Day of DH 2021

17 June 2021
By Wiebke Kuhn

Carleton’s Day of DH or Day of Digital Humanities had its 5th year (with last year missing), and, of course, we did it virtually. While this changed the format a little bit, the passion, enthusiasm, creativity, and engagement were strong as ever. 

Dr. Jessica Marie Johnson
Dr. Jessica Marie Johnson

The hour-long lightning round session in the morning gave the presenters the virtual space to showcase their ideas in teaching, research, and tool usage that were followed up with deeper discussions in breakout rooms. In the afternoon, Dr. Jessica Marie Johnson presented on Beyond a Day: DH Against Enclosure,” arguing how useful digital humanities and its tools are to surface, for example, evidence around the mechanization of humans. Together with careful rhetorical analysis, she outlined the dehumanization of African slaves brought to the US and made connection to similar rhetoric still being used today to oppress humans. Projects and tools like In the Same Boats or Plantationocene work on decolonizing our understanding of history. At the same time, the tools themselves, through their design, reinforce colonialism. Whether these are the maps presented by ArcGIS or the limits set by spreadsheets, it is up to us to break these tools or use more flexible tools and open up the conversations

Teaching ideas/projects

Mapping was a key teaching tool in  a number of projects. Christopher Saladin, Loren Cowdery and Katherine Pierpont from the University of Minnesota showcased their assignment “What’s Missing” focused on students creating story maps and timelines, using Survey123 and ArcGIS, but also Padlet’s timeline tool — this allowed students to connect their findings with a timeline and a map to show historical change.

Proportional change of count of black people in state populations, 1890 - 2010
Proportion change of Black state population from 1890 – 2010

Lin Winton from Carleton College asked her students to focus on W.E.B. Du Bois’ and his colleagues’ work to trace their work as Data Visualization as Activism. Using Flourish to create rich maps, students collaborated to bring to life this particular work. Winton used to display the students’ work. Similarly, Sarah Purcell and Tierney Steelberg, Grinnell College, showcased their students’ work grounded in Grinnell census data. Find their guide on how to get started online.

Another mapping tool, Kumu, allowed Benjamin Voigt at Macalester to let the students in his 20thCentury US Poetry class map out poems and poets to connect moments in time up to their own interaction with these texts. Kumu is less a geographic map rather than a tool you may be familiar with as a brainstorming tool.

Screenshot of the StoryMaps homepage
StoryMaps homepage at the University of Minnesota

Shana Crossen, University of Minnesota, discussed survey data collected from students who have been participating in teaching projects that use StoryMaps. The university has had a team supporting StoryMapping for a couple of years now, so assessing the impact of the program was the goal of the survey. In short, students have found learning the tools and learning what kind of information surfaces when using these kinds of tools as very helpful, including spatial thinking, critical thinking and project management.

Other technologies that connected content with immersive learning and experiences were used by Hsiang-Lin Shih, Shaohua Guo, and David Nevill, Tim Arner and Austin Mason. 

Yilan, Thailand, with augmented reality indicators
Yilan, Thailand with augmented reality indicators

Hsiang-Lin Shih from St. Olaf College, transported us to Agricultural Yilan, Taiwan, where a group of her students lived in and explored farming in its larger economic and societal web. Using ThingLink, they stitched together 360degree photos and embedded text and multimedia annotations. In Shaohua Guo’s Chinese class at Carleton, students, with the help of videos, analyzed and re-envisioned classical Chinese tales to grapple with themes and motifs and apply them in today’s world.

3D model of Viking longboat, made with the Blender app
3D model of Viking longboat, made with Blender

David Neville, Tim Arner from Grinnell College and Austin Mason from Carleton College are working on a Virtual Viking Longship, a long-term project that is designed to build spatial computing skills within the framework of a traditional liberal arts education, and will provide immersive experiences for a larger audience. Some of the tools students are learning and working with are Blender, Github, Substance Painter, and Unity.

Research ideas/projects

Partial map of institutions involved in the Rhizomes project
Partial map of institutions involved in the Rhizomes project

Cristina Lopez, Karen Mary Davalos from the University of Minnesota, and Constance Cortez from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley introduced their research and concept of a digital portal to Mexican American Art, Creando Raices/Creating Rhizomes, that will become a larger ecosystem drawing on decolonial frameworks to make digitized collections of Mexican American art more visible. This kind of work will ensure that these kinds of museum holdings do not become mummified, a concern and potentially driving force for this project.

Asmat carved wood piece of a man and a dog in a canoe.
Asmat carved wood piece of a man and a dog in a canoe.

Another project highlighting art and visual culture of an underrepresented group focuses on the Asmat people. Gretchen Burau, University of St. Thomas, showcased their work that connects visual art with geographic location and indigenous knowledge, using ArcGIS. While this project is not publicly available yet, St. Thomas’ Art Museum houses some of the Asmat art.

James Ryan, Theresa Chen, and Piper Welch, Carleton College, have been rediscovering and reconstructing Sheldon Klein’s MESSY, an early AI system that, as one of its purposes, was designed to write mystery novels.

Using New Tools

Colin McFadden from the University of Minnesota, talked about the concept of a different virtual walking tour using Camino, that is more grounded in wayfinding and physical walking tours than in maps. The emphasis is on connections, and the user is encouraged to focus less on the actual map and more on the world around them. 

John Meyerhofer from the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library showcased very quickly his use of the 11ty IIIF Manifest Generator tool. The combination of these tools, together with Netlify, allows for easier deployment of images online.

A lot of great ideas, a lot of new connections — looking forward to next year!