Fractured Land Author to Speak at the University of North Dakota

On Thursday, October 30th, Lisa Peters the author of Fractured Lands will speak in the East Asia Room of the Mighty Chester Fritz Library.  The book has received a positive review from the Minneapolis Star Tribune and I’ve offered my thoughts on it here.


While making a poster for the book, I took a few minutes to think about the font used on the cover. I think it’s a version of Cochin, but it’s clearly a transitional serif font. I suspect the use of this font for book covers is designed to evoke the cover of Larry Potter books which used a version of Cochin to evoke the fantastic and anachronistic world of the young wizard (or whatever he is). As someone who wrote a fairly long dissertation and endless articles under the oppressive gaze of Times New Roman, I’m sort of over transitional serif fonts. I can vaguely grasp the point of it on the cover. I suppose it is designed to evoke tensions between her father’s fascination with North Dakota oil and her own desire to move forward into a greener, more environmentally friendly world.  

Ironically, the book is set in a modern serif font, Escrow, made famous by the Wall Street Journal. I thought that was a nice touch, considering the topic of the book! I might have dumped the Larry Potteresque title and run an old style serif font like Garamond throughout. I like the intimacy of the Classical/Old Style fonts and I think they’d be fitting for a memoire. 

Font situation aside, her talk should be good fun. I’m donating some of my time from North Dakota Humanities Council affairs to organizing this talk, so it’s sponsored by the NDHC.

Here’s the link to the live stream on the day of the talk.


Matthew Kirschenbaum Lecture at UND Today

The UND Working Group in Digital & New Media is happy to present “Track Changes: A Literary History of Word Processing,” A Virtual Talk by Matthew Kirschenbaum. The talk is free and open to the public and will take place at 4pm on Wednesday, April 16 in the East Asian Room in the Chester Fritz Library. You should be able to stream his talk here.

KirschenbaumFlyer pdf

Matthew G. Kirschenbaum is Associate Professor in the Department of English at the University of Maryland and Associate Director of the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH, an applied think tank for the digital humanities). He is also an affiliated faculty member with the Human-Computer Interaction Lab at Maryland, and a member of the teaching faculty at the University of Virginia’s Rare Book School. Kirschenbaum served as the first director of the new Digital Cultures and Creativity living/learning program in the Honors College at Maryland.

A 2011 Guggenheim Fellow, Kirschenbaum specializes in digital humanities, electronic literature and creative new media (including games), textual studies, and postmodern/experimental literature. He has a Ph.D. in English from the University of Virginia, and was trained in humanities computing at Virginia’s Electronic Text Center and Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities (where he was the Project Manager of the William Blake Archive). His dissertation was the first electronic dissertation in the English department at Virginia and one of the very first in the nation.

Kirschenbaum’s first book, Mechanisms: New Media and the Forensic Imagination, was published by the MIT Press in early 2008 and went on to receive numerous awards. Kirschenbaum serves on the editorial or advisory boards of a number of projects and publications, including Postmodern Culture, Text Technology, Textual Cultures, MediaCommons, and futureArch. His work has received coverage in the Atlantic, New York Times, National Public Radio, Wired, Boing Boing, Slashdot, and the Chronicle of Higher Education. For more information, see his website.

A Lecture Today and The Magic of Bonus Points

At 4 pm today, the Working Group in Digital and New Media is hosting Ed Ayers, Professor of History and President of the University of Richmond, for a talk titled “20 Years in Digital History” at the Gorecki Alumni Center on the beautiful, spring-drenched campus of the University of North Dakota. For more details, check out the flyer at the bottom of this post.

Following regular procedure, we encouraged students to attend, then we cajoled them to doing something on campus that was free and better than whatever they had planned to do instead, then as the excuses roll in (work, class, family, everyday life, cereal, whatever), we finally resort to bribery. 

Traditionally, I’ve offered 1 million points to students who attend campus events like ice hockeying contests, weekend parties, and, of course, academic lectures. I’ll do almost anything to encourage students to engage in the life of campus. The key thing about these points is that they are not just ordinary points; they’re bonus points.

Bonus points are magical. While mathematically they work the same as regular points, they have an allure that can draw even the most disengaged student to a torpid ice hockeying contest or the most anti-intellectual curmudgeon to a on campus lecture. To use the words of contemporary university administration, bonus points are “transformational.”

The remarkable thing is, bonus points are like Dumbo’s feather. They really aren’t any different from the normal points that students consistently disregard, mock, resist, and ultimately hemorrhage over the course of a semester. For example, my history 101 class is rapt by the potential bonus points earned at the lecture tonight. This is the same class where I have to constantly remind students to put their names on the work they submit for ordinary points.

I suppose the magic of bonus points is that they preserve the illusion of being something for nothing. This is the same class where students take significant exception to the possibility that a student in their group would get credit (ordinary points, mind you), without doing their share of work. They will gladly accept bonus points, however, on the allure of getting something for nothing.

In any event, I decided to offer these same bonus points to anyone who attends the lecture, whether they are in my class or not. 

Ayers Talk Flyer pdf


Some up coming events

While usually I recommend that people spend their time reading my blog, other blogs, or waiting for my blog or other blogs to post, I do concede that occasionally folks need to go out and, you know, do stuff.

Fortunately, there is stuff to do next week here in Grand Forks, North Dakota. First, there is the 45th Annual Writers’ Conference which will take place that the North Dakota Museum of Art on the beautiful campus of the University of North Dakota. The theme is “Imagine: A Literary Festival on the Prairie” and here’s a link to the schedule for it.

It has a sweet poster:

2014 WC poster

But, wait, there’s more! On April 9th the Working Group in Digital and New media is hosting Ed Ayers, digital history pioneer and President of the University of Richmond, at the Gorecki Alumni Center at 4 pm.

Here’s the press release:

Leader in Digital History Comes to Campus… Virtually

On April 9th noted Civil War historian and digital pioneer Edward Ayers, President of the University of Richmond, will look back on “20 Years of Digital History”. As is fitting for a pioneer in digital history, Ayers will visit campus digitally via a live video feed from the University of Richmond’s campus. His talk will present a sweeping overview of the developments in digital history.

President Ayers talk coincides with the ongoing commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. Professor Eric Burin, UND’s own Civil War Historian and historical database guru, noted:

“Ayers’s is one of the premier scholars on the Civil War Era. His “Valley of the Shadow” project revolutionized research on the Civil War. It not only made available countless historical documents; it allowed researchers to navigate those documents in an almost infinite number of ways. Thanks to Ayers’s path-breaking work, every researcher can offer “alternative readings” of the war.”

Ayers’ work in digital history has received national accolades including the 2013 National Medal for the Humanities awarded by Barak Obama in the White House, the Bancroft Prize, Beveridge Prize, and has been a finalist for the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. As a teacher he has been recognized as the National Professor of the Year from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and his digital history projects have been used in classrooms around the world. He is also the co-host of BackStory, a nationally syndicated radio show that ties history to the present day.

The talk is sponsored by the Working Group in Digital and New Media and the College of Arts and Sciences. Joel Jonientz, Associate Professor of Art and Design and the Chair of the Working Group in Digital and New Media, notes that the innovative ways of bring a speaker like Ayers to UND is :

“.. fitting that we’re using digital technology to bring one of the most renowned digital historians to campus. It gives the UND community the chance to interact and learn from a global scholar in the humanities, and to think about the future of the past.”

Cyprus Research Fund Lecture Tomorrow: Archaeologies of Décor by Dr. Sarah Lepinski

Despite dueling blizzards here and on the east coast, the Cyprus Research Fund Lecture appears to be on schedule (more or less) to go off as planned tomorrow.

We got a snazzy write-up on the campus news feed and we have a snazzy flyer:

CyprusResearchFund2014 pdf

For those of you in the neighborhood, you need to brave the cold and come  and check out the talk at 4 pm tomorrow in the East Asia Room of the Mighty Chester Fritz Library.

For those of you on the East Coast, recovering from sinus surgery, or in Denver for the ice hockeying contests, you can listen to the LIVE feed of the talk right here.

Making an App for That: A Conversation with Sam Fee on Developing In-field Applications for Archaeology

On Friday at 11 am, Prof. Sam Fee, from Washington and Jefferson College will speak via the internets with the UND community in the Working Group in Digital and New Media Lab (O’Kelly 203). His talk is titled “Making an App for That: A conversation with Prof. Samuel Fee on developing in-field applications for archaeology”. The talk will be a conversation between me, Sam, and anyone who wants to join us from the audience.

I’ve known Sam Fee for over 20 years and he has an inspiring knack for making the complex simple and teaching archaeological methods, practices, and theories. He was one of the first archaeological bloggers who I followed regularly, and I have admired his accomplishments as a photographer

At UND, he’ll talk about the development of the PKApp which is the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project’s custom web/tablet application for trench side data collection.  We alpha/beta tested this summer on a bunch of iPad generously provided by Messiah College and wrote a short descriptive and technical piece on our experiences for Near Eastern Archaeology (that I think will appear this month).   

So come by the Working Group Lab (O’Kelly 203) at 11 am on Friday to check out Sam Fee.


Kyle Cassidy Visit and Lecture

I’m pretty excited to welcome photographer Kyle Cassidy to campus tomorrow. He’s a well-known photographer and author from Philadelphia who reached out to me and Bret Weber about our man camp project (via Kostis Kourelis!). He’ll be joining us out in the man camps over the weekend for a whirlwind documentation, photography, and adventure trip. (It’s an adventure trip since Richard Rothaus will be joining us.) We see his work as a potentially important contribution to the North Dakota Man Camp Collective.

Kyle will be giving a talk on campus tomorrow at noon in the East Asia Room at the Chester Fritz Library. Since it appeared in the Grand Forks Herald yesterday, it’ll be huge.


Here’s what his talk is on:

Kyle Cassidy talks about the process of visual storytelling, drawing from his published works, photo essays, and gallery shows. He’ll discuss how the medium has changed over the past decade into a much richer environment, how academics and artists can embrace and use this, connect to larger audiences and how the new mechanisms can be used to fund and facilitate research.

Here’s who he is:

Kyle Cassidy has been documenting America since the 1990s. He has photographed mobsters, music subcultures, politicians, dominatrices, scholars, and science fiction fans. His projects have extended abroad to Romania, where he captured the lives of homeless orphans living in sewers; and to Egypt, where he reported on archaeological excavations. His documentary photography book Armed America: Portraits of Gun Owners in Their Homes was awarded’s “Best 100 Books of 2007 “Best 10 Art Books of 2007 medals and won rave reviews from both Field and Stream as well as the Washington Post. His most recent book War Paint: Tattoo Culture and the Armed Forces tells the stories of veterans body art. Currently he is working on a book project entitled Where I Write: Fantasy and Science Fiction Authors in Their Creative Spaces as well as a collection of portraits of roller derby players.

Here’s who is sponsoring his talk:

Working Group in Digital and New Media and Department of History


Three Upcoming Events in the North Dakota Cold

The next few weeks are going to be pretty hectic around here, but in a good way. There three events with varying degrees of publicity that I want to make know today.

1. Dan Graham’s Rock My Religion. To get us in the mood for Punk Archaeology, I am going to do an informal viewing of Dan Graham’s important 1984 video at noon on February 1st in the Working Group for Digital and New Media’s Lab (203 O’Kelly Hall). The video runs about 50 minutes and we expect some conversation afterward. Bring your lunch.

Kostis blogged about this video way back in 2009 when it was screened again at the MoCA in L.A., the Whitney in New York, and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. While these screenings featured shows by Thurston Moore, Kim Gordon, and the Freebies, our showing will not although I can promise an interesting group of cats will be there to talk about it. 

2. Punk Archaeology. The show is on February 2nd in Fargo at the Sidestreet Bar and Grille. The music will begin around 7 pm ish. The roundtable will probably happen around 9ish and more music and merriment will follow. The show, music, knowledge, and conversation are all free. Our plan is to stream the event live over the internets.

We’ve started to get a little positive press. Check out our little announcement in the Fargo Forum, Aaron Barth’s (our producer) interview with Bob Harris on the Mighty KFGO 790 in Fargo, and some good vibes on The Arts Partnership ARTSpulse blog. We’re waiting on the UND or NDSU home page!

3. Kyle Cassidy. It is really exciting to announce that Kyle Cassidy will be visiting North Dakota from February 8th-11th. He’ll be on campus on February 8th and give a talk at noon on February 8th in the East Asia Room of the Chester Fritz Library.

He is probably best known for his 2007 Armed America: Portraits of Gun Owners in Their Homes (Krause 2007). This past summer he released his second major book this summer: War Paint: Tattoo Culture and the Armed Forces (Schiffer 2012). I have no idea what he’ll be talking about, but I am pretty sure it’ll involve photography.

Bret Weber, Richard Rothaus, and I will be taking Kyle out west to help us continue to think about the  Bakken Oil Patch. We are slowly bringing a group of photographers together who are interested in the strange aesthetics of exploitation on display in the Bakken. This is an exciting project.

The very next weekend, I’m off to my alma mater, the University of Richmond to give a talk. I will deliver a revised version of my venerable Dream Archaeology paper. This paper began as a few hasty meditations during my time at the American School in Athens in 2007 and 2008, became my presidential lecture here at the University of North Dakota in 2009, and I’ll unveil the third version of the paper at my talk at Richmond on February 19th. I’ll have more information on this soon.

Finally, you might have heard that it’s cold here.


In one of my very few failings of Northern Plains machismo, I started my walk home last night and it was about -17 with a windchill approaching -40. I got about a kilometer into my walk and began to feel cold. My hands got cold and my feet got cold. It seemed like some discretion might be in order and I requested extraction. (Over this same time my iPhone battery dropped from 90% to 72%.) 


Two Events for Next Week

There are two great events next week that all my colleagues in North Dakotaland should mark on their calendars.

On Tuesday, April 10th at the Firehall Theatre, the University of North Dakota’s Working Group in Digital and New Media will have its first showcase. This will feature digital and new media works. The event starts at 6:30 pm with some lovely Latin American dishes and some adult beverages.

The center piece of the evening will be a short Maya language videos (with subtitles!) animated by Joel Jonientz and collected by Paul Worley. The evening will also showcase music by Tim Pasch and Michael Wittgraf, art by Jim Champion, video from Crystal Alberts’ & the Chester Fritz Library’s UND Writers Conference project, as well as a sneak peak of an exciting new video project from Travis Desell in Computer Science and a documentary by Kathy Coudle-King.


On Thursday, April 12th at 4 pm, the Department of History will host Prof. David Silkenat from North Dakota State University. He’ll present the lecture: Driven Away from Home: The American Civil War Considered as a Refugee Crisis in beautiful O’Kelly Hall 228. Here’s his abstract:

The Civil War generated one of the largest refugee crises in American history. Throughout the Confederacy, black and white Southerners fled away from and towards Union lines. Far from home, they found themselves living in refugee camps, without adequate food and shelter, and suffering from homesickness, malnutrition, and epidemic disease. A significantly understudied aspect of the American Civil War, this refugee crisis sheds light on the lived experience of thousands of civilians driven from their homes. One of the most important and distinctive features of the Confederate refugee crisis was its diversity, as Southerners of all races, genders, classes, and political alliances chose or were forced to move as a consequence of the Civil War. Recognizing the importance of these voluntary and involuntary migrations should force us to reconsider how we understand the Confederate home front when so many Southerners experienced the war away from home.


So, if you’re in the Grand Forks Metropolitan area, make a point of stopping by one or both of these events!

For a Brief Musical Interlude…

I usually don’t get all “family-oriented” on this blog, but I have to put in a plug for my little brother Fritz (and it is my blog, so I can do what I want!).  For the last four years he’s run – along with a team of amazing volunteers – the Surf and Song Festival in Ft. Myers, Florida. It’s not so much that he runs a music festival that’s important or interesting, it’s that he created this music festival.

The thing started when he’d get a few of his buddies with local bands together in a parking lot of bar and play music one afternoon. They’d charge some admission and give the money to a local charity. In the three years since that time, this thing has totally blown-up.

Now, it features over 100 bands, national headliners, multiple stages, and it literally takes over downtown Ft. Myers for a weekend. They are raising money for “Navigating Autism” at the Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida.

Here’s the poster:

Surf Song Poster 1

And here is the commercial (complete which echotastic voice over):

The coolest thing about this is that my brother isn’t some big festival promoter. He’s just a singer songwriter guy who liked cross-promoting his bands with other local bands. In fact, producing this festival isn’t even his full time job! It’s an amazing example of stone soup in the real world.

So if you’re in South Florida, be sure to check it out!