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Current Fellows

Visiting Fellows 2017-18

Sara Grossman

sjg52@psu.edu

 

Sara Grossman specializes in the literary and cultural history of climate crisis and weather data in the United States from the early-nineteenth century to the present. She received her PhD in American Studies from Rutgers University in 2016. She is currently working on a book, Measuring the Face of the Sky, which is a cultural history of weather data in the United States. The book charts the evolution of data collection and visualization practices from the 1847 Smithsonian Institution Meteorological Project to NASA’s 2012 GOES-14 satellite. Measuring the Face of the Sky expands understandings of data within the field of the environmental humanities by positioning data as an everyday concept and cultural practice shaped by the people who interface with it. For an updated list of projects and publications, please visit sarajgrossman.com.

Alyssa Reichardt

aar52@psu.edu

I’m a historian of North America and the Atlantic World, with a focus on the intersections of European and indigenous empires over the long eighteenth century. My more general research interests revolve around communication studies, historical geography, and state formation. I am currently at work on a book manuscript, “War for the Interior,” which examines the contest for the heart of North America between 1727 and 1774. Reconstructing information circuits and their role in strengthening (and weakening) French, British, Iroquois, and Cherokee territorial claims, I combine textual and GIS methods to map the development of continental and transatlantic communications infrastructure over the long Seven Years’ War. I hold a Ph.D. from Yale University, and in Fall 2018 I'll join the Kinder Institute and Department of History at the University of Missouri as an assistant professor of History and Constitutional Democracy.

Victoria Salinger

I am currently working on turning my dissertation on German conceptual artist Hanne Darboven into a book manuscript. I discuss Darboven’s calculation-based art in the context of changing perceptions of mathematics and math pedagogy in the United States and Germany in light of the Cold War, as well as the gendered history of computers, computation, and data processing. I argue that Darboven’s choice to eschew discursive language for numerical calculations is not an avoidance of subjectivity or mimicking of a depersonalized aesthetic of administration, but rather a consciously political choice, engaged with questions about the changing nature of labor, authorship, and responsibility in the information age.

Nathan Vedal

nzv27@psu.edu

Nathan Vedal (PhD, Harvard University) is a scholar of late imperial Chinese cultural and intellectual history, focusing on the history of knowledge production and history of the book. His book project, Scholarly Culture in Late Imperial China, examines broad patterns of intellectual change from the 16th through 19th centuries on the basis of the shifting methods, interactions, and practices of Chinese scholars. As a CHI fellow, he will extend this research into the cultural, material, and epistemological dimensions of knowledge production through projects on the formation of scholarly disciplines in China, as well as on the circulation of censored books in the late imperial period.

Grant Wythoff

gxw63@psu.edu

Gadgetry: A History of Techniques explores how complex information technologies like the smartphone become legible to us through everyday practice, habit, and belief. I draw on my background in literary studies to trace the many ways that small decisions by individual users add up to critical transitions between paradigms in media history, describing these moments of indeterminacy and possibility as "fictions." Digital media technologies are not a force that comes down from on high to alter patterns in human relations, they are the product of what we imagine to be possible with our tools, from the micro-level of pragmatic functionality to the macro-level of cultural imaginaries and consensus visions of the future in science fiction.

Faculty Fellows 2017-18

Jonathan Abel

jea17@psu.edu

Information and The New Real: The Bloated Cultures of New Media Part of a longer book-length study entitled The New Real: Media, Marketing, and Mimesis Made in Japan, the chapter that I propose to complete during a CHI Residential Fellowship focusses on four kinds of digital literature. The chapter will analyze the data of Japanese cell phone novels, twitter novels, visual novel games, and episodic video narratives. Bringing these tools to bear on my studies of the born-digital cultural material as a CHI fellow will bring to my work a methodology in which interpretation meets form.

Kathlene Baldanza

ktb3@psu.edu

The literary world of pre-colonial Vietnam is not well understood. Imported and locally produced books written in literary Sinitic (Hán), the Vietnamese script Nôm, or a combination of the two circulated simultaneously. My project catalogues the imported books that were available to Vietnamese readers in the 18th and 19th centuries in order to make clear how these texts generated—or inhibited—new texts. It explores the reading practices Vietnamese readers used to process books written in a foreign language. I demonstrate that Vietnamese publishers and authors both employed tools of information management that originated in China and developed their own Nôm-based tools.

William Blair

wab120@psu.edu

Within the records of the Freedmen’s Bureau lies a collection with the shocking title of “Murders and Outrages.” These reports trace 3,972 instances of atrocities—murders, assaults, knifings, sexual assaults, economic coercion, and assassinations of government agents—committed by southern whites against Republicans and black people in the post-Civil War South. Until now scholars have not understood the reason these data were collected and its impact on northern policy against former Confederates. This compilation proved instrumental in mobilizing Republicans to visit a hard peace that replaced civil governments in the South with military rule and led to black male suffrage and passage of the 14th Amendment.

Anne Demo

atd1@psu.edu

The CHI fellowship supports completion of the final case study in my book. This chapter, tentatively titled “360° Documentary: Immersion, Apprehension, and Excessive Force,” explores the legal and sensory notion of “excessive force” in VR projects by Alejandro G. Iñárritu and Nonny de La Peña.  My analysis engages questions central to digital innovations in human rights media: How does sensory immersion and user-directed movement within a virtual place connect us to others? What are the ethical challenges of this mode of documentation? In what contexts might immersive documentaries be used to cultivate “solidarity with” and not the vicarious “experience of” distant places of conflict and risk? 

Christopher Moore

crm21@psu.edu

In the book I’m writing, Heraclitus and Knowledge, I argue, in effect, that Heraclitus (c.540–c. 480 BCE) was the first to theorize information. He does so as part of his continuous critique of Ionian research (“polymathy”), the scientific trend exemplified in his generation by Pythagoras and Xenophanes. Heraclitus argues that aiming for discovery, accumulation, and systematizing – that is, the manipulation of information – wrongly assumes that we are in a position to manipulate it. We need rather to understand ourselves first and our relationship to the world and other people. We must start by learning how to recognize.

Daniel Purdy

dlp14@psu.edu

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, China was a topic of serious scholarly interest at early modern German courts. East Asia constituted a region into which German princes each hoped to expand their own agendas, though often for distinctly different reasons. I am researching scholarly and imperial networks operating within early modern Europe and across the globe. My book focuses on three stages: first, how Jesuit missionaries integrated themselves into Chinese scholarly networks; second, how information was transported between China and European centers; third, how European print media preserved information about China both through libraries and the constant republishing of the same bits of information in popular literature.  My argument relies on contemporary German media theories by Friedrich Kittler, Bernhard Siegert, and Wolfgang Ernst, while also incorporating the accounts of early modern science put forward by Bruno Latour, John Law, Steven J. Harris, and other adherents of Actor-Network Theory. 

Predoctoral Fellows 2017-18

Sarah Adams

Sea174@psu.edu

My dissertation, “A Rhetorical History of Embodied Listening: Pedagogy, Performance, Technology,” examines and historicizes the embodied and vibrational form and effects of sonic information. In particular, my project examines the situation of classical music in the early twentieth century. While certain rhetorics of listening—like phonograph advertisements and conductor’s expectations during concerts—encouraged listeners to understand listening as an intellectual exercise, the pedagogical program of Eurhythmics taught students to listen with their entire bodies. In exploring the tensions between these listening practices as well as their resonances with the history of rhetorical education, I demonstrate that sonic information, and rhetoric more generally, necessitates a listening practice that engages the whole body.

Gregory Coles

gcoles@psu.edu

How can individual voices at the margins of society claim the salience of a collective identity without essentializing diverse “marginal” identities or erasing the particularities of the people who inhabit them? My dissertation, currently titled “Advantageous Incapacity: Reading the Margins with Kenneth Burke,” argues that this question demonstrates the need for a more fluid semiotic model in rhetorical studies, a model theorized through Burke’s engagement with C.S. Peirce (often considered the founder of semiotics) and others. Power on the linguistic margins, I propose, often resides within the negotiated space where meaning is deliberated and in flux—a space which is not inherently central or marginal in location, but which traverses both locations.

Jeremy Johnson

johnsonjd@psu.edu

This dissertation project, entitled Algorithmic Architects: A New Rhetorical Order, explores the effects of algorithms on political discourse and decision-making. Threading together ancient Greek rhetorical theory and posthumanism, the project characterizes algorithms as shaping worldly order through information flows and their material consequences. Algorithms are world-makers, taking an active agential role in current political tumult. Through analysis of Google bombing, copyright algorithms, and “personalized publics” on Facebook and Twitter, this project demands continued research and timely interventions regarding the immense political power of algorithms and their creators.

Derek Lee

dpl151@psu.edu

Parascience And Revolution: The Paranormal Mind In Twentieth-Century Literature And Science

My dissertation explores the paranormal mind as a historical, phenomenological, and epistemological concept across twentieth-century literature and science. The belief that our minds possess suprahuman capabilities like telepathy or clairvoyance has fascinated scientists, philosophers, and writers alike ever since the rise of the psychological sciences at the end of the nineteenth century, but the dominant narrative is that increased scientific scrutiny has effectively marginalized such pseudoscientific theories. My project rejects this position. Drawing primarily from post-1945 literature (particularly speculative fiction, ethnic fiction, and the occult), philosophy of science, as well as biological and physical discourse, “Parascience and Revolution” deploys the paranormal mind as a heuristic to not only follow the permutations of twentieth-century literary phenomenology but also to theorize the epistemic forces actively producing heterodox thought-forms. In arguing for the unscientific outgrowths endemic to our scientific processes, this project elevates paranormal consciousness from an esoteric nexus of study to a vital site for understanding the flow and evolution of dissident information.

Michael Maguire

mxm5162@psu.edu

A Disciplinary History and Theory of Contemporary Literature

My dissertation explores the tumultuous history of the university’s relationship with contemporary literature. I trace the constitution, production, and circulation of knowledge about contemporary literature from the first MLA panel on the subject to the formation of four key academic journals in the 1950s to the problems of research in a field wherein copyright restrictions obtain and distant reading methodologies appear necessary for a synoptic view. My project insists that the future of literary studies depends on the continued production of its object, and thus contemporary literature is the site at which our discipline must engage most urgently.

John Schneider

jxs1167@psu.edu

My project examines post-1945 U.S. literary history as one crucial site for understanding the culture of professional expertise—the codes, norms, and beliefs that shape intellectual labor around higher education. Following some of the ways that specialization has remade the figure of the “intellectual” in the era of knowledge work, I look to a series of writer-critics whose prose confronts the challenges of laboring within an economy driven by information. In examining the critical response to these challenges, I hope to historicize some of the broader roots of the literary humanities’ crisis discourse, an ongoing response to literary studies’ precarious place in the contemporary university.