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Global Digital Humanities Symposium

Find out more at: http://msuglobaldh.org/

At Michigan State University, the Global Digital Humanities Symposium took place on April 8-9, 2016. The event addressed how the interdisciplinary practices of digital humanities can and should speak to the global cultural record and the contemporary situation of our planet. Of particular interest, was work relevant to or stemming from challenges in the Global South. The symposium featured a mix of local and national speakers.

Digital humanities has developed in a range of disciplines and locations across the globe. Initially emergent from initiatives in textual encoding, database building, or critiques of design and media cultures, the field is increasingly drawn together. Speakers presented scholarship works at the intersections of what had been disparate approaches. Much digital humanities scholarship is driven by an ethical commitment to preserve and broaden access to cultural materials. The most engaged global DH scholarship values digital tools that enhance the capacity of scholarly critique to reflect a broad range of histories, as well as present geographical and cultural positions. Projects that are sought to bring grant resources from the West are often met with well-developed and challenging critiques emergent around the globe from communities deeply engaged in their own cultural preservation, as well as in building relationships with other similarly engaged scholars. This symposium included an extended workshop and a mixture of presentation types and engaged squarely with issues of power, access, and equity as they affect scholarship in the digital humanities.
 

Featured Speakers

Radhika Gajjala, Bowling Green State University

(Global) Digital Humanities and Subalternity: Questions and Provocations | Friday, April 8th 1:30-2:30pm

Digital archives of subalternity are being built in corporate media and popular culture and through philanthropy 2.0 – without proper investigation into subaltern histories and contexts or any form of subaltern participation.

If digital humanities is a scramble to digitize and organize information, the popular, commercial and NGO based renderings of the digital subaltern should matter very much for projects ranging from digital history collections, cultural archives and big data. Popular culture and media are indeed considered part of such informational archive but don’t always include commercial/marketing platforms that become used as representations of authentic subalternity even as in actuality they are selectively staged. Add to this mix the interactivity of web 2.0 and gamification and we have social justice projects that emerge in digital contexts in the hopes of connecting the haves and have-nots in digital giving and sharing. A central issue for my presentation is to ask –“What does it mean to build a humanities database of subaltern contemporary lives?” In an emerging formation of digital humanities that is strongly practice based and in which everything is about “data” which in turn is a capital asset, how do we raise the question of “the subaltern citizen”? Should we?

Hoyt Long, University of Chicago

Turbulent Flow: A Computational Model of World Literature | Saturday, April 9th 9:45-10:45am

As the field of computational humanities has grown over the past decade, it has also begun to catch on in places other than English departments. Yet similar to how theoretical paradigms have moved through the US academy in the past, computational methods for the study of literature and culture appear to be spreading outward from English departments (where digital archives and tools have been more plentiful) to area studies and other departments (where scholars are again in the position of having to catch up). For the latter group, it has become increasingly important to ask whether these methods merely reinforce existing knowledge hierarchies, or if they offer new opportunities for comparative approaches. This paper reflects on this question by presenting one version of what a computationally inflected comparative approach might look like. Using the case of “stream of consciousness” technique, it shows how we might begin to model the diffusion of such global literary forms across languages, thus putting computational methods into deeper conversation with area studies concerns and problems of cultural difference. In addition, the paper insists that computation is not a means to an end, or to a single conception of world literature, but is a way to provide new perspective on existing models, both quantitative and qualitative, of how texts circulate in the world.

Alex Gil, Columbia University

Minimal Computing and the Borders of the New Republic of Letters | Saturday, April 9th 3:30-4:30pm

How is humanistic knowledge in digital environments produced in the second decade of the 21st century? Who owns it? Who benefits from it? In this talk I will try to answer those questions by strategically collapsing the distinction between digital humanities, pirate libraries and private vendors. Given that we’re not likely to like the answer I have to give, I will propose some possible responses to our current dispensation based on our experiences with plain text and minimal computing practices in some of our recent projects: the why (a performance of transnationality and minimality) and the how (static site generation and github). Through a reading of Ernesto Oroza’s “Architecture of Necessity,” I will further argue that minimal computing presents us with the ideal meeting point between form and use in a border-crossing humanities at the moment where we fight for the very conditions of our digital knowledge production.

Dorothy Kim, Vassar College

Lessons from Global, Pre-Modern, Jewish Digital Humanities | Saturday, April 9th 5-6pm

In Antoinette Burton’s collection Archive Stories: Facts, Fiction, and the Writing of History, she writes that “all archives are figured” and that the underlying issue at stake in the volume is that “objectivity associated with the traditional archive pose a challenge which must be met in part by telling stories about its provenance, its histories, its effect on its users, and above all, its power to shape all the narratives which are to be ‘found’ there.” My talk today will consider how archive stories work within a global, pre-modern Jewish digital humanities ecosystem. In particular, if the pre-modern, global Jewish diaspora functions as a minority culture globally, what are the stakes and the lessons that can be gleaned with fixed documentary archives in creating a global historical past? How do minority histories get figured and how does working in a pre-modern global past help show both the affordances and pitfalls of “figuring” a polyvocal, multicultural global past? How does the Anglo-centric bent of contemporary digital humanities help and/or hinder the multicultural, multicultural, multi-directional, and multilingual qualities of these archives? In particular, I will discuss what the Cairo Genizah project has done to open up issues related to pre-modern global African histories—in conjunction with the manuscript archives of Mali and the deep manuscript histories and continuous Ge’ez archives of Ethiopia.

Featured MSU Speakers

Amy DeRogatis, MSU Department of Religious Studies

Bobby Smiley, MSU Libraries

Mohammad Khalil, MSU Department of Religous Studies and Muslim Studies Program

Charles Keith, MSU Department of History

Candace Keller, MSU Department of Art, Art History, and Design

 

Friday afternoon and all day Saturday were livestreamed:

Livestream link for Friday, April 8 – youtu.be/OSW5d-qutgI
Livestream link for Saturday, April 9 – youtu.be/LoKAZVkFETg
Tweet questions and comments to #msuglobaldh

 

Photo gallery coming soon.