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Network Detroit 2019 Abstracts

Keynote — Access Manifestos

Stephanie Rosen

The way we define and enact access—in the digital humanities, information science, or the cultural heritage fields—is inherently political. Access is already unevenly distributed, and our interventions to improve accessibility always prioritize some vectors of need while reinforcing some other requirements to participate. This tension has been theorized and practiced for decades—in disability activism, studies, and justice. This talk centers that lineage to develop ways of thinking about access as intentional, collaborative, multi-dimensional, and political. Along the way, it offers examples of access manifestos and the raw materials from which we might write our own, as we engage in this conference and in our everyday political work.

Lightning Talks + Posters

Collapse and Rebirth: A Living Archive on the End of USSR and Afterwards

Michael Patrick Downs

The project we are working on is titled “Collapse and Rebirth: A Living Archive on the End of USSR and Afterwards”. The research team is comprised of nine students at Michigan State University, eight of which are undergraduates and one is a master’s student, each of which speaks both Russian and English. The team is supervised by faculty member and principal investigator Martha Olcott, an expert on the Soviet Union and its successor states. This project is being supported by the libraries at both Michigan State University, as well as Harvard University with librarians from both institutions serving as either advisors or principal investigators to the project.

The goal of this project is to create a publicly accessible archive detailing the collapse of the Soviet Union and the formation of its successor states covering a period of 1985 to 1995. Our project is working on taking print materials from this time and converting them to a digitally-accessible and stored format. We have decided to use Omeka S as our back-end and ArcGIS Story Maps as our front-end but are looking for other options as well.

In keeping with the theme of the conference, this archive is also focused on access. While there are many collections of works from this period of time, very little of these materials is publicly accessible. Our project is looking to publish many of these collections online in order to preserve the narratives and experiences of not only policy makers in America, but also those in the Soviet Union at this time.

The project we are working on is titled “Collapse and Rebirth: A Living Archive on the End of USSR and Afterwards”. The research team is comprised of nine students at Michigan State University, eight of which are undergraduates and one is a master’s student, each of which speaks both Russian and English. The team is supervised by faculty member and principal investigator Martha Olcott, an expert on the Soviet Union and its successor states. This project is being supported by the libraries at both Michigan State University, as well as Harvard University with librarians from both institutions serving as either advisors or principal investigators to the project.

The goal of this project is to create a publicly accessible archive detailing the collapse of the Soviet Union and the formation of its successor states covering a period of 1985 to 1995. Our project is working on taking print materials from this time and converting them to a digitally-accessible and stored format. We have decided to use Omeka S as our back-end and ArcGIS Story Maps as our front-end but are looking for other options as well.

In keeping with the theme of the conference, this archive is also focused on access. While there are many collections of works from this period of time, very little of these materials is publicly accessible. Our project is looking to publish many of these collections online in order to preserve the narratives and experiences of not only policy makers in America, but also those in the Soviet Union at this time.

This archive will take the form of a website and will be fully functional in both Russian and English, so that both English and Russian speakers both will be able to access and understand the content of the archive.

A Database of Past and Current Urban Agriculture Sites

Alex Hill

While being know for issues with hunger and lack of food access, Detroit is recognized as an international leader in the urban agriculture movement. The movement can trace its roots to early support from City Mayors’ for urban agriculture on public land in order to reduce hunger and economic strain in the 1890s, 1930s, and 1970s. Grace Lee Boggs is aptly recognized as the mother of urban agriculture in Detroit who was inspired by the efforts of the Gardening Angels senior 4H group which then laid the ground work for future organizations such as the Detroit Agriculture Network, Garden Resource Program, GROW Collaborative, and finally Keep Growing Detroit.

Present day City government has provided limited support for urban agriculture with an ordinance that allows gardens and farms, but no formal process for recognition or allowable land use for large scale urban agriculture over one acre in area. Since there has been so many citywide urban agriculture programs across the city since the 1970s, the inventory of ideal land for farming and gardening has not been well maintained.

This research has generated a database of past and current urban agriculture sites in order to assess their level of activity, lifespan, and potential to be reinvigorated with new efforts. From an early list of 300 sites that have been assessed through Google Streetview and field visits, roughly 50% are no longer active, but in many cases the land and infrastructure to support urban agriculture remains.

Beyond Transcripts: Thinking Through Access for a Video-Rich Digital Book

Crystal VanKooten

The presenter will consider access for her eBook project, a digital book written for teachers of writing that interrogates student learning in first-year composition courses. The eBook employs a combination of videos and written prose to make its arguments, and all videos within the book are transcribed and captioned—a first step toward greater access. Even so, the presenter will address other aspects of the book’s content and design that might contribute to how accessible it could be for various audiences: the length, placement, and content of captions, for example; the choice and adaptation of an html template; the size and shape of the video players used; the design of the navigational menu for computer and mobile devices; and the size and color of the written text. The presenter will conclude by soliciting audience input on additional areas in which accessibility might be considered as the eBook is revised.

Detroit Sound Conservancy Archival Methodology

Allie Penn, Jade Amey

This presentation looks at the work of two archival students to help establish an archive for the Detroit Sound Conservancy. The presentation discusses the challenges of working with community organizations on preservation, consistency, methodology and other details that are known within the profession, but are not as well known outside of it.

Within the presentation we will discuss the work we did to establish methods and help create greater access to the records within this local cultural heritage organization. We will also discuss the obstacles we faced working with individuals unfamiliar with the archival profession to establish archival standards and methodologies for the organization.

Part of this work involves creating and editing metadata for images, helping to create finding aids and digital records, digitizing photographs and other media, conducting oral histories with individuals who have valuable knowledge about Detroit’s music legacy, and much more. We will look at how our work helped to create greater access for both an organization, and the community it represents.

Use of Design Thinking Techniques and Real World Cases to Develop Students’ Data Visualization Skills at GVSU

Hsiao-ping Chen

The ability to visualize data information provides a great opportunity for student research and scholarship, using data to support inquiry and argument. This presentation will share some examples of the course projects on how to utilize digital tools to weave images, charts, maps, and data into highly visualizations and presentations and other web-based applications such as online visualization tools and Google documents. The inquiry uses a project-based learning and design thinking instructional approach for encouraging the success of student collaboration in classroom.

Google Drive and Accessibility

Manako Yabe

Due to technology development, Google Drives became popular in schools, workplaces, communities, and digital network worlds. Google Drive is a file storage and synchronization service, launched by Google on April 24, 2012. In this paper, I use Syverson (1999)’s An Ecology of Composition to demonstrate how Google Docs became a unique “access” beyond a word processor and an accommodation.

As a deaf user who is a signer, I have used Google Docs to communicate with hearing users who are non-signers in different situations. In classroom, I used Google Docs with my classmates for group projects. We brought our own laptops, created slides or papers, typed, signed, and talked at the same time. In writing center, my editors edited my papers/slides and discussed through Google Docs/Google Slides chats. Outside classroom, I met my classmates virtually for group projects in the late evening. When I walked with my colleagues who were non-signers, they used speech to text or type on Google Docs app on smartphones, while I typed on my Google Docs app on smartphone. At meetings, my professors used Google Docs when an interpreter was not available. My academia group used Google Docs for signing up book reviews and developing a conference schedule agenda.

Eventually, I recognized that Google Docs was beyond a word processor and an accommodation. Google Docs was direct “access” and no fees. I looked for a new theoretical application. I found Syverson (1999)’s Ecological Matrix, which consists of the five analytical dimensions: physical-material, social, psychological, temporal, and spatial, to explain how Google Docs was an effective “access” between hearing users and deaf users. Yet, I point out a limited “access” for screen readers and other users who do not have technology equipment and Internet. To end, I welcome audiences’ feedback and inputs for this theoretical application.

Rethinking Accessibility in Our Online Presence

Kelly L. Wheeler

Habermas writes, “a portion of the public sphere comes into being in every conversation in which private individuals assemble to form a public body” (79). Therefore, conversation becomes the bedrock upon which a democratic society builds its foundation. Habermas did envision digital online spaces as being locations where discussion could occur among individuals, and yet currently, whether it be social media or some other discussion space, conversation take place daily on topics ranging from what people eat to politics. When we think about online spaces, many assume all have access because technology appears ubiquitous. It is not for many reasons, but for the purpose of this paper, I argue technology acts as a gatekeeper for access as it simultaneously allows and denies different bodies participation within online spaces. In other words, it places some bodies in action and relegates others to inaction. Researchers and scholars of new media and communications technologies need to grapple with questions of disability and accessibility on not just larger levels but their own personal levels in their interactions in online spaces (Goggin and Newell 153).
I wonder, how might conversations online, therefore, create “new notions of citizenship”, and how might the intertwined domains of the digital and physical speak to human rights within this space, and how we on the frontline of theory can create spaces for access in our own presence online (Alper and Goggin 730, 727)? This paper explores the little things that are really big things when it comes to access and disability. By walking you through the process of my own self-awareness when it came to my online projects, I hope to show how to disrupt online systems and structures that prevent democratic discourse for disabled bodies.

Alper, Meryl and Gerard Goggin. “Digital technology and rights in the lives of children with disabilities.” New Media & Society, vol. 19 no. 5, 2017, pp. 726-740.
Goggin, Gerard and Christopher Newell. Digital Disability: The Social Construction of Disability in New Media. Rowman & Littlefield Pub., Inc., 2003.
Habermas, Jurgen. “The Public Sphere.” New German Critique, vol. 1 1974, 49-55.

H-Net as Digital Commons

Jesse Draper

H-Net has been an Open Access supporter since signing the Budapest Open Access Initiative in 2002 and all of the content posted to our listservs has always been freely available to the public. However, with the organization’s transition from listservs to networks on the Drupal-based H-Net Commons in 2014, new challenges for access have developed. This presentation aims to highlight the challenges of creating a platform that allows for free, open (and easy) access to both the consumption and creation intellectual content, and what that means within the context of a Commons containing hundreds of editorially-moderated networks.

Panel — Digital Scholarship Services Hub @ University of Michigan

Caitlin Pollock, Anne Cong-Huyen, Miranda Marraccini

The proposed panel will discuss the formation of a digital scholarship services hub at the University of Michigan Library. Our service model is primarily concerned with three facets of access: intra-institution collaboration, pedagogy, and open data and scholarship. The three panelists, Anne Cong-Huyen, Miranda Marraccini, and Caitlin Pollock, will discuss how access is integral to the creation of a digital scholarship core team built on critical feminist values and practice.

Anne Cong-Huyen will discuss the process of building a collaborative digital scholarship service model at the University of Michigan around the notions of consent, trust, and care. Drawing from the work of The Consentful Tech Project ( and adrienne maree brown’s _Emergent Strategy_, Anne will outline an experimental approach for building programs that are community-centric, accountable, and caring of the individuals and communities involved.

In pedagogy, using digital tools can provide new ways to access primary sources for students with different backgrounds and barriers. Miranda Marraccini will explain how she has used digital methods in combination with feminist scholarship to help students feel comfortable analyzing literature, and how she plans to expand this model to teaching across disciplines at Michigan.

Caitlin Pollock will discuss the strategies, methodologies, and care, built on foundations of critical race feminist theory, integral to developing workshops about the collecting, cleaning, visualizing, and sharing data at the University of Michigan. Caitlin will discuss how to build data workshops that center underrepresented voices and experiences, and teach empathy for and care of datafied human bodies.

As the three panelists discuss their work in employing a feminist praxis to the development of University of Michigan Library digital scholarship services, we hope to examine and propose radical futures for an accessible and inclusive service model.


The Detroit Historical Society’s Oral History Project

Brendan Roney, William Winkel

The Detroit Historical Society’s oral history project was launched in 2015 as a core element of the award winning Detroit 67 project. As even the terminology to describe the unrest of the summer of 1967—“riot,” “uprising,” “rebellion”—is still a topic of intense debate, we felt it was essential to center our exhibit around a broad spectrum of diverse voices, including those historically omitted from the dominate narratives. As a result the culminating exhibit Detroit 67: Perspectives offers a new level of access to the public—access to our platform to elevate and amplify the voices, experiences, and thoughts of those who lived through that tumultuous summer, thus creating an inclusive, comprehensive, and relatable exhibit experience for museum-goers.

Furthermore, these voices have since carried far beyond the walls of the exhibit. In addition to their availability through our dedicated oral history web repository, the accounts have been picked up by regional and national news outlets, and have been used in everything from documentary films, to a live jazz performance. We now plan to expand the scope of our oral history collection efforts by recasting the focus upon the theme of Detroit’s neighborhoods. As the boundaries and names of some of the city’s neighborhoods can themselves be subject of hot debate, we again plan to place out spotlight on those who live in these areas so that they might be able to define themselves and control their own narratives.
In our presentation we will discuss the institutional changes necessitated to undertake this new community-focused approach; the effort and infrastructure behind the collection and preservation of these stories; and the future of the project.

On the Books: Jim Crow and Algorithms of Resistance

Nathan Kelber

This work is funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

Reverend Dr. Pauli Murray spent her life fighting for equal access. Murray was a lawyer, priest, and an activist for human rights. In 1938, she was rejected from the University of North Carolina on the basis of her race. This rejection spurred Murray to fight for equal access. In addition to being a co-founder for the National Organization for Women, Murray authored *States’ Laws on Race and Color* (1953) which Thurgood Marshall called “the bible of the civil rights movement.” The book cataloged racist laws in every state of the country, including “separate but equal” laws that kept people of color from accessing fair housing and education.

*On the Books: Jim Crow and Algorithms of Resistance* uses text mining and machine learning to identify racist language in North Carolina congressional laws from the end of the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement. We have coined the phrase “algorithms of resistance” in reference to Safiya Noble’s *Algorithms of Oppression* (2018) where she exposes the way racism is embedded within executable computer code. Code is not a part of 21st century life that is going away. Still, we ask, “If there are ‘algorithms of oppression’ that reinforce racism, can there also be ‘algorithms of resistance’ that help us fight it?” In Murray’s landmark book, she identified over 60 laws that were on the books in 1948; our initial methods have revealed hundreds more of historical record.

We are making:

  1. A website for educators and researchers interested in Southern and African-American history that lists and contextualizes any discoverable North Carolina Jim/Jane Crow laws.
  2. A publicly-accessible, plain-text corpus of North Carolina Session Laws from 1865-1968 for general legal and historical research.
  3. A short white paper describing our methods and workflows for accurate, large-scale OCR text conversion and text analysis.
  4. A public git project repository containing general scripts, open source software, and use documentation for the benefit of future collections as data projects.
  5. A series of training workshops.

Moving Palmyra from Physical Space to Digital Memory

Bincy Abdul Samad

On August 31, 2015, ISIS destroyed part of an ancient temple, the Temple of Bel, in Syria’s UNESCO-listed Palmyra city. This was sensational news that reverberated around the world. The Temple had been the center of religious life in Palmyra and was also considered “one of the most culturally significant pieces of architecture in the world” by the United Nations. Engaging the scholarship of Astrid Erll and Maurice Halbwachs, among others, I explore the role of memory in transforming the significance of a Palmyra as a cultural, religious, and historical site as well as the ways in which the perceived threat to civilizational memory has led to a concerted effort to recuperate and transform Palmyra for the world. My dissertation seeks to affirm the ways in which memory acquires an expansive meaning in collective acts of memorialization and recovery. Thus my research will explore the discourses surrounding the loss and recovery of the ancient site of Palmyra, focusing in particular on the imperatives to discuss, create awareness, and preserve or transform Palmyra virtually/physically into a different space. Virtual collaborative projects on Palmyra such as the #New Palmyra project, The Palmyra Portrait Project, Getty Research Institute online Exhibition on Palmyra, and IDA are my primary resources. These online resources expose the public to virtual collaborative projects that facilitate and consolidate a transformation of civilizational memory surrounding Palmyra. The legacy of Palmyra in the West, I argue, will therefore remain in one form or the other in these recreations and in the civilizational memory that transforms Palmyra from a physical space to a digital memorial.

Digital Rights and Open Access: Using the Digital Repository as a Hub for Public Humanities Collaboration

Arjun Sabharwal

Digital Repositories have become the access point for hybrid content intended for public access and use. Their contents have ranged from voluntary faculty submission of past publications of scholarly research, datasets intended for sharing by researchers and affiliated organizations engaged in publicly funded projects, special collections and institutional records selected by archivists, and a variety of mixed materials curated by outreach librarians. Accessing and using these contents are framed by copyright status, donor agreement in the deed of gift, and various laws governing open records and government data. Digital Repositories have also operated under management by academic institutions and research organizations with little or no feedback from the public, but with the inclusion of social media, the playing field can vastly expand.

Collaboration is at the heart of Digital Humanities, and the combined availability of emerging and legacy technologies can ensure inclusiveness across existing social divisions that otherwise separate digital natives and digital immigrants, academics and dilettantes, professionals and hobbyists, and so on. The sharing of data, metadata, and other knowledge is vital to keep dissimilar systems (digital repositories and social media) connected even if interoperability is not feasible. In political discourse and depending on the geo-political context, access to data and knowledge and the technologies delivering them is either a right or privilege or in between. Politics may also render digital content ephemeral and—eventually—inaccessible. Therefore, a bottom-up (grassroots) model for collaboration is almost more desirable and practical then a top-down (government-supported) approach that privileges selected communities and themes.

This presentation will focus on existing and conceptual models of collaboration involving archives, digital repositories, and the public humanities. Examples of projects selected for the presentation capture the political and cultural zeitgeist and discourse surrounding difficult topics.

Roll20, Access, and Rhetorical Agency in Digital Game Spaces 

Justin Wigard & Daniel Lawson

In the 2010s, role-playing game fans migrated in increasing numbers to digital tabletops. With the 2012 release of Roll20—a free browser-based digital tabletop—players were able to meet with friends online despite geographical distance through their web browsers. As of the most recent publicly available report, Roll20 reached 3 million unique users (Roll20 Blog, Feb 20 2018). In short, digital spaces have enabled players to meet and collaborate in ways like never before.

Accordingly, it may be natural to assume that a medium which enables players to meet regardless of location would be an unmitigated good. Rather than assuming that these digital spaces are a utopian technology wherein players can all participate regardless of location, the authors posit that digital tabletops are instead sites where rhetorical agency and access can be studied as the transmedia inflect and complicate access and participation in myriad ways.

Using Roll20 as an example site to explore the rhetorics of digital game spaces, we analyze several key areas in which players navigate digital access and rhetorical agency within digital tabletops and affiliated digital spaces. We use critical lenses such as Bolter and Grusin’s (1999) concept of remediation as well as media- and multi-literacies to consider how issues of medial access affect the collaboration and power rhetorics inherent in the “shared pretense” of role-playing game play. Using these lenses, we outline the ways in which access mediates play through three crucial dimensions: access to/through money and other resources; through bodies and embodied rhetoric; and through digital/media literacies. These are not, as we will explain, exclusive categories but rather always imbricated in each other—that is, access to resources will always complicate access to and with media literacies, etc.

Framed Youth: Queering Digital Humanities in Secondary Schools

Jeffrey Austin

Stonewall’s fiftieth anniversary and the commercial success of shows like “Pose” and “Drag Race” are taking place against a backdrop of LGBTQ students feeling unsafe in schools because of the lack of quality curriculum making students with these identities visible. Indeed, GLSEN’s 2017 School Climate Report shows that inclusivity metrics haven’t budged since 2013, and, in some cases, have regressed. In short, the threat of LGBTQ erasure in American schools is real despite perceived progress.

Teachers working in humanities, particularly digital humanities, have the obligation to provide access to complex, meaningful, and accurate representations of LGBTQ folx in their courses, but they also have an obligation to provide students access to the space, time, and tools to create these representations that challenge problematic portrayals and performances of these identities. While these practices, supported by the findings in the GLSEN report, may create greater LGBTQ visibility in classrooms, there is both passive and active opposition to LGBTQ identities being made visible.

In this presentation, I will show examples of how the senior-level Humanities students I teach, after learning about Be Oakley’s concept of authorship as “radical softness” and queer notions of assemblage, create digital projects that explore, play with, and resist dominant culture erasure of LGBTQ identities using a cadre of texts including Barker and Scheele’s “Queer,” hooks’ “Is Paris Burning?,” and Livingston’s “Paris is Burning.” I will also explore the impacts of and tensions in these digital projects for cishet students who are asked to complicate their identities by moving toward the inhabitation of multiple incongruent subject positions.

This project and presentation aim to show how secondary school students, with access to critical information, curricular time and space, and digital tools, can create material texts that disrupt LGBTQ erasure in school structures by questioning existing representations and making new ones.

Sensing Access

Stephanie Kerschbaum & Melanie Yergeau

Although digital spaces have often been imagined in terms of access, this terrain is neither smooth nor uncomplicated (see, e.g., Yergeau et al. 2013). Access is typically conceived as a thing rather than a process, as an end point rather than a wayward motioning. Moving with and in online spaces can enable participation asynchronously, can cut across widely dispersed locations, and make new configurations possible. And yet, digital environments remain profoundly inaccessible to disabled people.

To explore the tensions and tenses enacted when engaging questions of access and digital spaces, two disability studies scholars conjure an affective sensorium, probing, wondering, and wandering about access’s material manifestations within virtual environments. We collectively consider consequences for access in how pleasure, space, and environments are designed within digital realms. In our probing-wondering-wandering, we plop ourselves amidst a tangled morass of retrofits, we trace our limbs against the contours of bodies and minds for whom access is imagined, and trip over means of separation that cordon off access.

More specifically, we explore notions of friendliness and comfort, both of which are materialized and affectively displayed within digital environments. Beginning with a critique that one of us has performed of discourses of “sensory-friendliness” and “ASD-friendliness” around particular kinds of events, we consider how materialist theories of intra-action (Barad), animacies (Chen), and attunement (Massumi) might offer an alternative ethico-onto-epistem-ology (Barad) for access and “the digital”. Such a (dis)orientation involves attention to perception across all its modalities, as well as to attention itself.

Panel — Flint Water Stories: The Evolution of a Digital Archive

Richard Marback, Marc Kruman, Melinda Myers

Democratic participation depends upon access to government officials, fellow residents, and spaces of open expression. The decisions by state and local officials that culminated in the Flint water crisis diminished opportunities for democratic participation for residents of Flint, a black-majority city with one of the highest levels of poverty in the nation. This has left many residents feeling angry, distrustful, and ignored. The presenters on this panel describe a project to digitally collect and archive the stories Flint residents have to tell about the water crisis in order to generate opportunities for participating in decisions about the future health and well-being of their community.

We will describe the evolution of the project and the development of a partnership with a community organization in Flint that provides wraparound services to formerly incarcerated individuals. What began as an effort to preserve the stories of the Flint water crisis and to make them accessible to people inside and outside Flint was transformed by concerns from Flint residents that, five years after the water crisis began, their voices were still not being heard. Accounting for those concerns means involving Flint residents in development of the project itself. Involving residents in the design of a digital archive places issues of injustice at the center of the project.

This presentation will engage the audience in thinking about the potential role digital access can play in democratic participation in decisions about the health and well-being of a community.

Speaker one will describe the idea for an archive of citizen stories and explain the rationale for community members having an accessible archive of their stories. Speaker two will share the digital interface designed to provide access to the archive and explain how the design incorporates metadata to allow searchable access to the stories of Flint residents. Speaker three will describe the plan to train returning citizens as collectors of stories from Flint residents and will explain how this training provides opportunities for both digital and face-to-face interactions to build access to civic spaces.