Kate Shields, artist-in-residence

SHL welcomes our new artist-in-residence Kate Shields, who will be developing the project GUTS over the next three months. GUTS explores the experience of living with the long-term chronic health condition Ulcerative Colitis. Kate writes:

My residency began officially on Friday, and my aim is to write about my process each week here. Through the Lab, I hope to approach the subject of chronic health in more community-minded and digital-based ways.

Read more here.

Three high contrast black and white images of a performance artist, spot-lit on stage, straining their muscles as they drag a toilet to which they are tied or chained. Across the three images, it seems to barely move ...

The Chain

The Chain has just launched as a series of interlinked reflections from theorists, artists, activists, and others of the Intersections: Feminism, Technology and Digital Humanities (IFTe) network and beyond. Each link in the chain responds in some way to the previous entry, and offers suggestions for entries to follow. Are algorithmic voices gendered? Are algorithmic voices friendly? Who does the work? Can the subaltern do a TED talk? How can we reimagine ourselves in a zoomified world? Start exploring these questions, and others.

We’re launching the Chain as a 3-month writing project that responds to contemporary circumstances where we can’t meet easily, where we are zoom-swamped, and zoombified, where glancing interactions are rarely possible. We are missing times and moments when ‘breaking out’ isn’t a zoom function, when serendipity doesn’t have to be programmed, when ‘walk throughs’ are in physical space, and where interventions follow on. We are missing the kinds of entangled modes of thinking and doing this kind of flow more easily enabled; writing about media art, coding that speaks to theory, practice that finds articulation in words.

This Chain was funded by UKRI-AHRC and the Irish Research Council under the ‘UK-Ireland Collaboration in the Digital Humanities Networking Call’(grant numbers AH/V00199X/1 and IRC/V00199X/1).

Restaging Data

The Reanimating Data project is a collaboration between academics, archivists and activists interested in young women’s sexual health and empowerment. You can now watch the University of Manchester’s Women’s Theatre Society extraordinary devised / verbatim collaborative theatrical piece drawing on interview transcripts with Manchester’s drama students of the 1980s to explore experiences of sex and relationships then and now.

“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

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:

Critical Data Studies in Kesh

Ursula Le Guin writes in Always Coming Home (1985):

PAN: You destroy valuable books?

ARC: Oh, yes. Who wants to be buried under them?

PAN: But you could keep important documents and valuable literary works in electronic storage, at the Exchange, where they don’t take up any room–

ARC: The City of Mind does that. They want a copy of everything. We give them some. What is “room”—is it only a piece of space?

PAN: But intangibles—information–

ARC: Tangible or intangible, either you keep a thing or you give it. We find it safer to give it.

PAN: But that’s the point of information storage and retrieval systems! The material is kept for anyone who wants or needs it. Information is passed on—the central act of human culture.

ARC: “Keeping grows; giving flows.” Giving involves a good deal of discrimination; as a business it requires a more disciplined intelligence than keeping, perhaps. Disciplined people come here, Oak Lodge people, historians, learned people, scribes and reciters and writers, they’re always here, like those four, you see, going through the books, copying out what they want, annotating. Books no one reads go; books people read go after a while. But they all go. Books are mortal. They die. A book is an act; it takes place in time, not just in space. It is not information, but relation.

Pan then complains that Arc is starting to talk like a utopian, with a long, elegant, persuasive answer for everything. Fine, says Arc. How about ask a few questions.

ARC: Who controls the storage and the retrieval? To what extent is the material there for anyone who wants and needs it, and to what extent is it “there” only for those who have the information that it is there, the education to obtain that information, and the power to get that education? How many people in your society are literate? How many are computer-competent? How many of them have the competence to use libraries and electronic information storage systems? How much real information is available to ordinary, non-government, nonmilitary, nonspecialist, nonrich people? What does “classified” mean? What do shredders shred? What does money buy? In a State, even a democracy, where power is hierarchic, how can you prevent the storage of information from becoming yet another source of power to the powerful—another piston in the great machine?