Beginning in 2013-14 The Baker-Nord Center has significantly revised and expanded its offerings in the digital humanities.
We hope that the restructured support will continue to inspire new and creative exploration of humanistic endeavors.
Digital Interfaces Grant
Haptic and Locative Interfaces in the Museum Environment
Jessica Slentz is a 2nd-year Ph.D.
student interested in rhetoric and digital literacies, new media, multimodal composition and visual rhetoric. Her primary area of focus
is locative/mobile media and the rhetoric of display, with additional studies in composition pedagogy, digital writing and rhetoric and
internet research ethics. She holds a B.A. in Professional Communication and Information Design from Nazareth College of Rochester, an
M.A. in Creative Writing from Kingston University, London, UK, and an M.A. in English Literature from the University of Rochester.
Museums have long used technology to facilitate visitor engagement, interpretation and education. Museums today,
however, are expanding upon linear and top-down media experiences -- such as wall placards, audio tours, brochures and
docent-led tours that position visitors as "empty vessels" to be educated by the more culturally literate, and adopting
more participatory and immersive exhibition practices. Haptic and locative interfaces in these hybrid spaces of virtual
and physical activity, by delineating what the user/visitor can do and how they may do it, invite "lay" visitors to
participate in the cultural work of the institution in distinctive ways. As these interfaces become more pervasive in
everyday life and accepted tools for the creation and preservation of culture, it is crucial that we understand how
they operate rhetorically within cultural institutions. Taking a Burkean approach to "experience" as rhetorical and
having the power to affect public change, I aim to show how such haptic and locative interfaces can shift the interpretive
position of the viewer and open up new modes of interaction with cultural texts and artifacts.
This project will explore the use of haptic and locative interfaces within the technologically
integrated exhibition spaces and new media experiences at the Cleveland Museum of Art and the
Library of Congress in Washington, DC. I will explore how these interfaces and the experiences
they afford position the viewer rhetorically in relation to the art object and to the cultural
work of the institution itself, showing how haptic and locative technology in spaces of
display has the potential to complicate the traditionally private roles of curator and collector.
Preservation and Curation Grant
Preservation of Pedagogical Materials
Robert Spadon is an associate professor at
Case Western Reserve University, where he teaches film courses on a variety of topics. He holds a doctorate in English
from the University of Chicago and a master of arts in cinema studies from New York University. His research focuses on the
horror genre and the historical reception of cinema.
In every course I teach, I constantly show clips from a wide variety of films. This is
for reasons ranging from illustrating a concrete technique, such as a low-angle camera shot,
to showing longer sequences that launch discussions pertinent to the particular course
focus. I have been steadily gathering these clips in the eleven years since I began teaching
at Case Western Reserve University. I have been building this collection of visual
media materials for eleven years. I plan to use the Baker-Nord Preservation & Curation
Grant to build an archive of these materials.
For an excerpt from Spadoni's "A Pocket Guide to Analyzing Films," click HERE.
Theorizing Digital Humanities Grant
Technology and Epistemological Thresholds
Chris Haufe works
on problems in the history and philosophy of science, particularly biology. His current research focuses on conceptions
of natural law in biological science from the late 18th century up to the present, the epistemology of subjunctive
propositions, and the way in which philosophical presuppositions about science affect scientific funding.
The discipline of paleontology has undergone three major transitions in its history. The first occurred
at the end of the 18th century, when Cuvier convinced the scientific world that some fossils were the petrified
bones of species that no longer existed. The second occurred in 1859, when the Origin of Species convinced the
scientific world that the geological column was a vertical chronology of the history of organismic descent.
These transitions would appropriately be called conceptual, in that they marked a fundamental shift in the way
paleontologists though about features of the world with which they had always been familiar. The third occurred
in the early 1960s, and it was not conceptual -- at least, nor initially. This was the point in the discipline's
history when paleontologists began using computers to assist them in organizing and analyzing data. This was the
moment in which paleontology became a science.
Paleontology was quite late in incorporating digital technology into its methodology. Had it not been for a
small number of evolutionary biologists who had been trained as physicists, the delay might have persisted even
longer. Part of the explanation for the delay was that the culture of paleontology was still very much imbued with
a sense of classical naturalism, museum collection, and exhibit curating that had characterized much of its history
since the 18th century. But as biology became more theory-driven and quantitative in the late 1920s and early
1930s, paleontologists saw clearly that paleontology's survival as an academic discipline was facing a real
threat. In the wake of the synthesis of genetics and Darwinian evolutionary theory, the narrow and now mostly
sentimental focus on collecting and describing fossils that characterized most of the discipline's history was
shown to be an outmoded and superfluous add-on to what had become the new standard for scientific knowledge.
Rather than resort to special pleading or sentimental and unconvincing appeals to the intrinsic importance of
ancient life, paleontologists made a very well-thought out effort to pose and answer questions of general
significance. The initial stages of this effort were articulated in 1944 through a brilliant book by George
Gaylord Simpson called Tempo and Mode in Evolution, which argued that patterns in the fossil record
reflected over tens of millions of years the short-timescale evolutionary dynamics described by the neo-Darwinian theory.
The chief importance of this argument, however, lies nor in what it tells us about nee-Darwinian theory, but
rather what it tells us about paleontology. For, if fossil patterns are able to confirm neo-Darwinian theory, then
that means that fossil patterns are generally significant evolutionary phenomena. Most importantly, those patterns
are generally significant evolutionary phenomena, whether or not we can use Darwinian theory to explain them. If we
can't, that suggests that the theory is not the complete story about how evolution works, in which case we'll have
to come up with other ways of explaining those patterns, ways which may or may not be consistent with Darwinian
theory. In the space of a few pages, Simpson have provided the failsafe strategy for paleontology's salvation.
What Simpson and other paleontologists lacked was the requisite large-scale, broadbased perspective on the
fossil record that would allow them to detect widespread trends in the fossil record of the sort that could
give rise to questions of general significance. Not that it would have helped them all that much, because they
also lacked the means with which to analyze those trends and relate them to scientific theory (which they
also lacked). That all changed in the early 1960s, when computers made it possible to organize fossil data
and formulate hypotheses which those data could be used to test. Because of this transition, paleontology is
a core evolutionary discipline which has entirely changed the way we think about evolution. Had it not been
for the conscious and initially discomfiting effort to join the digital age, paleontology would probably no
longer cease to exist as an independent discipline (Sepkoski 2012).