Maritime Masculinities 1815 – 1940 final call for papers

And now for something completely different…

OER16 isn’t the only conference I’m organising this year, I’m also delighted to be involved with organising the Maritime Masculinities 1815 – 1940 conference along with Professor Joanne Begiato, Oxford Brookes University, Dr Steven Gray, University of Portsmouth, and Dr Isaac Land, Indiana State University.  The conference takes place at Oxford Brookes University on 19th- 20th December, 2016 and invites proposals on a wide range of topics including, but not limited to

Shipmates Tough and Tender. Italy c. 1925. Casas-Rodríguez Collection, CC BY NC ND 3.0

Shipmates Tough and Tender. Italy c. 1925.
Casas-Rodríguez Collection, CC BY NC ND 3.0

  • The growth of maritime empires, and cultural contact with indigenous peoples.
  • The maritime man in material culture, fashion, advertising and the press.
  • Exploration and heroism.
  • Photography, art, and film.
  • Fiction, theatre, and music.
  • Sailors in port and at home.
  • Dockyards and shipbuilding.
  • Heritage, memory, and museums.

The call for papers has already been open for several months and closes at the end of this week on 20th May. There’s still time to submit an abstract though!

Proposals are invited for short papers (20 minutes) and panel sessions (60 minutes). Abstracts of up to 250 words are invited, and should be sent to maritimemasculinities@gmail.com

The period from 1815 – 1940 saw the demise of the sail ship, and the rise of the machine-driven steam, and then oil-powered ships. It began as a period of both naval and maritime supremacy for Britain, which was subsequently eroded during two world wars. After a century of frequent naval warfare, there was the advent of the Pax Britannica, and the phenomenon of navies which barely fought. Moreover, popular navalism emerged in advertising, pageantry, and popular literature, and was the subject of photography and then film.

Cultural ideals of masculinities also underwent considerable shifts in a period that in civilian life advocated differing styles of manliness including Christian manliness, muscular Christianity, and the domestic man, and in the armed forces deployed tropes of masculinity such as bravery, stoicism, and endurance to the extent that military and maritime models of manliness were held up as aspirational models for all men.

Further information about the Maritime Masculinities 1815 – 1940 Conference is available from the conference blog maritimemasculinities.wordpress.com

Maritime Masculinities is sponsored by Oxford Brookes University, Port Towns & Urban Cultures at the University of Portsmouth,  and the Society for Nautical Research.

German sailors and an accordion player on board Magdalene Vinnen, March 1933

German sailors and an accordion player on board Magdalene Vinnen, March 1933. No known copyright restrictions.

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#ReadAnneDiary Campaign

anna_frank-infograph1 (1)Today is World Intellectual Property Day and colleagues in Poland and the Netherlands have chosen this date to launch the #ReadAnneDiary campaign which aims to highlight the EU’s current confusing and outdated copyright framework. Readers of this blog will know how strongly I feel that important historical and cultural heritage artefacts are openly licensed and freely available to all, so this is a campaign that I am very happy to highlight and support.  It seems more critical than ever to ensure that important works like The Diary of Anne Frank are freely available for all of us to read and to learn from. 

“Recently, Anne Frank’s famous diary has been in the spotlight because of a copyright dispute about when the literary work enters the public domain. After some intricate legal calculations, it seems that the Dutch version of The Diary of Anne Frank is now in public domain (as of 2016) in Poland, but not in the Netherlands or other EU countries, due to specific aspects of their copyright laws. The patchwork of EU copyright rules are too confusing, and the public is paying the price by not having access to some of their most important creative and cultural works.

On April 26, Centrum Cyfrowe is making available a digital version of The Diary of Anne Frank at the website www.annefrank.centrumcyfrowe.pl. Unfortunately, due to the restrictive territorial rules regarding copyright, the website will only be accessible for users inside Poland. Yes, you read that right: access will be blocked for anyone attempting to view the site from outside of Poland. Why are we doing this? We’re doing it to draw attention to the absurdity of these types of copyright rules. The Diary of Anne Frank is an important historical work—published originally in Dutch in the Netherlands. It should be available in the public domain across Europe. Yet now, it will not be accessible anywhere except for Poland.”

Centrum Cyfrowe
http://www.annefrank.centrumcyfrowe.pl/

Return of the Six Best Conference Questions

Way back in 2013 Joanne Begiato, Steven Gray, Isaac Land and I wrote a blog post called The six best conference questions: Or, how not to paper-bomb at a conference. The piece was intended to be an encouraging response to a rather entertaining article written by Allan Johnson in Time Higher Education about the six questions every academic dreads to hear at conferences. That post turned out to be by far and away the most popular post ever to appear on this blog and it’s now found a new lease of life in The Guardian.  Earlier today The Guardian Higher Education Network re-published our piece under the title Don’t be a conference troll: a guide to asking good questions. We’ve had an overwhelming response to the article on twitter so it seems like this piece is still striking a chord with colleagues across the sector.

conf_troll_1

I’m also delighted to report that by the end of the day we were more popular than Jo Jonson’s University reforms 😉

conf_troll_2

Many thanks to Steven for suggesting we submit this to The Guardian!

Day of Digital Ideas 2015

Digital humanities is an area that I’ve been interested in for a long time but which I haven’t had much opportunity to engage with, so earlier this week I was really excited to be able to go along to the Digital Scholarship Day of Digital Ideas at the University of Edinburgh.  In the absence of my EDINA colleague Nicola Osborne and her fabulous live blogging skills, I live tweeted the event and archived tweets, links and references in a storify here: Digital Day of Ideas 2015.  I also created a TAGS archive of tweets using Martin Hawksey’s clever Twitter Archiving Google Spreadsheet.

The event featured three highly engaging keynotes from Ben Schmidt, Anouk Lang, and Ruth Ahnert, and six parallel workshops covering historical map applications and OpenLayers, corpus analysis with AntConc, data visualisations with D3, Drupal for beginners, JavaSCript basics and Python for humanities research.

Humanities Data Analysis

~ Ben Schmidt, Northeastern University

Ben explored the role of data analysis in humanities and explored the methodological and social challenges presented by humanities data analysis.  He began by suggesting that in many quarters data analysis for humanities is regarded as being on a par with “poetry for physics”.  Humanities data analysis can rase deep objections from some scholars, and seem inimical to the meaning of research.  However there are many humanistic ways of thinking about data that are intrinsic to the tradition of humanities. Serendipity is important to humanities research and there is a fear that digital research negates this, however it’s not difficult to engineer serendipity into cultural data analysis.

But what if borrowing techniques from other disciplines isn’t enough? Digital humanities needs its own approaches; it needs to use data natively and humanistically, as a source of criticism rather than to “prove” things. Humanities data analysis starts with the evidence, not with the hypothesis.  The data needs to tell stories about structures, rather than individual people.   Johanan Drucker argues that what we call “data” should really be called “capta”:

Capta is “taken” actively while data is assumed to be a “given” able to be recorded and observed. From this distinction, a world of differences arises. Humanistic inquiry acknowledges the situated, partial, and constitutive character of knowledge production, the recognition that knowledge is constructed, taken, not simply given as a natural representation of pre-existing fact.

Johanna Drucker on data vs. capta

Ben went on to illustrate these assertions with a number of examples of exploratory humanities data analyses including using ngrams to trace Google books collections, building visualisations of ship movements from digitised whaling logbooks, the Hathi Trust bookworm, and exposing gendered language in teachers reviews on Rate my Teacher.  (I’ve worked with ships musters and log books for a number of years as part of our Indefatigable 1797 project, I’ve long been a fan of Ben’s whaling log visualisations which are as beautiful as they are fascinating.)

Ships tracks in black, show the outlines of the continents and the predominant tracks on the trade winds. © Ben Schmidt

Ben concluded by introducing the analogy of Borges The Garden of Forking Paths and urged us to create data gardens and labyrinths for exploration and contemplation, and to provide tools that help us to interpret the world rather than to change it

Gaps, Cracks, Keys: Digital Methods for Modernist Studies

~ Anouk Lang, University of Edinburgh

Manifesto of Modernist Digital Humanities

Manifesto of Modernist Digital Humanities

Anouk explored the difficulties and opportunities facing scholars of twentieth-century literature and culture that result from the impact of copyright restrictions on the digitisation of texts and artefacts. Due to these restrictions many modern and contemporary texts are out of digital reach.  The LitLong project highlights gaps in modernist sources caused by copyright law.  However there are cracks  in the record where digital humanities can open up chinks in the data to let in light, and we can use this data as the key to open up interesting analytic possibilities.

During her presentation Anouk referenced the Manifesto of Modernist Digital Humanities, situating it in reference to the Blast Manifesto, Nathan Hensley’s Big Data is Coming for Your Books, and Underwood, Long and So’s Cents and Sensibility.

By way of example, Anouk demonstrated how network analysis can be used to explore biographical texts. Biographies are curated accounts of people’s lives constructed by human and social forces and aesthetic categories. There is no such thing as raw data in digital text analysis: all the choices about data are subjective. Redrawing network maps multiple times can highlight what is durable. For example network analysis of biographical texts can reveal the gendered marginality of writers’ wives.

In conclusion, Anouk argued that digital deconstruction can be regarded as a form of close reading, and questioned how we read graphical forms such as maps and network illustrations. How do network maps challenge established forms of knowledge? They force us to stand back and question what our data is and can help us to avoid the linearity of narrative.

Closing the Net: Letter Collections & Quantitative Network Analysis

~ Ruth Ahnert, Queen Mary University of London

Ruth’s closing keynote explored the nature of complex networks and the use of mathematical models to explore their underlying characteristics.  She also provided two fascinating examples of how social network analysis techniques can be used to analyse collections of early modern letters, a set of Protestant letters (1553 – 1558) and Tudor correspondence in State Papers Online,  to reconstruct the movement of people, objects, and ideas.   She also rather chillingly compared the Tudor court’s monitoring of conspiracies and interception of letters with the contemporary surveillance activities of the NSA.

Ruth Ahnart.  Picture by Kathy Simpson, @kilmunbooks

Ruth Ahnart. Picture by Kathy Simpson, @kilmunbooks.

Ruth introduced the concept of betweenness* – the connectors that are central to sustaining a network.  Networks are temporal, they change and evolve over time as they are put under pressure.  Mary I took out identifiable hubs in the Protestant network by executing imprisoned leaders, however despite removing these hubs, the networks survived because the sustainers survived, these are the people with high betweenness.  In order to fragment a network it is necessary to remove, not the hubs or edges, but the nodes with high betweenness.

Ruth went on to introduce Eigenvector centrality which can be used to measure the quality of people’s connections in a network, and she explored the curious betweenness centrality of Edward Courteney, 1st Earl of Devon (1527 – 1556). Courteney’s social capital is quantifiable; he was typical of a character with high Eigenvector centrality, who cuts across social groups and aligned himself with powerful nodes.

In conclusion, Ruth suggested that network analysis can be used to open archives, it doesn’t presume what you’re looking for, rather it can inspire close reading by revealing patterns previously unseen by traditional humanity research.

I was certainly hugely inspired by Ruth’s presentation.  I have some passing familiarity with the concepts of network analysis and betweenness centrality from the work of Martin Hawksey and Tony Hirst however this it the first time I have seen these techniques applied to historical data and the possibilities are endlessly inspiring.  One of the man aims of our Indefatigable 1797 research project is to reveal the social networks that bound together a small group of men who served on the frigate HMS Indefatigable during the French Revolutionary War.  Using traditional techniques we have pieced together these connections through an analysis of ships musters, Admiralty archives, contemporary press reports, personal letters and birth, marriage and death certificates.  We have already built up a picture of a complex and long-lived social network, but I now can’t help wondering whether a more nuanced picture of of that network might emerge through the application of social network analysis techniques.  Definitely something to think more about in the future!

Many thanks to Anouk Lang and the Digital Scholarship team for organising such a thought provoking, fun and engaging event.

* For an excellent explanation of the concept of betweeness, I can highly recommend reading Betweenness centrality – explained via twitter, featuring Tony Hirst and my former Cetis colleagues Sheila MacNeill, Wilbert Kraan, and Martin Hawksey.  It’s all about the genetically modified zombies you see…

The Society for Nautical Research

Last week I was honoured to chair the Publications Committee of the Society of Nautical Research at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.  I was appointed to replace the interim chair, Admiral Sir Kenneth Eaton, towards the end of last year, but last week was my first time in the chair.

The Society was founded in 1910 and encourages research into matters relating to seafaring and shipbuilding, the language and customs of the sea, and all subjects of nautical interest.  The Society plays a major role in promoting international scholarship in naval and maritime history, preserving the nautical heritage of the UK, and recognising excellence in historical research and preserving maritime heritage through a number of awards.

Since 1911, the Society has published The Mariner’s Mirror, the leading international journal of naval and maritime history, and all aspects of seafaring and lore of the sea.  The Mariner’s Mirror promotes the work not just of established academics and professionals, but also talented and enthusiastic independent scholars and new researchers. The Honorary Editor of The Mariner’s Mirror is Dr Martin Bellamy, the Research and Curatorial Manager at Glasgow Museums.

Over the last few years the Publications Committee has undertaken a number of new initiatives to publicise the Society’s work, including a new website and twitter account (@nauticalhistory) which was launched at the end of last year.  I’m delighted to take on the role of chair of the Publications Committee in order to continue this exciting work and I’m very pleased to have the support and guidance of Dr Cathryn Pearce, as Secretary of the Committee.

If you’re interested in maritime or nautical history, you can find out more about the work of the Society for Nautical Research and information about how to join at our new website: snr.org.uk

snr_website

snr.org.uk

RRS Discovery and HMS Unicorn

Of course I couldn’t go to Dundee without visiting RRS Discovery and HMS Unicorn

RSS Discovery

Discovery

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Great cabin, HMS Unicorn

Great cabin, HMS Unicorn

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Wardroom, HMS Unicorn

Wardroom, HMS Unicorn

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Carpenter’s walk, HMS Unicorn

Carpenters walk, HMS Unicorn

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Upper Clyde Shipyards: Scottish Industrial Heritage and Maritime Identity

govan_1_smallA couple of weeks ago the fabulous Port Towns and Urban Cultures folk posted an article I wrote on the history of the Upper Clyde Shipyards and the Scottish media’s reaction to announcements of the threatened closure of the Govan yard at the end of last year.  If you’re interested, you can read the post here:

Upper Clyde Shipyards: Scottish Industrial Heritage and Maritime Identity

And while you’e over there, I can highly recommend having a browse around the Port Towns and Urban Cultures site as they post a wide range of fascinating articles. One of my recent favourites is Daniel Swan’s “It’s because we’re just women.” Listening to women in port town industries