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The Digging Condition: The Material Turn in Digital Humanities and How it Got That Way

During the 2000s, a material turn occurred in digital humanities research, with an emphasis on how new media are not ephemeral info-dust. They are inscribed onto platters, embedded in infrastructure, transmitted through wires, and grounded in platforms. Put this way, the material turn responds, if only tacitly, to critical theories of technology, virtuality, and cyberspace that, during the 1980s and 1990s, largely ignored the particulars of how new media actually work. With this turn, we observe what I call a "digging condition" across digital humanities: scholars are now approaching media archaeologically, scraping data, emulating obsolete programs, reanimating dead tech, and unpacking the hidden lives of objects. But, from a historical perspective, how did new media become material in the first place? What motivated, say, the transduction of the ephemeral into the permanent? Engaging these questions, this talk argues that, among other things, early magnetic recording practices (1878 - 1920) should inform how we understand the emergence of the digging condition in digital humanities. In so doing, it uses sound studies as its foundation, building upon and often complicating tendencies in digital humanities to privilege book history, print culture, and electronic text.


Prototyping the Past: An Introduction to 3D Modeling and Manufacturing for Historical Purposes

 3D modeling and manufacturing are now ubiquitous in the news. Regardless of whether people read Wired or Boing Boing, they have probably heard about 3D printing, Maker Media, or MakerBot. However, the relevance of 3D modeling and manufacturing to historical research in the humanities may not be readily apparent to most researchers, and for good reason. As such, this workshop introduces participants to some fundamentals of modeling and manufacturing historical artifacts in 3D, with an emphasis on how scholars can "prototype the past" through computer vision, laser scanning, and photogrammetry. Participants will learn how to digitize 3D objects using free and readily available software, render them "watertight" (or conducive to fabrication), assign them metadata, and circulate them online (for downloading, resuse, and printing). We will also review the importance of perceiving and thinking about history across analog and digital materials, including the ways in which code can be transduced into objects held in hand. No technical competencies or experience with 3D modeling and manufacturing is required. However, participants will be encouraged to share ideas (and even objects) related to their current research and to bring their own laptops, if possible. For examples, we will draw upon the Kits for Cultural History project at the University of Victoria's Maker Lab in the Humanities:


Jentery Sayers is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Victoria, with research interests in comparative media studies, digital humanities, 20th-Century U.S. fiction, computers and composition, and teaching with technologies. He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in digital humanities, cultural studies, and 20th-century U.S. fiction. His work has appeared in Kairos: Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy; Computational Culture: A Journal of Software Studies; The Information Society; Collaborative Approaches to the Digital in English Studies; ProfHacker; The Resource Center for Cyberculture Studies; and Writing and the Digital Generation. His current book project is a cultural history of magnetic recording.

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.