DISCUSSANT: "Digital Humanities in Islamic Studies." NYU

Discussant for a panel “Digital Humanities in Islamic Studies”

Over the past few decades, Islamic Studies scholarship has been impacted by the incorporation of technological advances and tools. By using digital applications for visual imaging, modeling, mapping, and text and data mining, scholars are now able to analyze and reconstruct their corpus beyond the limitations of traditional methodologies. This panel will open a broad discussion about what new questions can be raised and addressed through these digital techniques. How do these new approaches challenge the traditional framing of different areas of Islamic Studies scholarship? When are these new approaches truly revolutionary, enabling innovative analysis; and when are they merely evolutionary, facilitating but not challenging the traditional methodologies?

  • Dr. Martina Rugiadi (Associate Curator, Islamic Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY)

  • Sharon Tai (Deputy Editor, SHARIAsource at ILSP, Harvard)

  • Prof. Oscar Aguirre-Mandujano (History, University of Pennsylvania)


  • Dr. Jared McCormick (DGS & Faculty Fellow Near Eastern Studies, NYU)

Contact and Convergence Poster.jpg

GROUP SHOW: Critical Media Practice - "Into Place." Harvard University


Presented an ongoing version of the digital platform, View from the View, which was the capstone for my Critical Media Practice concentration. A View from the View is an annotated interactive collection of postcards (3000+) motivated by larger research questions into visual cultures, representations of tourism, and issues of mobility in Lebanon. I hope to publically launch the platform by June 2020.

This inaugural exhibition presents the culminating work of graduate students pursuing the Critical Media Practice secondary field (CMP) from Harvard University. CMP enables students to incorporate artistic practices into their research, acknowledging that some forms of inquiry can be more fruitfully pursued through visual, aural, tactile, performative, or interactive means than through text alone.

The exhibition comprises a cinema program of film, sound, and performance works and a gallery show presenting installations and interactive projects. All are capstone projects created by graduating students or recent alumni in tandem with their dissertations in a range of disciplines. The opening show was April 26th, 2019 in Cambridge, MA.

Booklet here

Show Poster CMP.jpg

PARTICIPANT: Digital Humanities Summer Institute. University of Victoria, BC

Attended DHSI (Digital Humanities Summer Institute) workshop at the University of British Columbia, Victoria.

WORKSHOP I: Digital Humanities Pedagogy: Integration in the Curriculum
June 4-8th
During this workshop I hope to work on the further creation of a syllabus entitled: Digital Methodologies in Middle Eastern Studies (under development for NYU Spring 2019). This course is concerned with research design and methodologies that engage a digital landscape as process and product for students across the Social Sciences/Humanities. 

WORKSHOP II:  Critical Pedagogy and Digital Praxis in the Humanities
June 11-15
This workshop will add to further development of the aforementioned syllabus. As a group a small course was developed: Teaching Towards Activism: Empowering Students, Advocating for Change

PAPER: "Hotels that Hail: Commercialized Hospitality, Infrastructures, and an Industry." Sorbonne, Paris

Presentation: Hotels that Hail: Commercialized Hospitality, Infrastructures, and an Industry. Conference: “ARCHITECTURE ET TOURISME. FICTIONS, SIMULACRES, VIRTUALITES.” Sorbonne. Paris, France. July 2017. 

Hotels that Hail: Commercialized Hospitality, Infrastructures, and an Industry is structured around the establishment of the Hotel District near downtown Beirut. This area was marked by a hopscotching of spaces of luxury, financial investments, and hopes put into hotels and the spaces that were housed in/around these structures from the turn of the century until the Lebanese Civil War. The analysis centers on three hotels: The Holiday Inn, The Phoenicia Hotel and The Saint George Hotel. These three structures, like stepping stones of greater height, offerings of pleasures, and circulations of bodies, index periods in the development Beirut: French Mandate (1923), after Lebanese Independence (1946), and the start of the Lebanese Civil War (1975). This paper explores aspects of each hotel (form/structure), each a stone’s throw away in distance, but decades apart in time. I argue that these hotels were where hopes and expectations were housed in real concrete infrastructures and supported through the vicarious beams built through tourism. Beirut became a city marked by huge movements of people, goods, and ideas during this Golden Age of tourism, yet hotels were never just tourist spaces, or simply about hospitality, but were social institutions. These hotels were forms that had a certain “mode of address that hails and constitutes subjects by virtue of that form” (Larkin 2015). As such, this paper explores how these three hotels have blurred public/ private spaces, created new visibilities through conspicuous consumption, and the manner in which tangible infrastructure was connected to building an affective and financial infrastructure for bringing bodies together. These hotels hint at an important process of capitalization, realized in commercialized hospitality, that foreshadowed future conflict. The methods of this paper consider eras of hospitality to explore three dimensions: the frame of a specific geopolitical moment, the form of the built structure, and the figure in the individuals who were present and indexed. 
(This paper is a revised version of "Meteorology of Affect: Tourism, Hospitality, and Infrastructures of Pleasure in Lebanon" presented at NYU in 2015).

Sorbonne, Paris - July the 4th to 7th, 2017

Organizing institutions:
University of California in Berkeley
University of Geneva
University Paris 1-Panthéon-Sorbonne (EIREST)

The aim of this conference is to question and rethink the built environments constructed for and by tourism. Such environments are commonly rooted in cultural imaginaries that become spatialized as simulacra for the purpose of attracting tourists. Simulacra may mean the reinterpretation of a medieval village as a shopping mall or the wholesale recreation of Venice in Las Vegas, or it may stem from virtual realities that have been populated by folkloric traditions, contemporary popular culture or science fiction such as Disneyland, Star Wars, or East Asian “anime pilgrimages” destinations (Contents Tourism).

We question the ways in which fictions, simulacra, and virtualities express tourism in the built environment and vice versa. What is the relationship between the “real” and the “fake,” especially within the so-called tourist bubble? How are these tourist worlds performed, and what is at stake in these performances? Who benefits from the creation of these touristic worlds? How might tourism environments influence the daily practice of architecture?

Since its beginnings in the Industrial Revolution and a concurrent new stage in Western European imperialism, an era that heralded the rapid urbanization of Western Europe, the phenomenon of mass tourism inspired built environments that have a constitutive, and sometimes problematic, relationship with the “real” world and its architectural references. On the one hand, such environments re-interpret architectural and urban archetypes such as the ancient palace, the Renaissance villa, the Cairene street, or the Mediterranean village. On the other hand, they spatialize perceptions of utopia: among them, pristine environments, Shangri-La, El Dorado, Eden, and Paradise. In most cases these two situations occur simultaneously, creating idealised places inspired by dreamed or utopian ideas.

Tourists are not only the “consumers” of these idealised worlds; they co-produce and they constantly re-interpret them through their imaginaries and their practices. Globally ubiquitous practices of tourism are similarly inspired to build their simulacra based on their imaginaries of both the “traditional Western world” (Shenzen, Windows on the World) and their virtual worlds (Hindu Temple theme parks). If these tourism worlds have been inspired by actually existing places as well as imagined worlds, then they have also inspired, in their turn, the places in which we live, work, learn, shop, study or practice our leisure activities.

PAPER: "It’s all in the Blues: Watermarks, Re-circulation, and Tracking." Harvard University

Paper: It’s all in the Blues: Watermarks, Re-circulation, and Tracking.  
ConferenceSIZE MATTERS: Knowledge, Storage, and the History of Compression.
May 2017 / Harvard University

This presentation emerges from a larger Digital Humanities interface, A View from the View, which explores views of place, landscape, and tourism through postcards of the Middle East. Given this genre of tourism photography, and how postcards once circulated, I hope this digital platform allows scans of these materials to re-circulates today.

However, one hidden component is added to the scan of each image: an invisible watermark, unique to each photograph.  These are embedded in order to later aggregate where/when these images re-emerge across our digital landscapes. Thus, using a tracking device – imperceptible to the human eye, but “visible” to computer vision - hundreds of "barcodes" render the item unique, trackable, and seeable in new ways. I hope to subvert DRM (Digital Rights Management) to explore how well this “leash” works in tracking just as DRM also throws into question the photographic reproductions online, which are now new “documents” overlaid with hues of blue.

Keywords: watermark, tracking, DRM, circulation, invisible, vision
NOTE: Accentuated blue channel to make watermark “visible” (to us).

How you see it...

How you see it...

One way the Computer sees it... (accentuated blue channel)

One way the Computer sees it... (accentuated blue channel)


SIZE MATTERS: Knowledge, Storage, and the History of Compression

Does compression have a history?

Alongside a cognitive challenge of “too much to know,” information overload poses a physical challenge of “too much to store.” Indeed, the possibilities of “big data” today are predicated on technologies that compress data into ever “smaller” sizes. On the one hand, major libraries such as the NYPL, coping with spatial shortage, have increasingly emphasized the provision of digital resources – shifting physical collections off site, and in the process sparking heated debates with researchers. On the other hand, the possibilities of digital compression have given rise to a new imagination of the universal library. In the twenty-first century, the promise of access to all knowledge presumes not a sprawling Borgesian architecture of rooms and shelves, nor the singular point of the Borgesian Aleph, but a physically discontinuous infrastructure of servers distributed worldwide.

This conference seeks to cast light on our contemporary struggles over spatial management of data and information by excavating diverse histories of compression technologies. We seek to understand not only the contexts in which compression and spatial shortage emerge as a conscious criterion of knowledge management, but also the shifting concepts of “source,” “document,” “material,” and “object” implied by differing compression technologies, as well as the relation of changing storage spaces to their broader environment, natural and built. Particular questions of interest include:

  • When and for what grounds has the imperative to compress or “make smaller” been acknowledged as a critical factor for the management of knowledge? That is, what has propelled the consciousness of spatial shortage as a problem?

  • What technologies – from miniatures and small-format books to high-density shelving, microfilm, and digitization – have been developed to cope with this spatial problem?

  • What is the relation of said compression technologies to the architectural structures that support them, and in turn the relation of these structures to their broader environment (e.g., off-site storage, server farms)?

  • How have both these technologies and architectural structures affected access (e.g., cataloguing, search, and retrieval), as well as the broader research experience, including its attendant practices (e.g., the creation of “stacks” and the ability to browse them)?

  • What does this history reveal about the changing epistemic norms that govern preservation and loss? That is, what aspects of an object represent an essential knowledge to be preserved via “lossless” compression, and what aspects may be sacrificed as part of “lossy” compression?

Sponsored by: 
Mellon Fellowship for Critical Bibliography at RBS, University of Virginia
Critical Media Practice, Harvard University
Dept. of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University
History of the Book Seminar, Harvard University
Dept. of History of Science, Harvard University

INVITED TALK: "Overflowing Vessel: Finding Meaning through Tourism in the Middle East." University of PIttsburgh

Invited Talk: Overflowing Vessel: Finding Meaning through Tourism in the Middle East. Global Studies Center, University of PIttsburgh. April 2017.

Tourism, much like globalization, has become a bloated term. What makes up parts of a “tourism economy?” What do we mean when we refer to someone as a tourist? In this talk, from larger research across the Middle East, I will unpack different dimensions that the singular word often conceals to demonstrate the layered social/political issues that go into the term “tourism.”

In Lebanon I examine how Beirut is imagined as a “gay friendly” destination in the region – for whom? In what spaces? What type of history and circulation of media allows for such a narrative? Next, I pivot to address the changing context of Syrian workers in Lebanon in this moment that raises how terms of mobility move from that of migrant workers to refugee. Finally, I jump from Lebanon to the regional scale to speak of branding in the GCC. How might we disaggregate the massive developments of “tourism” across the Arabian Gulf nations, specifically Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and the Emirates?  Tens of billions of dollars are spent in order to “diversify” the economies resulting in huge infrastructures developments - as well as a threading of heritage and state-making through the development of the destination.

Overall, I illustrate how these contexts of tourism in the Middle East allow us to better understand larger issues of mobility across the globe - but also the layering of meanings that fill the category “tourism.” 

PAPER: "Cascades of Displacement: Kurdish Syrian Migrant Men in Beirut." Brown University

Presentation: "Cascades of Displacement: Kurdish Syrian Migrant Men in Beirut"
Conference:  "
Displacement and the Making of the Modern World." Center for Middle Eastern Studies. Brown University. April 2017.

This paper is based on fieldwork (2006-2013) with Syrian Kurdish laborers in the context of Beirut.  I historically/ethnographically address how we might think through layers of a longue durée of “displacement." Many of these men come from areas where Arabs were settled in the 60’s, had no formal “papers,” and grew up in a tenuous state in Syria. This was doubly complicated when climactic situations created waves of rural migration across Syria - and into neighboring Lebanon.  

In the context of Beirut many of these men were viewed like other “Syrian worker,” but as the Syrian conflict intensified the rhetoric of the refugee, the figure of the “Syrian Male,” and Kurdish nationalism overshadowed many of these men’s place in Lebanon. How can we think through examples of Kurdish migrant men (pre/during-conflict) to problematize waves of displacement and belonging? How does “displacement” mesh – and cojoin – with migration? How might we understand these relationships through a sliding scale that cascades, overflowing from moments and events, to larger phases of our lives? I will present ethnographic material to problematize displacement akin to waves, overlapping scales of time and place.


Through a yearlong series of workshops, seminars, courses, and cultural activities, Displacement and the Making of the Modern World will explore themes that integrate disparate studies of displacement.

No major field of scholarly inquiry, scientific endeavor, or literary and artistic expression is untouched by the ways that displacement has shaped the modern world. Indeed, it is fair to say that the modern disciplines in the liberal arts and their enduring concerns developed through a centuries-long productive tension between enabling this world and producing critical knowledge about it.

Yet, precisely because of its pervasiveness as a central element of the modern human experience, studies of or relating to displacement are fragmented and largely confined to silos of disciplinary and topical expertise. The central mission of this proposed seminar is to create an interdisciplinary commons, informed by the approaches and concerns of the humanities and interpretive social sciences, for the exploration of displacement not simply as a product of “other” forces, but as an engine for the formation of the modern world since the fifteenth century.

This Mellon Sawyer Seminar addresses three overarching themes: (1) Histories: Displacement as a global and historically enduring phenomenon; (2) Ecologies: Displacement as an environmental and technological phenomenon; and (3) Subjectivities: Displacement as an affective and discursive phenomenon. A common thread is a focus on displacement as formative of power relations of inclusion and exclusion.

Displacement and the Making of the Modern World pushes at the seams of the humanities, social sciences, and the natural and physical sciences by exploring long-term drivers of displacement.  The wager here is that focused interdisciplinary conversation about displacement as an enduring and global phenomenon integral to the making of the modern world can lay the seeds for imagining alternative futures.

PRESENTATION: "Historical Views of Tourism in Lebanon: From Metadata to Interface, A View from the View." CAA, NYC

Presentation: "Historical Views of Tourism in Lebanon: From Metadata to Interface, A View from the View." Panel: Rethinking Photographic Archives Online. College Art Association Conference. NYC, New York. Feb 2017. 

A View from the View is a project that explores visual ephemera of the tourism industry in Lebanon from 1900-1976 through postcards. Given that postcards are a genre of photography, they largely run in parallel to developments of photographic practices of the region—and worldwide. Yet, how did certain images/vistas/angles/views become iconic?

This project emerges from much larger ethnographic and historic questions (sensualities, sensibilities, and affects), and A View from the View presents a digital interface to recirculate these metonymies of tourism. On the website there are two iterations, Eddies and Reframing, as well as a fully downloadable database of all materials/metadata. Eddies is a GPS based interface that reconstructs views from postcards on a map—which renders an actual “field of vision.” Through a larger computational cycling, these fields overlap and intersect making discernable, through GIS, types of views over time. Reframing is an attempt to break each image’s composition using computer vision and image processing (Matlab) to assess borders of elements—water to sky, sky to land, land to water. This raises questions of what might be viewed as appropriate “touristic” imagery in different eras.

Through focusing on postcards, the significance of the interface is its ability to explore what is at stake in moving beyond a flat/static catalog of imagery. It allows for new explorations, juxtapositions, and circulation of a specific genre of historical photographic images. 


Time: 02/16/2017: 3:30PM–5:00PM
Location: Petit Trianon, 3rd Floor

Chair: Eleanor M. Hight, University of New Hampshire

The Marc Vaux Archive: A Case Study for Social Art Histories and the Digital Humanities
Pat Elifritz, Bard College

Overlooked Assets: Digitizing Original Samples in Early Photographic Manuals at the Library of Congress
Katherine Mintie, University of California, Berkeley

Historical Views of Tourism in Lebanon: From Metadata to Interface, A View from the View
Jared McCormick, Harvard University

Discussant: Nicholas B. Bauch, University of Oklahoma

Session Abstract:
While print has long been the accepted, and required, format for academic publications, in recent years there has been a movement to disseminate photographic research and archives online. The increase in the costs of print media has resulted in the decrease in production at academic publishers. And who can afford these photography books now anyway?

More important, however, is the search for new ways to interpret and provide broader access to photographic collections. This has led museums, libraries, archives, and scholars to develop innovative and thought-provoking digital projects. These projects offer great potential for creating an interdisciplinary and international forum for rethinking photography's impact on both art and the formulation of visual culture.
How might we look at photographs differently? In this session, participants will demonstrate how their websites present photographic material in ways that go beyond, "Here are our photographs. Do with them what you may."

How might new tools from the digital humanities and GIS mapping enable us to think creatively about photography and visual culture? What is the proper balance between access, interpretation, and didacticism? Project presentations and theoretical papers from across academic disciplines, including projects developed with students, as well as from museums, library archives, and independent research, are all welcome.

PARTICIPANT: "Gamification: Virtual & Augmented Reality in Research and Scholarship Workshop." Harvard University

Participant: "Gamification and Virtual & Augmented Reality in Research and Scholarship Workshop." Harvard University Jan 20-22, 2017

I'm particularly interested in exploring the techniques/technologies of "Gamification" for how it might enter the classroom. I've developed a course over the last year, Digital Methodologies, that presents new approaches to research design pre-fieldwork, and I hope to specifically explore how to integrate ways of thinking/making from this workshop into this course.

Workshop led by Johanna Pirker of the University of Graz. The workshop will provide a hands-on introduction to the basic principles of using gamification and immersive environments. Participants will learn game design and engagement theory and explore how these methods can be integrated into research, circulation of knowledge, and teaching. The workshop will look at how game engines can be used to create 3D-visualizations and augmented and virtual experiences without the need of programming skills. Students will work together in small groups to learn how to create first and simple playful experiences, 3D-models, visualizations and augmented and virtual applications. 

PARTICIPANT: "UNABRIDGED: A Master Class in Library Research." Harvard University

Participant: "UNABRIDGED: A Master Class in Library Research." Harvard University. Jan 2017.

5-day workshop run by various Librarians at Harvard to improve research workflows and management. Included: citation managers, archives, searching, digital workflows, visualizations, and copyright issues for scholars. Much of my time in the workshop was spent thinking how to involve these skills/programs/techniques into the classroom - as well as my own reserach. 

For more information (and many helpful resources) see the UNABRIDGED website at the Harvard Libraries.

INVITED TALK: ​ "Historical Views of Tourism in Lebanon: From Metadata to Interface, A View from the View." UC Berkeley

Invited Talk: HISTORICAL VIEWS OF TOURISM IN LEBANON: From Metadata to Interface, A View from the View. The Tourism Studies Working Group and the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, UC Berkeley. Dec 2016.

This presentation presents a digital platform built around historical visions of tourism in Lebanon. The database was built from a private collection and motivated by larger research questions in my dissertation of sensuality, imagination, and conceptions of place from a 70-year period of physical-mobility-for-pleasure in Lebanon. This talk encompasses the conceptualization, building, and pitfalls of producing a Digital Humanities project parallel to traditional research. How does materiality come to play? What meaningful categories of metadata emerged for inclusion in a database? What is gained and lost in building a database for public distribution, especially around issues of memory and nostalgia? How does an interactive database/project elicit end user experiences through computational processes which is beyond the scope of our writing?

PAPER: "Of Cars, Bridges, Rivers, and Borders: Syrian (Kurdish) Men in Naba’a." MESA

Paper: "Of Cars, Bridges, Rivers, and Borders: Syrian (Kurdish) Men in Naba’a." Panel: Cities & Histories at the Periphery: Borj Hammoud of Greater Beirut, 1970 - 2016. Middle Eastern Studies Association. Boston, Nov 2016.

This paper explores the neighborhood of Naba’a ethnographically through Syrian male migrant men, focusing on 2008-2013. The analysis centers on how this district became known as a Syrian/Kurdish/migrant neighborhood through notions of place making, and the strategies and tactics used by these men in the larger area of Borj Hammoud before the Syrian Crisis. 

Given that Naba’a was one node for receiving Beirut’s continual Syrian labor, part of this analysis centers on their living situations. Of particular interest are the networks through which they procured housing, as well as the processes of negotiation rent, and dealing with landlords in a neighborhood that is imbricated in the context of Lebanese sectarian politics. Also central to this inquiry were how/when/where these men were mobile in the larger municipality - especially during a time of sporadic events of street fights/violence (most often between (Syrian) Kurds & (Lebanese) Armenian). What ensued were increasing security: bike police patrols to coordinated sweeps “under the bridge,” an emergent border that divided the neighborhood in the late 90s, to coordinated army sweeps in the streets of Naba’a at night.

Many of these men were newer immigrants since 2000, due to an intensifying drought in NE Syria. Thus, it was not just the larger threat of the Syrian male body (common in Lebanon), but also the category of the “Kurd” that emerged in the larger Borj Hammoud municipality. How Kurdish men understood their own identity during this time becomes linked to an analysis of this neighborhood where a huge population of them found footing, community, and entry to Beirut. This analysis also considers the specificity of this location, a neighborhood part of Borj Hammoud, but in many ways bounded by the confines of a bridge, a freeway, and the wall of a river.

Cities & Histories at the Periphery: Borj Hammoud of Greater Beirut, 1970 - 2016

This panel brings together an interdisciplinary group of scholars who will present historical and ethnographic work on Borj Hammoud, a working class suburb of Beirut, Lebanon. From the histories of sect-affiliated service provision and its impact on shaping ideas of sectarian identity and belonging; to the material, social and political connections between urban processes in Borj Hammoud and Beirut's southern suburbs; to the role of the 1958 civil conflict in reshaping political geographies in Beirut's eastern sector, to the politics of informality; and the role of mobile, expendable bodies, most often male, in maintaining failing infrastructures in often unexpected ways - this panel reveals the ways in which Borj Hammoud's human and material infrastructures are deeply enmeshed in wide ranging transnational movements and circulations and economic, social and political processes in Lebanon and beyond. Despite its longstanding status as an urban hub for rural and transnational migration, Borj Hammoud remains peripheral to urban studies of the greater Beirut region. Various waves of migration and displacement, from Armenian refugees of the Ottoman era genocide, to Palestinians after 1948, Shi'a from the south of Lebanon in the 1950s, and subsequent and continual movements of Syrian, Kurdish and other migrant workers, have frequently transformed the character of this highly diverse, densely populated commercial and residential district. The papers in this panel seek to explore the ways in which the histories and contemporary conditions of life in this suburb reveals frequently overlooked yet critically important political, social and economic histories of Lebanon today. In all four papers and discussion, scholars on this panel take up the materialities of place and space in the making and unmaking of broader political and social processes in Lebanon today, showing how this apparently "peripheral" space and the peripheralization of suburbs more generally, are highly productive of political and social inequalities, processes and movements in the Lebanese state, the region, and internationally. As is often the case, the periphery is not far from the center.

Narrating Beirut from its Peripheries: A View from Nab‘ah/Bourj Hammoud (1950-1975) by Fawaz, Mona

Of Cars, Bridges, Rivers, and Borders: Syrian (Kurdish) men in Naba’a by McCormick, Jared

The 1958 (Armenian) Civil War in Beirut by Nalbantian, Tsolin

The End(s) of Informality in Borj Hammoud by Nucho, Joanne