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Leap Day 2020: Presenting at the Connecticut Digital Humanities Conference (by Post-Bac Fellow Evan Young)

This past weekend, I presented at Trinity College on my use of augmented reality technology in my hybrid digital humanities project during the inaugural Connecticut Digital Humanities Conference. Thanks to a small grant from Five Colleges, Inc., I had the chance over the course of the two-day conference on February 28-29 to network with faculty, librarians, technologists, and graduate and undergraduate students all working in DH. My first time attending – let alone presenting at – a digital humanities conference, I returned to the Five Colleges from the weekend feeling like I’d taken a step into something much bigger than myself. The more I meet people working in DH (whatever DH means to them), the more I am astonished by the sheer amount of creative digital scholarship going on.

Upon arriving in Hartford on Friday evening, I headed downtown to Trinity’s Liberal Arts Action Lab for an open discussion on “Future Directions.” Input was lively as a few tens of the 100+ conference attendees discussed the future development of digital humanities in New England. I met research librarians from Williams College looking to develop DH at the school and two other PostBacs from Dartmouth who had driven down from Hanover to present on an open-access escape room they’d created.

I began live-tweeting the conference on Satruday from our @5collBLDH twitter account, using the trending hashtag #CTDH2020 to document the day. After breakfast, I attended a keynote by Jacqueline Wernimont: “What We Do When We Talk About ‘Numbered Lives‘: Reflections on quantifications of people and how we teach our students to think about data.” An excellent talk, Wernimont’s scholarship on data and surveillance, past and present, has extreme salience to how we literally move about our lives.

During the remainder of the day, I attended four engaging panel sessions with topics ranging from mapping softwares as tools for historians and the use of photogrammetry in architectural studies, to uses of Omeka and WordPress for creating digital exhibitions, to the development of a language-learning platform for teaching Early Modern Irish.

My panel session, titled “Sharing voices and removing barriers: Novel applications of augmented reality (AR) and open scholarship (OS),” consisted of two presentations. After Wes Hamrick introduced the panel, I presented on the incorporation of AR in my project “All of it is a code anyway”: Augmenting a Literary Web for Leslie Marmon Silko’s Almanac of the Dead. My focus was on methodology: the ways in which my use of AR came out of Silko’s writing and that of other Native American and Indigenous creators such as N. Scott Momaday. I shared an example from my project of an “AR intervention,” where I strategically place an uncaptioned AR image (a still from an excerpt of a video of Joy Harjo’s “A Poem to Get Rid of Fear”) within my textual analysis to both engage and provoke the reader. This use of AR serves a similar purpose to a traditional quote of text, with the key addition of sensory engagement. Rather than just reading the words of Harjo’s poem on the page, AR lets you see her emphatic performance and hear her voice — like an “augmented quote.”

My presentation was followed by a collaborative presentation by Anthony Graesch and Lyndsay Bratton on “The Kw’éts’tel Project: Integrating Open Scholarship into Research Design and Peer Review into Open Scholarship.” The fourth and final time block of the conference, attendance at our panel session was intimate, and we really had time to explore questions deeply.

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