“A (not ethically unproblematic) zombie resurrection of George”

SHL’s James Baker has a fascinating blog post about his use of AI to explore the curatorial voice of historian Mary Dorothy George.

I’ve written this post in the hope that it’ll help others with similar interests take a similar approach to automated text generation, not least as one of my challenges right now is how to read the outputs of simGeorge, how to grapple intellectually as a historian with fabricated catalogue entries in the style of Mary Dorothy George.

Elsewhere: Curatorial Voice: legacy descriptions of art objects and their contemporary use

Beatrice Fazi at CDH Open Series

SHL’s Beatrice Fazi will be speaking on ‘The Computational Production of the New: On Aesthetics, Creativity and Digital Technologies’ for the Cambridge Digital Humanities Open Series on 24 June at 16:00-17:30 UK time.

Can computation generate the new? M. Beatrice Fazi argues that engaging with such question involves addressing computation aesthetically. Drawing from her monograph Contingent Computation (2018), Fazi will discuss aesthetics as concerning creation and reality’s potential for self-actualisation. This talk will demonstrate that aesthetics is a viable mode of addressing computational systems precisely because such generative potential is inherent to the axiomatic, discrete and formal structures of digital technologies. Novelty in computation is then expressed not by computers doing something strange or unexpected, but by a computational process that does what it is supposed to do.

The Discussant will be Joshua Scannell (The New School, USA) and the Chair will be Caroline Bassett (CDH Director, Cambridge).

Email Karen Herbane to register. More info at Cambridge Digital Humanities.

Zoom Theatre

SHL’s Jo Walton interviewed Natasha Rickman, director of The Time Machine: A Virtual Reality, about the experience of switching a play from a site specific promenade production to a digital experience halfway through the run. Full interview here.

I suppose for actors it’s a weird combination of acting for screen and theatre. One thing to get used to is the fact that, if you’re going to pull the camera to you, you need to be making noise. That means that if you’re playing any lingering moments of beautiful silence that you’re playing, the audience won’t be seeing that. In fact, what they can see is your other actor who is having to do a lot of thinking and listening acting — not even listening, actually, if you’re not making any sound! You have to play the thoughts more quickly, I think. The thoughts have to come to characters more quickly in this, and if you want a moment of silence before a character speaks, then you actually have to build that in explicitly, because someone needs to be spotlighting you.


Sensory Cartographies

This Monday SHL hosted a fascinating artist talk from Jonathan Reus and Sissel Marie Tonn. Jonathan and Sissel explored a wide sense of mapping far beyond two dimensional diagrams of territories, and took us through recent and ongoing artistic projects, exploring the use of wearable technologies to augment, expand, refilter and transform sensory experience.

The Zoom recording of the seminar is also available here, and you can explore the Research Catalogue exposition here.

Data for Black Lives

Just a timely signal boost for Data for Black Lives:

Data for Black Lives is a movement of activists, organizers, and mathematicians committed to the mission of using data science to create concrete and measurable change in the lives of Black people. Since the advent of computing, big data and algorithms have penetrated virtually every aspect of our social and economic lives. These new data systems have tremendous potential to empower communities of color. Tools like statistical modeling, data visualization, and crowd-sourcing, in the right hands, are powerful instruments for fighting bias, building progressive movements, and promoting civic engagement.

But history tells a different story, one in which data is too often wielded as an instrument of oppression, reinforcing inequality and perpetuating injustice. Redlining was a data-driven enterprise that resulted in the systematic exclusion of Black communities from key financial services. More recent trends like predictive policing, risk-based sentencing, and predatory lending are troubling variations on the same theme. Today, discrimination is a high-tech enterprise.

See also: