#1 Digital Humanities Winter Institute Report-back

I attended the Digital Humanities Winter Institute at UMD’s MITH, [http://mith.umd.edu] this past week, which meant I learned how to be a better researcher and overall nerd.

Firstly, hooray for CUNY GC for co-sponsoring, including making graduate student scholarships available, which meant I could go.

I enrolled in the Data Curation for the Digital Humanities track, co-taught by Trevor Munoz and Dorothea Salo, where I learned about issues in data ordering; data sociology; general wrangling, selecting and retrieving; and linked data. I looked at all this with an eye to the CollectiveAccess [http://www.collectiveaccess.org/] build project I’m working on with the Interference Archive [http://interferencearchive.org/] at the moment.

The Institute was like a faucet of information and I like a sponge absorbed as much as possible, learning that I am especially apt and interested in: large-scale data/text analysis, working with open data sets, and image algorithm analysis.

First: DataCuration

According to Munoz, Data curation addresses challenges of maintaining digital information in a manner that preserves its meaning and usefulness as a potential input for further research and scholarship.
Why concern yourself with data if you’re not in the sciences? “Data is alleged evidence” said Dorothea Salo, e.g. data is what you are going to show people to prove you didn’t pull your critical and analytic conclusions our of your a$$.

Data Ordering:

Data curation is larger than archiving. The individualism of humanists is a problem — you can’t curate alone! If you want a project to continue after you die, retire, get a new job, or start a new project, you need to think about how you are digitize, organize, and preserve your data. The basic instruction was DOCUMENT. BUT REALLY, DOCUMENT. Which is an instruction I could hear and tell my colleagues over and over. It’s just that important.

Data Sociology:

Data is most useful to people who care about it, which is to say make your data available to your communities of interest, be they Whitman scholars or critical race theorists. There is a social element to data sharing, it lives on in social circles.

Data Selection

As in sociology [and life], other people matter. The audience is the REASON we ultimately select what to keep and share — we are *not* hoarders, we are scholars.

Data Retrieval

So you have some various data, perhaps these types:
•    Image collections
•    Page scanned books
•    Basecamp
•    marked up books
•    these and dissertations
•    website preservation
•    audio & video
•    complex multimedia
•    tweets

Before your brain explodes, remember that there are many software options, and that choosing one comes last. First, consider your audience, your order, and your content!

General Data Wrangling & Collections Software & Tools:

Digital Library Software – Designed for image exhibitions
ContentDM [will do books]

Hybrid Solutions
Preservation: Fedora Comons, microservices
Deposit/mgmt: Hydra, Islandora [VREs, virtual research environments]
End-user UI: Yhrda, Isandora, Okema, glue [puts Omeka onto Fedora Commons]

Archives platforms
Archivematica, ArchivesSpace [beta soon], Duke Data, CollectiveAccess, BitCurator

Data Management Platforms
Dataverse Network, thedata.org [db mgmt platform in a box]
See list on DCC wiki.

Linked Open Data

With Linked Open Data, the main idea is that researchers and, well, anyone, can derive different kinds of value from existing technology. There is what is called a semantic web, a way of using terms that can be replicated across the web, which one of my classmates likened to esperanto, which can be used to describe things. Every Thing, actually. And if “we” web-information-sharers agree to use shared semantics, then the information about Things can be linked up using a friendly little identifier called a URI, which is like a URL, but more specific to a particular thing.

Well how the HECK would I know what URI to pick? Is that tree a TREE or a DECIDUOUS TREE? Before your brain melts,I’m gonna tell you that’s the easy part, folks — thanks to the naming power of language, most things have already been assigned a taxonomy [creepy but comforting?]. If you’re talking about an author, try  VIAF http://viaf.org/, and if you’re talking about a book, you need the Library of Congress [LOC], and if you’re real unclear still, try CALAIS [http://www.opencalais.com/] to help build your Linked Open data URIs.

Horizontal Networks and Radical Politics

[reposted from femmetech.org]

I just finished a few proposals for the Allied Media Conference — which I swear I will co-work on organizing one of these years! — and one that I’m particularly excited about is called “Out of the Streets and Into the Networks: Horizontal Digital Collaborations for Radical Projects.” I’ve been growing in my comfort level as a network-loving enthusiast, a little shamefully since it’s rooted in so much anarchist theory. But, I am ready to cast the spectre of that shame aside, toss off the troubles of the tyranny of structurelessness, and embrace the fact that I Am A Skilled Transformative Organizer. I believe, and enact, power-sharing through digital technologies, understand that crowd sourcing and outreach must go hand-in-hand, and have researched, tested, tried out, and group processed many accessible methods of using technologies to get group organizing, activism, and art done.

Why? As my proposal says, as creative and political projects grow larger, campaign wins more crucial, and the moving parts of our projects get more complicated, the need to share access and maintain diverse contributors on projects remains critically important to work that is grounded in transformative and social-justice praxis. Translation: if the barrier to participation is too user-unfriendly, folks won’t jump it, but if there is no structure in place to foster collaboration, folks *can’t* jump in. Continue reading →

Free Software

First instance of the ITP program workshops was tonight, and we went over free software! I love this stuff, though I am not thinking so dearly about the relationship between positive and negative freedom and technological engagement.

Here is a shortlist — with links — of the programs we went over this evening.

Blender – 3D arts, animation, modelling. create films, animations, movies
GIMP – hi-res, high-end graphics application package. print photo editing [registry.gimp.org – extentions and plugins]
Scribus – desktop publishing, professional page layout
[for linux] video editing
Shotwell [linux-only] photo manager/publisher
Latek – academic publications, set up templates
Audacity – audio editing. one of the best!!
— server-based, more user-friendly and more shareable
WordPress – self-server or web-server-based
Bluefish — HTML editing
Jack Pulse — real-time audio, multiple devices

And — after reading manifesto-type-textx like the Collaboration book and the Free Software license, the dyne.org folks have an interesting Occupy The Internet manifesto that we came across in our travels through freeware tonight.

Linux builds:

Mint — not most up to the moment but includes things that are annoying to install like your CD-rom driver.
Fedora project — most up to the moment build
Ubuntu — slickest and second most up to the moment [and there is Ubuntu studio for creative types]

When was the last time someone said “Yeah I should Learn How To Use That.”

Where are all the white men hiding out? I know some of you are asking — and a conversation in ITP class today brought up the thought that folks can peer-develop all the non-proprietary decentralized non-market software they want — if users don’t know how to use it, it loses value.

The developer world is very white and very male [heeey single ladies/sugar-daddy seekers!], and my classmate suggested that it’s only getting older because of the lack of hack-coding that millenial/post-GUI users are doing. There’s 2600 [who meet monthly, see dudefest], Defcon, HOPE, and plenty more.*

All this to say – there is a culture of code. Making, building, finessing, changing, beta-testing — but not a culture of as much care for the result. And especially not a culture of making it available to “the people”… or is there? Organizations like the Allied Media Conference, The People’s Production House, and others [tell me about them!] do work to educate people. It’s just that this is not what is focused on. You can visit learn.wordpress.com, or help.ubuntu.org …but how do you know what to look for when you are learning?

For me, as a woman who crossed the digital divide of class access to learn and understand programs and technology — and who would have benefitted GREATLY from some guidance/classes [I did not know what a <table> was when I made my first HTML site] I can dream a better dream for lady technologists who come after me.

If participation is our most important aspect of developing FLOSS, a focus on participation is key. Especially with the #occupy movement moving into technology For The People — letting the people know **how to** Occupy Their Tech is super important.

*This whole thing is starting to remind me of BDSM nerds and conferences, frankly but I can’t go in there right now. **reprinted on femmetech.org.

Technology and Bodies

Well you can barely touch this topic with out getting close to The Cyborg Manifesto. I appreciated this summary to help frame this massive and poetic text.

And here, watch someone’s short video interpretation on it:



Activist Media

I am verging on obsessed with activist media and graduate school is only making it worse.

Today I read a bit on this very Euro blog that has a conversation about youth, newness, social movements, politics, tactics, and how the 80s fucked us. The bolded terms above I studied last semester in Jasper’s Sociology of Social Movements course.

Then I went on and found a dated [?] series of sites, including: newmediaeducation.org and distributedcreativity.org whose mission is to “focus on collaboration in media art, technology, and theory with an emphasis on social contexts.” Take me with you!