Journal 2/7: Why platforms make good projects

When I went to the lighting talks on the first day of NYCDH Week, most projects were of the platform and tool building variety. I was very impressed by these projects, but it was Professor Brier accepting his award and discussing his work quantifying coal strikes had such an immediate effect on me. Clearly, I am fascinated by evidence of larger forces acting on events. While contributions to tools, platforms, and other forms of humanities analysis offers a necessary work for the academic community. Like the development of statistical models and other quantitative devices employed by the social and hard sciences, these projects allow future scholars to pursue their hypotheses and other work. Further, building these projects with others in mind means we will seek universality and customization, rather than fitting the work to a particular end.

In class, I found the evaluation process fruitful. There were interesting project proposals. It was clear that clarity and detail are very valuable. My own proposal felt underdeveloped, but still got many useful questions. One realization I had is just how much information I had absorbed on the subject of lynching that others may not know.

A DH project of the argumentative variety requires extensive knowledge of a topic. It is also often a two-step process, requiring first the accumulation and of data, then the design or use of an analytic tool. Given that interest in DH, and not a specific discipline or topic is what unifies the class, such projects are not ideal. (Though I can’t help but think that there are enough Modernists and folks who are interested in 20th century poetry.)

Another thought I had is that unless a project is really developed and all but perfect in design, we can expect to make considerable changes once a team is assembled to work on it, despite the tight schedule. This makes a tool or platform project more attractive, because it requires less extensive learning or catch up from the team.

I attended the “Sensing Urban Noise” workshop at NYU. I was introduced to a few concepts there, notable Blue Horizon and SuperCollider. The former is a method (somewhat beyond my understanding-level) for distributing code to edge devices (such as, in this case, Raspberry Pis) and collecting their output. This allows for, in the case of this project (I believe a part of CityGram), devices to record the soundscape of a place, and send information about it without transmitting raw data (an obvious security concern). SuperCollider is a programming language for creating sound and music. This is a bit over my head, but I certainly found the presentation interesting. I was thinking a very practical application of this project is to record decibel measurements over time in a particular place. Many New Yorkers (myself included) live and sleep in rooms with too much noise, whether because of traffic, construction, or neighbors. The other application, and one that was discussed, is the creation of digital art.

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  • Welcome to Digital Praxis 2016-2017

    Encouraging students think about the impact advancements in digital technology have on the future of scholarship from the moment they enter the Graduate Center, the Digital Praxis Seminar is a year-long sequence of two three-credit courses that familiarize students with a variety of digital tools and methods through lectures offered by high-profile scholars and technologists, hands-on workshops, and collaborative projects. Students enrolled in the two-course sequence will complete their first year at the GC having been introduced to a broad range of ways to critically evaluate and incorporate digital technologies in their academic research and teaching. In addition, they will have explored a particular area of digital scholarship and/or pedagogy of interest to them, produced a digital project in collaboration with fellow students, and established a digital portfolio that can be used to display their work. The two connected three-credit courses will be offered during the Fall and Spring semesters as MALS classes for master’s students and Interdisciplinary Studies courses for doctoral students.

    The syllabus for the course can be found at

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