In Media Res #2: An Hour-Long Tour of the Digital Humanities in New York City


Written by Tobias Hrynick
Cross-posted on the Fordham Graduate Student Digital Humanities Group blog

On Tuesday, November 19th, the New York City Digital Humanities group held their second Media Res session at New York University’s Bobst Library. The hour-long session was packed with twelve five-minute flash presentations, interspersed with two question and answer periods. Speakers came from Fordham, NYU, CUNY Graduate Center Columbia, and Stony Brook, and presented on topics related to digital mapping, internet archiving, text mining and text analysis, from historical, literary, anthropological and theatrical perspectives. Afterwards, presenters and other attendees stayed for conversation and refreshments, courtesy of funds provided by the Fordham GSA.

The five-minute format of the talks and the wide range of subjects involved made the session a whirl-wind tour of active lines of inquiry in the digital humanities in New York City, rapidly demonstrating a wide variety of digital tools and potential applications. As the name of the session implies, all of the presentations were on projects which are still ongoing – the question and answer periods and the informal gathering following the presentations were used to exchange ideas and share experience, to help further the projects.

Brief summaries of all the talks are listed below. Those interested in the Media Res program can find information on the first session here.


Uncanny Seduction: Masculinity, Pickup Artists, and the Uses of Social Media in Social Skills Trainings Communities

Anders Wallace – CUNY Graduate Center, Department of Anthropology

Anders Wallace presented on a project in which he is analyzing the text archives of forums discussing techniques of seduction, examine collectively constructed conceptions of masculinity, and analyzing the networks of forum users in terms of production and influence, as measured through interactions with other forum-goers. Wallace further explored changes in forum activity over time, influenced by the growth of a monetized industry in competition with informal forums. Technically, Wallace discussed Python as a tool for word analysis, based on positive and negative word valances.


TWiC (Topic Words in Context)

Jonathan Armoza – NYU, Department of English

Jonathan Armoza presented on a project relating to his Master’s thesis work, in which he is using MALLET (MAchine Learning for LanguagE Toolkit) to explore the works of Emily Dickinson. Armoza is examining the corpus of Emily Dickinson poems, distinguishing topics as indicated by frequently linked words, and relating these topics to the understanding of Emily Dickonson’s poems in traditional scholarship.


Exploring Place in the French of Italy

Heather Hill and Tobias Hrynick – Fordham, Medieval Studies Program

Heather Hill and Tobias Hrynick presented on a Fordham Medieval Studies project to examine the corpus of texts written in French on the Italian peninsula during the middle ages. The project mapped place names mentioned in the texts using CartoDB and is presenting them through an Omeka website, contextualized with essays, and “micro-essays,” containing brief observations on patterns present in maps, designed to encourage engagement with the visualizations by site users.


East of East: Mapping Community Narratives in South El Monte and El Monte

Nicholas Juravich and Daniel Morales – Columbia, Department of History

Nicholas Juravich and Daniel Morales presented on a project to support the collection and presentation of history in the communities of El Monte and South El Monte, in Los Angeles County, California. The project explores the possibility of a communal digital space in which collect and display materials assembled through outreach to the community, and to present resources geographically using Omeka Neatline.


CUNY Syllabus Project

Andrew McKinney – CUNY Interdisciplinary Project

Andrew McKinney gave a presentation planned in collaboration with Laura Kane on a project to create a central database of crowd-sourced CUNY syllabi, with tools to search and visualize syllabi, allowing general trends to be revealed without making accessible specific personal information from the text of the syllabi. The project is exploring ways in which the process of integrating syllabi into the database might be automated. More information on the project is available here.


Reading histories of New York City women, 1789-1805: The case of the missing Gothic novels

Sara Partridge – NYU Department of English

Sara Partridge presented on a project to organize lending records of the New York Society Library, the oldest lending library in the state of New York into a relational database, and to present this data as a website using the Collective Access Content Management System. Partridge discussed her findings, particularly pointing out the way in which novels, though acquired by the library and commonly borrowed, particularly by women, were less privileged in institutional records, often distinguished only by genre and not, like non-fiction books, also by title.


The Independent Crusaders Project

Heather Hill and Alexander Profacci – Fordham Medieval Studies Program

Heather Hill and Alexander Profacci presented on a new project of Fordham’s Medieval Studies program in collaboration with Dr. James Doherty of Lancaster University. The project is intended to process and visualize information from charters with information concerning crusaders who departed for the Latin East outside of formal, large-scale crusading expeditions. The project is intended to create an Omeka based website to display this information, and to house CartoDB maps of the points from which Crusaders departed.



Johnathan Reeve – Columbia, Department of English

Jonathan Reeve presented on a project designed to avoid the difficulties in maintaining central digital text archives over the long term. Instead of centrally housing its texts, GIT-Lit intends to house its texts in a dispersed manner, using GIT-Hub. The project is working to digitize a corpus of scanned texts from the British Library, and to develop a system for automating text uploads. More information on this project is available here.


Reading as Navigation: Mapping the Spatial Affordances of the American Novel

David Rodriguez – Stony Brook, English

David Rodriguez presented on a project intended to incorporate cowpony (place name) mapping into literary studies in a novel way, blurring the line between creating and analyzing artistic works, and emphasizing the narrative rather than static aspects of space in literature. Rodriguez’s project incorporates texts from a corpus of American novels, and generates visualization of points generated by following from an initial point to a place mentioned immediately after that place in a randomly selected work, and then to a place mentioned immediately after that one in another randomly selected work, and so on.


The Roots and Routes of Boylesque

Kalle Westerling – CUNY, Theater

Kalle Westerling described a project of examining the boylesque genre of strip-tease through an analysis of texts posted on social media. A corpus of texts was generated through an automated collection of twitter posts, on which Westerling subsequently performed topic modeling analysis. Westerling is also mapping the regions referenced in these tweets, and has emphasized the relatively itinerant nature of boylesque, against more established forms of strip-tease. More information on Westerling’s project is available here.


Graphic Information Systems in the Humanities

Scott Zukowski – Stony Brook, English

Scott Zukowski presented on his effort to map active nineteenth century newspapers on Omeka neatline, displaying operating periodicals at intervals between 1790 and 1850. This map is a continuation on Zukowski’s earlier work analyzing these papers, and adds a level of macro-level analysis, highlighting the way in which the sources themselves changed over time, helping to inform the ways in which they can be used – Zuckowski particularly noted the failure of small-town rural newspapers in favor of urban publications in the mid-nineteenth century, which might represent the growth of rapid rail transportation, or a growth of the cultural influence of metropolitan culture. Zuckowski intends to expand his data-set to take into account and display the varying political stances of different papers.

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