Five College DH kickoff article


I forgot to mention that the Amherst Student printed a perfectly lovely write up of this year’s kickoff event for the Five College Digital Humanities program–  my other day job! (Reproduced below, from here)

We held the event at the end of September, at the Frost Library on the Amherst College campus. We are also hosting an excellent speaker series this year. Here is the roster, thus far.


Five College Digital Humanities Celebrates Kickoff Event
BySitina Xu ’16, Managing News Editor
Issue 144-5  |   Wed, 10/01/2014 – 02:14

Five College Digital Humanities celebrated its kickoff event last Friday afternoon in Frost Library by showcasing a host of current projects.

Five College Digital Humanities is a five-year program created by the Five College Consortium to fund, support and inspire research in the digital humanities.

Digital humanities, according to director of the program and associate professor of English at Amherst College Marisa Parham, “is simply a term of thinking about an approach to doing scholarship. It’s not looking at a specific way people have to do things or looking at specific kinds of scholarship. Rather, it’s introducing a new set of modalities into the work of scholarly inquiry.”

Parham described the digital humanities as a very collaborative enterprise. She said that this is a departure from her traditional training as a humanist, someone who studies human issues.

“Many of us trained as humanists were trained to work alone,” Parham said. “Not only were you trained to work alone, but you’ve very often been trained to work in environment where you’re the only person in the environment representing the thing you do.”

However, the Five College Digital Humanities intends to transform individual pursuit into a communal and collaborative activity, allowing large organizations, such as the Five College Consortium, to work in the field.

“Digital humanities runs on collaboration,” said Library Information Technology and Services (LITS) Liaison Caro Pinto of Mount Holyoke College. “It depends on an egalitarianism that challenges long time higher education organization structures.”

As organizer of the faculty fellowship program, Caro said that faculty, students and staff will have to adapt to new roles when conducting digital humanities. She described to faculty “becoming more than a teacher or researcher” to embrace the role of “mediator,” students guiding digital scholarship as “process experts” and librarians doubling as “project managers,” a role of taking leadership and action.”

For instance, the faculty fellowship project, “Timeline of LGBT Political Landmarks in the Americas,” involves the collaborative effort of Amherst Professor of Political Science Javier Corrales and UMass-Amherst Professor of History Julio Capó, with Amherst librarians Gretchen Gano and Kelcy Shepherd.

Sometimes, collaboration between disciplines can venture into completely new fields of study, as shown by the Aerial Innovation and Robotics Lab (AIRLab).

AIRLab is the collective effort of Smith College’s Spatial Analysis Lab specialist Jon Caris, UMass-Amherst Classics professor Eric Poehler and Amherst College Senior Post-Bac Jeffrey Moro. All three work together with Smith and Five College students to design, build and experiment with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) or drones in order to “engage the debate on how [drones] are influencing our society,” Caris said.

During the presentation, Caris discussed the uses of drones: he said that drones can be used for commercial uses, government surveillance or even art.

“Drones aren’t scary if you dress them up as fairies,” Caris said, referring to the use of a tiny drone in a 2009 Texas A&M production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Another goal of the program is to expand efforts to digitize information. The project “Zine Scenes: An Interactive Digital-Subcultural Platform” is part of one such effort.

According to its webpage on the program’s site, Zine Scenes “creates a participatory mode for re/engaging both physical and digital zines as a contextual medium,” allowing the user to engage in the full culture and experience of reading and making a zine.

Other digital humanities projects include documenting and consolidating information on specific cultures, such as the history and legacy of women in the Pioneer Valley. The Valley Women’s History project, according to UMass Professor of History Laura Lovett, “is to forge a central digital repository of feminist history in the Pioneer Valley.”

So far, they have documented over 350 women’s groups and are actively recording the oral history of women’s domestic violence shelters.

According to the program’s website, the ultimate goal of projects, such as Zine Scene, LGBT Political Landmarks Timeline, AIRLab and Valley Women’s History, is to build “a common vocabulary and toolkit for engaging contemporary culture and research.”

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