What is Digital Scholarship Anyway? (Part Two)

Perhaps the best way to get a sense of how digital scholarship is changing academic landscapes is to learn about the exciting projects pursued at other pioneering institutions and right here at Connecticut College. You will probably recognize digital scholarship already practiced in your own work and provocative ideas for further enhancing your research and teaching with digital technologies.

  • Mining the Vogue Archives: Yale Librarians Peter Leonard and Lindsay King have been working with the Vogue Archive’s digitized data, and their projects in data visualization and data mining demonstrate how much new knowledge can be created through access to huge digital datasets.
  • Network analysis of the early modern social network: A project by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, Six Degrees of Francis Bacon uses data mining of existing scholarship, “published in countless books and articles […] scattered and unsynthesized” to create visual representations of the social networks between writers and intellectuals in early modern England.
  • Mapping Microfinance: Economics professor Shannon Mudd and Digital Librarian Laurie Allen at Haverford College worked with students to visually map access to finance in Uganda, demonstrating geographical and cultural factors that determine locations of microfinance operations, as well as visualizing potential correlations between poverty ratio and access to microfinance institutions.
  • Topic Modeling to Revise Ekphrasis: Lisa Rhody, Research Assistant Professor at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, uses advanced computational methods to challenge long-held understandings of ekphrasis and “accounts for inter-aesthetic relationships historically labeled as outliers.”
  • Mapping Women’s Movements and Mapping Connecticut College History: Just in the last two weeks, other Engage contributors highlighted the results of a mapping project in Professor Ariella Rotramel’s Spring 2014 Transnational Women’s Movements course, and the Lear Center’s adoption of History Pin for digital storytelling of the College’s history.
  • Visualizing Music Genres through Lyrics, Bruce Haik ’14, Ammerman Center for Arts & Technology, Faculty Advisor: Ozgur Izmirli—“For his CAT project, Haik compiled 800 pop songs from the past four years from four different genres. Using Python – a computer coding language – Haik created a running file of the lyrics from all 800 songs that he could manipulate to perform analysis, like finding out which words are most commonly used in each genre.” (The College Voice, 2014)
  • Planned Visualization Wall, Shain Library Technology Commons, 2015—When the renovated Shain Library reopens in fall 2015, the Technology Commons will feature a high-resolution microtile visualization wall. An interactivity kit will allow users to control the display as one controls a touch-screen on a computer, and the system will support simultaneous display of multiple devices, including wired computers and mobile devices. The wall will be an ideal tool to present research and instruction projects developed using interactive web-based applications, such as Google Maps and Google Earth, History Pin, Google Art Project and Google Open Gallery. Other potential uses of the wall include (interactive) digital exhibitions and gaming.
On-site Sample Visualization Wall Demo, July 2014, Language & Culture Center
On-site Sample Visualization Wall Demo, July 2014, Language & Culture Center

What is clear is that we are part of a revolution in academia that is, according to Jeffrey Schnapp, Professor of Romance Languages & Literature and Director of Harvard’s metaLAB, so impactful to scholarship as to be “comparable to the Copernican revolution or the discovery of the New World.” (Harvard Magazine, 2012) He convincingly illuminates the shifting role of scholars—traditionally understood as knowledge-creators—in the Digital Age:

When you move from a universe where the rules with respect to a scholarly essay or monograph have been fully codified, to a universe of experimentation in which the rules have yet to be written, characterized by shifting toolkits and skillsets, in which genres of scholarship are undergoing constant redefinition, you become by necessity a knowledge designer.”

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