Becoming a Digital Humanist: An Autobiographical Nonlinear Digital Story

Below are concepts and impressions from my Culminating Experience (CE) /Master’s Thesis Project, Becoming a Digital Humanist: An Autobiographical Nonlinear Digital Story. Defended in the summer of 2016 at Berklee College of Music in Valencia, Spain for partial fulfillment of a Master’s of Music in Music Production, Technology & Innovation (MPTI).

The boundary between two realms is the most favorable position for understanding them. Although the power and the unity of life are stronger in the center, the chance of observing and knowing is greater at the periphery.
— Paul Tillich, The Protestant Era

Poster for DHOxSS 2016. Presented at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History.

Keywords for Becoming a Digital Humanist: An Autobiographical Nonlinear Digital Story

autobiography. an account of a person's life written by that person, and autobiography as a literary genre (1).

artistic research. gathering of information (questions, hurdles, epiphanies) about the personal experience of an artist making his or her art (2).

conceptual art. art in which the idea presented by the artist is considered more important than the finished product, if there is one (3). For this CE conceptual art was represented through video, text, images and sound relevant to my autobiographical elements.

digital story. the process by which people of all ages and experiences share with others stories of their lives or creative imagination, using words, sound effects, field recordings, and music. Hypertext environments facilitate the interactive story in which the "reader" chooses optional paths to explore. Web-based media facilitate not only stories with words, but also movies, stills, sounds, and graphics (4).

digital humanities. the crossroads of digital media and traditional humanistic study... bringing the tools and techniques of digital media to bear on traditional humanistic questions...bringing humanistic modes of inquiry to bear on digital media (5). For this CE, it is the consideration of an autobiographical digital story through the mediums of experimental music and conceptual art video to be an example or precursor to digital humanities research.

experimental music. As personally experienced with the Music Production, Technology and Innovation program at Berklee College of Music in Valencia, Spain. For this CE, it was the construction of drone music within BEAP (via Max/MSP) with emphasis on dissonant pitches, digital post production of vocal and instrumental audio with prominent use of time based effects (i.e. delay, reverb) to produce ambient music, digital arrangements of colliding analog synthesizers into a cohesive soundscape and reversed playback of digital audio files.

episode. an event or a group of events occurring as part of a larger sequence; an incident or period considered in isolation: the latest episode in the feud, each of the separate installments into which a serialized story or radio or television program is divided (6). For this CE it was the convergence of experimental music and conceptual art into a video format to recall particular time periods of my life.

humanities. learning or literature concerned with human culture, especially literature, history, art, music, and philosophy (7). As related to this CE the humanities were represented in my study of Christian education at Princeton Theological Seminary and my application of these studies to interpret my autobiographical elements within this project.

self-actualization. the realization or fulfillment of one's talents and potentialities, especially considered as a drive or need present in everyone (8).

music. vocal or instrumental sounds (or both) combined in such a way as to produce beauty of form, harmony, and expression of emotion (9).

music technology. as experienced within the Music Production, Technology and Innovation program at Berklee College of Music in Valencia, Spain. For this project, it was the use of digital audio workstations for the creation of music and its related practices. Software included ProTools, Ableton and analog instruments like the Doepfer A-100 and Moog Sub 37. Music technology is also related to digital video with use of Adobe After Effects, Vizzie within Max/MSP and digital cameras like the Canon 700D.

nonlinear. not linear, sequential, or straightforward; random (10). For this CE it is the invitation for viewers to watch the episodes of this digital story in any order they choose to as long they watch all the episodes in their entirety at least once.

(1) New Oxford American Dictionary. 2014

(2) Adrian Piper, What, Exactly, is the Idea of Artistic Research?

(3) New Oxford American Dictionary. 2014

(4) Information Age Education, Digital Storytelling.

(5) Andrew Lopez, Fred Rowland & Kathleen Fitzpatrick, “On Scholarly Communication and the Digital Humanities: An Interview with Kathleen Fitzpatrick, In the Library with the Lead Pipe.”

(6) New Oxford American Dictionary. 2014

(7) Ibid.

(8) Ibid.

(9) Ibid.

(10) Ibid.

Race is a digital story converging the method of correlation (from theology) and mind mapping. I was exposed to the method of correlation through study of German theologian Paul Tillich as a student in seminary. This method was useful for understanding polarities and finding balance between opposing themes. The practice of mind mapping was developed by educator Tony Buzan who was inspired by Leonardo DaVinci’s note taking strategies. Mind mapping was a key feature of my education during my graduate studies in music and connected to the pursuit of innovation and non-linear thinking. Race focuses on the words "black" and "white”, which are explored as racial concepts, as it offers profound and mundane connections made between the two words, inviting viewers to make their own conclusion at the story’s end.

Race - mind mapping photo (2015)

My first moments performing Race.

Special installation of Race at Rise Above: Art of the Counterculture. Curated by Trenton Punk Rock Flea Market. Artworks Trenton, Trenton, New Jersey - September 2017

 

This video still is the very last scene for the digital story Individuality. The words are taken from the famous Russian folk song “Korobushka”, which tell the story of a peddler boy and his self-conscious encounter with a mysterious girl. This English translation of the chorus lyrics point to an important issue related to the concept of individuality, which is the challenge of maintaining high self-esteem as one experiences being treated unfairly by others.

This installation for Individuality was on display at the Intramurs festival head quarters at Carrer del Comte de Trénor, 9, in València, Spain from October 20 - 30, 2016.

Audio from the digital story, Individuality.

 

Audio from the digital story episode, Love of God Audio Quotation Database.

My curatorial debut including the work of artists Jessica Brown-White (sculpture), Devonte Roach (film) and Marina de Bernado Sanchis (drawing) and my own work in the mediums of sound and writing. Together our works create multiple entry points for one to consider the character of love, God and the intersections of both in our ever changing world. This exhibition is in conjunction with the history of the Love of God Retreat Program of Lawrenceville, NJ. This will be on view from September 14 - October 19, 2019 at Artworks Trenton in Trenton, NJ.

 

Video still from the digital story episode, Peripheral Visions.

Peripheral Visions digital story episode reworked as an 11 x 17 in poster with magnifying glass, retitled as A Personal Reflection on Race. 1st place prize winner at 2018 Artworks Trenton Member’s Exhibition.

Gallery photo of the posters Becoming a Digital Humanist: An Autobiographical Nonlinear Digital Story for DHOxSS 2016 (left) and A Personal Reflection on Race (right) at Artworks Trenton, Trenton, New Jersey. December 2018

Full digital story episode, Becoming a Digital Humanist