2018-2019 Sherman Graduate Residents

Samantha Clarke

Image of SCDS Grad Resident Samantha Clarke. She is taking a selfie and smiling.Sam is a doctoral candidate in the history department. Sam specializes in Cold War medical history and international relations. Her SSHRC-funded research examines how the fight against poliomyelitis fit into international and transnational relations between divided Germany and its occupiers between 1947 and 1965, exposing the ways in which politics and ideology permeate supposedly “neutral” areas such as science and healthcare. Sam completed her B.A. (Hon.) here at Mac, and her MA at Western University.

Project: My project explores ways to visualize the interconnectivity of public health between East and West Germany using GIS mapping software. While conducting archival research, I photographed thousands of pages of weekly reports on epidemic disease occurrence across East and West Germany. I will experiment with different methods of data transfer and cleaning to create a dataset from which I can create visual representations of these epidemics, particularly heat maps.

The statistical information spans two periods: pre-vaccine and post-vaccine. In the first period, public health remained a shared concern for East and West Germans. The map will demonstrate interconnectivity between two new nations: how disease flowed across state boundaries. The map will also track change in epidemic occurrence post-vaccine. From 1955 to 1962, Germany was the testing ground for two duelling vaccines: Jonas Salk’s injected polio vaccine and Albert Sabin’s oral polio vaccine. My epidemic map will show the ramifications of these two vaccines’ differing acceptance rates on each side of the border, which led to a visible German-German epidemic border. The resulting GIS map will provides a wider audience with a visual representation of how epidemic disease is a concern which transcends borders, and how vaccination protects populations.


Melda Coskun Karadag 

Image of SCDS Grad Resident Melda Coskun smiling near a shoreline.I am a second year PhD student in Cognitive Science of Language Department. I am also a researcher at the Reading-Lab in The Centre for Advanced Research in Experimental and Applied Linguistics (ARiEAL). My interests include corpus analysis, word learning, and sociolinguistics. My research focuses on the dynamics behind the spread of newly popular words and the question of how these words are learnt by adult speakers. I have been conducting eye-tracking, EEG, and computational linguistics studies to answer these questions.

Project: Twitter data has been a popular way to examine sociolinguistic studies. My project aims to answer two questions by looking at the United States and Canada geo-tagged tweets: (1) what makes a word popular? (2) how are these words spreading? To be able to answer the first question I am planning to investigate phonological/phonetic structure and semantic connections of words which are either recently popular or losing their popularity. To be able to answer the second question, I will investigate the geographical distribution of those words over time based on their adaptation rate both visually and mathematically. I will use R to apply text mining, visualization, and machine learning models.


Katherine Eaton

Image of SCDS Grad Resident Katherine Eaton smiling.

I am a PhD candidate in the Department of Anthropology and I study a puzzling and particularly lethal disease: Plague. I work in the McMaster Ancient DNA Centre, where I extract plague DNA from the archaeological remains of its victims. Using this peculiar data, I am exploring how ancient pandemics of plague are connected to modern outbreaks, and what interplay of factors has shaped our relationship with infectious disease throughout human history.

Project: Digging into Digital Anthropology. The project I am conducting in collaboration with the Sherman Centre involves the creation of an undergraduate course on digital scholarship within anthropology. Digital anthropology takes many forms, including studying communication (ex. social media), digital means of producing new data (ex. automated interview transcription), as well as using tools to analyze and visualize the results (archaeological mapping and statistical software). While these approaches are steadily gaining momentum in other fields, the adoption of digital anthropology into Canadian academic teaching has not been as swift. 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 their skills. In response, this project seeks to provide training in both theoretical approaches and hands-on experience in identifying, analyzing, and visualizing publicly-accessible anthropological data. In addition, students will be advised on how to create ethics statements to justify conscientiousness in research design, data selection, and subject awareness. Upon completion of the course, students will walk away with the knowledge and skills to design and carry-out independent research projects in the digital humanities. By combining novel methodology with traditional anthropological topics, I aim to provide a foundation around which digital anthropology in Canada can be built upon, critiqued, and weaved into general practice.

Channah Fonseca-Quezada

Image of SCDS Grad Resident Channah Fonseca-Quezada. She is smiling in a black and white photo.Channah is a second year PhD student in the Religious Studies Department, and she currently focuses on feminine imagery in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Channah’s academic background is in Hebrew Bible through a MA in Religion obtained at Eastern Mennonite Seminary and a Master of Theology obtained at the Vancouver School of Theology. She has assisted professors, tutored students and led tutorials in the subfields of Biblical Hebrew, Biblical Archaeology, Female Deities, and the Hebrew Bible.

Project: In my research at the Sherman Centre I hope to analyze two Dead Sea Scrolls, one called 4Q184 and another called 4Q185. These two have traditionally been paired as sapiential texts that, not unlike the biblical book of Proverbs, discuss the ways of good  and evil in broad terms so as to dissuade a reader from sin and instead encourage toward the path of God. While both scrolls are poetic texts, I believe they are not necessarily a pair, and that instead 4Q184 should stand alone as an didactic poem that warns against specific evils. In order to do this study, I will be using stylometrics to quantify the style of both scrolls and analyze their literary fingerprint. I hope to examine its morphological and syntactical idiosyncrasies and main characteristics, sentence length, vocabulary richness, word length, word frequency, word combination, and other such features that would help quantify the writing style of the text. Once the data is available I hope to contrast the results of 4Q184 with 4Q185 in order to see similarities or differences that might help elucidate whether the two texts use similar or dissimilar writing styles, and, finally, whether the two should or should not be considered an interdependent set of ancient Hebrew poems.

Kristine Germann

Painting of SCDS Grad Resident Kristine Germann. She is depicted looking straight at the viewer.

Image: by artist Celeste Keller

Kristine Germann is an MA candidate in Cultural Studies and Critical Theory (CSCT) in the Department of English and Cultural Studies.  She has a career in culture that spans the roles of; producer, curator, artist and advocate.  Kristine has worked with leadership teams developing; city building initiatives, public art programs, arts funding and cultural events in not-for-profit, cultural institution and government settings.  The work can be summarized as an investigation of the often-blurred boundaries between the private, public and the development of interventions that challenge, change and form authorship.  Her areas of academic research include; spectacle, aesthetics, public space and politics.

Project: Working title: schooled. The proposed project will examine the trace and residues of meaning horses have left upon the collective human consciousness; their evolving meaning(s) post-industrial and technological age(s) and the horse as an object of cultural spectacle and historic monumentalizing with many imbedded interpretations including; freedom, power and colonialization.  An experiment creating the presence of the horse through sound, defines a space between the ‘real’ and ‘representational’; how the audience expresses and completes meaning through body experience and memory; and a broader symbology of the sociopolitical place that horses currently hold in our cultural landscape.

The resulting works will operate as social sculptures and in a relational art framework. The creation of a trace of a horse utilizing digital technology – an investigation of the horse’s absence within a negative space.  The project will reflect a tension in its aesthetics, content and frameworks as it is not a metaphor for horses or a horse and will reference directly a gesture of re-enactment, recording and re-construction of a performative action(s). The focus of digital scholarship and research will be the creation of two (2) digital audio works.  The first iterations of the project will focus on a multiple channel format (output) and three-dimensional format (output) audio mapping of the movements and sound(s) generated by living horses.

Michael Johnson

Image of SCDS Graduate Resident Michael Johnson inspecting a fragment with text on it, likely part of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Michael Johnson is a PhD candidate in the Department of Religious Studies, specializing in psalms, Second Temple Judaism, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and early Jewish prayer. His dissertation, “A Reassessment of the Genres of Psalms in 1QHodayota,” examines genres of psalms in the Hodayot tradition (Thanksgiving Psalms from Qumran) and offers a new model of genre for the corpus. His work at the Sherman Centre is a distinct project that will serve as the basis for future work on the Hodayot manuscripts.

Project: Michael’s Sherman Centre project uses 3D modelling and 3D printing of folded, wadded, and crumpled scrolls to assist in the analysis of damage patterns and the visualization of different phases of damage incurred by Dead Sea scrolls. His past work dealt with 3D modelling manuscripts that were found rolled, but now he is modelling manuscripts that have more chaotic patterns of damage resulting from the failure to properly rewind the scroll. To undertake material reconstructions of scrolls that have been wadded at a secondary stage, the phases of damage must be distinguished and documented so that irregular damage patterns from wadding are not confused with regular patterns from rolling or vice versa. This project focuses primarily on the manuscript 1QHodayota, which appears to have multiple phases of damage, to assist in a revised reconstruction of the manuscript. This project is primarily focused on developing modelling skills, methods, and workflows in preparation for a future project.

Thesis: Reassessing the Genres of the Hodayot (Thanksgiving Psalms from Qumran) http://hdl.handle.net/11375/24895

Stephen Surlin

Image of SCDS Grad Resident Stephen Surlin standing in front of a computer screenStephen Surlin works in multiple mediums including, 3D modeling, 3D printing, sound design, and musical performance. Surlin’s work and research often uses speculative design and design thinking methodologies to imagine near futures and produce diegetic prototypes that can influence our strategies in the present. Surlin received his BFA at University of Windsor and an MDes from OCAD University and is currently enrolled in McMaster University’s PhD program in Communication, New Media and Cultural Studies, with a focus on creating archives using new media and the digital networking infrastructure needed to sustain them.

Project: My project will continue my previous research that considered the tools and infrastructure needed to create the physical infrastructure of networks, resulting in a consideration of geo-political implications and the role of governments and global corporations in the creation, maintenance and ownership of the servers that physically house the world’s digital information.

My current research in critical race and technology studies, primarily references the work of Safiya Umoja Noble, i.e. Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism (2018), The Intersectional Internet: Race, Sex, Class, and Culture Online (2016). These texts emphasize the ways corporations driven by advertising revenue can influence the way information is shared using their systems and platforms.

These theories will inform my future research at the Sherman Centre, leading me to consider mesh network systems that can provide shared wireless internet to marginalized communities that are often in positions to be most reliant on commercial platforms (Mossberger, 2016). In looking for existing models that can subvert these top-down information distribution systems found in platforms like Google or Facebook I will consider the community organizations and quasi-community-ownership models of community gardens to provide a model for the physical infrastructure and people power needed to run a local area network. I plan to continue research on the kind of networking technology and methods that can be used to embed mesh networks in community gardens, including the permissions by the municipality and community organizations. I will also begin research on the ability for systems of trust, e.g. ratings, content flagging, reviews, etc. that can be applied to account for the content moderation done by larger corporations that will now be the responsibility of the community. These systems of trust can be modelled from platforms like: YouTube, Instagram, Airbnb, Uber, Yelp, etc.

Sarah Whitwell

Image of SCDS Grad Resident Sarah Whitwell. She is outside, looking over her shoulder, and smiling

Sarah Whitwell is a PhD candidate in the Department of History at McMaster University. Her research explores the use of violence in the postemancipation South to subjugate African Americans. Building on her previous work on the antilynching movement, Sarah is currently writing her dissertation on how black men and women devised a range of resistance techniques to contest racialized violence in its totality of forms. She is especially interested in the ways that gender shaped resistance.

Project: 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. My dissertation examines how black women devised a range of informal resistance techniques to contest racialized violence in its totality of forms. The current digital scholarship project supplements my dissertation. Previously, I created a relational database with data on incidents of violence extracted from the Slave Narrative Collection of the Federal Writers’ Project, the first-person testimony culled from the Joint Select Committee to Inquire into the Condition of Affairs in the Late Insurrectionary States, and the records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands. My goal now is to submit my database to computational analysis with the goal of producing a series of visualizations. In particular, I am interested in elucidating the relationships between specific types of violence and the methods of resistance employed in response.