Blog Post


Day 2 of the DAC 2009 conference and, somewhere amongst the ocean of beautiful, Prezi-driven presentations* was HASTAC@DAC, where Wendy Chun, Anne Balsamo, Tara McPherson and Sharon Daniels explored, theorized and demonstrated the Digital Humanities (or Computing Humanities or, perhaps as it was referred to, the Multimodal Humanities).  The usual happened (the Blue Velvet demo didn't work) but it was easily overshadowed by the breadth and depth of topics and, in the case of Sharon Daniels' work, the sheer beauty of the visual data.

Particularly interesting to me, given my own past and current work on developing databases, was the call for a deep engagement with the data models and algorithmic structures to create new research agendas and move through the screen to the database to the argument.  MacPherson, who edits Vectors, also discussed the future of the journal, especially in regard to standardizing and widgetizing scholarly digital media, including an interesting development model based on rapid prototyping bookmarked by the grant process.  All this was wrapped up in a reconceptualization of the scholarly media creation process promoting users as co-creators and multiple points-of-interaction.

But we all have biases, based on our own experiences, and I spent the last four and half years studying environmental history and digital innovation in the agridesert heart of the prison-industrial complex that Sharon Daniels described in painful, beautiful, digital detail.  Her own, award-winning Public Secrets is as digitally innovative as it is important, and the demo of her upcoming Blood Sugar was the first time I ever saw a real-life dynamic, linked, scaled, database-driven piece of digital media straight out of a science fiction movie, except instead of being used to demonstrate the weak spot in some goofy superweapon, it revealed a weak spot in our own society.

It's been a great conference, filled with overwhelming amounts and varieties of information, which I'll comment on once I have a chance to settle down and read (and re-read and re-read) the papers underlying the various presentations (and maybe get a few links to those pretty presentations).  Until then, I can only hope that one or more of the HASTAC@DAC participants can post with their own view of the discussion (and especially the Q&A that followed).

*Including my own, which highlighted the marvelous disaster of running a Windows machine in a Majority Mac environment.  Fortunately I was seated next to Alex Mitchell who, along with presenting the most interesting topic at the panel (The effect of IF virtual platforms on the development of interactive fiction, followed closely by Stephanie Boluk's the Reliquary of Homestar Runner and Stephen Mandiberg's "Translation (is) not Localization) also saved my proverbial bacon by letting me run my own Prezi on his (naturally) Mac.



1 comment

This is marvelous, including the incredible links here to Sharon Daniels' work.  Multimodal Humanities by any name is powerful stuff.  Thank you, Elijah.