Bianca’s final post: ReadingRebus as Recreation in difficult times.

In the endpapers of an edition published in Venice 1556 of the Spanish best-seller La Celestina, an anonymous reader has inscribed the following explanation of “pintando motes” or “painting words”: “Lovers in Spain are wont to paint words as refreshment [relief] from/of their passions [sorrows].” The annotator provides three examples of this practice, with their explanations: “Dado me as dado Coraçon cuydado”; “Asperas piernas Elvira as”; and “Consuela te Coraçon que el Mundo Rueda.”

Our rebus collecting and research has largely focused on the interpersonal dimension of puzzle making and solving: the rebus used to create an inner circle of decipherers, to make pedagogy more palatable and memorable to students, to circulate political opinions in an increasingly centrifugal and global public sphere, to attract consumers to industrialized products, or to record sentiments between intimates.  In all these contexts, the rebus rehearses and resolves, momentarily, the inherent problem of signification; the rebus foregrounds the challenges of textual communication but promises the reader a monolithic (and monolingual) solution as designed by its creator, rewarding them with a delightful if transient sense of proficiency and control.

Our early modern explicator, however, suggests an additional function for the puzzle: “recreaçion” of a different sort.  Somehow, s/he does not exactly explain why, the process of painting words about their condition allows lovers—at least in Spain—respite from lovesickness or grief.  At the same time, recreaçion, like the early modern English equivalent, implies both the possibility of a restorative ease/easing and the “growing afresh” or “increase” of those passions: a renewal of the desires that led to this solitary translation from verbal to visual in the first place.  The rebus articulates and instantiates the writer as an amorous subject, even without an audience.  Despite its isolation, deriving from an unrequited passion, and even in its most limited circulation, the rebus functions as what D.A. Miller terms an “open secret”: for example, the “harsh pains” of Elvira, as expressed covertly, establish her not only as a lover but as a writer who both precedes an audience and controls its access and response to her painted words.[1]  The anonymous commentator, on the other hand, establishes their own proximity to such authorial subjects, by providing the solution directly below the rebuses, suggesting their own ability to see the supposed interiority inside the puzzle and the person from whom it emanates.

Nonetheless, we are given the sense that Rebuses–as well as those better known salves, Reading & Writing–can function as solace, as refreshment, in a period of solitude and deprivation.  I know ReadingRebus–both our group and its project–has served that purpose for me, as has the class as a whole, and for that I feel profoundly grateful to everyone in it.

[1] In his venerable “Secret Subjects, Open Secrets” (1985) D. A. Miller describes secrecy as the “subjective practice in which the oppositions of private/public, inside/outside, subject/object are established, and the sanctity of their first term kept inviolate. . . . [T]he phenomenon of the ‘open secret’ does not . . . bring about the collapse of these binarisms and their ideological effects, but rather attests to their fantasmatic recovery” (Miller 1985, 27). Through a Foucauldian reading, Miller goes on to explore the workings of the open secret in the 19th-century novel, its role in creating the liberal/carceral subject, and its centrality to the maintenance of the social order, as “the very genre of the liberal subject . . . the genre that produces him, the genre to which, as its effect, he returns for ‘recreation’” (33).


Reflecting on MC’s team experience

I can’t believe the semester is almost over!!! This journey has been so rewarding but so exhausting at times. And I’m happy we are getting to a point where we get to wrap things up, look at what we created and present it to other people. I feel like my team has done amazing. The way we have managed to work together since the first day we became a team has been very eye-opening to me and now I won’t ever lower my standards as to how group projects have to be 🙂 Everyone worked so hard on their research and their role in the project while being so graceful and compassionate, and I appreciate that a lot. I usually have the busiest Tuesdays and Thursdays during the week, since I work from 9 to 6, have class 6:30 to 8:30 and then group meeting at 8:45. Although by the time I got to our meetings, I was drained, the team was always understanding and appreciative of the progress I made, whether it be on the website or my research. Last week, Bri has the brilliant idea to create an inventory of the github website to look at it together and have a list of what still needs to be worked on/changed. I found that extremely helpful and it allowed me to make a lot of changes to the website. It now has such a different look and feel and as Asma said “It’s like watching a child grow”. I’m just very happy that the team is liking where the website is going and I appreciate all the feedback.

We recorded two more episodes for the podcast. This allowed me to combine all my data points and think more about how I wanted to present them. We then talked about our vertical timeline and each chose three data points that we wanted to include.

I’m very excited for the Digital Showcase Presentation!! Bri has done an amazing job on the slides and I can’t wait to see it.

I also wanted to congratulate all the groups for their amazing projects. I looks forward to seeing your presentations.

Next step musings on DH dissemination at scale

Returning to the topic of scale in relation to the impact and efficacy of our projects, a couple of questions arise at this juncture:  To what extent should technology automation and systemization play a part in the development of DH projects?  Additionally, to what extent should and can the DH community at large serve as publishing gateways and aggregators in order to scale the impact and the investment of time and effort of DH teams?

Having divided our approximately twenty-five person class into five teams with roughly five persons per team, collaboration at this scale has allowed for a relatively minimal effort needed for systematizing and automating workflows and/or data/media pipelines.  One wonders how  our collaboration and objectives might have changed if instead of five projects, our class had been divided into two projects with roughly twelve to thirteen collaborators on each team.

In relation scaling the dissemination of academic work, traditional academic publishing has often involved large scale publishing networks and pipelines.  The traditional publishing industry served as a dissemination platform at scale for scholarship largely authored by individuals.  In the new model, digital projects are often created and built by a team of collaborators and are deployed and disseminated without an intermediate publishing network.  While individually authored scholarship relies on informally associated collaborators, including among others librarians and colleagues, the technical, multimedia, and analytical computation tools involved in digital projects bring together a number of specialized and dedicated roles in a more formally organized DH team.

Perhaps another path would have been to divide the class into three or four teams consisting of one or two digital projects and one platform infrastructure team that would be dedicated to developing or integrating projects with infrastructures and networks, thereby providing the intermediate agents traditional publishing once provided.  The efforts of the team would necessitate the incorporation of research, technology skills, and knowledge that would serve as  a part of the DH toolkit going forward.  Members of this infrastructure team might divide their time between the digital projects and the infrastructure efforts.  As an additional benefit, more cohesion would develop within the larger group as a whole and potentially more interconnection would emerge with the DH community at various levels.  A effort of this kind raises the question of the extent to which infrastructure is a sine qua non aspect of the DH discipline and not merely an object of study as a DH subfield.

While a monolithic platform for the dissemination of digital scholarship would be neither efficacious nor desirable, technology solutions that facilitate an interconnected ecosystem of digital work would offer a way to leverage labor and thus amplify the impact of DH efforts.  Critical theory and transdisciplinary understanding underlying DH suggests that while technology is by no means the panacea claimed by tech futurists, technology solutions might nevertheless offer opportunities for furthering the humanities in general and digital endeavors in particular. 

Along these lines, one might well imagine building out and interconnecting already existing networks of DH databases that aggregate digital works constructed by DH teams.  Given how the Internet has long since outgrown the file based hypertext architecture designed by Tim Berners-Lee just over thirty years ago, the challenge becomes how to represent and promote temporally-based user experiences involving video, hypermedia, and dynamic interactions.  One possible approach in this effort might be to build off the architecture underlying the Internetworking project SOLID, another endeavor led by Berners-Lee to store “data securely in decentralized data stores called Pods. Pods are like secure personal web servers for data. When data is stored in someone’s Pod, they control which people and applications can access it.”

Putting Together Final Thoughts

It’s so hard to believe that we only have a couple of weeks left. It’s been an immense joy working with and learning from my team as we built the Corona Chronicles project. Group projects can sometimes be challenging, but we fell into a great rhythm. The insight I’ve gathered from everyone will be helpful as I continue my DH studies. I’m already overwhelmed by all the thoughts I have to sort through as I start to write my final paper.

Over the past week, we’re focusing on any final tweaks we can still easily make to the prototype at this point. We know that we’re happy with what we’ve built and are prioritizing publishing any late breaking submissions we continue to receive. In addition, we’ve been working on the revised slides for our presentation. During our group meeting on Sunday, we spent dedicated time talking through exactly what our narrative arc should be. We answered: What is the mission of our project? What is our goal? And how do we succinctly explain this over the 5 minutes that we have? This exercise proved to be very helpful for everyone, and we had fun brainstorming and exploring all of the facets.

At this point as we’re starting to wrap up, we want to think about documentation and how to hand over processes and things for the project’s next phase. We’ve come back around to the paperwork side of things which isn’t very exciting, but it’s so important to capture. Not only for our own self-reflection but also for the longer term success of the project.

Looking forward to seeing all of the great work this class has done during Thursday’s dress rehearsals!

Personal Blog – The Home Stretch

It’s been a long, taxing journey this semester, and on some level I hope I speak for some people (although I know deep down that knowing the rest of you, very few of you probably share this with me) when I say that it took a lot out of me. Sometimes I’d give it my all, and still felt like I fell short of my goals. But, we’re nearing the end.

This week, we got down to the finishing touches. I submitted a piece regarding the differences between interpreting and analyzing rebuses as opposed to interpreting and analyzing other works, such as literature and visual art, along with an in-depth look at The Arms of the Duke of Argyll. I also submitted a very condensed version of the interpretation guide I’ve been talking about most of this semester. The final product doesn’t elaborate on the meanings of icons – rather, I rearranged the disorganized notes I had on translating symbols and figures in heraldry into other languages into a neater, more accessible form.

I’m not sure what the summer will hold for this project, especially in a personal sense. Maybe with more time on my hands, I can burrow through more texts for coats of arms. If conditions improve, maybe I’ll visit museums in person and see what there is to find. I’m sure my group members have posted about it, especially Ostap, but as you might know, museums’ digital collections are not necessarily the same as or as expansive as their physical ones.

On the subject of my group, I do want to take some time to thank them for the immense amount of amazing work they’ve done for this project. The project would never have come to fruition without Patricia’s website designing prowess, Ostap’s outreach and overall expertise in archiving, Rachel’s ability to consistently find and make use of interesting rebuses, and last but certainly not least, Bianca keeping us organized and functional. I’m not lying when I say this is one of the better and more cohesive groups I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of.

lane – final journal

what a semester this has been! perhaps it’s a bit cliche to remark about how quickly this semester has flown by but it must be said! as the final dissemination of our project draws nearer, I have been trying to finalize my data and other contributions relating to our outreach plan.

I recorded myself chatting about my cemetery earlier this week for our podcast. hearing myself talk is not something i actively seek out (i typically avoid this) but i am learning to enjoy the process and even appreciate my own voice. Asma showed the group a sneak peak at our first episode!!! I’m looking forward to everyone being able to hear it because Asma is doing an amazing job at recording, editing, and mixing it together. anticipate some rad dreamy vibes!

during our team’s weekly meeting today, we set aside some time to choose crucial data points to add to the vertical timeline of our project. we were able to find some significant connections and overlap based on our decisions, which sparked some fun dialogue. this seems to be a pattern for the team as we are continually uncovering intersections of our cemeteries and how they relate to one another in the different deathscapes of the city. Lisa noted that they’re excited to compare the bits that we’ve composed for our cemetery pages as there are bound to be even more connections in our research than we realize.

this course, this project, my classmates, my team members; all have been so foundational for me this semester and have made this course such a joy, something that I look forward to every week. I have discovered so many things about myself: niche areas that pique my interest (necropolitics) and (debatable, of course) skills I did not know I possessed (crafting social media posts). I feel immensely more confident in myself as a student, teammate, and academic. while I can easily say that i feel more comfortable with prospective independent digital projects, the thought of doing it without my team saddens me! in a few of our meetings, the team has tossed around the idea of continuing this project for future class credit if something like that was even possible. regardless, we do have plans that extend after the end of the semester. Asma and I have a lot more ideas for our outreach plan that will ideally bring more awareness to MC!


if you made it this far, thank you for reading! see everyone on thursday 🙂



Personal Blog #10: The End

Of course, it’s not the end! The semester is ending and we won’t have to blog anymore but the Reading Rebus project is being built to live on. All the rebuses that were left off of the final selection are absolutely worthy to be included even though they didn’t score high in our rating system. And now that I’m comfortable adding content to the website, it will become a much more relaxing activity, free from deadlines and presentations. Right now, I feel like a “rebus-adding machine” and I think I’m starting to see rebuses everywhere.

There’s also some outreach I’d like to do over the summer, when things have calmed down. I can finally send the project to my friends and colleagues to let them know why I’ve been missing these last few months, working on something in the “digital humanities” (which no one seems to understand in my circles). I will admit, we haven’t been the best at outreach but it’s because we want the project to be worthy of being seen. And I can say that I’m confident that the end result will be what I imagined and more.

I’ll also take this opportunity to thank my team members. As Bianca so eloquently said in the final group update, we are a hive-mind. This is also funny because you’ll see on the website how many rebuses contain bees, so many bees! Bianca has been driving the re-bus as PM, especially lately, reminding us of deadlines, commenting on files, copy-editing our work, and more. I can’t believe you have never PM’d before. High-five to Rachel for keeping us thinking about what rebuses are and expanding the project in all sorts of ambitious directions. There is no better person to represent the group in the presentation. Ostap’s knowledge and experiences with archives was invaluable. Although we weren’t able to properly use special collections, I’ve learned so much from your contributions. What Matt has done with heraldry is truly inspiring, I think you are now a specialist in this area. I aspire to be this focused on my next research project. But, it’s not the end! I only wanted to express my gratitude on this blog so that it’s saved for posterity! More soon…

Last Group ReadingRebus Project Report: thyme to go

Thursday’s meeting was our most candid and productive yet.  By Sunday, we seemed to have grown fully into our roles and responsibilities and delivered what we need for the presentation.  We still have fantastical dreams for the site, but voting collectively using the 0-3 rating system made our core-rebus-artifact group and their relevant categories for tags and metadata emerge clearly.  We took many of the class responses to heart and decided to embrace the visual delights of the project enthusiastically.

At the same time, getting the essay drafts was like a birthday party for me: I hadn’t realized my co-workers had been thinking such interesting thoughts throughout the semester.  Of course, I’d caught glimpses: however, the different minds, personalities, and sources of pleasure that we each bring to the project can best be seen in those individual explorations and explanations.

Hence, the project embodies what the early moderns called a “Raccolta” or a “gathering”: a synonym for the English “anthology” but one that resembles a harvest rather than a single-minded collection.  Or, to borrow a Renaissance trope used by Montaigne (and StarTrek, Seneca, et al), our results are the workings of a sort of hive-mind: individually “[t]he bees plunder the flowers here and there, but afterward they make of them honey, which is all theirs; it is no longer thyme or marjoram” [“On the Education of Children”].

In sum, I need not have worried about scarcity or drones; we have 30 + rebuses that received a top ranking from all members.  If we eventually add the ones that got a single good (2), not great (3), among the highest marks, we will have 80+.  All this inspires us to keep feeding  the project collaboratively over the summer, from our various fields: seeing if we can attract more social media attention now that Twitter has allowed us to post again, and developing more sub-themes and ludic experiences for our audiences—and ourselves.


Final Group Project Update: Corona Chronicles

The end of the semester always brings lots of competing work and priorities to juggle. I think we’re all looking forward to a much deserved break (a short one for those of us taking a summer course), but we’re also sad to come to the end of the road for this precious project we’ve been building for months now. Our expectations for the number of submissions we actually received and the features we were able to create on the site were all blown away. It’s especially amazing considering none of us ever met up in person to collaborate.

For our last group update, I encouraged the team to submit their current thoughts on where we are:

Phil: “Now that our MVP (minimum viable product) has been delivered and our project has more or less reached GETGO (good enough to go), we are attempting to leverage our technology platform to make further enhancements.  This effort, which includes changes to the user experience of the website as well as to the underlying contribution processing workflow, is testing the limits of our initial technologies.  Encountering these issues puts us in a good place for identifying the objectives of the project’s next iteration.”

GETGO really stands out here as a theme for us. We had so many ambitious plans that changed over time, specifically our scope of student outreach. But it was all for the best as we were able to maintain control, instill care for these students, and not feel overwhelmed with our workload. It’s hard to punt features to the next phase, but we’ve come to a good point where we’re happy with what we’ve put together and feel confident about sharing it out in its current state.

Karyn: “Seeing all that has been expressed in the student work submitted to this point has reaffirmed the original motivation for this project while also sobering me to the reality of what we may see in the work moving forward. Care – in different forms – should be infused in every aspect of the project. As such, questions of scale remain in play for the future, but we are well-situated to see the project into its next stages as a direct result of the individual and collective contributions from our team. As a group, we have built something better than what any one of us could have and that brings a great deal of meaning in and of itself.”

So well put. In the theme of care for these students, we can’t just be good enough. We learned how important it is to have this be top of mind in everything we do. While we were focusing on putting together the end product, these students are generously taking time out of their pandemic-affected lives to create expressive works for us. It’s an experience of digging up memories that some might’ve found stressful and traumatic. During outreach, we found ourselves questioning in group syncs, “Are we asking too much from them? How do we navigate this with utmost respect?” Thankfully we stumbled across these important questions and worked to create solutions. It’s not only made Corona Chronicles better, but it’s also made us better as digital humanists.

NYC Community Fridge Archive – Group Project Update

Last week we received a large number of submissions to the archive, which made managing contributions the focus of much of our work and future planning.

Our outreach strategies seem to be working because a total of 5 different fridges have sent us materials officially through our platform. We have come up with a method to help spread the work of submissions go around if they happen to come via Email or Instagram. To sum it up, the ‘one-at-a-time’ file submission may be a barrier in collecting submissions, so we’ve decided to include in our confirmation email (that’s triggered by Omeka) a welcoming note to directly email us their photos if they should have 3+ documents to submit. This is not done yet, but we will be working on this toward next week.
On Instagram, Allison curated the Community Fridge Art Show and it’s happening right now! The art images (along with the info of contributing artists) look aesthetically pleasing and cheerful, so we really appreciate Allison’s meticulous work on this show. Plus, Allison is trying to figure out how to include the direction to our Omeka site in the show. 

Montage fixed file upload issues, created and uploaded a banner. She also checked, approved, and edited contributions. For OHMS integration, she installed Hide Elements, OHMS Import, and OHMS Object Plugins; installed OHMS Viewer (been fixing a few issues upon communication with technical staff at Reclaim); she installed and edited a new Theme (Philly) as required by OHMS.

Other discussion from the meetings (about the final papers and the press release)
We realized that we need to ask Prof. Maney about what he wants to see in our final report (due Thursday, May 20th). Once we learn Prof. Maney’s guidelines for that paper, each member will give Andy what each wants/needs to include in the report. After that, Andy will put together those contributions and edit the text for the group’s final paper. (But we agreed that we need to wait for Prof. Maney’s specific instructions.) PS. In class, Prof. Maney promised to give us the prompt next week.
As for the individual paper, we reminded ourselves that the personal paper is separate from the team’s final report since that’s more of an individual reflection on their contribution to the project in connection to their academic and/or professional interest. 

 Press Release 
Andy has been composing the press release for the archive. The press release will be brief (around 500 words) but it aims to capture our philosophy and practice together succinctly in consideration of the general audience. However, Andy will try to avoid highlighting selected members of our team in the text. Instead, Andy will try to address our efforts rather in collective terms. The press release will be ready by our rehearsal day (May 6th). Next week, we will discuss where and how we will be using this.