Month: December 2014

HyperCities: Thick Mapping in the Digital Humanities

HyperCities: Thick Mapping in the Digital Humanities

Thursday January 15, 5:00- 6:30, reception to follow; books available for sale.

Jurow Lecture Hall at New York University Silver Center, Room 101, 100 Washington Square East (entrance on Washington Place)

Todd Presner discusses his collaboratively authored new book, co-edited with David Shepard and Yoh Kawano, a metaLAB project from Harvard University Press, and tours its companion website Todd Presner is Sady and Ludwig Kahn Director of the Center for Jewish Studies, Professor of Germanic Languages and Comparative Literature, and Chair of the Digital Humanities Program at the University of California, Los Angeles.

In conversation with:

Matthew K. GoldAssociate Professor of English and Digital Humanities, Graduate Center, CUNY; Director of the CUNY Academic Commons and Editor of Debates in the Digital Humanities (University of Minnesota Press, 2012)

Laura Kurgan, Associate Professor of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation, and Director of the Spatial Information Design Lab at Columbia University, and author of Close Up, at a Distance: Mapping, Technology, Politics (Zone Books, the MIT Press, 2013)

Introduced by Thomas Augst, Associate Professor of English and Acting Director of Digital Humanities, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, New York University

Part of the metaLAB series of books about the digital humanities, HyperCities: Thick Mapping in the Digital Humanities (2014) is a collaboratively authored and designed exploration of mapping cities over time. The primary authors are Todd Presner, David Shepard, and Yoh Kawano, with contributions by Philip Ethington, Mike Blockstein, Reanne Estrada, Chris Johanson, Diane Favro, and Xarene Eskandar. A digital platform transmogrified into a book, it profiles the ambitious online project of the same name that maps the historical layers of city spaces in an interactive, hypermedia environment. The authors examine the media archaeology of Google Earth and the cultural–historical meaning of map projections, and explore recent events—the “Arab Spring” and the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster—through social media mapping that incorporates data visualizations, photographic documents, and Twitter streams. HyperCities includes a “ghost map” of downtown Los Angeles, polyvocal memory maps of LA’s historic Filipinotown, avatar-based explorations of ancient Rome, and hour-by-hour mappings of the 2009 Tehran election protests.

This in an NYC-DH event, sponsored by NYU Libraries, in partnership with the Faculty of Arts and Sciences of New York University.

CNI fall 2014 Dispatch: 12/7 Executive Roundtable on Supporting Digital Humanities.

Author’s note: this post was also published on my personal website. The content is identical.

I’m here in Washington, DC for the Coalition for Networked Information‘s 2014 fall membership meeting. CNI meetings are typically attended by heads of libraries and heads of library or campus information technology. I came to participate in yesterday’s Executive Roundtable on Supporting Digital Humanities.

Cliff Lynch, Executive Director of CNI, kicked off the meeting by explaining that this topic elicited so many requests for participation that they created a second Roundtable to accommodate everyone. The discussion topics proposed ahead of time included:

  • Organizational models — institutional units supporting digital humanities and their roles
  • Supporting established projects vs. supporting new projects
  • Providing space, technology infrastructure, hardware and tools, staff expertise, exhibit space (physical and virtual)
  • Providing repository, research data management, and preservation services
  • Supporting digital humanities in teaching and learning
  • Staff skills needed
  • The realities of collaboration between information professionals and digital humanities scholars
  • Digital humanities and e-research in social sciences and sciences – one program or separate programs
  • Assessment strategies
  • Connections with institutional publishing strategies and programs
  • What happens when projects end
  • Funding models
  • Future directions

Cliff framed the discussion by reminding us that, while DH may have started at many institutions through grant funding, we need to think about how to make support for DH sustainable and an option for all scholars at the institution. In particular, he asked why we have such a hard time providing support at scale for digital humanities when we do it well for the sciences.

Since service scalability and sustainability are of particular concern to me and my colleagues, I was looking forward to hearing what others were doing at their institutions. Here is my summary of the discussion that followed. (Meeting ground rules stipulated that we could talk about the content of the meeting, but that we should not attribute anything to any person or institution without permission.)

Rewards: There was consensus that tenure and review were a challenge for DH. Will untenured faculty risk doing DH work if they may not get tenure for it? How can we create tenure committees that can properly review DH and other cross-disciplinary work?

Funding: Those getting started in DH with grant funding wanted to know what happens once the grant money goes away. In order to develop institutional funding streams, how do you assess and demonstrate the value of this activity? Showing return on investment for the Humanities is not the same as for grant-funded science research? What is the payback?

Humanities Training and Departmental Support: Humanities majors don’t have project-based experiences during their studies (vs. engineers or scientists, who have a lab culture and would never get through their course of study without extensive collaborative project work). Humanities departments rarely have a culture of supporting this kind of work.

Library as Humanities Lab: Some noted that their libraries are well-situated to encourage and support DH on campus, saying that the library is more like a lab for the humanities than it necessarily is for sciences or social sciences. This confirms my own experience at NYU where, in numerous interviews with humanities faculty, they singled out Libraries as a trusted partner for humanities scholarship.

Integration of DH throughout the Library: As library engagement with DH grows, it’s important that it become more integrated within departments and services throughout the library. Library staff need to be more knowledgeable about DH and the services provided; subject liaisons should bring scholars into the center through their liaison work.

Encouraging Cross-Disciplinary Collaboration: How can we encourage computer scientists and others non-humanities scholars to collaborate on DH projects, even though the data isn’t in their discipline? Some are looking for “technology threshold” issues, that hold cross-disciplinary interest. Someone observed that, to be successful at creating cross-disciplinary partnerships, humanists can’t think  “how can I use this technology in my research?” but instead should ask “what are the problems that I want to solve that can’t be solved in any other way but with technology?” These latter are the ones who can inspire excitement among others about their work.

Correlation between Status and Interest in DH: Who is driving support for DH on campus? In some places, it’s the graduate students. What impact does that have on funding? Planning?

As you can probably tell, there were many more questions than answers at this session.

Coincidentally, CNI just released their Digital Scholarship Centers report and web resource. This report is the outcome of an April, 2014 workshop to document the current centers and identify good practice. I haven’t had a chance yet to read the report, but will probably blog about it after I do.


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