DHIB 2019: Quantified Self

I offered a 10-hour workshop at the Digital Humanities Institute Beirut (DHIB), 4-5 May 2019. It is a miniature version of a course I will be teaching at NYU Abu Dhabi in Fall 2019. The slides are available at Zenodo here.

Brief description: This ten-hour workshop explored elements of the contemporary “quantified self” movement and its claims to “self-knowledge through numbers” focusing on contexts outside of the West/global North. It adopted a data-centered approach to gather, analyze and visualize data about the self in order to evaluate the phenomenon critically.

Preparation for the Workshop: Check out some of the 325(!) “Show and Tell” sessions here.

Requirements: Participants should come with a laptop and a updated smartphone (iOS or Android) with plenty of charge each day.

Outcomes. Participants in this workshop will:

  1. explore basic arguments in the contemporary context of self-tracking and the datafication of human life.
  2. be exposed to relevant issues in information privacy related to device usage and commercial data aggregation.
  3. collect some data about themselves in familiar surroundings
  4. practice data storytelling techniques reusing that data (map visualization, plotting).
  5. discuss to what extent these data reflect their own life experience, or constitute “self-knowledge”.
  6. examine critically the risks and benefits of QS applications for emerging and vulnerable environments.

Breakdown

Saturday 4 May, 0900-1130 — Session 1

  • introduction to quantified self (QS) movement and to its globalization in the public & health sectors.
  • discussion of data privacy, geo-privacy, app gamification.
  • exploration of the data collection capacities of a smartphone / wearable technologies.
  • lunch exercise: observing the data collection apps already on your phone.

Saturday 4 May, 1430-1700 — Session 2

  • exploration of self-tracking apps: their functions, gamified nature, benefits and drawbacks, the exportability of data
  • working with a couple apps to set up (temporal & spatial) data collection exercise for a one day period.

Sunday 5 May, 0900-1130 — Session 3

  • debriefing about data collection: findings and shortcomings.
  • discussion of a few short passages from critical literature on QS and media studies (Maturo/Moretti; Rettberg; Wernimont; Lupton).
  • exporting the data from the apps.
  • presentation of relevant data visualization techniques.
  • lunch exercise: completing your data collection, if you haven’t already at night.

Sunday 5 May, 1430-1700 — Session 4

  • reusing that data for storytelling purposes (map visualization, plotting).
  • wrap up.

For more information, see the bibliography of my forthcoming colloquium as well as the QS bibliography and 325 Show&Tell talks.

Twenty Things to Know about #DHIB2017

Twenty Things to Know about #DHIB2017                                                 

DHIB 2017 (@DHIBeirut, dhibeirut.wordpress.com) is a moment in my career that I will look back on fondly.

I have made a list of twenty things to know about the event that took place in Beirut 10-12 March 2017, ten that I think others will be interested in, and ten personal ones.

  1. It was not the first successful international digital humanities event that has taken place in the Arab region. It was the second.
  2. It represents the convergence of two different Andrew J. Mellon Foundation funded initiatives: the Center for Arts and Humanities at AUB and the AMICAL consortium.
  3. Countries represented at DHIB 2017 were Egypt, UAE, Lebanon, Ghana, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, France, Switzerland, Greece, Germany and Italy.  These are the countries of the institutions represented.  There were more nationalities present.
  4. It was the first time, to my knowledge, that instructors working in the Arab world–North Lebanon (Balamand), Beirut (AUB), Cairo (AUC)—taught DH topics together in the same venue.
  5. The participants included local universities, research centers and institutes, as well as digital humanities specialists from international organizations: IFPO, OIB and DiXiT, international libraries (Halle) and DH groups (Bard).
  6. Instructors included librarians, full-time and part-time faculty, IT and an English major.
  7. Participants included librarians, full-time faculty, IT, graduate and undergraduates.
  8. The digital humanities conversation has piqued the interest of the Centers for Teaching and Learning in the region and beyond.
  9. The courses on offer represented a spectrum of topics important to our local “big tent”:  Drupal, mapping, 3d, sound, Arabic OCR, Sustainable Text Workflows, Omeka, game design, digital pedagogy, digital editing, etc.
  10. We were able to offer the Institute at no cost to the participants.

 

Ten reasons that I loved the 2017 edition of DHIB 2017:

  1. I witnessed my fellow faculty, instructional designers and students make DH their own.
  2. The mother of an undergraduate student of mine took my workshop to find out what he has been talking about all this time.
  3. My keynote was live streamed and notes for several courses are available online.
  4. I listened to our second keynote speaker Ghassan Mourad, author of the first book about DH in Arabic, speak in Arabic about named entity extraction in Arabic.
  5. We have the best (multi-script) logo of any of the DH events I have attended (designed by @kyraneth). Available here with a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 International license.
  6. One of the participants in my mapping workshop grasped the idea of the experimental nature of the DH projectvery quickly.  He went looking for data, dug into my professional website and made a map of my recent professional engagements.
  7. Both the Office of Information Technology and the Library at AUB were actively engaged in the Institute.
  8. The lightning talks were effervescent: bubbling over with practical ideas, obvious cross-institutional partnerships and feasible projects.
  9. Our closing session was held en plein air on the 2nd floor balcony of Fisk Hall, one of the heritage buildings on AUB’s green oval.  I was very pleased with the engagement of the participants.
  10. I learned so much from others.

 

General information on DHIB and DH at AUB : We began with informal events in 2011 that brought together the departments of English and Computer Science at AUB, with the support of some key people on campus who believed in the endeavor.  In 2015 we hosted the first DHIB (documents about that event are archived here). We became part of the Digital Humanities International Training Network in 2015. Other DH institutes have received participants from our institution: Oxford, Leipzig, Victoria.

 

Articles written about DHIB 2017:

AUB Faculty of Arts and Sciences
D
igital Humanities Institute Beirut 2017 – a Review

 

 

 

 

Mapping for the Digital Humanities DHIB 2017

Mapping for the Digital Humanities

Digital Humanities Institute – Beirut in March 2017 (5 hours).
@DJWrisley

Description:

This is a five-hour course that introduces basic elements of modeling spatial data for the humanities, data creation with gazetteers and making simple interactive maps with a symbology appropriate to the data.

Outcomes: 

Participants who complete this workshop will

    • understand the basics of spatial data (formats, types, accuracy).
      gain a basic appreciation for the concept of data modeling
    • learn where they can get spatial data appropriate for humanities inquiry, or how they can create it themselves.
    • gain a basic appreciation of the critical, interpretative side of making a map.
    • experiment with extracting locations from text.
    • appreciate different kinds of spatial data curation (manual, semi-automatic and automatic).
    • use geolocation services on their smartphones to generate some basic data.
    • learn to make a basic interactive map using Carto (and within a web hosting, if skill level permits).

Outline: 

(1) What are spatial data, that is, the data we need to make basic maps?  In what formats, do such data come?

(2) Where can we obtain spatial data? How can we create spatial data?  What is a gazetteer?  What is a spatial repository?

(3) Examples of digital maps projects: Edmonton Pipelines, Mapping Dante, Year of the Riot, Harlem 1935,  London Chatty Map, Slave Revolt in Jamaica, Going to the Show, Mapping the Lake District: A Literary GIS, Linguistic Landscapes of Beirut, Digital Karnak, NYT’s pick, Wandering Rocks, NoSweatShakespeare map, (LOTRLife of Maya Angelou, Novel City Maps), Photogrammar, Literary Geographies of Christine de Pizan, Digital Archaeological Archive of Comparative Slavery, Mapping the Mahjar

(4) Two hands-on examples:

a. Making a map from a text in three “flavors”:  (1) manually (2) semi-automatically using TopoText and (3) automatically using a basic python script (adapted from here).

b. Making a map using data captured with smartphone apps.

(5) How can we stylize those maps and share them with others?

 

See the other spatial humanities workshops and courses I have given. And this bibliography from 2015.

Beirut publishes… / وبيروت تطبع

Beirut publishes… / وبيروت تطبع : Digital Spatio-Temporal Narratives of the Lebanese Publishing Industry (1920-present)

David Joseph Wrisley
American University of Beirut
Abstract : Books in Motion Conference (Beirut, May 2016)

Initial project site: http://litmap.djwrisley.com/?page_id=2

As the old adage goes, “Cairo writes, Beirut publishes, Baghdad reads.” This paper grows out of a project-based research spatial humanities seminar in the Department of English at the American University of Beirut entitled “Literature and Mapping” (ENGL 292/306V, Spring 2016) that explores spatio-temporality of publishing culture in Beirut over the last century. Scholars familiar with the work of Moretti will recognize the come-back of the map to literary studies, particularly as an organizing technology for thinking about data-driven studies of literary production. This project takes some of its inspiration from a recent attempt to map publishing and book selling in Cairo, but with a key difference: we aim not only to localize contemporary commercial book culture, but also to add historical and sociological depth for the case of Beirut. We know publishing institutions did not stay in the same locations over the course of time (Mermier), and scholars have documented the rise of certain sectors and kinds of book publishing in and around the city (Rosiny).

Planned data sources for this project include archival materials held in special collections at Jafet Library, IFPO and the Bibliothèque Orientale, extracted records from electronic library catalogs (Library of Congress, New York Public Library, Bibliothèque nationale de France), interviews with local publishers and booksellers as well as from mobile application data collection. From the LOC I have already acquired (scraped) the publication information for about 10000 books published in Beirut over the century. Other sources will no doubt emerge as the research continues.

One of the traditional problems in history and sociology is capturing simultaneously the spatial and the temporal complexity of a research problem, especially within traditional academic prose narrative. Digital mapping techniques provide an invaluable frame for spatio-temporal depth, but not without significant challenges. Inspired by theoreticians and practitioners in a branch of the digital humanities known as the spatial or GeoHumanities, we will create a set of interactive “thick” or “deep” maps that allow for a variety of factors in the data about Beirut publishing to be visualized. For example, we will explore the potential effects of war, gentrification and delocalization of urban cultural space on the sector. Whereas traditional methods of digital mapping rely upon spatial precision and computational analysis, the techniques need to be adjusted for the kind of data collection and representation we expect to carry out. Much of what we will acquire is rough and uncertain–in both space and time–with approximate dates of activity and only a building name or a post-office box for an address. We will discuss in particular how maps do not simply mirror the world, but tell multiple narratives about lived, built space. Maps are “unstable, fragile and temporary,” they are a “conversation and not a statement” (McLucas).

Unlike top-down models for mapping cities that promote state-centered views of culture or politics, bottom-up “neogeography” admits pluralism and democratic, even idiosyncractic or messy, access to the analytic space of the map (Warf). In one semester we will be able to collect considerable data, but humanities mapping never aims at a totality of the archive, but rather visualizes what we know as but one step in the process of discovering what we do not know (Bodenhamer). Mapping is never a “one-time thing” (Presner et al.). It is an iterative process. As such, the paper proposed for the Books in Motion conference, will be prose narrative delivered in a traditional panel time slot, but will be accompanied by map-based narrative that will illustrate some of the semester’s findings. Initial evidence points to a shift of printing and consumption of books away from the early 20th century souqs and reading clubs located in proximity to the various national embassies towards two cultural, language-divergent poles that developed in the 1920s around the “globalized” Catholic and American university presses, a familiar bifurcation as described by cultural historians (Kassir). Other initial findings point to mid-century and post-war clustering of publishers in new areas–Ain al-Tineh, Ghoberieh/Haret Hreik and Sin al-Fil. We would like to analyze these spatial migrations of the publishing sector in relation to the existence and development of other (confessionally-inflected) cultural institutions. The very basic map of aggregate data (as of yet temporally undistinguished) can be found at the project site.

Recognizing that the Lebanese book sector was deeply involved in not only publishing, but also distribution, printing and translation in and out of Arabic, French and English, the full story of connectivity of this sector is not to be found in Lebanon alone. As it is a new topic, and for the purposes of the initial investigation, the scale of the spatial narrative generated in the Spring semester will be the general metropolitan area of Beirut. This being said, ancillary data will no doubt be collected linking the publishing to other parts of the Arab world, Europe and North America. This data, if robust, may be used to analyze networks of publishers connected to Beirut, adding another dimension to the “mobility of books.”

Keywords: book publishing, book distribution, digital humanities, spatial humanities, spatio-temporal narratives, thick/deep mapping, sociology of literature

Initial project site: http://litmap.djwrisley.com/?page_id=2

Works Cited

Bodenhamer, D.J. “Narrating Space and Place,” Deep Maps and Spatial Narratives (2015).

“Cairo Bookstop” http://cairobookstop.wordpress.com [accessed 1.12.15].

Kassir, S. Histoire de Beyrouth (2003).

McLucas, C. “Deep Mapping,” http://documents.stanford.edu/MichaelShanks/51 [accessed 1.12.15].

Mermier, F. Le Livre et la ville: Beyrouth et l’édition arabe (2005).

Moretti, F. Atlas of the European Novel 1800-1900 (1999).

Presner, T. et al, Hypercities: Thick Mapping and the Digital Humanities (2014).

Rosiny, S. Shia’s Publishing in Lebanon: with special reference to Islamic and Islamicist publications (1999).

Warf, B. “Deep Mapping and Neogeography,” Deep Maps and Spatial Narratives (2015).