Digital Humanities Initiative

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Welcome! And please, tell us about yourselves!


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    Hi, and welcome to CUNY DHI!

    The idea for the group came from a conversation earlier this year in which I asked Matt how many other people were working in the Digital Humanities at CUNY. Without the Academic Commons, this was very difficult to know – but it’s exactly the kind of problem that the Commons was designed to solve. Through CUNY DHI, then, we hope to bring together those of you who are already working in DH, and help newcomers find their way into the field. And in the process build awareness of DH at CUNY, and CUNY in the wider DH community.

    Anyway, we’re looking forward to meeting you all in person – in the meantime, though, could you post here to tell the group a bit about yourself and your DH interests? It would be helpful too if you could include an indication of how much experience you have with DH. All levels are very welcome, of course: that’s why we’re here.

    To start the ball rolling… I’m a PhD student in the English department at the Grad Center (3rd year), and also in the Interactive Technology & Pedagogy Certificate program, which is how I got into DH. Experience-wise I’m a DH beginner – an intermediate or (if you’re feeling very kind) advanced beginner, perhaps, but definitely a beginner. I’ve done a lot of reading and thinking about DH, but very little actual hands-on DH work yet, just some experimentation with basic text mining and visualization tools for a paper last year. I’m about to start an independent study on text mining in the undergraduate classroom, though, and will be looking to the group for suggestions, advice, and guinea-pigs ☺

    And I’m very lucky to be a HASTAC scholar representing the Grad Center this year – hoping to use this to help advance the DHI and DH work in general at CUNY. Are you on HASTAC? If not, it’s definitely something you should look into.

    Now, over to you…


    Hi Everyone,

    Before adding my own intro to this forum thread, I want to echo a few of Charlie’s points. Most importantly, I want to note that considering oneself a “Digital Humanist” is not at all a prerequisite to being involved in this group. It’s just the opposite, in fact: we’re hoping to use this initiative to reach out to scholars and practitioners who are interested in DH topics, but don’t, as yet, consider themselves part of the field. We’re hoping, in other words, to both to enter and expand the kinds of conversations that have been happening in the digital humanities.

    My intro: I’m an Assistant Professor of English at the New York City College of Technology, and I also teach in the Interactive Technology and Pedagogy Program at the Grad Center. I serve as the Project Director of the CUNY Academic Commons, and I participate actively in the Digital Humanities community on twitter. My own DH project was “Looking for Whitman,” an experiment in multi-campus digital pedagogy that received two Start-Up Grants from the NEH Office of Digital Humanities.

    I’m also, along with Charlie, a co-leader of this group, and I’m excited about the series of events we’re going to be hosting this fall. Of course, we know that not everybody will be able to make it out to our meetings, but we hope that this space, along with our blog and our wiki, will provide ways for many of you to participate.

    So, please do take a moment to introduce yourself to the group.

    Carl James Grindley

    I’m Carl James Grindley. I’m an associate professor of English at Hostos, where I’m also Director of Honors and Director of Instructional Technology. I’m also consortial associate professor of Communications and Culture at the SPS’s Online BA. Like so many people here, I also hang around at CAT and can be seen at the yearly Tech Conferences. My background in all of this digital stuff dates back to the mid 1980s when I was an undergraduate. I was introduced to hypermedia while I was working for Apple as part of a university consultant program. I was lucky enough to be able to take some of the very earliest electronic publishing classes as an undergraduate and felt then, as I do now, that the humanities and the digital world are made for one another.

    My direct involvement is as an adjunct editor on the NEH-digital editions grant funded Piers Plowman Electronic Archive. We’re busy trying to produce electronic editions of every single manuscript (there are over 50) of this late 14th century Middle English poem. We’ve been getting digital editions grants for about 8 years now. Currently, I’m applying for a fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton to explore using Regular Expressions to track historical language use, scribal practice and scribal identity with the goal of trying to figure out just how the political environment of the late 14th and early 15th century helped to create Early Modern English.

    I was a grants reviewer for the NEH this summer (I had a summer stipend from them a couple of years ago), and I can tell you that I didn’t see a single grant application with anything at all to do with technology. There is a definite need out there for this sort of research to go on.


    That’s fantastic, Carl — I had no idea you were working on the Piers Plowman Electronic Archive. It would be great if you could speak about your projects at one of our upcoming meetings. It would also be great to get a series of blog posts going on the CUNY DHI blog that describe that kind of work on digital editions. Let me know whether you are interested.

    Welcome to the group and thanks for posting.



    I’m Beniamina, I’m an Italian student and I’m here thanks to an exchange program between my university (Siena, Tuscany) and CUNY. In Italy I am studying Foreign Languages and Literatures, in particular English, Russian and Spanish, but here I’m writing my dissertation on Electronic Literature.

    It’s not that easy actually, as I’m basically running my research program by myself, but I think it’s a really interesting topic and I’m realizing day by day how much it’s spreading everywhere in the web. Literature has always fascinated me, and I’d really like to see if (and how) it will change in the digital era.


    Hi Beniamina – thanks so much for posting! And there’s no need to be alone with elit. I saw you found the Electronic Lit group on the Commons. Matt and I are both in it too. There was a brief organizational meeting at the end of last year, but we haven’t done anything so far this semester – maybe we can get something going over there?

    Anyway, thanks again, and welcome!

    Lauren Klein

    Hello! I’m Lauren, and I’m in the PhD program in English, where I’m finishing up a dissertation about eating, aesthetics, and American identity. (They say you should only write on what you care passionately about, so I took that advice to heart… and to stomach!)

    I’m also at work on a project about the online archive, which employs theories of ethical criticism alongside more contemporary DH ideas in order to address issues raised by the archive’s increasingly digital form.

    That project was inspired, in part, by my dissertation research, and in part by my work as an Instructional Technology Fellow at the Macaulay Honors College, where I– along with several other members of this group– work with CUNY professors to incorporate more technology into their teaching, and then with students to implement the projects we’ve helped to conceive.

    Which is all a very roundabout way of saying that I care very much about Digital Humanities issues, both for my own research and for my teaching, and I’m very excited to help sustain some of this great momentum!


    Welcome, Benjamina and Lauren! I’m looking forward to hearing more about your projects.


    I’d be glad to take part in one of your meetings about electronic literature! I saw you were working on House of Leaves: I started reading it some days ago as I found it mentioned in a book by K. Hayles, “Electronic Literature – New Horizons for the Literacy”. It would be interesting to discuss about it, it’s really challenging but I reckon it’s a hallmark in our contemporary literature.


    Hi Beniamina – yes, we definitely planned on reading House of Leaves over the summer. I failed 🙁 – was going to take it to the beach over Labor Day, but didn’t feel like spending the weekend being terrified. Let’s continue this conversation over at the EHLO group and see how many people read and want to discuss it, otherwise we can pick something else to start with. Anyone else from DHI fancy joining the e-lit group? We’ll see you there…


    I’m Michael Smith. I’m an Assistant Professor of a Communications Technology program in the Dept. of Performing and Fine Arts. I’m a fine artist by training studying at a time when digital imaging was at it’s infancy (I’m a Photoshop 1.0 user 😯 ).

    Recently I’ve been working on an “art origin story” blog here on the commons, looking at pieces of work I’d created a decade ago. It’s been an interesting project that has involved doing some personal research – digging through boxes, slides, Hard Drives, CD-Rs, etc. And also researching the social, historical, and political events around the time the work was created.

    Not sure if it’s quite a digital humanities project, but I’m interested in the group’s thoughts. Looking forward to meeting people on the 22nd.

    Sarah Ruth Jacobs

    Hey Michael, your art origins project sounds fascinating.

    I’m Sarah Ruth Jacobs, a 4th year English student at the GC. This semester I’m teaching composition and intro to poetry at Queens. I attended an MLA session last year on “The Quantitative Turn” which showed a number of ways in which the humanities could be visualized and quantified. I think that the digitalization of the humanities could be a great way of both centering debates and re-examining their margins. In “Digitize This Book” Gary Hall talks about how online archives can bring about new evaluations of the constructions of disciplines through open access and online publication of findings. The sort of isolation that exists within not to mention between disciplines could possibly be diminished through digital centralization–communities, open publication, and debates all in real time.

    Carl James Grindley

    One of the major problems with anything digital is that there is a large and quite technical skillset that has to be addressed. The University of Glasgow, my old alma mater, used to offer an accelerated MSc to PhD students. I didn’t do it, but I sure wish that I had. Currently, I’m hitting a wall in my research. It’s actually gotten so technical that I’m starting to realize that I’m a little out of my depth.

    For example. I work with Middle English Dialectology. It’s a complex and arcane field, and the practices aren’t really taught so much as absorbed over many years. Basically, way back when, if you wanted to write out a word you spelled it exactly as you said it. You might say “moder” for “mother” or “mudder” for “mother” or “moter” or “motter” or whatever. The first problem is that you might actually tolerate more than one way to spell a word. Ultimately, these spellings were localized or temporal or even political. By tracking sets of spellings, densities of different spellings across someone’s written work, you can build a profile of that person. Sort of like a fingerprint. This is difficult work to do, and only a mere handful of scholars in the world are any good at it. But it struck me that with the vast digitization projects of medieval manuscripts, that I could apply RegEx to the problem. Manuscripts are coded in xml. RegEx is a powerful tool. Why not?

    Well. Here’s the RegEx for every variant of the word “yet”:


    Here’s another one. This one is for “before”:


    There are 200 or so words that I need to track, not to mention a host of extinct punctuation marks or scribal foibles of abbreviation. And I want to construct complex searches that group together related sets of spellings and graph the results…

    I can barely hold it together. Take a look at this:

    ach ache che cayche ecch ecche ecchon ech ech-a eche eche-a echee eche-on echeone echne echon echone eech eeche eh ehe eiche elch elke elkea eri esch esche euch euchan euche euere euereche euere-ilk-a euerich eueriche euer-iche euerichon euerichone euerike-a eueril euer-ilche euerilcon euer-ilc-on euer-ilc-one euerilk euer-ilk euer-ilk-a euer-ilk-ane euerilke euer-ilke euer-ilke-a euerilkon euer-ilkon euery euerych euer-ych eueryche euerychon euery-chon euerychone euery-chone euer-ych-one euerychoon euery-iche eueryl euerylk euer-ylk euerylka euer-ylka euerylkay eueryike eueryikon euerylkone eueryschon euery-schone euir-alkay euyr-ylk-a euyr-ylkon everi everich everiche every everych everychon every-chon everychone ewiche ewyr-ilke eych eych-a eyche eyche-a eychon eychone hech heche helk hilk hilk-a hilke hochon huc huic hvych hylke ich icha ich-a iche iche-a iche-an iche-on icheone ichon ich-on ichone ik iklon ilc ilc-a ilc-an ilc-ane ilch ilche ilchon ilchone ilc-on ilcone ilc-one ilk ilka ilk-a ilkan ilk-an ilkane ilk-ane ilkay ilke ilkea ilke-a ilke-an ilke-ane ilke-o ilke-on ilkon ilk-on ilkone ilk-one ische itche jche oche oeuch oeuche overy uch ucha uche uche-a uchee uchi-a uchone uchoone uich ulche vcch vch vcha vch-a vch-an vche vche-a vcheone vche-one vchon vchone vch-one vich viche vschon vuch vych vyche ych ych-a yche yche-a yche-an ycheon ychon ych-on ychone ychoone yka ylch ylk ylka ylka-a ylk-an ylkanne ylke ylke-a ylkean ylke-on ylkeone ylke-one ylke-oon ylkon ylk-on ylkone

    That mess is every single way of spelling “each” in Middle English. I need to come up with a neat little formula that accounts for every single spelling, and which I can use to find those spellings *and nothing else*. That’s the hard part.

    You see my problem. You see the problem with the digital humanities in general. We are all going to need far more training. Either that or we are going to have to collaborate with people.

    Carl James Grindley

    I don’t mean to double post, but I guess I have another point in all of that. The digital humanities does not merely mean presenting texts in new ways, it means doing new types of research.


    . . . and much of that new research not just involves, but also necessitates, collaboration, as your post points out. Great stuff, Carl.

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