Resisting Canon and Colonialism in the Digitization of "Oriental" Manuscripts
University of the Pacific, United States of America
The past decade has witnessed a wave of manuscript digitization projects initiated by museums, libraries, and individual scholars. This paper will address digitization of some primary sources essential for the study of late antiquity and Byzantine history and religion. Many of these initiatives will advance the study of Greek and Latin texts, as well as Hebrew—the primary languages of the Christian canon and the early to medieval Christian tradition in the West. Research in Syriac, Coptic, and Christian Arabic, however, are essential for understanding the development of religion in the late antique and early Medieval or Byzantine periods. The digitization of their sources has lagged behind. Focusing specifically on Coptic manuscripts—the texts of early and medieval Christian Egypt—this paper will explore the role of colonialism in in the history of Coptic manuscript collections and archives and how to resist reinscribing both colonial epistemologies and traditional notions of “canon” after the “digital turn” in archival and manuscript studies.
Digitization has been heralded as a means of increasing access and availability of texts that may be inaccessible for various reasons, including the dispersal or dismemberment of the original archives or repository. Technology is seen as a possible means to reassemble these dismembered texts and archives, to reunite fragments of papyri and codices virtually online. It is also heralded as a way to save texts that still reside in the Middle East, in zones of political, military, or cultural conflict. Finally some scholars hope it will bring more exposure to traditions that up until now have been seen as marginal to the dominant Greek and Latin traditions. This paper will interrogate two premises: first, that digitization can “recover” or “reconstruct” an original, now dismembered ancient or medieval archive; second, that current digitization efforts are disrupting the dominant canonical paradigms in the study of late antique, Byzantine, and Medieval religious history. The paper will argue that digitization cannot fully repatriate, reconstruct, or save damaged or dispersed physical archives. But the digital can transform our relationships with the sources of early Christanities if we pay critical attention to the limits of the digital, so as not to reify colonial archaeological, archival, and canonical practices in the digital realm.
This paper will first discuss the original collection of Coptic manuscripts in the context of colonial occupation of Egypt, excavations in Egypt, and the antiquities trade. It will then examine the progress, possibilities, and potential problems of digitization initiatives at specific libraries and museums with significant Coptic collections: British Library, Vatican, Bibliothèque Nationale, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, etc. The paper will also assess the efforts of digital humanities projects based outside of those particular archival locations.
The paper draws on methodologies from post-colonial digital humanities, Native American digital humanities (especially regarding issues of repatriation and digitization of cultural heritage), archival theory, Coptic Studies, and manuscript studies. I am requesting a 20-minute paper time.
Visual Scripting of Craft Techniques to Create Digital Humanities Tools That Can Contribute to Design Methodology
Georgia Institute of Technology, United States of America
Computers have been connected to craft since the punch card of jacquard looms inspired the first conditional machine, the Analytic Engine. This history persists through the fields of digital humanities, with a new push to document historic craft through 3D modeling. In this paper, methodology is discussed to use visual scripting and algorithmic modeling to not only document craft and its base mathematical systems, but to contribute to continuing traditions of Cultural Heritage Crafts.
In the current and unprecedented rate of endangered craft, it is important that we use the digital humanities to go beyond documentation, offering methodology to prevent extinction. Since craft resurgence is often sparked by small shifts in technique, giving makers a new piece of language in the lexicon of a craft can be invaluable. This is of even more importance in the face of the US pulling out of UNESCO, a current leader in the documentation of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
This paper presents the techniques utilized to model interactive interfaces for a variety of craft techniques, both documenting the geometry as well as creating new forms including 3-Dimensional bobbin lace, knitting with semi-rigid materials, and combining tatting with knitting in novel structures. It is noted that while computation plays a vital role, these new forms all leverage features that machines can not make, keeping the craft and the jobs created in the hands of the craftspeople.
I am requesting 20 minutes to present the techniques described in this paper along as well as select results from a new graduate course on these methods at an R1 university.
Keywords: 3D modeling, Algorithmic Modeling, Cultural Heritage, Craft, Design
PodcastRE - Saving and Studying New Sounds
University of Wisconsin, Madison, United States of America
Podcasting is just over ten years old as a media form and practice, but it has ushered in an explosion of amateur and professional cultural production. There are now over one million podcast feeds in over one hundred languages. There’s a podcast on almost every subject imaginable, from popular shows like Serial and Radiolab to lighter fare like the wrestling podcast Wrestlespective or shows that cover a social issues like sexuality, identity, race or politics (e.g. Strange Fruit, This Week in Blackness, etc.). We are in the midst of what many are calling a “Golden Age of Podcasts”; a moment where the choice for quality digital audio abounds, and where new voices and new listeners connect daily through earbuds, car stereos, or office computers. The audience keeps growing as well, exceeding 60 million American listeners last year.
Yet despite the excitement over this vital media form, and despite the plethora of content being produced, the sounds of podcasting’s nascent history remain mystifyingly difficult to analyze. There are few resources for anyone interested in researching the form, content, or history of podcasts and even fewer tools for preserving and analyzing the sonic artifacts being produced during this golden age of audio. What today’s podcasters are producing will have value in the future, not just for its content, but for what it tells us about audio’s longer history, about who has the right to communicate and by what means. We may be in a “Golden Age” of podcasts but if we’re not making efforts to preserve and analyze these resources now, we’ll find ourselves in the same conundrum many radio, film or television historians find themselves: writing, researching and thinking about a past they can’t fully see or hear.
In response to these problems, we are leading a data preservation and analytics initiative for podcasts. Supported by the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the NEH Office of Digital Humanities, PodcastRE (short for Podcast Research and openly accessible at http://podcastre.org) is the largest publicly oriented research collection of its kind: over one million audio files and metadata records from over 5,000 different podcast feeds (and growing daily). In the first half of our presentation, we will discuss technical and philosophical questions of archiving podcasts. We will reflect on the irony that one of our best methods for saving this born digital medium is tape (LTO) and address other preservation challenges of this form (for example, in an era of dynamic ad placement, which version and how many different versions of a podcast should be saved?). In the second half of the paper, we will showcase the data analytics and visualization features that the PodcastRE team has developed (two of which are already available at http://podcastre.org/analytics). Through analyzing podcast durations, sonic frequencies, and metadata at scale, we can detect over-represented and under-represented topics and voices within this rapidly evolving medium. This paper will be of interest to archivists and scholars working with sound, media, and contemporary digital culture.
Changing Lanes: A Reanimation of Shell Oil’s Carol Lane
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, United States of America
From 1947 to 1974 Shell Oil Company sponsored a public relations program that engaged single and married women drivers. They especially targeted married women who helped plan leisurely road trips for their families, and single “gals” who wanted to see the country. Over twenty different women portrayed its figurehead, the pseudonymous Carol Lane. As Shell’s women’s travel expert, Lane spoke to women’s clubs, professional associations, and station owners’ wives; “penned” a newspaper column, a book, and travel guides; and starred in sponsored films and made radio and television appearances. Through speaking engagements and live demonstrations she enticed women to drive, economically pack a single suitcase, organize road trips for their families, and amuse children while traveling. Shell Oil also honored civic-minded women with a traffic safety award in her name. I am researching each individual Lane performer’s biographical details to understand how they integrate into and inform the amalgamated biography. Furthermore, Lane was part of an entire network of people who were contacted by this public relations effort. As such, she presents a specific test case, defined by time and geography, with which to explore a unified campaign for engagement with women by a multinational corporation, specifically Shell Oil.
I will present on the current status of my digital dissertation during which time I will perform a walk-through of the site and screen a clip from a video essay chapter in progress. I will also discuss the early stages of implementing the prosopographical hybrid method that guides my own, and in future, other’s research into Carol Lane as a composite and a network. On an ArcGIS platform I am developing my eventually public-facing digital dissertation whereby I present data (3000+ magazine and newspaper articles, books, biographical) I have collected, input myself, and am utilizing in a number of ways including data visualization, videographic criticism. I look forward to input on the efficacy of a variety of multimedia factoids I am utilizing and offering such as maps, census tables, and raw, searchable, related data in an (currently) Airtable database.[i]
[i] “About Factoid Prosopography,” Factoids: A Site that Introduces Factoid Prosopography, https://factoid-dighum.kcl.ac.uk/.