Scholars have long been interested in how new media technologies and novel statistical methods can alter the way that humanists approach their work. Indeed, for as long as there have been computers, there has been talk of imminent transformation in the study of our collective cultural life. Only recently, however, have digital technologies made major inroads into the broad range of disciplines that constitute the humanities as a field—scholars in disciplines as diverse as philosophy, art history, English and film studies are now making use of them in their work. But what are the digital humanities? How do they promise to change the way we approach the study of language, literature, philosophy and the arts?

This seminar explores the contours of the humanities’ digital turn, with attention given both to new media studies and to the ways in which data mining, statistical modeling and other quantitative methods are enabling scholars to ask new questions about various “old” media forms. The seminar therefore examines, for instance, topics as varied as the cultural significance of video games, the ontology of digital photography, and the conceptual complexity of life in online worlds. What do we make of the staggering array of contemporary video games and the broader gamification of culture? Are video games art? What does their ubiquity tell us about the nature of capitalism in its current form? What, moreover, does digital technology mean for how we think about the nature of realism in photography? Are photographs what they always were? Or do we have to approach them in fundamentally different terms? And how do the unique features of cyberspace complicate the ways we think about affiliation, activism and culture? Can one truly own information in the digital age? Or does the advent of cyberspace force us to rethink the ways we understand concepts of ownership, sovereignty and control?

The seminar also engages, however, questions regarding the place of quantitative analysis in fields such as film studies, philology, and European literary history. In what way is cinemetrics, or the precise measuring of shot length in film, changing the ways that scholars think about the nature of film and film history? Is film under cinemetrics what it always was? Or does it help us think about the basics of film narrative in new ways? What does data mining have to tell scholars of Latin and Greek about the semantic and literary histories of these languages? Has it confirmed what scholars already thought they knew? Or does data mining help unearth hitherto underexplored aspects of the history of language? And how can literary scholars make use of digital databases to examine older questions about the evolution of literary forms in new ways? Can we read the way we used to? Or does new method about the history of texts suggest new ways of reading them as well?

In surveying the breadth and depth of the digital humanities as it exists today, the seminar hopes, in one sense, to take stock of the influence of digital technologies on the work of the humanities as represented here. At the same time, however, it also hopes to contribute to the shaping of the digital humanities as a field.

Presenters will include Patrick Jagoda (English), Helma Dik (Classics), Yuri Tsivien (Cinema and Media Studies), W.J.T. Mitchell (English), Hoyt Long (East Asian Languages and Civilizations) and Peter Ludlow (Philosophy, Northwestern University). Participant Discussions will be facilitated by John Muse (English) and Robert Bird (Cinema & Media Studies, Slavic Languages and Literatures)

N. Katherine Hayles. "Electronic Literature: What Is It?" in Electronic Literature: New Horizons for the Literary. Notre Dame, Ind: University of Notre Dame, 2008, [Online]
A broad survey of electronic literature in its various forms, with a particular focus on the relationship between e-literature and print.
Peter Ludlow, “Virtual Communities, Virtual Culture, Virtual Governance,” [Online]
An account of how the transgressive aspects of online worlds give rise to complex forms of governance in virtual communities.
Mark Hansen, “Seeing with the Body: The Digital Image in Postphotography,” Diacritics, 41.4 (Winter, 2001), 54-84. [Download]
An analysis of the ontological status of the photographic image in a digital age.
Yuri Tsivian, "What is Cinema? An Agnostic Answer," Critical Inquiry 34.4 (Summer 2008): 754-776. [Download]
An examination of the nature of cinema from the perspective of film history, with a particular focus on how cinemetrics changes the way we think about the history of cinema as a form.
Ted Underwood, Why Literary Periods Mattered (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2013), 157-175 [Download]
An exploration of the importance of digital technology for the study of literary history.

8:15 a.m. Shuttle leaves Chicago Lake Shore Hotel for Bartlett Hall (5640 South University Avenue).

8:45 a.m. Check-in, coffee

9:00 a.m. Welcome and Opening Remarks

Elizabeth O'Connor Chandler, Director, Midwest Faculty Seminar
9:15 a.m. How the Grinch Stole Your Digital Christmas

W.J.T. Mitchell, English
10:30 a.m. Coffee

10:45 a.m. Being a Digital Classicist (with a little help from your undergrads)

Helma Dik, Classics
12:00 noon Lunch (on your own)

Preparing Future Faculty Luncheon with UofC graduate students (for those taking part) 12:15-1:30 at Bartlett Hall
2:00 p.m. Digital Games and Literature: Intersectional Analyses

Patrick Jagoda, English
3:15 p.m. Coffee

3:30 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. Participant Discussion Groups

Group A, Robert Bird
Group B, John Muse
5:05 p.m. Shuttle leaves Bartlett Hall for La Petite Folie

5:30 p.m. Reception and Dinner at La Petite Folie.

8:00 p.m. Shuttle leaves La Petite Folie for the hotel.

8:15 a.m. Shuttle leaves the hotel for Bartlett Hall (5640 South University Avenue).

9:00 a.m. Controlling the Narrative in Virtual Worlds

Peter Ludlow, Philsophy (Northwestern University)
10:15 a.m. Coffee

10:30 a.m. "Little Magazines and Big Data: Studying Global Literary Modernism at the Macroscale"

Hoyt Long, East Asian Languages and Civilizations
11:45 a.m. Lunch and Report on Discussion Groups (Lunch will be provided)

12:15 p.m. to 2:00pm Participant Discussion Groups

Group A, Robert Bird
Group B, John Muse
2:05 p.m. Free Afternoon (Shuttle leaves Bartlett Hall for the hotel.)


8:30 a.m. Shuttle leaves the hotel for the Bartlett Hall (5640 South University Avenue).

9:15 a.m. What Makes Them Run, What Slows Them Down: Cinemetrics Looks at Film History and Culture

Yuri Tsivian, Cinema and Media Studies
10:30 a.m. Report on Discussion Groups

10:45 a.m. Participant Discussion Groups and Wrap-Up

12:00 p.m. Adjournment

(Shuttle leaves the Bartlett Hall for the Hotel at 12:10 p.m.)