Topographic Media,York 
Seminar for Advanced Research
April 24, 2009


Professor John Bonnett, an intellectual historian and Canada Research Chair in Digital Humanities at Brock University, speaking about “The Implications of the Topographic Revolution for the Digital Humanities”. Bonnett posits that one of the key challenges digital humanists face is defining what they do. For nearly forty years, scholars in the humanities have applied the computer to support their research and teaching, and each year more colleagues join their ranks. But even scholars with a deep commitment to computing often have a hard time defining a distinct domain of research that distinguishes their research objectives and methods from traditional humanities disciplines such as literature and history. To date, the dominant distinguishing feature of the digital humanities has rested on the task of text analysis. The purpose of this talk will be to suggest that the domain of the digital humanities is evolving to a point that it is distinguished by a second trait: its preoccupation with the topographic revolution. Researchers in all disciplines are being confronted with a new category of sign, one that contains instruments of representation that are topographic, containing two, three and four-dimensions, dynamic, meaning they move, and autonomous, meaning they perform behaviours independent of the immediate control of their author. Research will be required to support scholarly appropriation of these signs to support analysis, expression and teaching. The purpose of this talk will be to describe what such a research agenda will entail.

Shelley Hornstein (York University) will lead a panel entitled “Zoom, Grab, Click, Twitter: Technologies Transforming Space and Place”. The session explores the impact Google Earth, YouTube and Twitter have made on what we took to be fixed notions of the local and global and ultimately how we think about visuality, information and mobility anew. The panelists include Laura Berazadi (Art Gallery of Ontario), Rodolphe El-Khoury (University of Toronto) and Reesa Greenberg (York University and the University of Ottawa).