Nexus Announcements

Spring 2016 Workshop Recap: Decision Design & Visual Analytics for Sustainability Applications

The Decision Design and Visual Analytics for Sustainability Applications workshop, run by the Institute for Humanities Research Nexus Lab this past spring, is an excellent example of the kind of transdisciplinary and engaged humanities scholarship for the 21st century that both ASU and the IHR generate and support. Sustainability, or “ecological integrity, human well-being, and social justice for present and future generations,” is a complex goal, one that needs a host of different perspectives as no one field of knowledge can achieve all of those objectives. The needed range of knowledge was on display in the attendees of the workshop: undergraduate students, graduate students, faculty, staff, and community members, in fields ranging from linguistics to industrial engineering, art to ecology. Personally, as a literature scholar focused on the environment, I attended for a variety of reasons: to better understand different ways of looking at environmental data, to begin to work in the digital humanities, and to have interdisciplinary conversations about sustainability decision making. While the material was at times both mentally and technically challenging the workshop space helped us all gain new insights unto our own fields and others.

The workshop was led by Michael Simeone, the director of the Nexus Lab, and was structured around three different modes of analyzing and understanding data: network analysis, geographical information systems, and text analysis.

For the first third of the semester we learned about network theory and modeling. Network theory, at its base, very simple – the researcher identifies the actors in the network and their relationships and then organizes them visually (either by hand or with a computer). For an example, here is a network analysis of the popular Game of Thrones series published in Quartz. The researchers chose the characters in the series as the actors (referred to as nodes in network theory), and then decided to link them together depending on whether or not they interacted (edges in network theory). The computer then counted up and organized the relationships into the network. Ultimately, the network of the particular book confirms that three of the point-of-view characters (Daenerys, Tyrion, and Jon) are centrally important to the social networks of the book. But the data also shows that other characters also hold central importance, such as Robb, who is not a point of view character, and Sansa, who is a point of view character but has no political power, or Robert, who is dead. The network suggests that characters who might not seem influential in the series still move the plot along or alter the plot through their centrality in the social network.

In the workshop we worked with the programs Gephi and ORA to make our on networks. For example, my group made a network model for the Orbit public transportation system in Tempe to map the relationships between the riders, drivers, and Valley Metro who runs the system. I would also note that I am providing a simplified version of network analysis: there is a great deal more to the process than drawing lines between bubbles. I do not claim to be an expert on network analysis now, but thanks to the workshop I better grasp what it is and could begin to investigate the field more with the base of knowledge that I learned from the workshop.

The middle third of the semester was devoted to geographical information systems and mapping. These days were led by Josh MacFayden of the School of Sustainability. Geographical Information Systems, or GIS, is more complicated than being merely a map, as the map itself is able to contain multiple layers of information. For example, Josh showed us a research project where he used mapping tools, in combination with other digital drawing tools, to estimate the amounts of firewood that were being taken from Canadian forests in the nineteenth century. We worked with Google Earth and QGIS to design and manipulate maps with multiple different layers of data. Using GIS to look at data suggested, to me, new ways of understanding data, especially the way that human civilizations and the environment change over time.

The last third of the semester we worked with text analysis tools. These tools read and sort text, usually large bodies of text that would otherwise not be easily readable by a person or persons. Programs like Voyant Tools or Google Ngram Viewer, among many others, allow us to see macro scale pictures of texts and also know where to look at a micro level for further insight. For example, take the 1818 and 1831 editions of Frankenstein. In the 1818 edition the most frequent words (once a series of stop-words like The, a, an etc. are removed) are father, man, time, and life, in that order. In the 1831 edition though the most frequent words in order are man, life, father, and time. This suggests that the two editions might approach the question of fatherhood differently. It is important to note though, as we discussed in the workshop, that this evidence is not enough for a conclusion. Rather we have a lead now that we did not have previously which we could track down at a micro-level, i.e., reading the book with an eye towards fatherhood to see if the texts bear that interpretation out.

At the end of the semester we used text analysis tools in conjunction with network analysis to look through the emails of the Enron corporation right before and after their collapse. One of the tools that I used, in this group project, was Mallet. I sent the emails through the program which sorted them into groups based on shared, commonly occurring words. I noticed an interesting grouping of ‘non-business’ words and examined the top emails in the grouping. There I found quite a few personal emails: people talking about weekend plans, betting on football games, and ultimately trying to setup a get-together to commiserate when the company went under. The emails helped show that while there were major problems at the top, there were also a majority of people just trying to do a good job.

Ultimately, the workshop was not only educational but also fun. While I am by no means an expert on these various tools now, I have the foundations that I can build upon in my future scholarship. The workshop, for me, provided an aperture into the digital humanities. I feel fortunate that the Nexus Lab and Michael hosted this workshop and would encourage members of the ASU community, in addition to the larger Phoenix community, to take advantage of the lab's programming in the future.

Department of English Faculty Associate and recent PhD graduate, Kent Linthicum, is a scholar of American and British literature from 1783-1912, science, and the environment. He recently defended his dissertation titled “Scientific and Cultural Interpretations of Volcanoes, 1766-1901,” which used literary and scientific texts about volcanoes to examine both the popular and intellectual understanding of these geological phenomena.

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Spring 2016 Workshop Recap: User Experience with Technology

At the start of the 2016 spring semester, the IHR Nexus Lab offered a free workshop on user experience (UX), an approach to design that draws from the humanities and STEM fields to think about how people will engage with the product. All too often, designers focus on the tangible benefits of a new product—how it will offer its user new abilities, speed up productivity, or refine pre-existing technology—without bearing in mind that those benefits are only fully realized when the product also makes sense to the human being who has to use it. By paying attention to this aspect of design, UX tries to bridge the gap between innovation and practicality so that the final product can be deployed to the best possible use.

We began with by looking at everyday design choices in a parking lot and gradually shifted our attention to questions of digital design such as information architecture and content strategies for websites. Regardless of whether the design choices were for a physical tool or a digital one, the questions remained the same: who is going to be using this and how can that use be made as intuitive as possible?

We dissected websites so that we could do a card sorting exercise where we grouped content into categories and thought about what categories would be most immediately recognizable by users. As the workshop continued, we followed that up by developing “personas,” miniature biographical sketches of potential users with a sense of what sorts of skills that person might have. Once a persona had been designed, it often became surprisingly clear what that person would need or want from a website or product. By combining the two, we started to be able to think through questions of web design not in terms of aesthetics—a perhaps too common starting point—but in terms of actual use. From there, we could start sketching out and prototyping different possible websites.

The workshop culminated by taking a look at a website for a series of collected online teacher training courses and taking it apart to see how it worked and to consider how it might work better both as a teaching tool and as a resource for the teachers after they had finished taking it. Having gone through card sorting and taking a look at different personas, we could then sketch out and prototype different possible variants on websites showcasing the already extant content as well as make suggestions for new content creation.

I personally came to the workshop from a background in English literature and object-oriented criticism and found a lot of overlap between high theoretical questions about the role that objects play in everyday life and the practical choices that have to be made by the designer. The workshop also served as a welcome reminder of the degree to which material culture is, deliberately or not, designed with a particular set of goals and ideas in mind. As someone interested in the role that physical books played in identity construction, this was a fruitful thought. As an added bonus, the workshop also taught me how to set up a useful personal website for myself, one that doesn’t just provide information but does so in a way that makes that information easily accessible.

Department of English Faculty Associate and recent PhD graduate, John Henry Adams, is a scholar of Renaissance literature, book history, and literary theory. He teaches courses in first-year writing, and is currently working on a critical edition of the works of Isabella Whitney.

graduate students and workshop attendees sit around a table talking in the nexus lab
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Nexus Lab hosts HASTAC 2016 Conference

The Nexus Lab organized and hosted the 2016 HASTAC Conference, themed around "impact, variation, innovation, and action in the digital humanities," on ASU's Tempe campus from May 11-14, 2016. HASTAC '16 brought together over 200 participants from across the U.S. and the world for four days of events, including...

  • an "unconference" workshop for early-career scholars to share ideas and tools;
  • two days of paper presentations, interactive panels, poster displays, plenary addresses, meet-ups, and receptions;
  • and two post-conference workshops on telling stories from data, as well as making, designing, and using wearable devices and technologies.

The conference featured papers, interactive workshops, and birds-of-a-feather sessions that sought to answer the question, "if the digital humanities are one successful configuration of humanistic and technological research domains, what other configurations are available, resurgent, or necessary?" Through this agenda, scholars presented research that impacts and intersects with the concerns of local communities, national conversations, or worldwide systems.

Conference participants attended two plenary sessions, each featuring talks from distinguished scholars and leaders in transdisciplinary research. On Thursday, May 12, ASU President Dr. Michael Crow delivered opening remarks for the conference, highlighting Arizona State's "new American university" charter, and emphasizing the university's community-engaged mission to measure success "by who we include and how they succeed." Dr. Gary Dirks, director of the Global Institute of of Sustainability and ASU LightWorks, followed President Crow with reflections on the large-scale challenges of energy use and sustainability, and how humanistic thinking can be mobilized to solve such globally sweeping "wicked problems." On Friday, May 13, Dr. Liza Potts delivered a talk on "Experience Architecture: How the Humanities Goes to Work." Dr. Potts, an associate professor in Michigan State University's Department of Writing, Rhetoric & American Cultures, drew upon previous experience at Microsoft and in tech startups to create an interdisciplinary undergraduate program combining digital humanities, computer science, rhetoric, philosophy, and user-centered design. Videos of both Dr. Dirks' keynote on solutions, scale, and sustainability (along with Dr. Michael Crow's introductory remarks), and Dr. Potts' keynote on experience architecture and the humanities are available on Vimeo.

Several ASU faculty and graduate students also presented their research at HASTAC 2016 sessions, including...

  • Susan Bernstein, Stretch Program Co-Coordinator and Department of English Lecturer, Shillana Sanchez, Department of English Lecturer, and James Wermers, College of Letters and Sciences Digital Humanities Course Manager, who facilitated a session on "Blended Stretch Writing at ASU"
  • Michael Burnam-Fink, Human & Social Dimensions of Science & Technology PhD student, who spoke on "Eventuality: Imagining a Future for the Humanities Through Collaborative Storytelling"
  • Kristin Koptiuch, Associate Professor of Anthropology (ASU West Campus), who presented on "Taquerías Conversos: Digital Visualization of Latino Immigrant Impact on Arizona Cityscapes"
  • Sean Moxley-Kelly, Writing, Rhetorics & Literacies PhD Student, who presented on "Wikipedia in the Classroom: A Window on Technical Communication Praxis"
  • Allegra W. Smith, Writing, Rhetorics & Literacies PhD student, who spoke on "Technoliterate Lives: Troubling the Digital Native/Immigrant Binary," as well as presenting a poster on technofeminist research methodologies that won the top prize in the HASTAC graduate student poster competition
  • Lori Talarico, Learning, Literacies & Technologies PhD student, who presented research on "#writersofinstagram: An Online Affinity Space for Visual Writing"
  • Geoffrey Way and Valerie Fazel, Department of English Instructors, who spoke on "A Digital Renaissance: Innovating in Medieval and Early Modern Studies"
  • Jacqueline Wernimont, Assistant Professor of English, who presented on "Disrupting the Archive: Multi-media approaches to Latina/os and Eugenic Sterilization in 20th century California," "Critical Design, Deviant Critique," and "Towards a Diverse and Different DH: An Open Forum to Discuss Protocols and Procedures for the Global Transdisciplinary Digital Humanities"

HASTAC (the Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory), is an interdisciplinary community of scholars and practitioners changing teaching and learning, and the first and oldest academic social network. Additional information about individual conference sessions and workshops has been curated by the HASTAC and Futures ED initiative fellows, and is available in the #HASTAC16 group on the HASTAC website.

The Nexus Lab would like to thank HASTAC for the opportunity to host their annual conference, as well as all of the university and community partners whose donations and time made the event possible. Sponsors of HASTAC '16 included...

  • Github Education
  • ASU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
  • The Institute for Humanities Research at ASU
  • ASU LightWorks
  • ASU Department of English
  • ASU College of Science and Imagination
  • The MLA Connected Academics initiative
  • The Arizona Science Foundation

Photo courtesy of Dr. Bruce Matsunaga, Department of English Director of Digital Technology. For more photos of the HASTAC 2016 conference, see Dr. Matsunaga's Flickr album.

Postdoctoral Research Fellow Dr. Dawn Opel and IHR Communication & Office Assistant Jessica Wochner staff the registration table at the 2016 HASTAC Conference, "Impact, Variation, Innovation, Action," at Coor Hall on ASU's Tempe campus
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CFP: “Digital Humanities in Human Rights, Diasporas, Gender & Film”

XIX Spanish Graduate Literature Conference, Talk Series, & Pragda Film Festival
School of International Letters and Cultures
Arizona State University
Tempe, AZ

“Digital Humanities in Human Rights, Diasporas, Gender & Film”

March 25th, April 8th and April 15th 2016

Keynote Speakers: Dr. Michael Simeone, Dr. Juan Pablo Gil-Oslé, Dr. Sujey Vega

The Spanish Graduate Student Association (SPAGRAD) at Arizona State University invites you to participate in its 19th Annual Literature, Culture, and Visual Arts Conference and Talk Series. This year, our conference looks to explore new critical and interdisciplinary approaches as they relate to issues of social justice and human rights in literary and cultural production.

Digital Humanities can be defined as an area that applies the knowledge of new technologies to the problems of human sciences. Recently there has been a surge of interest in regards to the impact of technology within the field of the humanities, and how these tools permit scholars to disseminate their work to a wider audience, organize and deposit their work in archives, and also explore and present material on various topics in a manner which was previously inaccessible. These Digital Humanities can be found in any form through which information or a message is communicated, that today is understood scholarly work and mass media such as: newspapers, television, social networks, the blogosphere and/or the Internet in general. For these reasons, it is of utmost importance to consider the shift from analogue materials into the realm of the digital as this is the direction in which the academic community is moving.

Thus, the organizing committee requests that submissions be related to the aforementioned themes within, but not limited to, the following topics:

ROUND TABLE March 25th: Gender, Cinema, and Digital Humanities
Keynote: Dr. Michael Simeone
In this topic, works will be accepted that have as an objective sexual identity, sexual dissidence, queer theory, feminist literary criticism, women’s writing, gay and lesbian writing as well as all cultural manifestation that arises from canonic identity destabilization. Equally, works that discuss diverse sexual and feminist identity struggles as well as their link with cultural production, social justice and human rights. Some possible topics within this subarea could be related to body and text, body and its corresponding nationalistic designs, sexualities and its multiple aspects and restrictions. Critical works on cinema may be submitted; the objective is to observe how film is related to society, reality, the human being, earth and other artistic areas. In this round table theme composition, techniques, theories, expressions, topics, influences, audiovisual arte and the incorporation of gender identity may be encompassed.

ROUND TABLE April 8st: Diasporas
Keynote: Dr. Juan Pablo Gil-Osle
Here studies related to identity as the foundation of social self-naming as a response to an imposition of social, gender, sexual, national, territorial and ethnic identities, among others may be addressed. Other possibilities include, but are not limited to border fluidity, physical border reality, fictional border reality, border invention, border purpose, border ideological, social and political extensions and their link to social justice and human rights. The comprehension of “identity, border and nationality” is not restricted to those imposed by social-political, economic or geographic reality.

ROUND TABLE April 15th: Human Rights
Keynote: Dr. Sujey Vega
It is necessary to analyze issues of human rights in an effort to vindicate individuals and social groups in order to assert their condition and access to a space and time that will enable total social incorporation and sef-development. Raising attention to the plight of issues regarding human rights can be seen via the recent phenomenon of hashtags, social media networks, the use of documentary film, photography and news media outlets.

Please send all abstracts to the following email:

All abstracts must be 250 words maximum in Spanish, English, or Portuguese. Please submit the title of paper/panel, name of presenter, university affiliation, email address, and a brief curriculum, with 150 words maximum. Presentations are typically 15 minutes. The deadline for submissions is March 17, 2015.

Conference organizers will contact you regarding acceptance within a maximum of two weeks after receiving proposal. Please confirm your attendance before March 17, 2015 by email, or by postal service to the following address:

Jennifer Byron
Arizona State University – Tempe Campus-P.O. Box 870202
Tempe, AZ 85287-0202

Conference registration fee will be $35 before March 10th and $45 after the confirmation date. Please be sure to pay the registration fee upon notification of approval. There is no cost f

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Spring ’16 Workshop Announced: Decision Design and Visual Analytics for Sustainability Applications

The Nexus Lab for Digital Humanities and Transdisciplinary Informatics will offer a workshop in Decision Design and Visual Analytics for Sustainability Applications during the Spring Semester of 2016. The workshop aims to connect problem solving for sustainability solutions with training in network modeling, data visualization, and communication of results from mixed methods analysis and decision making.

The workshop is free and open to ASU faculty, staff, and students. It will meet once a week for 2 hours on Friday afternoons, from 1:00pm to 3:00pm. There are no prerequisites, and the workshop will accommodate all levels of experience with programming and data analysis. To register, please go to and fill out the registration form. Seats will be limited, so please register as soon as you are able to make the commitment.

Technologies taught in this class include ORA (network modeling and analysis software), Javascript (interactive data visualizations), and python (basic data manipulation). This will not be a class on programming, but will instruct on these technologies where applicable to mixed-methods sustainability research, communications, and decision making.

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Spring 2016 Workshop Announced: User Experience (UX)

User Experience (UX) is a quickly growing area of specialization in the technology sector that focuses on having a deep understanding of users of technology. This understanding includes what users need from technology, what they value, their abilities, and their limitations. UX specialists must be knowledgeable about issues at the core of humanities disciplines, such as ethics in the use of technology, and also have knowledge of the technology itself. In this way, UX as a profession draws from both humanities and STEM fields. In this workshop, we will explore UX in many of its components, including user research, usability evaluation, information architecture, user interface design, content strategy, accessibility, web analytics, and more. We will work for the first eight weeks, alongside industry and academic experts, to learn more about these areas of UX. The second eight weeks will move to hands on experience as UX consultants for a client, working to make specific findings for improved user experience of their product. Technologies taught in this class include Keynote Wireframe Tool Kit, Blueprint CSS, and Google Analytics.

Join us to see where your current interests in humanities and technology might take you. All backgrounds and disciplines welcome. The workshop is free and open to ASU faculty, staff, and students. It will meet once a week for 2 hours on Friday mornings beginning January 29, from 9:00am to 11:00am. Please feel free to email Dawn Opel, Nexus Lab Postdoctoral Fellow, at to register, or with questions.

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Stories from Data launches for Fall Semester

Stories from Data is a workshop that emphasizes the intersection of design, cognition, data science, decision-making, and storytelling. In the first weeks of the recurring sessions, participants learn about bias, color, layering, and data presentation.

We focus on the crucial work visualization performs for analysis, as well as the importance of narratives both prior and subsequent to data visualizations of analytic processes. The workshop culminates with hands-on instruction of programming interactive visualizations using the D3.js javascript library.

Over the past 3 weeks, faculty, undergraduate, and graduate students have met for training and exercises. Stay tuned for updates and samples of work!

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Developing Insights with Wassaja

This semester the Developing Wassaja Working Group has hit the ground running in an amazing fashion. We have learned about some mission-critical concepts to web application development like user-centered design and project management, while also moving forward and getting our basic Drupal installation up-and-running. As we continue on this journey, you will occasionally find some of us blogging about the insights we are developing. Lyndsey Buchanan, staff at the ASU Ross Blakely Law Library and member of the Developing Wassaja team, has shared her insights regarding some of the concepts from project management that we have learned so far in a blog post titled “Stalled Projects and Other Ghastly Happenings.” Lyndsey’s insights are particularly wonderful, as she now has the role of Project Manager for the project status updates on Developing Wassaja site, including our Project Charter that outlines our goals, milestones, and the rest of the team roster!

Image of building being refurbished
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Graduate Students Opening Doors to Digital Humanities

For the last four years, ASU has been opening its doors to the public and inviting them to come learn more about all of the innovative things going on at its different campuses through Night of the Open Door. This year, Night of the Open Door is taking place on the Tempe Campus Saturday, February 28, 2015, from 4:00pm to 9:00pm. Two PhD candidates in the Rhetoric, Composition, and Linguistics program in the Department of English will be showcasing their Digital Humanities work: Cristobal Martinez and Dawn Opel.

Cristobal Martinez will be presenting Radio Healer, a group of indigenous hacker-artists performing electro-acoustic music. Using this digital project as a lens, Martinez will lead discussions about the nature of technology and its impact on shaping our values through everyday experiences. His presentation will take place from 6:30pm-9:00pm in Durham Language and Literature 105.

Dawn Opel is asking participants in this event to join her in solving a mystery with Sherlock Holmes. After learning more about this iconic detective, Opel will begin a discussion on digital fan fiction surrounding Sherlock Holmes and how it can be used in the English classroom. Interested individuals will have two opportunities to participate in this experience: from 7:00pm to 8:00pm and then again from 8:00pm to 9:00pm in Durham Language and Literature 109.

Join us in supporting Dawn and Cristobal in these exciting efforts. The Nexus Lab is really excited to see Digital Humanities projects being showcased at this event, and we know that these projects will help to promote the power of transdisciplinary thinking!

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We Can’t Get Enough Vibrant Data!

First of all, join us in thanking Prof. Jacqueline Wernimont for a wonderful presentation and brainstorming session on Vibrant Data last Thursday!

During our discussion, many of us #ASUDH-ers realized just how much possibility Vibrant Data has for our own research, as well as the opportunity for collaboration with our peers who are also interested in this notion. As a result, the IHR Nexus Lab will be coordinating a monthly working group for those individuals interested in continuing the discussions we began last week. If you’re interested in joining, please click here to sign-up for the new Vibrant Data Working Group.

Were you not able to attend but are curious about what you missed last Thursday, checkout the notes from our discussion.

Wernimont explaining the historicity of Vibrant Data with parish registers
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