Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

History of social computing

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

Hello! I have recently completed a PhD in Communication (in a Science and Technology Studies perspective) at University of Quebec at Montréal (UQAM) and just started a post-doc in the Communication Department of University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). I’m interested in the emergence of early “social software” in PLATO, a pioneering e-learning platform developed at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the 1960s and 1970s. Some applications developped on that platform were very influential, like, for instance, PLATO Notes, which became later Lotus Notes, and which began as a hybrid e-mail/forum communication system. Also many early computer games (including multiuser arcade games and MUD-like games) were developped on PLATO long before the first Internet games. The question I am exploring with this case study is : under what conditions an educational platform becomes social? Symmetrically, it would be interesting to know how social networking applications can become educational.

Like for my doctoral research which was on the development of the Internet Relay Chat in the 1990s, my research project on PLATO is heavily relying on the gathering and the content analysis of e-archives, i.e. collections of preserved digital sources : from technical notes and RFCs to historical narratives to the ‘logs’ of online group communications in ‘forums of development’. The main difficulty I am facing with PLATO is the scarcity of such archives, and when some are available (ex : at the UoI Archive Center), they are not in digital format. If any one has hints, feel free to contact me ;-)

I would also be very interested in learning and sharing ideas on gathering digital archives and making them processable for content analysis and accessible/usable for other researchers in digital repositories (e.g., a concrete problem I’m facing is how to digitize and process forum messages hat have been printed out in the early ’70s on computer paper with print consoles).

Also, if there are some STS folks here using DH tools for their research, I would be glad to meet you.

Looking forward to meeting you all at the camp,


NYT: Digital Keys for Unlocking the Humanities’ Riches

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

A timely article in yesterday’s New York Times:

“A history of the humanities in the 20th century could be chronicled in “isms” — formalism, Freudianism, structuralism, postcolonialism — grand intellectual cathedrals from which assorted interpretations of literature, politics and culture spread.

“The next big idea in language, history and the arts? Data.”

Gaming the Unconference

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

Hi folks,

My name is Anastasia Salter, and I’m currently a Visiting Assistant Professor in Information Arts and Technologies at the University of Baltimore. I recently finished my Doctorate in Communications Design at UB, focusing on emergent communities of interactive narratives that have followed in the wake of classic adventure games. I tweet as MsAnastasia.

“Gamification,” (or “gamefication,” if you prefer, either way spell-check isn’t going to like it) is a buzzword right now that, for better or for worse, suggests that the motivation systems of games can be used to all sorts of purposes. I’m interested in going beyond the replication of achievement systems or the inclusion of experience points for mundane activities and thinking about the ways that game structures, particularly narratives, can be used to give actions not only clear rewards but also greater meaning. (I’d also love to talk about how the ThatCamp model encourages playfulness that traditional conferences decidedly lack, and what we can do about that disconnect.)

One of my current projects is modifying a BuddyPress install to run my spring Social Media and Games course as a meaningful social game–it’s a riff on the many approaches to trying gaming in the classroom, and I’d love to discuss ideas with anyone else trying similar projects. I’m constantly integrating technology in the classroom, from Twitter to wikis to blogs to Prezi, but this will be my first time running a class as a game despite several years of teaching game design and digital culture courses. (Perhaps the closest I’ve come in the past is running a WoW guild as part of a Myths of Cyberspace class–ask me about the “Fuzzy Wuzzy Friends” :-)

I’ll also be collaborating with J.J. Pionke on the Intro to Omeka BootCamp session. We co-moderate a small project, HackGender, using the Omeka platform and experimenting with different ways to examine and encourage marginalized gender voices online. Our latest attempt is a holiday themed contest that we just launched this week.

International Collaboration and Digital Access to Unique Collections

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

I manage digital initiatives at the University of Miami Libraries, where I frequently collaborate on special projects with humanists from our teaching faculty. My own scholarly background is in modern European languages and literature, particularly French and German.

I’m currently interested in exploring models for international collaboration in the documentation of the arts, as well as in methods for overcoming instututional, political, and intellectual property barriers to build and provide access to collections of contemporary digital materials. These challenges are becoming especially relevant to us in Miami as we begin to establish a long-term organizational infrastructure and software solution for a project called the Cuban Theater Digital Archive.

I’m also very interested in exploring creative ways of providing access to special collections and archives, both from the perspective of the archivist and the scholar, and would love to learn more about what’s going on in Chicago-area libraries and archives.  Northwestern has recently been publicizing some of their work with EAD and Blacklight, for example, which I’d like to know more about.

Sharing, play, collaboration

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010
It’s coming. There are so many threads to tug on later this week, I can’t wait to see what we’ll unravel. Allow me to toss some ideas into the ring.

First, a selfish one. My major work in recent years has been in the area of crowdsourcing: most basically when disparate groups of people organize toward the accomplishment of a common goal, usually and most effectively online. What I’m curious about these days, however, is the role of expertise in such systems. Even in functionally egalitarian systems, how do users elect authority or recognize expertise? Do such actions work to the benefit or the detriment of the task, and is there a balance that can be struck?

Luddic labour. Along the crowdsourcing line, how can the spirit of play be captured toward meaningful task. Systems like ReCaptcha and the ESP Game were inspiring early examples, but there has not been nearly enough attention on such things in the traditional venues.

Caged omniscience. How do video game players, accustomed to structure, deal with games that give the unusual amounts of freedom over the narrative? Games like Scribblenauts and Sleep is Death: there appear to be very particular reactions to games that offer such freedom, and these ways of play do not match the spontaneity of gameplay when a user subverts the regular rules of the game through glitches, tricks, or hacks.

If the splendor of an unconference is exploring the parts of a community behind the professional mask, one curiosity of mine is discussing the ways that humanists hack together solutions to their needs with popular, non-function specific tools. Have you found Google Spreadsheets to be your tool of choice for processing data, or do you have a script for splitting double page PDF scans? These tips and tricks are nearly always useful, but there’s few ways of sharing them.

Speaking of sharing, I fear that among technocentric humanists, we have a tendency to re-tread ground and create similar tools over and over. There needs to be a communal space for documenting and discovering tools, code, and processes. I think small versions of such a website have often been attempted, but nothing has emerged as a repository of record. At the very least, it’s worth a discussion how such an implementation could succeed: my impression is most of it is would simply be PR and careful community management.

I must apologize for the random selection of thoughts, in the spirit, I simply typed what was on the surface of my thoughts, without much second thought. I look forward to Saturday, by which point I’ll certainly be enthusiastic about something else.

Session ideas so far

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

Computational processes applied to a growing archive of scholarship linked with rhetoric and composition

Conceptual value of data-mining and visualization for apprehending patterns that are not obvious at the customary scales of reading (e.g., one article at a time).

GIS and Database Interests

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

I’m a little late to the party, but wanted to introduce myself before we all meet at Northwestern.

I’m currently an Assistant Professor of German Language & Literature at the University of Notre Dame, where I’ve been teaching since 2007.  I’m fairly new to the digital humanities, but eager to learn more and make more sophisticated use of available tools in both teaching and research.

After doing fairly low-level stuff with wikis and blogs for a while, I’ve recently become interested in geographical information systems as teaching aids and alternate means of assessment.  Two years ago,  one of my first-year literature classes used KML and Google Earth to create a geographical companion to a bulky German novel that is now available online here:

I’m working on  more ambitious version of this project with a current class and am hoping to get some feedback from you all on some of their preliminary results, which I’ll bring along.  Ideally, I’ll also get some ideas for more advanced GIS work  – a colleague of mine and I have recently applied for a grant to create a language course anchored by digital geographical materials, and I could talk about that too.

My research has recently also taken a more digital direction, though it’s too early to share any results.  But I’ve just started collaborating with Notre Dame’s Center for Research Computing on creating a database of nineteenth-century German novel production, which will hopefully end up being searchable both in traditional ways (titles, number of books published per year, etc.) and through a GIS interface (visualization of places of publication, etc.).  Franco Moretti has been hugely influential in my thinking as well, so I look forward to talking with Derek and other literature scholars.

See you all next weekend!

To Chicago with Databasic Questions

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

Greetings, everyone. I am excited to be attending my first THATCamp this Saturday.  I will be traveling to Evanston from Ypsilanti, Mich., home of Eastern Michigan University, where I joined the English Language & Literature faculty last year as an Assistant Professor of Written Communication.  I’ve found it energizing to read your introductions and to learn about everyone’s exciting work. I look forward to hearing more about these ideas and projects, as well as exploring possibilities for collaboration across our institutions and organizations.

The questions that have been most persistent for me center on computational processes applied to a growing archive of scholarship linked with rhetoric and composition.  I’ve learned much (although it never feels like enough!) in the last five years about technically viable methods for this sort of work, and I am equally interested in the conceptual value of data-mining and visualization for apprehending patterns that are not obvious at the customary scales of reading (e.g., one article at a time). My motives are not far removed from Franco Moretti’s rationale for “distant reading.” I have also been thinking and writing lately about the relationship between databases and narratives, particularly for field narratives (sometimes called discipliniographies or stories of disciplinary emergence and status). What role have databases played in shaping these narratives? Further along these lines, I am also sorting through issues of metadata proprietorship (e.g., how does copyright apply to mined data?), metadata standards, and processing methods. Looking ahead to Saturday, I am also interested in finding conversations at THATCamp around writing and rhetoric, new media and undergraduate writing curricula, assessment, pedagogy, and interdisciplinary partnerships.

SLAC & R1 DH Collaboration

Monday, November 15th, 2010

I’ve just graduated from a Ph.D. program at an R1 institution and digital humanities hub (see I’ve started an assistant professorship at a small liberal arts college ( where I’m the lone scholar interested in digital humanities work. I’m interested in running a session about cross-institutional collaborations in the digital humanities. How can scholars at smaller institutions (or larger institutions without an established DH program) find partners to collaborate with on digital projects, and how can we build a more robust infrastructure to support such collaboration?

The new DHAnswers (, cosponsored by the ACH and ProfHacker, can be seen as a step in the right direction. I’d like to think through the next steps. As I recently wrote to a colleague back at UVA, “DHAnswers is nice, but it’s no substitute for having experts in PHP, Ruby, or Javascript right across campus and ready to help me solve a problem on my website.” But what would be? Can any virtual collaboration bring scholars at smaller institutions closer to the dynamic, collaborative DH environments springing up at R1 schools?

Also driving this session: I’m currently organizing a THATCamp which will be held at St. Norbert College in Green Bay, Wisconsin this summer. THATCamp Liberal Arts Colleges ( will focus on scholars doing digital humanities work at Liberal Arts Colleges, where they are more likely to be the lone DHers on campus and must build stronger off-campus networks. This session would help me start thinking about how to frame THATCamp LAC, and I will welcome input about how the THATCamp model could specifically target the needs of Liberal Arts College faculty.

Digital Commons

Sunday, November 14th, 2010

A team at Wright State University has been looking at launching a campus Digital Commons with individual and project websites, blogs, wikis and social networking tools. I have been following work at the University of Mary Washington and CUNY as well as other models. These discussions began some time ago but the process has been slow as a result of other commitments including a shift from WebCT to Desire2Learn and the selection of a CMS for the university website. Our eventual goal is a resource open to faculty, staff, and student users. We have been trying out WordPress MU for several months but we are also testing out Drupal Commons, OpenScholar, and Drupal Gardens (the latter runs on Drupal 7 only) in order to see if we can marry the functionality of the Drupal Commons with solutions for individual and project websites as well as web exhibit type productions that are possible in WordPress MU and BuddyPress. The team includes faculty from the College of Liberal Arts and staff from the Office of Computing and Telecommunications Services, the Center for Teaching and Learning, and the Office of Marketing and Communications. I would like to share some of my thoughts on the process and the solutions and I look forward to hearing from others involved in similar projects.



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