9/4/2019: What can be considered DH?

Digital Humanities can be defined as many different things depending on the point-of-view that one is taking. This can be the case for many fields as well. As shown in the different introductions for the Debates in Digital Humanities books, there is a clear shift in the view of the field from conception, to understanding, to application. With how our world is now, when applying the use of DH, it is allowing for a new understanding of what is occurring in our world on a more global scale.

While looking at the “Torn Apart / Separados site, the culmination of data from different sources, represented in different ways, opens the world of immigration in a way that cannot be explained through other mediums. It is easy to read or see about what is happening to families in certain areas through new outlets and social media and to believe that there is one agency (ICE) responsible for the separation of families, but it is another thing to see other factors that are involved with helping this agency to be able to do what they do. How many companies do you shop at that help support ICE? There are times when the events you hear about on the news, though relevant, seem to be disconnected from your own world that there is no affect that the story has on you directly. This site, however, breaks down those walls and shows how far the connections spread. In addition to the connections between ICE and other companies/individuals, the website brings to light the amount of people that have been deported by ICE as opposed to the ones that make it to social media.

As I had mentioned in a previous comment, this site reminded me of another site that I was exposed to in the Technology, Learning and Development course through the Psychology and Education department at The Graduate Center, CUNY. The site recreates the interview process for asylum seekers, where the user (you) are the interviewer.

The Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) decides which asylum seekers may stay in the country. Civil servants conduct an in-depth interview with the alleged refugee. This detailed interview is of great importance. Which of these applicants would you give asylum to? Observe, listen, and decide.

Het Nader Gehoor

The user is shown videos of asylum seekers (actor portrayals of true stories) answering questions that the user “asks” using tags created from the testimony. After some time, the user is asked if the asylum seeker is eligible based on their story and the requirements for granting asylum. No matter the story, if the asylum seeker is not “qualified” based on the law, they will be denied. Seeing the stories represented in this way brings the system to life for those of us who are not aware of the process.

In connection to our discussion today, DH can take many forms. One of them that was discussed and questioned today was videos. I had mentioned a project called LearningSites, Inc. I came across this project 4 years ago at a lecture at The National Arts Club in NYC. It was a trip organized by my Intro to Archaeology professor that ended up leading me to the DH program. During the lecture, the speaker was showcasing this project that allowed the user to “walk” through a virtual landscape of an archaeological site as it would have looked when it was in use. Without being at the site (or being alive thousands of years ago) you could get a first-person view and sense of what the site would have looked like.

Everything was based on archaeological data, right down to the oil used in the lamps. This was the point that stuck with me after all these years. The oil had to be coded in a specific way to represent the fact that different oils emit specific light (and thus could interfere with the way the paintings on the walls looked), and based on the types of trade that the site had or the local oils they may have had access to.

Within a few weeks after this lecture, the site that was being showcased (Nimrud), was destroyed by ISIS. Not only was the program valuable in terms of education, but it then became a time capsule for data that was no longer tangible.

For the past 4 years I had been hoping that the project would release the program that they used during the lecture but I did not see any updates to the project until this past weekend. Though they cannot provide the actual program on the website for the Nimrud site (as far as I’ve seen), they posted a video on YouTube (which I will link below) that shows a “walk”through of what the project is like for the site of Nimrud.

DH projects like this not only preserves data that can no longer be looked at, it also puts it into a new perspective different from those that are presented through scholarship or through a museum. This includes, though is most certainly not limited to, the fact that most ancient sculptures and friezes were painted in color. Now that the color has all faded, we are left with half of the picture. Programs like this can fill in the gaps.

King’s Private Suite, Northwest Palace, Nimrud