Archive for the ‘Session: Make’ Category

  • Digitally inflecting a class


    Jeff McClurken’s terrific pedagogy workshop made me want to sneak in one more session proposal. We spent a fair bit of time in the workshop talking about Jeff’s remarkable digitally-focused classes, but not as much time talking about how to digitally inflect more traditional courses. This might fit into the session Susan proposed about teaching critical thinking with the digital humanities. I’d like to propose a hands-on discussion of ways that participants are digital inflecting their classes–sort of like the small group exercise Jeff pointed to in his document but that we didn’t have time for this afternoon. By the end, I hope that we’d have some tentative plans for ways we could digitally inflect our own traditional courses.

  • Play / Make session: Listen to Wikipedia Guided Meditation


    Recently a student in the “Digital Past” class I’m teaching posted a link to our Diigo Group which she described as “not very informative” but “interesting.” Listen to Wikipedia be edited: There’s a map, too:

    I thought we could do a session where we take 10-15 minutes to just watch the site together, 10-15 minutes to interact with it (choose a different language, click on some of the links, visit the GitHub repo, whatever), and then use the remainder of the time to do some collaborative reflective writing on what we thought, saw, felt, learned. Participad would be a great tool for doing the collaborative writing part if you don’t mind my using my admin privileges to activate it on this site.

    Having had the site open in a tab for quite a while on a couple of separate days, I think it actually is very informative — about visualizations, about whatever the audio equivalent of visualizations is, about Wikipedia, about knowledge, about the world. I’m also generally interested in similar sorts of interactive art / games / projects built on functional internet tools: GlobeGenie and Twistori come to mind. We could have a discussion, of course, but for some reason I’m keen on the idea of a completely silent session …

  • Hacking Role-playing & Storytelling Games


    Love a good game? Join us for hacking and prototyping apps, games, props, and web resources for role-playing and storytelling games. This session is an open time for prototyping all sorts of physical-computing props and web resources for games you play – or for games you invent on the spot. Bring an idea or be on the lookout for a project that needs your help. While the proposer doesn’t quite know how to pull off everything imagineable, we might…

    • Make 3D campaign maps that use miniatures and MaKey MaKeys to trigger encounters animated in Scratch.
    • Program interactive game-master Twitter bots.
    • Prototype and publish remixable game rules and resources like character sheets using HTML5 and CSS in webauthoring tools like Webmaker Thimble.
    • Write and share random campaign and adventure engines in coding languages like JavaScript.

    Bring your dice, games, ideas, expertise, hot glue, and cardboard – along with your favorite coding languages and any physical computing stuff you want – to hack and remix role-playing and storytelling resources out of ingenuity, circuitry, and the web. Extra experience points for community members who lend their hands to help others realize their wild and wacky game-making dreams.

    I can bring: a couple of MaKey MaKeys, cardboard, hot glue guns and hot glue, some LEDs and batteries, short jumper wires, and basic HTML5, CSS, and JavaScript skills.

    We might also need: Twitter bot overlords, web wranglers, designers of all ages, more stuff with which to build, and you and your imagination!

  • Tools for exploring big sound archives


    Brandon Walsh has already proposed a session about tools for curating sound, so what I’m proposing here might well fit into his session, but in case what I’m proposing is too different, I wanted to elaborate.

    At THATCamp VA 2012, I proposed and then participated in a discussion about how digital tools could help us not just think about tidily marked plain-text files, but also the messier multimedia data of image files, sound files, movie files, etc. We ended up talking at length about commercial tools that search images with other images (for example, Google’s Search By Image) and that search sound with sound (for example, Shazam). A lot of our discussion revolved around the limitations of such tools–yes, we can use them to search images with other images, but, we asked, would a digital tool ever be able to tell that a certain satiric cartoon is meant to represent a certain artwork. For example, would a computer ever be able to tell that this cartoon represents this artwork?



    Our conversation was largely speculative (and if anyone wanted to continue it, I’d be happy to have a similar session this time around).

    Since then, however, I’ve become involved with a project that takes such thinking beyond speculation. As a participant in the HiPSTAS institute, I’ve been experimenting with ARLO, a tool originally designed to train supercomputers to recognize birdcalls. With it, we can, for example, try to teach the computer to recognize instances of laughter, and have it query all of PennSound, a large archive of poetry recordings, for similar sounds. We might be able, then, to track intentional and unintentional instances when audiences laugh at poetry readings.

    The project involves both archivists and scholars–the archivists are interested in adding value to their collections (for example, by identifying instances of song in the StoryCorps archive), and the scholars are interested in how this new tool might help us better visualize and explore poetic sound and historical sound recordings.

    My sound-related proposal, then, is this: to have a conversation about potential use cases for this and similar tools. Now that we know we can identify certain kinds of sounds in large sound collections, how should we use such a tool? Since Brandon’s already interested in developing sound collections using Audacity, I thought we might also add this big-data/machine-learning tool into the mix of the conversation.

  • Connecting the personal story to public history for academia and journalism


    I have been interested in connecting an individual, personal story to a public sense of histories of places, events, timelines. That is, I think there is a potential paradigm for threading stories, histories, archives and communities.

    There is nothing new about this thought. Fields like oral histories/public history have well established research around these themes. But I want to put this proposal out there as a part-talk, part-make, part-teach session. I have very, very tiny seeds of the project that I can share, and it will be good to brainstorm around it, or see if there are folks interested in collaborating, too.

    I am very much an outsider to digital humanities but I am hoping to learn and share (I am a research engineer who works with x-ray optics, and a journalist/amateur oral historian). I had been collecting oral histories at a physics research lab for half of 2009. Felt like it told a rich layered history of state-individual collaborations in science. That, then, broadened to interest in the intersection of scientific research and people’s histories….which then broadened to oral histories in other fields of work. The seeds I can talk about or illustrate are histories from two physicists who discuss the origin of a set of champagne bottles in a particle accelerator control room, and some other stories on dying traditions (woodwork for making musical instruments in India, shorthand and typing instruction schools). That is to say, each story is an independent experiment and is not connected to the other at all. But each offers a seed or point of departure.

    All this finally led to some more plotting on oral history concepts. Here’s the premise (naivety and ignorance on my part will also become evident!):
    — Each storyteller has many different stories.
    — Each story has many different storytellers.
    — Each story has many different theme and vice-versa, and so on…
    — There must be a way to connect a personal history with public events and places.
    — Each personal history can be connected to another using some categories/keywords/whatever-else: person, place (geography), timeline (when, year), event (is the story referring to an event like say, the SF earthquake of 1989 that someone else may also talk about in a seemingly unconnected way?).
    — A story may have weak or strong associations to a set of attributes. This association can be weighted.
    — There is an incredible range of stories recorded in university archives and other stand-alone oral history projects. The point is not to re-store them in a new space on the web. But there must be a way to re-point to them in a new scheme. That is, make the connections explicit.
    — There is an incredible range of stories among all of us that feel like they are so irrelevant and unimportant to a wider audience. Can we make them relevant?
    — Have multiple ways to add stories: upload, relink to existing, give contact for a volunteer to reach out, call in (toll free number), visit a recording center.
    — Map out origin of each story. A map with dots shows where a particular thread has received stories from, providing an incentive to fill geographical gaps.
    — Each story gets multiple keywords attached to it, reflecting the themes that the story touches on, besides the main subject matter thread.
    — Cross links: The keywords are a point of entry into the many storytellers-many stories paradigm.

    What’s the point?
    Let’s say something like this exists. Call it DH-Mosaic. Let’s say there’s a sociologist out there who is researching the history of wine making in the San Francisco Bay Area from 1850 to 2000. She has access to the usual set of archives at universities, and the state/national archives. She has access to archives of newspapers, books, papers, and such. And she does field work that gets her access to families in the industry. And she has access to DH-Mosaic, and she logs on and searches this clearinghouse/repository. Meanwhile, a few years ago, someone who was researching the history of high energy physics in the San Francisco bay area put out a book, and he had raw unused data. One of those pieces was an interview of a technician at a high energy physics lab in the region who mentioned that his family used to be in the wine making industry in the early 1980s and he left it in search of better opportunities. The high energy physics research didn’t have the space for this story. But the raw data is on (or linked on) DH-Mosaic, logged with metadata that points to: high energy physics, 1980, wine history, <name>, janitorial, magnets research, San Francisco bay area, Menlo Park. Our wine history researcher comes across this, and gets in touch with the author/owner of the story. In the course of talking to a new source, she finds out more first-hand sources about say, a labor struggle in the wine making industry in the 1980s, which takes her research in a slightly different direction….Similarly a reporter investigating the domino effect of the Vietnam War protests in 1970 in California may find a story and follow up with <name> after listening to his story of clearing up broken glass following the 1970 Stanford student protesters.

    What are some questions?
    — How to make these links?!
    — If you have a story, how do you define its relevance to a place/event/timeline/person/theme?
    — Who defines the relevance?
    — Within a specific story, how do you weight different aspects discussed?
    — Who defines this relevance?
    — How can this be done easily for a user interface?
    — Is it possible to get users and researchers to shape the categorization?
    — How do we get raw unused data (before it becomes a produced story/research paper) that just piles up for every researcher/reporter become a relevant trail of history?
    — There is the larger issue of copyright, censorship, spam and what-not. But I am not even going there yet :)!


    Loved this little quote from Michael Ondaatje’s book, Divisadero: “For we live with those retrievals from childhood that coalesce and echo throughout our lives, the way shattered pieces of glass in a kaleidoscope reappear in new forms and are song-like in their refrains and rhymes, making up a single monologue. We live permanently in the recurrence of our own stories, whatever story we tell. ”



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