Re:Humanities Conference at Haverford College

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by Mae Capozzi

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In April 2014, I brought a very preliminary version of this research to the Re:Humanities Conference at Haverford College. As the only undergraduate digital humanities conference in the U.S., I was excited to participate. The experience exceeded my expectations. Every student came with duly researched projects regarding topics from video game design to archive building.

The two-day conference began with a keynote speech entitled “The Political Power of Play” by Adeline Koh. Koh is the Director of DH@Stockton, Assistant Professor of Literature at Richard Stockton College, and cofounder of #DHPoco.

The students involved in the conference were split into two separate groups; each group presented on different days. The first group included titles such as: Narrative and Gameplay: Adapting Physical Narratives to a Digital Medium by Hannah Weissmann from Haverford College, An Algorithm for Serendipity: An Inquiry of Online Dating for Emotional Beings in a Digital Age by Shireen Saxena from Bryn Mawr College, and Imagining the Straight(?) Gate: Messiah, Utopia, and Queer Internet Parody by Benjamin Bernard-Herman and Dylan Hillerbrand from Swarthmore College.

On the second day, we saw mostly thesis presentations from seniors. These projects included: Poetry as a Complex System by Bronwen Hudson from the University of Vermont, The Lightning of Possible Storms: Critical Theory, Interactive Fiction, and the Pedagogy of Narrative Ludology in Bioshock Infinite by Marissa Koors at Emerson College, and Trauma, Enslavement, Embodiment, and Freedom: A New Media Approach to Narratives of Enslavement by Elizabeth Alexander at Amherst College.

The conference concluded with a keynote speech by Mary Flanagan called “Humanist Design.” Flanagan is the author of Critical Play and is the Sherman Fairchild Distinguished Professor in Digital Humanities at Dartmouth College.

I found it particularly exciting that the conference was at an undergraduate level, because it seems as though DH is the next step for disciplines like literary studies, social history, etc. I would be surprised if 90% of the students involved in this conference did not continue onto graduate school to become the next wave of humanists. Thus, I think it is necessary for undergraduates to hone their skills and have the opportunity to share their research with a larger audience than just their home institutions.

Furthermore, one of the beautiful aspects of DH is its “shareability.” Although each scholar recognized that their research could just as easily been shared online, it was exciting to attend a traditional conference. This type of multifaceted symposium allowed students to share new, digital projects while practicing real-time presentation and discussion skills.

Another interesting aspect of this conference was that we were encouraged to live tweet during presentations (#rehum14). It was a strange feeling to have my iPhone in hand during presentations at first, but I soon warmed up to the new sensation. In fact, it brought on a new sense of engagement with the presenter, as I could summarize or question an argument moments after it was mentioned. This aspect of the conference, once again, added to the “shareability” of DH as a discipline. I look forward to Re:Humanities ’15 in the spring.