Symposium: East-West Dialogue in Art History and Visual Culture

A 15th c. copy of the Dala’il al-Khayrat from the Chester Beatty Library’s collections. (Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.)

On November 13th, I had the pleasure of attending a symposium in Trinity’s Long Room Hub called “East-West Dialogue in Art History and Visual Culture,” hosted by the Centre for Gender and Women’s Studies. The topic (cultural mixing between Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East), is a pet interest of mine, planted as an adolescent in the post 9/11 world, watered by my French studies as an undergraduate [1], and (I’m out of metaphorical verbs here)’d by an independent study on francophone literature of the Maghreb during grad school. My scholarship quickly turned to more familiar waters (i.e. Western modernism), but my interest in post-colonial North Africa was rekindled by a trip to the Chester Beatty Library in March 2013. I saw amongst its collection of beautiful medieval manuscripts a very early sharing of iconographies which I hadn’t realized existed. Although I am by no means an expert on Arabic or visual cultures, I’ve chosen to preserve what I learned during Trinity’s symposium in this blog post. If any of the above ideas float your boat, read on. I’ll organize my thoughts by paper title/presenter.

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Confidence and Education: Virtual Worlds and MOOCs

The promise of virtual worlds

In her blog post “Does a virtual world make our world better?”, Olga Vasileva celebrates the emancipatory possibilities of virtual worlds in online education. From her own experience as an educator, Vasileva knows that students with disabilities or in rural settings value the opportunity to seek education on the accessible, anonymous Internet. She embraces virtual worlds (VWs) for their ability to allow these students “to interact similar to the real class experience through their ideal avatar.”

Some avatars hanging at an amphitheatre in Second Life.

This is a real Polish-language university space in Second Life, or so I’ve been led to believe by Wikimedia Commons. (cc) Dex Euromat

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I’ll Tell You What I Want (What I Really, Really Want)

1) (I want ah, I want ah, I want ah, I want ah, I want an easy to search database of thematic research collections. Possibly hosted by the Internet Archive. Zigazig-ah.)

the spice girls with the text "if you wanna be my archive, you have to be easy to find"

These are the Spice Girls. They care deeply about making things last forever (“research never ehhhhnds”). (Image: Kura.kun, Wikimedia Commons)

As a digital humanities (DH) student, I see amazing projects from around the globe on a daily basis. However, some of the projects I read about for class are no longer available online. Why? The most common response I’ve received is “funding”— the funding dries up, the project can’t be maintained, the project disappears. Scholars move on (just like they move on after writing books and articles), and institutions move on, because scholars don’t use these projects frequently enough.1 Fair. The humanities, however, are not thriving if innovative projects simply disappear. In this post, I argue for a small research infrastructure project with big implications; I will explain why I think the ethical imperative is on digital libraries to facilitate the development of this tool; and finally, I will address a critique of research infrastructure and explain why a database of thematic research collections (TRCs) sidesteps these problems.

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Stick with what you know, kid.

My motivation

Like most of my classmates, I am not pursuing a master’s in Digital Humanities because I’m already an expert on the topic.1  I came to Trinity with the intention of learning a thing or two, discovering my compelling and totally marketable idea, and cultivating a career (ac? alt-ac?? who knows?) in the field.  One piece of prior knowledge I bring to the table is that DH scholars do not just teach, research, and publish like your average humanities professor.  No, DH scholars know which side their bread is buttered on.2  An important activity for this breed of academic is branding, and your blog helps you promote your brand.

toast which says "tastes like funding" on it

The photo used in this sophisticated info-graphic is in the public domain, because I’m a professional. (Thanks, Wikimedia Commons!)

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