This paper outlines an attempt to migrate some humanistic research into the cloud. This undertaking raises a number of questions, but it will be clarifying to focus on two: why would humanists want to use the cloud and why should the cloud have more active humanists on it? In order to properly answer these questions, the paper first examines what we mean by “the cloud” when we talk about it in our roles as academic research computing specialists; second, by laying out my particular use case’s processes and products in this context; and finally, by reflecting on why this might be significant for both research computing and what is broadly called the digital humanities.
A Rice University undergraduate astrophysics student, Adolfo Carvalho, worked with a humanities researcher, John Mulligan, in the summer of 2018 to develop a framework for simulating what the Romantic astronomer William Herschel would have seen during nearly any of his observational runs. This simulation serves the historical purpose of bringing to life archival data that was produced by the Herschel siblings William and Caroline, who are credited with having invented the modern science of cosmology. From a media studies perspective, the use of intensive computational resources to produce boring, accurate, real-time simulations of William Herschel’s observations helps us to confront our default mode of conflating visual complexity with reality in the era of big data. At the intersection of data science, the history of science, and media studies, the project proposes the aesthetics of boredom as a means of dwelling with the sense of big data as “big” relative to modes of knowledge production.
This paper contributes to the evolving body of literature diagnosing the ‘business-like’ transformation of American medicine by historicising and recuperating the concepts of medical leadership and the corporation. In an analysis of the evolving uses of ‘leadership’ in medical literature, we argue that the term’s appeal derives from its ability to productively articulate the inevitable conflicts that arise between competing values in corporations, and so should be understood as a response to the neoliberal corporation’s false resolutions of conflict according to the single value of profit (or consumer welfare for the business-like non-profit). Drawing on mid-century theories of the corporation to reframe dominant social histories of medical corporatisation, we go on to argue that large medical institutions are productive sites for deliberation over the medical profession’s social contract. Our primary case study for this longer historical and broader theoretical argument is the MD Anderson Cancer Center, the world’s foremost treatment hospital for patients with cancer. We hold that the historical trajectory that led to MD Anderson’s exceptional but exemplary place in the evolution of American corporate medicine is reflective of historical trends in the practice.
A multidisciplinary team at Rice University transformed the Texas Medical Center (TMC) Library’s collection of rare anatomy atlases into a physical-digital, human-sized atlas-of-atlases. The Electronic Vesalius installation gives these old books new life, informed by contemporary media theory and the centuries of medical and aesthetic criticism provoked by these multimedia image-texts.
WILLIAM Blake’s 1805 print, Newton , holds an exemplary status in accounts of the artist’s ideological relationship to the natural sciences, specifically in the wake of their mathematization by Isaac Newton and his philosophical inheritors. That relationship and the picture’s composition are both described in terms of a dialectical opposition between empirical chaos and abstract order. The setting appears to be the bottom of the ocean; the background is shrouded in obscurity. In the foreground, on the left, we see a coral reef, particoloured and textured semi-randomly; in the middle, on a projecting ledge of the reef, sits Newton, his musculature sculpted with an almost geometric crispness; he faces right, hunched over, intently measuring a simple geometric figure (a triangle with an inscribed arc) with a golden compass. 1 Donald Ault articulates the ideological implications of this tripartite division as an attempt to submit chaos to order, tragi-comically productive of its opposite: [Newton] is constructing a limited, fixed, and unchanging model of his fundamental bodily experiences to stave off the sense of the dissolving quality of the outer world. Yet … it is this very act of constructing the model that separates the world into inner and outer, definite and indefinite, action and background, symmetry and asymmetry. The background is both the cause and the effect of the central action. 2 The fear of chaos and the obsession with order both, ultimately, produce an impoverished, undifferentiated experience.
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