Blog Post

HASTAC 2011 Conference Notes

Below are my conference notes from HASTAC 2011.  They are by necessity often fragmented, telegraphic, impressional, and rough.  I wish I could have attended more sessions.  There were so many interesting and intriguing speakers, topics, and objects and archives of study.  (Perhaps these will eventually inform a more polished digest, but I wanted to make them available.)  My flotsam and jetsam:

December 1-4, 2011
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI

Thursday, December 1, 2011

7:00-9:00 PM: Pre-Conference Workshop
#alt-ac: Alternative Academic Careers
Fiona Barnett, Korey Jackson

Alt-Ac is not necessarily “new,” there have always been tracks and positions where people with advanced degrees have migrated to

Libraries are really supportive of alt-ac jobs and opportunities

Informational interviews with folks at JSTOR, ProQuest, UMichigan Press

Skill-up in the skills needed for different jobs

            Be courageous, be confident in the skills that you have

            Get your hands dirty, try some things

            You don’t have to be a technologist

            Analytical skills, synthesis skills have served the alt-ac job well

Understanding how the university, how these large bureaucratic organizations work is a skill

Alt-Ac jobs are not the same thing as the digital humanities

Offset detail in your letter by hyperlinking to CV, portfolio, website, projects

Speak directly to the institution, to the job, to the particular skills/interventions is the job making

Collaboration, project management, communication, translation / not just tech skills


Friday, December 2, 2011

8:30-9:45 AM: Opening Plenary
“Now You See It: The Future of Learning in a Digital Age”
Cathy N. Davidson, Duke University

Opening remarks: “tremendous innovation and a lot of reflection required”

There is a relationship between how we think about cognition / attention and how willing we are to make institutional change

            “availability heuristics” – often your own stereotypes and prejudices

History of cognition and attention, missing from some experiments

What the word “digital” does?  Is this about digitizing humanities?  Digitizing scholarship?

            Does the word “digital” transform the humanities? 

            Take hold of the technologies of this historical moment for institutional change

Every institution to control knowledge and learning in some way

Public education: train people in a certain kind of attention

The 4th Great Information Age: Digital Age: Mosaic browser becomes available (WWW)

What institutions we need now to better serve this new digital age?

            Interactive, interconnected, multimodal communication?

What are the three skills college students need to learn in the 21st century?

            Part I: why did we do it silently, on our own?

            Part II: collaborative, interpersonal, talking/explaining, no brain was damaged

The use of “brain damage” so lightly, so cavalierly is infuriating

            The era is somehow “damaging” us, you can only say that if your baseline is nostalgia

            Different, yes, damaged, no

“You cannot see what you cannot see” – you learn habits of perception

Learning: shearing the unimportant, making swift pathways to the important


First lesson in institutional change: don’t dismiss the person who sees the gorilla

Second lesson: you will never hear that voice if you don’t build in for difference


Keywords for an industrial age:

            Attention, timeliness, standard/ization, hierarchy, specialization, metrics, “two cultures” (science/humanities divide)

William James, Principles of Psychology (1890)

Frederick Winslow Taylor, The Adjustment of Wages to Efficiency (1896), Shop Management (1903, 1911), Principles of Scientific Management (1911)

Frederick J. Kelly (1914) invents the bubble multiple choice test

            Later abandons the bubble test


Learning for Participation in the World Wide Web

            What are the kinds of standards (not standardization) we need for the 21st Century?

Excellence is combinatory, complex, global…


10:15 AM – 11:00 AM: Keynote 2
Dan Atkins, University of Michigan

Introduction by Margaret Hedstrom, University of Michigan

Cyberinfrastructrure = technology, human, organization support

e-Science, science communities are partaking of cyberinfrastructures in a boom way

e-Humanities & Arts




“corpus computing”


Digital is really a technical detail: an aspect of the circuits, doesn’t capture what we’re trying to say, “extreme connectedness” is what we’re really trying to say

The shift to the “cloud” paradigm

Emerging IT environments: social, mobile, cloud, big data, cyber-physical


11:15 AM – 12:45 PM: Concurrent Sessions 1
Session B1 (Roundtables) – North Quad Ehrlicher Room

Communication and Collaboration in International Digital Humanities Projects

    Ethan Watrall, Dean Rehberger, Catherine Doley, Scott Pennington, Peter Alegi, Justine Richardson

Matrix @ MSU

Justine Richardson: The Quilt Index

Peter Alegi: Africa Past & Present Podcast

Scott Pennington:

Catherine Foley: Community Video Education Trust


Iterations of Change: How Digital Technology Is Transforming Asian American Studies

    Konrad Ng, Lisa Nakamura, Lori Kido Lopez


Lisa Nakamura

            What can digital humanities can do for ethnic studies?

            Gidra, 1969 publication

            Hyphen publication

            Digital humanities is still young enough not to ignore things like race, gender, class

            The internet has really been a place where AA have been able to broadcast their materials

            Ethnic Studies = preservationists, activists, but not necessarily technologists

            “Towards an Asian American Digital Humanities”

            Asian American Thanksgiving

            My Mom is a Fob website


            Twitter has really enriched my life as a scholar, hear from lots of people, leveling


Konrad Ng

            “Interations of Change: How DT is Transforming AA Studies”


            bring critical expertise in race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, power to DH as it is in formation

            Asian Americans are not a model minority for digital technologies

            How do you canonize / curate these digital texts, these online lives?

            “Online life can tell these alternative stories”


DH: Changed cross-ethnic studies? 


2:30 PM – 3:15 PM
New Directions in Communication Studies on the Digital Revolution

Katie Frank, Amanda Cote, Elliot Panek


Amanda Cote

            Video games research, not much on video games (from a humanities perspective)

            Issues of community, representation, industry

            Identity “On Live,” relationship/friendship building on video game networks on consoles


Katie Frank

            Ethic studies, chicano/chicana studies, identities in the media

            How advances in digital technology/media convergence  have impacted the way different media industries operate their logics/decisions they make

            Adaptations of comic books/series to live-action film

            Literature from ethnic studies, adaptation studies

  , not just disgruntled fans

            Adaptation of YA comic Runaways, casting of main character

            Upcoming adaptations: Bane in the new Batman film, Japanese comic Old Boy, classic Japanime Akira


Elliot Panek

            Media choice, why do they select certain media

            What are people doing throughout the day?  What kinds of media are they using?

            Affective variables


            Mechanical turks


2:30 PM – 4:30 PM
Session D2 (Lightning Talks) – Rackham West Conference Room


    Digital Adaptation

    Monica Williams


    Critical Thinking and Digital Literacy

    Chuka Onwumechili


    Digital Literacies for a Software Culture

    Megan Ankerson


Beyond Bricks & Pixels: A Behind-the-Scenes Tour of Organizing a Community in the Digital Age

    Fiona Barnett

            About the HASTAC Scholars program

            Myth #1: online community, interdisciplinary interaction is automatic, organic, natural


Rethinking (Through) Comics

    Nick Sousanis


5:30 PM – 6:15 PM
Jim Leach, National Endowment for the Humanities
“Digital Technologies in the Civilizing Project of the Global Humanities”

NEH help develop the TEI standards

contributor to the Perseus Project, free online cultural repositories are democratizing

Voyages, the Transatlantic Slave Trade Database

Chronicling America, 1836-1922 newspaper archive

When people think of research, they think of laboratories and not libraries.

Most of the examples are just about digitizing collections, books, and knowledge (not necessarily about transformation)

Clerisy != clarity


Saturday, December 3, 2011

8:30 AM – 9:45 AM
“The Technocultural Imagination”
Siva Vaidhyanathan, University of Virginia

The technocultural = general, theoretical approach to the role of technology in the world

Inspired by Mills, The Sociological Imagination

Requires a synthetic and ecological approach to technology, reminds us that technology is culture and culture is technology

            Not down with Kurzweil

Everyone needs a passing understanding of what happens / how technology works


Google mission statement: “To Organize the World’s Information and Make It Universally Accessible”

“It would be like the Mind of God” – what would  a perfect search engine would be like



            The pressure to write something every day

            The problem of just being “reactive,” just commenting on the events of the day

            The issue of limiting comment spam

            Not book composition


Doctorow: Facebook is like a Skinner box

If you decide to write a “trade-like” book, Thinking Like Your Editor

Influences: Dana Boyd, Helen Nissenbaum, Habermas, Pam Samuelson, Veblen “Engineers in the Price System”

John Batelle, The Search

Algorithms are a distillation of value choices

Don’t pretend you understand what scientists do, how technology works without getting in there and asking “dumb” questions…


10:15 AM – 11:00 AM
“Data, Code, and Research at Scale”

Josh Greenberg, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation

From Betamax to Blockbuster

@epistemographer = “Science Studies as Applied Epistemography”

Mapping how we know what we know, the tools and methodologies in how we produce knowledge


Research at Scale

            Telescopes let you see far, microscope lets you see small, macroscope lets you see big

            Katy Borner, “Plug and Play Macroscopes”

            To see the complex


            OKCupid: mining data, the best questions for the first dates


            Amass a big, really big pile of data (big data)

                        What is big data?  What is it useful for?

Sloan Digital Sky Survey

MoBeDAC = Microbiome of the Built Environment Data Analysis Core

We’re going to be drowing in data, data deluge, data curation, not just archiving, bit preservation

What to throw away when it comes to data is more important than what to keep

Need to deal with code, too, deal with the tools developed to deal with the data

            Beans as opposed to the grinder

OCR code > cleanup code > analysis code

            Raw data / packaged data (dirty/clean metaphors)

Who does that work?



            NYPL What’s on the Menu?

Data science

            John Rauser: A combination of engineering and applied math + writing/narrative

            The ability to tell stories with data

            Design skills and visualization is also important

What mechanism can be developed to enable the quasi-professional knowledge-making?

Flip Kromer: Epistemology of Big Data?

The Fourth Paradigm: Data-Intensive Scientific Discovery

“Screwmeneutics?” = open ended inquiry, browsing modes (rather than search modes / targeted modes)

Trust in different modes of producing knowledge (other than the dominant modes of epistemology)

Our means of dissemination are out of sync with the methods of scholarly production

What if we wrote scholarship like code?

            Version Control

            Tagged Release

            Bug Tracking


                        Dangers: a world of perfect surveillance, how much auditing is appropriate?

                                    Borges “The Map of the World”


Humanities: blogs :: Social Sciences : preprint :: Sciences : rapid publication


11:15 AM – 12:45 PM
Sessions C3 (Lightning Talks) – Rackham East Conference Room


From Zero to Sixty in Two Semesters: Establishing the Digital Humanities in Graduate Curricula

Holly Tucker

            Graduate education, graduate mentoring, how are we going to find a place for DH graduate students

            To help grad students build a DH understanding, a consistent and coherent web presence

            The question of publicness / private


Ojibwe Language Classes at the University of Michigan: Culture, Preservation, and the Pedagogy of the Digital Age

Adam Kriesberg




Digital Literacy and Game–based Learning

Chris Leeder

            James Paul Gee

            TEDx Robert Torres, Games as Learning Systems

            Quest to Learn school

            Quest Atlantis, online learning environment


            Cathy Davidson, “The Future of Learning Institutions in a Digital Age”

                        “From presumed authority to collective credibility”



Telecollaboration 2.0 in Language Teacher Education – The Role of the Cross–Cultural Mediator

Shannon Bishop


Architectural Historians and Digital Humanities: Trailblazing for Scholarly Societies

Allison Benedetti


Recovering the Recovered Text: Digital Canon(s) and Lost Texts

Amy Earhart



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