Digital humanities @ Stanford

I just arrived in Palo Alto and will spend about a week at Stanford. Mostly doing work for the Wallenberg Global Learning Network, but also interacting with the digital humanities community here. One center is the Stanford Humanities Lab.

SHL exists to change that. By providing financial support for innovative humanities research with results that assume technologically inflected forms, SHL attempts to expand the scope and scale of humanitas, to supplement traditional undergraduate and graduate humanities training with “hands-on” experiences in a true laboratory setting, and to add an outreach dimension to traditional disciplinary endeavors. Whereas institutional pressures have fostered a narrowing of research agendas, SHL promotes a model of the humanities that is flexible and cross-disciplinary at its core and at the same time rooted in the disciplinary traditions of the humanities.

Here you find people such as Jeffrey Schnapp, Henry Lowood and Michael Shanks and several related initatives and groups. One example is the How they got game 2 project. Normally I run into Matteo Bittanti and Henrik Benetsen (involved in Life to the second power among other things) when I am here. Always a pleasure! A very interesting lab is Shanks’s Metamedia Lab.

I have also had the pleasure of getting together with Fred Turner several times. He has recently had the book From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network and the Rise of Digital Utopianism published. And I just realized I could almost have made it to an interesting event with Fred, Howard Rheingold and others this evening (correction: it is actually a week later than I thought initially, but I will miss it anyhow since I go back in the morning that day).

In addition to what is described above there also seems to be a fair bit of activity at the Stanford Humanities Center. They have a digital initative and I noticed that they advertised a postdoctoral fellowship in the digital humanities some time ago. They also support a new directions in the humanities lectures series with some very interesting talks. For instance, Sherry Turkle is going to talk about Cyberintimacies on November 16. Alan Liu gave a talk in October and John Unsworth will come here later. I am looking forward to learning more the SHC next week.

This is the way I perceive Digital Humanities at Stanford right now. A limited perspective, of course, and I am sure I will have reason to add and revise this perception later (not least given I just got here!)

postdoctoral scholarships

HUMlab has received external funding for a new initative to support research in digital humanities and one part of this initative concerns international postdoctoral researchers (funded by the Kempe Foundations). Today we have advertised four postdoc fellowships in digital humanities – in particular in the areas of participatory media, electronic literature, digital cultural heritage and digitalt art. Read more here. The postdoctoral fellowships are for one year with a possible extension for another year. Are you interested in spending one or two years in an exciting, dynamic and resourceful environment doing your own research and collaborating with interesting researchers, developers and artists? Are you good? Please apply!

[tags] postdoc, HUMlab [/tags]

GUESS and *the* dataset

I have worked a bit over the past two years with social network analysis…dipping my toes in the all too alluring waters of the field. I have tried different programs (pajek, UCINET, Netdraw) and even spent a LONG month and a half trying to do things manually. You see, the beginning of my thesis is so dependent on defining the actors and their social attributes in different bloging networks. (It will focus on sociolinguistics, with a heavy dash of corpus based exploration.) To me, what is happening with language in blogging is important…but even more important is the why and the why can only be discovered in the intersection of language and the actor. (And on a more personal note, I find SNA *fascinating*.) My main problem has been finding a way to interact with all the pretty little visualizations I was creating. I was getting pictures, but no clear way to interact with the information they represent (picture on right created with Pajek – more about what it represents can be found here).

Recently, I also received permission to look at the ICWSM dataset. I wanted to get a good look at different networks in a bigger picture. I find this opportunity exciting because so much of current weblog/CMC research has made somewhat sweeping generalities about language without looking at the language in it’s social/network context. By comparing language variation within networks and among them, one can make certain generalizations about language in weblogs, rather than language in a particular network of webloggers. This dataset is huge, and we have had to take certain measures to reduce the amount of data (looking at only English weblogs, for example, and coding for only strong ties). Once it finishes parsing today, I will run it through another compelling program I have recently found called GUESS. This java based visualization program allows you to interact with the data in the program. It seems quite intuitive and the developer very willing to answer questions. (So excited about running the parsed data I feel like it is Christmas morning!) I will post preliminary pictures here asap. It has taken me a bit of time to get used to using the terminal, but I have to admit, it was not difficult to set up at all. I can not wait to put the program through its paces!

On Nov. 17th, I will present my pilot study from this dataset to my department. If you would like to skype in, please email me (stephanie.hendrick (take out) @ (take out)engelska dot umu dot se)and let me know. I would love to have feedback on this initial paper.