Scholars’ Lab Fall Symposium: Story Circuits: Creating & Recovering Embodied Memory

November 3, 2017
9:30 am–4:00 pm
Alderman Library, Room 421

Due to the hands-on nature of these workshops, seating is limited. Please register early to reserve your spot!

9:30-11:30 – Strange Frequencies: Book History in the Age of Sensors

Books–as librarians and archivists know–have always been the record keepers of readers’ interactions with them: a book read by candlelight is likely to retain telltale drops of wax on its pages, for example, while one transported in the rain will acquire foxing stains. In this workshop, we’ll explore how much more can we learn about a book once we’ve endowed it with tiny digital prosthetics that document ever so much more of its history. Properly preserved and maintained, a book outfitted with sensors could enhance book history as a field of study by magnifying our ability to tell a story about its past, such as the precise date, time, and place it was opened or read aloud or subjected to the mishaps of a careless reader who spilled coffee on it. At the same time, by registering detailed information about human lives, such sensing books raise potentially troubling issues around privacy and surveillance.

Through discussion, scenario building, and prototyping, we’ll investigate four inter-related questions: 1.) What types of sensors are the most interesting and revelatory to embed in physical books?  2.) What can we infer about the past by analyzing the activity traces captured by these sensors? 3.) What are the most compelling ways to visualize and display sensor data collected from books? 4.) How we can ensure that anti-surveillance values are reflected in the design of such digitally augmented books? Participants will have the chance to experiment with a variety of sensors, including those detecting motion, temperature, sound, and humidity. We’ll also go beyond the usual repertoire of commercially available technologies by examining some non-digital sensors, as well as a few gadgets that have achieved notoriety as “ghost tech”, such as ultra-sensitive vibration and electrostatic sensors: the “strange frequencies” of the workshop title.

Kari Kraus is an associate professor in the College of Information Studies and the Department of English at the University of Maryland. Her research and teaching interests focus on new media and the digital humanities; textual scholarship, print culture, and the history of the book; digital preservation; game studies; transmedia storytelling; and speculative design.

12:00 – 1:30: Lunch

1:30 – 3:30 Making Core Memory

The project centers on an electronic quilt that materializes the work of early core memory weavers (see description here: During the workshops I hand out “patch kits” made of a board loom, conductive fabric, yarn, and beads (in place of the original wire and ferrite cores). After people weave their patches, they plug their patches into the electronic textile quilt to unlock our archive of first-hand accounts of core memory production. The quilt plays audio clips from our archive and tweets from our @lolweavers account. I developed the project with the hope of examining the forms of gendered craftwork and its valuation as technical work over time — exploring and to some extent challenging the prevailing purification of high status cognitive labor associated with male engineers from the ostensibly unthinking and unskilled practices of women’s hands.

Daniela Rosner is an Assistant Professor in Human Centered Design & Engineering (HCDE) at the University of Washington. Her research investigates the social, political, and material circumstances of technology development, with an emphasis on foregrounding marginalized histories of practice, from maintenance to needlecraft. She has worked in design research at Microsoft Research, Adobe Systems, Nokia Research and as an exhibit designer at several museums, including the Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum.