Category: academic cultures

Getting your bearings if you were surprised

In the wake of an election that has chagrined many, I made up a list of 10 films for students in my “Disasters” course. My intent was to help them get a sense of why we are where we are today, in a way that wouldn’t require them to add to the mountains of reading and problem sets they already do for their courses.

The list is below–they’re mostly documentaries. But not the boring kind. I decided to leave it handwritten, rather than type it up, because I think we could all use traces of each other as human beings right now. Plus, that way you can see my “Depress-o-meter” rating for each film (in the margin). I did that so you won’t end up watching something terribly depressing when you’re already crushed, as my students seemed to be this Wednesday  when I saw them in class.

Test pattern SMPTE_Color_Bars

The #SIGCIS #DH panel at #SHOT2015

I was very glad to be a part of the digital history and humanities panel at the SIGCIS Workshop (part of the 2015 meeting of the Society of the History of Technology in Albuquerque this year), As background to my comments, I’ve provided my Digital Labor Class syllabus, which was my main contribution to the digital humanities degree we recently set up at Illinois Institute of Technology.

Cool Code, Bro: Brogrammers, Geek Anxiety and the New Tech Elite

Journalist Nick Parish recently published an e-book on privilege, sexism, and heteronormativity in high tech called: Cool Code, Bro: Brogrammers, Geek Anxiety and the New Tech Elite. In it, he discusses how the changing landscape of the American economy has helped shift the culture of tech.

Image by babyborg (Rene C.):

In the past three decades, we’ve seen the leading edge of the software industry go from privileging whiz kids to bad boys. In our attempts to come to grips with the new postindustrial age as workers and consumers, we’ve found that we’re becoming more and more wary of the hero stories coming out of Silicon Valley. What once seemed like boyish irreverence for social etiquette now seems an antisocial force that may be inimical to the very industry our economy relies upon. As the model of geek-chic has changed, so has the meaning. Or has it? Parish tries to figure all of this out, while giving a brief primer on how high technology and privilege interact in some disturbing ways.

His e-book is free to download today. Full disclosure: I was interviewed by Parish for this work and several of my articles are referenced within it, which how I know about it. You can read my writings on the subject here, here, and here. I’d also recommend the work of several others referenced in Parish’s e-book, particularly Kate Losse and Sapna Cheryan.

Global English, Political Speech, and Public Humanities

One of my great pleasures over the course of this semester was being able to introduce undergraduates in my Filming the Past class to the amazing work of graduates in the Humanities Department’s Technical Communication program within the Program in Technology and the Humanities. My class not only teaches students through the medium of oral history and documentary film, but asks them to actively engage the public by creating in these mediums and sharing the products of their intellectual development. In that spirit, I’d like to highlight two “podcast-style” interviews students did with young faculty in the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Humanities Department.

One group of students interviewed recent Ph.D. and current Visiting Assistant Professor, Halcyon Lawrence, who works on speech intelligibility. Specifically, Prof. Lawrence asks the question: why do so many of our new, convenience-enabling technologies make life harder for the majority of English speakers? Speech recognition systems deployed worldwide, from Siri to your credit card’s voice prompts, are modeled on, and take for granted, American English or British accents as “standard English”–despite the fact that most English speakers today do not learn English in America or the UK. As English becomes our economic and technological “lingua franca,” how can we solve problems of speech intelligibility that are increasingly becoming embedded in our global technological infrastructure? Prof. Lawrence’s work offers a window into this fascinating problem and potential solutions:

Direct link to interview

Graduate Student Andrew Roback focuses on a different kind of speech: political speech on twitter. In particular, he asks, how do organizations wield 140 characters and what do they expect to get out of social networking? Though much lauded in the popular press for being a political game changer (cf. the conversations about Twitter in the “Arab Spring”), what exactly do we know about political influence on Twitter and about who has control and who doesn’t?

Direct link to interview

Inventing America: Black History

Inventing America: A chronological selection of Black Americans’ impacts in politics, law, medicine, technology, art, and culture         

This post has a timeline with more information and resources to accompany the Black History Month timeline poster you may have seen on campus at Illinois Institute of Technology. Continue reading

What I’ve Been Talking About…

Now that the term’s finally ended, I’m gratified to be able to reflect on what I’ve been up to for the past few months, in terms of conferences and presentations. This Fall was a really interesting time for me, because in addition to presenting at conferences that are old standbys for me, like the Society for the History of Technology, I was also glad to have the opportunity to make new connections in fields ranging from digital humanities to queer studies.

Here’s what I’ve been up to, with some links to available online versions of presentation materials where possible: Continue reading

A response to a successful industrialist’s lecture on the humanities

Recently our university hosted a prominent member of the Chicago business community whose interest in the humanities has led him to philanthropic giving to our institution. It has also put him in posts of high esteem on national boards and committees designed to discuss how to make the humanities more prominent in our current STEM-heavy media climate and economy.
Continue reading

Digital Humanities Speaker Series: Embodied Learning

In February, the Humanities Department at IIT was fortunate enough to host a talk from Dr. Leilah Lyons in our Digital Humanities Speaker Series. Dr. Lyons is assistant professor of computer science at the University of Illinois at Chicago as well as Director of Digital Learning for the New York Hall of Science, a hands-on science museum. Her work focuses on making digital museum exhibits more effective sites for learning and engagement through the use of embodied interaction techniques.

In the clip below, she talks about how new technologies can be used in conjunction with embodied interaction research in order to teach museum patrons difficult concepts. This display, for instance, lets zoo patrons experience the effects of global warming on polar bears:


Gender and Technological Change Class: First Blog Assignment

Today in class we talked about how the articles you brought in highlighted themes and concepts we’ve already read about in class. I’d like you to think about them a bit more and write a short post of no more than 400 words by this Friday at 10pm.

Specifically, I’d like you to come up with a new insight based on the juxtaposition of the two articles you read in your small group today (your article and your partner’s article). In coming up with that new insight, go back over the syllabus and look at what we’ve read up to this point. Try to relate your insight to one of the articles we’ve read for class. In so doing, don’t just focus on similarities but also try to show how your insight is new and different from that author’s argument. In other words, why should we be interested in this  idea you’ve come up with? What new thing does it teach us?

Nobel Laureate Economist Amartya Sen, whose articles on the “Missing Women” problem we read last week

Your posts will not show up immediately–I will approve a selection of the best posts shortly after the deadline. At that point, please revisit the blog to take a look at your classmates’ contributions and feel free to comment on them.

I look forward to seeing your responses!

Digital Humanities Spring Speakers

The new semester is just about to begin here at IIT, which–in addition to new classes–means a new set of speakers for our Digital Humanities Series.

On February 14, we’ll kick off the spring lectures with Leilah Lyons, a specialist in human-computer interaction from the University of Illinois, Chicago. Lyons studies and designs interfaces for museums that allow patrons to engage with exhibits, thereby collaborating in the museum learning experience through the use of computers. Lyons’s work shifts the focus, and the power dynamic, of public technologies from top-down design and deployment methodologies to ones that incorporate the user as a powerful participant in the learning and teaching process. Her talk will focus on her work on the CoCensus project, and how to design and deploy informal learning interfaces.

After that, on March 13th, we’ll be hearing Stephen Jones of Loyola speak on “The Emergence of the Digital Humanities.” His talk will draw on his new book of the same name, and discuss the development of digital humanities as a field of academic inquiry.

Here’s a podcast of him talking about his previous book on the Nintendo Wii,  Codename Revolution, which was published in the MIT platform studies series. (Direct link: Even if you’ve never played with a Wii, or yours is now collecting dust, this is a fascinating discussion on its origins, technology, and social meanings.  In fact, students in my STS class this spring will be reading parts the book–I’m looking forward to seeing what their take on it is.

Finally, on April 11th, we’ll hear from Jennifer Thom of the Newberry Library. Thom will talk to us about her cutting-edge work on the creation of digital archives and publications. Her projects include research into new search methods and search design, and how to present information digitally that may be difficult to apprehend even in its original paper versions. In particular, Thom will discuss her work on the Foreign Language Press Survey, a project that uses the TEI encoding scheme to classify translations of 19th and 20th century newspaper stories from the foreign-language press in and around Chicago.

All staff, faculty, and students at IIT are welcome to attend the Humanities Department’s digital humanities speaker series, as are scholars, staff, and students from other local universities. We hope to see you there!