Claudia Berger, Quinn Dombrowski, Jojo Karlin, Alix Keener, Anne Ladyem McDivitt, Amanda Visconti, and Jacque Wernimont, June 29th 2023
In January 2022, the hashtag #DHMakes got some traction on DH Twitter, as a way to celebrate the creativity of the DH community, which is often infused with and shaped by their digital humanities work.
For ACH 2023, a group of us (Claudia Berger, Quinn Dombrowski, Jojo Karlin, Alix Keener, Anne Ladyem McDivitt, Amanda Visconti, and Jacque Wernimont) got together to attempt an "alternate format" contribution that would create a virtual curated collection of making shared across the now-fragmented social media platforms of digital humanities, and also involve a collaborative making project.
We had just one synchronous brainstorming session that led to more ideas than we were ultimately able to implement. The group project coalesced around the idea of "DH Scouts", and a vest with badges on it in the spirit of Girl Scouts. It also had pockets, ideologically, in protest of the widespread absence of functional pockets in "women's" clothing.
In addition, we crowdsourced suggestions for logos of "dead" DH projects: including tools/infrastructure that had been shut down, projects that were no longer maintained (and/or whose websites had lapsed), and organizations that were defunct. We printed these logos onto fabric and sewed them into a dress for Dr. Cheese Bones (of DH/ACH 2019 fame, and the Textile Makerspace mascot) to wear.
The back of the vest, as well as the pockets, are interpretations of Jojo Karlin's doodle on the theme of "DH animals".
The images in the doodle have to do with some of the mascots that circulate in digital humanities spaces: Digital Manatees (which began as a curious mishearing of Digital Humanities), the Humanities Commons platypus, the DHSI crow, a Twitter bird communing with a Mastodon. The team brainstormed a peaceable kingdom of curious creatures to complement the activity of DH.
At the Textile Makerspace, Quinn used the Brother KH-940 knitting machine, recently hacked using the All Yarns Are Beautiful hardware and software, to render the doodle in knitting, which forms the lower back of the vest.
The pockets are an automated embroidery design conversion from a SVG version of the doodle. It wasn’t optimized at all in terms of which pieces were embroidered in which order, so there were running threads all over. Those threads were trimmed on one of the pockets, but not the other, for a glitch-art effect.
Zine card deck
The pockets are exactly the right size to hold Amanda’s zine card deck.
Anne Ladyem needle felted an ACH logo, which Quinn sewed (using a decorative leaf stitch) onto a backing and attached it to the vest using Velcro to make the whole piece washable.
Claudia Berger sewed a miniature quilt patch that visualized the top terms in ACH 2023 session titles, with metadata for each section on the backside. Quinn attached it to the vest only at the top, so it can be flipped up for metadata visibility.
Alix Keener is working on loop fastenings for the vest made out of finger-woven craft loops that will visualize the #DHMakes contributions from across social media during the conference.
Jacque Wernimont hoped to get these made as buttons that could go on the vest: "The idea is that they are status cards that share the kind of work is one doing now. They obviously evoke tarot cards, but are not designed to tell any futures 🙂 but to reflect a present, though of course one could go in all kinds of directions."
Dr. Cheese Bones modeled the outfit, requiring an arm-socket repair in the process.
Making together, at a distance
In addition to our one synchronous Zoom call, we had an ongoing email thread where we kept in touch with updates, images, and words of encouragement. Seeing each other’s pieces as they were completed helped motivate us to finish our pieces, as well as to confirm where/when to mail them!
The vest will likely take on a life as a traveling object, accruing new adornments along the way. Look for it at a future virtual or in-person DH conference!