Digital Humanities

jpg not foundI became interested in the digital humanities soon after arriving at Stanford, but knew very little about what form that interest should take. The Stanford Literary Lab, founded by Franco Moretti, is deservedly well-known for producing projects that "distantly read" large corpera to pose research questions and statistically analyze the results (for example, to create a program that goes through the text of 1000 novels written in Germany between 1871 and 1914 to see how word choice around concepts of militance and militarism changed between the foundation of the second empire and the outbreak of WWI). However, I found myself increasingly drawn to new media projects that creatively engage with the digital world and expose new kinds of interactivity and pedagogy, rather than ones which scientifically analyze texts. In the three big digital projects I've completed at Stanford, and in my proposed capstone project for AY2015-2016, my driving questions have been about how our digital interactions can make us more sensitively human, rather than looking critically at the arts through a digital lens. I've been very fortunate to be able to grow these ideas by taking Introductory Programming (coding with Java), Introduction to Digital Humanities, and Introduction to Spatial History. Although my dissertation project didn't call for a digital component as it developed, I look forward to expanding my research and teaching further in digital directions.

Code Poetry Slam

I am the co-founder, director, and main judge of the Stanford Code Poetry Slam series, which has held 3 slams so far (CPS 1.0 (November 2013), CPS 1.1 (February 2014), and CPS 2.0 (January 2015)). There's also been a Hack-a-slam co-produced with the poet laureate of Cupertino for middle school students and community members. CPS 3.0 will take place in Febraury, 2016. For each slam, we accept submissions for code poems in any language (computer or human); then we select finalists and invite them to present their poem however they want (through vocal performance, compiling the program, creating a video, using several techniques at once, etc.), followed by a discussion and pizza. The slam series has received significant press coverage and inspired similar events at universities across the country and internationally. The project is funded by the DLCL.

Code Poetry Slam 1.0, Fall 2013 (poster) Code Poetry Slam 1.1, Winter 2014 Code Poetry Slam 2.0, Winter 2015 Cupertino Hack-a-slam, Spring 2015

Selected Press

First Stanford code poetry slam reveals the literary side of computer code, Stanford News Algorithms Meet Art, Stanford Engineering News An Entirely New Type of Poetry Slam, The Rumpus Writing Code as Poetry; Poetry as Code, I Programmer Insert: Code Poetry, The Hexacoto Let them count the ways that code can = poetry, SF Gate

TV Interview I gave for Upside on 3/18/2014

For more details (for example, an explanation of what code poetry is and which other groups are doing similar projects), please see tinyurl.com/codepoetryslam

Holocaust Geographies

As my final project for a course taught through Stanford's Spatial History Project, I made an interactive map that spatially visualized where different songs could be heard in Auschwitz Concentration Camp. This project maps the spaces where music was played or sung in Auschwitz- Main Camp and Auschwitz- Birkenau. You can explore these interactive maps and listen to clips of the songs which were heard there.

Music is not typically associated with the concentration camps of Nazi Germany, but, as these maps display, there was a vibrant musical culture in the camps throughout the war. The music of Auschwitz ranged from institutionally sanctioned performances, like the concerts performed by the 80-member prisoner orchestra in the main camp, to secret resistance music that was hummed or whistled, like Die Gedanken Sind Frei (Thoughts Are Free). In between lie pieces like Alexander's Ragtime Band, which was officially prohibited but performed at the request of SS officers in need of relaxation. Or Wiazanka z Effektenkammer (Medley from the Effects Depot), a subtly subversive set of songs written by a prisoner and performed as a cabaret in the barracks in the last months of the war.

After the project was written up in the Stanford Report, I gave multiple guest lectures and conference presentations on the material and published on it in The Appendix.

Article for The Appendix, July 2013, "Out Loud"
Article in the Stanford Report


Poetic Thinking Across Media

I designed (but did not myself build) a new webspace for CompLit154B. This course, which I TA'd that fall, made use of an innovative new annotation platform, Lacuna Stories, which was developed at Stanford by Michael Widner, Brian Johnsrud, and Amir Eshel. Lacuna Stories allows students to read, annotate, highlight, and comment on course texts collectively, then write blog posts and tag the relevant themes and texts. The teacher can then use these student ideas to frame class discussion. My goal in this project was to design an addition to Lacuna Stories that was specific to the course I was TA-ing: Poetic Thinking Across Media. One of the major course themes was travel and journeying; I wanted to make the website became responsive to and reflective of the course themes as well, so that it wouldn't just be a forum for discussion, but also become a developing course text itself. At the end of the semester, students could then look at the "text" (the website) they had all co-created and conceivably write about it in their final project alongside the other texts they'd read. Although my addition wound up not being ready to use in the course that fall, the experience highlighted for me how I want to rethink pedagogical web-tools so they become more attuned to the courses we teach.

Splash page design
Blog page design
Blogpost page design
"Journeys" page design
Map page design
Syllabus page design

Here's an explanation of my design that I gave to collaborators at the time:Poetic Thinking Presentation

Certificate in Digital Humanities

In order to get a certificate in Digital Humanities along with my PhD, I have taken several courses (including CS106A (Introduction to Programming), Introduction to Spatial History, and Introduction to Digital Humanities) and proposed a capstone project, to be completed in AY2015-2016.

For my capstone project, I propose to close read, analyze, and digitally present 5-10 of the poems that have been performed at Stanford Code Poetry Slams 1.0, 1.1, and 2.0. While the three slams have allowed for performance and brief discussion of contestants' work, this project would closely analyze each work and present it in several, side-by-side forms: first as plain text, then as compilable code in a modified IDE (Integrated Development Environment), followed by an analysis of the text and whatever output is generated from compilation, and finally show video of its performance (at the original slam if possible, or newly performed and recorded, particularly since I don't have video of the second slam). I could also add the option for people to upload their own performances of the poem and leave comments to make the project interactive. The idea is to produce a digital project that analyzes some of the work that has been produced during the series of code poetry slams, and, in the process, further develop my idea of what future code poetry slams could be and do.

After founding the ongoing Stanford Code Poetry Slam series in 2013 and participating in the Humanities and Critical Code Studies Lab (HaCCS lab) at the University of Southern California in 2014, I've grown increasingly interested in Critical Code Studies, a field initiated by Mark C. Marino in 2006. Critical Code Studies researchers analyze pieces of code as literature, exemplified most completely by 10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); L GOTO 10 by Nick Montfort et al., in which one line of code is explicated by ten scholars and used to examine the broader role of computing in contemporary culture. This project would place the Stanford code poetry slams in the context of current conversations in critical code studies, particularly with reference to performance.