of who gets to decide what are the right kind of stories. Traditionally, it has not been women, people of color, the LGBT community, and other marginalized groups. Reboot, retelling, and homage stories are okay in the mainstream, but fan fiction is delegitimized. She is using analytics to determine the most read and popular fan fiction.

Tensions/Triggers: Trigger Warnings Panel Discussion with Rebecca Stringer and Catherine Dale

Stringer said that the panel was inspired by the increasing number of articles on trigger warnings, which can be written or verbal descriptions of content designed to alert people of the potential for retraumatization for those who have PTSD or prior trauma that might come up. Students use them for mental preparation, not blocking. Stringer said that her students want topics on the lecture syllabus to be aired, and that there is a difference between being triggered and feeling sad or upset. Some academics have resisted because they feel constrained, their authority challenged, or their spontaneity hampered. She has taken to calling it “content forecasting”. The critics of political correctness in the 90s are the same ones or sound like the current critics of trigger warnings. It plays into the neoliberal sense of personal responsibility to see students as emotionally dull. PTSD has historically been a contentious diagnosis, especially for the U.S. military with regards to Vietnam veterans. Students are used to warnings online and then wonder where they are in the classroom. The internet has set their expectation for them. She challenged us not to respond with the same brutal reluctance as the U.S. military.

Dale spoke of a generational divide in an article in The Atlantic saying that U.S. students are too coddled, that they’re there to be educated and can check out books beforehand [think this is the article]. Anything could potentially be associated with trauma for someone, so all we can do is flag the most egregious, like sexual assault. Overell added that showing care is feminized in otherwise masculine, rational discourse in the university, and how dare marginalized people push back against this. Stringer told how in one class she had students get together at the beginning to create Class Norms, a collective agreement, which she wrote up and got feedback on to make sure everyone was on board with it. One example was that the class agreed it was okay to leave during a movie if a student were upset. 98% expressed positive viewpoint on the safe space concept after the class finished. Two students felt too safe and coddled.

The discussion opened up to the crowd, and various topics included:

  • There is a danger in allowing people to leave, because the most likely to leave university are certain groups, and the university could become a boundary that they don’t want to cross back into.
  • An accountable space is a better term than safe space, because there is no safe space.
  • One student wanted a warning for yet another theory text that didn’t have any people of color.
  • The phrase “overrepresentation of Maori” can do violence every time it’s said, as it reinforces the grim statistics of Maori in prisons.
  • Using warnings can lead to exceptionalizing certain content or invoking the power of suggestion to show that something is special when an instructor doesn’t want it to be.
  • Some of the resistance by California universities is to the neoliberal push of the consumer-student viewpoint (ex: have to protect students because they’re consumers). It has been top-down, not coming from students, with the potential for lawsuits.
  • Why now? Possibly because of the siege mentality for kids who were 4 years old on 9/11, or the immediacy of images with the internet.
  • Media studies has been doing content warnings for a long time.
  • Maybe it’s part of the affective turn in the Humanities, where there is an acknowledgement that it is more than a cognitive response (trauma).

The Novelty Factor: Finding Your Voice as a Woman in Comedy – by Rosie Howells

Howells didn’t consider herself a woman comedian at first. But she soon discovered that most comedy archetypes were created by men for men. It can feel stale and strange for a woman to play, even though she can (ex. party animal). She likes just writing humans and not assigning a gender, but it doesn’t work for every story. She has been criticized for writing too many women, but also men. She feels a responsibility to write more funny roles for women because men historically haven’t, and there is a drought in opportunities.

Discharge is an all-female troupe now in Wellington. It has been called sexist for being all-female, even though all-male groups like Monty Python aren’t. The group allows her to play a bully and explore issues of gender with other women. Women often have to write their own parts. For example: in male comedies like The Hangover, men are shown as complex with multiple roles (cool one, funny one, geeky one) but the woman is a token and only represents her gender. Bridesmaids is one of few counterexamples. One of their shows is 28 Days which is a take on The Crucible and menstruation. They try to look at a joke from all sides and know that if it offends one of the group, it is likely to offend 20 in an audience. Critics look for meaning more closely with an all-female troupe. Howells’ version of activism is showing that women can be funny.

During the Q&A, people asked if gender-blind writing were actually possible. Howells discussed how stand-up comedy is a really harsh environment with a lot of fragile masculinity at play. Someone asked if comedy needs trigger warnings so audience can choose more carefully or avoid shows – rape culture and rape jokes are apparently common in New Zealand comedy.

Ladies, a table? Or Do I go Hungry? – by Catherine Dale

Dale discussed the term ‘lady’ and whether or not it will continue to be used as a term between girl and woman. The theory from Althusser is around hailing in the street: when someone is hailing and you turn around to respond, you are recognizing that it is you being hailed (theory of interpellation and 9/10 times the right person will turn around). There is no blank slate before you choose lady or woman, but you can have resistance to your subjection. Bathrooms doors are even inconsistent in how they describe themselves. The more demeaning the job, the more likely it is to use the term lady to raise workers up a status (ex. cleaning lady); there is no garbage gentleman [except in an episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia!]. Margaret Thatcher was known as the Iron Lady, but the protesting miners were not called ladies because ladies don’t protest or cause a fuss.

She showed the lyrics of Tom Jones’ “She’s A Lady” and a clip from the show Girls where three young women try to figure out who the ladies are that a text is talking about. One believes they are all ladies, while another disputes being called by that term. There is a Fill in the Blanks quiz online by Debbie Cameron where you have to choose woman or lady, and it is fairly easy to tell which one sounds right. For actions done to bodies, the word is usually woman. People now say they’re using the term ironically, for friends who aren’t polite or nice, but are they actually being subversive? It depends on who is using the term.

Artistic and Nonviolent Resistance in Micronesia: Maga’håga (female leaders) versus the United States Military in the Mariåna Archipelago; or, #OurIslandsAreSacred: Indigenous Resistance and Digital Activism in the Mariåna Archipelago – by Sylvia Frain

She explained that her title changed post-fieldwork and that her work there was the first time a researcher went to participate with them rather just study them. The Archipelago is a key area for TPP compliance for the U.S. and Department of Defense. The complex language used in military documents (like euphemisms for bombs) is difficult to go through, and the public is only given three minutes for comments during session hearings. Looking at a U.S. military map, one can see that they carve up the world into zones of responsibility. A girls’ Catholic high school made a video about protecting the island, and the issue has also made it into the John Oliver show.

Rethinking Feminism in the Face of Intersectionality – by Nikki Aaron

Aaron has done research in India on the devadasis, part of the untouchable class/caste. They dedicate young girls to the goddess Yellamma/Renuka. Sex work is better income than manual labor. Oral histories have been lost, so we don’t really know their past as possible courtesans in previous times. They are reduced to using the language of NGOs regarding morality and told to marry. Are they empowered or exploited? Feminists try to show them as having agency as single women, whereas a couple documentaries like Sex, Death & the Gods and Prostitutes of God show them in need of a white savior. It is problematic to see women as a group with one need when different women may see it as their own best interest to refuse some forms of agency.

Resisting Methods: Doing Research With, For, and On Social Movements – by Massimiliana Urbano

Urbano conducted six months of fieldwork across Italy and critiqued the consent form process as protecting institutions from liability though it is supposed to protect the participant. It reveals the power imbalance between researcher and participants and prevents intimacy; it also reflects the institutionalization of research. There is no follow-up with consent forms.

“Of all the Continents in the World, Asia is the Gayest!” Some Notes on Queer Asia as Method – Keynote by Audrey Yue, University of Melbourne

Yue spoke of the transnational turn in sexuality studies. It sees a need to examine intersections across nation-states rather than within. It doesn’t privilege psychoanalysis. It questions the institutionalization and internationalization of area studies (Asia Studies, New Zealand studies, etc.). And it must consider cultural difference as well as sexual. Yue referenced a lot of books and the case study of Trans-Singapore. Apparently Singapore subsidizes gender reassignment surgery (although it criminalizes homosexuality) because it prefers normative gender to in-between.

Slutwalk Melbourne: Negotiating Feminisms, Organizing Feminists – by Jessamy Gleeson

In covering Slutwalk Melbourne, the mainstream media happily use the term slut but emptied the march of its political content and instead said it was buying into the patriarchy. One quote was that a half naked woman as a form of protest is different from a half naked woman pandering to the male gaze. It is frustrating when academics research SlutWalk without giving activists an active voice and then calling it a “postfeminist masquerade.” A 2014 article only looked a publicly available social media and included trolls who were called collaborators and examined the number of hits even though some posts are deleted. Gleeson said that there were other legitimate critiques of Slutwalk that she would rather spend time on, as opposed to dealing with questions about whether or not they are feminist. The problem is that other academics will build on this article and reinforce the bad data. In Slutwalk, some claim the word slut while others don’t. The term is loaded, especially for women of color. It does respond to local incidents, like the murder of a girl in Melbourne and police officer’s comments that women shouldn’t walk alone in the park during the day. The independent media is much better at coverage.

Beyond Violence, Victimization and the Penal State: Empowerment Pathways for Female Incarcerated Students – by Jenny Ostini

Ostini said that the female incarceration rate has doubled in Australia recently. Their focus is on transformative education because there is a link between domestic violence, incarceration, and educational disadvantage. The academy has rhetoric of community involvement and community justice, but it mostly comes down to citations and the h-index. Most prisoners haven’t completed Year 12 secondary schooling. They are pushing digital literacy in prisons by loading ereaders with not just textbooks but novels. They work on academic preparedness and career aspirations (why would someone be interested in knowing math if they’re going to be a truck driver). Teachers have to be reaccredited every six months to be able to teach in prisons; there is a continually shifting political landscape when government changes. She noted that education can be dangerous for some women so there are issues around this.

Reconsidering Utopia: The Dialectic of Sex and Contemporary Feminist Activism – by Stevie Jepson

Jepson discussed Shulamith Firestone (1945-2012) who was critiqued for biological essentialism and offered a science fiction vision of society (test tube babies) in the women’s rights movement in the U.S. Her book makes strong feminist demands in the last chapter and contains an interesting chart of sex, class, and culture. Firestone believed that revolution must be flexible and open. One example was the Pill which combined activism and science/technology. The ultimate goal was androgyny. Instead of thinking that utopia is fruitless, feminists should see utopia as a way to think about feminism. Jepson mentioned David Harvey’s Spaces of Hope and a new collection on Firestone: Further Adventures of The Dialectic of Sex.

Living the Experience in the Public Domain: New Media and Public Perception of Women in Malaysia – by Rohana Arrifin

Arrifin discussed the changing nature of images of women in politics in Malaysia. Now they always have headscarves. This is known as the Arabization of women’s image (headscarves, long robes, etc.). The Obedient Wives Club has 600-700 members and believes that if they learn first-class prostitute skills, their husbands won’t stray. It is a big joke that the prime minister is controlled by his wife who is seen as more domineering and does not conform to all of the conservative trends. Conformity, conservatism, and patriarchy are the order of the day now.

Women as Men and Men Made by Women: Transgressive and Transforming Images of Beauty of 19th Century Qajar Women in Iran – by James P. Mirrione

Mirrione looked at 19th Century Persian dynastic history and the changes that have occurred in what is acceptable. It used to be acceptable for men to have young boy lovers in addition to wives; colonial influence changed that. The moustache on women was an image of beauty. Once photography came, control over dress and women tightened. In pre-1979 revolution Iran, the flag was a male lion with a female sun behind it; women were supposed to be pure for the nation. Today, the scarf is not a cultural symbol but a means of control. While young women may not understand the orthodoxy, they have to cover up regardless. Even a picture of Adam and Eve in literature anthologies is considered scandalous. Mirrione is interested in how women perform in the paintings, photographs, etc. because everything is ultimately a performance.

Patriarchy, Women, and Islam: Narrative Framing of Sisters in Islam – by Tha Era Yousef

Yousef discussed the dual court system of Sharia and civil courts. If you are born in Malaysia, you are Muslim and not allowed to convert. There was a fatwa (religious ruling) issued against Sisters in Islam NGO on July 31, 2014, and the coverage in the media is biased based on each outlet’s readership. In Malaysia, the Hindu and Buddhist past is not acknowledged and Hindu sites have been destroyed. 60 percent of the population is Malay, which means one must be Muslim, speak the language, and practice the culture, and the Malay race is institutionalized in the constitution, even though the constitution does have religious freedom.

Sex Work in Industry and Academe: Feminist Porn – keynote by Constance Penley

The Feminist Porn Book (2013) was the first to bring together feminist porn producers and scholars. The porn/sex wars began in the 1980s. Feminism being channeled into the attacks on pornography was one of the worst things to happen to feminism and a big setback that absolutely divided women. Penley has been teaching a class on pornography since 1993 and is working on a book on how to teach it. She said religious organizations can no longer rely on moral attacks on pornography so are relying on university studies and research to make their case, so they don’t like books like hers that don’t help their cause. The Citizens United Against Pornography in Santa Barbara had as its only credentials that they had never watched an R-rated film. Teaching pornography is a good exercise in academic freedom. There is an epistemological shock at discovering that porn isn’t what people think it is (ex. she introduces Deep Throat on the first day of class). Once you’re in the realm of popular culture, everything is impure anyway. It’s the class that keeps on teaching because students go on discussing after class. Porn parodies have been criticizing Hollywood since 1923’s Casting Couch, and are not getting more violent, unlike Hollywood films. Her students are some of the few people on the planet who have historical and theoretical basis to be able to discuss and critique pornography.

Women’s Studies: Here to Stay – by Hilary Lapsley

The Women’s Studies Association Aotearoa New Zealand has accusations of essentialism thrown around a lot at it. But it has played a key role in the development of feminism in New Zealand, and its contributions have yet to be researched. There is a lot of opposition from young women to women-only spaces at conferences (women fought hard for that right). When issues of intersectionality get raised, she notes that women were trying to deal with issues for Maori and women of color, but capitalism ended up coopting many middle-class white women. They do now have a Maori name: Pae Akoranga Wahine. Lapsley has misgivings about how good digital is compared to real-life interactions and community. During the Q&A, the question was asked: does Gender Studies water down political potential for women? There doesn’t seem to be opposition to the term feminism in the same way as women’s studies. Postmodern theorizing is not very accessible to a lot of women. The question for the future is how can Women’s Studies stay vibrant?

Walking the Knife’s Edge: Self-defense, Victim Blame, and Empowerment in Neoliberal Times – by Bell Murphy

Murphy discussed the Women’s Self Defence Network, Wahine Toa. Sexual violence is bad in New Zealand: 1 in 3 women report unwanted, distressing sexual contact (vs. 1 in 10 men). Of 10% reported, only 13% of those result in conviction. Rebecca Stringer’s book Knowing Victims (2014) talks about how now it seems victimization doesn’t so much happen ‘to’ someone as arise from the self through personal responsibility. Ex. There is a slippery slope between safety tips and victim blaming which has long been known by feminists. Offering self defense classes is controversial in this climate. However, structural solutions take a long time, whereas feminist classes boost people in a matter of hours. Study showed 50% reduction in campus rapes. Murphy referenced Jocelyn Hollander (2009) in that agency does not equal responsibility.

Dispatching Patriarchy one tweet, blog, and Facebook entry at a time? – Keynote by Sandra Grey, President of Tertiary Education Union

Grey said she would be using social movement theory and its intersection with ICT (Information and Communications Technology) for her talk. Her world has become dominated by her cell phone, but she doesn’t use PowerPoint because she doesn’t want technology driving teaching. There is less and less space in the room with people and more online (some Vice Chancellors are also pushing this). She referenced Celeste Liddle’s writing on 22-year-old Ms. Dhu’s death. Grey writes on the New Zealand women’s movement and comes under fire for saying that from 1990-2010 there has been no broad-based women’s movement in New Zealand. Can ICT help create one perhaps?

Some ways the Web might help include allowing people to mill and form collective identities online. It enables people to make a personal appeal to invite their friends to join them in a cause. It can change public narratives. Information bubbles are problematic, so you have to find a way to shake people’s consciousness using targeted campaigns (like other groups use babies or whales instead of sharks to promote their cause). Kiwiblog by David Farrar l is the most read political blog in New Zealand. Clever ads (like the Equal Pay campaign) can be picked up by mainstream media and stick in people’s minds. Even in a union, equal pay is not at the top of the agenda. Around 30% of New Zealanders have university degrees. Grey reiterated that the Web isn’t as open and transformative as we think, since it is controlled by capitalism, so we have to go in with our eyes wide open.

During Q&A, it came up that strategic essentialism is sometimes the most efficient way to get things done. For example, at some point, women have to pick up one issue and support it. What is not helpful is the phenomenon of out-lefting the left, as in people condemning others for not being a good enough feminist, etc. Issues brought up by audience members included the activist work of the academy being outsourced to students who already have limited resources, the right coopting the language (reverse sexism, racism, etc.), and problems with using corporate tools like Facebook to organize. One alternative is

Women in Politics session – Shirin Brown and Rohana Arrifin

In New Zealand, there is around 30-35% representation of women, but officers are still largely men. Australia is apparently now requiring people to take a local government class before standing. Brown suggested that being used to academia and its processes made her better positioned to deal with the bureaucracy in local government in Auckland. She saw standing for local council as helping her community. Arrifin noted that politics is power and can bring about changes. It was brought up that India requires 30% quota to be filled by women, but it ends up being wives and daughters of politicians rather than just anyone. The private sector still is vastly underrepresented by women (12% for New Zealand companies). Being a mother can have all kinds of benefits and skills in a job (motivated to get things done with less time, motivated for the sake of their children) and yet employers still discriminate. Brown said that because women already have the experience of being Othered, they may be better able to have empathy and listen to other viewpoints in government. They need to learn how to fundraise and campaign, and name recognition is important. Even if a woman is the “token woman”, she can use it as an opportunity to have a seat at the table and speak up. It was noted that the University of Melbourne is starting a program called Pathways to Politics.

Digitized Domestic Violence: Technology Violence is a Feminist Issue – by Jenny Ostini

There is a lot more violence than is captured by the term “domestic” violence, including cyberstalking, bank accounts hacked, social media harassment, etc. This exertion of control (violence) is increasingly taking place online. Ostini noted that abuse in cyberspace can be as damaging as in real life. One can be a Luddite, but they will be missing out on looking for jobs, banking, government claims that have gone online, etc. She is interested in plans to use big data to map where domestic violence is coming from to aid police. She emphasized that we should build a digital toolkit instead of just telling students ‘no’; all they hear is blah, blah, blah, no and do not get the information they need to be aware. She mentioned a Digital Champion program and working group on Respectful Relationships. We can help out by not criticizing or judging other women online and using the Golden Rule, as well as supporting people who get into trouble (we all make mistakes) and avoiding the pack mentality of the internet. We should talk about privacy settings and how students can change them. We should emphasize that sharing a password is not a token of love. Also, if you are being harassed, screenshots are evidence that can be taken to police.

Back to the Future: A Story of Women’s Rights in India Traced through Time and Cyber-space – by Gurleen Khandpur

Khandpur discussed the rape cases in India that have gone viral and compared them to what happened in previous cases. It took a lot less time for action to happen after the Delhi rape case because of social media as compared to the case from the 1970s. India has 75% rural population with not much access to the internet. Part of the huge response was because young educated Indians saw themselves in the victim. Meanwhile, in the recent Park Street rape case, Suzette Jordan, a single mother of two, did not receive the same response. Since she was out drinking, she was supposed to feel ashamed and people did not rally around her in the same way.

The conference concluded with a gathering of everyone in the main room where we had the chance to give feedback and discuss some of the ideas that came up over the past few days. I thought it was a good way of closing and giving people an opportunity to voice their thoughts about ways to improve in the future. Hopefully there are more feminist conferences during my time in New Zealand — the Women’s Studies Association is supposed to be having their conference next year I believe.

National Digital Forum Conference – Day 2

Here is Day 2 of the National Digital Forum 2015 Conference held at Te Papa Museum in Wellington, New Zealand, on October 13-14, 2015.

NDF Conference Day 2

Disrupt, Connect, and Co-construct – Claire Amos

An English teacher herself, Amos challenged us to re-think traditional education models, based on the research and real-life experience she has as Deputy Principal at Hobsonville Point Secondary School, a brand-new New Zealand secondary school. She said we have been forcing students through unrelated single subjects with a single teacher confined in a single-celled classroom, otherwise known as the “one size fits all” model of education. But we should we looking at the rate of change. Students need to be able to be adaptive experts and cope with constant change in their lives. If education didn’t provide a cheap, reliable babysitting service, people would vote with their feet and leave. Kids are learning outside of school, rather than in. We do have the power to change education to be what we want, but we have to do it. “Where’s the evidence?” cannot keep being an excuse – leaders create the research; followers follow the research – why can’t New Zealand be the leader? NCEA and National Standard (in New Zealand) don’t prove students can survive and thrive in their future world. We should be teaching independent inquiry through authentic projects. There is a common belief that “If you aren’t coding, you’re so last year!” However, what we need to teach is more complex language and the context for why they’re learning to code. Students need to learn how to handle distractions and critically analyze all the tools available.

Schools are often designed to control students, not deliver learning for them. We need free-range learners (slides compared images of caged hens versus free-range hens). At Hobsonville Point Secondary School, there is flexible space that is responsive to learning needs. Its motto is “Innovate. Engage. Inspire.” She and others traveled and did research globally before opening. There are learning hubs with 90-minute sessions weekly and each small group stays together for 5 years. Students are learning how to learn. Teachers make contact with parents every few weeks. They value both personal and academic excellence. Integrated, connected modules have 8 overarching structures and there is joint teaching like English and Science teachers working together to teach a class. She gave a nice shout-out to Science Fiction as the beautiful intersection of English and Science! The science fiction novel Ender’s Game was looked at in connection with the gamification of war. Authentic actions and outcomes are sought after, such as having students deal with sustainability and cleaning up foreshores as an activity (real world problems).

There is a We not Me culture. But we should give them a chance to prove they can do projects, etc. Senior students can do independent research projects. The HPSS Pollinator is a space for outsiders to come in and work and then interact with students. It is trying to seize the opportunity to connect with the community and get experts to “pollinate” students with ideas. Since students haven’t been told they can’t do things yet, they can have great ideas about concepts like new games. Amos discussed allowing an Open Internet because kids can get around filters with VPNs. We might as well have a conversation about digital citizenship instead of trying to restrict their activity. The school is purposefully Brand/Platform Agnostic and not an Apple or Microsoft school. It recognizes that games are a part of life so has board games and video games in the library.

GLM sector should assume leadership because it has a lot to offer educators and students. Museums have been offering curated content for hundreds of years for people to go and learn for themselves. She called for organizations to start identifying themselves as Innovation Hubs and consider involving kids in the construction of museum exhibits that will interest them (example: Minecraft in Auckland Museum). New Zealand is small enough to do something different. Why not have labs open to students or host unconferences for the Education sector (which are already running through EduCampNZ). Currently, many educators are stuck in echo chamber, recycling the same ideas. She emphasized, Let’s go free-range together! In the age of complex communication, writing essays isn’t good enough.

How Filmmakers Use Your Stuff – José Barbosa

Barbosa elaborated on some of the ways The Naughty Bits documentary film project used sources from the GLAM sector. High-resolution images were pulled off Flickr (example: White Rock Beverage Co.). Newspaper cartoons were pulled from Papers Past (then manipulated with Adobe AfterEffects). Material was also used from NZ Archives and DigitalNZ, called a lifesaver for the project. An interesting note from the film was that when Ulysses came to New Zealand in 1967, theatres sex-segregated the audiences because it was considered so scandalous. One of the tensions around content use is the issue of protecting rights vs. obvious engagement. For example, the Old Auckland site has 20,000 followers but was asked to take down Auckland Library photos. He suggested it would help filmmakers if content released on sites had timecodes that matched the original video. Also, it should be more clear what file format/codec the content is in so filmmakers know how much time and money to budget to format it in the version they need.

Panel Discussion on Wikipedia – Sara Barham, Mike Dickison, Courtney Johnston, Stuart Yeates

Yeates said that Wikipedia is trying to be a tertiary source, so it is important to have conflicts of interest listed on user page. He says he has created most Māori biography pages besides ones about sports heroes.

Dickison tried to change attitudes toward use of Wikipedia at the University of Canterbury and got it into assignments in conjunction with essays. He mentioned WikiWednesday and needing strategies to recruit editors. There was a Wikipedian-in-residence for 6 weeks at Wanganui because the Council realized that most people in the world were learning about the city through Wikipedia and that it was mostly about gangs and negative stuff. Now an edit-a-thon is being organized.

Barham discussed the Matariki Humanities Network and Marsden Archive at the University of Otago. One issue was how to address the question of whether the sources could be used on Wikpedia because they’re primary sources.

Johnston talked about how craft history is not taught at NZ universities so making pages for women craft artists from New Zealand’s past was a nice way for her to use her Art History degree for once. There was a kind of feminism-a-thon on the blog. One conflict of interest was that the artists were depending on the coverage so had a bias in what they wanted the articles to say. Johnston realized that others who might be more neutral didn’t have the knowledge and ability to make pages. Editing on the low-risk areas of Wikipedia meant fewer trolls (since New Zealand craft history not as important or popular as, say, Star Wars). She used sentence-by-sentence referencing and direct quotes when she wanted to use descriptive/aesthetic words and language that otherwise isn’t allowed as being too subjective.

Other things discussed were that the appearance of a conflict of interest can be as important as actual bias. You can’t say something (for example, the well-known head of an LGBT Studies department being gay, even if you know) unless it is referenced somewhere. There is a known issue with Wikipedia not being able to accommodate other ways of knowledge, like oral history, which apparently it is looking into how to incorporate. The entire primary, secondary, tertiary source concept is written-based. There is a lack of diversity in editors. Ultimately, the crux of the argument is: what is an encyclopedia? Kate Hannah (another presenter at the conference) brought up implicit bias and her work on women in science in New Zealand projects.

How to Make Literary Webseries – Claris Jacobs, Elsie Bollinger, and Minnie Grace (The Candle Wasters)

These ambitious 18-22-year-olds decided to make a literary vlog series based on Shakespeare and went viral. A vlog is a video blog, usually around 3 minutes. They have now done two: Nothing Much to Do and Lovely Little Losers. One inspiration was The Lizzie Bennet Diaries which ran from April 2012 to March 2013 and was based on Pride and Prejudice. Their audience is 94% female. They promoted it on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. Over 50% of visits from the U.S. Their characters also had other social media accounts and commented on other characters’ videos (added to world-building effect). There are now fan fiction and offshoots like fan art, socks, tea, and songs. Their Kickstarter campaign to make the second series raised over $22,000! And they recently got funded for $100,000 through a New Zealand organization.

Finding All the Books – Greg Roulston

Dune poster

Roulston learned a lot by attending Kiwi Pycon 2014, including elastic search, and found out a lot of what he didn’t know before. He mentioned the Sublime text editor, Flask. And he was the one with the sweet Dune reference complete with slide and “fear is the mindkiller” quote, urging us to not be afraid to try new things with technology. Humans like data visualization. Nailing technology is a natural high. One question we need to ask is what kind of access are we happy with? If Amazon or other organization has it digitized, is that enough?

Revitalization of Indigenous Knowledge – Steven Renata

Renata opened with the Māori language to bring the language of the people into the room. He said there are over 7,000 languages in the world with merely 85 top languages spoken by most people. Language is the DNA strand of culture, part of society. But every two weeks a language is lost. Technology alone will not save it; it has to be passion. If not spoken in the home, language will die (even if it is taught in school). The company he is with, Kiwa Digital, makes digital book apps and uses the neurological impress method for literacy, digitally mimicking that effect in software (child hears you say word and intakes it). They started at the Chevak School in Alaska. A 48-hour book project was great for students and community engagement. Here in New Zealand, Ngāi Tahu is putting a lot of resources into language, including their creation story. Kiwa’s research has shown that young kids like female voices, and boys like graphic-style and violence rather than still images. When trying to work with Arabic language in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), they found it was very difficult to go right to left and with cursive script. The biggest cost is audio.

Assumption, Attention, Articulation – George Oates

Oates’ company is Good, Form & Spectacle, which is making exploratory interfaces for data and collection. Search is the dominant paradigm, but humans are not built to do this in a social context. Museums are good at facilitating wandering in physical space but not online. Humans are built to wander like in old cities (Florence) vs. cities designed for cars (Atlanta). There is a false assumption that people know what they’re looking for when they come to collections. Excuses for bad interfaces include that they’re “just for researchers”, but even researchers appreciate good design! Sector should look for bigger audience who might be interested (proto-researchers) or researchers who are looking for new connections or ideas. She gave the example of her godson who is now interested in geology after receiving gems as a gift from her when he was little. This gift enabled him to want to learn more about the field. Sector should enable wandering.

We are now spending our attention in continuous partial attention. It is hard to do deeper reading online or offline. Not using a phone now stands out in a crowd (picture shown of an elderly woman not on a phone while everyone else has their phones out and over their heads snapping photos and videos of something). Apple has entirely captured our attention with products and keynotes.

She mentioned the Wall Street Journal article “Museums Open Up to Power of Wiki” and monthly edit-a-thons to improve pages about art and what museums know about. Sculptures meant to be outside now are inside, encased in glass, against their purpose. Humans operate more on networks than a search function; can’t web accommodate that? Web 2.0 brought us live images that move, but we’re still stuck in broadcast mode (one-way). How can we articulate collections better and not just through search boxes and lists? She used the term “spelunking” (cave diving) for a project at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Get rid of search box; use data visualization not just words. It is quite frustrating to have to click multiple times to get to an image, and then it’s small. Give images more real estate! Can objects be internetually curious? (and hear what’s being said about them across the internet). One technique is to acknowledge stereotypes and issues openly (example of posters in a library saying: What’s in the Library? Mostly white guys. Come and find out and use our new tool.). About 80% of institutions have <10 staff.

She elaborated on a Small Museum project with rotating displays each day. For one object originally from Easter Island, when placed in one circle, sound played of what it might sound like if it were on Easter Island in its original habitat, and then when placed in another circle, what it sounds like when it is at the British Museum (silence or noisy kids, etc.). The project also explored how items made the journey to the museum (acquisition history). They can be so out of context in static cases. Calling it a museum calmed people. One user left a comment that “I learnt more here than I have in the British Museum”.

National Digital Forum (NDF) Conference – Day 1

The National Digital Forum (NDF) 2015 Conference held at Te Papa Museum in Wellington, New Zealand, on October 13-14, 2015, was very good and, since almost everything was related to a local New Zealand context, dare I say even better than the Global Digital Humanities Conference in Sydney this past July. The keynotes were great, the presentations were great, and I met new people and came away having learned a ton and picked up ideas for future projects and teaching opportunities. The enthusiasm of the attendees and presenters and the occasional debates made it a very engaging two days. I gained insight into the wonderful digital initiatives taking place in the GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums) and related sectors. Plus, I met several science fiction fans and was treated to a full-on Dune reference (with accompanying slide of a fan poster) in one of the sessions. It seems no digital-related conference is complete without a good dose of science fiction!

That being said, I took a lot of notes because so much was interesting. Here are some of the highlights of the presentations I attended (I believe all were recorded and are available on YouTube for those who want to watch them).

NDF Conference Day 1

Welcome Remarks – Andy Neale

If it’s not online, it’s like it doesn’t exist. If kids can’t find a moa skeleton online, will they just choose an emu? Where are the New Zealand collections? How is GLAM helping?

People, Communities, and Platforms: Digital Cultural Heritage and the Web – Trevor Owens

Owens emphasized that LAM are sites of community memory. Viewshare is a free platform for digital collections. In looking at video games, the discussions in forums about the games are actually more interesting than the game itself. Regarding ethics: companies are now controlling our online community spaces; we need to think critically about the future of this trend. Software is ideological, enacts ideology. It has a point of view and perspective and shapes the way things work. He gave the example of a beach that can only be accessed via one road that goes under a bridge. If the bridge is built too low for buses, bus riders (i.e. low-income folks) can’t get to the beach. The decisions made in building the bridge will shape the access. Reference was made to Matthew Fuller’s Behind the Blip: Essays on the Culture of Software: “software constructs a way of seeing, knowing, and doing”.

Regarding cognitive extension, he explained that expert Tetris players actually move pieces more because it takes less mental energy to see and not think about manipulating the shapes. Reference was made to Andy Clark’s Supersizing the Mind: Embodiment, Action, and Cognitive Extension and the “Extended Mind” cartoon. Owens then discussed collective intelligence and the shaming that happens when someone asks a question that could have been looked up online. They might be told, “Let me Google that for you” because Googling is considered digital literacy now. PhpBB and bulletin boards have been outshone by the turn toward social media, but the language used to talk about online communities has also changed from hosting to managing/owning. Users are seen as commodities for managers to extract value from and need to have their behavior controlled. He called for us to enable people to be a community in contrast with Silicon Valley’s vision. LAM needs a seat at the table in the digital infrastructure of community memory.

There is the prospect of One Big Library. David Lee King has asked: What’s the most visited part of your library? (often the website!) Are you staffing it adequately? The focus is still on the physical rather than enduring digital sites. There is an opportunity to curate all Creative Commons works, but also provide entry point for collections (continuous flowing of Web > LAM  > Web > LAM). Chronicling America hosts digitized newspapers from 1836-1922. Owens discussed how when he shared life on Mars pictures on Pinterest as part of a project, it generated a lot of responses from people and was even picked up by news sites. Ultimately, sharing the research process and not just giving something that’s done allows people to do their own research and contribute [this reminded me of the research on problem-based learning vs. traditional lectures]. If Pinterest closes, wouldn’t it be better if we had our own purpose-built tools and resources? For now, we can use ready-built tools like Pinterest, but we should think beyond them. If we want to avoid the bleak future of Silicon Valley’s casino-mindset where social networks try to get people while they’re hot and use them up as if they were commodities, we have to take the chance to change that by enabling community memory. He wondered why Google was able to get libraries together to digitize content but they weren’t able to do that themselves: Take ownership!

How Crowdfunding is Changing the World – Jackson Wood

Pledgeme is looking into crowdlending next. Instead of getting little in a savings account, people could invest in non-companies and get repaid either in better interest or products like burritos. It would open up opportunities for NGOs, nonprofits, etc.

Problem with Gutenberg – Baruk Jacob

Jacob described the current age as a post-literacy one (digital culture) still trying to reconcile the previous pre-literacy age (oral culture) and book age (book culture, also known as the Gutenberg parenthesis). In oral culture, storytelling and making were the norm. Rather than reading a book, you would do something or hear a story. In digital culture, communication and learning are prioritized. These two non-book ages have commonalities. In fact, he said that while you’re using a literate format during texting, you actually are operating more in an oral format where grammar/syntax don’t matter as much as getting the message out immediately. He asked, How do we use makerspaces to develop postliteracy skills and how do we measure? Today most measuring is still literacy-based or numbers-based.

The Perfect Face, Tim Sherratt

Sherratt discussed the genetic testing done by and how can do gender, race, age, and expression facial analysis. There are potential issues with Australia’s “The Capability” facial recognition and Facebook’s DeepFace technology which are becoming highly accurate. Faces create a feeling of connection. With, you can learn how to camouflage yourself from recognition software. Consider that one outcome of these programs is that we become what they can measure; with measurement comes the power to control. But identifiers are not the same as identities.

Social Media: Do You Have an Exit Plan? – Adrian Kingston and Amanda Rogers

Te Papa Museum did an audit of social media usage and accounts. They determined that there were ones where it was unclear what the purpose is or who is contributing; basically, a lack of strategy. Things like TripAdvisor need to have a policy for how to respond to reviews. A project mentality of “deliver and walk away” doesn’t work in today’s world. If you do shut down an account, make sure to archive use/followers/screenshots for historical record. Do a health check on underperforming accounts. In the U.S., the NMAH did a survey and found out useful information. Tools to check out: Hootsuite, IFTTT, FollowerWork, GoogleAlerts. Have ongoing review and set periods to review performance. Use LeanCoffee to find and prioritize issues. Above all: avoid ghost towns!

Evolution of a Facebook Page – Janine Delaney

Facebook isn’t an archival site and it’s hard to find stuff as it falls down the page or in comment threads. The West Coast New Zealand group is outgrowing this platform and crowdfunding for  a Recollect site ( It realized that Facebook Group content can’t be archived. Eventually an IT person made a script and was able to save most of the content. Facebook is good for capturing the spontaneity of people having conversations. Potential issues with the West Coast site are a perceived threat to cultural institutions: threat to revenue, challenge to professional standing, and personality clashes. However, site is very popular: 9,882 visitors in September 2015 with over 61,000 page views.

Our Collective Connections: How We Built a Collections-Led Social Media Game (#OneThread) – Gareth De Walters, Zoe Richardson, Rebecca Loud

The goal was to engage people more with collections at the Auckland Museum. The project used its existing network for contributors, including NDF, other museums, and Emerging Museum Professionals. Staff brainstormed ideas and needed collection literacy to get a good variety of object clues. They also used Trello to look at photos and collaborate with other contributors. Twitter has a good free analytics package. They have moved from people’s passive likes to engagement with the museum.

Collaborative Community Repository – Fiona Fieldsend

Kete is an open source tool for digitizing content. It partners with DigitalNZ to have community portals for people to contribute stories.

Talking to Each Other and Making Sense – Kate Hannah

Hannah is a cultural historian in a physics department. She notes that the terms STEAM or GLAM to those outside of academia are unfamiliar, or sound like punk rockers. A “public lecture” might seem public to us used to the academic environment, but it won’t be perceived that way by others. Public engagement is about more than school visits and guest speakers. There are multiple publics beyond schoolkids and those already familiar with universities/students.

Carrots and Sticks: Legal Deposit of GLAM Digitization Projects – Amy Joseph

This session raised awareness of the ability for the National Library to legally deposit digitized resources. The draft collections policy is that digitized resources are considered public documents for legal deposit and may be collected (principle no. 5). Research depositories like the University of Canterbury Research Repository are also included. Potential issues include a skewing of usage stats and reporting if resources are available in multiple places.

Cartography and Linked Data – Chris McDowall

The newly-formed Auckland Data Poets’ Society discusses visualizations and interesting insights. Mental scaffolding is useful. Having someone show you where all the points a human would touch the metadata really demonstrates how a user would use the system. McDowall advocated for making rough graphics and explaining them to each other; this is a really useful tool for thinking through ideas.

Faces and Failures – Ben O’Steen

He said NDF is nice because it is not like the “White paper-itis” in Europe where people come to give a paper but don’t really care what other people think. British Library Labs works with researchers on their specific problems and tries not to presuppose. Lab means experimentation and it has an annual competition. He said to try not to establish someone or a project as good or bad because of their affiliation. Although we often give names to a collection based on who paid for it or who found it, this is not necessarily relevant to the collection. He elaborated on common farce-inducing words which have so many meanings, when you use them people come away with completely different ideas: Collection, Access (“my favorite bugbear”), Content, Metadata, and Crowdsourced.

Due to paltry amount (too small, too big, other reasons) of material, there is a skewed digital corpus compared to overall holdings (bias in digitization). Reference was made to Allen B. Riddell’s “Where are the novels?” There are also peaks due to inferred dates/rounded-off dates (like 1815, 1820, etc.). Black boxes of algorithms are used to draw conclusions without context of the data. For example: a Google search of paintings of flowers will look through images, not necessarily just those keywords. We need to be skeptical of sentiment analysis and tendency to believe the labels. Reference made to @VictorianHumour and which tracked Chartist meetings through mining digitized newspapers and maps and organized actual walks around the city for people to learn the history. Keyword search fails miserably and bulk access is an issue. Simple data structure would help. Everything should have a URL and a descriptive page, be machine-readable, and enable access to all the data (images, XML, etc.).

The British Library has science fiction sets of images. Stripping context can stimulate research with the illustrations themselves. If fidelity to perfectionism is too high, you never do anything. He mentioned Cory Doctorow and the fact that ebooks are actually licensed, not bought. There was a digital maps Halloween tagathon in Octobeer 2014 at the British Library. Google’s AutoAwesome can stitch together multiple photos (and choose only happy, smiling faces). Will AIs be changing history as they decide what a photo should be? Reference made to Robert Elliott Smith. Only mimicking the physical may not be the best idea. Nowadays, wanting access to everything is the default. Things don’t have to be catalogued or perfect to be useful to people.

~Something noted at one of the sessions: charging for images can actually lose money when staff time is considered.~

Highlights from 2015 Digital Humanities Conference in Sydney

One of the interesting aspects at the 2015 Global Digital Humanities Conference in Sydney was learning about the struggles in DH, which you don’t often hear about in academia. Because DH tends toward experimentation, people seem to be more open about discussing when aspects of a project didn’t work, or when a grand design had to be scrapped or modified due to unforeseen issues.

Here are some highlights of the sessions I attended over three days:

Organizational Practices in Digital Humanities Centers (Smiljana Antonijevic)
Having a separate DH center needs to be carefully planned because people may not use the space in the way you’re intending. One center built a nice computer lab but then undergraduates ended up moving in and going on Facebook all the time. Having a room with gadgets may not be enough to encourage people to get interested in DH. You need support (in accessible language, not “scholarese” or “programese”) to help train people. Otherwise, you can end up with an empty center.

The Question of the Luminary: Building a Resilient Campus DH Culture (Paige Courtney Morgan, Dale Askey)
There aren’t enough DH luminaries to go around so try to avoid relying on one person to carry a program and broaden the base by making local leaders (like library staff, IT staff, supercomputer labs). Even if you have a luminary, it can end up narrowing what people think DH is because they will associate DH with only that person’s projects. The best advice is to win the graduate students and the faculty will follow, and then the undergraduates will eventually follow. Having seminars that discuss the successes and failures is also important.

Psst! An Informal Approach to Expanding the Linguistic Range of the Digital Humanities (Elika Ortega, Alex Gill, Daniel Paul O’Donnell)
This was a really interesting session because it brought up an issue I had never considered that should be addressed not just at DH conferences, but any conference. Gill discussed the need for live translation so people who are comfortable in other languages can still engage and participate fully at the conference. He proposed a badge system that lists the languages you speak so people feel comfortable asking about them. He also called for the work of translating to become more prestigious so that academics will do it. This issue has come up again and again with other postgraduates I know who cannot find translations or transcriptions of commonly used references because that kind of work doesn’t count toward peer-reviewed publication quotas.

Publish: Whatever the Price? A French Study on Structuration of Costs during Publishing Process in Digital Humanities (Emmanuelle Corne, Anne-Solweig Gremillet, Odile Contat)
Apparently the main cost of publishing a journal is still the salary for the copy editor. The average time for an editor per journal/year is 10.5 months at a cost of 42,000 Euros. This means that digital publishing does not actually make much of a difference cost-wise. There is also the issue that paper versions still appear to present more legitimacy.

The Old Familiar Faces: On the Consumption of Digital Scholarship (Daniel Paul O’Donnell, Gurpreet Singh, Roberto Rosselli Del Turco)
Despite the increasing number of digital editions, scholars do not use them very much even though they know of and have access to them. There is a disconnect between interest in electronic resources and their reported use. On average, it takes around eight years for an edition to be cited after publication. There is still resistance to citing new editions even when they are being used.

Disciplinary Impact: The Effect of Digital Editing (Elena Pierazzo)
Humanities scholars must decide whether they are okay with the field splitting like Computational Linguistics did and cutting the relationship with the traditional discipline. Now, there is no interchange between them and mainstream linguists. The DiXiT (Digital Scholarly Edition Initial Training Network) meets every six months and is an intensive training camp populated largely by PhD students from a traditional scholarly background. The number of digital papers at disciplinary conferences has stayed around 14% since 2010. Could this be because there is no clear career path for in-betweeners in most countries? Pierazzo wants the discipline to innovate from within, rather than creating a new discipline.

Pedagogical Hermeneutics and Teaching DH in a Liberal Arts Context (Diane Katherine Jakacki and Katherine Mary Faull)
They discussed teaching DH to first and second year students in a Comparative Humanities program. They exposed students to different methodologies, like distance and close reading, and network and spatial visualization. Students had to think critically about what each method revealed about the subject matter. It was a high risk/high reward learning model. The course evaluations were overwhelmingly positive and even non-participating students eventually got engaged. Best quote: anyone who says you can’t teach DH to 18-year-olds…I challenge you.

Remembering Books: A Within-book Topic Mapping Technique (Peter Organisciak, Loretta Auvil, J. Stephen Downie)
The HathiTrust Research Center has 4.8 million books scanned. Why do we use the page as the unit of analysis and will this have to change with the changes in book publishing? Different editions of books might give different results in research projects.

Press F6 to Reload: Games Studies and the Future of the Digital Humanities in India (Padmini Ray Murray, Souvik Mukherjee)
She referenced Tara McPherson’s “Why are DH so white?” and how tools like XML are not neutral. There is cultural swapping that goes on when video games move countries/cultures. For example, rice bowls become doughnuts when they move from Asia to North America. There are no Indians in Call of Duty set in India, just Russians and Americans, as if they wouldn’t be concerned at the violence occurring in their neighborhoods. The postcolonial exotic is fashionable in games. There is a Developers Dilemma where women in India are doing a lot of the grunt work but not the original work of game design and creation. There are implications for those who speak up about issues like GamerGate.

Game of Thrones for All: Model-based Generation of Universe-appropriate Fictional Characters (Matthew Parker, Foaad Khosmood, Grant Picket)
Video games have ever-expanding universes as they develop. Huge worlds need an increasing number of characters to keep the suspension of disbelief and achieve a higher immersion. But producing characters is cost-prohibitive. Audiences are asking for more sophistication. This project is part of a larger one, NPCAgency, to create off-the-shelf characters with unique names and histories who can converse with main characters realistically.

Gender Markers: Distinctive Words in Male and Female Authorship (Sean G. Weidman, James O’Sullivan)
Using textual analysis, they looked at differences in the words female and male authors used in books over time. In the Victorian era, female authors used more words around family and personal pronouns, while male authors used more contractions, words about beer, and sexual language. Male authors’ words were more colloquial and quantitative. Interestingly, the use of personal pronouns is linked to mental health (Secret Life of Pronouns). More recently, female authors used more words of private/micro places (home, church, school), while male authors used words of public/macro places (country, earth). Females used the language of uncertainty (wondering, seemed, believed) and males the language of certainty (exactly, absolutely). But the context is key. Women may still write more about the home, but it is in a different way, can be critical of it.

What Do You Do With a Million Readers? (Roja Bandari, Timothy Roland Tangherlini, Vwani Roychowdhury)
There is research that can be done on crowdsourced literary criticism (like Goodreads or LibraryThing), like examining how people read and remember books. They often focus on events they like or plot summary. This project compared the reviews of books that had over a thousand reviews with information from SparkNotes to see how accurately people remembered the books.

Anatomy of a Drop-Off Reading Curve (Cyril Bornet, Frederic Kaplan)
I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the topics in this session. It was about how ebooks can track precisely how they are read and the analytics can be used for multiple marketing purposes. In a July 2012 Wall Street Journal article “Your E-Book is Reading You” it found that science fiction readers read more quickly and finish most books they start. There seems to be an assumption that slower reading is negative. Will reading analytics be part of a digital novelist’s toolbox? As in, will they consider how people will consume their book and have that affect how they write? If they are paid by how much of the book is read (as Amazon is now doing with some books), will this stifle creativity? There is an ethical dimension to how ebook data is used.

Traces of Lives in Digital Archives: Life Writing, Marginalia, and Google Books (Tully Barnett)
Andrew Norman lost his job for taking pictures of workers leaving Google Books scanning facilities for his project ScanOps. Today’s reader can’t leave a trace like writing in a book or having a stamped library record. There is a loss of corrections, spelling changes, or a comprehensive intervention on the text that some readers have historically made. Google Books scanning has made books stuck in amber. This has also led to the discovery of handwritten notes which are enshrined in digitized form. OCR can pick up some handwriting. Writing in a book leaves traces of the multiple lives it touches which can alter the reading and research of these texts. Barnett also mentioned the Book Traces project.

Modeling Concepts to Improve the Search Capabilities on Ancient Corpora (Muhammad Faisal Cheema, Judith Blumenstein, Gerik Scheuermann)
Doing a simple keyword search on ancient texts is not always helpful when you are looking for concepts. Also, ancient texts have free word order, ancient vocabulary, different ideas, cultures, and practices we’re not aware of. Building in a feedback loop allows scholars to make changes.

Digital Humanities Conference Keynote: Tim Sherratt and History

Tim Sherratt (@wragge; famous for “The Real Face of White Australia” project) gave the final keynote on “Unremembering the Forgotten” at the Global Digital Humanities Conference on July 3, 2015. He discussed memory and how certain information is considered important and worth remembering, and other info is discarded. He also provided several examples of Twitter bots that automatically tweet and can be powerful reminders of history that might otherwise be forgotten.

Some of the highlights were:

  • Problematizing the WWI Centenary
    • Ernest Rutherford and others were subsidized to travel to Australia during WWI, while German scientists in Australia were interred with many others because believed to be spies.
    • Commonwealth Handbook called Aboriginals the most backward race.
    • Celebration of the centenary does not deal with the legacy of racism. A half billion Australian dollars have been spent on activities, caught up with issues of nationhood and identity.
    • How are other deaths memorialized? What about worker deaths? Or childbirth deaths? Could we use Trove to learn about other deaths not being celebrated?
  • Memory
    • Fragmentary, uncertain, and colored/clouded by context.
    • Not like a query where you get the same answer every time.
  • Access
    • We think of it like a searchbox, but really it constrains us and constructs things (control not liberation) [Google’s algorithms].
    • Open Access vs. Closed Access: how can you have closed access?
    • Cannot simply be given; at some level it has to be taken.
    • Is political.
    • Data is not just a product of government, but an instrument of power.
  • Example of Practical Tools
  • Takeaway: It’s not about making things; it’s about making a difference.
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