Author Archives: Carolyn A. McDonough

Voyant Inquiry + Intro to DH Part II Spring 2019

With Matt’s permission, I’m reaching out to classmates about continuing the Voyant Inquiry as a possible group project in Intro to DH Part II Spring 2019.

Anyone interested?

The course descrip for Intro to DH Part II mentions group work, so I’m thinking ahead as I’d like to follow through with the inquiry that began in Intro to DH Part I Fall 2018.

The above would be subject to Prof. Silva’s approval of the project.

I hope to hear from any interested classmates!

Shannon Mattern on Scaffolding + Infrastructures

I really enjoyed Shannon Mattern’s essay. While reading it I realized that I know her from The New School’s Media Studies Dept. where I completed my first MA. Her bio is worth a read. She also was the MC for my commencement from the Media Studies program there — a truly lovely ceremony, complete with cap & gown & diploma handshake and my aunt who graduated from Hunter College in the 1940’s in attendance.

Shannon’s work is very complex, as the theoretical nature of this essay demonstrates. She’s very interesting to converse with as I’ve had the occasion to do.

Regarding the essay, I particularly like her closing academic pep talk about us as practitioners in our fields “transform[ing] criticality into generativity”. Her commencement address was similarly inspiring in tone.

I have many additional observations on this reading which I will add via editing this post.

Continuing on, Mattern advocates for DHers and our colleagues as “critical-creative practitioners” (a moniker I like) to go beyond the representation of infrastructure to the design of infrastructure [our]selves” so that we’re approaching infrastructure as a generative structure [which is] a framework for generating systems/environments/objects and cultivating individuals/communities that embody values we want to define in our society. (7)

This is a tall order organizationally speaking, but approachable on the individual level of our classrooms, projects, and as members of group projects.

I like how SM acknowledges the “entangled soft and hard infrastructures that often propel ‘making’ in our fields”, and lead to institutional forces that seek branded theories, methods and churn out grad students, like us, eager to discover the ‘new big thing’ via conferences, etc. and the “infrastructure” travel these require with its inherent sustainability sub-issues of fuel, jet fuel, diesel, electricity, and the environmental impact of these.

I also like how SM takes a bold step in acknowledging that liberal conceptions of labor, knowledge, and taste that many theoretical and aesthetic movements “actually embody” often fail to match up to their professed politics. The legendary waste in the fashion and film industries, while many of its leading design professionals and celebrity consumers profess to be “green” and/or shame others in different industries is an outrageous form of hypocrisy.

Therefore, I think keeping “infrastructional ecology” in mind is indeed a great motivating force for us DHers as “critical-creative practitioners” to contribute practices that embody a political economy aligned with the liberal values of our chosen field’s theories. Maybe this is the “NEXT new big thing….?”


At the eleventh hour, Palladio finally worked for me — hooray!

I’m trying to contain my excitement and relief as I share my Process Notes.

My project began with a plan to “visualize absence” through “The Effect of the AIDS crisis epidemic in NYC on the Performing Arts” because as you can imagine, the performing arts tragically lost hundreds of artists to AIDS, as well as the legacy of training, peaking in the early-90’s. By peaking, I mean  “peaking” through decimation, so I thought it would be powerful to show the individuals disappearing from their individual disciplines (dance, acting, voice, writing, choreography, directing, set design, wardrobe, makeup, lighting, publicity, stage management, etc.) through their deaths. I was particularly moved by a photo gallery I’d seen entitled “Faces of Aids”

It’s an amazing annual tribute EW magazine published, in this case, for the year 1992. It’s profound to see the faces and read the names along with their professions (mostly arts-related). My plan was to do a reverse treatment of the photo gallery in datavis.

I started working with Palladio by experimenting with my own spreadsheet for PREFERENCE, my ITP & DH humanities references digital pedagogical tool project, but could not get Palladio to do anything — except frustrate me. Then it dawned on me that my spreadsheet is not a “dataset” but a “set of data” and I hope I’m accurate in that simple observation. Moral of the story: as I effort to datavis PREFERENCE, the spreadsheet has to be spot on, much like Micki Kaufman described to us in class and also during a datavis workshop I took with her in Spring.

So I had to abandon my “AIDS Visualizing Absence” concept in search of a reliable dataset.

I found many through UNICEF and I was especially intrigued because they have alot of AIDS-related datasets. I considered these but settled on:

UNICEF’s PRIMARY EDUCATION DATA and the specific dataset for Education: Primary net attendance rate – Percentage (by country)

Education: Primary net attendance rate – Percentage
Prepared by the Data and Analytics Section; Division of Data, Research and Policy, UNICEF
Last update: December 2017

I was so psyched when I achieved this map with Palladio which I display here as a screen shot (due to the limitations in Palladio Miriam Posner describes.)

UNICEF First Map

Although quite tiny and diffuse, and literally wandering off the screen, all the countries are in tact.

I was even more thrilled when I got this map to appear:

UNICEF Second Map

Because it appeared globe-like, I was hoping the coutries were in their global positions. But they’re not because what I discovered is this is just the 2D map starting to shape itself in to other views, which I find fascinating.

I had planned not to do PRAXIS 3 but as I saw everyone’s work unfolding, I really got inspired, particularly by Patrick’s work with Shakespeare and his candor in articulating that he didn’t know what the results of his project might lead to.

I feel similarly because I’m still wrapping my head around the potentialities with Voyant in the fields of study I frequent, and have many “wish list” projects for both text analysis and datavis.

More specific to DH, PRAXIS 3 is showing me how damned hard it is going to be to datavis PREFERENCE, which I knew, but now I’m becoming more psychologically prepared to tackle.

Nov. 20 Class — Proposed Reading

Media and Cultural Studies: Keyworks

After contemplating possible readings for our Nov. 20 class, I’m proposing the Introduction to the above text which is titled “Adventures in Media and Cultural Studies: Introducing the KeyWorks” (Durham and Kellner, 2001 & 2006).

I think of learning (and teaching) as an adventure, so the title resonated with me when I had to purchase the book for a Foundations in Media Theory class.

The co-written essay is an assemblage of what D & K consider “Key-Works” of “current theories and methods”. The texts chosen are “Key” because they believe the perspectives and theorists they’ve included in the volume are among the most significant and serviceable for engaging the forms and influences of contemporary media and culture, which are playing such important roles in contemporary life. D & K add that “it is obvious that we must come to understand our cultural environment if we want control over our lives.” A huge claim, valid nonetheless, to which I’d add that the volume’s intention is a nice complement to humanities work.

The essay itself is nowhere near as heavy as the above paragraph and is actually a really informative and well-written “Multiperspectival (now THAT’s a word for ya) Approach” toward Theory/Method/Critique. It’s a good, foundational reading that I think would complement and anchor the readings in Intro to DH.

I keep this book on my desk and alongside it now is Debates in the Digital Humanities because they share an affinity as tomes, in my opinion.

Amazon allows you a look inside at the entire Intro essay and I’m happy to provide a file, if this reading is a “go” for Nov. 20.

The Image of Absence: Klein

I’m 3/4 of the way through this reading and as much as Hemings’s ghost is palpable, the historian in me is quite concerned with WHY Jefferson “for reasons unknown, failed to comply with [Hemings’s] request” for the terms of his employment and shrewdly specifying that it be in Jefferson’s own hand. I’d really like to explore the absent reasons to illuminate them. What could have prevented him, Jefferson, from providing this, or, is there some archival evidence that perhaps Jefferson didn’t want to provide Hemings with this. I find myself angered at Jefferson, given his prolific letter writing, letter-copying and letter filing/archiving, that he didn’t provide this to Hemings. Or perhaps he did but did so via ephemera?

My outrage softened, however, near the end of the reading as I read about the materiality Jefferson undertook in preparing Hemings’s “emancipation agreement” which he “penned in his special ink, encased in his imported paper, copied in his copying press, and then placed in his personal archive to preserve” (682) as Jefferson routinely did with his “significant” correspondence.

Via subjective analysis, then, I echo the call that Klein takes up from Alan Liu “to reinscribe cultural criticism at the center of digital humanities work” (665) and thereby offer the following:

WHAT IF, in preparing Hemings’s “emancipation agreement” — A HORRIFYING, OXYMORON CONTRADICTION-IN-TERMS PHRASE that MUST BE re-thought AND re-named BY ALL scholars ASAP (I mean “agreement” really?!) — Jefferson was actually elevating Hemings to the status of his most respected correspondents? Through his careful and mindful materiality toward this document, and his “awareness of his own historical legacy” (662) perhaps Jefferson is leaving a trail of crumbs for posterity of his regard of Hemings as a person and a chef, and not as a slave who lived and toiled invisibly, reduced to a mere “line of data” and “object of “empirical knowledge” in his farm book.

I do not put it past Jefferson to have scoffed at Hemings’s request for the terms of his employment as the likely reason for potentially not providing it. But I also do not put it past Jefferson to have left a watermark, albeit in quite “invisible ink”, of his friendship and perhaps even very deep personal regard for Hemings, for those of us looking to illuminate it.

Visualization as Argument: Klein

The title of this reading, which is the transcript of Lauren Klein’s talk of the same title, really spoke to me (all pun but an unintended one).

Ever since Prof. Gold attended ITP Core 1, a course that I was enrolled in last Fall, as a guest speaker and posed the topic “Is making scholarship? Yes, if there’s a scholarly argument” I’ve been really hooked on this concept.

So while this reading is brief, Lauren Klein packs much into it. She really made me sit straight up on the couch as I read that the great Transcendentalist and Feminist, Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, founder of the famed eponymous book store AND the first kindergarten in the U.S. AND editor of The Dial is ALSO a/the pioneer in datavis?! It doesn’t surprise me given her brilliance, especially in educating, but it does amaze me. (On a related tangent, I’m recalling that American 1-room schoolhouses were also referred to as Peabody schoolhouses? I don’t feel like Googling to fact check this right now.)

Is everyone/anyone marveling at how Peabody took a chronological subject, literally The Chronological History of the United States and translated it to an abstract grid? She didn’t make a vertical list, or a horizontal timeline, but rather adopted a linear-ality of a whole different order, shunning the xy axis in her design to plot the U.S. events-to-date in 1856 — on a grid.

Her use of a grid with bissected boxes/triangles, much like the grid we used in The Object Library to lay out the exhibition’s cubic spaces and elevations to install the objects (which I described in class last week vis a vis my mapping project of TOL, as a difficult task to do from the grid) AND the origin of this low-tech system “developed in Poland in the 1820’s” also amazes me.

Peabody’s Grid of 1856 U.S. (my title) as conveyed by Klein, serves as a touchstone example of Klein’s thesis in this talk which is: “visualization methods help us better understand the process of knowledge production“.

Peabody’s Grid and its intended abstraction “appeal to the senses directly” and Peabody’s even more pressing intention “to evoke pleasure” is really radical. Pleasure in knowledge production. What a concept! I had a moment of pleasure while mapping TOL on the map/globe of beautiful planet Earth as I “played” with placing/plotting the objects’ locations with a “pin” of my choice (an icon I created from TOL artwork — please see my project map at LOCUS for this icon.)

I would plot or characterize Peabody’s “knowledge work” flow (my phrase) as: knowledge of history by way of Peabody’s student coloring in their OWN grids’ triangles — which becomes an act of producing a personal image of history by the student/citizen — leads to an embodiment, a personal investment, in history, and its agent: politics.

Peabody’s Grid is therefore, both her own political stance and her own brand of revolutionary, feminist pedagogy as a “female knowledge worker.” Peabody’s Grid is also inherently democratic to me because by having students (read: citizens) create/color their own charts, “Peabody flattens (literally) the relationship between the putative producer of knowledge and its perceiver” thereby, leveling the teacher/student dynamic.

It stands to reason, then, that Peabody’s Grid Is a strong example of “method as argument”.

Another concept from Klein’s talk that stood out to me is that of laborColor Your World is not a cliche or trite phrase from a pop song because it takes such labor in to account while also connoting the important dynamics of agency and authority in what constitutes knowledge and its production.

Praxis 2: Mapping The Object Library in Time + Space

For Praxis 2, I mapped The Object Library in Time + Space.

I created a site on the commons for this assignment called LOCUS which features a world map of locations related to select objects collected during the Bring-A-Thing-A-Thon, and a timeline of the dates assigned to the objects by the curator/Director of the Center for the Humanities, CUNY.

My process notes are posted there and also here (see below).

To view my project, please visit: LOCUS

[PLEASE NOTE: you must be logged in to the Commons to access the LOCUS site.]


I was very inspired by assisting the Center for the Humanities with The Object Library and still mulling the Oct. 9 Ramsay reading’s Search/Browse observations. With these in mind, and with myself still in a browse-rather-than-search mode, I applied the content of TOL to Praxis 2: Mapping.

Also in mind, was a “proof of concept” toward a mapping element for my Humanities References digital tool that I’m building toward the ITP Certificate.

Last semester I took a Data Vis workshop with Micki Kaufman and she introduced us to Gephi, which is a truly interesting platform. I was fascinated by it during the workshop and subsequently really intrigued by it. I even found an error in the code in the first few minutes of the workshop never having seen or worked with Gephi prior to the workshop.

So, if/when I master Gephi, which I hope to throughout the MA in DH, my goal for my Humanities References project would be to map the locations/origins associated with the references/entries in combination with showing them in the the context of time i.e., history, via the JS3 Timeline they reside on located at PointsOfReference / PREFERENCE [n.b. you must be logged on to the Commons to view this site.]

Therefore, I created both of these elements for the mapping assignment using zeemaps.com and Timeline JS3 toward select objects for Mapping The Object Library in Time + Space.

Thanks to a spontaneous and very helpful hallway conversation with Augustin as I “shopped” mapping platforms and expressed my concern about using arcGIS to him because 1) I wasn’t sure if we were required to use it and 2) I’d already invested much time in building a timeline, I chose an “over-the-counter” type mapping tool with a low learning curve. What I discovered is even the “simplest” mapping tools, such as those used by real estate agents, are quite tricky.

This project really gave me a sense of how revolutionary geo-spatial applications toward the humanities can be, as the readings for this week’s class, Oct. 16, claimed and conveyed.

I also became versed in object-based ontology in assisting The Object Library, and this project simultaneously and synergistically enhanced this new knowledge.


Hi DH Cohort,

Here’s that striking flyer that you’ve been seeing around the GC (again!)

ALL are INVITED to bring an object (no larger than your head) to:

Bring-A-Thing-A-Thonthe participatory launch of The Object Library on Tuesday, Oct. 16 and Wednesday, Oct. 17 12-6pm in the James Gallery.

I’ll be happy to catalogue it in The Object Library with you, and all are invited to enjoy some bubbly at the Launch party Tuesday, Oct. 16 at 6pm!

What will U bring 2 The Object Library????????