3 x upcoming HUMlab seminars

The next couple of weeks in HUMlab will be exciting. Let me start with the seminars. We will do three seminars in about a week, starting this coming Friday. We expect all seminars to be streamed at http://live.humlab.umu.se/. The seminars will take place in HUMlab on the main campus (below the University Library). Everyone welcome!

I have heard all these speakers talk about their work in the last couple of month, and was very impressed with the quality of their work and delivery. Highly recommended, and some of the most interesting presentations I have attended recently. Not be missed!

[November 29, 1:15 pm CET]

Crusaders, Arabs, or Phoenicians?: Transmediated Cultural Memory and the Genographic Project’s Genetic Ancestry Research in Lebanon
Brian Johnsrud, Stanford University

James Wertsch argues that cultural memory is distributed between active agents and the cultural tools they employ, making cultural memory fundamentally mediated. The more we employ multiple culturally mediated platforms (e.g. Wikipedia, online history forums) to recall and engage with the past, I argue, the more our memory becomes cultural and transmediated. While Henry Jenkins’ limits his focus on transmedia storytelling to franchises, the notion is helpful for characterizing the diverse, multi-mediated terrain of representations of the past.

Through my ethnographic fieldwork on the popular reception of National Geographic’s Genographic Project genetic ancestry studies, I question how transnational relations interact with new media as transcultural tools to accept, negotiate, or contest local and global identity politics. The Phoenician and Crusader pasts were employed to justify sectarian violence during the Lebanese Civil War (1975-90), and afterward many of these histories were officially censored in a work of national amnesia. That is, they remained silenced until The Genographic Project created a scientific narrative that resurrected the contemporary significance of these controversial pasts through multiple, transmediated platforms.

After three years of intermittent participant observation in Genographic labs in Lebanon, I conducted 30 in-depth interviews with Lebanese individuals who received genetic ancestry results that marked them as patrilineal descendants of Phoenicians, Arabs, or medieval European Crusaders. The interviews focused on participants’ reception and interpretation of their genetic results and the kinship networks and print, digital, or online media they employed to interpret, negotiate, or creatively remediate their newfound relationship with the past.

This paper emphasizes the effectiveness of comparative, multi-sited ethnography and semi-structured, case study interviewing. These methods are particularly useful for exploring the transnational co-construction of the past in new realms like ancestry genetics and their transmediated representations in scientific reports, online communities, and international news coverage. My findings reorient cultural memory studies and our notion of the public or private “archive” by attending to to audience reception and socially mediated engagements with the past.

[December 4, 1:15 pm CET]
Objectivity and Evidence in Digital Humanities: The Case of the Missing Palaeographer Seminar
Peter Stokes, King’s College London.

Digital Humanities has sometimes been described as a ‘metadiscipline’, insofar as it involves methods, approaches and issues which apply directly to many different research areas in the Humanities. For example, bringing computers to the Humanities has raised questions such as the nature of evidence in Humanities arguments, the desirability or otherwise of quantitative methods in this, and the role (if any) of objectivity. Certainly these questions are not new – they have been discussed actively for decades or even centuries – but they have reemerged with new urgency in recent years partly because of technological developments.

A good example of this is palaeography, where a long-standing debate over whether the field should or can be ‘scientific’ has been reignited in part due to the widespread advent of digital images and the computing power to process them. The resulting burst of work in ‘computational’ palaeography has found very limited acceptance in the field, raising the question where the ‘traditional’ palaeographer is in this new field of ‘digital palaeography’. In this seminar I will therefore focus on these questions, looking at how they have been addressed in the DigiPal project and how they apply them to Digital Humanities more generally. These will include quantitative and qualitative approaches and the desire for objectivity, but also questions regarding what Humanities scholars might want from computers, a possible disjunction between computational ‘answers’ and the humanists’ need for meaning, and even what it means to digitize content at all.

[December 4, 3:00 pm CET]
The authority of the live: The on-stage redeployment of journalistic authority
Christine Larson, Stanford University

Live publishing—the production of editorially driven live events and spin-off content by media companies—has become a significant media platform for many of America’s largest newspapers and business magazines.This article draws on interviews with executives at ten media companies involved in live publishing, and on participant-observation at two conferences produced by The Wall Street Journal, America’s largest newspaper. Contrary to narratives positing the decline of journalistic authority, this research presents live publishing as a site where journalists deploy traditional discourses of authority and expertise to establish their position as conveners of intersecting networks of sources, audience members and sponsors. In this way, they extract value from the immaterial networks of sources and readers that underlie their work. Taken more broadly, live publishing demonstrates how workers and organizations in cultural industries transform and redeploy authority into new systems of networked power.


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