Skip to content Skip to navigation

DLCL ATS round-up, fall 2020

2020 was the first year I taught in the fall -- and I'm very glad to have arranged teaching that way, so I have the rest of the year to continue supporting DLCL students on their projects.  Teaching either of my classes (Digital Humanities Across Borders AKA Multilingual DH, or Project Management and Ethical Collaboration for Humanists AKA the DH RPG class) has a way of being all-consuming, and having over 20 students  made it even more so! I was excited to explore some new languages with students: Arabic, Latin, Malay, and Vietnamese. The class was held asynchronously, though we started doing Friday hang-outs where I learned some new tricks, too (like changing the UI language in Netflix in order to get access to different sets of subtitles). It was a challenging quarter, with more than one student moving out of the state (or country), multiple hospitalizations, and the stress of the election getting to everyone, myself included. But I'm really proud of everything they managed to do despite it all, and I hope to share some of their work here (with permission) over the next few months.

Existing projects

Progress tends to be slower on my other collaborative  projects while I'm teaching. Discussions with the Global Medieval Sourcebook over fall quarter led to the decision to migrate the website to Jekyll (rather than our initial plan to use Wax).

I was excited to work with Lakmali Jayasinghe on her Poetic Media Lab project as part of my class, and we were both grateful to James Jacobs, Stanford's Federal Government Information Librarian, for his help in navigating a FOIA request.

We'd been discussing making sure that the "Entitled Opinions" podcast was properly archived for some time now, so it was wonderful to hear from Hannah Frost that most of the podcast's run had already been accessioned into the University Archives (and propagated out to the world through Calisphere), and we only have to work with them on adding the most recent episodes and updating the metadata.

Another issue of OK ZOOMER, the Stanford Library zine, came out right before Halloween, and I was happy to contribute my early-pandemic green screen hijinks. You can check out the web version or print version.)

It was a busy quarter for the Data-Sitters Club, publishing three new books: "Voyant's Big Day" by Katherine Bowers, "DSC and Mean Copyright Law by Matthew Sag and me, and "Text-Comparison-Algorithm Crazy Quinn" by me.  All three of them became class readings as soon as they were published. In addition, the Data-Sitters Club contributed a letter of support for a text mining exemption to the DMCA (which disallows circumventing ebook encryption) put together by the Authors Alliance.

On top of all that, there's a few projects that are still on hold but I hope to revisit now that I'm done teaching for the year: the Harry Potter fanfic project, text mining JSTOR, cleaning up the OCR for the Ostrov zine, and rolling out Palladio bricks.

New projects

Even when consumed by teaching, it's hard to avoid new projects. Fall 2020 being what it was, I kept things modest. I had my first chance to talk with a potential donor, picking up where Glen Worthey  left off with the Unicode archives. In my department, we've also  started some early planning and discussion around a significant overhaul of the DLCL website. I've also been working with a student undergraduate assistant on some modifications / rebuilding a couple smaller standalone websites using the Stanford Sites platform.

Right before the break, a faculty team led by Cécile Alduy submitted an internal Stanford humanities grant to fund the development of 20th and 21st century literary corpora for the major languages of the DLCL. Inspired by work on the English-only "Chicago corpus",  I'd love to see similar resources be made available to all the graduate students in the department, for their particular languages.


Against all odds, I managed to write a paper about the DH RPG / project management class (as a follow-up to the DHSI pre-conference symposium on project management last summer), and a chapter for a Feminist DH edited volume on issues connected with the graceful degradation of collaborative relationships (itself a collaboration, with my former DHSI co-instructor Erica Cavanaugh). Patrick Burns and I revised our Debates in DH 2021 piece on multilingual DH, and I did my part of the peer reviews for the "Computational Humanities" Debates in DH.

Talks and events

I'm surprised, in retrospect, how many more talks and events can be packed into a quarter -- even when teaching -- when everything is online.

Liz Grumbach and I followed up on the successful summer Animal Crossing event for the online Digital Humanities conference by launching an ongoing talk series. We had three presentations over the course of the fall, plus an Election Night crafting hang-out. I also ran a Halloween costume contest for Library staff in Animal Crossing. These events have been by far my favorite, supporting a kind of meaningful virtual presence and shared space. Visiting friends' virtual islands in Animal Crossing is just about the closest I've come to spending time with people outside my immediate family since the pandemic started, and I'm looking forward to more of it -- maybe even continuing beyond the pandemic?

ACH held a kick-off meeting for this year's mentoring program, to get a sense of what people were most interested in. The answer seemed to be "everything, including experimental things", so we're planning a varied program to see what ends up working best. More locally, we've continued running the CESTA lightning talk series, which gives members of the CESTA DH community at Stanford a chance to get feedback on their ongoing projects.

Lee Skallerup Bessette and I gave a talk for the Flyover Comics Symposium on the Quebecois vs. France translations of the Baby-Sitters Club graphic novels, and how they compare (in terms of their text) with the corresponding translations of the original novels.

For the McGill "Spectrums of DH" series,  I gave a talk called "What's a 'word': Multilingual DH and the English Default" where I tried to translate the experience of doing non-English DH through analogies for Anglophone scholars. And towards the end of the quarter, "Language is a Domain: Use the Bender Rule" at TextXD was a lightning talk jeremiad about the tendency for only non-English scholars to bother saying what language they applied their methods to. In addition, I gave a Sawchen Lecture for the University of British Columbia with Andrew Janco about some practical DH techniques for scholars of Russian. (Fun fact: it's challenging to even search a text file in Russian without lemmatizing -- creating a less-than-fully-human-readable derivative with all words in the dictionary form.) Whether or not they use computational methods for their analysis, a little "stealth DH" can go a long way for Russian scholars.

Finally, with help from a bunch of props (including Dr. Cheese Bones, the skeleton who went to Utrecht), I was happy to play the Ghost of Christmas Future and Bob Crachit in the Library's Zoom Christmas Carol.

I'm looking forward to taking a moment to catch my breath after last quarter's teaching, and moving forward with all this work and more in 2021!