English Faculty Hofstra College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Research Top Stories

Conference to Focus on Creating a Digital Research Center

John Bryant

Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY … The use of digital technology to research, study, and teach the humanities and the sciences will be the focus of a Hofstra conference on October 24 and 25, 2013. Digital Thinking/Critical Thinking: Building the Humanities at Hofstra will focus on the creation of a Digital Research Center (DRC) at the University. Members of the Hofstra community are accustomed to seeing building and renovations of physical facilities on campus, but the DRC, recently approved by the University, will be construction of a different kind. Hofstra faculty are enthusiastic and vocal about the many opportunities it will create for classroom instruction and for collaboration with other scholars, teachers and students around the world.

Dr. John Bryant, a longtime professor of English at Hofstra, has helped lead the establishment of a DRC at Hofstra. Dr. Bryant, one of the world’s foremost experts on Herman Melville, has throughout his career been fascinated with the many existing editions of Melville’s work and evolving creative process. As far back as the 1980s, Dr. Bryant saw the need for a digital approach to studying, comparing and editing revisions of classic works. In 2009 the National Endowment for the Humanities awarded Dr. Bryant a grant to launch the Melville Electronic Library (MEL), a digital “critical archive” of Melville’s works, based at Hofstra.

With that initial NEH grant, Dr. Bryant and Hofstra’s office of Faculty Computing Services developed the model for TextLab, an innovative software program that enables users to compare varying manuscript stages and published versions of Melville’s writings, or what Dr. Bryant calls “fluid texts.”  Second and third grants from the NEH gave Dr. Bryant the resources to turn the TextLab model into an actual tool. TextLab allows scholars and readers to work collaboratively on developing narratives that explain Melville’s numerous revisions. When MEL is complete, the result will be a comprehensive resource where those studying and researching Melville’s writing – from the erudite scholar to the inquisitive student — can share their work and insights. Users of MEL will have unprecedented access to a searchable collection of interlinked versions of Melville’s manuscripts, print texts, sources, art works, and other research and secondary materials.

Now that Hofstra is moving forward with a DRC, what Dr. Bryant has accomplished with MEL is just a sneak peek at the many research and collaborative opportunities that may be possible for Hofstra scholars. Faculty members from a variety of disciplines – ranging from presidential studies to anthropology, fine arts to rhetoric, and law to music – have already started planning digital research projects of their own.

Keynote speakers at the October 24 and 25 conference are:

Valerie Barr, professor of computer science at Union College. “William Blake, Biofuel, and Bribery: Promoting Interdisciplinary Applications of Computing,” October 24, 12:30 p.m.

Wyn Kelley, senior lecturer, literature section, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and associate director of MEL. “Digital Tools for Annotation and Mapping, or How I Got My Students Reading Again,” October 25, 9:30 a.m.

and Kurt Fendt, executive director of HyperStudio – Digital Humanities, principal research associate in Comparative Media Studies/Writing, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “Agile Humanities: Open Source, Collaborative Design, and Sustaining a Digital Lab,” October 25, 2 p.m.

Panels include:

“Where We Are: Hofstra’s DRC”

A workshop on Hofstra’s Textlab and Hyperstudio Tools

A workshop on the Annotation Studio

and “Moving Forward: Hofstra Goes Digital”

There is no fee to attend this conference, but advance registration is required. For more information call the Hofstra Cultural Center at (516) 463-5669 or email john.l.bryant@hofstra.edu or gail.m.schwab@hofstra.edu. Visit MEL at MEL.hofstra.edu.


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