Graduate Colloquium

2018-2019 Schedule

Learn about digital scholarship from McMaster graduate students during this lunch-time series of colloquia showcasing the graduate research projects resident at the Sherman Centre.

PANEL 1: Digital Methods of Historical Analysis

Date: April 3 / Time: 1:30pm / Location: Sherman Centre for Digital Scholarship

Mapping Epidemics, Tracing Unrest, Questioning Data Acquisition

Samantha Clarke (Dept. of History)

This conference paper will demonstrate how GIS mapping techniques can be used to trace the development of epidemics. By mapping outbreaks of poliomyelitis in East and West Germany in 1953, I can begin to to assess the merit of West German accusations that East German hygienic failures led to the spread of disease from East to West.  Did disease travel east-west? How did epidemics unfold? GIS mapping provides a much clearer picture than the hundreds of pages of statistics it absorbs. As well, the project will compare the locations of outbreaks of epidemic poliomyelitis in 1953 with outbreaks of civil unrest in East Germany during 1953 to assess whether a connection exists between disease and disorder. Finally, the paper will assess the limits of the statistical data, including a discussion of the ethicality of using detailed medical data made available about everyday East Germans after the collapse of the east in 1989, as a punitive action against the former rival of West Germany.

Using a Relational Database to Study Violence in the Postemancipation South

Sarah Whitwell (Dept. of History)

This talk explores the challenges and benefits of using a relational database to study racialized violence in the postemancipation South. In the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century, racialized violence impacted African Americans across the postemancipation South. Generations of African Americans endured the constant threat of individualized and collective incidents of verbal abuse, sexual harassment, and physical assault. It is a false generalization, however, to characterize the black response in terms of passivity. Indeed, African Americans found various ways to resist – theft, sabotage, destruction of property, boycotting, migration – that over time were effective in undermining racialized violence.

To understand the relationships between specific forms of racialized violence and the methods of resistance employed in response, I have created a relational database that features data from the Slave Narrative Collection of the Federal Writers’ Project and the first-person testimony culled from the Joint Select Committee to Inquire into the Condition of Affairs in the Late Insurrectionary States. I extracted data on incidents of racialized violence – the victims and perpetrators, geographic locations, forms of violence, methods of resistance – in order to identify thematic trends. To help illustrate these trends in an accessible way, this talk will showcase a number of data visualizations created by submitting my relational database to computational analysis.

PANEL 2: Sensing the Digital: Interacting with Technology in Classrooms and Communities

Date: April 8 / Time: 2pm  / Location: Sherman Centre for Digital Scholarship

Digital Redlining, Information Technology and Community Gardens

Stephen Surlin (Communication, New Media and Cultural Studies)

Redlining policies were used to intentionally perpetuate institutional marginalization of people of color, resulting in multi-generational housing segregation through deliberate blocking of access to housing loans. I argue that commercially driven internet communication infrastructure and commercial information distribution platforms (e.g. Google search engine, Facebook, Instagram, etc.) co-opt cultural and racial identity and disproportionately lowers the efficacy of civic engagement by people of color due to increased reliance on commercial/private wireless communication infrastructure and platforms (e.g. engaging with the internet using mobile phone networks and applications).

I argue that community gardens in urban centers can effectively subvert these power structures, since they are often sites of cultural hybridity due to the ability to grow food that reflects the personal cultures and histories of local residents. These personal and communal histories can be archived and shared alongside the food and activities of the public space surrounding the garden (a park, etc.) in a noncommercial networked platform that subverts the co-opting of cultural and racial identities. The garden can also be a site for engaging local seniors of color who have complex knowledge sets that can be shared locally using the LAN (Local Area Network) multi-media platform. This is intended to reduce isolation in seniors while simultaneously increasing food security and cultural hybridity.

Digging Into Digital Anthropology: Project-Based Learning

Katherine Eaton (Anthropology)

Digital anthropology takes many forms, from studying digital personas and online cultures, to the novel digital technologies that are used to analyze and visualize research. While these approaches are steadily gaining momentum in other fields, the adoption of digital anthropology in Canadian education has not kept pace. And yet, there is an ever-present expectation that both students and faculty will have fluency in specialized software tools with limited guidance and resources to develop these skills. In response, this project aims to provide training to students through project-based learning in identifying, analyzing, and visualizing publicly-accessible data. This presentation examines the back-end of course design, with a focus on the ethical acquisition and use of data, as well as the creation of course-projects that are both feasible and meaningful to the undergraduate learner. By promoting digital scholarship at the undergraduate level, this project seeks to broaden the research potential of the next-generation of scholars and to promote digital literacy and expertise in their prospective careers.

The Practice of Becoming Schooled

Kristine Germann (Cultural Studies and Critical Theory)

As a protest art object enters a collection and becomes institutionalized, does the resistance project it embodies fade, as the object begins to serve the maintenance of dominant cultural ideals?  Does it become a reliquary object — domesticated?  My Sherman Centre project schooled considers these questions and how resistance artworks, both as concept and object, are subjected to governance upon crossing the highly managed thresholds of institutions and becoming enmeshed in policy frameworks.

schooled is a digital audio experiment that will create the presence of the horse through a sound-scape of audio recordings — the digital sound mapping of live horses.  This process has involved the creation of a data-base of sound collected; from existing audio archives of horses and the addition of new recordings of live horses.  The audio-mapping project will examine horses’ evolving meaning(s) in post-industrial and technological age(s) as objects of cultural spectacle and historic monumentalizing with many imbedded connotations including; freedom, resistance, power, and colonialization.  The sound exploration will act as a means to present the horse within a physical space.  The audio-scape will reconstruct performative actions of horses and illustrate them with sound cycles — containment and autonomy — in an attempt to let a domesticated schooled horse become undisciplined.  The word schooling is a common terminology for horse training.  The audio-scape will capture sounds of horses, in their trained or schooled state, in moments of distress and in free movement with layers of sound falling below 20 hertz.  Sound when it falls below 20 hertz pulls audio into the realm of the affective, sound which can be felt rather than what can be heard in an auditory manner.

This digital humanities project from my Graduate Fellow residency at The Lewis & Ruth Sherman Centre for Digital Scholarship is anchoring my MRP thesis research.  The MRP draws upon the creative project schooled, critical theoretical arguments, and public art case studies.  My thesis will argue that it is within the undisciplined social engagement practice that the unpredictable methodologies and physical materialization of resistance art might maintain their original intent, their power to resist and occupy civic and institutional spaces

PANEL 3: Finding Patterns in Text with Digital Analysis

Date: April 17 / Time: 1:00 pm / Location: Sherman Centre for Digital Scholarship

Bringing 3D Modelling and 3D Printing Tools into the Fold: Evaluating the Possibility of a Folded Sheet in the Dead Sea Scroll 1QHodayota

Michael B. Johnston (Religious Studies)

This presentation will be offered in the style of a short workshop to demonstrate how digital modelling and 3D printing can be used to explore the hypotheses about the material condition of ancient manuscripts. In particular, I will be focusing on the possibility that parts of the Dead Sea Scrolls manuscript 1QHodayota (a copy of the Thanksgiving Psalms from Qumran) was folded rather than rolled prior to its first opening in modern times and how modelling and 3D printing assist us in the consideration of this hypothesis. This presentation will look in particular at whether the sheet containing cols. 13–16 of 1QHa was folded and inserted into the rest of the scroll before it was deposited in Cave 1 nearby Qumran. I will focus more narrowly on how digital modelling and 3D printing can be used to evaluate and visualize this claim with 3D printed facsimiles.

A closer look at new English words:

Melda Coskun (Cognitive Science of Language)

The growing use of online social media, like Twitter, provides a suitable medium for the quick spread of words regardless of the distance between users. This study aims to figure out the newly popular words in social media texts and understand spatiotemporal dynamics behind the spread patterns of those words. For this purpose, we first applied text mining and statistical methods to a 2-and-a-half-year corpus of geo-tagged tweets. We then tracked geographical distribution of those words over time based on their adaptation rate and compared the results with the previous study (Eisenstein et al., 2014). The results revealed that twitter users are not productive in terms of creating new words. On the contrary the words which were found popular in the previous studies have been dying in our data. The maps also revealed two cases: (i) words are likely to die where they born and (ii) small cities are more agile to initiate and drop the use of a word.