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Presentation and Poster Descriptions

Algorithmic Thinking, Why Teach Programming In The Humanities

Presenter: Devin Asay, Brigham Young University


In the Office of Digital Humanities at Brigham Young University we have been teaching fundamentals of programming classes for over 25 years. It is legitimate to ask why we do so; indeed we have often posed this question to ourselves: Why do we teach programming to humanities majors? What does it add to their academic experience? Aside from the "Humanities Plus" practical skill that it provides future teachers, researchers, and academics, how is programming a benefit to the humanities student?

I believe the answer lies in its ability to teach algorithmic thinking, or the ability to break complex problems down into discrete steps to arrive at a solution. I will present some thoughts about the value of algorithmic thinking and discuss feedback that our students and colleagues have given us about how learning to code has changed the way they analyze problems in their humanities disciplines.

More recently we have begun offering research support to colleagues in the humanities who are interested in applying digital tools and methods to their traditional humanities research. A tangential question arising from these collaborations may be how the use of digital analytical tools changes the way scholars think about research problems in their disciplines. In this presentation I will also discuss feedback from colleagues who have chosen to employ digital tools and methods in their research, examining whether using DH methodologies has changed their approach to their research.


Bots and their Use in Digital Storytelling

Presenter: Maria Alberto, University of Utah


Bots can be used to support, augment, or advance collaborative storytelling in digital spaces. DH - itself an amorphous term - is one of the few means capable of theorizing this complex narrative practice. However, this theorization can also raise interesting questions about the boundaries or possibilities of DH itself.


Clearing The Fogged Window To The Past: Computer Vision & Machine Learning Based OCR Improvement For Historical Newspapers

Presenter: Dhanushka Samarakoon, University of Utah; Will Stout, University of Utah


One of the main roadblocks for analysis of digitized historical documents is inaccurate OCR-based texts. This project explores multiple approaches that can utilize new technologies to enhance the quality of the OCR-based texts. We will discuss the issues and proposed solutions in the context of historical newspapers.


Cyberspace and Cyberplace

Presenter: Mary Beth Willard, Weber State University


There are many politically pertinent questions which depend on our conception of cyberspace: how to prevent echo chambers in online discussions; how the norms of free expression apply on Twitter; and what norms of civility should apply on Facebook posts, to name a few examples. To address these questions, however, we need a conception of cyberplace, that recognizes the communities that virtually inhabit cyberspace. I argue that if we accept a distinction between urban space and urban place, then we should similarly accept a distinction between cyberspace and cyberplace.


The Digital World in Humanities Courses: Erasmus, Technology, and General Education at a Small College

Presenter: Mary Jane Chase, Westminster College


This presentation looks at ways for small colleges with limited digital humanities resources to incorporate some digital research methods and open source software into a general education first-year level non-specialist course.


A Donut for your thoughts: Usability Testing Best Practices

Presenter: Amanda Crittenden, University of Utah


The first step in creating change is to take a closer look at what’s working well, what isn’t, & what changes will have the greatest impact. We will discuss usability testing best practices, efficient & low cost testing tools, & effective strategies for communicating needed changes. The Marriott Library houses the University of Utah’s Usability Lab, giving our User Experience & Web Development team a unique perspective to offer support & training while also learning from diverse endeavors.


A Field Guide to Artificial Nature

Presenter: Lisa Swanstrom, University of Utah


This presentation gives a broad overview of “The Field Guide.” Coded in Python within the Flask micro web framework, the “Field Guide” analyzes any .txt file and provides a breakdown of the text’s weather, climate, geographic features, flora, and fauna, in essence bringing relationships between land, text, and environment into relief.  As a teaching tool, the “Field Guide” attempts to create a site and sense of engagement between the viewer and a complex literary ecology. As a provocation, the “Field Guide” creates data visualization of literary landscapes in hopes of calling attention to the artificial and constructed natures of all such visualizations. Indeed, compared to other data visualizations that attempt to show complex weather systems as if they were accurate and objective representations of natural forces, the “Field Guide” acknowledges its role as an imperfect mediator of artificial ecologies from the get-go.


Governing When the Public Square is Limitless

Presenters: Leah Murray, Weber State University; Richard Price, Weber State University


The concept of a public square is at the heart of democracy. The public square brings to mind socialists throwing down a soapbox and spreading their message to people on the street, a political candidate in a park to give a campaign speech, a Jehovah’s Witness preaching the gospel to passersby. As technology changes and evolves, the public square broadens as well. With each change, speakers can reach a greater number of people. We explore this dynamic in a modern world where digital media has effectively erased the boundary between public and private spheres. The ability to reach people via unmediated mass communication requires a reevaluation of the nature of political communication in a democracy.


An Interpellation on the Status Quo: New Media as a Platform for Dissident Voices

Presenters: Tamara Hammond, University of Utah


This presentation focuses on investigative journalists who represent the suppressed voices of the opposition not shown on the mainstream media and usually ignored or undermined by means of wealth and power. They speak on behalf of women, minorities and all oppressed and exploited groups of society that are marginalized, overlooked, or silenced by the patriarchal digital leadership. The growing schism between mainstream media and the new independent media also known as the fifth estate is caused by the extreme concentration of media ownership in the hands of five companies, which have full control over the content, the access, and the dissemination of information.


Islands of Data: Distant Reading the Archipelagic Americas

Presenters: Brian Croxall, Brigham Young University; Brian Russell Roberts, Brigham Young University


What could you learn about a field like American Studies if you had data representing its key journals from their inception until the present? This presentation will discuss the acquisition of data from JSTOR and other sources; the pedagogical aspects of the project, including resulting changes to BYU’s DigHT minor; and our research outcomes, including discoveries of hidden gaps in the MALLET package for topic modeling.


Links and Intersections of Visualizing Wonder with Fairy Tales and Television (Poster)

Presenters: Brian Croxall, Brigham Young University; Jill Terry Rudy, Brigham Young University


Brigham Young University have created and supported a database of fairy tales on television.  By highlighting the work that our project has undertaken in its fourth year, we emphasize how digital humanities—with its iterative and innovative research possibilities—opens up new and significant ways of answering key questions.  These include why certain fairy tales persist more than others, what tales and television do for the people who share them, and why story and literature remain relevant to individuals and societies.


Machine Learning meets Library Archives: Neural Network based descriptive metadata generation for Archival Images

Presenter: Dhanushka Samarakoon, University of Utah; Harish Maringanti, University of Utah


The project aims to extract meaningful metadata from archival images, by applying advanced image analysis techniques, that will increase the discoverability of collections. In this presentation, we will discuss the basics of AI, discuss our project goals, and share some early results of our experiments using open-source AI tools on archival images. We will also discuss opportunities and challenges of working with library data


Machine-Made Families: An Algorithmic Genealogy

Presenter: Alana Wolf, Utah Museum of Fine Arts, University of Utah


When Portrait of Edmond Belamy, a 2018 painting by the French artist collective Obvious, sold at nearly 45 times its high estimate last fall, Christie’s proudly announced that they were the first auction house to offer a work that was “not the product of a human mind,” but one created by an algorithm. Obvious deployed a generative adversarial network (GAN) using 15,000 portraits painted between the 14th and 20th centuries to produce the La Famille de Belamy series from which Edmond’s portrait is drawn, shedding light on why Obvious’s “family tree” is invariably white and well-dressed. Framing these works as the products of “distant painting,” this talk considers the re-colonizing risks of using data sets dictated by a narrow art historical canon to ask what kinds of art a more inclusive algorithm might be capable of producing.


Memes as part of Digital Culture

Presenter: Anne Bialowas, Weber State University


This presentation discusses the memes that were shared on social media of both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in the run up to the 2016 Presidential election will also providing an overview of memes as a teaching tool more broadly in the digital humanities.


Mining MARC Metadata: Using Bibliographic Data in Digital Humanities Projects

Presenters: Allie McCormack, University of Utah; Rachel Wittmann, University of Utah


Two librarians from the University of Utah’s Marriott Library will show how they used MARC bibliographic records, an often overlooked but rich source of metadata, to analyze the library’s Rare Books collection. Once the data had been normalized, exported, and massaged, they constructed a variety of visualizations that allowed both patrons and university librarians to better understand the scope and focus of the collection. After providing a workflow for librarians and other faculty interested in using library data to answer research questions, the presenters will give an overview of future analyses to be done using the visualizations.


"My Education was Neglected": Using Juxta Commons' Visual Comparisons to Simultaneously Teach the 1818 and 1831 Editions of Frankenstein

Presenter: Emily Grover, Brigham Young University


This presentation shares my experiences assigning Juxta Commons’ visualized comparisons of the 1818 and 1831 editions of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein to English-major students in a Romanticism-themed literature course. While teaching this novel as hypertext divorced it from its materiality as a book and disrupted my students' typical reading practices, their analyses of this text were ultimately richer for being able to synthesize the two editions of this already pieced-together creature.


Parsing Open- And Closed-class Syntactic Categories Psycholinguistic And Computational Predictions

Presenter: Mark LeTourneau, Weber State University; Aaron Ashley, Weber State University


In this paper, we explore the psycholinguistic and computational predictions generated by Lebeaux (2009), who proposes that syntactic representations are initially segregated into thematic and Case tiers and then fused. In this report on our work in progress, we consider whether and, if so, how Lebeaux's proposal can be tested empirically and implemented computationally, e. g., within the framework of Tree-Adjoining Grammar (TAG)


Prepping for Zombies: A Rhetorical Analysis of the CDC's Zombie Apocalypse Blog

Presenter: Ryan Cheek, Weber State University


Apocalypticism is a powerful persuasive tool but can also perniciously justify problematic raced and gendered logics. This presentation addresses the intersections between apocalyptic rhetoric, popular culture, and disaster preparedness campaigns through an analysis of the visual and textual rhetoric of the CDC's zombie apocalypse blog.


The Space Between: The Essential Nature of Space, Silence, and Apparent Disconnect in a Connected Age

Presenter:  John Wolfe, Dixie State University


University missions emphasize a type of social interconnectivity that is notably devoid of inactivity, silence, and space.  By guiding faculty to focus on things like active learning while motivating students to develop their networks, take course overloads, and maintain their portfolios, there is a  concern that there is little time left for students to reflect and process what they’ve learned. This conversation focuses on the historical importance of silence in pedagogy through a philosophic lens. The goal is to suggest that inactivity and silence are a vital components of a connected age, and necessary for successful teaching.


Text Mining, Mining Texts

Presenters: Rebekah Cummings, University of Utah; Rachel Wittmann, University of Utah


For the past three decades, libraries have digitized enormous amounts primary source of content with the shared goal of making cultural heritage collections accessible and usable. Online collections of this content accompanied by descriptive information of varying quality and consistency are frequently referred to as “data” for the humanities, yet the vast majority of digital collections are not amenable to common digital humanities methods. This presentation will discuss the collections as data framework, and present a case study out of the University of Utah where faculty from the Digital Matters Lab and Digital Library Services worked together to examine workflows and best practices in Collections as Data by developing a pilot project to bulk download and extract OCR from oral histories in Marriott Library Digital Collections centered on mining in Utah.


A Timeline Survey

Presenter: Tory Anderson, Brigham Young University


A survey of currently useful digital tools for timeline visualizations, the data formats that interact with those tools, and the interactions possible with timelines. Finally, I will introduce a project concerned with generating timelines from natural language

Unexpected Connections: Bios and Logos

Presenter: Cynthia Hallen, Brigham Young University


This presentation features Digital Dialogue data from a WordCruncher corpus, highlighting student comments on interdisciplinary insights for a university Honors course on the DNA of language and the language of DNA. The analysis uses Alton Becker’s six areas of contextual relations to document how a digital interface enhanced the exploration of connections between language studies and biology research.


Using All Available Means: How Computer Games Attune Us to Ambient Rhetoric

Presenters: Victoria L. Braegger, Utah State University; Ryan M. Moeller, Utah State University


We demonstrate how the game Journey employs ambient rhetoric to attune players to its gameworld through interactions with the controller, objects in the world, musical accompaniment and auditory stimuli, and a story told without words. Such an attunement facilitates a new(er) way of thinking about the production of meaning than subject-object relations; instead, meaning emerges through the interactions of an assemblage of actors—both human and non-human.


We Need Diverse Stories: Mapping Gender, Race, and Sexuality on Twitter

Presenters: Sarah Elizabeth Sinwell, University of Utah


This paper maps out the ways in which social movements on Twitter function as a contradictory space for political and social advocacy: both facilitating online activism and cultivating online harassment and bullying. Pushing up against the whiteness and heteronormativity of corporate-sponsored media culture, these Twitter campaigns draw attention not only to the absence of people of color and LGBTQ characters within contemporary media more generally, but, also to alternative possibilities for diverse media representation. By defining race, gender, and sexuality within the larger cultural zeitgeist of such franchises as Star Wars, Frozen, and Black Panther, this paper will argue that these Twitter campaigns advocate for more diversity in contemporary media.


Who's a Good Ploy: Hidden Surveillance in Animal Lives

Presenter: Nikki Stevens, Arizona State University


Quantified Pet practices, the tracking of domestic animal activity using devices similar to Fit Bits and Apple Watches, has exploded in popularity over the last 10 years. While quantifying pet activity may seem to simply be a derivative of quantifying human activity through self-tracking, Quantified Pet (QP) is a distinct technological practice with its own set of benefits and consequences. However, there is very little published research on QP devices, activities or practices. This presentation offers initial answers to the question "What are some of the potential impacts of Quantified Pet technology for the animal's human owner?" I explore the impacts of Quantified Pet activity through close reading of device interfaces and a two-month experiment with three dog activity trackers.

Engaging with surveillance studies, critical data studies and posthumanist scholarship, I argue that Quantified Pet practices have consequences far beyond the data they produce. These quantifying acts have epistemological, ontological and ethical implications. They shift our relationship with death; challenge our conceptions of animal boundaries, consent and agency; and mobilize our animals in the service of corporate profit. A focus only on QP data elides the potency of introducing technological mediation into human-pet relationships. This presentation challenges the notion that Quantified Pet practices are a harmless pastime for affluent pet owners. These technologies transform pets into data and the human-pet relationship into a site of surveillance and have the potential to be very dangerous for both the human and animal.


WordCruncher: A Free Digital Research and Teaching Assistant (Poster)

Presenters:  Jason Dzubak, Brigham Young University; Monte Shelley, Brigham Young University


Search, study, and analyze eBooks or corpora with WordCruncher, a free digital toolkit for research and teaching. For example, you can add searchable notes, highlight text, do advanced searches, see search keywords in context, and find collocates or n-grams in WordCruncher eBooks. You can download or create eBooks or corpora that may include formatted multilingual text, images, tags, hyperlinks, dictionaries, and lemma lists.