Spring 2019 DLA Review

The Digital Liberal Arts program at Middlebury had a busy spring focused on a range of topics, from scholarship by faculty to continued explorations of issues in digital fluency to work on digital pedagogy.

In January, Data Services Librarian Ryan Clement organized the first of what we hope will be many Software Carpentry Workshops at Middlebury College. The gathering used hands-on instruction to help faculty explore various tactics in digital data management and it focused on introductions to shell scripting in the bash shell (using the command line), version control with git and GitHub, and data manipulation, analysis, and visualization with R/RStudio.

In February, Japanese linguist and Middlebury faculty member Sayaka Abe gave an update on her research about “‘Inauthentic’ Uses of Authentic Materials, Visual and Linguistic Analysis of Manga” as part of our Behind the Scenes Series. Bringing together visual material and linguistics data at the intersection of research and teaching, Sayaka explores “Japanese emotion concepts drawn from mangaas a possible medium for language pedagogy.”

Our Digital Fluencies Series continued with a vibrant discussion of “What’s Fair (and What’s Not) in Digital Fair Use?” with Director of Discovery and Access Services and librarian Terry Simpkins & Middlebury General Counsel Hannah Ross.

In March, Digital Fluencies featured a lively discussion of the possibilities and challenges of inclusive design in digital pedagogy and scholarship at “Got Access? Integrating Inclusive Design Into Our Digital Practices,” organized in conjunction with the Advisory Group on Disability Access and Inclusion (AGDAI).

Faculty member Jason Grant joined us from the Computer Science Department at Middlebury in April to share an update on his project, “Exploring Musical Phylogeny with Deep Learning,” which is an effort to use machine learning and clustering techniques to study differences and similarities among styles of classical music.

Online, Middlebury’s resident podcasting expert Erin Davis shared her observations of the educational audio world at Harvard Divinity School’s Sound Education Conference. Computer scientist Christopher Andrews described his unfolding research in the field of visual analytics on using expression trees to develop an “evolutionary art tool.” Art historian Sarah Laursen showed us some of the case studies that her students completed in Digital Methodologies for Art Historians.

The Davis Foundation-funded group of faculty from American Studies, History, Film & Media Cultures, and Sociology continued to share syllabi, course lessons, and ideas about digital student thesis and senior work. A visit from Jacqueline Wernimont, Distinguished Chair of Digital Humanities and Social Engagement & Associate Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Dartmouth College, proved especially stimulating.

Our DLA Research Fellows—Will Nash, Natalie Eppelsheimer, Brigitte Humbert, and Jason Mittell—met monthly to continue to work on their respective digital projects. It was especially satisfying to watch each Fellow experiment with new tools for communicating their discoveries, from using slideshow/film techniques to probe US abolitionist scrapbook making (Will); mapping experiments (Natalie); digital games and pop culture for French language pedagogy (Brigitte); and videographic criticism (Jason).

Incoming DLA Fellow and Davis Grant faculty participant Kathy Morse attended an AALAC Workshop at Carleton College in Minnesota that brought together faculty and staff members to discuss Curricular Pathways for Digital Scholarship at Liberal Arts Colleges.

DLA continued to award funding to faculty members conducting digital research, most often with student researchers assisting them. A number of ongoing projects made progress toward the finish line, while other exciting ideas got started. In addition to faculty, staff working “deeper in the stack” also received funds to travel to conferences to acquire new skills and ideas for using technology for liberal arts inquiry. DLA also contributed to the acquisition of new and necessary equipment for expanding digital scholarship based on faculty needs.

The “Scholarship in Sound and Image” Workshop, dedicated to videographic criticism techniques and previously funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities as an Advanced Topics in Digital Humanities program, transitioned this year to a tuition-based DLA Summer Institute held on the Middlebury campus in Vermont in June. The hope is for the two-week Summer Institute to continue annually and expand to new topics in digital liberal arts scholarship.