Stelarc

Digital Humanities Australasia Summary – #dha2014

I have just returned from a very successful conference in Perth, the Digital Humanities Australasia, 2014. As with many conferences one comes away with a bunch of new information and contacts. Below is a quick recap on some of those significant highlights I gleaned from the past week.

Day One, Keynote One

Neil Freistat, University of Maryland “The Promise(s) of Digital Humanities”

A very welcomed provocation from Professor Freistat for the field of digital humanities, particularly as it begins to define itself from humanities studies. As I listened to Neil talk, the one thought that kept appearing was ‘definition is by way of exclusion’, in that something becomes by stating what it is not. In the past, a strong argument for digital humanities has been made as a field that utilises digital tools to assist in the study of humanities. However this has recently been criticised as being too simplistic to describe DH, with a flurry of definitions and rationales emerging (particularly as DH begins to attract research funding and appoint HDRs, ECRs, etc).

Nonetheless, debate has ensued around what DH actually is with much discussion placed on its lack of strategic vision. Freistat located his discussion in a utopianistic frame that provides futorities or promising notes, while also showing utopia’s inherent undoing in its makeup. He argued that without utopian vision there is no innovative thinking which does not lead to any turn in the field, which he notes has much momentum in the TransformDH Movement. When the utopian vision is then critiqued, a operationalised version of digital humanities is possible.

My new mantra: Less yack, more hack!

This set the tone well for the next few days, which also raised many questions around ontologies/topologies, archives/collections big/deep data, and although no one actually noticed it, the need for translation roles between different forms of expertise and knowledge.

Day Three, Keynote Three

Dr Anthony F. Beavers – “Why Computational Philosophy Belongs in the Digital Humanities”

Another interesting presentation by Anthony Beavers asked why philosophy as not been included in the digital humanities, since after all, philosophy had been using computational methods since Aristotle. By highlighting that philosophy is either  empiricist – observational, (Aristotle, Occam, Locke, Hume) or rationalist – mathematical (Plato, Descartes, Leibniz), Beaver focussed on the rationalist philosopher. His examples included truth tables from circa 1850, through to more recent methods of computational philosophy and agent based modelling. It appears maths mixed with philosophy can reveal knowledge previously not known, as demonstrated by modelling the case of the class clown – computational philosophy says one class clown is entertaining and stimulates the environment whereas two is distracting and non-productive.

Given this provocation, Beaver argued that philosophy is at home in the digital humanities. He also noted it is the DHists that are rejecting the philosophers, but rather the philosophers that are ignoring DH.

Session papers

I’ll quickly highlight a few standout papers I managed to catch:

Terea Swirski – “Young Peoples Safety and We’ll Being in Digital Culture: Affordances and Infrastructures”

  • Objects and technology and how this is changing our knowledge and understanding,
  • Bricollage as how we assemble our memories and understanding from our prior readings – intertextuality
  • Participatory design – how did it inform the methodology explicitly?
  • ‘Keep It Tame’ – young and well campaign

Sydney Shep, Esta Chiang, Maximilon Baddeley, Sara Bryan and Flora Feltham - “Visualising Correspondence Networks: William Colenso and the Victorian Republic of Letters”

  • Amazingly similar to our study although on a smaller scale
  • Highlights the importance of deep data rather than big data
  • Provided some additional tools for SNA and data collection

Toby Burrows, Deb Verhoeven - “Deploying Ontologies in the Humanities and Creative Arts”

  • HuNI is an aggregate that subverts the problems of ontology
  • Users create records via links to other data and other relationships I.e. Vernacular linking
  • Vernacular linking is the key to understanding how data connects to data beyond ontologies and folksonomies

David Carlin – “A ‘Living Archive’ for Circus Oz: investigating digital techniques to deploy cultural memory”

  • Great take on the concept of a ‘living’ archive
  • Fantastic use of video in an accessible archive
  • lovely design work from the RMIT crew

Michael Kerr Gisick – “‘The First YouTube War’: The U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as case studies in digital history”

  • Probably the best paper at the conference
  • Explores YouTube through the lens of the Afghan war soldiers
  • A very new slant on what I would call creative vernacular

Tama Leaver and Tim Highfield – “A Methodology for Mapping Instagram Hashtags.”

  • Actually this was the best paper of the conference
  • Very similar to our work except on the Instagram platform
  • We spoke about collaborating in some sense on future work

Some useful links and projects: