Graduate Fellows Forum
Introducing Our 2013-2014 Graduate Fellows
On September 10, 2013, the Scholars’ Lab hosted a lunch talk to welcome our new Digital Humanities Graduate Fellows, who gave an introduction to their research to be undertaken with the Scholars’ Lab during the next year.
Composition and Computer Technologies Program
McIntire Department of Music
“Community Listening in Isle Royal National Park, a sonic ethnography”
Sounds not only change physically as they travel across and through spaces and places, but they also change, and shape, dense webs of relationships between people and things across socio-cultural contexts. Within this space, what can we learn from individualized listeners? And what can we learn by listening to how these people listen? My work with the Scholars’ Lab focuses on one of these relationships. Blurring the line between soundscape composition, audio documentary, and sonic ethnography, the work documents how I became part of a dialogue between wolf researchers of the world’s longest running wildlife study, and a community of park-exploring people. In short, the wolf researchers have tapped into a network of park visitors and employees scattered across the island, listening. The scientists collect listening reports from this network that leads to the determination of wolf reproductive success in the summer season. In the process, this network of listeners gains, among other things, a deep listening relationship with the place. During extensive fieldwork in the US National Park system as a composer/researcher through their Artist-in-Residence program I have become interested in how these ways of listening exists within, and are tied to complicated, interconnected environments. In order to understand this listening relationship it is necessary to understand an array of issues and topics directly related: noise, silence, chance, the relationship between science and the public, global climate change, National Park policy and politics, species reintroduction, togetherness, the romanticization and dramatization of the wolf, spirituality, and socio-aesthetics of the place. The work is framed by the intrinsic relationship between this listening network and the ecological well-being of the park, which is currently at risk of major change because the wolves, who play a vital role in maintaining this health, are on the brink of “blinking-out”. My time in the Scholars’ Lab will be spent experimenting with different forms of research transmission/creative expression geared toward connecting the research/story to people. I am interested in preparing an interactive version of the project that would grow into, or become a platform for, other community-based sound and listening projects that may include sound mapping using GIS, online sound databases, and data scraping.
Corcoran Department of Philosophy
“When Socrates Misleads: Falsehood and Fallacy in Plato’s Dialogues”
My dissertation challenges a powerful orthodoxy; scholars generally assume that the Plato’s dialogues portray Socrates as a sincere thinker, arguing in good faith and in search of the truth. It is my view, however, that Socrates often misleads his interlocutors, sometimes for sport and sometimes in the service of educating those who are resistant to philosophical argumentation. In particular, I have identified a number of conversations, in the Phaedo, Meno, and Phaedrus, where Socrates misrepresents his own convictions in order to convince an interlocutor of an important philosophical truth. These instances provide contextual and linguistic evidence not only that Socrates misleads but that he is aware of having done so.
My digital research will focus on identifying other dialogues in which Socrates knowingly misleads his interlocutors. Because many of my arguments are philological, I purpose to use computational linguistic techniques, like topic modeling, to compare the vocabularies of the Phaedo, Meno, and Phaedrus to other dialogues of with similar themes, including the Gorgias, Symposium, Parmenides, and Theaetetus. Comparing these dialogues through statistical analysis will, I hope, reveal further linguistic indications of deceptive rhetorical practices.
In addition to showing interesting results for my own research, I hope to demonstrate the extent to which topic modeling might be used as an aid to close reading. In recent years, those interested in topic modeling have tended toward corpus-based approaches, examining large swaths of text, across multiple authors and genres, in order to determine sweeping thematic and structural shifts. I hope that this project will demonstrate the extent to which topic modeling might also be useful to scholars who are interested in detailed textual analysis.
 Clay Templeton (August 1, 2011). “Topic Modeling in the Humanities: An Overview.” MITH: Maryland Institute for Technologies in the Humanities. UMD. http://mith.umd.edu/topic-modeling-in-the-humanities-an-overview. See also: http://mith.umd.edu/corporacamp/tool.php.
Corcoran Department of History
“SURVIVAL AND SURVEILLANCE: RECOVERING NARRATIVES OF BLACK FEMALE CRIMINALITY DURING THE CIVIL WAR”
A critical component of her dissertation titled, “Black Sass: A Social and Cultural Examination of Black Female Criminality in Civil War Era Washington, D.C. 1850-1880,” Tamika Richeson’s digital humanities project applies the police precinct data of over 450 arrests of black women to develop a digital narrative of the lived experiences of “lower-class” black women across space. Applying crime as a focal point, her study of the spatial relationship between black women’s law-breaking activity and police surveillance in the nation’s capital, offers a window into the lives and labors of lower-class black women during an era of national conflict and fortified race-based legal restrictions. The nation’s capital was a shared space, occupied by local black and white inhabitants, immigrants, politicians, and soldiers. Her project involves a detailed examination of criminal data from 1861 and 1862 to capture the tensions and conflicts within that shared space and at centers of power. Her research demonstrates that black women strategically navigated wartime Emancipation in their quest for independence, stability, and survival. This case study at the heart of national politics and culture resituates lower-class black women from the margins to the center to examine the racialized and gendered context in which American criminal law took shape.