A Month in Review

Greetings from the DHC! We’re now a little over a month into the semester and we’d like to look back on the cool things we’ve done so far!

DH Summer Institute Wrap Up

On September 19th, we held a reception for our Digital Humanities Summer Institute fellows who worked tirelessly this summer to pursue a wide array of research topics. For more information on their projects, check out their blog posts!

Thank you to everyone who helped make the Summer Institute a reality! (left to right) Miriam Neptune, Kimberly Springer, Madiha Zahrah Choksi, Janet Jakobsen, Pamela Phillips, Corinth Jackson, Katherynn Sandoval, Celia Naylor, and Martha Tenney.
Those are some handsome gift bags!

The reception was both a celebration of the Institute’s success and a time for fellows to present their work. I was wowed by all of the care and consideration the fellows put into making incredible digital projects regarding equity, representation, the archive, and so much more.

Resist to Exist Kashmir

On September 20th we had another event! In collaboration with the BCRW and Stand With Kashmir, the Barnard DHC held a screening of Khoon Diy Baraav (Blood Leaves Its Trail) along with a discussion that followed with Hafsa Kanjwal and Samia Shafi. We highly recommend watching the film and getting more informed about the occupation of Kashmir. We, at the DHC, are working on getting resources to learn more on our website!

Check out Stand With Kashmir to learn more!

Professor Kaiama L. Glover Lecture and Welcome Reception

Professor Glover spoke about her experience working on In the Same Boats, an online project that “trace[s] the movements of seminal cultural actors from the Caribbean and wider Americas, Africa, and Europe within the 20th century Afro-Atlantic world” (In The Same Boats)

On October 3rd, the DHC held a welcome reception for our new faculty director, Kaiama L. Glover. During this reception, Professor Glover talked about her own journey into the digital humanities, focusing on the importance of collaboration, experimentation, and not being afraid to mess up. Professor Glover ended with a hope that the DHC can reach out to and collaborate with not only those who understand and have worked with the digital humanities but also the “digi-curious and maybe even the digi-skeptical.”

Check out In the Same Boats as well as the In All My Dreams Book Club to see what Professor Glover has been working on!

Lunchtime Book Series

Image result for trick mirror

Finally, yesterday, we had our first lunchtime book series. In it, we talked about the first essay in Trick Mirror, “The I in Internet.” During our discussion, we talked about the dangers of an internet that is so capital-driven and the ethics of information in the digital age.

This book talk is part of a larger series of book talks that the DHC is hosting this semester. We’re encouraging students to reach out if they have an idea for our next book talk or if they’d like to lead a discussion! This is a totally open space for exploration and discussion and you do not have to have read the featured book in order to participate in the discussion.

If you’re interested in hosting a lunchtime book talk please reach out to Taylor Faires (tfaires@barnard.edu) for more information!

DHC Weekly 9/30- Yale Program on Climate Change Communication

Hello again! The past few weeks have been very busy here at the DHC as we head into the semester. More posts to come this week on past events and what to look forward to this semester, but to start off the week, let’s talk about maps again.

The Yale Program on Climate Change Communication released a map in late September demonstrating the spatial layout of opinions surrounding climate change. YPCCC has been integral in discussing a forgotten aspect of climate change, how do we talk about it? While many other programs on climate change focus on the phenomenon itself, the way we talk about the issue matters. Unlike many other policy issues, climate change is hard to reduce to a single, definitive, soundbite. In fact, the Design Center’s post-bacc, Yisel Garcia, is focusing on climate change communications for her independent project this year!

The YPCCC gets most of its information through surveys and questionnaires, and while it does do work on the effectiveness of certain climate change frameworks, the maps I’m going over today are a from a survey of public opinion. For example, this is the spatial distribution of people who believe that global warming is happening. The information on this map is based on a national survey and demographic information. For more information on how these estimates were made, check out the YPCCC’s methodology page.

This map shows the estimated percentage of each county in the United States or people who believe that global warming is happening. On the individual county level, the estimated percentages seem to be between 45%-85%.

This map, though incredibly helpful, doesn’t show the whole picture. That’s where the interactive component comes in. Interested parties can toggle through different options to show opinions at the county, city, district, state, and national levels. In addition to this, you can also see how each county differs from the national average.

If we look at this map, we can see that the coastal areas as well as select parts of the Southwest have estimated percentages higher than the national average.

We can get a great deal of information from this map. Many areas in green are likely to be affected by climate change with hurricanes, droughts, or the rise in sea levels. In addition to this, many green areas are in high population areas such as California or Northeastern cities. This exercise is not to explain, definitively, why these distributions show up the way they do, but rather to show the importance of showing data in multiple different ways to get the full picture.

Now let’s explore another part of the survey! Below is a map showing the distribution of people who agree with the statement “Climate change will affect me personally.”

At first, the difference looks stark. However, you can see that the blue doesn’t necessarily reflect that no one believes that climate change will affect them personally, it simply reflects that a smaller percentage of people do. This brings me to another great aspect of this interactive map. You can select the percentages you want to show up by clicking on the bar next to the map.

While the estimated national percentage of people who believe that climate change will affect them personally is only 42%, there are only two counties in the country, Cullman County, Alabama and Bland County, Virginia, in which an estimated 30% or less of the population believes this.

Below the 30% mark, very few counties are highlighted on the map. Only two, to be precise. It is also worth noting that in no county in the United States, according to YPCCC’s estimates, does less than 25% of the population believe that climate change will affect them personally.

Finally, I want to highlight the data regarding the media and climate change. Below are a series of maps depicting conversations and media coverage of climate change.

The reason I chose to highlight this data is partially personal. As a recent graduate of a liberal college in a liberal city, I can easily say that I hear about climate change via media daily (if not more) and I talk about it probably just as much. The idea that so many people could go a week without hearing about it from the media was really shocking to me. This made me realize something I already knew but tended to ignore, our social media shows us what it thinks is important to us. On the flip side, if Facebook or Twitter’s algorithms don’t think you would care to hear about climate change, news about it won’t show up.

This may seem obvious and, in a way, it is. Why would you read about something you’re not interested in? The implications, however, aren’t great. How are we supposed to be informed about the news if we are only shown things that algorithms assume we’ll agree with? What this data demonstrates is that we need to find a better way to stay informed. The fact that a majority of Americans don’t hear about climate change weekly is, perhaps, not the most pressing issue in our political landscape. The YPCCC map, does, however, show us a problem:

There’s an information gap.

Information regarding climate change isn’t reaching everyone uniformly and this isn’t something that can be easily fixed. The problem is indicative of a much larger problem regarding media coverage. The YPCCC interactive map shows the distribution of opinions on climate change. It shows that the U.S. is far from united on the matter. The data also suggest that media coverage isn’t fixing the issue. While the map doesn’t give us answers as to how to address the information gap, it does do a wonderful job of showing the landscape of opinions in the United States. I’m really excited about the work the YPCCC is doing to characterize the information gap and to find solutions!

If you’re interested in learning more about the YPCCC, check out their website! The data used to create the map is downloadable and may be useful for your academic research. If you’d like to hear more from me on how social media divides us, join me at the DHC next Monday 1:30-2:30 PM for our first lunchtime book series where I’ll be talking about Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino.

DHC Weekly 9/18- Asking more of Wikipedia

Who remembers being told by teachers that Wikipedia is not a reliable source? I sure do, but how do we begin to address the biases and problems with Wikipedia?

This week’s blog post is a response to the Disrupt Wikipedia event that took place in Butler Library on Monday. The panel discussion on Wikipedia was moderated by Columbia’s Wikipedian-in-Residence, Darold Cuba, with special guests Sherry Antione of Afrocrowd and Merrilee Proffitt who wrote “Leveraging Wikipedia: Connection Communities of Knowledge.”

What I found so wonderful about the panel was its candid discussion of Wikipedia, its failures and its successes. Wikipedia has become huge since its launch in 2001. There’s a lot of room for really radical work to be done with this platform. For one thing, it’s open-source. As much as academics have traditionally scoffed at its usage, there is something to be said for Wikipedia’s reach. Not everyone has access to libraries full of peer-reviewed resources on any topic imaginable. Wikipedia also has entries in 304 languages, making it more accessible than even the most conscientious academic journal. This all being said, with great power comes great responsibility and there are real problems of representation in the world of Wikipedia.

“This is the new encyclopedia for the world’s history and the world’s knowledge,” explained Sherry Antione, “all history and all human knowledge should be by all people.”

“All history and all human knowledge should be by all people.”

But that’s simply not the case for Wikipedia as it exists right now. Antione works for an organization called Afrocrowd, which seeks to improve the number of people of African descent editing and even reading Wikipedia.

Right now only 9% of Wikipedia editors are cis-women and only 1% are trans-women. The other 90% are men and though we don’t have the statistics on race, anecdotally, the situation isn’t great. Wikipedia doesn’t even track the races of its editors, which has its own baggage. Our own Wikipedian-in-Residence, Meredith Wisner, presented on Wikipedia and representation.

Meredith Wisner, Barnard Art and Architecture Librarian and Wikipedian-In-Residence

These issues with representation have effects on what topics are covered on Wikipedia and how. Only 18% of biographies on Wikipedia are of women. “There are gaps so large on Wikipedia that I think you could drive a truck through it,” explained Merrilee Proffitt. This isn’t just a problem in Wikipedia, however, it’s a reflection of a much broader issue. “Wikipedia may have gaps and biases, but so do our libraries, so do publishing industries,” she reminded us.

Like our libraries and our publishing industries, the solution isn’t to cut off any association with the site, allowing the biases and gaps to remain. The way to fix Wikipedia is just simply to fix it. “It’s forgotten in many ways that you can edit Wikipedia,” Proffitt said.

The reality is that Wikipedia does lend itself to discursive practice. You can edit entries that have gaps or biases. Those edits can be edited by another user with something important to add. Importantly, these edits are logged. You can see how the representation of a topic has changed over time. There is an opportunity for us to make Wikipedia a source worth referencing, but to do that we need to edit. The problem of representation occurs when editing Wikipedia is put on a pedestal, something that only experts do. This isn’t true. Anyone can be a Wikipedia editor and everyone has something valuable to add, that’s the beauty of a platform as open as Wikipedia.

I wasn’t a Wikipedia editor before Monday, but I am now. It’s easy to sign up and you don’t have to create a whole new entry in your first week. Maybe start with a small edit on an entry that has a grammatical error. Or maybe add a section that was left out in the biography of a figure you know a little about. As Wisner explained in her presentation, “if you mess up, that’s okay, someone will come around and fix your mistake!”

This photo is featured on the event’s Wikipedia page and in it I’m editing a Wikipedia page, talk about meta.

This is all to say, “why not try?” I’m excited to explore more of what being a Wikipedia editor really means and I hope you all will look into it as well. The DHC has held Wikipedia Edit-a-Thons in the past and while being an editor is not a prerequisite in the slightest, it may save you some time if you come to one in the future!

Happy Editing!!!

DHC Weekly 2/8/17: NYCDH week

Hello, DH fans! As I imagine some of you know (since you are, of course, DH fans) this week has been NYCDH Week — that’s New York City Digital Humanities Week. NYCDH Week is a week of workshops, panels, and talks happening all over New York City at institutions like Fordham, the New School, Columbia, NYU, CUNY, and more, all centered on the Digital Humanities. Digital Scholarship Librarian and fellow DHC team-member Madiha and I have been dashing around the city like Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada, but instead of “fashion” or “having a really mean boss” we’ve been fired up over learning new skills and discovering new projects in DH happening all over our city.

NYCDH week kicked off with an all-day event of panel discussions, lightning talks, and presentations of work, hosted at Fordham University. I don’t have world enough or time to share with you all the incredible projects presented at this kickoff event, but I’d like to touch on a few conversations from Monday.

Keynote speaker Meredith Broussard opened things up with a talk about AI — what AI isn’t (sorry Data from Star Trek, you may be my favorite character but you’re pure Hollywood mythmaking), what AI is (really complicated statistical analysis), and how AI can reflect the biases of both the people creating it and the society in which it is created. She warned against the hubristic refusal to acknowledge that technology is not the inherently perfect saviour of humanity it is sometimes thought of as but is in fact as flawed as we are; a term she calls “technochauvanism” and traces to the overwhelmingly white, male, and ivy-league educated founding fathers of the field of computer science.

Next, Barnard Library’s own Jenna Friedman took the stage, along with our neighbor from across the street, Columbia Digital Scholarship Librarian Alex Gil, and Juber Ayala and Wendy Hayden, of the Newark Public Library and Hunter College, respectively, for a roundtable on Information, Democracy, Archives, and Absence. This roundtable raised a lot of fascinating points, and sparked a conversation that I believe is still continuing on twitter, about absence in the archive. Should, for example, all data be publicly accessible? And when we talk about democratizing the archive, how do we discuss the complicated interwoven roles of librarian, archivists, and professors? Jenna, for one, made the excellent point that if a library’s collection is uncomfortably un-diverse, it may not have been entirely at the discretion of the librarian, but also reflective of the curricular needs of professors. In other words, it’s all related! And it’s on all of us to interrogate our library and archival spaces.

I want to conclude with highlighting one of the neatest projects presented on Monday. Katy Gero of Columbia University won one of NYCDH’s gradute student project prizes, for her tool, metaphoria, aimed at generating metaphorical connections between concepts. You can explore metaphoria yourself here, but what I found most interesting is the ways Katy described poets working with metaphoria. Some poets, she explained, mostly wrote on their own, turning to metaphoria if they were in a jam or needed some specific input, using it much like one would use a thesaurus. Others took a metaphoria suggestion as a starting point to riff on at length in their own words. A third poet build a poem more or less entirely out of metaphoria outputs, effectively co-writing the piece with the tool. I found this range compelling as an example of the elasticity of Digital Humanities tools — there are hundreds of ways to relate to technology in our work, and it’s always a treat to get to peek in on some of them.

NYCDH week has continued with a full schedule of workshops with DH tools and concepts, taking place all over the city — Madiha and I have attended workshops learning about data epistomologies, wikidata, DH in the classroom, and many many more. All of the workshops are free and open to anyone interested in the Digital Humanities. Next year, I hope to see you there!