DHMS

DHMS: Teaching Machines

Poster with headshot of Audrey Watters and text that reads: Teaching Machines: The History of Personalized Learning, by Audrey Watters. Live. Online. Registration required. February 17, 2022, 4:00pm. Co sponsored by the center for excellence in teaching and learning and the Neag School of Education.

If you require accommodation to attend this event, please contact us at uchi@uconn.edu or by phone (860) 486-9057. We can request ASL interpreting and other accommodations offered by the Center for Students with Disabilities. The event will be presented with automated transcription.

The Digital Humanities and Media Studies Initiative presents:

Teaching Machines: The History of Personalized Learning

with Audrey Watters

February 17, 2022, 4:00–5:00pm
Live • Online • Registration required

Join us to hear Audrey Watters speak about her latest book, Teaching Machines: The History of Personalized Learning (MIT Press), which tells the pre-digital history of “personalized learning.” Watters demonstrates that the history of ed tech does not begin with videos on the internet, or even with the personal computer. Her book instead focuses on early twentieth-century teaching machines, the psychological theories that underpinned them, how they were reported on in the media, and how they shaped and were shaped by the cultures in which they were produced.

Audrey Watters is a writer and independent scholar who focuses on education technology—its politics and its pedagogical implications. Although she was two chapters into her Comparative Literature dissertation, she decided to abandon academia, and she now happily fulfills the one job recommended to her by a junior high aptitude test: freelance writer. She has written for The Baffler, The Atlantic, Vice, Hybrid Pedagogy, Inside Higher Ed, The School Library Journal, and elsewhere across the Web, but she is best known for the work on her own website Hack Education. Audrey has given keynotes and presentations on education technology around the world and is the author of several books, including The Monsters of Education Technology, The Revenge of the Monsters of Education Technology, The Curse of the Monsters of Education Technology, The Monsters of Education Technology 4, and Claim Your Domain. Her latest book, Teaching Machines (MIT Press), examines the pre-history of “personalized learning.” Audrey was a recipient of the Spencer Education Journalism Fellowship at Columbia University for the 2017–2018 academic year.

Cosponsored by the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning and the Neag School of Education.

In advance of her talk we will be hosting a book discussion on Teaching Machines February 10 at 3:00pm.

DHMS and CETL: Teaching Machines Book Discussion Group

A poster advertising a book discussion about Audrey Watters' Teaching Machines. A picture of the book cover beside text that reads: UCHI's Digital Humanities and Media Studies Initiative and the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning presents a discussion group about Audrey Watters’ Teaching Machines. February 10, 2022, 3:00pm. Live. Online. Registration required. Related event: virtual book talk by Audrey Watters, February 17 at 4:00pm.

If you require accommodation to attend this event, please contact us at uchi@uconn.edu or by phone (860) 486-9057. We can request ASL interpreting and other accommodations offered by the Center for Students with Disabilities. The event will be presented with automated transcription.

The Digital Humanities and Media Studies Initiative and the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning invite you to a book discussion group about:

Teaching Machines: The History of Personalized Learning

by Audrey Watters

February 10, 2022, 3:00–4:00pm
Live • Online • Registration required.

UCHI and CETL are hosting a book discussion group about Audrey Watters’ new book Teaching Machines: The History of Personalized Learning (MIT, 2021). Watters is perhaps best known for her website Hack Education, which covers “the history of the future of education technology.” Teaching Machines expands on that project, looking at how the desire for a technical solution to the social problem of equality in education pre-date the digital era.

To participate in the book discussion, please register. The first twenty registrants with UConn email addresses will receive a free electronic copy of Teaching Machines (MIT Press, 2021). Please email uchi@uconn.edu to receive your ebook. We also have paper copies that can be picked up once our office reopens in February.

In conjunction with this event, Audrey Watters will give a virtual book talk on February 17, 2021 at 4:00pm. To attend the talk, register here.

DHMS: The Digital Dissertation

DHMS: The Digital Dissertation. Anke Finger & Virginia Kuhn. February 3, 2022, 12:30pm. Live. Online. Registration required.

If you require accommodation to attend this event, please contact us at uchi@uconn.edu or by phone (860) 486-9057. We can request ASL interpreting, computer-assisted real time transcription, and other accommodations offered by the Center for Students with Disabilities.

The Digital Humanities and Media Studies Initiative presents:

The Digital Dissertation

Anke Finger (UConn)
& Virginia Kuhn (University of Southern California)

February 3, 2022, 12:30–2:00pm

Live. Online (with automated captioning). Registration required.

Digital dissertations have been a part of academic research for years now, yet there are still many questions surrounding their processes. Are interactive dissertations significantly different from their paper-based counterparts? What are the effects of digital projects on doctoral education? How does one choose and defend a digital dissertation? Join the presentation of Shaping the Digital Dissertation: Knowledge Production in the Arts and Humanities (Open Book Publishers, 2021) to discuss precedents and best practices for graduate students, doctoral advisors, institutional agents, and dissertation committees. UCHI’s DHMS initiative offers a graduate certificate in Digital Humanities and Media Studies. Students interested in pursuing the certificate will find this talk especially valuable.

Anke Finger is professor of German, Media Studies, and Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies in the department of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages at UConn. A co-founder and co-editor (2005–2015) of the multilingual, peer reviewed, open access journal Flusser Studies, Anke Finger’s closely related scholarship in media studies originates from her work on the Czech-Brazilian philosopher Vilém Flusser. She co-authored the 2011 Introduction to Vilém Flusser, and she is a member of the Flusser project team at Greenhouse Studios. She edited Flusser’s The Freedom of the Migrant and co-edited the collection KulturConfusão: On German-Brazilian Interculturalities (2015). From 2016 to 2019 she served as the inaugural director of the Digital Humanities and Media Studies Initiative at the Humanities Institute; she also co-founded the CTDH network. She is the co-editor of Shaping the Digital Dissertation.

Virginia Kuhn is a Professor of Cinema in the Division of Media Arts + Practice. Her work centers on visual and digital rhetoric, feminist theory and algorithmic research methods. Her books include Shaping the Digital Dissertation: Knowledge Production in the Arts and Humanities (Open Book Publishers, 2021) and Future Texts: Subversive Performance and Feminist Bodies (Parlor Press, 2016). She has also published several peer-reviewed digital collections: The Video Essay: An Emergent Taxonomy of Cinematic Writing (The Cine-Files, 2016); MoMLA: From Panel to Gallery (Kairos, 2013) and From Gallery to Webtext: A Multimodal Anthology (Kairos, 2008). In 2005, Kuhn successfully defended one of the first born-digital dissertations in the United States, challenging archiving and copyright conventions. Committed to helping shape open source tools for scholarship, she also published the first article created in the authoring platform, Scalar titled “Filmic Texts and the Rise of the Fifth Estate,” (IJLM, 2010) and she serves on the editorial boards of several peer reviewed digital and print-based journals. She received the USC Faculty Mentoring Graduate Students award in 2017 and was the 2009 recipient of the USC Provost’s award for Teaching with Technology. Kuhn directs the undergraduate Honors in Multimedia Scholarship program, as well as the graduate certificate in Digital Media and Culture, and teaches a variety of graduate and undergraduate classes in new media, all of which marry theory and practice.

DHMS: Discriminating Data with Wendy Chun

Discriminating Data. Wendy Hui Kyong Chun (New Media, Simon Fraser University) in conversation with Yohei Igarashi. Live. Online. Registration required. November 18, 2021, 1:00pm.

If you require accommodation to attend this event, please contact us at uchi@uconn.edu or by phone (860) 486-9057. We can request ASL interpreting, computer-assisted real time transcription, and other accommodations offered by the Center for Students with Disabilities.

The Digital Humanities and Media Studies Initiative presents:

Discriminating Data

Wendy Hui Kyong Chun (Simon Fraser University)
in conversation with Yohei Igarashi

November 18, 2021, 1:00–2:30pm
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Live. Online (with automated captioning). Registration required.

This is an honors event (Multiculturalism & Global Citizenship, Academic & Interdisciplinary Engagement)

In this conversation, Wendy Hui Kyong Chun (SFU’s Canada 150 Research Chair in New Media) will discuss themes from her new book Discriminating Data (published November 2, 2021, MIT Press) about how big data and predictive machine learning currently encode discrimination and create agitated clusters of comforting rage. Chun will explore how polarization is a goal—not an error—within current practices of predictive data analysis and machine learning for these methods encode segregation, eugenics, and identity politics through their default assumptions and conditions. Correlation, which grounds big data’s predictive potential, stems from twentieth-century eugenic attempts to “breed” a better future. Recommender systems foster angry clusters of sameness through homophily. Users are “trained” to become authentically predictable via a politics and technology of recognition. The predictive programs thus seek to disrupt the future by making disruption impossible.

Wendy Hui Kyong Chun is Simon Fraser University’s Canada 150 Research Chair in New Media and leads the Digital Democracies Institute. She is the author of several works including Control and Freedom: Power and Paranoia in the Age of Fiber Optics (MIT, 2006), Programmed Visions: Software and Memory (MIT, 2011), Updating to Remain the Same: Habitual New Media (MIT, 2016), Discriminating Data (MIT 2021), and the co-author of Pattern Discrimination (University of Minnesota & Meson Press, 2019). She has been Professor and Chair of the Department of Modern Culture and Media at Brown University, where she worked for almost two decades and where she’s currently a Visiting Professor. She has also been a Visiting Scholar at the Annenberg School at the University of Pennsylvania, Member of the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton), and she has held fellowships from: the Guggenheim, ACLS, American Academy of Berlin, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard.

In conjunction with talk we will be hosting a book discussion group about Discriminating Data on November 15, 2021.

DHMS: Daniel Rosenberg on the Origin of the Keyword

DHMS: Machine/Language: The Origin of the Keyword. Daniel Rosenberg, History, University of Oregon. Live. Online. Registration required. November 10, 2021, 11:00am. Cosponsored by the History of Science Reading Group.

If you require accommodation to attend this event, please contact us at uchi@uconn.edu or by phone (860) 486-9057. We can request ASL interpreting, computer-assisted real time transcription, and other accommodations offered by the Center for Students with Disabilities.

The Digital Humanities and Media Studies Initiative presents:

Machine/Language: The Origin of the Keyword

Daniel Rosenberg (University of Oregon)

November 10, 2021, 11:00am–12:30pm
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Live. Online (with automated captioning). Registration required.

There may be no word more emblematic of our information age than keyword itself, but the ubiquity of the term belies its complexity. Distinct concepts of the keyword were articulated in information theory and in cultural studies beginning in the late 1950s. With the rise of the Web in the 1990s, however, these differing concepts were bound together. The story of this hybridization provides insight into the process by which computers became mediators of culture during the second half of the twentieth century as well as the importance of cultural studies to our understanding of computers.

Cosponsored by the History of Science Reading Group.

Daniel Rosenberg is an intellectual historian with a research focus on the history of information and information graphics. In addition, he writes on a wide range of topics related to historiography, epistemology, language, and visual culture. His books are Cartographies of Time: A History of the Timeline with Anthony Grafton (2010) and Histories of the Future with Susan Harding (2005). Rosenberg is Editor-at-Large of Cabinet: A Quarterly of Art and Culture, where he is a frequent contributor. He also directs a digital project on historical graphics supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities entitled Time Online. Rosenberg has received grants and fellowships from ACLS, NEH, Stanford Humanities Center, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, and American Academy in Berlin among other institutions. Recognitions at the University of Oregon include the Coleman-Guitteau Teaching Fellowship, Fund for Faculty Excellence Award, Williams Council Grant, Faculty Research Award, and Lorry Lokey Award for Science and the Human Condition. Among other subjects, Rosenberg has published on paleolithic calendars, the concept of sloth, the history of Jell-O, and the languages of planet Mars.

DHMS and FoT: Discriminating Data Book Discussion Group

UCHI's digital humanities and media studies initiative and future of truth project present a book discussion group about Wendy Hui Kyong Chun's Discriminating Data, led by Alexis L. Boylan and Yohei Igarashi. November 15, 2021, 3:00pm. Homer Babbidge Library, 4-209. Related event: virtual book talk by Wendy Chun, November 18, 2021, 1:00pm

If you require accommodation to attend this event, please contact us at uchi@uconn.edu or by phone (860) 486-9057. We can request ASL interpreting and other accommodations offered by the Center for Students with Disabilities.

The Digital Humanities and Media Studies Initiative and the Future of Truth project invite you to a book discussion group about:

Discriminating Data

by Wendy Hui Kyong Chun
led by Alexis L. Boylan and Yohei Igarashi

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November 15, 2021, 3:00–4:00pm
Homer Babbidge Library, 4-209

To participate, please email uchi@uconn.edu. The first twenty participants to sign up will receive a free copy of Discriminating Data: Correlation, Neighborhoods, and the New Politics of Recognition (MIT Press, 2021).

In Discriminating Data, Wendy Hui Kyong Chun reveals how polarization is a goal—not an error—within big data and machine learning. These methods, she argues, encode segregation, eugenics, and identity politics through their default assumptions and conditions. Correlation, which grounds big data’s predictive potential, stems from twentieth-century eugenic attempts to “breed” a better future. Recommender systems foster angry clusters of sameness through homophily. Users are “trained” to become authentically predictable via a politics and technology of recognition. Machine learning and data analytics thus seek to disrupt the future by making disruption impossible.

Chun, who has a background in systems design engineering as well as media studies and cultural theory, explains that although machine learning algorithms may not officially include race as a category, they embed whiteness as a default. Facial recognition technology, for example, relies on the faces of Hollywood celebrities and university undergraduates—groups not famous for their diversity. Homophily emerged as a concept to describe white U.S. resident attitudes to living in biracial yet segregated public housing. Predictive policing technology deploys models trained on studies of predominantly underserved neighborhoods. Trained on selected and often discriminatory or dirty data, these algorithms are only validated if they mirror this data.

How can we release ourselves from the vice-like grip of discriminatory data? Chun calls for alternative algorithms, defaults, and interdisciplinary coalitions in order to desegregate networks and foster a more democratic big data.

[Book description from MIT Press site]

In conjunction with this event, Wendy Chun will give a virtual book talk on November 18, 2021 at 1:00pm. To attend the talk, register here.

DHMS: Black Beyond Data

DHMS: Black Beyond Data. Jessica Johnson and Kim Gallon. October 25, 2021 at 4:00pm. Cosponsored by Africana Studies.

If you require accommodation to attend this event, please contact us at uchi@uconn.edu or by phone (860) 486-9057. We can request ASL interpreting, computer-assisted real time transcription, and other accommodations offered by the Center for Students with Disabilities.

The Digital Humanities and Media Studies Initiative presents:

Black Beyond Data

Jessica Marie Johnson and Kim Gallon

October 25, 2021, 4:00–5:30pm
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Live. Online (with automated captioning). Registration required.

Jessica Marie Johnson and Kim Gallon are co-Principal Investigators of Black Beyond Data, a new project backed by a $300,000 Mellon grant. Connecting the fields of digital humanities, Black studies, and data and computation, the project seeks to create an open resource for scholars to combat racial injustice through digital humanities.

Cosponsored by the Africana Studies Institute.

Jessica Marie Johnson is an Assistant Professor in the Department of History at the Johns Hopkins University. Johnson is a historian of Atlantic slavery and the Atlantic African diaspora. She is the author of Wicked Flesh: Black Women, Intimacy, and Freedom in the Atlantic World (University of Pennsylvania Press, August 2020). She is co-editor with Lauren Tilton and David Mmimo of Debates in the Digital Humanities: Computational Humanities. She is guest editor of Slavery in the Machine, a special issue of archipelagos journal (2019) and co-editor with Dr. Mark Anthony Neal (Duke University) of Black Code: A Special Issue of the Black Scholar (2017). Her work has appeared in Slavery & Abolition,The Black Scholar, Meridians: Feminism, Race and Transnationalism, American Quarterly, Social Text, The Journal of African American History, William & Mary Quarterly, Debates in the Digital Humanities, Forum Journal, Bitch Magazine, Black Perspectives (AAIHS), Somatosphere and Post-Colonial Digital Humanities (DHPoco) and her book chapters have appeared in multiple edited collections.

Kim Gallon is an Associate Professor of History. Her work investigates the cultural dimensions of the Black Press in the early twentieth century. She is the author of many articles and essays as well as the book, Pleasure in the News: African American Readership and Sexuality in the Black Press (University of Illinois Press, 2020). Gallon is currently at work on two new book projects—Technologies of Recovery: Black DH, Theory and Praxis (University of Illinois Press), a book about the black digital humanities as a site of resistance and liberation and a book titled, Fiction for the Harassed and Frustrated, which examines the role and significance of popular literary expression in the Black Press in the early twentieth century (Johns Hopkins University Press). She currently serves as the inaugural editor for the Black Press in America book series at Johns Hopkins University Press.

Gallon is also the author of the field defining article “Making a Case for the Black Digital Humanities” and the founder and director of two black digital humanities projects: The Black Press Research Collective and COVID Black. She also serves on a number of digital advisory boards for digital humanities projects and grants.

DHMS Presents Algorithmic Arts & Humanities at UConn

DHMS: Algorithmic Arts and Humanities at UConn. October 21, 2021, 12:30pm. HBL 4-209

If you require accommodation to attend this event, please contact us at uchi@uconn.edu or by phone (860) 486-9057. We can request ASL interpreting, computer-assisted real time transcription, and other accommodations offered by the Center for Students with Disabilities.

The Digital Humanities and Media Studies Initiative presents:

Algorithmic Arts and Humanities at UConn

Kyle Booten, Sue Huang, Stefan Kaufmann, and Anna Lindemann

October 21, 2021, 12:30–2:00pm
Homer Babbidge Library, 4-209
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This event will also be livestreamed with automated captioning. Register to attend virtually.

“Algorithmic Arts & Humanities” will feature presentations by four faculty members from various disciplines at UConn. Their innovative artworks, research, and scholarship draw on computational methods, and range from those incorporating natural language processing and machine learning to generative musical composition.

Kyle Booten is an assistant professor in the Department of English at the University of Connecticut, Storrs. Previously he was a postdoctoral fellow in the Neukom Institute for Computational Science at Dartmouth College. His research on computer-mediated writing has recently appeared in electronic book review, Proceedings of the International Conference on Computational Creativity, and Proceedings of the Electronic Literature Organization Conference and Media Festival. His computer-mediated and -generated poetic work has appeared in venues such as Boston Review, Lana Turner, Taper, and Fence. In Fall 2020, he was poet-in-residence at Nokturno.fi.

Sue Huang is a new media artist whose work addresses collective experience. Her current projects explore ecological intimacies, human/nonhuman relations, and speculative futures. Huang has exhibited nationally and internationally, including at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Los Angeles; the Contemporary Arts Center (CAC) in Cincinnati; Philadelphia Contemporary; Rhizome at the New Museum in New York; and Ars Electronica in Linz, Austria. Huang has received grants and commissions from Rhizome, the A.R.T. (the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation), the James Irvine Foundation (MOCA, Los Angeles), Creative Scotland (NEoN), and the SCHARP Development Award (UCHI), among others. She received her MFA in Media Arts at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and her BS in Science, Technology, and International Affairs from the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. Huang is currently a second-year member of the Creative Science track at NEW INC, supported by Science Sandbox (Simons Foundation). She is an assistant professor of Digital Media Design at the University of Connecticut.

Stefan Kaufmann is Associate Professor in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Connecticut. His main research interests lie in the area of semantics, pragmatics, and computational linguistics. For more information visit his website.

Anna Lindemann calls herself an Evo Devo artist. Her work combines animation, music, video, and performance to explore the emerging field of Evolutionary Developmental Biology (Evo Devo). Her work seeks to uncover narratives within rigorous scientific research, to visualize biological processes in novel ways, to define new artistic creative processes modeled on biological processes, and to examine the human emotion and subjectivity behind scientific research. Her Evo Devo Art, including the animated short Beetle Bluffs and the art-science performance Theory of Flight, has been featured nationally and internationally at black box theaters, planetariums, galleries, concert halls, biology conferences, film festivals, digital art conferences, and natural history museums. Anna graduated from Yale with a BS in Biology before receiving an MFA in Integrated Electronic Arts from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. She is an Assistant Professor in the department of Digital Media & Design at UConn where she has pioneered courses integrating art and science. www.annalindemann.com

2021–2022 Events

UCHI has an exciting roster of events coming up this year, detailed below. In celebration of our 20th anniversary, we’ll be hosting several events around the theme “The Future of Knowledge.” Some events will be virtual, and most in-person events will be livestreamed. Be sure to peruse our offerings and register for the events you’d like to attend virtually. Stay tuned as we announce more upcoming events!

Publishing NOW: How to Start a Series and How to Write for One

September 27, 2021

4:00pm

HBL, 4-209

REGISTER

Publishing NOW: How to Apply for a UConn Internal Grant

October 6, 2021

2:00pm

HBL, 4-209

REGISTER

Fellow’s Talk: Drew Johnson

October 13, 2021

4:00pm

HBL, 4-209

REGISTER

Fellow’s Talk: Carol Gray

October 20, 2021

4:00pm

HBL, 4-209

REGISTER

DHMS: Algorithmic Arts and Humanities at UConn

October 21, 2021

12:30pm

HBL, 4-209

REGISTER

DHMS: Jessica Johnson and Kim Gallon on Black Beyond Data

October 25, 2021

4:00pm

Virtual

REGISTER

Fellow’s Talk: Erik Freeman

October 27, 2021

4:00pm

HBL, 4-209

REGISTER

Publishing NOW: Publishing about Politics after (?) Trump

November 1, 2021

4:00pm

Virtual

REGISTER

Fellow’s Talk: Anna Ziering

November 3, 2021

4:00pm

HBL, 4-209

REGISTER

Dissertation Grant Writing Workshop

November 8, 2021

4:00pm

Virtual

REGISTER

DHMS: Daniel Rosenberg on the History of Data and Information

November 10, 2021

11:00am

Virtual

REGISTER

Fellow’s Talk: Sarah Willen

November 10, 2021

4:00pm

HBL, 4-209

REGISTER

DHMS: Discriminating Data Book Discussion Group

November 15, 2021

3:00pm

HBL, 4-209

DETAILS

DHMS: Wendy Chun on Discriminating Data

November 18, 2021

1:00pm

Virtual

REGISTER

Publishing NOW: How to Publish for the Public

December 1, 2021

1:00pm

Virtual

REGISTER

Fellow’s Talk: Shiloh Whitney

December 8, 2021

4:00pm

HBL, 4-209

REGISTER

Fellow’s Talk: Meina Cai

January 26, 2022

4:00pm

HBL, 4-209

REGISTER

Publishing NOW: How to Write about Race Now

January 31, 2022

4:00pm

HBL, 4-209

REGISTER

Fellow’s Talk: Laura Mauldin

February 2, 2022

4:00pm

HBL, 4-209

REGISTER

DHMS: Anke Finger on The Digital Dissertation

February 3, 2022

12:30pm

HBL, 4-209

REGISTER

DHMS: Audrey Watters on Teaching Machines

February 17, 2022

4:00pm

Virtual

REGISTER

Fellow’s Talk: Kathryn Moore

February 23, 2022

4:00pm

HBL, 4-209

REGISTER

Fellow’s Talk: Prakash Kashwan

March 2, 2022

4:00pm

HBL, 4-209

REGISTER

Fellow’s Talk: Micki McElya

March 9, 2022

4:00pm

HBL, 4-209

REGISTER

Publishing NOW: How to Work with an Academic Press

March 21, 2022

1:00pm

HBL, 4-209

REGISTER

Fellow’s Talk: Shardé Davis

March 23, 2022

4:00pm

HBL, 4-209

REGISTER

Nikole Hannah-Jones

March 30, 2022

2:00pm

Student Union Theater

REGISTER

Fellow’s Talk: Sherie Randolph

April 20, 2022

4:00pm

HBL, 4-209

REGISTER

Fellow’s Talk: Fiona Vernal

April 27, 2022

4:00pm

HBL, 4-209

REGISTER

DHMS Presents Simon Burrows on Digitally Mapping the French Book Trade

The Digital Humanities and Media Studies Initiative Presents: Enlightenment in Ledgers: Digital Mapping the French Book Trade. Professor of History, Western Sydney, Simon Burrows. Live. Online. Registration required. April 21, 2021, 6:30pm.

If you require accommodation to attend this event, please contact us at uchi@uconn.edu or by phone (860) 486-9057.

The Digital Humanities and Media Studies Initiative presents:

Enlightenment in Ledgers: Digitally Mapping the French Book Trade

Simon Burrows (Professor of History, Western Sydney University)

April 21, 2021, 6:30–8:00pm

An online webinar. Registration is required for attendance.

It is now 50 years since Robert Darnton issued his clarion call for literary and cultural historians to look beyond the canon and Pierre Bourdieu unveiled his vision of the ‘literary field’ as an outcome of political and cultural power relations. Historians, not least Darnton himself, have responded creatively to the twin challenges, in the process contributing to the development of a vibrant new interdisciplinary field, book history. Yet determining the cultural resonance of texts or uncovering the real-world impact of political interventions presents major methodological and practical difficulties. Where are we to look for our evidence and how can we gain representative insights? One major tool for this research is historical bibliometric evidence of the circulation of books—including those outside the canon and even lost to the historical or bibliographic record. The sources for such work are multiple and lend themselves to digital analysis, but they also present daunting challenges of interpretation, comparison, and collation. This paper discusses one attempt to confront these challenges, by bringing together book trade, customs, and licensing evidence from old regime France in an industrial level survey of the dissemination of books. It will discuss sources, data processing, and digital methods and platforms used in the French Book Trade in Enlightenment Europe, before assessing how far digital analysis revises our understandings of the ‘literary field’, including the efficacy of the French book police, the reception of enlightenment texts, popular religiosity, or even how the French paper industry helped shape literary production on the eve of the revolution of 1789. The paper will also discuss future prospects and challenges for historical bibliometric research.

Simon Burrows is Professor of History at Western Sydney University, Australia, where he leads the Digital Humanities Research Initiative and is known for his innovative work on French exiles and the publishing trade from the enlightenment to the French revolution. He is Principal Investigator of the French Book Trade in Enlightenment Europe (FBTEE) database project, which has been funded successively by the British Arts and Humanities Research Council, Western Sydney University, and the Australian Research Council. The FBTEE project was awarded the British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies Digital Resource Prize in 2017. Simon is also overseeing digital development on the AHRC’s ‘Libraries, Communities, and Cultural Formation’ project, an international initiative based at the University of Liverpool and was co-founder and founding Director of the Centre for the Comparative History of Print at the University of Leeds. He has published four monographs including French Exile Journalism and European Politics, 1792-1814 (2000), Blackmail, Scandal and Revolution (2006), and co-edited major essay collections on subjects as diverse as the eighteenth-century press, cultural transfers, and the cross-dressing French diplomat Charles d’Eon de Beaumont. His most recent major works are The French Book Trade in Enlightenment Europe II: Enlightenment Bestsellers (Bloomsbury, 2018), and co-editor with Glenn Roe of Digitizing Enlightenment: Digital Humanities and the Transformation of Eighteenth-Century Studies (Oxford Studies in Enlightenment, 2020).

Watch now: