Last year, the UVA Scholars’ Lab hosted a local, semester-long faculty and grad student seminar on geospatial technologies in the humanities. We used, as a jumping-off point, Martyn Jessop’s assessment of factors contributing to a surprising “inhibition” of the use of digitized maps and GIS among humanists. That GIS, an important tool for scholarly engagement with space and place across the disciplines, has been slow to penetrate the digital humanities — a population generally receptive to new practices and technologies — begs a discussion of issues at once historical and methodological, institutional and pragmatic. The seventh annual Scholarly Communication Institute, to be held at UVA Library in a couple of weeks, will take this issue up in a concentrated way, as we focus on spatial technologies and tools: the institutional, methodological, and interpretive aspects of GIS in the context of scholarly communication.
The “inhibition” question demands serious engagement by scholars, programmers, librarians, and advocates for shared data and transparent, flexible, open services. To be effective, this engagement must come at many levels simultaneously: we must work to build core infrastructure to support GIS and leverage the strengths of (primarily government and academic) data providers; we must carefully analyze past successes as well as failures in the digital humanities in order to move forward with more robustly-imagined scholarly projects; and we must interrogate both a toolset that has evolved to suit scientific inquiry (that is, positivist models of physical behavior and dense, detailed, precisely-defined data sets, generally synchronic) and our own inherited systems for interpreting the human record within a spatial field. Above all – because place and space, whether specifically geo-referenced or wholly conceptual, are common denominators in humanistic disciplines – we must make a concerted effort at supporting and understanding what it is that we do, when we “do GIS.”
Today, I’m proud to announce that the Scholars’ Lab has been funded by the NEH to host three tracks of an Institute for Advanced Topics in the Digital Humanities, on the theme of “Enabling Geospatial Scholarship.”
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The publication of Johanna Drucker’s new book, SpecLab: Digital Aesthetics and Projects in Speculative Computing, has sent me back to my notebook of drawings from our SpecLab and ARP days, the period from roughly 2000 – 2006 when, first as a grad student and then as a post-doc, I worked closely with Johanna and Jerry McGann on the lunatic fringe of digital humanities. (Jerry and I had gone down the rabbit hole some years earlier with the Rossetti Archive as well.)
These are a few of my sketches for the last iteration of the Ivanhoe Game, the one that’s still available for play. I must confess — as much as I loved the design process in all its stages — that I haven’t played a really good game of Ivanhoe since we moved away from the more prosy and simple interfaces of the Turn of the Screw game (undertaken when Geoffrey Rockwell was a visiting scholar at UVA and I wrote moves like this) and the Haruki Murakami / D. G. Rossetti games I played in the wee hours of the night with my first baby sleeping in my arms. (The Rossetti one, on Jenny, in which I imagined a company specializing in flesh-bot reproductions of Victoriana, was re-printed by Laura Mandell at Romantic Circles and in Jerome McGann’s Like Leaving the Nile.)
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This letter — addressed to the wife of Confederate General William B. Taliaferro in October of 1863 — was found hidden away in a bit of architecture during the demolishment, some 20 years ago, of an old stagecoach inn on the Kanawha River in West Virginia. My grandfather, Vic Stallard, a history buff, recognized it for its interest and offered the finder a pretty good trade. He swapped an old outboard motor for this record of family life and friendship at the height of the Civil War, and of the reaction of Tidewater Virginia to Lincoln’s first Emancipation Proclamation, issued only a few weeks before.
What follows is a quick-and-dirty transcript and (for me) a few fun questions. Did Sallie Lyons Taliaferro ever receive this message from Mary C. Jackson Mann (wife of Rev. Charles Mann of Ware Church)? Why was it hidden on a mail route hundreds of miles away from sender and recipient? Now that we’ve re-discovered it in Gran’s dresser drawer and he has asked me to look into its preservation, to which of a couple of logical Special Collections libraries might we offer it? And is Mary Mann really calling the Yankees “pumpkin-heads” in her botantical meditation, below?
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Teaching Carnival 3.6: End of Term
The roustabouts are hoisting the tents. There’s a whiff of funnel cake in the air. Step right up! as the latest issue of the Teaching Carnival rolls into town. But first: a definition and a common-sense reminder or two. Finally, a nod to our most recent hosts, Chuck Tryon and David Parry, and also to fellow 3.6 carny Jeremy Boggs of Clioweb.
Now, new and notable posts in higher ed:
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Mine isn’t the only new blog in town. If you are interested in 19th-century scholarship, particularly as it is practiced and disseminated online, you should subscribe to Andy Stauffer’s The Hoarding. Andy has recently taken over the directorship of NINES from Jerry McGann. NINES is a scholarly collective and software project I worked on for several years, and I remain on its executive council — so it’s near and dear to my heart. (And if you’re here from the library world, you might be interested to know that it, in the form of Collex, provided the seed for Project Blacklight, an open-source catalog interface now being implemented by UVA Library and Stanford, among others.)
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