Week 1: Question 1 - Role of Cultural Criticism in DH
  • Q1: Liu first gave this article as a speech at the 2010 MLA meeting. Up to that point, how had digital humanists ignored cultural criticism as Liu asserts? How has the field changed since, if at all? Please give concrete examples and explain these examples.
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  • Hi Vivian, get in touch and let's roll up our sleeves! Always looking for digiribbeanists. 
  • Digiribbeanists... super freakin' awesome
  • Re: "Digiribbeanists" (brilliant!, Alex), I'm currently working as a fellow through Northeastern University's NU Lab for texts, maps, and networks in the development of an Early Caribbean Digital Archive of pre-C19 materials. I'd be happy to share our project details w/ all who are interested. Let us know what texts you are currently working w/ and/or hope to work w/, and we'll try to get them up on our site. We currently have an Omeka installation up and ready for scholarly and pedagogical work, so let me know if you're interested. And I too am very invested in what a "Caribbean Digital Lab of the future" might look like — in particular, one that underscores a student-centered collaborative way of "making" scholarship.
  • I love the term "digiribbeanists", Alex.  It's great to have a new way to think of oneself and one's endeavors.

    I've been very frustrated whenever I get to a Caribbean archive, most recently, though not exclusively, in my native Puerto Rico, and the museum is closed but the website didn't give a hint of that fact!!  Has anyone experienced the same difficulty?  That's what makes me so excited about the Digital Library of the Caribbean. I admit I have to spend more time looking at what it has available and how it relates to my research!

  • SO MUCH DHPOCO GO::DH LOVE! I'm in heaven :)
  • We're seeing increasing instances of this shift since Alan's article. Brian Croxall just posted work by Emory DISC on using Voyant to analyze the language in the Same Sex Marriage Cases: http://disc.library.emory.edu/samesexmarriage/prop-8-arguments-and-decisions/
  • As a Caribbeanist, I was pleased to find out recently about the ongoing digitization project of the Digital Library of the Caribbean. I found it useful to think of Liu's call for cultural criticism in the context of Alexander Gil's thoughts on what would make an effective polyglot, multi-sited Caribbean DH Lab:

  • Alex Gil is also involved with Global Outlook::Digital Humanities (http://www.globaloutlookdh.org/) which is engaged in the kinds of goals that Alan's article suggests:

    "The purpose of GO::DH is to help break down barriers that hinder communication and collaboration among researchers and students of the Digital Arts, Humanities, and Cultural Heritage sectors around the world." 
  • Ben, I know of you and of your project. Many lovely colleagues and friends at NE including Elizabeth Dillon and Ryan Cordell. Tell us more though! Good to let people know what we're working on. 

    Vivian, you should definitely take a deeper look at DLoC. They have opportunities for scholars who want to work on their materials. I'm about to put a shoutout on Twitter to see if we can get some of them in here.
  • I think the same has to be done with South East Asia, for sure. Money and priority become a question when it comes to archival preservation. I also believe that the work of the archive commensurates with the climate of interest in the actual intellectual history of the region, as opposed to one made up to advance some specific political agenda. My home country of Malaysia suffers terribly from neglect because most of the local historians have been co-opted to advanced a revisionist agenda, as are their area studies people, and training does not equipped them sufficiently to even access most of the written material written in unfamiliar or older versions of the local language. Many of the materials remained hidden, in not the best conditions, in store-rooms, with maybe a few put out on display, and are usually so poorly cataloged that you wouldn't know that they exist otherwise. However, i do know that there is an increasing interest to digitized many of the materials in SEA such as in Singapore and Australia, and some of these are done by former colonizers of this country because of a certain orientation to ethnoscientific philosophy and thoughts. Be interesting to know what we can learn from DLoC
  • Clarissa, Roopika and I are starting first with Digitizing Chinese Englishmen http://chineseenglishmen.adelinekoh.org. Wanna join us? We'll need help cleaning data, particularly for the Chinese and Malay portions, and with TEI markup.
  • Sounds good. Just forwarding to some friends as well :)
  • @Clarissa, that'd be fab! Please ask anyone interested in helping to email me (adelinekoh@gmail.com) and Roopika (rrisam@gmail.com).
  • @adelinekoh, count me in as well. I think I'll have more time this next year as a post doc (hopefully!). And @clarissalee, I'm finding that one of my sites of study, Vietnam, is a similar context where the government is very restrictive about access to archival material, and the disciplinary structures within universities doesn't recognize anything similar to DH. Even film studies is a novelty, with few academics in the area and still working to justify their work. The interesting thing that I've noticed there, is that much of the critical digital work that is being done on a smaller scale is in the arts community, though it might not "count" as "DH" per se. Much of this work then, is also subversive to the point of secret/private meetings, talks, screenings, etc. or exhibitions. This makes me wonder, then, about alternate spaces of cultural criticism, especially in non-western contexts, where the work done in universities doesn't always seem to be keeping up (particularly when the government is so influential in the curricula and funding). 
  • Awesome to have you on board Anne, and the point you make is an excellent one. One of my good friends in Singapore, Yumei Balasingamchow, has expressed discomfort about having online archives taken over by the state through government funding--given that it might restrict access at any time. This speaks to Alex's point about the need for us in dhpoco to practice a sort of guerrilla DH sometimes, strategically.
  • Adeline beat me to it, but I was just going to say that this ties in to Alex's argument about subversive DH practices and governmental restriction - so I'll add the link to Alex's remarks: http://vanilla.dhpoco.org/discussion/8/week-1-question-2-dhs-genealogies#Item_14
  • I'm not part of academia, and last year I gave a talk on notions of a "usable past". The city of Amsterdam recently launched a street museum app (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DptdUerk0yc), similar to the one launched in London. This technology enables people to construct a certain kind of reading of the city as a system of representations, a complex cultural, historical, spatial entity; whilst it transforms the way we view and relate to the past, and present. My critique was that only a certain version of history was being presented (a sanitized "tourist friendly" history). The street museum mobile app claims to highlight the hidden and unspoken history of
    Amsterdam, which made me beg the question: which of the many hidden and
    unspoken histories of Amsterdam?

    One of the projects I appreciated was undertaken by the Free University of Amsterdam -- researchers there have collected names and addresses of slave owners, all of which are indicated on a Google map of the city: http://www.rnw.nl/english/article/slavery-amsterdam


  • I'm late in responding (and a big thank you to @elotroalex for letting me know about the conversation). The Digital Library of the Caribbean (dLOC; www.dloc.com) has 37 active institutional partners that all contribute content (partners: http://dloc.com/info/partners) as well as many affiliated partners and scholars who contribute primary materials, scholarship, expertise for curation, etc. dLOC is a central portal and part of the scholarly cyberinfrastructure for access (material, meaningful, transformative) and permanent preservation. 

    dLOC was created specifically as part of and to continue to build with the cultural heritage and scholarly communities, and so it's not just about stuff, but about building capacity and community, and doing the same with our other related and connected communities. For that, dLOC creates many materials for use by dLOC partners and anyone: training materials, open source software, teaching resources, supports new digital scholarship works, and provides scholars an easy group to ask questions to get started on new (related or not) DHPOCO digital scholarship for helping to connect with others. In the fall, dLOC is part of a class being taught at 3 institutions on Panama Silver, Asian Gold: Migration, Money, and the Making of the Modern Caribbean and the current draft syllabus for the course version at UF is in dLOC: http://www.dloc.com/l/AA00013935/00001/pdf
    This course is experimental in many regards, including to experiment with how to best engage and support faculty in teaching with and through dLOC.
    dLOC doesn't do too much with TEI and not fancy stuff (just hosting at a standard view/download for right now), but dLOC is partnered with the Early Caribbean Digital Archive based on Northeastern, which is doing tons of exciting work including TEI. For folks interested in TEI, the TAPAS Project seems of interest: http://tapasproject.org/ (and, apologies if this is known news and already discussed).
  • In recent years several projects have been launched that either focus on or tie in with Surinamese genealogical research.

    A key archive in Surinamese genealogical research is the 'Eerste Algemene Volkstelling Suriname' ('First General Census Suriname') from 1921, in which the majority of the Surinamese population was counted and for each person a census card was written. Moreover: people living at the same address were identified as such, which provides potential insight into family relations. Up till 2009 the only way in which this information could be studied, was by visiting the National Archives in The Hague.

    In 2009, the National Archives started digitizing all census cards and all address index information as well. The originals were finally returned to Suriname, where since the 12th of April 2013 the website of the (since 2010) newly opened National Archives (which since 2010 has improved climate control technology so that paper, audio and video archives can be preserved for a longer period). [http://nationaalarchief.sr/collecties/archieven-on-line]

    In Suriname and the The Netherlands there are several initiatives, outside academia, who built on this source and add much, much more to it. First, I should mention Denie Kasan, who has been working freelance for over 20 years in doing his own genealogical research and assisting others. His website [www.kasan.nl] is a huge resource for the most diverse range of methods and sources on doing genealogical research on Suriname. On the 13th of April 2013 he remarked he is planning to transcribe all the census cards [http://deniekasan.wordpress.com/2013/04/13/scans-volkstelling-suriname-1921-dtb-en-notarieel-archief-online/] and is looking to coordinate such a plan if people are willing to cooperate. Much of his information he also shares on another website. [http://www.stamboomsuriname.nl/]

    Recently, the Ancestors unKnown project was launched. I quote from their website [http://www.ancestors-unknown.org/]:

    Ancestors Unknown is an
    international nonprofit organization that uses ancestry research,
    history education, and cultural workshops to inspire the personal and
    academic success of young people throughout the African Diaspora.

    We combine genealogy research with a global, Black history curriculum. Introduced to their once unknown ancestors, young people gain a new type of education that broadens their skills and affirms their self-understanding. In
    partnership with families, schools, genealogists, historians, and local
    organizations, we seek to regain the worldwide memories of Black family

    In 2013, pilot projects launched in Charleston, South Carolina and Paramaribo, Suriname.

    Ancestors unKnown is working together with Naks (Na Afrikan Kulturu fu Sranan) and the Moravian Church, to offer their help to people researching their genealogy. Participants in the project blog about their results and there are on the spot workshops. The project is currently looking for financial support through a crowdfunding campaign [http://ancestorslaunching.causevox.com/], to cover costs for their initiatives in Suriname and South Carolina and to increase their impact in the coming years.

    One result of this recent increase in genealogical, which is historical, research, is the Sabi Yu Rutu (Know Your Roots) exhibition and symposium in Paramaribo, Suriname, from 26 June 2013 leading up to 1 July 2013, the day on which it was commemorated that 150 years ago the Dutch government officially, legally abolished slavery in the lands they had conquered and dominated overseas. I quote from the Sabi Yu Rutu Facebook-page [https://www.facebook.com/sabiyurutu]:

    'Suma na mi / Who Am I / Wie ben ik?
    Diaspora & Identiteit: A Project with 5-prongs to Increase Awareness of Surinamese History and Ancestry



    The project stems from a painting that is part of the Time, Trade &
    Travel exhibition by the Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam (SMBA) in
    collaboration with the Nubuke Foundation in Accra, Ghana.

    Jeremiah Quarshie created the painting to reflect the quest for
    identity, merging the narrative of the 18th century enslaved Avantuur
    and the Dutch-Surinamese soccer legend Clarence Seedorf. Ar
    1774, four-year old Avantuur was kidnapped in West Africa, enslaved and
    shipped to Suriname, South America. Avantuur is the African-born
    ancestor of the Surinamese Muntslag clan.

    The narrative of the
    Muntslag family is written across the portrait of the renowned football
    player, Clarence Seedorf. Also born in Suriname (South America), Seedorf
    exemplifies the quest for identity. Whether Dutch, Surinamese, and/or
    African, he is now back on his continent of birth, contracted by the
    Brazilian club Botafogo in the Campeonato Brasileiro Série A.

    The Need

    Throughout the world, most people are placed (or place themselves) into
    broad and general categories of identity, often based on nationality
    and a visible ethnicity. However, all of us have a far more complex
    history and self-understanding that can and should be celebrated. For
    many Afro-Surinamese, whether living in Suriname, the Netherlands, or
    elsewhere, limited access to their cultural history and little knowledge
    of their ancestry has robbed them of an opportunity to assert full
    control over claims of their identity. With a clear understanding of
    where they come from and how they arrived where they are today,
    individuals are better able to create their own identity narratives.
    Through a celebration of history, family, ancestry, and the processes of
    discovery, we seek to support the efforts of Afro-Surinamese (and all)
    people in the quest to answer the question, “who am I?”

    The initiatives of Kasan, Ancestors unKnown and Sabi Yu Rutu are examples of successful humanities research, of immediate relevance. The relevance might not be translated into financial gains, but who will argue the immaterial gains of learning about your family, ancestry and in that sense your place in history and in the world? Does such research need further justification?

    After writing all of this, a question popped up in my mind: should DH-ers focus on carrying out research, on providing more people access to source material or on constructing tools or platforms with which more people can carry out their own research? Or all of the above, a combination? Is there an immediate need for any of those that prevails above the need for the others?

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