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Apr. 8, 2014 10:30 am

OkCupid, game design, Ke$ha: dispatches from Haverford digital humanities conference

Re:Humanities is the only digital humanities conference in the country organized by undergraduates as a forum for their original, digital scholarship. Programmed by students from Bryn Mawr, Swarthmore, and Haverford Colleges, here's what was discussed this year.

At the Re: Humanities conference at Haverford College. Photo by Lisa Boughter, Photo by Lisa Boughter, courtesy of Tri-Co Digital Humanities.

This is a guest post by Caleb Eckert and Hema Surendranathan, Haverford College and Bryn Mawr College students who are part of the Re:Humanities Working Group.

From BioShock Infinite to poetry and mathematics, archiving politics to re-imagining life as a slave, critical inquiry stirred up across disciplines.

Last Friday, day two of Re:Humanities 2014, students from across the nation presented their research to their peers.

“In what new ways can we understand information?” scholars in the room asked. “How can we learn from play?”

Re:Humanities is the only digital humanities conference in the country organized by undergraduates as a forum for their original, digital scholarship. Programmed by students from Bryn Mawr, Swarthmore, and Haverford Colleges, this year’s conference “Play.Power.Production” featured work by 25 undergraduate scholars from 12 colleges and universities nationwide.

The conference brings together undergrads who share an interest in this intersection of human and digital culture and are actively working on research in the field. This year’s focus on the power of play directed much of the research to cultural phenomenon you don’t normally associate with undergraduate scholarship: OkCupid, video game design, and yes, Ke$ha were all up for discussion (Haverford College student Julia Hunter‘s talk was called “Get Sleazy with Ke$ha: Becoming a Cyborg in Postfeminist Popular Culture”).

adeline koh

Keynote speaker Adeline Koh is the director of the Digital Humanities Center at Richard Stockton College. Photo by Lisa Boughter, courtesy of Tri-Co Digital Humanities.

Mary Flanagan, author of Critical Play, founding director of the Dartmouth‘s game research lab Tiltfactor, and the Sherman Fairchild Distinguished Professor in Digital Humanities at Dartmouth, nudged us further into the realm of play with her keynote “Humanist Design.”

People shouted out names when we played Tiltfactor’s Buffalo, a name-dropping card game that challenged our knowledge of people and stereotypes. Playfulness and social responsibility, Flanagan noted, can complement each other in a dynamic way.

There is still much to be discussed about play, power, and production in digital humanities. It’s not often that undergraduates, professors, librarians and community members get together to hear about the scholarship and play happening nationally.

Next up: Re:Humanities 2015. Let’s play.

Check out a Storify of the conference here.

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