Site-wide links

COLA Connections Newsletter

« Back to Newsletter

The Digital Humanities Distinguished Speaker Series

Digital Humanities Distinguished Speaker Series

Beginning March 21, the College of Liberal of Arts, the RIT Project for the Digital Humanities and the Gannett Endowment for the Humanities will present Where Text and Code Collide: The Digital Humanities Distinguished Speaker Series. The three-part series will highlight the intersection between the humanities and science and technology.

Lisa Hermsen, an Associate Professor in the English Department, organized the event and oversaw the selection of the speakers. It's a project that's important to COLA and has been generating a lot of internal enthusiasm.

"It's really, really exciting," said Hermsen. "It was interesting because all three people we contacted were thrilled to come. They were all excited about RIT and visiting RIT."

The first speaker will be Matt Knutzen, who works for the Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division of the New York Public Library. Knutzen's work focuses on georectification, the process of digitally overlaying old atlas sheets and maps on top of modern maps.

The work received the 2012 Cutting Edge Technology in Library Services Award. What has many, including Hermsen, so excited is the project's interactivity.

"What's really great is they've got the public involved," said Hermsen. "It helps us think about what our own library can do in terms of its collections and how we might get the RIT community involved."

For Rosalind Picard the marriage of the humanities and technology resides in affective computing. Her research into human and computer interactions, as well as developing technology that responds to human emotions, has been used for communication research in the neurotypical and autism spectrum communities.

"They're actually working on wearable technology that reads emotions," said Hermsen. "It helps you think about how humans interact with computers and why we love or hate our computers on different days."

The series' final speaker, Katherine Behar, addresses the encroaching nature of technologies in a series of performance mediums that express the sensuous nature of digital media. Behar's work has appeared at various prestigious venues including the Chicago Cultural Center and Swiss Institute of Rome.

"These are three people who are really on the cutting edge of what digital can do with the public," said Hermsen. "It's really great we were able to get [them]."

The series has a distinctively RIT flavor; even the font for the promotional posters are tied to the campus. They use Lucida Sans Unicode, a font that was developed at RIT by Charles Bigelow and Kris Holmes.

The college sees the series reaching out the broader community, however, in the spirit of the speakers.

"We want the speaker series to reach out to a wide audience; the general audience at RIT as well as beyond," said Hermsen.

As the digital humanities continues to gain attention around the world, COLA stands poised to take a leading role due to its unique surroundings and circumstances.

"One of the amazing things about RIT is that it has a full college of liberal arts in a technical institution," said Hermsen. "A lot of small liberal arts colleges are trying to do digital humanities but they have to contract out for the technology.

The Digital Humanities Distinguished Speaker Series begins with speaker Matt Knutzen on March 21 at 8:00 pm in Max Lowenthall Hall, 12-3215. The series continues with Rosalind Picard on April 3 at 8:00 pm in 76-1125 and concludes with Katherine Behar on May 2 at 8:00 pm in 76-1125.

For more information, visit