Monthly Archives: April 2013

Isomer Musical Metacreation Project

With support from Dickinson’s Mellon Digital Humanities initiative Dickinson student Jamie Leidwinger (’15) will be working this summer under the direction of composer, technologist, pianist, and entrepreneur Greg Wilder on his Isomer Project, an ongoing research project in computational creativity.

logo for the Isomer projectThe Isomer Project is a suite of software tools that is the culmination of a decade of independent research and commercial development. Its aim is to combine musical models of human creativity with modern machine learning techniques to more fully understand and explore computational creativity.

Greg has taught a number of courses at Dickinson over the years, including advanced composition, music theory, aural skills, choral arranging, and computer music. As a founder and the chief science officer of Clio Music, he designed, developed, and implemented a proprietary autonomous music analysis and motivic data mining technology (“Clio”) capable of generating comprehensive models from music in any style or genre and comparing them for similarity.

head shot of Greg Wilder

Greg Wilder

The summer research collaboration will take place in Philadelphia, at Drexel University’s Expressive and Creative Interaction Technologies (ExCITe) Center, which is a hub for teams of faculty, students, and entrepreneurs to pursue highly multi-disciplinary, collaborative projects. ExCITe project participants come from engineering, fashion design, digital media, performing arts, computer and information science, product design, and many other fields.

Co-working at the ExCITe center with its director Dr. Youngmoo Kim and his team of PhD researchers at the Media Entertainment and Technology laboratory, Leidwinger will be helping Wilder to develop the full potential of the Isomer software.

The immediate goal of the summer project will be to validate the boundaries of the Isomer software’s capacity for musical analysis, model representation, and algorithmic transformation using advanced machine-learning techniques. Leidwinger will be assisting with the curation and preparation of musical models, analyzing musical data for research validation, creating musical metadata, and keeping us up to date with blog posts via the Isomer web site and other social media outlets.

graphic of music made by Isomer Project

Metacreation (or computational creativity) is the idea of endowing machines with creative behavior. Metacreation, as a technology-driven approach to generative art, involves using tools and techniques from artificial intelligence, artificial life, and machine learning (themselves inspired by cognitive and life sciences) to develop software that is creative on its own.

graph showing processed version of a Chopin etude

An essential step in the development of a metacreation tool like Isomer is to validate its analyzed data and musical output (i.e., does Isomer capture the essential aspects of the musical models in terms of musical grammar, affect and mood?). In the past, Dr. Wilder’s technology has powered products for some of the largest companies in the music industry (e.g., Rovi Corp) and is now finding application in the creation of new art and academic research projects. Building on seminal research in musical perception and cognition (e.g.  Leonard B. Meyer, Fred Lerdahl, Eugene Narmour, Emilios Cambouropoulos), Isomer relies on a comprehensive ontology of musical parameters. It accepts model input as raw audio, symbolic representation, or both, and extracts a range of analysis vectors that capture trends in terms of texture (timbre), pitch, rhythm, and form.

Russian Rooms Project

The Dickinson College Russian Department has launched a new multimedia project, Russian Rooms, which combines photography, text, and audio in an evolving archive with diverse pedagogical applications. The project’s primary aim is to provide a snapshot of contemporary Russian society by building up a series of photographs of Russians and their favorite rooms.

young Russian woman holds pet snailAccording to contemporary Russian philosopher Michael Epstein, the boundaries of private and public space are drawn differently in Russian and in the West: in Russia, private and public are demarcated far more sharply, and private space is warmer and more intense than in the West. This project seeks to test this premise. The site’s creator and curator is Maria Rubin, Visiting International Scholar in Russian. Prof. Rubin takes an intimate, close-up portrait of each subject standing next to or holding an object he or she values. She also takes a picture of the subject’s empty room. The viewer is invited to guess what sort of person inhabits the space, a curiosity which can be satisfied by referring to the portrait, the audio interview, and a transcribed version of the interview.

With support from an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Digital Humanities grant, Prof. Rubin will spend part of summer 2013 in Russia substantially expanding the archive.

bedroom of Russian woman, with cat, and pictures on walls

In her teaching at Dickinson Prof. Rubin and her colleagues use these photo-audio pairs in various ways. The simplest is a “Guess Who?” game, in which students ask questions to find out who lives in this or that room. Another type of assignment includes listening to the interviews and making presentations about a specific person. Sometimes students are asked to read the texts and write descriptions of the people using grammatical constructions to be learned in a particular lesson. Alyssa DeBlasio, Assistant Professor of Russian, regularly uses Russian Rooms in her senior seminar on translation. There the students translate a simplified transcript of an interview into English, then practice simultaneous translation on the original audio.

old Russian woman in yard with foliage

Plans for the future include incorporating students into the project, particularly students studying abroad in Moscow, who can help conduct the interviews and write up the texts. When Prof. Rubin returns to Moscow she will remain in charge of overseeing the creation of the interviews and  photographs, working from Dickinson’s program headquarters in Moscow, while Prof. DeBlasio will  supervise the expansion and improvement of the site on the Dickinson side. The project will thus form an important bridge between Dickinson’s Russian programs in Carlisle and Moscow.

Russian room interior with wood paneling, low natural lightHaving already explored different ages and genders, Prof. Rubin plans to expand the subject range to include Russian citizens of different ethnic backgrounds, a move that should prove a challenge to notions of public and private space explored so far. Newer inhabitants of Russia, such as Kirghiz and Uzbek guest-workers in Moscow city and in the Moscow county region, and native Muscovite Tatars and Chechens, have quite different notions of personal space, partly inherited from the Islamic house design and architecture of their homelands, but also compelled by the necessity of their sometimes harsh living arrangements in Russia: basements of tower-blocks, in wooden shacks on building-sites, etc. The project, so expanded, will thus allow Russian students all over the world to appreciate the diversity of contemporary Russia’s population, as well as to come to philosophical conclusions about overlapping conceptions of private and public space in one living area. All the material created in this project will become a part of the permanent teaching open resources of the Dickinson Russian department, and anyone else who wishes to use it.

Matthew Kochis named Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow

Dickinson is very pleased to welcome Matthew Kochis as the new Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities. Matt comes to us from the University of Tulsa, where he is finishing up his PhD in English. While at Tulsa, he has been a digital editor for the Modernist Versions Project and project manager for the Modernist Journals Project.

Kochis headshotIn addition to his more traditional work in the field of British and Irish modernist novels, Matt has developed various kinds of expertise in the digital humanities, with a focus on textual editing. At the DH Summer Institute in Victoria BC in 2011 he produced an annotated version of the “Nausicaa” episode from Joyce’s Ulysses, work he continued at a five week NEH seminar in Dublin in 2013. As digital editor of the Modernist Versions Project he uploaded high-quality scans of the first (1922) edition of Ulysses, a resource which became a key part of the “Year of Ulysses” initiative, a digital project that hosts various version of Joyce’s work online. While managing the staff of the Modernist Journals Project Matt used ABBYY FineReader 9.0, an optical-character-recognition software, to convert scanned images of early twentieth century magazines, like Margaret Anderson’s The Little Review and Ezra Pound’s The Egoist, into searchable PDF files. He also improved MJP’s archive by performing TEI, XML, and MODS record encoding for the magazines.

At Dickinson, in addition to pursuing his own projects, Matt will work as a catalyst for faculty innovation by planning, promoting, and implementing strategies to encourage faculty discourse about pedagogy, e-learning tools, and the integration of digital media into teaching and scholarship. Matt’s gregarious and engaging personality should help a great deal in that task, and we are delighted to have his help in forwarding the already vigorous DH initiatives at the College.


Carlisle Indian Industrial School Project

7368794278_603109deacThis summer a team of researchers at Dickinson are beginning a multi-year project to develop a comprehensive digital resource regarding the Carlisle Indian Industrial School (CIIS). The project will bring together widely dispersed materials to aid research and study, and serve as a virtual home for the ongoing work of an active CIIS community of memory and inquiry. With support from an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Digital Humanities grant, and from the College’s Research and Development Committee, Jim Gerencser (College Archivist), Susan Rose (Professor of Sociology, Director Community Studies Center), and  Malinda Triller Doran (Special Collections Librarian) will begin in summer 2013 by digitizing materials held at the National Archives in Washington, DC.  In collaboration with student assistants, they will begin the process of transcribing documents, creating metadata, uploading materials, and analyzing the information.

7368693122_49305ea86cThe CIIS is a major site of memory for many Native peoples. Richard Henry Pratt implemented his vision for educating Native American students by removing them from their communities and bringing them to Carlisle, Pennsylvania. More than 10,000 Native American students from all over the country (and Puerto Rico) were enrolled at CIIS from 1879 to 1918. The school at Carlisle served as a model for many other non-reservation boarding schools across the country.

The CIIS and indigenous boarding school movement represents a very active area of research among scholars, teachers, students (both native and non-native), Carlisle-area residents, and descendants from across the U.S. and around the world.  Scholars are working hand in hand with descendants of the CIIS students, who are learning from and contributing to this research.  In the last decade, not only have many scholarly and popular books, articles and documentaries related to the CIIS been produced, but also a number of symposia and community events, such as pow-wows and commemorations, have been held. Dickinson College faculty members have been particularly active and involved with publications and events such as these.

The project aims at a comprehensive searchable database using the information contained in the digitized materials. Subsequent phases will develop the capability for user interactivity, so that individuals may contribute digitized photos, documents, oral histories, and other personal materials to the online collection. The site wll host teaching and learning materials utilizing the digitized content and database, and support the addition of original scholarly and popular works based on the CIIS Project resources.

Images: Press Department (circa 1902). Image from The Indian Industrial School Carlisle, Pa. 23rd Year, 1902. via flickr Copyright All rights reserved by DickinsonLibrary. Rose White Thunder, Daughter of Sioux Chief White Thunder, in Elk Tooth Dress, Carlisle (1883 – 1887). From J. N. Choate, photographer, Carlisle, Pa., A Souvenir of the Carlisle Indian School, 1902. via flickr Copyright All rights reserved by DickinsonLibrary

Clay Shirky to speak at Dickinson

Clay Shirky, professor at New York University and one of the world’s leading thinkers on digital technology and its social and economic effects, will deliver the Poitras-Gleim Keynote Lecture at Dickinson College on April 25th at 7 p.m. in the Anita Tuvin Schlechter Auditorium.

Shirky, who served as the Edward R. Murrow Lecturer at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government in 2010, will discuss how Internet technologies can help improve American government and democracy. His writings have appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Wired, and the Harvard Business Review, and he has given talks at Oxford University, the U.S. State Department, and TED, where his speeches have been viewed by more than a million people. He is the author of several books, including Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations, which was named one of the 100 greatest nonfiction books ever written by the The Guardian. Currently an associate professor in NYU’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute, he began his teaching career as the first professor of new media at Hunter College, where he developed the M.F.A. program in integrated media arts.

Shirky’s presentation marks the 50th annual lecture funded by the Poitras-Gleim endowment, a gift from Ted and Kay Gleim Poitras. The Student Senate Public Affairs Committee, which was created to absorb the Public Affairs Symposium and expand upon its mission of cross-disciplinary thought and discussion, is pleased to host Prof. Shirky’s visit. His address will serve as a capstone to a semester-long series of events—with addresses by, among others, Kris Perry, Richard Sander, and John Lott—organized by the committee and titled “The Next Great Debates: Perspectives on Emerging Problems.”

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Digital Pedagogy Keywords

Hey Dickinsonians, please join us in the Media Center for a NITLE webinar with the great Rebecca Frost Davis!

April 10, 3:00pm – 4:00pm

Rebecca Frost Davis, one of the general editors of The Digital Pedagogy Reader and Toolkit, will give an overview of this born-digital publication. Seminar participants will contribute to the project, which is aimed at aggregating digital tools used by adventurous practitioners and presenting pedagogical projects in their original forms.(Times EDT)

Hosted online via NITLE’s desktop videoconferencing platform

How have new digital methods, tools, and networks changed pedagogy? How should we define such digital pedagogy? What trends and practices in digital pedagogy cross disciplines? The Digital Pedagogy Reader and Toolkit, a born-digital publication with Rebecca Frost Davis, Matthew K. Gold, Katherine D. Harris, and Jentery Sayers as general editors, will aggregate the digital tools with which adventurous practitioners are experimenting and present pedagogical projects in their original forms. As part of the project, a group of experienced practitioners will curate sections around important keywords, such as “remix, “play,” “collaboration,” “race,” and “failure.” Taken together these significant terms define a new pedagogy for a digital age. For each keyword, curators will assemble a group of artifacts of innovative teaching and learning by highlighting particularly effective tools and pedagogical strategies, while incorporating examples of the resulting student work. This seminar will give an overview of digital pedagogy organized by keyword, illustrate the concept by looking at potential artifacts for one keyword, and invite the audience to contribute to this project by suggesting other keywords and artifacts.

Suggested Reading

Clement, Tanya E. “Multiliteracies in the Undergraduate Digital Humanities Curriculum: Skills, Principles, and Habits of Mind.” In Digital Humanities Pedagogy: Principles, Practices, and Politics, edited by Brett Hirsch. Cambridge, UK: Open Book Publishers, 2013.


Rebecca Frost Davis develops programs and conducts research about the digital humanities, digital scholarship, and the integration of inquiry, pedagogy, and technology for teaching and learning across the humanities. She also writes and consults in these areas, drawing on a deep background in helping faculty and staff at liberal arts colleges explore these areas via a variety of workshops and seminars. She has particular expertise in inter-campus teaching and virtual collaboration. She holds a Ph.D. and M.A. in classical studies from the University of Pennsylvania, and a B.A. (summa cum laude) in classical studies and Russian from Vanderbilt University.