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Network Detroit 2018 Abstracts

Digital Preservation Planning in the Metro Detroit Community

Alexandrea Penn, Wayne State University
Laura Kennedy, Wayne State University
Margaret Waligora, Wayne State University

The preservation of digitized and born-digital objects is imperative to sustaining the historical narrative of any city. This is especially true for the city of Detroit. If you pick up a local history book in any Michigan library it becomes clear that the city’s history has shaped the nation’s economic, cultural and political landscape over the decades. As a community, we have the opportunity to learn and appreciate the city’s history through the digital preservation efforts of Detroit’s cultural institutions. Unfortunately, funding for these projects has decreased exponentially over the years, forcing these institutions to curtail preservation initiatives.

It has always been an uphill battle for institutions to secure funding at the state and federal level for proper preservation of digital objects and even more so under the current federal administration. This is also true for the cultural organizations in the Metro Detroit area that struggle to justify educational programming, community outreach and preservation projects. In this presentation, the Wayne State University NDSA student group will explore the issues pertaining to digital preservation in the Detroit community through the creation of a digital preservation plan for three institutions including the Detroit Sound Conservancy, Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit and InsideOut Literary Arts Project. The factors considered in this examination will focus on the development of a digital preservation policy, digitization procedures and tactics to securing funding for digital preservation projects.

Queer Intersections: Archives and Visualizations as Activism

Cody Mejeur, Michigan State University

Queer Intersections is a collection of interactive visualizations of the LGBTQ Video Game Archive, founded by Adrienne Shaw at Temple University. The Archive consists of all recorded representations of LGBTQ content in video games since the 1980s, and includes relevant commentary and resources. Queer Intersections quantifies the Archive by counting representations according to their identity categories, such as gender, race, and class, and then visualizing the data using interactive tables, graphs, and pie charts. These visualizations are hosted on a website in order to make them accessible for scholars, students, and the interested public. This project is meant to reveal historical and contemporary trends in queer representation in games by visualizing data representative of the entire LGBTQ Video Game Archive. It further highlights how those trends intersect with and are inflected by gender, race, and class. As such, the project enables intersectional analyses that contribute to building queer game studies that are more inclusive and cognizant of difference.

Driverless Activism: Hands-Free Digital Humanities and AI

Kim Lacey, Saginaw Valley State University

There are two tracks for techne (broadly, art or craft): one that gets you to an end point with an assumed course, or something that starts and ends exactly as planned. The other, messier, or stochastic, form of techne gets you to that end point, but via an unknown path (Angier, 2012; Roochnik, 2007; Dunne 1997). By applying the ideas of stochastic techne to developing forms of artificial intelligence and deep learning, I argue that the rhetorical nature of these spaces is a new interpretation of techne. In a March 2018 episode of Fresh Air, New York Times’ technology correspondent Cade Metz described that driverless cars are programmed as if they are playing video games. If, for instance, the goals of these video games are to rack up the most points, programmers would simply “train” driverless cars to do just that. What they didn’t anticipate, however, is these driverless cars would arrive at that end goal very differently. For example, Metz describes a situation in which these systems played an old boating video game. By “deciding” they could rack up the most points by crashing into objects and starting over, and never in fact having the goal of finishing the course, these AI systems arrived at the goal very differently than the one humans anticipated. Such aims surface a whole new set of problems for roboticists and, arguably, digital humanists (Lipson & Kurman, 2017). This presentation will interrogate the ways the techne of machine learning is dramatically different from the outcomes we think they will follow. Such intelligent systems might make their own paths, still arriving at the desired outcome, but in dramatically different ways than anticipated. From an activist perspective, this presentation also questions what these unanticipated outcomes mean for communities in which such systems might mean further marginalization.

Kitchen Activism: Digitally Representing Detroit’s Global Cuisine

Kim Lacey, Saginaw Valley State University

With the recent death of chef and author Anthony Bourdain, many celebrity remembrances focused on his implicit activism through food. His travels, and the television series that documented his explorations, were indicative of how, culturally, food unites. More locally, Detroit has always been a microcosm of global food culture. More specifically, this presentation dives into the web series Cooking in America, whose third season focused on the various food cultures in Detroit. Taken together, these episodes raise awareness of the cultural impact of global cuisine. Such global cuisine is the result of both a heavily established immigrant culture but more importantly, the deep desire to maintain the traditions and memories of such cultures. This presentation will utilize research conducted by Alex Hill and rhetorician Jeff Rice to further explore the impact of Detroit-centric food cultures. From a digital humanities perspective, there is an interesting shift occurring in the reception food cultures. On the one hand, general sites like Yelp allow diners to “play critic,” posting reviews either to express pleasure or distaste, from which the spaces highlighted in Cooking in America are not exempt. On the other, digital spaces present a question of access, not unlike similar questions derived from the consistent availability of affordable produce and proteins in the city spaces and smaller communities. Finally, this presentation will explore whether web series, like Cooking in America, are doing enough to positively affect the food situation in Detroit.

Exploring Thoreau’s Botanical Community

Jodi Coalter, Wayne State University

Henry David Thoreau’s passion for plants has been well explored, but there has been very little work determining when and how frequently he investigated particular species of plants. Thoreau avidly documented in journals the plants and trees he encountered in his daily life in Concord, MA, filling 14 volumes. This poster explores how a text analysis of all 14 volumes of Thoreau’s journals was possible using a previously constructed botanical index and Python. The text analysis utilized Botanical names and common names depending on Thoreau’s own usage. Next, a database was created to document and describe each reference and when it was entered into the journal. Finally, presenting the results using data visualization software enables us to explore the botanical community that was Thoreau’s passion, giving us a better understanding of both the community of Concord in the 19th century and Thoreau himself.

This project brings the disciplines of botany, history, and literature together to illuminate the plant community around Concord, Massachusetts during Thoreau’s lifetime. The findings allow for further research into the extent to which the plant community in the area has changed as well as a deeper understanding of how Thoreau’s environment influenced his life and writings.

Mapping Senufo: Visualizing Silences in Archives

Caitlin Glosser, Emory University

The information studies scholar Christine Borgman argues that data are not autonomous, objective entities. Rather data acquire meaning from the context in which they exist (Borgman 2015: 4). Digital and print archives construct meaning through their particular methods of preserving and organizing data. Mapping Senufo is a collaborative, born-digital publication project that critically examines data about objects from West Africa labeled Senufo in two institutions: The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and the Musée Africain de Lyon in France. The term Senufo designates a style of art and a language or ethnic group located in the region joining Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, and Mali. A goal of this project is to raise awareness about the subjective nature of archival records by investigating silences in data about Senufo-labelled objects. For example, of 344 records containing place-based information for Senufo-labelled objects in the Musée Africain, only 26 report an artist’s name, while 313 records report the name of the person who acquired the object in West Africa. The data demonstrate the privileging of certain voices, in this case that of European collectors over the voices of West African artists. Mapping Senufo team members are developing dynamic charts, graphs, maps, and other visualizations using tools like Breve, Tableau, and D3 to challenge the seemingly objective meaning attributed to the data. As a Graduate Research Assistant on the Mapping Senufo team, I created visualizations that expose silences in archives and also focus attention on West African artists even if their identities remain unknown. These visualizations will be an integral part of a scholarly publication designed for researchers and other users to access anywhere in the world, including in West Africa.

Building a JSTOR Community of Digital Humanities Scholars

Rachel Foshag, JSTOR
Scott Pontasch, JSTOR

At JSTOR, we support Text and Data mining projects via our Data for Research program. This free program grants researchers access to almost the entire JSTOR archive. The Digital Humanities is an inherently collaborative field, and most of our specialized requests are projects spanning several departments at large institutions. While our self-service site is available to anyone, we have found that students at smaller institutions often lack access to resources for these types of projects, and their faculty may not have the skills and knowledge to assist them. This situation perpetuates the inequality that exists between large research universities, and smaller, regional or community colleges.

JSTOR would like to become an ally in fighting against this type of educational inequality by promoting a community of Digital Humanities scholars. In the User Services department, I work closely with researchers who are requesting datasets, and providing technical assistance with accessing the content we provide. For specialized requests, this work includes collaboration with our Education & Outreach Department, who are responsible for building relationships with researchers who have completed projects with DfR. Finally, my role also allows me to work closely with colleagues that maintain our community site, an online community space that encourages an open dialogue between JSTOR and our users. Our areas of expertise and existing collaborative work has granted us the opportunity to pursue the development of an online community for researchers.

I have proposed the creation of a DfR community space. In this forum, researchers can talk to one another, sharing resources and knowledge of text and data mining. Just as importantly, the community of DH scholars would be diversified by working with and sharing knowledge with researchers from different institutions and backgrounds in a democratizing online forum.

Tracking Change at the Detroit Health Department via the Internet Archive 1998-2018

Alex Hill, Detroit Health Department

Ten different Health Directors, a dozen different service locations, and limited historical reference to past programs or success. As far back as 1998, history about the Detroit Health Department is not readily available or well documented. Current staff have memories and stories, a few old reports are still floating around, but the best source for information has been the Internet Archive of catalogued former Detroit Health Department webpages and websites. The City of Detroit’s first website was launched in 1998 with a handful of redesigns and migrations to new URLs, the Internet Archive has allowed for departmental history to be documented to track past Health Directors, former clinic locations, and programmatic activities as well as PDFs of annual reports. The information discovered through the Internet Archive allows for tracking of changes as the Detroit Health Department faced change in mayoral leadership with new website designs (2007, 2009, 2012, 2015), was federally investigated (2009, 2011), contracted public health services to a nonprofit (2012, 2013) instead of closing down, and appointed new leadership (2015, 2017) as the Detroit Health Department relaunched and reintroduced itself to the local public health system.

Reclaiming Community: Generative Digital Projects and the Black Community

Julian Chambliss, Michigan State University

This paper explores the impact of generative digital scholarship to document and illuminate the black experience. Building on a community engagement and experiential learning model that positions the classroom as a critical making platform, this presentation documents how archival research and digital exhibits focused on African Americans in Central Florida aligns with broader questions of heritage, memory, and power. This presentation will discuss how liberatory archival practice can create digital and public history reframe the community history to create a more holistic narrative that documents networks of economic, social, and political power rooted in the black experience. Guided by black digital humanities framework that stresses the need to leverage digital tools to explore and define the black experience, this presentation will highlight how the digital landscape offers the opportunity to explore black institutions, document black agency, and demonstrate how black voices shaped culture.

Digital Rhetorical Theory and Identity Curation: Catching the Golden State Killer

Charles Woods, Illinois State University

With the capture of the Golden State Killer in April 2018, a worldwide interest in the role of online genetic databases in cracking cold cases changed the way we think about the triangulation of technology, genetics, and criminality, as well as the potential for this technology as an activist tool. Through both digital identity construction and means of investigation, the Golden State Killer case serves as a revolutionary moment for digital rhetoric scholars concerning investigation into ethical responsibility online, collaborative digital identity construction, and the potential for activism within communities and among publics. In the decades since the murders and sexual assaults that tore across California and shaped, and perhaps even normalized, the modern serial killer profile, law enforcement officials have implemented a variety of innovative technologies to assist in stopping criminals, but our understanding of casting blame and finding justice through the application of theses digital tools has not. Through the construction of a methodological framework of digital activist ethics and online identity curation, we seek to better understand the rhetorical trajectory and implications of using genealogical information accessed in digital spaces in the pursuit of justice. Through a case study of the Golden State Killer, digital rhetorical inquiry invites several questions: What is the role of genetic databases in protecting users and their families? Can and should these ethics be re-negotiated in activist pursuits? How might this informational fluidity be used for mal-justice, specifically the potential for security breaches and eugenic criminal intent? Our framework will be built through the implementation of Jessica Reyman’s theories of algorithmic agency, Richard Dawkins’s definition of memetics, and Jim Ridolfo’s perception of rhetorical trajectory to consider the risks and rewards of utilizing the digital inventory of genetic material for criminological advancement.

College-Wide Course-Based-Research-Experience Intervention as a Pathway towards Inclusive Excellence

Melinda Weinstein, Lawrence Technological University
Lior Shamir, Lawrence Technological University
Xamaka Lathem, Lawrence Technological University

Our presentation will survey current best practices in structuring and mentoring digital humanities research in a freshman-sophomore world literature survey. Despite its proven impact on student success, there are many factors why undergraduate research has seldom reached non-traditional students. For instance, students who work full-time often cannot afford the time to work in a professor’s research laboratory, where most of the activities happen during the day. Commuter students and students who support themselves financially through part-time jobs may attend campus for part of the regular working day, but may not have time to work on extra-curricular research projects. Students who are parents are frequently limited by child-care considerations. Underserved students and transfer students find it difficult to compete for research assistantship positions. Also, smaller universities may be limited in resources and often lack graduate student and postdoctoral fellow supervision, limiting undergraduate students’ research options and making it difficult to align schedules with supervising professors.

In Lawrence Technological University’s Inclusive Excellence intervention, we seek to reverse this trend by providing students with access to authentic research experiences while taking regular courses as part of their degree program. In addition to integrating computer-assisted methods of research and analysis into courses not typically associated with computer science such as literature, art, and music, we design CRE (Course-Based Research Experience) modules in a culturally responsive manner, allowing students from all backgrounds to express their culture and ethnicity through research. This 5-year project is funded with a grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) started in October 2017.

Archives, Memory, and Community Engagement: Socio-Digital Strategies for Activism in Archival Work

Arjun Sabharwal, University of Toledo

The boundaries between archival and Digital Humanities work have begun to fade away, as digital technologies have emerged to present new opportunities and challenges. In fact, the boundaries between social and digital dimensions have also withered, providing communities with meaningful opportunities to explore, create, share, and curate memories with the help of digital production tools, social media, and various other technologies. In his article on archival paradigms, Terry Cook has presented a timeline for evolving archival frameworks, leading archival work from the obscurity of the post-Enlightenment era into the ubiquity of archiving in present times. This trend discussed by Cook continues well into his post-humus future as not only do archivists engage with the community but the concept of archives and archiving has also taken on new popular meanings somewhat removed from the context of professional archiving. The emergence of personal digital archiving exemplifies this trend, placing the individual at the center of preserving (and creating) memories. Archives, nonetheless, can continue to play a major role in the emerging landscape by presenting the framework for memory preservation, community identity, and activism. The emerging socio-digital environment presents archivists with opportunities to curate memories by continuing to accession valuable collections, develop exhibitions and virtual exhibitions, engage in social media, and contribute to community activism with professional archival outreach work. This presentation focuses on strategies of archivists engaged with their communities facing a variety of challenges in the present and throughout the past. The Ward M. Canaday Center at the University of Toledo well represents this trend through its collection development and curation record related to disability history. The Toledo’s Attic project has also exemplified the evolving role of archivists in the emerging socio-digital environment and Digital Humanities.

Practical Advice For Grad Students: Lessons from Network Detroit and Detroit ’67

Nathan Kelber, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

In a February talk on the “tactical humanities” at the National Humanities Center, Ian Bogost described pursuing a graduate degree in the humanities as “an exercise in risk mitigation.” Across the country, there is a misalignment between how humanities programs prepare their graduates and the jobs humanities PhDs actually land. How can graduate students engage the humanities PhD (or the MLIS) in a versatile or tactical fashion? Drawing from my experiences with Network Detroit and Detroit 67, I offer a deeply personal perspective on graduate school, the state of the humanities, and the practical lessons of building a career in the face of academic precarity.