Back to B Floor!

Dear Friends:

Welcome back to the Center for Digital Humanities! We are looking forward to seeing your (masked) faces at our office on the B Floor of Firestone Library.

The past eighteen months have been challenging in so many ways, and we are grateful for your support and engagement through it all. While I am on sabbatical this academic year, Brian Kernighan is serving as Acting Director of the CDH. I am proud of the work we did in 2020–21 and look forward to all that the CDH staff and students accomplish in the coming months.

This year, we will build on the work we’ve been doing for the last two years since launching the Humanities Computing Curriculum Committee (HC3). We’re continuing new collaborations with the Department of Computer Science and campus data science groups, providing educational and professional development opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students alike. Last spring, we launched the Humanities Data Teaching Fellows Program in partnership with the Center for Statistics and Machine Learning and with generous support from the Humanities Council. We have already trained three humanities graduate students to prepare course modules for Introduction to Data Science (SML 201). This summer, CDH also hosted three fellows working at the intersection of computer science and the humanities. DH Software Development Graduate Fellow Elena Ryan (History) is working to build a Lenape Tree timeline for Princeton’s Native American and Indigenous Studies Initiative, and graduate student Dan Friedman (Computer Science) and undergraduate Alan Ding (Computer Science) served as our NLP+Humanities Fellows (read Alan’s reflections on his project on Old Chinese).

A row of three headshots shows Elana Ryan on the left, Dan Friedman in the middle, and Alan Ding on the right.

DH Software Development Fellow Elana Ryan, and NLP+Humanities Fellows Dan Friedman and Alan Ding.

Speaking of natural language processing, we had the privilege to host the first virtual workshop in the New Languages for NLP: Building Linguistic Diversity in the Digital Humanities series, co-led by CDH Associate Director Natalia Ermolaev, early this summer. The series, supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, aims to empower humanities researchers to develop NLP tools in languages where such tools are not widely available; workshop participants include scholars of Classical Arabic, Quechua, Yiddish, Yoruba, and more. Our commitment to multilingual DH is reflected in our partnership with Europe’s Digital Research Infrastructure for the Arts and Humanities (DARIAH-EU). Earlier this year, the CDH became DARIAH’s first cooperating partner located in the United States.

The NLP initiative jump-started conversations across campus about the intersection of humanities and machine learning; on October 26, we’ll host a virtual roundtable discussion in which leading scholars will respond to co-authors of the Stochastic Parrots article that has sparked impassioned conversations on the unintended consequences and potential harms of prominent NLP projects.

We are thrilled to be entering the second year of our research partnership with the Princeton Geniza Project (containing 31,043 documents and 30,098 fragments, according to a recent post by Lead Developer Rebecca Sutton Koeser). The 2021–22 cohort of CDH Data Fellows—who are working on topics ranging from colonial medicine and race to the economic and social behavior of Dallas elites—spent the summer hard at work curating their unique humanities datasets. In the coming months, DH Strategist Grant Wythoff will continue to work with campus partners on the Alliance for Data and Computational Initiatives, which brings together data-driven and computational research centers and initiatives across Princeton. Our Humanities Council Perkins Postdoctoral Fellow Sierra Eckert, in addition to her teaching and research, is organizing a series of humanities data workshops in partnership with the Princeton Research Data Service. We will continue to accept applications for Graduate Fellowships, University Administrative Fellowships, Seed Grants, and Travel Grants on a rolling basis this fall.

Two rows of three headshots. The top row shows Anna Arabindan-Kesson, Brigid Doherty, and Sara Green. The bottom rows shows Gian Duri Rominger, Shay O’Brien, and Janet Kay.

The 2021–22 cohort of CDH Data Fellows (clockwise from top left): Anna Arabindan-Kesson, Brigid Doherty, Sara Green, Janet Kay, Shay O’Brien, and Gian Duri Rominger.

The past year has also seen changes to our staff, occasions for both celebration and sadness. Last week, we said goodbye to DH Developer Nick Budak, who has moved on to Stanford University Libraries. This week, we are excited to welcome two new staff members: Caterina Agostini will serve as term DH Project Manager, and Emily McGinn will be joining us for two years as HC3 Coordinator. We are also fortunate that Kavita Kulkarni will join us for a second year as postdoctoral research associate thanks to the generous support of the Office of Information Technology and the Emma Bloomberg Center for Access and Opportunity; her Freshman Scholars Institute course, Humanistic Approaches to Media and Data, was a tremendous success.

So much of what we have accomplished and the communities we have created are owing to Rebecca Munson, our Assistant Director for Interdisciplinary Education, who passed away in August after battling stage 4 cancer. As we move forward, we will honor Rebecca’s commitment to empowering all researchers, especially graduate students, to changing the conversation around graduate student professional development, and to recognizing the contributions, large and small, of all her teammates.

We invite you to join us this year and beyond as we strive to advance DH research while building supportive communities. As I mentioned, our major fall event—a roundtable on machine predictions and synthetic texts—will take place October 26. We hope to see you there— either virtually, or in person at our watch party at the CDH. You can also follow us on Twitter and consult our website for the latest CDH news.

Wishing you all the best at the start of our new year,

Meredith Martin

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