Conference Program and Abstracts
CDHI International Conference 2022
We wish to acknowledge this land on which the University of Toronto operates. For thousands of years it has been the traditional land of the Huron-Wendat, the Seneca, and the Mississaugas of the Credit River. Today, this meeting place is still the home to many Indigenous people from across Turtle Island, and we are grateful to have the opportunity to work on this land.
The CDHI Conference Organizing Committee is delighted to offer a robust conference program incorporating a wide variety of DH topics and speakers from around the world!
Please use the navigation menus to the left to navigate quickly through the conference abstracts, or continue scrolling to more leisurely explore the program.
*Given the uncertainty of these times, please note that this schedule is subject to change. Any updates will be reflected on this page.
FRIDAY, 30 SEPTEMBER
VIRTUAL OPENING PLENARY 9:00-10:30
Digital Bundles: Creating cultural space for Indigenous Knowledge through the use of new technologies
Jennifer Wemigwans (University of Toronto)
CONCURRENT SESSIONS 10:40-12:10
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Virtual Session 1: Engaging, Shaping, and Transforming the Digital Commons
A Critical Analysis of Digital Storytelling on/of South Indian Transgender Community on YouTube
Kavitha K (Indian Institute of Technology, Indore)
This paper explores the suppression of the transgender community in India, who has been marginalised and oppressed in digital cultures, particularly on YouTube. It is used to engage with various social activities, such as connecting people and sharing our day-to-day activities and events. However, when it comes to the transwomen community, social media is primarily harnessed to portray the harassment against/by transgender. While it is important to create cognizance about the harassment of transwomen, we argue that social media as a disseminate tool can also be employed to bring attention to the main issues of transgender such as education, medical transition and financial support. This essay will address the following key questions: 1. What is the contribution of social media in transforming the identity of transwomen on Indian networking sites? 2. How transgender community is para-socially oppressed, marginalized, and negatively presented on social media? 3. How can we use social media as a potential tool for transgender activism in India? Using qualitative and quantitative data this essay aims to analyse social media platform YouTube to comprehend the marginalization and oppression of the Indian transwomen community in the Internet era. This paper also includes a few interviews with Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) who closely work with/for transwomen community such as transwomen writer, translator, activists, scholars, and a few transwomen to discuss the employment of social media for the upliftment of transwomen community in India. We use the computational method of topic modelling and sentiment analysis to investigate YouTube’s titles, views, and likes to discern the complex behaviour and attitude about transgender and viewers. These digital analyses are imperative to study the representation of transwomen community in Indian digital society.
Digital Secularism: Postcoloniality and Technological Transformation in Urdu Social Media
Max Dugan (University of Pennsylvania)
Elliot Montpelier (University of Pennsylvania)
This presentation describes the critical DH approaches that shape IRSAAL-Urdu, a novel application of Google Sheets for the analysis of Urdu discourse online. Specifically, we describe use-cases, the postcolonial DH stream from which it emerges, and the critical need to account for religion as an analytic in DH praxis. IRSAAL-Urdu prioritizes openness, a short technical learning curve, robust documentation, and corpora-specific extensibility. Features such as the word bank or extensible transliteration rules facilitate collaboration between scholars working with Urdu corpora.
The “messiness” — especially the idiosyncratic transliteration of Urdu into Latin script or frequency of multiscript tweets — of Urdu datasets drawn from social media and digital forums impedes text analysis. Scholars have taken generative steps toward regularizing Urdu corpora from digital spaces (Irvine et al. 2012, Sharf and Ur Rahman 2017). At the same time, their methods require substantial technical knowledge and deprioritize non-Urdu terms, especially English words and Islamic expressions (e.g. ما شاء الله, mashAllah, ma sha’ Allah, mash’Allah, mA, etc.). These challenges are inextricable from the neocolonial normativization of left-to-right scripts (Risam 2018) and capital-driven sequestering of tools by the tech industry (Benjamin 2019; D’Ignazio and Klein 2020).
Our work on IRSAAL-Urdu highlights the need for digital humanists to consider another facet of neocolonialism: the way unexamined secularism frequently makes religious phenomena illegible, especially in the production of knowledge about Islamic phenomena (Asad 2003 and 2018; Fadil 2019). This presentation elaborates how regularizing orthographic variability in the digital culture in Islamic South Asia and its diasporas widens the analytical scope for scholars working with multiscript, multilingual, and religiously-inflected datasets emerging from Muslim digital worlds.
Queering the Hindu Rashtra: Hindu Nationalism and Social Media in Contemporary India
Sanchita Srivastava (University of Delhi)
This paper looks at how ‘ordinary’ citizens make use of social media, notably Twitter, in order to delineate how certain queer communities are either being co-opted or completely erased from the populist language of contemporary Hindutva that increasingly seeks to portray itself as a ‘liberal’, ‘progressive’ force. It looks at queerness in terms of both a sexual and a political identity, in order to address how caste, class, religion, and sexuality inform each other, while complicating our understanding of the internal ‘Other’ of Hindu nationalism, and of contemporary Hindu nationalism itself. Instead of entering the conversation around religion, gender, sexuality and caste in relation to acts of physical violence meted out on those who fall outside of the Hindu nationalist ideological ambit, I use gaalis (abuses) and the discourse around cows, as it emerged on social media, as my ‘ordinary’ analytical framework to understand how women from the marginalised communities (non-Hindu, non-upper caste, non- heteronormative) access and lay claims to Digital India.
The Pandemic Imaginary and the Climate of Fear: Digital Portraits of the New Coronavirus Fostered by the News Media in Romania
Daniel Ungureanu (George Enescu National University of the Arts)
If a cultural production cannot escape the ideological framework in which it was born, as Marxist philosopher Althusser and psychoanalytic researcher Žižek claimed, then neither the fragment of a cultural production – in this case the digital portrait of the new coronavirus, cannot distance itself from the production processes nor from the ideology in which it was created. Thus, we believe that through case studies and content analysis we will better comprehend how the graphic representations of the COVID-19 were influenced by power relations and how they might have contributed to the current climate of fear, a condition reported by political philosophers Agamben and Esposito since February 2020.
The study interval covers the two years of the pandemic, from the launch, on January 31, 2020, of the first images created by Eckert and Higgins (CDC) until the appearance of the Omicron variant first graphic representations in November 2021. The data were collected from the most popular Romanian news websites according to the number of monthly hits and visitors in 2020-2021 (+ 7 million, respectively + 2 million per month): digi24.ro, mediafax.ro, realitatea.net, stirileprotv.ro, observatornews.ro, alphanews.ro, hotnews.ro, ziare.com, g4media.ro. zf.com.
The results will indicate that the visual representations in the mass media, following the strategies employed for other life-threatening diseases such as the one caused by the infamous human immunodeficiency virus, could have been a digital manifestation of a biopolitical weapon for emotion-activating or mobilizing systems.
Virtual Session 2: Digital Ethics
Chair: Aaron Mauro (Brock University)
Centering Community in Manumitted: The People Enslaved by Quakers
David Satten-Lopez (Haverford College)
Avis McClinton (Independent Researcher)
Manumitted: The People Enslaved by Quakers is a multi-year collaborative effort to publicize and investigate the history of Quaker slaveholding through the manumission papers housed at Haverford College. The project combines research, writing, community engagement, and digital tools to create an online platform for this history and the Pandora’s box it opens. McClinton and Satten-Lopez met through this project and developed it in collaboration with each other and others. From brainstorming improvements to the betasite, to editing essays and formatting on the website, they eventually showcased the project to a greater community, and Quaker community, in Upper Dublin, Atlantic City, and many Southern Appalachian states. In this presentation they strive to chart out their collaboration and the centrality of community in that process. As McClinton has said before, “It’s not about taking the names of the manumitted out of a dusty old book and putting them on a soon-to-be dusty website.” This presentation engages with the technological concerns surrounding accessibility and draws upon adaptiveness, even non-digital methods, to respond in a multiplicity of ways. Moreover it speaks to the commitments, technological or otherwise, that must be attended to when engaging with communities outside our institutions. To view the website Manumitted see here: https://manumissions.haverford.edu/
Stolen Relations: Recovering stories of Indigenous enslavement in the Americas
Patrick Rashleigh (Brown University Library),
Lydia Curliss (University of Maryland, College Park)
Ashley Champagne (Brown University Library)
Stolen Relations is a collaborative database project that seeks to catalog as many instances of Indigenous enslavement as possible in ways that center the humanity of these individuals grounded in collaborative and Indigenous-centered approaches.
Broadly, this project highlights how the stealing of Indigenous people through enslavement and captivity is explicitly tied to larger settler colonial processes in ways that have not been fully understood by Indigenous communities or the broader public, including separating families, transshipping individuals, and destabilizing family units and communities, all of which has contributed to the loss of land and sovereignty. In pursuing this project, we have faced a variety of challenges that several scholars, such as Jessica Marie Johnson, have noted: how do we create a database project that does not dehumanize the individuals and their relations but still presents the original archival documents? What are ways we can present these documents, written by the colonizer, in ways that recontextualize and decolonize the documents to give a more accurate picture of the lives of Indigenous communities that have been impacted by the legacy of slavery? How would this resource most benefit Indigenous communities as a primary audience? How do we make our project discoverable by utilizing, for example, linked open data while also respecting community requests (e.g. privacy of some materials, different fields than in available linked open data ontologies, etc.).
In 2019, the project underwent a reset. A fundamental change to the project at this time was to incorporate Indigenous collaborators throughout the project by formally inviting Tribal community partners. Together, the project team has approached these issues with a number of practical solutions still under development: describing individuals not through tabular listings but through narrative prose; reframing and recontextualizing colonial sources by dynamically providing community-generated content; exploring the possibility of using existing frameworks, such as Traditional Knowledge Labels, to allow our community to express community rules regarding the archival documents on Indigenous enslavement; and more.
In this conference presentation, we will showcase and invite discussion on the project thus far and the challenges we have worked to address in the pursuit of building a community-centered database project on the difficult but important history of Indigenous enslavement.
Digital Representations of Indigenous Knowledges and Cultures: Lessons Learned with First Story Toronto
Jon Johnson (University of Toronto)
Indigenous communities have actively embraced digital media for their potential to amplify and extend Indigenous voices, perspectives, and efforts. However, in the context of a long colonial history of voyeurism, appropriation, extraction, and theft of Indigenous Knowledges and material cultures, caution and care are warranted when Indigenous communities consider projects that seek to digitize their knowledges and cultures. For this and many other reasons, oral, land-based, storytelling pedagogies remain integral to the ongoing stewardship of Indigenous Knowledges.
In this presentation, I describe my experience with both troubling and successful digital projects that I have been involved in as a lead organizer for First Story Toronto, an Indigenous grassroots organization that has stewarded a community archive and an ever-expanding urban oral land-based storytelling tradition of Indigenous presence in Toronto. I explore the lessons that can be taken from these projects and how oral, land-based ethics and pedagogies can also inspire more sustainable, relational, and anti-colonial digital humanities projects and scholarship
Making DH Critical: Centring the Knowledge-Production of Latin American Trans- Feminist and Queer Archival Initiatives
Carina Guzman (University of Toronto)
In this paper, I will discuss what I perceive to be some of the key concepts of the Critical Digital Humanities (CDH) as they relate to (and emerged from) the research-creation I carried out during my tenure as a member of the inaugural CDHI Doctoral Fellowship cohort (2021-2022). The implicit questions that guide this discussion include: When and why did it become desirable to include the “Critical” in Digital Humanities? What makes CDH critical? Meanwhile, I will centre the explicit question: As a CDH scholar, how can I task the field to account for the trajectory of sexual and gender dissident communities in Latin America as sources, rather than objects of digitally-enabled humanistic knowledge production? This query stems directly from my dissertation, entitled “Stor(y)ing Mi Desmadre: Trans- Feminist and Queer Community Archival Digital Custodial Praxes in Latin America.” In it, I study how lesbian and trans communities use histories of performance art and nightlife, improvised territories and the Latin American concept of “memoria” (counter-hegemonic historiographic text that emerges from resistance movements,) to activate digital archival and story-telling initiatives. The community-based initiatives I study include the Argentinian Archivo de la Memoria Trans (www.archivotrans.ar) and the Colombia Trans Kuir History project (@colombiatranskuirhistory), in addition to the Mexican-Canadian project I initiated: the Community of Machistán Collection of Art, Media and Memory. This work draws from my own participation in lesbian nightlife community building and archive-making in Mexico, as well as my work as co-editor at the Cabaret Commons (carbaretcommons.org) which, in turn, is a part of the Trans- Feminist and Queer Digital Praxis Workshop (TFQ DPW) led by Dr. Jas Rault and Dr. TL Cowan at U of T. (Hence, this paper would be ideally situated on the TFQ DPW panel at this conference, or scheduled close to it.)
Virtual Session 3: Asserting and Resisting Power in the Digital and Technology
Towards Decolonizing Data Driven Biometric Technologies in India: Examining Aadhar and its Colonial Lineage
Justy Joseph (Indian Institute of Technology, Indore)
Nirmala Menon (Indian Institute of Technology, Indore)
Biometric technologies are a data developing, describing and building system that aim at establishing or verifying the identity or demographic attributes of individuals. In the international standard ISO/IEC 2382-37 “biometrics” is defined as “automated recognition of individuals based on their biological and behavioural characteristics”. They take the form of the always-listening, voice recognizing digital assistants and fingerprint sensors to the avatars on our mobile phones that rely on facial recognition. Though Finger printing was used as a system of fear and genomic truth of identity during the British rule in India after Sir Wilson J Hershel, it can be seen in the 7th century cave paintings possibly showing authorship and/or identity. Later, the Aadhar biometric resident card (Unique Identification Authority of India, 2016) led to the biometricization of residents of India in order to receive an identification number that serves as a national identification reference. This research attempts to trace the British colonial history of finger printing system in India and place its connection to adaptation of biometric technologies as the unique Identification of citizens of the country. Along with the practical considerations about how data is stored, owned and used (in terms of research, policy and practice) this paper also studies the affective economy of fear, othering, spatialising practices and geocorpographic mediations associated with the use of these data driven technologies. The paper explores the Counter hegemonic narratives like ‘Animating Opacity’ (Manuel, 2019) and ‘critical biometric consciousness’ (Browne, 2015) in an attempt to understand the ways to decolonize the data driven surveillance and identification technologies in India.
Braids All the Way Down: Black Hair and the Diasporic Unconscious
Océane Nyela (York University)
This paper investigates the spread of African braided hairstyles in West Africa as well as in the diaspora. In doing so, it positions hair and hair braiding as a social, spiritual, and decolonial practice which in its practice generates spaces where subjects are interpellated into “collective spaces and in(to) collective time through specific spatial and temporal norms” (Pereen, 2006, p. 71). Specifically, I use the “crypt object” (Derrida,1986; Abraham & Torok, 1986) and “diasporic transindividuation” (Nyela, 2021) to conceptualize this phenomenon. To demonstrate hair braiding’s potential as a decolonial practice, hair itself is understood as a more than an externalization of human biology and is positioned as a medium that can be encoded with a range of meanings including but not limited to identity, belonging, gender, and political affiliation. Although often relegated to the realms of frivolity, there is considerable work has been done to position hair as more than a “dead margin of the self” (Kwint et al., 1999, p. 9; Thrift, 2008). On the other hand, most of the work that has focused on the cultural and social significance of hair has to first deal with detailing how hair exists as more than the result of the externalization of a biological process. In defining itself against this theoretical and methodological canon, this paper presents hair as a ‘transitional object’, an intermediary between the social, spiritual, and personal axes of personal and communal identity and belonging. While research discussing the role of hair braiders as STEM experts already exists (see Eglash & Bennett, 2009, 2009; Lachney et al., 2019, 2020), I am interested in understanding this phenomenon by thinking of it through the lens of ‘diasporic transindividuation’. As such, this paper positions hair braiding as a technological practice and hair itself as a technology.
A Manifesto for Trans-Inclusive Bibliography
Heidi Craig (Texas A&M University)
Kris May (Texas A&M University)
Laura Estill (St. Francis Xavier)
“A Manifesto for Trans-Inclusive Bibliography,” posits a framework for the principles and practices of trans-inclusive bibliography, describing its necessity and challenges, considering historical analogues, and offering solutions for trans-inclusive bibliography in digital contexts. Proper names are the primary way that a person is credited with their scholarly labour, yet using names raises ethical issues. Trans-inclusive bibliography shares many of the same ethical concerns and strategies as trans-inclusive citation practices, yet differs in terms of scale — comprehensive enumerative bibliographies take more time and effort to compile than individual works cited lists — and in terms of stakes. Given that exhaustive enumerative bibliographies are often used to create individual works cited lists, their choices and practices can reverberate through an entire academic field. Trans-inclusive bibliography has implications for bibliography in multiple senses: analytic and descriptive, citational, and enumerative. The paper centers on enumerative bibliography, particularly the challenges and potential solutions for the World Shakespeare Bibliography (WSB), a long-standing digital humanities resource. Enumerative bibliography can often be taken for granted, especially in the age of digital searching, but it is the bedrock on which scholarly practice is built: enumerative, large-scale, digital bibliography shapes how and what we research. The issues we raise, however, will also apply to other large-scale bibliographies, online reference works, individual academic practice, as well as other bibliographical practices in addition to enumerative bibliography. The question seems simple: how do we cite scholars and their work? The answers, plural, require a flexible and deliberate practice of citation that prioritizes the scholar above the scholarship. We will argue that trans-inclusive bibliography requires accepting bibliography’s flexibility and contingency and relinquishing comforting myths about the stability of the historical record. We will present a “Manifesto for Trans-Inclusive Bibliography,” clearly outlining the ethical core of trans-inclusive bibliography, and offering practicable scholarly habits to implement it.
Design-led Approach to Knowledge Translation & Mobilization: Learnings from “Under Layered Suspicion”
Zaid Khan (University of Toronto)
In March of 2021, the Institute of Islamic Studies (IIS) launched a report called “Under Layered Suspicion”. The research brought forth evidence of a concerning pattern of systemic biases and prejudicial practices regarding the targeting, selection, and execution of audits of Muslim-led charities.
Within six-months of launching the report, it got the attention of the Prime Minister’s Office who called for a systemic review of the concerns. As of writing this abstract (April 2022) the systemic review is underway, lead by the Office of Taxpayer Ombudsperson. Additionally, the co-author of the report, Professor Anver Emon, has been appointed to the Advisory Committee on the Charitable Sector (ACCS). And most recently, the Muslim Association of Canada has launched a Charter challenge against the Government on grounds of Islamophobic bias in the audit, referring to the report as grounds for the claim. This uptake all amounts to what is expected to be a significant policy overhaul meant to create a more fair and equitable environment within the not-for-profit sector.
How did a research report lead to this? What was the role of design? And what can we learn about this from a Digital Humanities perspective?
This presentation will provide insight using a design-led approach for knowledge translation and mobilization. The presentation will use the case study of “Under Layered Suspicion” to demonstrate the process, impact, and learnings. Using a strategic communications process, the presentation will walk through how strategic objectives were established, how a concept was designed to help communicate the report, and how the concept was applied to all touchpoints in the media plan – in collaboration with community partners – for maximum impact. This project presentation offers learnings for Digital Humanities project wishing to integrate design-led practices more deeply into the dissemination of their projects.
Virtual Session 4: Care, Empathy, and Healing
Care Matters and Justice Dreams: Design Studio Framework, Works, and Insights for Anti-colonial Digital Humanities Praxis
Kush Patel (Srishti Manipal Institute of Art, Design, and Technology)
Sai Vidyasri Giridharan (Srishti Manipal Institute of Art, Design, and Technology)
Shamanth Joshi> (Srishti Manipal Institute of Art, Design, and Technology)
Drawing upon the digital pedagogy framework of a four-week hybrid studio for graduate students in design studies entitled, “Care Matters and Justice Dreams,” this paper will present critical teaching and learning experiences in the voice of the instructor and two students. With Twine, an open-source digital tool for producing interactive, nonlinear stories, the studio invited participants to work on and produce care work biographies in relation to their interactions with technology. As a class, we discussed these interactions as situated, embodied, and material for building and circulating anti-oppression critiques of technologically mediated spaces, systems, and practices that we inhabit; identifying challenges to constructing and sustaining alternatives, or furthering what disability justice scholar Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha calls “care webs”; and inflecting these technologically mediated contexts with new narratives, expectations, and measurements of self beyond their disembodied and positivist definitions.
The studio produced 10 student-led narratives, covering a range of critiques from period-tracking gender exclusive apps and thinking with online mutual-aid networks to mental health effects of and counters with Instagram. From this set, we will discuss two specific student works on Twine, namely, “Your Move” and “Identity Games.” Written in the voice of a wearable tracking device, “Your Move” satirizes techno-solutionist embodiments of design that render real the ableist, classist, and gendered notions of the body through “steps” to health. As a self-reflective account of how binary roles and bodies attached to video game characters have shaped the student’s understanding of their gender identity, “Identity Games” breaks away from cis-heteronormative logics and calls attention to how game design and designers play with us. The paper will conclude by locating studio insights within the instructor’s collaborative digital humanities praxis that is committed to rethinking the possibilities of un-, re-, and co-learning digital research and pedagogy along deliberate queer, feminist, and anti-colonial lines.
Conceiving Sound: Emotional AI in China
Yuxing Zhang (University of Toronto)
This paper takes Xiaomi’s launch of XiaoAI smart speaker in China, a conversational artificial intelligence system and the discourse on ‘smart home’ as points of entry to rethink the materiality of sound in AI-enabled empathic media in contemporary China. The proliferation of artificial emotional intelligence that is trained to sense, classify, and learn about people’s emotional life—through conversational virtual agents, ‘smart’ living devices, and language-generation software—points to a new paradigm of human-machine communication in which voice-based enactive machinic agents join forces with human in sociocultural endeavors. To categorize, predict, and make response to a person’s disposition and emotional state in speech-based interactions require substituting the phenomenological dimensions of sound for a mathematical criterion, expressing an emerging form of technical rationality that is fundamentally relative and algorithmically predictive. The contouring of noise in emotional AI has no clearly defined endpoints or values. However, artificial intelligence that speech-based autonomous agents leverage on is not man-free. It is being continuously trained by data annotators who manually sort out sound—some are labelled as noise while others are interpreted as emotional indicators. By situating emotional AI in the larger discourse on ‘smart living/home’ and the data labelling industry in China, this paper rethinks sound as an ambient interface, a multiplicative data-rendering event where emotion is conceived as algorithmic verisimilitude in a form of hybrid human-machine agency. Existing scholarship on AI and/in China tends to focus on policy analysis and the critiques of the surveillance regime. This paper contributes to the epistemological and discursive examination on sound and emotional AI by giving heed to the often-overlooked human labor that constitutes the materiality of sound as interface in the age of AI.
VR Performance and Memory Archive Construction in Jordan Tannahill’s “Draw Me Close”
Camille Intson (University of Toronto)
This paper endeavours to explore the opportunities, challenges, and ethics of reconstructing and re-enacting archives of memory through virtual reality (VR) performance, using Jordan Tannahill’s Draw Me Close (National Theatre London 2019; Soulpepper Theatre 2020) as an exemplary case study.
Draw Me Close is a 1:1 virtual reality (VR) performance in which the artist’s childhood memories, experiences, and interactions with his mother are reconstructed in the wake of her passing. Solo audience members are positioned as Jordan (the subject and character) and taken through a series of narratives, (virtual) spaces, and interactions with his “mother”, played by a live actor. Piece by piece, audiences are brought into the world of the “shifting” (Mel Y. Chen 2012, p. 16) archive, inhabiting Jordan’s reconstructed virtual world from his early explorations of queer sexuality through to his mother’s cancer diagnosis and passing.
Following Mel Y. Chen (2012) and Rebecca Schneider (2016), this paper will explore how the world of Draw Me Close represents a “touching” and/or “queering” (Schneider 2) of time within its archive, blurring and transgressing the boundaries between the animate and the inanimate, life and death. On a philosophical level, considering foundational queer performance scholarship (Phelan 1993; Munoz 1996) and Derrida’s Archive Fever (1995), it will also examine how performance’s ephemerality rewards its artists the dual advantages of visibility and protection, allowing for an ethical exploration of traumatic memory and loss within a disappearing medium.
Finally, this provocation will use Draw Me Close as a point of departure from which to outline future possibilities for performance and emerging (VR) technologies’ engagements with archival theory and practice. By positioning VR performance as an archive-constructing medium, it aims to move beyond the question of how we can take performances seriously as archives, towards how personal archive construction is itself a performative act.
Moving Towards Healing and Reconciliation: Mapping Partition-1947—Stories, Literature, and Film
Ayesha Akram (University of the Punjab)
There are volumes of scholarship available on several aspects of the Partition of India in 1947—the largest exchange of population, and the most traumatizing ethnic, religious, political, and gender-based violence in modern human history. Mass killings, religious conversions, abduction of over 70,000 women, and a perpetual conflict between India and Pakistan, remain the legacy of Partition-1947. While hundreds and thousands of authors have focused on the perils of Partition, including my own doctoral research that dealt with the multiplicity of narrative voices within the Partition histories; here, I propose moving beyond the pain and trauma of Partition, and towards healing and reconciliation, using some of the digital tools at our disposal. This conversation would focus on ways in which Mapping can be used to trace hundreds of missing persons, and/or their Partition stories, seven decades on. I would also like to propose the need to create a digital map of all Partition narratives—textual and visual, written anywhere in the world, to create a convenient geographical database for prospective Partition-researchers.
The DIY wearable and the Reimagined Body
Margaret Konkol (Old Dominion University)
This presentation explores the productive ambiguity between the human and the machine with an exploration of externalized emotion and language made visible. Introducing contemporary DIY critical making practices to archival work with the Mina Loy papers, I present a wearable device I have fabricated based on the poet’s incomplete 1941 description of a Valentine protowearable. Loy was a poet, a painter, and an entrepreneur. She was also a quintessential modernist in that she refashioned traditional ideas of love, motherhood, and sociability. She proposed a “cheap trinket” that could be partly made from a repurposed flea-market plastic watch. It would be rebuilt to display the words: “my heart beats for you.” Her never-realized valentine embodies, as I argue, a modernist fascination with estrangement, chance, and what I call the queer intimacies of the crowd. It also unsettles old metaphors about the feeling and thinking normative, able body. I have used sketchup to design a heart shaped box, printed this box using 3D printing technology, and built the “inscription” aspect of Loy’s Valentine using Sparkfun hardware and Arduino software. While my project contributes to Mina Loy scholarship, I am primarily interested in discussing during this presentation the ways in which this creative inferential object contributes to alternative understandings of the speaking body. By speaking body I refer to Roland Barthes’s work on fashion as a sign system as well as theories of embodiment, notably Donna Haraway’s notion of the cyborg. Whereas speech passes through proximity, directed vocal utterance and is circumscribed by the duration of the utterance, visible language is more diffuse. Affective states can be relocated in radial extremities like the wrist or wherever one chooses to affix the valentine. In this way my project enters into dialogue with disability studies, feminist and queer engagements with attachment, and technologies of being. How does this prototype reanimate interaction with strangers? How could such wearable language create new queer intimacies? How does the wrist-worn valentine wearable operate as an invitation for nonsexual platonic intimacies? The wearable language inscribed on the body of the wearer can, to borrow from Margaret Price, offer “non-normate bodies (bodies that are gendered, classed, raced, disabled in particular ways)” new visibilities and encoded forms of dialogue.
Virtual Session 5: Digital Infrastructure
Thinking/Doing DH in India: Notes on Infrastructure and Multilinguality
Puthiya Purayil Sneha (Centre for Internet and Society)
The role of infrastructure remains an important one in terms of conceptualising and doing digital humanities (DH) work today, especially in several parts of the majority world, where disparities in access to and use of technologies remain widely prevalent. Debates on infrastructure – whether tools, software, platforms, data or skills – also predate the field of DH, being in fact intertwined in complex, colonial histories of knowledge production. In recognising these debates as inherently political rather than purely technical, critiques of DH and work on digital cultures have attempted to foreground the need for a decolonial, multilingual, and accessible field of study and practice in DH. Intersections with feminist work are of particular significance here, offering in many ways a precursor to these debates. Building a feminist internet therefore comprises several efforts, in enabling access to technologies and public spaces, capacity-building opportunities, to building networks of solidarity, support, and care, particularly for structurally disadvantaged communities. These efforts, however, are also shaped by the larger, persistent challenges stemming from systemic divides, often a result of and further perpetuated by linguistic and social barriers.
Drawing upon learnings from a recently published collaborative report on the state of the internet’s languages, and an exploratory study and upcoming report on ‘feminist information infrastructures’ (including the various interpretations of the term) and feminist publishing, this presentation will attempt to explore the contours of some of these debates on infrastructure building, and their impact on work mediated by digital media and technologies. It will look at some of the challenges in digitalisation and creation of multilingual content and seek to understand how the growth of digital infrastructures in this context also mediates contemporary feminist work. In doing so, it will attempt to offer a set of reflections from these initiatives which may contribute to discussions in fields such as critical DH and infrastructure studies.
Digital Feminist Classrooms: Critical Pedagogy, Infrastructure, and Post/Coloniality
Sara Shroff (Lahore University of Management Sciences)
The feminist classroom has often been imagined as separate from the home, meaning a space where we theorize, critique, and challenge frames of home (for example, entering the classroom implies that one departs from home). In a pandemic world, this reality of departure from home and arrival into feminist space has been eroded, and the home/domestic space is now also one site for the feminist classroom. Centering my digital feminist classrooms across Lahore, Pakistan and Toronto, Canada, I bring to the forefront the dialogue between digital pedagogy and the politics of space; the respectability of home and the irreverence of the feminist classroom; and ideas about housework and homework. What happens when we must be at home while challenging dominant ideas of home, work, care, and capital? What happens when theory and life blends in ways that are new, raw, and uncomfortable through the digital screen? How do we think about the digital infrastructures that shape different feminist classrooms? What happens when a room of our own is not possible? In other words, what happens when the bedroom, bathroom, study room, dorm room, living room, kitchen, dining room, or balcony becomes your feminist classroom and challenge the divisions we make, abide by, reckon with, negotiate through the digital frame across post and settler colonial spaces?
Building a DatabAce: The Asexuality and Aromanticism Bibliography
Jenna McKellips (University of Toronto)
Asexuality scholars Ela Przybylo and Danielle Cooper have made persuasive arguments for building archives to connect queer asexual voices to their various pasts and contexts. Such archives are also important to future scholarship on queer aromanticism. Thus, our DH project, the Asexuality and Aromanticism Bibliography, seeks to build a collaborative online working bibliography, documenting two important archives: scholarship on aro/ace studies, and community sources on aro/ace identities. Our DH project not only contributes to the work of building these archives, but also examines how archives of aro/ace voices past and present can facilitate the theoretical study of these identities, with special attention to points of intersection between aro/ace identities and other identities, including race, gender, and disability.
Our presentation will also discuss the process of building our website. We collected citations and developed a tagging system to help researchers in this discipline, as previous databases and bibliographies on the subject did not have a scholarly focus or were not easily searchable. We worked alongside a web developer to craft a custom interface that is easy for researchers to use, including a home page that explains our two primary archives and how to navigate them, the ability to search within either or both archives, and the ability to sort groups of sources within various search facets.
This project’s topics of asexuality and aromanticism deal with the critical theories of gender and sexuality centered by the CDHI goals of research.
Asexuality questions what Przybylo calls “sexusociety,” wherein society mandates sex and reproduction to the detriment of those who cannot or do not want to participate in sexual activity, and aromanticism questions amatonormativity, or the societal pressure to pair off into romantic units. This website is intended to help these growing subfields of queer theory to gain greater traction.
How Web of Science database and search engine excludes disability studies perspectives from research
Andrea Whiteley (University of Toronto Scarborough)
Chloe Atkins (University of Toronto)
In an era of increased information and data analytics, bibliometric analysis of published materials can offer academics a way to understand the breadth and depth of knowledge when researching complex and multi-disciplinary topics. As researchers at the PROUD Project1, studying disability and employment in five different countries, we undertook a comprehensive literature review using the Web of Science [WoS] database to search for publications in the area of disability and employment. Given the interdisciplinary and international scope of our study, we used the additional analytics offered by WoS to discover the relative predominance of certain regions, disciplines, funding sources and foci in our given area. We wanted a meta view of ‘disability and employment’ to contextualize our own efforts.
While a search of the WoS Core Collection database produced thousands of references for our literature review, we discovered that it underrepresented segments of essential knowledge. Early into the project we noticed that despite sophisticated algorithms, the reference lists seemed to replicate certain types of materials, while over-looking others. As a value-neutral and comprehensive citation index, WoS amplified distinct forms of knowledge.
We found that our dataset was skewed towards positivist medical and rehabilitation-focused materials and underrepresented publications in social science and legal disciplines; areas which usually include disability studies and human rights perspectives. What began as a bibliometric effort to understand our field became a deeper inquiry into the role of information technologies in the propagation of social bias against individuals with disabilities. This paper will describe our approach, report on our findings, and suggest alternatives for abstract databases to implement in order to avoid search engine bias.
Virtual Session 6: Future Memory and the Construction of a Decolonial Digital Archive
Enrique Olivares Pesante (University of California, Los Angeles)
Raquel Salas Rivera (Universidad de Puerto Rico)
Claire Jiménez (University of Nebraska)
Ricardo Maldonado (Untenberg Poetry Center 92Y)
This panel focuses on the challenges, methodologies, and drives involved in the creation of a decolonial archive of Puerto Rican literature. It addresses how gathering work, interviewing writers, translating, working with institutions, and digitizing materials can help creating a lasting open-access source during a period in which the archipelago’s educational resources are being privatized and the gap between institutional access and inter-community literary production is widening in both archipiélago and diáspora. El archivo de la literatura puertorriqueña/ The Puerto Rican Literature Project is an unprecedented project to create an archive, resource, and repository of our literature and its creation asks us to reimagine dialogue between displaced colonized peoples and a Puerto Rico that is being depopulated in tandem with a new wave of settler colonialism.
SPECIAL SESSION 12:40-2:10
Hiddden Collapsible Trick. Read Body.
This extra tab was created to trick Divi. Basically there is no official way to prevent Divi from automatically opening the first tab of each accordion. So we’ve created this extra tab and used Custom CSS (Under Advanced) to hide this tab from a user’s view. https://www.markhendriksen.com/how-to-make-the-divi-accordion-closed/
Anti-Racist Architectures: Equitable DH Technologies and Infrastructures
Safiya Noble (University of California, Los Angeles)
Angel Nieves (Northeastern University)
Alex Gil (Yale University)
CONCURRENT SESSIONS 2:20-3:50
Hidden Collapsible Trick. Read Body.
This extra tab was created to trick Divi. Basically there is no official way to prevent Divi from automatically opening the first tab of each accordion. So we’ve created this extra tab and used Custom CSS (Under Advanced) to hide this tab from a user’s view. https://www.markhendriksen.com/how-to-make-the-divi-accordion-closed/
Virtual Session 7: Digital Archives
How Does it Feel to Be Digitally Archived?
Michelle Caswell (University of California, Los Angeles)
Anna Robinson-Sweet (University of California, Los Angeles)
The UCLA Community Archives Lab, in partnership with The Texas After Violence Project (TAVP) and the South Asian American Digital Archive (SAADA), is conducting a three-year participatory action research (PAR) to assess the affective impact of digital technologies on the creation of records documenting minoritized communities by community-based archives (CBAs). Through interviews and focus groups with people who told their stories to each organization through digital projects, this research examines both the emotional impact of creating records for inclusion in archives and the impact of digital technologies on storytelling. The project addresses many of the emerging needs of archives, especially the growing recognition of the need to mitigate potential harms for record creators and users, and the growing dependence on digital technologies across the archives, museum, and LIS fields in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. This paper will present on the initial findings of these interviews and focus groups, addressing the complex interplay between trauma, representation, and digital participation. It will also detail a community-led PAR methodology in which research findings inform the creation of new digital projects at community archives.
Edgy Ever After: Archiving the White-Queer-Feminist Performance Festival
Andrea Rideout (Simon Fraser University)
This project presentation is the capstone of my 120 hr MA practicum in digital archiving of live performance cultures at Montreal contemporary dance and interdisciplinary performance incubator, Studio 303 in summer 2022. My object of study is the studio’s now defunct Edgy Women Festival of feminist performance which ran from 1994 to 2016. I undertook the following four key activities: 1) writing original and editing existing wikipedia articles on several of the hundreds of participating artist; 2) annotating and editorializing existing digital photo and video documentation; 3) transcribing, analyzing and citing existing oral histories; 4) creating a work-plan and content proposal for transforming existing festival website in to an archival exhibit. I approached this project from my studies in contemporary art and cultural studies using the tools of auto-ethnography, media archeology, archive theory, performance studies, feminist epistemology, trans-queer-feminist theory, and critical white-feminism. Grappling with the questions ‘What are the barriers to digitally preserving trans-queer-feminist performance histories and making them accessible online?’ and ‘Is there a harm reduction approach to archiving the white-feminist performance festival?’, I will present on my findings using the concepts of hyper-visibility, affect, refusal, care, glitch feminism, transparency and opacity.
Expanding the Canadian Slavery Archive: Black Digital Humanities as Method
Natasha Henry (York University)
Beginning in the 1770s, many African people were brought to the colony of Upper Canada (present-day Ontario) during the relocation of Loyalists after the American Revolution. What developed was a regionalized form of slavery that was sustained for over a century, during which an estimated 500 Africans were held as chattel. Canadian historians have not previously engaged in nuanced scholarly discourse on the enslavement of people of African descent in colonial Canada. Until recently, historians did not generally critique or challenge the structures of slavery, but instead often framed the imposed condition as a benign institution and an accepted fact of life. By and large, enslaved Africans have been treated merely as objects rather than the main subjects of inquiry, which effectively, as Michel-Rolph Trouillot’s (1995) theorizes, silences the past, and by extension the experiences of enslaved Africans in Canada––whose history is glaringly absent from the production of historical and dominant Canadian narratives.
My doctoral research, One Too Many: The Enslavement of African People in Early Ontario, 1760 – 1834, draws on Black Digital Humanities (BDH) as method to centre enslaved people as historical subjects and uncovers their lives. In this presentation, I will explicate how this methodological approach facilitated my examination of enslavement of Africans in Canada. Firstly, I will highlight my use of BDH to create an open-access database as a repository for my archival findings to identity the enslaved to provide as comprehensive a census as possible. Secondly, I will explicate my approach of employing BDH to critically guide the presentation of quantitative data on enslaved people, ensuring keen attention is paid to the human dimensions of chattel slavery in the exploration of the world of enslaved men, women, and children. In so doing, this work intentionally disrupts the silences of the history of racial enslavement and destabilizes the fragmentation of enslaved Africans that is persistent in colonial archival practices.
Virtual Session 8: Digital Art and Architecture
Digital Humanities, Iconography and Visual Culture
Harriet Sonne de Torrens (University of Toronto Mississauga)
Miguel A. Torrens (University of Toronto)
The Baptisteria Sacra Index (BSI) is an on-going digital humanities research project that documents baptismal fonts from the Early Christian to the seventeenth century. The BSI database was designed to record iconographical information and provide compositional, narrative and semantic structures of the motifs and images identified on these liturgical vessels. This permits researchers to preview the full pictorial programs prior to visiting these sites.
In order to ensure future interoperability with other projects, metadata from the Getty AAT and the Iconclass Classification Scheme has been utilized and modified when documenting fonts made by indigenous communities (Mexico, South America, Asia) which were ornamented with non-Christian motifs.
The historical development of iconography and iconology are the foundations upon which historians analysis visual data. However, the approaches to iconography in the digital humanities today varies with little concern about sustaining digital research. This paper presents information about the tools utilized in the image analysis, the pros and cons, as well as, the other metadata collected which is required to reconstruct the full pictorial programs ornamenting these liturgical vessels for the long-term sustainability of this research project. The paper will focus on the extraction of social and religious biases and examples of how such imagery is documented in iconographical schema.
Exploring Cultural Constructions: Three multi-phase three-dimensional models of Late Bronze Age architecture on Crete
Tia Sager (University of Toronto)
The built environment is one of the most complex forms of evidence that archaeologists encounter and excavate in the field. Yet, the built environment has arguably the greatest potential to inform us about ancient society and daily life. In prehistoric and protohistoric periods from which historical records do not survive, the importance of the built environment is all the more exaggerated, as we rely heavily on architectural remains and material culture to understand life in the ancient world.
During the Final Palatial and Postpalatial periods of the Late Bronze Age on Crete (ca. 1450-1200 BCE), various different kinds of built environments exist in tandem on the island. Architecture dating to this period ranges from new constructions to reused and modified earlier built environments, which makes it difficult to categorize. Several architectural trends do emerge on the island in this period, including: the construction of large agglutinative complexes, the adoption of wider Aegean house types and architectural elements (often referred to as Mycenaean in the literature), and the reuse and rebuilding of earlier built environments. The architecture has been described as ‘hybrid,’ resulting from the mixing of earlier Minoan (Cretan) architectural traditions with Mycenaean (mainland Greek) elements (Hayden 1981). Questions of hybridity and cultural exchange are pertinent to this period, as well as questions of architectural adaptation and modification during shifting socio-economic and political conditions. Recent scholarship has questioned the pertinence of purely stylistic architectural categories for this period, and has instead sought to understand the unique contribution that the architecture of this period makes to the Late Bronze Age and subsequent periods.
This paper explores the potential of 3D modelling for understanding the complex nature of the Final Palatial and Postpalatial built environment on Crete. Three multi-phase 3D models representative of the architectural trends in this period will be presented, along with a critical assessment of the potential of 3D modelling for protohistoric architecture. This paper is based on data collected as part of my PhD dissertation research and during my tenure as a CDHI Graduate Fellow in 2021-22.
Artificial Intelligence and Architecture: Challenges and Implications
Vernelle Noel (Georgia Institute of Technology)
Hayri Dortdivanlioglu (Georgia Institute of Technology)
Architecture is at the intersection of the humanities and digital technology. We are trained to consider and employ social, economic, and cultural factors when creating spaces and the built environment. We are also trained to use digital tools and methods to design, simulate, and construct spaces, buildings, and environments that humans inhabit. Artificial intelligence and its impact on architectural practice and culture is in its infancy but is a hot topic in academic research. Scholars like Neil Leach, Matias del Campo, and Stanislas Chaillou discuss the wonders of AI and its transformation of architecture. In a recent talk, Leach, the author of “Architecture in the Age of Artificial Intelligence,” posited that AI technologies would take over design fields and replace architects. These arguments, however, neither address nor discuss the implications of digital methods and AI when it comes to engaging with and learning about the human condition. Our paper addresses this gap in knowledge with special attention to examining how we understand humanity through and in architecture when AI is implicated. Using three AI tools, we design, discuss their processes and results, and juxtapose all against Reider and Rohle’s (2012) writings on the challenges of digital methods in the humanities to reveal implications for the humanities side of architectural culture. We argue that “the lure of objectivity, power of visual evidence, black-boxing, institutional perturbations, and a quest for universalism” in AI methods can exacerbate and arrest critical thinking skills, resulting in current and future designers and students who lack agency and knowledge of social, historical, and political entanglements of the technologies they use and the humans they design for. By closely examining these challenges, this project serves to inform design scholars, educators, and practitioners of the problems we may face.
Decolonizing WikiArt: A Critical Analysis of Art Datasets in the Digital Humanities
Amanda Wasielewski (Stockholm University)
Over the past five years, the art datasets used in machine learning applications have grown exponentially larger. The WikiArt dataset has become one of the most frequently used datasets for training and testing algorithmic tools to automatically categorize artworks. WikiArt is largely constructed around the traditional canon of western art, however, and thus perpetuates western bias in the study of art history. In this dataset, European and North American art is categorized as historically-situated, individualized and progressive. “Non-western” art, on the other hand, is primitivized, marginalized and decontextualized. In other words, artworks outside the western canon are under-represented in datasets like WikiArt and, when they are represented, they are subject to a colonial gaze. This paper examines WikiArt and its applications, arguing that the biases of the dataset are transferred to the digital art historical studies that use it. Given WikiArt’s flaws, is a decolonized art dataset possible? The first challenge in creating or conceptualizing a decolonized art dataset is that projects for mass digitization and the attendant metadata creation have thus far largely been funded by and conducted by western institutions, meaning that there is a decided lack of digital data outside of the traditional western canon. Merely adding more digitized content from outside of this milieu may not, however, correct the biases of such datasets. On a deeper level, big art datasets reflect an implied narrative of art history that is western-centric and therefore needs to be dismantled as an underpinning premise. In order to decolonize art datasets, we must interrogate their foundations and construction, not merely add more datapoints.
Virtual Session 9: Organizing a Game Studies Research Network
Robert Houghton (Winchester University)
Kristina Llewellyn (University of Waterloo)
Jennifer Roberts-Smith (Brock University)
Angus Mol (Leiden University)
Gianluca Raccagni (University of Edinburgh)
Alan Miller (St. Andrews University)
Lawrence Switzky (University of Toronto Mississauga)
Ariana Ellis (University of Toronto)
Despite the cultural and economic prominence of digital games as an industry and the diversity of critical academic approaches to games in Europe and the United States, Game Studies is still in its infancy in Canada. With the acquisition and curation of the Syd Bolton Collection at UTM, the University of Toronto stands to become a research hub within this vibrant field. Our roundtable begins from the proposition that we can make the most significant contributions to Game Studies if we situate ourselves internationally, establishing collaborations and networks that will allow us to learn from established leaders in the field while mobilizing our expertise and holdings.
We have invited six leading scholars of Game Studies who are also digital humanists to discuss the challenges and opportunities of establishing game research networks between institutions, nations, and continents. Each participant will speak about a different form that multi-year research projects in Game Studies can take: a transdisciplinary design and analysis laboratory; a conference with virtual and physical components; virtual reality heritage installations; a foundation that specializes in outreach to schools and the games industry; and an oral history project that promotes intersectional social justice and incorporates virtual reality and gaming elements. Our participants will address the logistics of assembling an eclectic group of stakeholders, many of whom bring different regional and conceptual frames to collaborative initiatives; funding and sustaining the digital and physical infrastructure of a Game Studies research network; developing a Game Studies research network beyond its initial objectives; and creating access to and participation in their networks for diverse scholarly voices. Although most of our participants work on historical research and its intersection with Game Studies, we believe their insights will benefit humanists from other disciplines as well.
Virtual Session 10: Notes from the Trans- Feminist Queer Digital Praxis Workshop: Heavy Processing at the Digital Research Ethics Collaboratory & the Cabaret Commons
Presenters: Jordan Arsenault, Itza Gutiérrez & Miriam Ginestier, Christine Tran (University of Toronto), Naveen Minai (University of Toronto), Jessica Caporusso (York University), Stephen Lawson, and Jermaine Williams
Respondents: Carina Guzmán (University of Toronto), Arun Jacob (University of Toronto), Alex Tigchelaar (Concordia University), and Jack Gieseking (University of Kentucky)
The Trans-Feminist Queer Digital Praxes Workshop (TFQ DPW) is both a collective of, and a space for, trans- feminist queer activists, artists, audiences, writers, and researchers. Anchored in trans- feminist Indigenous queer of color and critical disability ethics and praxes of reciprocity and responsibility, TFQ DPW works on digital phenomena as forms and spaces of potential (and potential problems) for multi-scalar multi-disciplinary works-in-progress through collaboration and community. Our two current projects are the Digital Research Ethics Collaboratory (DREC) and Cabaret Commons. DREC is dedicated to building reciprocal, accountable, non-extractive, non-dispossessive practices and values for research in and on digital environments, and publishing short essays, conversations and experiments on these themes. The Cabaret Commons is a gathering space for TFQ artists, activists, audiences, and scholars to think, co-create, play, and share their work in multiple forms and formats.
The presentations in this roundtable will feature work by contributors to these two digital research environments – on dyke-queer digital research methods (Cowan & Rault), virtual/pandemic cabaret praxes (Arsenault), collaborative CMS design (Willams), onlining translocal drag politics and aesthetics (Lawson), anticolonial digital pedagogy (Minai & Caporusso), online performance (as) scholarship (Tran), and building a dyke-queer digital archival exhibition, Swaggering Resonance (Gutiérrez & Ginestier) – followed by an open discussion with additional collaborators and contributors who will also be in attendance at the conference.
Virtual Session 11: Towards Non-Imperial Historical Ontologies
Natalie Rothman (University of Toronto Scarborough)
Adrien Zakar (University of Toronto)
Nick Field (University of Toronto)
Kirsta Stapelfeldt (University of Toronto Scarborough)
Vanessa McCarthy (University of Toronto)
Erdem Idil (University of Toronto)
Qaasim Karim (University of Toronto)
Merve Tekgürler (Stanford University)
Aws Dek Albab (University of Toronto)
This panel will feature three digital projects aimed at analyzing the historical ontologies at the basis of distinct imperial spatial and bureaucratic knowledge domains. The field of historical ontology–the study of how concepts and objects gain meaning through evolving linguistic forms which materialize patterns and styles of reasoning–lends itself well to digital inquiry. Such inquiry allows knowledge structures and their attendant discursive fields and archives to be modeled and queried iteratively, using evolving methodologies and tools. At the same time, critical DH invites us to foreground questions of representation, translation, equity, accessibility, surveillance, discoverability, and knowability and to leverage digital tools not simply to critique imperialist and Eurocentric ontologies, but to recentre subaltern, racialized, Indigenous, transnational and/or otherwise non-Eurocentric and/or non-hegemonic ways of knowing as part of our historical ontology building practices. Our panel will explore some of the methodological, epistemological, and practical affordances of taking on this challenge. After introducing the three projects and some of the teams behind them, we will engage in conversation with session attendees about the many questions these projects raise individually and in relation to one another.
Virtual Session 12: Computing Words and Reading Between the Lines
Michael Gervers (University of Toronto Scarborough)
Barend Beekhuizen (University of Toronto Mississauga)
Gelila Tilahun (University of Toronto)
The DEEDS database is a digital repository of English property-transfer documents dating from the 7th to the early 14th century. At present, the repository contains approximately 45,000 deeds. In this paper, we examine the reign of King John (reigned 1199 to 1216) and the social and economic impact which the Interdict, an ecclesiastical censure imposed by the papacy during John’s reign, had on English society. We employ computational and statistical methods, such as the Latent Dirichlet Allocation (LDA), to uncover the temporal pattern of change in the latent topics, or themes, derived from these records documenting property transfer. Having identified the keywords which characterize the latent topics, we investigate the temporal patterns of change in the contextual usage and meaning of the keywords. This investigation is done using network analysis where we analyze the temporal pattern of change among the communities of co-occurring words generated by the keywords. In addition, we measure the strength of relationships (similarities) among the records of property exchange and, using network analysis, we identify the most influential documents at each point in time. We present a qualitative and quantitative analysis on the nature of the identified influential documents. The outcome is expected to reflect the motivations for donating, selling, renting and exchanging property and property rights at a time when social and economic reaction to change is otherwise entirely absent from the historical record. When charted through the techniques of topic modeling, it is clear that John’s reign was a major watershed in English history; one which saw the status quo change abruptly and definitively, leading to the greatest game-changer of them all: the Magna Carta of 1215.
CONCURRENT SESSIONS 4:00-5:30
Hidden Collapsible Trick. Read Body.
Virtual Session 13: Reading Digital Humanities Projects
Reading groups bring together individuals on an intellectual journey in a safe space. While there might be a political or social bent to certain reading groups, they are often designed to expose eager readers to texts they may not have encountered before or considered as to-be-read titles. Reading groups, and their book club counterpart, encourage participants to engage with each other’s identities in ways that can produce new forms of understanding. Reading groups are also predicated on accessibility and sustainability — are the texts readily obtainable, and can readers keep them for extended periods of time? And, finally, reading groups often adopt a democratic approach in which ideas can be exchanged without unproductive criticism.
In this spirit of shared and innovative learning, we propose a reading group roundtable that centers several recent digital humanities projects as our texts. These projects preserve experiences long occluded by dominant narratives of whiteness and conformity. Digital humanities is a transdisciplinary and transformative field that crosses scholarly boundaries in important, accessible, and innovative ways. Digital humanities also allows for an alternative methodological approach to human experience, particularly useful now in the midst of our twenty-first century pandemic. By foregrounding specific digital humanities projects as reading group texts, we will explore topics and themes related to the wider Global South. With close reading and discussion, these projects cross temporal and geographic divides — part of what makes digital humanities so expansive — to explore immigration, migration, incarceration, community, revolt, identity, belonging, climate change, and other hemispheric crises. Each selected digital humanities text employs anti-racist, anti-colonial practices that build community and circulate knowledge of the past and present to broader audiences. Our digital humanities reading group will explore the boundaries of textual authority, organization, and accessibility to create new spaces for collective analysis and engagement.
Virtual Session 14: Critical Digital Resistance
Emptied Faces: In Search of an Algorithmic Punctum
Stefka Hristova (Michigan Technological University)
In his seminal work Camera Lucida, Roland Barthes wrote that in photographic portraits “[t]he air of a face is unanalyzable.” This argument connects to the larger theory of the photographic punctum, a laceration of time that signals the existence of a subject and forecasts its death. The punctum of the traditional portrait quickly became complicated as portraiture fueled composite portraiture linked to human typologies as exemplified by the work of Galton, Bertillon, and Lombroso. This practice of combining and reconfiguring faces has found new currency in a contemporary algorithmic culture where human faces are recorded, dissected, and recombined into seamless deep fake faces by what Deleuze and Guattari call “faciality machines.” This paper traces the articulation of faces in predictive algorithms through an investigation of the UTKFace data set. Further, it analyzes the raise of deep fake portraits through an engagement with Philip Wang’s This Person Does Not Exist and Mitra Azar’s DoppelGANger projects. This harnessing of portraits and therefore of human faces as a raw material has been challenged in a counter project titled This Person Exists, which exposes the real people behind Wang’s project. This work brings back notions of personhood and humanity by revealing the original photographs as well as their authors and subjects and points to the ways in which algorithms feed on and erase humanity. I situate two additional sites of resistance to the decomposition of the human face: namely Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of “unknown tracts” and Barthes’ notion of the photographic punctum.
Queer Hashtag Activism in India: Digital Storytelling and Networked Empathy on Social Media–
Narayanamoorthy Nanditha (York University)
In this research, I broadly investigate the role that social media platforms play in centering the voices of the queer digital subaltern in India and among the Indian diaspora in Canada. I combine textual and visual analysis of tweets and Instagram posts surrounding the protest hashtag, #Section377, the Indian LGBTQIA+ movement for the decriminalization of homosexuality. Using critical digital humanities, and queer frameworks as well as a social justice praxis, I provide evidence that digital platforms do indeed create safe spaces for the congregation, interaction, and expression of identity, and help forge protest imaginaries of solidarity and resistance through the construction of subaltern counterpublic spaces. Ultimately, I investigate how members of the marginalized queer community in India employ social media platforms in the: (1) production of gender identity at both the collective and the personal level, (2) construction of networks of empathy and support online, and (3) formation of bonds of diasporic solidarity.
In order to understand how gender identity is performed, I examine data in the form of textual and visual narratives of ‘coming-out’ generated by members of the LGBTQIA+ community on social media platforms through the use of protest hashtag #Section377. I collect and filter 7000 tweets through Twitter Web API between August 1st, 2017, and August 31st, 2019 from India and Canada surrounding #Section377. I conduct a qualitative deductive coding analysis where I manually categorize all tweets and Instagram posts according to the specific criteria I designed. Using this qualitative distant reading, I investigate the larger patterns of community building, networked empathy, and bonds of friendship for the movement for queer emancipation in the country. In addition, I also conduct a close reading of all representative tweets using textual and visual analysis of tweets, photographs, artwork, and memes.
Digital humanities and queer frameworks forge the means to dismantle and recentre the foundations of colonial knowledge, the field of hashtag activism has adapted a decolonial praxis in the Digital Humanities. My research creates a platform to acknowledge, visibilize, and challenge histories of colonialism, heteropatriarchy, and oppressions in relation to queer activism online; it marks a point of destabilization of power and rupture for queer Indians, and both challenges masculine and homophobic power structures and helps re-imagine identity politics through digital storytelling and visual activism.
Documenting Harms through the YEG Police Violence Archive Project
Giovanna Rosal (Carleton University)
Jereme Wilson (University of Alberta)
Kenzie Gordon (University of Alberta)
The YEG Police Violence Archive was started in 2020 in response to the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement and the imperative for data around police violence in Canada. Since going live, the project team has faced the challenges of archiving ongoing, traumatic incidents in an ethical way As a community-led archiving project, we have worked from the outset to integrate values like anti-racist and decolonial praxis into the practical concerns of building a publicly accessible database of police violence. In this presentation, we will share how we drew on the work of groups like Berkeley Copwatch to build a highly contextualized Omeka S archive, developed a custom ontology to capture the realities of police violence, and built a team of volunteer archivists. We will reflect on some of the legal obstacles to publicly documenting police violence and the processes of community engagement that aim to maintain the project’s accountability to survivors.
We consider the emancipatory potential of archives as spaces that call attention to the extent of police violence. Following Aguayo et al (2018) we believe that archives hold capacity for social change, and the process of documenting police violence not only creates a record of its existence, but helps us understand all of the ways beyond physical harm that police enact violence on our communities. Lee (2021) notes that “Those of us who aim to abolish deadly policing systems need both long memories and capacious imaginations. As the state and its institutions attempt to absorb, distort, and soften critiques of police violence, counterarchives… work to disallow histories of resistance from being erased or forgotten.” Our archiving praxis hopes to commemorate and contribute to those histories of resistance, and substantiate an alternative narrative to the widely-held perception that state-perpetrated, racialized police violence is not a problem in Canada.
Border[lands] Archives: Revising the Past, Reinscribing the Present
Maira E. Alvarez (Arizona State University)
There are various debates with regard to the concept of the archive, but what is at its core is knowledge and how those who have access conceptualize, organize, approach and control it. Philosopher Jacques Derrida on Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression argues, “[T]here is no political power without control of the archive, if not memory. Effective democratization can always be measured by this essential criterion: the participation in and access to the archive, its constitution, and its interpretation” (11). Thomas Richards, in The Imperial Archive: Knowledge and the Fantasy of Empire, indicates that the creation of the fantasy of imperial archive[s] is presented as a mode to control the production of knowledge of the territories overseen and documented under the belief of “a universal and essential from of knowledge” (6-7). Considering this, Borderlands Archives Cartography (BAC), a transnational digital archive serves to contest the colonial cultural record. Against political discourse of a border wall, in a region where prejudice predominates and local communities continue to be marginalized and erased, BAC presents a shared transborder archive by conflating nineteenth and twentieth century newspaper records comprising the Mexico-US border. As borders are in constant transition in political, cultural, historical, and geographic discourses, current and past political rhetoric has displayed the geographical and ideological border between Mexico and the US as a threat. As founder of BAC, this research resulted in new ways of thinking and understanding colonial violence within the analog and digital cultural records that has long silence the production of knowledge by communities of color. Limitations to the cultural records contribute to educational inequities, and the absences of representation fuels stereotyping, stigmatization and marginalization against people of color. This is an effort to bridge the gap and amplify the conversation on border[lands] communities ancestry and history in America.
Virtual Session 15: Text and Culture, Digitally
Race and Collective Biography: Annotative Data and Empire in Late Victorian England
Lloyd Sy (University of Virginia)
“Race and Collective Biography: Annotative Data and Empire in Late Victorian England” analyzes the discussions of race and empire, hidden or otherwise, in Women Novelists of Queen Victoria’s Reign: A Book of Appreciations (1897). Commissioned by the London publishers Hurst and Blackett for Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, the book employed different authors for each of its nine chapters, which come together to provide a panoply of women writers to represent the Victorian era. While some critics have considered the book as an early work of feminist criticism, it also provides a fascinating commentary on the late Victorian conception of Empire, nationalism, and race. This talk will speak to some of those concerns, asking how a prosopography represented race and Empire while purporting to encapsulate the Victorian era through the authorship of women.
In order to discuss the book’s thematic representations, my talk will draw on data out of the Biographical Elements and Structure Schema (BESS), developed as part of the Collective Biographies of Women (CBW) project at the University of Virginia. Using a controlled vocabulary of terms, BESS seeks to identify key concepts, themes, descriptions, and events that persist across books, authors, and eras. The team at CBW has produced a complete BESS markup of Women Novelists of Queen Victoria’s Reign. By finding moments where BESS identifies annotations related to race, Empire, and national character, and using BESS to showing what discussions are concurrent to those annotations, I draw attention to the contexts of the book’s discourse surrounding race. By focusing the discussion of race through this methodology, I hope to consider the intersection of the British Empire, late Victorian biography, and the potential of using data to draw connections between disparate subjects.
The Renegades and the Righteous: A Survey of Virtue Systems in Role Playing Video Games
Rebeca Grose (University of Alberta)
The rise of role-playing video games (RPGs) in the latter half of the twentieth century has resulted in significant questions about the morality of playing video games, especially violent ones. But what do RPGs have to say about morality, ethics, and virtues? Using Mary Flanagan and Helen Nissenbaum’s “Values at Play” methodology and drawing on Miguel Sicart’s body of work, this presentation will give an overview of explicit virtue systems in RPGs, the histories of those systems, and their implications on players and society. Starting with Origin System’s 1985 game “Ultima IV” and it’s eight virtues and ending with Owlcat Games’ “Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous,” this presentation will explore the different ways that ethics have been explicitly presented in RPGs, including virtue experience bars, binary virtue systems, and alignment charts (a la “Dungeons & Dragons”). What are the implicit and explicit messages that come from these systems and the way that points/changes are awarded? How do these messages impact women, LGBTQ+ people, and BIPOC inside and outside the gaming communities? What changes have there been in the past 35 years, or have they changed at all? This presentation will attempt to address these questions and cultivate discussion about how video games tell players what is ethical and what is not.
The Fun and the Formal: Ludo-methods in Digital Humanities Scholarship
Angus Mol (Leiden University)
Aris Politopoulos (Leiden University)
Sybille Lammes (Leiden University)
In this paper we will discuss the role and wider potential of playful methods for and in Digital Humanities research and teaching, both practically and conceptually. While games and other playful media are studied in the Digital Humanities, we rarely discuss how play and other types of fun feature into Digital Humanities scholarship itself. Yet as a fun and interactive discipline that is also embedded in the formalist efficiency of computing paradigms, we feel the Digital Humanities are uniquely situated to show how play is an integral, fruitful part of our methodologies. Indeed, the Digital Humanities can be a leading space in which to explore, develop, and fine-tune what we call ludo-methods.
We will do so by acknowledging the play in our own practice, as media, heritage and Digital Humanities scholars. In particular, we will highlight three different modes of play from our recent collaborations, most of which are centered around present experiences of the past: playing ancient board games in the present (The Past at Play Project), sharing historical knowledge through live-streaming games (The Streaming the Past project), and making play out of the past (a cornerstone of several of the courses we teach). In our paper, we will share the recipes for these playful endeavors as well as their, sometimes unexpected, challenges and successes. Finally, tracing back to work by Feyerabend, Sutton-Smith, Haraway and others, we will frame play from something that is an ‘unproductive’, unintended side aspect of DH to an analog and digital mode of knowing, understanding, and sharing couched in relations of attention, commitment, and care between human and non-human players.
Transcultural Heritage and the Crowd: Dante Today
Elizabeth Coggeshall (Florida State University)
Departing from the enigmatic 2006 Chinese oil-painting-turned-viral-sensation Discussing the Divine Comedy with Dante, my contribution will present the theoretical orientation of the editorial team at Dante Today, a crowdsourced but curated digital archive that catalogs references to Dante and his works across 20th- and 21st-century transglobal cultures. I will demonstrate the richness of the archive’s transglobal holdings, with a particular focus on voices from the Global South. The Dante Today holdings collectively showcase the ways in which the Divine Comedy is translated, appropriated, and remixed, often in terms that traditionalists would perceive as “violations” of the original text and its meanings, but which are, in fact, quite in the spirit of the poem’s invitation to critical reflection on the self and one’s political, social, and spiritual positionalities.
In addition to showcasing the ways that the archive means to capture and catalog the transglobal reach of Dante’s works, I will also discuss the advantages and the pitfalls of our choice of crowdsourcing as the documentary mechanism behind collection development. Although crowdsourcing aspires to democratize so-called “participatory heritage” projects such as ours, outsourcing collection development to the “crowd” has in some ways replicated the Eurocentric bias that Dante’s works are often accused of perpetuating. In my talk I will discuss how the Dante Today editorial team aims to use targeted curation efforts to platform voices that are currently underrepresented in the archive. I will suggest that the decision to crowdsource threatens to create a structural imbalance in collection building, which our future initiatives hope to remedy.
The Strip Club Segregation Index: A Digital Sociology of the Contemporary Sexual Commerce Landscape
Melissa Brown (Santa Clara University)
Researchers argue that ICTS provides various affordances to sex workers in the digital era. These include additional business or marketing opportunities, more security, autonomy, and higher pay. However, existing literature focuses on young white women working in specialized sex work areas for a white male clientele. Therefore, many uncertainties remain concerning the internet’s benefits and drawbacks for sex workers of color. In this research, I integrate mobile internet theories and Black feminist thought to explain how Black women sex workers negotiate controlling images of Black women’s sexuality on Instagram. This study’s broad research questions about embodiment and erotic labor are: 1) How, if at all, do controlling images of Black women originate online? In what ways does the racial-sexual hierarchy of worthiness and desirability online depend on power dynamics? 3) What sexual politics do Black women exotic dancers employ to negotiate controlling pictures on social networking sites?
In this paper, I analyze the spatial politics of contemporary sex work using demonic grounds and mobile interface theory. I utilized data from 67 of 83 performers in a larger Instagram sample for content analysis and nonparticipant observation. They tagged themselves in 74 different American strip clubs. A macrostructural approach to earlier qualitative research on segregation in the strip club sector. My study shows that the environment of sexual trade for Black women has Racial and economic discrimination still defines contemporary sexual commerce. Black women exotic dancers now lack access to Black entertainment and culture. The road infrastructure of each city acts as a physical barrier between sex industry public locations and the larger community. Local governments use zoning and licensing restrictions to keep these clubs out of major entertainment districts. Findings also reveal how modern Black women in the exotic dance industry work inside segregated surroundings to attract non-White clientele.
Virtual Session 16: Geography, Media, and Queer Community Formation
Chair: Margaret Galvan (University of Florida)
Cameron Blevins (University of Colorado Denver)
Marika Cifor (University of Washington)
Jen Jack Gieseking (University of Kentucky)
Annelise Heinz (University of Oregon)
Amanda Regan (Clemson University)
Our panel examines the history and geography of how queer communities have used different forms of media to build long-distance connections over the past six decades. Amanda Regan maps the locations of thousands of bars, bathhouses, cinemas, and other entries contained in the Damron Guides, a popular travel guide aimed at gay men founded in the early 1960s. Cameron Blevins and Annelise Heinz apply a similar methodology to map businesses, classifieds, and directories posted in Lesbian Connection, a bimonthly magazine aimed at a lesbian feminist readership during the 1970s and 1980s. Marika Cifor and Jack Gieseking extend our panel to the twenty-first century, examining the @TheAIDSMemorial Instagram account and the way its social media posts frame the experience of AIDS space-time through its memorialization of “stories of love, loss and remembrance.”
These three modes of communication – travel guides, magazines, and Instagram – offer important case studies in the shifting role that media has played for different queer groups over time. Analyzing the geography embedded in these types of media reveals insights into how gay men, lesbian feminists, and those affected by HIV/AIDS have built communities beyond a local scale. In addition to our thematic contributions to the history and geography of these groups, our panel will discuss some of the larger methodological and ethical issues in queer digital humanities and critical data studies: Who was excluded from these examples of queer community formation and how should researchers account for these erasures? How should researchers create and analyze datasets based on source material and historical groups that inherently resist the “tidiness” of modern data structures and taxonomies?
Virtual Session 17: Citationality and Journalism: Investigating Sourcing with MediaCAT and Other Online Datasets
Alejandro Paz (University of Toronto Scarborough)
Kirsta Stapelfeldt (University of Toronto Scarborough)
Shengsong Xu (University of Toronto Scarborough)
A pressing concern today for both scholars and broader publics is the reliability and sources of knowledge. In scholarly circles, the politics of citationality is now a broad issue for critical scholars of all disciplines—and certainly for critical digital humanities. For broader publics, the question comes up in multiple arenas, from concerns about mis- and disinformation to debates about narrative framings and their silences, to desires for expanding the kinds of voices that take center stage. In journalism, such debates also involve hotly-contested questions about the meaning of objectivity and independence, and how especially racialized or dissenting viewpoints have traditionally been left out, either as journalists’ sources or as journalists themselves.
This panel approaches these questions through the lens of journalism and its citationality, or, its use of sources. The panel also addresses the methodology of creating or using existing datasets with which to study these questions. All speakers have collaborated on the development of a digital tool called “MediaCAT,” which is an open-source web and Twitter crawler designed to collect datasets that allow for the analysis of sourcing in contemporary (online) journalism. Our panel will consist of papers that discuss results of our crawls, or consider frequent issues with crawling to create relevant datasets, or explore the possibility of using other open-source datasets or tools to gather data. We will: demonstrate how MediaCAT works; discuss the use of MediaCAT to show how Israeli journalistic sources are used differently by New York Times reporting than Palestinian sources; consider a few other tools or existing datasets to study citationality.
Virtual Session 18: DH Tools for Decolonial Engagements: Recovery, Multilingualism, and Archival Activism
Nazua Idris (Washington State University)
Mohammad Kasifur Rahman (University of Texas at Dallas)
Qazi Arka Rahman (West Virginia University)
Dinalo Chakma (University of Florida)
The continuing hegemonic influence of Anglo-American culture, language, ideology, and epistemology has prompted digital humanities scholars and practitioners to find new ways of using digital tools and platforms to decolonize both print-based and digital knowledge. Emphasizing the potential of the digital tools and platforms in designing such projects, Roopika Risam calls for using digital tools to i) deconstruct Western epistemological structures, ii) analyze the patterns of data lost, hidden, or silenced by those structures, iii) recover and re-centralize marginalized narratives in history, and iv) create counter-narratives that challenge the existing forms of misrepresentation (82-83). Similarly, Kim Gallon also acknowledges the decolonial potential of digital tools and defines digital platforms and tools as “technology of recovery” that digital humanities scholars can use to restore humanity that is “lost and stolen through systemic global racialization” (44). This panel features three South Asian graduate scholars whose papers respond to this call for decoloniality in digital humanities as these scholars critically engage with the ways DH tools and platforms can be utilized for designing recovery projects, representing multilingualism, and doing activist-oriented archival work. The first paper presents a scholarly digital edition of Thayer’s 1854 speech built on Scalar and argues how building such an archival project can challenge the gaps in abolitionist history. The second paper challenges the hegemony of the English language in the scholarly and pedagogical practices in digital humanities and illustrates the ways DH scholars and practitioners can use digital projects to re-centralize the literatures and cultures of the non-English speaking communities. The third paper advocates for using digital humanities tools and methods in designing activist-oriented archival work to give voice to historically marginalized communities. Thus, these papers engage with the themes of Critical Digital Humanities Conference 2022 by showcasing DH projects that use technology for academic, scholarly, and socio-political transformations.
IN-PERSON PLENARY 5:45-7:15
Lisa Nakamura (University of Michigan)
SATURDAY, 1 OCTOBER
CONCURRENT SESSIONS 9:00-10:30
Hidden Collapsible Trick: Read Body.
In-Person Session 1: Digital Literary Analysis
Chair: Michael Sinatra (Université de Montréal)
Towards Tolkien Studies with Computational Literary Analysis
Christina Nguyen (University of Toronto)
Since the advent of the term “distant reading” (as opposed to traditional “close reading”) two decades ago, we have seen computational literary analysis give rise to “mixed-method[s] reading” in an attempt to balance out the weaknesses that pure distant reading brings. Computational literary analysis has been spreading across the major fields of literary analysis, including Shakespeare studies and Jane Austen studies, yet there is hardly a peep about it being used for Tolkien studies. I make the case for such research to be done, drawing examples from other fields of computational literary analysis to explain what techniques could be useful here, and why. I describe here the qualities of Tolkien’s fictional works that are ripe for computational literary analysis, and identify potential sources of error and argue for open-source data, in an attempt to encourage methodological transparency and to foster communication between those who prefer close reading and those who prefer distant reading.
“Computational literary analysis” (CLA) is any literary analysis that includes computation in the methodology. “Distant reading” (DR) is computational reading without the benefits that close reading brings: that is, it tends to ignore or forget about context and authorial intent. “Mixed-method reading” (MMR), also called “parallax reading,” is the happy mix of close and distant reading. It brings the benefits of close reading, like contextual knowledge, to merge with the benefits of distant reading, like the ability to study large amounts of texts at once for a small, particular detail.
Recovering Susan Ferrier and Other Forgotten Writers with Wikidata
Caroline Winter (University of Victoria)
Susan Edmonstone Ferrier was one of the most popular Scottish authors of the early nineteenth century. Today, though, she and her three novels are virtually forgotten, in spite of efforts by writer Val McDermid and the National Library of Scotland to resurrect Ferrier’s reputation as “the Scottish Jane Austen.” This paper explores the potential of Wikidata—an open, community-led infrastructure for linked open data—for recovering forgotten writers such as Ferrier by making them discoverable in the Semantic Web. Building on decades of scholarship recuperating Romantic-era women writers, recent scholarship exploring the possibilities of Wikidata for libraries and archives, and Alan Liu’s call for digital humanities to critically examine the infrastructures that undergird our work, this paper argues that Wikidata is an effective tool for giving forgotten writers new life in the digital age.
Commercial pragmatism in mass digitization: The death and afterlives of Microsoft Live Search Books
Lawrence Evalyn (University of Toronto)
Today, Google Books’ corpus of more than 40 million books is almost synonymous with commercial mass digitization, but when it first began, it had a rival: Microsoft. Microsoft shuttered its book-digitization programs in 2008 so they could focus on tailoring their search engine to users with “high commercial intent,” namely, online shoppers, not readers. Researching mass digitization through the lens of commercial viability reveals that commercial entities often market their initiatives by emphasizing access to books as a social good, but if these idealistic values come into conflict with instrumentalist ideas of “pragmatism,” the pragmatism wins. But what happens to these aborted projects when they are determined to not be commercially viable? Microsoft partnered with major libraries like Yale’s and the British Library to scan more than 750,000 books before it closed down. Half those books are currently in the Internet Archive. This paper will historicize Microsoft’s early book-scanning, explore the labour conditions under which the book images were produced, and explain where the images are (or aren’t) in use today. In doing so, I will examine how “public” digital text resources are impacted by the commercial incentives of corporations that scan books. Much of the internet’s infrastructure is commercial, and not always in obvious ways: to understand the shape of the tools we use, we must critically examine the material origins of digital resources.
The Social Fantasy of VR: Empathy, the Metaverse, and the Technology of Fiction
Jessica Wolfe (Humber College)
This paper will interrogate how contemporary arguments for the social value of modern virtual reality (VR) have traveled through two novels, Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One (2011) and Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968). Conversations about virtual reality tend to focus on its “reality”–see for example the hype surrounding the “metaverse” as an arena for human interaction–and they don’t always interrogate its “virtual” character, which it inherits in part from the idea of fiction. As a result, scholars have yet to fully historicize contemporary VR in relation to fiction, another genre that offers a simulation of the real. This paper will contribute to this effort. Ready Player One is frequently cited as an inspiration for the increasing popularity of virtual reality over the last decade and for Mark Zuckerberg’s interest in promoting the metaverse as an inhabitable version of Facebook’s landscape of corporate social control. Similarly, contemporary proponents of VR have often justified the decadence of the expensive, inaccessible, and isolating technology of the VR headset through the idea that virtual reality offers an “empathy machine,” and is therefore socially valuable. The concept of VR as an empathy machine has been both widely adopted and critiqued since its emergence in 2015. Some reference Roger Ebert as having coined the phrase “empathy machine,” but Ebert’s 2005 use of the term to describe the power of cinema was likely in reference to Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, in which virtual reality “empathy boxes” open access to other characters’ world views. As billionaires today work to sell digital social environments using idealism about VR as a catalyst, this paper will interrogate the literary histories on which their fantasies have been built.
Neo-Structuralism and Subjectivity in Sentiment Analysis
James Dobson (Dartmouth College)
When computer scientist Bing Liu introduced sentiment analysis (Liu 2010) to the broader public, his twin concerns were objectivity and sentiment. Liu’s objects were mostly consumer reviews and his alternate name for sentiment analysis, opinion mining, registers his attention to not just the problem of determining the relative positivity or negativity of a segment of text (what he would refer to as its orientation) but the degree to which this emotional statement was an expression of “personal feelings or beliefs” or “factual information about the world.” This history is reflected in the incorporation and methods of sentiment analysis in several packages, including TextBlob, which continues to return a tuple of polarity and subjectivity scores for each text object. Subjectivity scores were essential to Liu’s mode of analysis: to distinguish between a heated review of a product or experience and a measure assessment requires an understanding of how opinion has been registered in the affective states expressed by a review.
When sentiment analysis was picked up by humanities researchers and especially by those in literary studies, the notion that a sentiment might be objective or subjective was mostly put aside—and for good reason, after all, within the humanities there would be serious objections to rigidly defined distinctions between statements of fact and those of personal feeling. Yet subjectivity is central, both in theoretical and practical concerns, to sentiment. My goal with this paper is not to focus on degree to which a statement is factual or not but another more pressing concern with sentiment analysis: the subjectivity involved in the determination of sentiment itself. The various sentiment lexicons that have been created are all subject to historicization (Dobson 2019) as they are records of responses to terms within a particular historical milieu. This is visible in some of key elements identified by Liu’s schema and model: not only do our superlative forms change over time (i.e., “bestest,” “the GOAT,” etc) but comparative sentiments themselves assume that the objects themselves are generally coeval. The same historicity is found in machine learning approaches that use tagged samples rather than scored responses to decontextualized words, although it is the tagging of the training samples rather than the scores themselves that require historicization. When deployed in a humanities context, the schemas used in sentiment analysis, from the binary positive/negative lexicons to the multiple categories of the NRC Word-Emotion Association Lexicon bring with them a form of neo-structuralism that might not align with contemporary understandings of discourse. These and other popular lexicons also contain many problematic and subjective evaluations. The NRC lexicon classes “blackness” to the category of “sadness.” The term “lesbian” also lands in “sadness” but is also found in “disgust.” The term “gay” is rated at 4.44, below the median, with the labMT lexicon. The methods used in contemporary sentiment analysis, for example the averaging of Amazon Mechanical Turk-scored terms in the labMT lexicon (Reagan 2016), also introduce another dimension of subjectivity in the form of discounting minority or idiolectal use of language. While the analysis of historical texts using present sentiment warps the semantic field through ahistoric decontextualization, even an attempt to synchronically pair text and lexicon will result in the creation of an impossible center of culture that is neither neutral nor objective. My paper builds on these observations to call for a return to questions of subjectivity by literary scholars using computational methods by historicizing and theorizing the methods by which we evaluate sentiment.
In-Person Session 2: Critical Making and Practice in/with Body and Environment
Chair: Lai-Tze Fan (Critical Media Lab, University of Waterloo)
What’s the Carbon Footprint of the Internet? Methodological Tensions and Alternative Approaches to the Climate Impacts of ICT
Anne Pasek (Trent University)
Nicole Starosielski (New York University)
Hunter Vaughan (Cambridge University)
The climate impacts of the information and communications technologies (ICT) sector is a topic of growing public and industry concern, though attempts to quantify its carbon footprint have produced contradictory results. Some studies argue that ICT’s global carbon footprint is set to rise dramatically in coming years, requiring urgent regulation and sectoral degrowth. Others argue that ICT’s growth is largely decoupled from its carbon emissions, and so provides a valuable climate solution and model for other industries. This paper provides a survey of these debates, drawing on over 50 scientific and industry publications seeking to shape political responses to the sector. We argue that, due to data frictions and incommensurate study designs, the question is likely to remain irresolvable at the global scale. We present six key methodological factors that have led to this impasse: fraught access to industry data, bottom-up vs. top-down assessments, system boundaries, geographic averaging, functional units, and energy efficiencies. In response, we propose an alternative approach that seeks to frame the question in more usefully spatial and situated terms: a relational accounting that demarcates particular relationships between elements-—geographic, technical, and social—-within broader ICT infrastructures. Illustrating this model with one of the global Internet’s most overlooked components-—subsea telecommunication cables-—we propose that ICT futures might be best charted not only in terms of quantified total energy use, but in focusing on the geographical and technical parts of the network that are the least carbon-intensive, and which can therefore provide opportunities for both carbon reductions and a renewed infrastructural politics.
Digital Interactive Game: Stories of Four Historical Water Tanks of Karur, South India
Shanmugapriya T (University of Toronto)
Digital Humanities opens up numerous ways to conduct research and communicate the research findings for critical thinking and public engagement. In such a case, how can we deploy the critical making of digital humanities to create a meaningful intervention in the ongoing environmental crisis and climate change? In this paper, I propose to deploy digital interactive game as a digital humanities method to exhibit the environmental issues from the global south. Many water tanks are vulnerable to climate change and man-made disaster in Karur which is part of the South Indian region of Coimbatore. Many water tanks are dry, and many are either encroached and replaced by both government and private buildings, and farms. Then water scarcity becomes a common and regular story of the region. For this study, I particularly focus on four historical tanks: Panjapatti tank, Udayampatti tank, Velliyanani tank and Mavuthur tank. Of these historical tanks, the Panjapatti tank has been dry for 17 years and 1300 years old Velliyanani tank also has been dry for many years. I have collected rain data of the region from British colonial to present, and also collected oral testimonies about these tanks which indeed have some intriguing stories about the tanks. I combine all the scientific data and oral stories and information and employ them as narrative elements of the game in both Tamil (region’s language) and English languages. This interactive game will be made open access and circulated to schools and colleges in Karur and Coimbatore. Overall, the aim of this project is to create cognizance about climate change and man-made disasters and its impacts.
The Dark Side of Digital Heritage: Ethics, Carbon Literacy and Sustainability in Digital Practice
Lorna-Jane Richardson (University of East Anglia)
Digital heritage as practice is rarely included in conversations about climate change or social justice which impact the wider field of cultural heritage. This paper provides an overview of some of the growing and complex environmental and ethical concerns that might be relevant to management, production and archiving of digital heritage projects – and the digital humanities more broadly. This review will help to identify gaps in the understanding of the hidden, horrific environmental and human costs involved in the production of digital devices and equipment, e-waste, and the twenty first century profusion of data and devices. This work challenges digital practitioners, as well as policy makers, to undertake further research, become carbon literate, and to take ethical and sustainable strategic steps to address these issues within their projects as well as the wider cultural sectors.
PLAYStrong–Mental Health and Interactive Prototypes for Embodied Self-Learning
Antje Budde (University of Toronto)
Mark Chignell (University of Toronto)
In their co-presentation Antje Budde and Mark Chignell will reflect on the process of project development for the XSeed funded research on student mental health and interactive prototypes for embodied self-learning. This is a collaboration between the Digital Dramaturgy Lab_squared affiliated with the Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies and the Interactive Media Lab based in Industrial and Mechanical Engineering Department at U of T.
Our project investigates potential use for strengthening mental health resilience among university students by employing interactive, performative interfaces based on audio-visual interactivity and movement, bio-signal based interactive performance interfaces (EEG, heart rate, facial expression) and VR interactive movement projects.
We will reflect on our activities during the first year of research including international experimental workshops introducing and testing interactive, participatory forms of psycho-physical engagement in digital and material environments working with play and game-based interfaces like digital puppetry, acting techniques, audio-visual performance interfaces and bio-data interactive performance. Major inspirations come from human factor research, Brechtian participatory learning plays, digital dramaturgy/user interface design both in performance and engineering. We consulted with student-led mental health projects in a roundtable discussion, integrated themes of mental health in course-based experimental learning projects, discussed in an international mini-symposium strategies of body-mind relationships with the Brazilian dance theatre Taanteatro Companhia, mentored work-study students and doctoral RA, participated in mental health conferences at U of T, produced publications and engaged in collaborative lab meetings between the two labs. We will use the opportunity to reflect on recent achievements but also offer ideas on how to move forward in our project development.
In-Person Session 3: Thinking Is Feeling Is Making - An Imitation Game Workshop
Chair: Michaela Pnacekova (York University)
Systems of facial expression analysis and emotion recognition are largely based on patterns and biases of their trained models. Companies and governments accept that the face is an emotional oracle — and use it in ways affecting people’s lives. The obvious problem with that assumption is that machines are ‘blind’ to many faces and many facets of non-linguistic communication. Even people make mistakes when interpreting the emotions of others (and their own), so how can we expect such undertaking from an artificial system, and why do we trust it?
The workshop aims to examine different user design strategies for the author’s research-creation project, which revolves around anthropomorphism and AI explored through emotion recognition. The activity will be designed as sort of a Turing test between the emotional AI and the participants, who will engage their hearing, taste, vision, touch and smell to induce their own memories and emotions through different tasks. These ‘stories’ then will be re-contextualized through different life experiences of non-human organisms on Earth (an octopus gives birth and then dies, a bee flies through electromagnetic fields to feed the queen, an elephant communicates through seismic vibration with their family, etc.). This exercise serves as an interrogation the emotion recognition systems to inspect the performativity of our emotions and their material construction through the apparatus of computer vision and machine learning as well as the anthropomorphic lens on AI and nature.
CONCURRENT SESSIONS 10:45-12:15
Hidden Collapsible Trick. Read Body
In-Person Session 4: Digital Pedagogies
Radical Digital Pedagogies in Rural Indian Education: Exploring Alternative Regimes of Educational Technology Use in Rural Schools
Prateeksha Tiwari (University of Vienna)
Since COVID-19, edtech has a newfound salience in policy and public discourse In India, previously instrumental or occasional use of edtech in resourceful schools has been replaced by two urgent priorities—equipping all schools with edtech infrastructure and developing exclusively digital pedagogies.
Rural education in India has long been an afterthought, finally guaranteed by the Constitution only in 2009. Rural edtech lurks in the shadow of its urban counterpart made evident by the wholesale import of edtech resources and practices from urban schools. As rural school education in India stands on the precipice of (potential) transformation, educational scholars are immediately concerned with developing community-oriented, indigenous ways of using edtech to overhaul rural education.
This transformative project invokes theoretical orientations of critical theory and decoloniality. Critical theory questions the ‘obvious’ notion that technology has a necessary place in education. The objectives of education come first, followed by carefully considered use of technology to support and enhance these objectives. Decolonial approach is pertinent as rural edtech faces a dual challenge—not only must it counter the hegemonic educational agenda set by national and international agencies; it must also challenge the uncontested application of edtech based on supposed universality of technology and “best practices” from elsewhere in the world.
We thus open the conversation with a straightforward intent—to push the raison d’être of edtech beyond facile implementation. The central question this paper seeks to answer is: what alternate possibilities can we envisage in which tech acts as the medium and catalyst for radical, rural pedagogies? We will conceptually explore these possibilities through the works of P. Sainath and Krishna Kumar, critical scholars of education and rural studies in India. The paper will contribute to the scholarly body of decolonial edtech and serve as a point of departure for informed future educational practice.
Mediating Powers in the Digitization of Traditional Artwork
Shelley Kopp (University of Western Ontario)
Art is generally considered to move directly from artist to recipient. The reality, though, is that art is never so simply encountered. The exchange spaces between artists, art piece, and witness are always filtered by something, or everything. I suggest that principal mediator is power, largely connected to factors like monetization, capitalism, politics, gender, race, religion, etc. These determine what art is made and what art is viewed, and the digitization of traditional art forms has only extended and enhanced their power.
Over the centuries, the church, conquerors, collectors, and museums, determined what would be art. More recently, the privately-owned gallery has also become the arbiter, along with critics and curators. Corporations, governments, and granting agencies also decide who gets the money, affecting how art is made and who experiences it.
The digitized space comes with broad abilities to further complicate and extend authority. The early days promised freedom and democratization. The internet, it was hoped, would allow for anyone to do anything, anywhere and anytime: it would reflect a broader demographic, a broader swath of colours, races, and genders. But it has become clear that moving online only perpetuates and expands particular forms of control over art made, conveyed, and saved. Archives, for example, have customarily enacted power by making decisions of inclusion and exclusion. The one who holds and controls the archive has, for centuries, been the one who exerts authority; information is inevitably the currency of privilege and dominance. Digitizing the archive does not change the existence of these power structures.
Through careful examination of these hegemonic systems, including the rapidly expanding use of social media platforms by artists, I propose that little has changed with the digitization of traditional art, and, indeed, things may have become more challenging for the independent artist.
Protecting Data Sovereignty in Indigenous Pedagogy and Community-led Research
Sherry Fukuzawa (University of Toronto Mississauga)
Veronica King-Jamieson (Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation)
Nicole Laliberte (University of Toronto Mississauga),
Chadwick Cowie (University of Toronto Scarborough)
The Indigenous Action Group (IAG) is a partnership between Mississaugas of Credit First Nation (MCFN) with faculty and staff at University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM) to promote local Indigenous pedagogy and community-led research (CLR) in educational institutions (Fukuzawa et al., 2020). Many educational resources developed in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action in education (#62-65) focus on core concepts and broad histories and less on local Indigenous pedagogies acknowledging the diversity and authenticity of local place-based knowledge systems (Chartrand,2012). Michi-Saagiig Nishnaabeg have been addressing this gap with outreach to multiple educational institutions in their traditional territories, but this often burdens community Elders and Knowledge Keepers. This project highlights community-engaged learning, based on etuaptmumk (Two-eyed seeing), by integrating Anishnaabemowin and specifically Michi-Saagiig Nishnaabeg axiology, epistemology, and ontologies into Westernized education (Iwama et al.,2009). We are working with the remaining five Michi-Saagiig Nishnaabeg communities (Alderville, Curve Lake, Hiawatha, Mississauga, and Scugog Island) to develop multimedia educational resources to increase educational outreach initiatives through their territories while addressing burdens on the communities for in-person speaking engagements. These educational materials are immersive online active learning experiences including artistic placemaking, local land-based educational material, and a Michi-Saagiig Nishnaabeg History Virtual Museum. All materials will be hosted on a Michi-Saagiig Nishnaabeg server as a HUB for all communities to maintain autonomy and control of how their knowledge is shared. Data sovereignty will ensure proper respect through honorariums is given for sustainability. The IAG will conduct a CLR study using a mixed methods approach to analyze the educational materials effect on university students’ academic learning, personal growth, and civic activism throughout Michi-Saagiig Nishnaabeg territories. This study contrasts with traditional Community-engaged Research (CER) methods, as communities will study their educational outreach efforts in the Academy using Indigenous research methods and ways of knowing.
The Matilda Project: An Initiative to Raise Awareness of Inequality and Gender Bias towards Women in Science
Shehroze Saharan (University of Toronto)
Shehryar Saharan (University of Toronto)
The Matilda Effect—first described by activist Matilda Gage and coined by historian Margaret W. Rossiter— is used to describe the situation of women scientists who have been ignored, forgotten, or denied credit due to sex-linked biases.
The unfortunate reality is that the Matilda Effect is still prevalent today as women are not given due credit for their scientific achievements. Our proposal, The Matilda Project, is strategically placed to address this issue. The Matilda Project involves the creation of an educational animated video and website; the video will provide a brief overview of the topic in question while the website will serve as a comprehensive collection of historical & contemporary women scientists who share one thing in common – the Matilda Effect.
The Matilda Project is intended for a wide range of audiences including the academic community, STEM students/ professionals, historians, social scientists, and digital humanists. Through the creation of The Matilda Project, our audience will have the opportunity to actively engage & learn about the life of women scientists through readings, visualizations, and videos to build knowledge & interest in the Matilda Effect. Our aim is to enable instructors to integrate The Matilda Project in-class assignments and/or discussions to teach their students about the Matilda Effect and its consequences.
Therefore – through this applied project – we hope to raise awareness of injustice that women continue to face in the field of science so that we can all become part of the long-overdue solution.
In-Person Session 5: Digital Archives
UbuWeb As (Activist) Digital Archive: Reigning In the Avant-Garde with Feminist Ethics of Care
Natalie Leduc (University of Toronto)
The digital archive UbuWeb was founded in 1996 by Kenneth Goldsmith; it now consists of “hundreds of thousands of freely downloadable avant-garde artifacts” (4). As Goldsmith notes, “by the letter of the law, the site is illegal; we openly violate copyright norms and almost never ask for permission” (4). Interestingly, UbuWeb positions itself as anti-institutional, anti-capitalist, and anti-oppressive. Goldsmith even goes as far as to say that UbuWeb’s archive “alters what is meant by avant-garde, a term saddled with legacies of patriarchy, hegemony, imperialism, colonization, and militarization” (10). However, I argue that, if anything, the archival ethics behind UbuWeb — take without asking, no matter the material— seem to enact these very legacies. As the work of Jennifer Wemigwans has shown, not all knowledge productions are meant to be shared freely and widely. Nevertheless, because I think UbuWeb is an important resource — one that I have often turned to in my own research — my paper seeks to apply Michelle Caswell and Marika Cifor’s concept of feminist ethics of care to UbuWeb, in order to both problematize UbuWeb’s position as a activist digital archive and to expound on how UbuWeb could eventually embody an anti-oppressive methodology. Caswell and Cifor argue that “an archival approach based on the feminist ethics of care replaces the abstract legal and moral obligations of archivists as liberal autonomous individuals …. with an affective responsibility to engage in radical empathy with others [texts included], seen and unseen” (42). I argue that applying Caswell and Cifor’s feminist ethics of care to UbuWeb, would allow UbuWeb to remain unattached to institutions but hold it accountable to its users, fond creators, and texts, thereby making it an equitable resource — one that instead of prioritizing free access and quantity, prioritizes ethical knowledge production and sharing.
The Internet as an Archive: Critical Fabulation as a Method for Listening to Web Silences
Aparajita Bhandari (Cornell University)
This paper demonstrates a methodological approach to researching historical web data. Many researchers have discussed the ways that dominant narratives of Internet experience privilege the experiences of certain more powerful groups, over others, thus creating systematic gaps within the Internet’s “historical record”. Additionally, computational web scraping based approaches have been criticized for their ethical and privacy concerns (Luka & Millette, 2018; Markham et al., 2018) and for foregrounding an extractive relationship with online data (Cifor et al, 2019;). In order to address these issues in this paper I argue for the use of Saidiya Hartman’s (2008, 2019) conceptualization of ‘critical fabulation’ as an approach to researching Internet data with a focus on illuminating alternative or counter web histories. This method, originally formulated as a way to counter the lack of representation of Black women in the historical archive , brings together speculative counter-narratives and deep archival research in order to trouble the line between history and imagination”(Hartman, 2008). I ground my methodological discussion in this paper within an exploration of Geocities personal web pages created between 1995-2000 accessed via the Internet Archive. By combining historical and archival research on Geocities with critical theory and fictional narrative writing I examine constructions of everyday Internet Culture in the late 90s with an emphasis on what is not represented or present in the archive , building on previous work on Geocities (Milligan, 2017; Lin et al., 2020; Mackinnon, 2022) . Through this particular case study I outline how researchers can utilize critical fabulation as a generative feminist methodological framework to explore underexplored Internet histories and experiences and disrupt normative narratives of the web.
Pages of Resistance: A DH Exhibition on Black Literacy and slavery in the African Diasporas, 1835
Bruno Véras (York University)
On January 25th, 1835 the enslaved Muslim Africans in Bahia organized one of the most important uprisings in the history of the Atlantic slavery. It resulted in the killing of many of the members of the rebellion and the latter execution and deportation of many West Africans in Brazil. In this project, use digital humanities and public history technics to engage with manuscripts taken off the dead bodies in the aftermath of the revolt. Enslaved West Africans in Brazil did not only seek physical resistance to slavery but also a spiritual one. Our study of previous manuscripts from the aftermath of Malê revolt shows that the enslaved West Africans carried amulets in which they wrote Quranic scripture from memory, learning the Arabic language and their devotional prayers. This project contributes to the public scholarship and digital humanities on the history of the Muslim Africans in the Americas, critical memory of race and the history of collective and spiritual resistance. The methodology involves translation, transcription and critical analysis of the manuscript in collaboration with international scholars based in Nigeria, Brazil and KSA. This project intends to further the understanding of the Muslim African slave population in the Brazilian port of Salvador, Bahia, through the translation of a recently discovered manuscripts from the aftermath of the 1835 Malê uprising, which were deposited in the mid 19th century in archives in France, Portugal and Brazil. This research-creation initiative is curating and developing a website and an international travelling exhibition in 5 different languages (French, English, Spanish, Portuguese and Arabic). For that, a formal partnership with Public History certificate students (York University) was developed, as well as training/ mentorship opportunities were facilitated. This exhibition aims to educate general audiences globally on literacy, community building and resistance among Muslim Africans during the transatlantic slave trade.
Presenting Privacy Black and White: Examining racialized language in historical newspapers through semi-supervised multi-lingual transfer learning
Natália da Silva Perez (University of Copenhagen)
Nadav Borenstein (University of Copenhagen)
Natacha Klein Käfer (University of Copenhagen)
The project PRIVACY BLACK & WHITE is an interdisciplinary effort to examine the role of privacy in the development of racial slavery. We employ methods both from History and from Natural Language Processing to analyze the trans-imperial nature of the discursive racialization of Europeans and Africans. Involving collaboration between seven specialists, the goal of our project is to advance the understanding of the legacies of colonialism as a shared European concern.
In this paper, we will discuss the first phase of PRIVACY BLACK & WHITE, where we focused on newspaper ads from the 18th and 19th centuries reporting on enslaved people who ran away from their enslavers. These ads (usually placed by the enslavers or their representatives and offering rewards for the recapture of the enslaved person) very frequently contained detailed descriptions of the person who escaped. Though written in derisive language that objectified the enslaved person as chattel, these descriptions are nonetheless teeming with clues about the life, family, skills, health, ethnic origin, and even desires, of those who sought their freedom by escaping.
In our presentation, we will critically discuss the development of our semi-supervised NLP models and the preliminary findings that they enabled. We will discuss challenges we encountered, paying particular attention to the potential intersection of historical and algorithmic biases in our findings.
Working or Not Working with Problematic Data: The Right to Look and the Forming of Political Subjects within Facial Databases
Aaron Tucker (York University)
When dealing with problematic datasets, can artists and/or researchers critique and show the contents of such datasets without replicating the extractive, colonial, misogynist, and/or racist practices within?
My presentation responds to this question in part by detailing my own experiences attempting to communicate and critically analyze the contents within the Multiple Encounter Dataset (MEDS) I and II to a variety of publics. The MEDS datasets are publicly available datasets composed of mugshots of deceased people distributed by the American National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Using the datasets, I initially produced visualizations of the faces within MEDS utilizing Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs). However, after presenting my research and receiving feedback from a variety of communities, I realized that the project, and my methodologies, need to be entirely rethought.
My failed initial visualizations foreground the dense vectors of power operating within the visualities of facial datasets, wherein the re-appropriating of such photos into art works and critical research are immensely fraught. Such tangling is undergirded by what Nicholas Mirzoeff calls “the right to look” which is a form of visuality that acts as a claiming of autonomy by defining and categorizing those it looks upon in order to separate individuals and populations into hierarchies; such separating prevents those categorized from cohering as political subjects while simultaneously fixing such separations as “truth” and aesthetic. The “right to look” inscribed into facial datasets, such as MEDS I and II, run the danger of flattening the lived embodied affect and experiences of those captured as facial data, regardless of how that image is reproduced or decontextualized.
In conversation with works such as Ruja Benajmin’s Race after Technology (2019) and Katherine Biber’s In Crime’s Archive (2019), my paper will explore the limitations of repurposing facial datasets and work towards a relational approach that grants dignity and equity to those whose subject positions are reproduced within such datasets, while still critiquing the production and deployment of face recognition technologies that utilize such datasets.
In-Person Session 6: Digital Dostoevsky, or the Challenges of Doing Multilingual DH
Chair: Quinn Dombrowski (Stanford University)
Kate Holland (University of Toronto)
Katherine Bowers (University of British Columbia)
Braxton Boyer (University of Toronto)
Lena Vasileva (University of Toronto)
Quinn Dombrowski (Stanford University)
Digital Dostoevsky is a computational text analysis project based at the University of Toronto that engages with Dostoevsky’s corpus using digital humanities methodologies to address formalist questions from literary history. The project relies on TEI-XML encoding of a basic corpus of Dostoevsky’s novels and an off-shoot of the project has participated over the last year in the New Languages for NLP NEH Institute at Princeton University. The roundtable will discuss questions and challenges related to the participants’ experience doing multilingual DH in a North American context. The Dostoevsky corpus is in the Russian language, but TEI and XML are anglophone in their development and the Digital Dostoevsky team has relied on anglophone trainings, tutorials, and other materials to support their learning and research of these methodologies. The tension between the Russophone corpus and the anglophone training structures has emerged in unexpected ways, and this roundtable will discuss both specific challenging cases as well as reflecting more generally on the experience of doing multilingual DH in an anglocentric DH field. Topics covered will include: a brief overview of the project; training and tutorials in an anglocentric world and particular challenges of using Russian in them; the ways we have addressed both the specificities of Russian naming systems, professions, social positions, and other realia of 19th-century Russian society in our TEI encoding; our experience trying to articulate complexities in Russian grammar to non-Russian speaking developers and librarians; and, finally, our experience as the Russian team in the New Languages for NLP Institute where we were both gratified by the materials available to us and reflected on the experiences of other institute members working with languages with even more challenges and less representation within NLP scholarship.
POSTER SESSION 1:30-3:00
Hidden Collapsible Trick. Read Body
Canadian Curriculum History Project
Michael Demone (University of Toronto)
The Canadian Curriculum History Project (CCHP) seeks to explore the curriculum history of First Nations’ representations in Canadian public school curriculum. This will include reviewing, documenting, and categorizing the depictions and representations of Indigenous peoples, cultures, and events in Canadian public school curriculum.
As Canadians begin to address and reconcile the past policies of their governments and institutions, it is critical to understand what role education played in disguising, distorting, omitting, and erasing historical events and patterns, including state and institutional crimes. This project will examine representation through this lens and connect and correlate government policy and programs.
Through careful analysis of primary source materials including textbooks, lesson plans, and other teaching materials, we hope to address these key research questions: What is the history of Indigenous representation in school curricula? What does this tell us about government policy and programs? How can we connect or relate this? What role does education play in hiding, distorting, disguising, erasing state crimes and historical reality? What influenced or informed the material? How did depictions or representations change over time? How might this shape opinion and understanding for the student?
The project comprises three main components: (1) An interactive website that archives, organizes, and categorizes material, (2) Essays, blogs, commentary, multimedia presentations, and analysis of this content, and (3) Opportunities for visitors to share memories on a digital platform
It is our hope that by examining the curriculum history we can create opportunities to make connections with other communities, learn from our history, and envision a more just future.
Dark Patterns: Deception & Manipulation in User Experience Design
Sebastian Rodrigeuz (University of Toronto)
Matthew Iantorno (University of Toronto)
Daniel Guadagnolo (University of Toronto)
Dark patterns are user experience designs that purposely deceive and manipulate users into taking certain actions. These persuasive strategies guide users into making potentially harmful decisions, such as purchasing unwanted products or sharing personal information that they would otherwise not disclose. Dark patterns are an evolutionary step in marketing strategies, with roots tracing back to post-1945 merchandising tactics. Today, marketing experts work in conjunction with UI/UX designers and web developers to create digital forms of historically proven manipulative strategies. At the expense of the user, these strategies generate massive revenue for companies and fuel a growing surveillance capitalist economy.
This presentation explores a pedagogical website created to educate undergraduate students on the prevalence of dark patterns in their daily internet usage. The website provides an interactive experience that simulates common dark patterns found on everything from e-commerce shops to campaign donation websites. It also supplies students with the proper context for dark patterns – highlighting their history and providing information on the types of websites that typically deploy them. The objective of the project was to create an environment where students can learn how to think critically about their technology use, eventually applying those skills to the practical design, coding, marketing, and business management work required later in their academic and professional careers.
The website will be used at the University of Toronto Mississauga to teach roughly 800 students enrolled in Contemporary Communication Technologies (CCT109), a first-year course required for all students in the school’s Communication, Culture, and Technology degree programs.
Queer Ghosts: An XR Arcade
Caitlin Fisher (York University)
Maureen Engel (The University of Queensland)
What happens at the edges of bordercrossing technologies? How can XR technologies help us to access a queer past and queer the present? Alongside a possible paper, we propose a AR-ready poster for the Critical Digital Humanities conference that provides an introduction to our in-progress queer webXR ‘arcades project’. Using the poster’s QR codes as ciphers, viewers can use their own mobile devices to access time-travelling AR portals and bring archival photographs and ephemera to life in the conference space.
The portals operate at the intersection of content, platform, interface and method as what we call a queer digital arcades -haunted by Walter Benjamin and the ragpickers. If Benjamin’s flaneur navigates the architecture of the city, how might we build an architecture of the queer for our ragpicker audience to navigate? Our arcades invite the ragpicker both to move through the space, and to apprehend the objects of her desire. What might it look like to bring those things together —to render concepts visible, and to render our interactions with them spatial, intuitive, and lateral? Our ragpicker doesn’t collect objects as she travels the back alleys of bourgeois capitalism; rather, we invite her to be our reader, to embark on a serendipitous exploration of our queer archaeologies, each found object a connection to the rest, each a microstory of its own, each one small contributing vision of the history and present of queerness. In this way the poster serves as a virtual arcade, concretizing some of the key ideas behind our work in progress: a multi-year collaborative research-creation project.
Digital Libraries of the Himalayas: Forms and Politics of Knowledge Production
Aarjav Chauhan (University of Toronto)
The Himalayas perform multiple functions for the residing communities, including harboring biodiversity, supporting diverse cultures and livelihoods, and providing natural resources. The environmental and social impacts of climate change in this vulnerable region create uncertainty within the livelihoods and indigenous practices of the local communities. This uncertainty, we argue, is not to be perceived from a negative lens but from a viewpoint which embraces multi-faceted forms of knowledge and practice. We take the position that understanding the impacts of climate change in the Himalayas starts with maintaining traditional knowledge forms of local communities. Digital libraries (DL), organized and managed collections of digital information, present a mode of convergence between the social and material bases of knowledge work and the relations of the participating people who produce knowledge. Like the affordances of a traditional library, an effective digital library serves the needs, activities, and contexts of the people who use it, create it, and contribute to it. In addition to aiding in the creation and use of knowledge, DL challenge existing practices of knowledge and the boundaries of knowledge communities. DL when understood as maintainers of knowledge commons, provide an equitable platform for community-based peer-production of knowledge that justifies indigenous practices. DL constructed in and for the Himalayas encounter the tasks of catering to diverse social epistemics and navigating the landscape of sensitive cultural information. They shape the politics and futures of knowledge production through community-based collaborative collections. This research is an evaluation of existing digital libraries of the Himalayan region. It aims to understand the social, technical, and political boundaries within which these DL function. Drawing on interviews with DL creators, curators, and participating communities, we question how studying DL within culturally diverse regions, such as the Himalayas, can tell us about information, knowledge, and processes of social order.
Uncovering Global Medieval and Early Modern History from Textile Pastedowns in Ethiopian Manuscripts – A DH Research Project
Carolina Almenara-Melis (University of Toronto)
This poster focuses on the Digital Humanities (DH) methodologies for the study of a rare collection of historic textile swatches pasted into the inner covers of Ethiopia’s Christian manuscripts from the 15th to the 19th century. These swatches or “pastedowns” –of imported fabrics — serve as an important evidence of socio-cultural, and economic, activity in the region. They will reveal unrecognized aspects of Ethiopia’s role in the development of early modern societies, industries, and global trading networks. This project was conceived as a digital one not merely from the digital methodologies being exploited, but becuase of its transparent, international, and collaborative approach, which simultaneously seeks to disseminate new knowledge via more established digital networks. Clustered in six different groups, our research project will tackle questions about Ethiopia’s participation in the global trade network and its land and sea routes, manuscript culture, societal norms and systems of belief, a deeper art historical understanding of the use of textiles in Christian manuscripts, their connection with other forms of fabrics in ecclesial settings and their representation in manuscripts.
From the digital and the physical examination of the textile pastedowns in manuscripts we can access, their identification, and classification, we will a) conduct quantitative and qualitative analyses, b) study textual sources, c) seek to reconstruct trade routes and networks, d) review the literature on textiles, and d) record oral history from Ethiopian manuscript makers and scribes as well as from textile merchants. Finally, all codes will be uploaded to GitHub, and, using XML-TEI (Text Encoding Initiative) standard description, the information gleaned from these textiles will be incorporated into the digital meta-database Beta maṣāhǝft to be shared on a global platform through Hamburg University.
Burning Man: art, politics and economics in a matrix of contemporary corporate and cybernetic relations
Arnon Manhães Ceolin (Universidade Federal do Espírito Santo)
This poster discusses the Burning Man festival, founded in 1986 and held annually in the Black Rock desert (USA), as an open-air social and technological laboratory, from which derive ideological and technical guidelines of the contemporary corporate and cybernetic world. It begins with a detailed description of the festival’s historical genesis and its guiding principles to understand the incorporation of Burning Man by Silicon Valley managers, with emphasis on the influence that the festival have on Google and its particular forms of work organization and cybernetic technology. From this specific relationship, we reach an understanding of Burning Man as a large-scale “cultural infrastructure”, correlated with the contemporary injunctions that invade the world of labor and networks.
Measures become Targets: Unintended Consequences of Psychiatric AI
Darla Reslan (University of Toronto)
Laura Sikstrom (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health)
Marta Maslej (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health)
Zoe Findlay (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health)
Major performance breakthroughs in Artificial Intelligence (eg., Machine Learning or ML) represent a turning point in how healthcare is delivered and experienced by patients. Predictive ML tools offer the possibility of more precise, proactive, and personalized care. These predictive tools can be used to create “targets”. “Targets” are metrics used to evaluate and intervene on the quality of services; predictive tools may assist in defining, generating and monitoring these performance figures. “Target” can also refer to measures or variables that receive heightened attention. Predictive ML tools process an immense amount of information, introducing novel potential for care-enhancing data analytics. However, “Goodhart’s Law” warns that when measures are conflated with targets, those measures become corrupted and cease to be valid. Goodhart’s Law has a number of implications for how humans might engage with predictive ML tools in health care. To explore these implications we conducted a narrative review of Goodhart’s Law. We then apply the findings to the case study of psychiatric risk assessment to imagine how ML tools might reconfigure clinical workflows and clinical encounters. While performance measures and target-setting – often called “Quality Improvement” – are already routinely practiced in healthcare, ML tools expand the scale and complexity of these value-based quantifications. Our review suggests that data driven care entails necessary changes in clinical workflows, and that these responses in turn threaten the validity of any predictive ML tool. Additionally, the institutional context of health care demands target-setting and catalyzes measure distortion. To mitigate the harmful potential of psychiatric ML, implicit and explicit institutional targets must be enumerated and critically addressed.
The Authority of the Influencer: A Case Study of Language, Power, and Communication Strategies in an Instagram Post
Jamie Takaoka (Carleton University)
Influencers are a type of “Internet microcelebrity” (Powell & Powell, 2010), who gain popularity by posting on social media about their knowledge or expertise on a particular topic and cultivate a large, enthusiastic following (Geyser, 2021). They dominate various platforms, particularly Instagram, by posting captivating, sometimes viral content for their followers to engage and interact with. This phenomenon has sparked much curiosity among researchers (eg. Carpenter et al., 2020), however, this topic is still in its infancy and holds lots of potential in discovering and developing effective communication strategies, especially in the context of educational social media content. Through a case study of a specific post from Schuyler Bailar (@pinkmantaray), an LGBTQ+ activist, educator, and influencer, this study aims to investigate how authority is construed through linguistic choices. Drawing upon systemic functional linguistics (SFL: Halliday & Matthiesen, 2014; Eggins, 2004), an interpersonal analysis of clausal mood, modality, and embedding was conducted. The study revealed the strategic use of counterarguments, framed through questions and commands, as well as a surprising lack of epistemic and deontic modality, which indicated Bailar’s confidence in his expertise on the topic. This was complemented with a higher frequency of modal adjuncts as politeness and inclusion tactics, which created a friendly authoritative tone to his text. The layering of these communication strategies is what I believe makes Bailar’s authoritative voice extremely effective as an educational influencer. However, as this is a case study of one post, more research on other posts, as well as other influencers, is warranted to examine similar and different communicative tactics to gain a better perspective on how to improve educational content on Instagram.
CONCURRENT SESSIONS 1:30-3:00
Hidden Collapsible Trick. Read Body
In-Person Session 7: Lightning Round
Chair: Jennifer Ross (University of Toronto)
Reimagining Latiné Undocu/Queer Digital Archive Practices
Vanessa Torres (Northeastern University)
Despite the turn of historical scholarship when considering testimonios in their frameworks, there are still gaps in the narratives and considerations of undocuqueer individuals in the United States. My research will shift previous testimonio scholarship’s direction by taking testimonios of non-academics as a pedagogical tool and bringing them into academic spaces. There is an urgent need to bring lived experiences into knowledge creation to disrupt traditional teaching that would otherwise not make visible these lived immigrant experiences. A value to testimonios as a tool is the diverse forms they can take – including written, oral, and digital – to reach broader audiences in scholarship, connecting people across diverse social positions to teach and share collective consciousness among those familiar and unfamiliar with immigrant lived experiences.
My studies would use social media and classroom testimonies to better educate audiences as to the twenty-first century undocuqueer immigrant experience in the United States. By using pedagogy as a form of analysis, this digital project, “Undocu/Queer Imaginaries,” will trace various forms of media documentation of the intersectional experiences of undocumented and/or queer Latina/o/xs’. It will do so by exploring immigration and undocumented policies, mixed-status family dynamics, gender and sexuality, activism, and reform. The envisioned final project would be accompanied by a classroom course that would draw from interdisciplinary, queer immigrant essays, or testimonios, and media – e.g., arts, journalism, books, videos, memes – permitting the undocuqueer from mixed-status families to better understand the trajectories that are imposed upon them and embrace activism by becoming better educated as to their own histories. Gaining a deeper understanding of the complex intersectionality of undocumented and queer communities in the United States from the 1960s to the present will show viewers the fronteras (barriers) faced in digital, emotional, and physical spaces.
The Algorithmic Face of Instagram: Brainstorming Digital Change
Lauren McLean (University of Guelph)
Kiera Obbard (University of Guelph)
In 2021, ex-Facebook employee Frances Haugen leaked tens of thousands of internal company documents, demonstrating that Facebook knew its’ Instagram app was damaging to teen mental health and well-being. These documents also showed that the Instagram algorithm prioritizes content that increases user engagement (and, thus, revenue)—and that hateful or polarizing content receives higher rates of engagement (Allyn; Milmo). The result is an algorithm that prioritizes hateful or polarizing content at the expense of users’ mental health. These reports indicate the increasing embeddedness of the logic of surveillance capitalism, which “claims human experience as free raw material for translation into behavioural data,” in social media platforms (Zuboff).
Despite the harmful content, the digital world appears to offer endless potential and makes change seem possible now more than ever before. However, Noah Tsika provides a stark reminder that this promise for change is often in battle with “corporate techniques for collapsing difference” and these corporations continue to have a hold on us through popularity (118). For instance, Autostraddle is a digital community and publication for LGBTQIA+ people run by feminist queer and trans folks. Since its founding in 2009, Autostraddle has attempted to change the queer media landscape as algorithmic culture and digital platforms continue to disproportionately impact the queer community. It is perhaps (un)surprising that Autostraddle has hosted their “Shelter in Our Place: Virtual Community Care Week” multiple times on Instagram. Even platforms like Autostraddle, which are aware and purposely trying to do something different, cannot escape popular platforms like Instagram. This lightning talk draws on Shoshana Zuboff, Noah Tsika, and Safiya Umoja Noble and offers a brainstorming session through the digital technology system Menti. We ask: How can we garner change within and beyond these popular platforms? How do we design for difference from a feminist and queer approach? What do we think is digitally possible within a surveillance capitalist society?
Being Affected via Lebanese Instagram: Digital Gatherings and their Encounters
Sylvia Feghali (University of Colorado Boulder)
This research maps affects of hope generated and transported by the global Lebanese community, specifically through Instagram. This project examines how transnational communities cultivate spaces of connection, with particular attention to the limits and possibilities digital and virtual spaces offer for imagining futures of/for Lebanese people. Evolving from my position within a transnational network of Lebanese cultural organizers, this research is driven by my interest in identifying and practicing ways of imagining possibilities outside of foreclosing structures produced and upheld by forces of colonialism and capitalism.
Linking methods in digital humanities and postcolonial feminist geography, and drawing from data collected via webscraping, interviews, and an interactive studio experience, I explore the kinds of connections being enacted on Instagram among users engaging in content related to Lebanon. In particular, this work reflects on findings from a two week residency in which data scraped and collected via interviews is manipulated and reproduced on surfaces of a black box studio. Visitors are invited to move through the space and interact with image and narrative projections on the walls and floor, navigating the familiar Instagram platform’s architecture at the scale of the body. This physical intervention presents opportunities for co-theorization, as I envision visitors as co-theorizors and collaborative digital ethnographers. This approach foregrounds the exploration of others; how they move through this space and content and what kinds of stories or emotions result.
Important to this project are key theorizations about digital space in Geography, namely moves to challenge fabricated boundaries between physical and digital space. Considering how logics of technologically mediated space might map into the “everyday” invites closer attention to the ways in which people work to foster hope and collective care networks within and in spite of structures of power upholding platforms such as Instagram.
First Impressions: Searching and Learning “Transgender”
Cassandra McKenney (Carleton University)
What do internet users find when searching “transgender”? How does the website or platform influence the results? First Impressions is an attempt to address these questions using machine learning. GPT-2, a language model, was trained on five different searches. The results displayed when searching “transgender” on JSTOR, Reddit, YouTube, CBC.ca, or BBC.co.uk were used for this process. The trained models then generated unique texts based on the language patterns in the training material. The results were posted on an interactive website that allows users to guess the online platform that was used to generate each text and facilitates reflection on transgender representation in online spaces.
The generated texts both provide insight into how transgender topics are discussed or covered online and suggest links between media coverage and online discourse. The use of machine generated prose, as opposed to more traditional forms of computer aided text analysis, allowed for an approachable website that does not require specialized technical knowledge and aims to encourage interaction and reflection from users both within and outside academia. First Impressions was ultimately an experiment with new tools and methodology, but contributes to understandings of both textual analysis and online platforms in the Digital Humanities through the creation of a public-facing project that encourages user engagement and reflection.
Visualizing the Americas: What Five Decades of United Fruit Company Records Have Told Us
Juan Antonio Bobadilla Plata (University of Toronto)
The United Fruit Company was an exploitative American conglomerate that coerced Latin American countries into assisting their monopolist practices and suppressed labor dissent based in ethno-racial considerations disguised as anti-communist efforts. Its impact on the social and political fabric of many Central American and Caribbean countries has been widely studied. The UTM Library currently hosts four boxes worth of corporate material from inside the United Fruit Co. – recollected from an abandoned warehouse in Bocas del Toro, Panama – which is in the process of being digitized to assist further research on the topic.
Being an American company, most of the UFC’s administrative documents were written in English. However, correspondence with local governments, labor unions, and contracts with workers themselves were written in Spanish, and thus the UTM collection contains sources in both languages. Although the collection has been largely analyzed, I contend that many Spanish sources that can be very valuable for further research on the topic were overlooked in past studies. This is because, when one analyzes 50 years’ worth of corporate memoranda, statistical reports, and corporate correspondence, the oppressive conducts of the company are not immediately evident. They are embedded in how Americans officials refer to their workers, to their Unions, and to the living conditions in company barracks. They are embedded in how worker’s claims are answered to and on letters discussing techniques to organize labor into “races”. But more importantly, most of the time they are embedded on Spanish documents because these are the ones that synthesize the relationship of the Company with “external sources”, i.e. non-English speaking sources.
Therefore, I will present a sample of 5-7 documents that I encountered during my 4-month fellowship working with the collection and which have not been featured in any academic work on the United Fruit Company. The context and significance of the documents, the discovery process, and other historical considerations will be presented briefly for each example. Finally, I will speak about the importance of multilingual archive creation and its impact on further research through my recent experience.
Queering the Map of Florida: Historical Presence and Contemporary Assertion
Sydney Jordan (University of South Florida)
Often relegated to the fringe, queer spaces and community support thereof are of crucial and ever-increasing importance in the light of pandemic-oriented isolation and the wave of repressive legislation targeting LGBTQ+ communities across the United States. Providing access to and conducting outreach for continued research into queer archives and print materials is a foundational dedication that should be prioritized within the information profession. Although there are strides towards increased advocacy of historically marginalized and oppressed groups within North American history, accurate and impactful description of records is only to be achieved alongside interrogation of best practices and conscious editing principles and input from inclusive cultural insiders. While reprocessing LGBTQ+ archival collections to better represent content, identities, and enhance descriptive metadata, an ongoing project at the University of South Florida Libraries Special Collections works consecutively to identify, describe, map, and list research points into queer activists, places, organizations, and events from collections and better adhere to lexicons actively used by researchers and cultural insiders.
Queering the map of Florida, specifically the Tampa Bay region, to restore a sense of community history, fosters a sense of local connection in a meaningful way, and centralizes hyperlinked avenues for research to scholars of all experiences. Overall, such work demonstrates that queer community and history does, has, and will always exist in a meaningful and present manner, while empowering both undergraduate and graduate students toward advocacy within academia and create an avenue toward professional development that will help future generations to contextualize forebears.
Mapping Italian-Canadian Foodways
Teresa Lobalsamo (University of Toronto Mississauga)
Samantha Arpas (University of Toronto)
Dellannia Segreti (University of Toronto Mississauga)
“Mapping Italian-Canadian Foodways” is a digital humanities research project that considers the place of food production and consumption in Italian-Canadian culture, examining cuisine as one of the defining traits of cultural identity for Italian immigrants that settled within the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) in the past century. The presentation begins with an overview of the history of Italian immigration to Toronto and key neighbourhoods built and transformed by this diaspora, including the establishment of landmark food businesses that persist to this day. Using a sociocultural and historical lens, the project highlights the impact and contributions of the Italian community on Toronto’s food industry, tracing the growth and enduring legacies of Italian-Canadian restaurants in the face of cultural demographic shifts towards the turn of the twenty-first century. Community-engaged research is mobilized in the form of an open-access digital archive that illustrates the importance of preserving local culinary traditions, particularly in times of economic crises that threaten to erase the cultural footprints of immigrant communities.
In an effort to preserve Italian-Canadian culinary traditions for future generations and deploy these cultural artifacts in service of foreign language teaching, Professor Lobalsamo oversees a student-led research initiative centered on identifying, analyzing, and digitally archiving culinary artifacts (such as menus and advertisements) from historically significant Italian-Canadian eateries in the GTHA. Students participating in ITA235H5 Cucina italiana, the Jackman Scholars-in-Residence program, and the U of T Work-Study program have had the opportunity to carry out community-engaged field research by visiting (in-person or remotely) local Italian eateries, interviewing proprietors, and procuring culinary artifacts for preservation in this new digital archive at UTM. Speaking on their research findings, graduate researchers Samantha Arpas and Dellannia Segreti explain how they employ digital humanities software, such as Omeka and ArcGIS, to analyze the current landscape of food establishments in the GTHA and reveal important changes to the local perception of Italian food over time.
LAURA BASSI: Women in STEM – In Times They were Taught to be Housewives
Monica Mastrantonio (University of York)
This study discusses the volume of original letters received by Laura Bassi. Laura Maria Caterina Bassi Veratti (1711-1778) was an Italian physicist and academic. She was the first woman to have a doctorate in science, and the second woman in the world to earn the Doctor of Philosophy degree. Working at the University of Bologna, she was also the first salaried female teacher in a university. She was elected to the Academy of Sciences of the Institute of Bologna in 1732 at 21. The letters she received during her lifetime are analyzed using Text Extractor software to gain the main meanings, which are addressed in the collection of letters she received. Together with this methodology, some of the main topics are illustrated with passages to highlight her extensive scientific and social network of relations. The results show that epistolary digital archives can be extremely useful in gender studies to understand the complexities of private life. The results also show that being a leader in times when women were only skilled to get married demanded more effort than it was usually required from men. Finally, digital epistolary studies have much to offer for our understanding of the past, including the gap between men and women in STEM.
In-Person Session 8: Critical Mapping
Chair: Andrea Zeffiro (McMaster University)
The Case for Place and Space: Critical Mapping as Reparative Work in Archives and Public Digital Humanities
Cassie Tanks (Northeastern University)
Places can be easily added to a map – all it takes is a couple of geographic coordinates, perhaps an address. What is less easily mapped, though, are the human experiences and histories that make that mapped place a meaningful space. For example, a Trader Joe’s in Chapel Hill, North Carolina can readily be mapped by its address or the intersections where it is located. But what can only be revealed through critical mapping is the history of that place, which was once the location of the town’s first gay bar, and the many experiences that made that place a meaningful space for people decades ago. By employing critical and informed practices, these experiences can contribute to a reparative reclaiming of the history of a place being done by archives and the public digital humanities, in addition to being mapped.
This brief presentation explores how critical mapping can support reparative work being done by archives and public digital humanists. To achieve this, archives and the digital humanities themselves must be recast as critical places and spaces in their own right. Building on the assertion that the information and data of archives create a type of map that can either “symbolically annihilate” or create “representational belonging” of historically marginalized communities, this presentation examines how the archival strategies employed by the UNC Story Archive and Apartheid Heritage(s) have attempted to reframe the space archives create to better support reparative work (Pomerantz 2015) (Casswell, Cifor, Ramirez 2016). Additionally, because the digital humanities are “inherently public humanities”, participatory practices and their importance to critical mapping will be explored by examining the methods used by the Queerolina exhibit. Through examination of these archival and digital humanities projects, this presentation advances the argument that critical mapping is an effective tool for supporting reparative social justice work.
Mapping the War of Russia’s Hybrid Empire & Anglo-America Media Hegemony
Kenzie Burchell (University of Toronto)
Jamie Duncan (University of Toronto)
With a close eye on the local experiences lost in the orchestrated fog of war, this multilingual comparison of international war and crisis coverage provide a vantage point onto Anglo-American media hegemony and its mutually attuned engagement with Russia’s militarized media interventions towards an ethno-nationalist hybrid empire. Collected from 2017-2021, the retrospective metadata and text analysis of Syrian War coverage compares shifts in crisis reporting patterns between Agence France-Presse (AFP), Associated Press (AP), Reuters, and Russia’s RIA Novosti and ITAR-TASS. Findings have been further applied for a rapid response sociological analysis of Ukrainian Invasion over 2022.
Contrasted by steadfast, on-the-ground and localized reporting of AFP, international news agencies often report on distant suffering from world capitals (Zelizer 2007; Burchell 2020). This serves soft and state media power objectives, highlighting what Bourdieu (1998) calls the “weak autonomy” of the press while also outlining the practical manifestations of international news’ role in neocolonial world building exercises. Limits to news media power are traced through the frequencies of intermedia, governmental, and NGO sourcing, mapping the geographic distribution of diplomatic-driven stories and temporal plotting of “global media events” (Couldry and Hepp 2010; Burchell 2017a; 2017b), orchestrated and intervened upon to sway sympathetic domestic, diasporic, and other transnational audiences.
Further “critical discourse analysis” (Fairclough 1992) of policy documents and full-text coverage of select crisis events codes the historicity, forms of embodied and mediated witnessing, discursive attributions, epistemological claims made by newsmakers and their sources, serving to excavate the collective identities appealed to by government spokespeople in commercial and state media alongside appeals to historical and geopolitical legacies of empire, “chronotopias” (Bahktin 1980, Hutchings and Burchell 2017) that seek to impose competing and often internally incoherent “great power narratives” (Roselle 2017) over diverse populations. However, it is in the displacement of media authority onto eyewitnesses and non-governmental actors that promotes post-colonial elisions whereby foreign news media speak in place of the diverse identities and experiences of local populations, flattening the intersections of gendered, ethnic, civic, and religious identities to project a conception of “Syrian” or “Ukrainian” voices amenable in different ways Western and Russian audiences.
Searching for Sex: GIS Methods for Mapping Queer Histories in Early Modern Florence
Aidan Flynn (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
Given its extremely modern functionalities, many historians argue that the application of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to the study of history is anachronistic, intrinsically unamenable to studying the past, pre-GIS. Despite such dissensions in the scholarly community, the use of GIS in the Digital Humanities has prevailed as a fruitful methodology, allowing the historian to uncover the unseen relationships between bodies, buildings, and the greater bustling metropolises of the past.
This project engages with historical GIS to uncover, visualize, and track the complex relationships between queerness, namely sodomy and same-sex intimacies, and the built environment of fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Florence, Italy. Using the Digitally Encoded Census and Information Mapping Archive (DECIMA), I investigate how public space was transformed, governed, and regulated by civic and religious officials as a means to control illicit sexual activity. This study combines archival materials with digital technologies to illuminate the negotiation of urban space in the contest over sexuality in early modern Florence. Ultimately, this paper works to reveal the intricate relationships between sex, space, and urbanity.
Moving Through the Field: Envisioning and Contesting Travel in the Digital Humanities
Nabeel Siddiqui (Susquehanna University)
In 2012, Melissa Terras generated a map to assess the digital humanities’ scope. Consisting of 114 centers in 24 countries, she designed the visualization to provide evidence for DH as a “big tent” with a unique willingness to embrace international collaboration (Clavert 2013; Fiormonte 2014; Svensson 2012; Terras 2012). Detractors contested, however, that the map concealed DH scholarship and research that took place outside of major research centers and institutional support (O’Donnell et al. 2015). Scholars of the Global South and Asia asserted that comparable visualizations, and the digital humanities more broadly, perpetuated a neocolonialist point of view where high-income countries brought enlightenment, funding, and knowledge to the “uncivilized” (Risam 2016). To combat these outlooks, postcolonial scholars have called for embracing a critical postcolonial computing tactic (Philip, Irani, and Dourish 2012).
I answer these cries for a critical postcolonial computation through my GIS project entitled “Are We There Yet? Diversity and Mobility in the Digital Humanities,” which I will highlight in my presentation. This project draws on an index of conferences compiled by Scott Weingart, Matthew Lincoln, and Nickoal Eichmann-Kalwara that covers approximately 60 years of DH conferences, 7300 presentations, 8650 different authors, 1850 institutions, and 86 countries (Lincoln, Weingart, and Eichmann-Kalwara 2021). I develop a relational database model that juxtaposes the home institutions of presenters and the location of their presentations. I then utilize a cascading forward geocoding framework that calls multiple APIs to provide more accurate location data than previous techniques. Finally, I create a filterable time-series visualization of scholarly travel in DH.
Through my visualization and analysis, I show that the field’s underlying geopolitical infrastructure foregrounds scholars in high-income countries and disproportionately requests mobility from scholars in the Global South. These larger trends continue regardless of the modality of presentation (i.e., virtual, hybrid, in-person). I conclude with actionable steps for organizers of conferences and workshops that can expand equity and inclusion throughout the broader field.
In-Person Session 9: DIY Anti-Racist DH Initiatives: How to Get Started at Your Institution
Anne Cong-Huyen (University of Michigan)
Mary Rose (University of Michigan)
Matt Carruthers (University of Michigan)
Joe Bauer (University of Michigan)
Maria Laitan (University of Michigan)
This 90 minute in-person workshop brings together a number of collaborators, both librarians and staff, who support digital scholarship at the University of Michigan to reflect on their experience launching the Anti-Racist Digital Research Initiative. A response to national calls to go beyond Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and to instead be actively anti-racist, this initiative is a combined effort of the University of Michigan Library, IT partners in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, and National Center for Institutional Diversity’s Anti-Racism Collaborative, and seeks to advance anti-racism and social justice in the humanities, arts, and humanistic social sciences.
Designed to incubate and support the full research lifecycle of anti-racist digital projects on our campus and in our communities, the program draws on the specific expertise of each service partner and includes research design guidance (project management consultation, research data advising, accessibility considerations, preservation planning), and technical services to develop a project prototype. The expansive support team draws from both the library and IT, and provides an institutional home, through NCID, for supporting and amplifying anti-racism research and scholarship, and expands access to university resources.
This proposed workshop is aimed at staff and administrators interested in implementing equity and human-centered digital research programs and will address the process of securing funding and institutional support, identifying campus partners, the proposal process, rubric development and review process, anti-racist research design and support, programmatic needs, and lessons we’ve learned along the way. The intent is to share a scalable set of tools that can be used to launch a similar program at any institution, from a resource strapped small liberal arts college to a large research institution. We will offer candid lessons (and warnings) about resources, infrastructure, staff needs, and managing expectations. Presenters will require a projector and microphones to share materials, and will plan to bring large sticky notes and pens for brainstorming and engagement with attendees. We’ll also share documentation and templates to replicate or modify the program at your own institution.
CONCURRENT SESSIONS 3:15-4:45
Hidden Collapsible Trick. Read Body
In-Person Session 10: Digital Methods
Community-Engaged Research from Afar: (Dis)Junctures in Participatory Digital Methods in a Refugee Camp
Negin Dahya (University of Toronto)
Cansu Ekmekcioglu (University of Toronto)
This presentation discusses (dis)junctures in digital participatory research methods in practice. We present a qualitative study where data collection happened in-person in Dzaleka. Research training, collaboration, data management, and analysis happened through remote partnership from Canada. Our aim is to share, reflect, and discuss the ethical and methodological implications of this work from a postcolonial, feminist, and sociotechnical perspective.
In early 2020, our team launched a research inquiry focused on understanding emergent relationships between teaching, learning, and technology in Dzaleka. Our methods drew on feminist ethnography and portraiture to build a community-engaged research design using digital tools for transnational collaboration, data management, and analysis.
Through our digital research training, CRs identified three sites of interest to study: sewing training classes and shops, music production and DJ apprenticeships, and information and technology classrooms. Our team used a range of digital tools to document 37 audio recorded observations, 428 photographs, and interviews with 33 participants. Our adaptive work continues to include the CRs in data analysis, working with limited technology and infrastructure available in Dzaleka. Research strategies included using WhatsApp Video for CR recruitment and Google Forms for collaborative visual data analysis. Power was woven throughout research practices, network connections, and software interface and access.
Differences in time and pace of life, technical and basic resources, research cultures and expectations, were important to this work. How have our methods changed through their entanglement with digital technologies during the pandemic? What has been gained and what has been lost in the development of a remote, digital, participatory research design, working across continents, unequal resources, and disproportionate Western privileges? Throughout this project, there are points where methods, ethos, and ethics align (junctures) and points where our work became divided (disjunctures). This presentation will share critical perspectives on this community-engaged research, conducted from afar, and building collaborative and participatory digital strategies into research design
The Uncanny Asian: Neoliberal exhaustion and oppression as binary code
J. Julia Parke (University of Toronto)
This paper emerges from the concept of ‘neoliberal confusion,’ coined in Wendy Chun’s Programmed Visions (2011), in which Chun discusses the growing and concurrent significance of computers and neoliberal values in society as active reactions to and manifestations of postmodern chaos. In relation to this term, I develop the concept of ‘neoliberal exhaustion,’ which addresses the late capitalist conditions of emotional tiredness and moral anxiety in a milieu where not enough information has transitioned to over-information, leading to a greater urge to see the world as easily comprehensible, communicated through shorthand, and categorizable, particularly in dualistic, comparative dynamics of good and bad. The binaries of contemporary digital moral discourse evoke our archaic histories of juxtaposition in Western enlightenment scholarship, now applied to new contexts of social ethics, race, post-colonial critique, and moves toward public affirmation of personal righteousness. I refer to this sub-phenomenon as ‘oppression as binary code,’ relying on the work of Judith Butler in Precarious Life (2004) and Sigmund Freud’s concept of the uncanny (1919) to theorize the discomforts which arise from bodies and situations which disrupt these new binaries of ethnic identity, representation, and public ethics. To illustrate the consequences of ‘neoliberal exhaustion’ – and therefore the framework of ‘oppression as binary code’ – in our interpretation of important transcultural discussions which break away from the limits of ethnocentrism, I discuss the case of Asian diasporic erasure in Western contemporary discourse via the Nitobe Garden revitalization project at the University of British Columbia.
Reframing Data Assemblage: Apparatuses, Diffraction and Methodological Challenges
Daniele Cavalli (École Normale Supérieure – PSL Research University)
The notion of data assemblage has become essential in Critical Data Studies (CDS), namely the complex socio-technical system of apparatuses and elements that frames the generation, usage, and flow of data (Kitchin 2014). Indeed, data are always already-composed entities and thus specific manifestations of power.
In order to illuminate and expand the notion of data assemblage and the analysis of its related processes, the quantic onto-epistemology of K. Barad and new materialistic approaches represent valuable tools. The notions of apparatuses and assemblage – traceable back to Foucaultian and Deleuzian tradition – are often reduced to mere material arrangements. Apparatuses can be conceptualized, instead, as material-discursive dynamics entangled with phenomena: it is from intra-actions that «ontological cuts» arise (Barad 2007). And assemblages can be read as material performances of composing different more-than-human agencies together (De Freitas 2017), an open-ended gathering that generates «patterns of unintentional coordination» (Tsing 2015). Moving from this theoretical reconceptualization, a diffractive methodology becomes an exciting challenge: phenomena arise from the mutual entanglement of the observed and the agencies of observation.
This contribution wants to highlight the theoretical usefulness of merging CDS and new materialist perspectives because it forces us to analyze data assemblage in all layered clusters of factors, avoiding thinking in terms of relations among entities and apparatuses with fixed properties, emphasizing the agency of data. It follow that all the factors involved in research, such as measurement apparatuses, conceptual frameworks and scientists recording for finding relations of meaning and causality, do not pre-exist and are all derived from an experimental entanglement of which we always need to be aware (Hollin 2017). A diffractive analysis of data assemblages goes beyond any representational approach and it can open unexpected and fruitful research paths in the critical study of big data practices.
Dis(closing) the Closet: Performing Queer Authenticities in Digital Spaces
Kanika Lawton (University of Toronto)
This paper argues that the disclosure of queerness online, particularly on social media sites such as Instagram, are discursive practices of “truth-making” and performing authenticities that attempt to straddle “entry” into queer counterpublics while maintaining awareness that “queerness must be legible in such a way that it is palatable to the masses in order for them to tolerate difference, as there is only just enough room for a little bit of difference” (Tyler Allen Tennant, 13). That is, coming out online requires negotiating visibility; how does one make sure they are “seen” as queer without becoming “hypervisible” to those who may harm them? Making oneself “known” as queer yet palpably so for non-queer folks is one way to move between heteronormative publics and queer counterpublics. Such negotiations may be nationally mediated through what I term queer national production; for example, National Coming Out Day (NCOD) encourages coming out to make “visible” queer subjects so non-queer audiences can “better understand” and support certain forms of queer livability. I further argue that such “national holidays” attempt to reify “coming out” into a yearly, repeatable event, rather than a process of reflection, re-formulation, and possibility, especially with the proliferation of “coming out” posts on social media that are archivable digital indicators of a non-digital sense of self.
Grounding these inquiries is my own act of self-disclosure, doubled in this paper as a methodological approach, through a critical assessment of my “coming out” post on Instagram during Bi Visibility Day and my narration of continued queer “self-discovery.” This drive to “perform” my queerness online in a way that reads as “authentic” (to a queer counterpublic) yet “palpable” (to a heteronormative public) ultimately asks: how does one make themselves not only identifiable as queer, but embraced as such in whichever public they find themselves in?
Traversing Temporalities: Queer and Trans* Oral History, Meaning Making, and Public History
Elio Colavito (University of Toronto)
Oral history is one of the primary methods used to study the queer and trans past, due to the absence of queer and trans-created documentation in archives. Oral history interviews present narrators with the opportunity to shape their own histories; the ability to make meaning of those histories is a well-documented strength of the method (Portelli, 1991). Oftentimes, the oral histories collected are archived and written about for an academic audience, and the histories are seldom returned to the communities.
As co-oral historian at the LGBTQ Oral History Digital Collaboratory (directed by Professor Elspeth Brown), I launched the Traversing Temporalities blog series in February of 2022. The series features 6 posts authored by external contributors and 6 posts authored by myself and asks queer and trans practitioners of oral history and former oral history narrators to make meaning of their experiences in the present. In traversing the space between the past and the present through critical reflections, the authors solidified the importance of the method in understanding past and present queer and trans community building and political imperatives.
This presentation will speak to Traversing Temporalities as a public history, queer and trans digital humanities, and community knowledge sharing project. What does it mean for oral histories to be shared in public and digital spaces? How do queer and trans communities understand their pasts, and how do those pasts affect the present?
In-Person Session 11: Cultural Studies
Working Women: Tracing Patterns in Textile and Sex Work in Sixteenth Century Florence
Camila Walls Castillo (University of Toronto)
Based on the existing DECIMA (Digitally Encoded Census and Information Mapping Archive) platform, this study stems from a comprehensive analysis which began by filtering through three transcribed Florentine censuses, 1551 — 1561 — and 1632, for the presence of women working in the textile and sex industries. Utilizing ArcGIS digital mapping technologies, this project visualizes the spatial realties of these “working women,” in order to demonstrate the spatial and social connection of these two trades, despite efforts by reformers to make it seem as though they were disconnected. In keeping with the DECIMA platform, the base layer of this study employs the sixteenth century Buonsignori Map, in order to recall the cityscape of Early Modern Florence. Female population metrics were then organized by residence, and centre on two occupations related to the aforementioned trades: “meretrice” (sex worker) and “tessitore” (textile workers). As we shall see, this map demonstrates how marginalized trades were pushed from the centre of the urban space — largely occupying the outer ring of Florence. In this way, this map provides evidence about the ways that purity and impurity were understood within a civic entity that was representative of a Christian body.
QAnon: A Crisis of Information
Matthew Hannah (Purdue University)
We are undergoing a historical moment of information crisis. While scholars have long studied media and information literacy to understand and improve how individuals interpret, parse, and decipher online information, we have not been able to stem the tide of fake news, misinformation, and conspiracy theories, which have come to characterize our media environments, especially after the 2016 US elections. In this presentation, I argue that the structure of online platforms facilitates the creation and spread of ‘bad’ information, information that is unverified, inaccurate, inflammatory, and false. Such information appears plausible enough because information technology enables connections to be formed between disparate events, connecting cause and effect in problematic ways. I focus explicitly on the online conspiracy theory QAnon, which is the apotheosis of these informational dynamics and represents a particularly resistant example of bad information seepage. QAnon was born of the unique combination of anonymous information exchange and mass communications platforms such as 4chan, 8chan, and 8kun, and the theory resists efforts to debunk and dismiss because it is capable of reproducing and defending itself via the same processes that underlie information literacy. Rather than being comprised of individuals who are media and information illiterate, as some claim, QAnon leverages information technology and media literacy through organized cadres of digital soldiers engaged in information warfare, an extended and organized yet wholly anonymous campaign to recruit followers and combat opponents. Such a dynamic proves nearly impossible to combat with traditional media or information literacy initiatives, representing a dangerous moment in our contemporary media ecosystem.
Layered Temporalities: Complicating the Narratives of Liver Transplant Survivors through Critical Discourse Analysis and Digital Storytelling
Chloe Wong-Meresereau (University of Toronto)
Suze Berkhout (University Health Network)
Currently there remains large gaps in the qualitative clinical research on the experiences of people living with chronic liver transplantation. Clinical transplantation tools and materials given to liver transplant patients construct a particular transplantation narrative that does not attend to the temporal complexities of transplantation as experienced by patients. The Temporalities of Cure and Frictions of Futurity research projects examines what is left unexplored and unaccounted through a critical discourse analysis of the transplantation manuals, clinical tools, and scales as well as a digital storytelling workshop with long-term liver transplant survivors. The transplant manuals, clinical tools, and scales frame the problems and challenges that this project seeks to complicate through the interviews and digital stories of liver transplant survivors. Ethnographic interviews and a digital storytelling workshop with long term liver transplant survivors allows us to understand the gaps within the discourse to critically engage with the issues that remain unexamined and unspoken with respect to long-term survivorship. In this project presentation, we draw on the findings from the research and analysis of the pre- and post-liver transplant manuals and commonly utilized clinical rating scales to study the quality of life and psychosocial challenges of post-transplant. The manuals construct a linear narrative of the transplant experience that can be juxtaposed with the more layered and complex lived experiences told through people’s digital stories. Both the clinical scales and patient manuals can affectively flattening the experience of transplantation, whereas the multimodality of digital stories engages storytellers and viewers/listeners in ways that reveal important aspects of the psychosocial challenges that exist as one’s transplant journey evolves over time. Critical discourse analysis and digital storytelling can complicate conventional biomedical ways of knowing liver transplantation. These approaches open space for engagement, understanding critical decision points in clinical care, and witnessing the tensions and frictions that can arise when illness experiences have an extended (chronic) temporality.
Je fonds avec toi (I Melt/Archive with You)
Alexandra Tigchelaar (Concordia University)
Sophie Hallée (ANSWER Society)
The fonds Maurice Lemieux is a personal archive acquired by former Montreal stripper and current sex work advocate Sophie Hallée. Over the past two years, Hallée worked assiduously on eBay and through personal communications with Lemieux and his family to save this irreplaceable collection of self-designed advertisements, newspaper articles, erotic ephemera, and explicit photographs of the hundreds of women who worked in his six no-frills clubs de danseuses in Montreal from the 1970s to the 1990s.
Like many personal archives, this one risked being dumped without ceremony in the garbage after LeMieux’s passing earlier this year. Hallée’s dedication has secured the most significant record of stripclubs and their entertainers from a now lost era in Montreal. Hallée and Alex Tigchelaar, also a former Montreal stripper and now PhD student and instructor at Concordia University, have begun the process of considering how to digitally preserve this work. This record is especially important to us because it was not acquired by police or media coercion. We recognize that despite contracts signed for the publication of these photos in an analog magazine that never came to be, none of the women in them could have predicted the reach of the digital space. As sex workers, we are thankful to have our histories in our own hands, with our own standards of propriety and dignity informing their circulation. Our plan is to rematriate these photos, seeking permission from the women in them before distributing them in any way. We look forward in our presentation to discussing our own principles and our experiences with non-sex worker collected sex work archives. We wish to engage with feminist scholars who may offer us insights into digital platforms and techniques that support the ethics of our project. This will be the first time the fonds is presented publicly.
In-Person Session 12: Ethics and Social Justice
Chair: Aimee Morrison (University of Waterloo)
Design Justice, Community-Centered Needs, and Refugee Representation
Hajir Sharifi (University of Toronto)
Design is not only present in our social structure, laws, and economic systems, but is also embedded in our visual culture, media, and technology. This paper examines the relationship between design, power, and social justice by taking a community-centered design approach with a focus on the ethical concerns that arise for non-profit refugee resettlement agencies’ top-down approach that disempowers refugees and discourages their participation, leadership and ownership of the design process. What role does design play for minoritized community members seeking to represent their constituencies’ needs and concerns in digital culture, in a manner that does not entrench unjust discursive practices? To address this critical question, I critically reflect on key design justice principles and their significance in responding to refugee needs and challenges while interacting with web interfaces, as it arises in my work for the community-centered project, Refugee States. In redesigning and launching the website for Refugee States, as my paper will show, I attempt to move beyond a universalist design thinking toward a more inclusive approach to account for the concerns of those who are disadvantaged by the design of current socio-technical systems. In so doing, I will re-assess value sensitive affordances—and reconsider the disaffordances encoded and reproduced in systems that do not adequately serve refugee communities.
Joy as a mode of resistance: An examination of Black Girl Hockey Club’s ongoing quest for racial social justice
Sabrina Razack (University of Toronto)
The COVID 19 Pandemic and the recent global racial uprisings enabled the Black Girl Hockey Club to re-imagine sporting environments. The founder Renee Hess initially starting the Twitter handle @Blackgirlhockey to attract Black Women who enjoyed watching and engaging with hockey cultures. The reignition of racial social justice movements propelled the fan site to focus on supporting and developing anti-racism efforts in hockey environments. The first section involves discourses related how (feminist) sport media is complicated by new social movement theory and the advent of sophisticated digital networks. This dissertation uses mixed-methods to employ a in depth case study of the Black Girl Hockey Club an organization and digital network. By integrating methodological frameworks of critical media studies, Black feminist theory, anti-racism and social movements, this project aims to examine how the joys of hockey fandom is combined with on/offline anti-racism movements. The diverse viewpoints offered by affiliates of Black Girl Hockey Club included NHL personnel, professional female hockey players, board members, parents of BGHC scholarship recipients, sports journalists, professors and general volunteers and board members. Each offered a unique perspective and were also able to comment on the collected @Blackgirlhockey Twitter content. Two software platforms, Twitonomy and Leximancer were utilized to enhance discussion of curated content and decisions made by the founder of BGHC and their 30K followers. The objective of the project was to determine how online networks translated to offline political action and influenced cultures of resistance. Some of the findings of the study involve: the unconventional methods to engage with hockey fandom, tensions linked to establishing an intersectional feminist approach to racial social justice movements in sports, effectiveness of hashtag feminist sports activism and outcomes related to involvement with Black Girl Hockey Club. The project highlighted the significance of feminist cyber networks and considered the plausibility of progression and advancement race equity in hockey cultures.
Considerations in Community-Centered Digital Archives: Case Studies with Afghan-Canadians and Muslims in Canada
Moska Rokay (University of Toronto)
Archival theory and practice have not yet fully and ethically engaged with underrepresented communities that have historically struggled with the challenges of documenting experiences that are undocumented. Instead, archival practices tend to make underrepresented communities visible in terms that do not necessarily serve these under-represented, and often over-researched, individuals and communities. Indeed, as Ann Laura Stoler observes, prevailing colonial frameworks favour the documentation and voice of the dominant group and, thus, saturate current, established archival theory and practice. In pursuing these pivotal questions, this paper draws from two underrepresented communities I have engaged with during the course of my academic and professional archival career: the Afghan-Canadian community and Canadian Muslim communities. I present findings of my research which analyzed Afghan-Canadian identity-formation processes through interviews that informed the creation of a digital archival model centered on grounded theory, intersectional analysis and community consultation with long-time settled young Afghan adults who were born in Canada or arrived as refugees as children. What digital recordkeeping needs and challenges do long-time settled Afghans in Canada have? What changes must archival institutions enact to accommodate these needs? I take up these questions by also considering my work in developing a counter-archival practice, through my work with Canadian Muslims for the Muslims in Canada Archives (MiCA) at the University of Toronto. In this capacity, I am leading the building of a platform to highlight the rich lived experiences of Canadian Muslims as a form of activism and to talk back to skewed, Islamophobic narratives. My position enables me to engage with individuals from diverse Canadian Muslim communities to develop a digital archive that is community-centered, a task that entails both preserving materials as well as protecting them from harmful hyper-exposure. Digital archival activism, I contend, must adroitly navigate the edges of visibility and invisibility.
A Framework for Epistemically Induced Invisibility in Knowledge Infrastructures
Sayan Bhattacharyya (Singapore University of Technology & Design)
My paper outlines a theoretical framework for the general question of how, in spite of best intentions, digital infrastructure that operate at large scale occlude certain kinds of heterogeneity. Nonhierarchical value creation, operative as a form of cognitive capital formation converts networks into value by multiplying the points of contact of cognitive capital with human activity. Using analytical and synthetic tools used in textual analysis in Digital Humanities as an illustrative example, I will show how, in the frequency-driven registration of data in knowledge apparatuses, data can usually register as data only when certain implied and unstated conditions can be met, and I will argue that explicitly modeling these condions in the form of ethical parameters provides a vocabulary to address epistemically induced invisibilization. For example, in the case above, a word is registered as such only by having relatively many points of contact with the corpus—that is, relatively many occurrences. Boltanski and Chiapello point out that the “new spirit of capitalism” is as interested, in principle, in favoring these network forms constituted by points of contact as it is in accumulation of the kind traditionally favored by capitalism. Articulated in this way, invisibilization becomes understandable as a problem, not only of structures rather than the contents of archives, but also of episteme, constituted by mutual interactions of naturalized infrastructural constraints. I show how the logics of hierarchical and nonhierarchical production and accumulation noted by Boltanski and Chiapello help conceptualize my proposed framework. While they are concerned with value creation in society as a whole, and do not address Digital Humanities specifically, I show how their particular theorization of late capitalism pertains specifically to value creation in technosocial apparatuses of knowledge, especially those pertaining to information in digital form of the kind with which Digital Humanities concerns itself.
Geofencing and Infrastructures of Trespassing
Arun Jacob (University of Toronto)
Rebecca Noone (University of Toronto)
In this paper, we focus on an understudied aspect of locative media infrastructure: the geofence. Geofences are virtual perimeters established around target locations that mark out property lines in the digital realm. They transform locative media information into saleable alternative data with material consequences, usually implemented by corporate actors with access to big data analytics. Although the geofence itself is an invisible infrastructure, it effects real material consequences that profit from the criminalization of poverty, the automation of logistics, and the settler-colonial preoccupation with resource extraction.
Our paper conceptualizes the algorithmic harm done by geofences, specifically what claims to property these geofences enforce and what ontologies of trespassing the geofencer profits from. To do this, we look at two geofencing case studies. First, we look at Civvl – a ‘property preservation’ platform that deploys geofences to initiate eviction-as-a-service for subscribing land owners fulfilled by gig workers. Then we analyze Enview – a geospatial analytics software with clients such as the TransmountainPipeline – who markets geofencing as a means to surveil oil and gas pipelines for “third party activity”. Our analysis builds upon Tero Karppi’s (2018) methodology of cultural techniques of predictive policing and Sasha Costanza Chock’s (2020) design justice to consider the systems and values that go into making a tool. We pair design analysis with a thematic spatial analysis drawing from Eve Tuck and Marcia McKenzie’s (2015) critical place inquiry and Katherine McKittrick’s (2006) cartographies of struggle to problematize the colonial and racist undergirdings of the geofence’s spatial enclosures. Through this, we think through the geofence’s ontologies of trespassing and how it upholds settler-colonial claims to property. The paper draws awareness to the geofence as a dangerous apparatus to initiate future strategizing around resistance and refusal that create knowledges, and ensure a thriving that cannot be contained.
CLOSING PLENARY 5:00-6:30