Gary King: Reverse Engineering Chinese Censorship


On March 6th at 4:15 the Digital and Computational Knowledge Initiative is very happy to be hosting Professor Gary King, the Albert J. Weatherhead III University Professor at Harvard University. A member of the Department of Government there, King is one of the most impressive thinkers and researchers into the social scientific possibilities of Big Data.

He will speak on “Reverse Engineering Chinese Censorship”, a talk that will describe how he and his collaborators were able to harvest vast amounts of data and then analyze and test the effects and policy implications of the Chinese government’s censorship of social network information.

Please announce this talk to your students and try to come yourself.

King’s website

Event Poster

Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives


On February 12th, Wesleyan will have the chance to hear one of the the nation’s most prominent advocates for shaking up the social sciences with the possibilities of quantitative methods and models. Nicholas Christakis will be here to discuss his passion for the power of social networks. His talk is called “Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives.”

Nicholas Christakis is the Sol Goldman Family Professor of Social and Natural Science at Yale University. Tellingly, he holds appointments both in the Sociology Department and the School of Medicine. His work has frequently been in the news. He and his collaborators often use large-scale quantitative analysis to understand the nature of social and pscho-social behaviours, for instance examining the nature of medical prognoses or the effects of bereavement. Most prominently, he has studied the role of social networks in explaining the demographic and epidemiological characteristics of such things as obesity, quitting smoking, and happiness itself. He has showed how much whom you know will determine many of your key medical characteristics and behaviours and how they might change.

Christakis Lab at Yale :

TED talk:

NYT op-ed:

Viral Textuality: Uncovering Reprinting Networks in Nineteenth-Century Newspapers

I’m delighted to tell you that Ryan Cordell, Assistant Professor of English at Northeastern University, will be coming to Wesleyan on Thursday, November 21st at 4:30 to give a talk on his work and share his perspective on digital scholarship. Ryan has routinely contributed to thinking on digital matters in research and in the undergraduate curriculum as you can see from his writing for the Chronicle of Higher Education among other venues.

The title of his talk is “Viral Textuality: Uncovering Reprinting Networks in Nineteenth-Century Newspapers.” The project has been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities and is described here:

Cordell’s research reflects the best possibilities in the digital humanities. He writes literary history. He collaborates to do so, with computer scientists among others, and he’s revealing new phenomena with old methods and new.

Alongside traditional means of interpretation and contextualization, Cordell takes big data—newspapers for instance—and applies the latest text mining and network analysis to trace key parts of nineteenth century US culture, as they went viral via contemporary social media.

Learn about his exciting research, his innovative methods, and one path for digital research.

The talk will be in the Downey House lounge. Hope to see you there.

If you would like to meet Ryan to discuss specific methodological issues in teaching or scholarship, just tell me and I’ll try to arrange it.



Introduction to Geographic Information Systems

October 29, 12:00-2:00, PAC 100.
Short presentation followed by hands-on workshop introducing fundamental concepts and skills to begin using a GIS. Good for beginner or for current GIS users that want to update to ArcGIS 10.2. Participants may attend all or a portion of the workshop – feel free to bring your lunch with you. Topics include: what kind of analyses GIS can be used for, getting data into a GIS, querying data by location and attributes, simple data analysis and visualization, creating a map for export.

WesGIS event

Digital and Computational Knowledge Initiative – Philip Stern Workshop

As part of the Digital and Computational Knowledge Initiative, we’re going to have a workshop on May 13th starting at 3:30 in Allbritton 311.

The focus will be on how tools like GIS (Geographic Information Systems) among others can help us to analyze and visualize complex data, whether derived from texts or physical spaces.

Philip Stern, Assistant Professor of History at Duke University, and a graduate of the Wesleyan class of 1997, will anchor the workshop by discussing his first attempts at coping with this complex subject. His remarks are called “Seeing the Past, Visualizing the Future: Possibilities (and Challenges) of Digital Mapping for the Humanties, Social Science, and Beyond”. Phil has a strong interest in cartography for his next current book project, but is very interested as well in the use of network models and the analysis of political and legal texts, all of which he’s been exploring at the Humanities Center at Duke, where he co-directs one of their experimental Humanities Labs, called Borderworks. Within that Lab, research and teaching are tightly knit and the teaching possibilities of digital methods are clear.

Here are some links he considers useful to see what he’s playing at:

Philip Stern has just won a sizeable three-year grant from the Mellon Foundation as part of their New Directions initiative for developing his skills and work in this direction and the workshop is imagined as way we can help him as much as he help introduce us to his project and the techniques he’s considering bringing to his questions. Wesleyan expertise on early modern geography and GIS will be on hand to contribute to our conversation about what’s possible.

Phil received his PhD from Columbia University and his first book, The Company-State: Corporate Sovereignty and the Early Modern Origins of the British Empire in India (Oxford University Press, 2011) won a major prize from the American Historical Association. The substance of his work consistently engages legal, geographical, intellectual, and economic issues within the historical framework.

I hope you can come out to discuss his ideas, our own ideas about how best to advance methods of visualization across the university and within the curriculum, and even if you just were wondering a bit about what GIS is and what it might do for you.

Learning by Making: Digital Methods and the Wired! Experiment at Duke University



I’m happy to invite you, as part of the new Digital and Computational Knowledge Initiative, to attend a workshop, or some part of it, led by Duke University professors Caroline Bruzelius and Mark Olson. Caroline is the Anne M. Cogan Professor of Art History and Mark is assistant professor of Visual and Media Studies. They collaborate in Duke’s Wired! Project. While the point is to enlarge our imaginations about teaching possibilities in this digital age, there’s no question that those interested in visual and material culture will find much to intrigue.

Their presentations and our subsequent conversations will take place on March 6 from 9:30-11:30 in Usdan 110. Light breakfast will be provided at 9:00.

The title of their presentation is Learning by Making: Digital Methods and the Wired! Experiment at Duke University

Here is a summary of their project: “Mark Olson and Caroline Bruzelius are founding members of the Wired! Group ( at Duke, a team of teachers and scholars who work closely with graduate and undergraduate students in developing a new model of teaching in the Humanities that engages technology to ask new questions about material culture in the historical past. The Wired! group aims towards integrating technology into traditional courses, as well as developing new fields of study that engage with technology to stimulate different kinds of engagement with the places and artifacts of the past. Since 2009 the Wired! team has offered courses and workshops to assist graduate students and colleagues in “bridging the digital divide” and in acquiring skills for digital scholarship. In 2012 and 2013, these 2-week workshops have been held at the digital laboratory that the Wired! group created at Venice International University.

Wired! sponsors a series of long-term research initiatives that unite both on-going scholarship with courses. Among these projects are Visualizing Venice ( and a series of inquiries around the theme of reconstructing contexts for objects – such as the works of ancient and medieval art that fill American and European museums.”