University of Maryland

Spring 2019 Talk Schedule

Enacting Fetal Ultrasound Online

February 5, 2019
11 am – 12 pm
2116 Hornbake Bldg, South Wing

Abstract: The blurry, grayscale, wedge-shaped ultrasound image is largely undecipherable as a medical object but instantly recognizable as a social and cultural marker of pregnancy. When shared online, the image becomes one way that expectant parents enact their emerging identities. But how does sharing this image within networked publics such as social network sites or online communities enact the fetus? We explore this question through a qualitative analysis of ultrasound images shared on the online community BabyCenter. This study, which analyzes a sample of posts from the largest ultrasound-focused message board on BabyCenter, examines what type of ultrasound images are shared online and how users make sense of them. It offers a window into how expectant parents negotiate the fetus in a social setting online, extending research on ultrasound into networked publics. The findings inform scholarly understanding of the enactment of parenthood online as well as the construction of future children online.

Speaker: Priya Kumar is a doctoral candidate at the College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland, where she studies the intersection of families, technology use, and privacy. Her dissertation research focuses on the privacy and surveillance implications of parents posting information about their children online. Priya has published research in various journals and conferences proceedings in human-computer interaction, information, communication, and internet studies. Her research has been referenced on NPR, Buzzfeed, Slate, the Washington Post, the Financial Times, and Time. For more information, visit

3D Laser Scanners and the Datafication of Expertise

February 19, 2019
11 am – 12 pm
2116 Hornbake Bldg, South Wing

Abstract: Increasingly, 3D laser scanners are deployed across the criminal legal system; they are used by law enforcement agencies to aid in crime-scene reconstruction and by prosecutors to create visually coherent narrative devices for the courtroom. Companies such as FARO and Leica manufacture these scanners and their attendant software, providing training for officers and civilian employees alike on data processing, handling and presentation. Branches of forensic science traditionally subject to the adversarial courtroom system involving expert testimony and rebuttal are now encoded into the software attendant to the 3D scanners. A reconstruction can involve shot trajectory analysis, blood spatter analysis and other forms of widely disputed areas of forensic science, making their processes invisible through a kind of datafication.  The marketing and training materials for these devices claim a heretofore unachievable level of objectivity, achieved through the gathering of large quantities of data. This paper explores the ways in which truth claims, expertise and evidence are produced through and around this new technical object as well as how its relatively uncontroversial position within the criminal legal system to date exposes complex collective assumptions around the boundaries and possibilities of data, narrative and objectivity. Ultimately, the power of the 3D scanner/reconstruction is its ability to navigate the boundaries between assumptions of mechanical objectivity and the desire for a story that “makes sense” for a jury.

Speaker: Stacy Wood is an Assistant Professor in the School of Computing and Information at the University of Pittsburgh where she teaches in both the Department of Information Culture, Data Stewardship and Computer Science. She completed her PhD at the University of California Los Angeles in 2017. Her dissertation, “Making Secret(s): The Infrastructure of Classified Information” used a mixed-methods design to examine the relationship between policy, innovation and cultural values through the infrastructure of classified information in the Federal Government of the United States. Her work exists at the intersection of archival studies, science and technology studies and information studies. Her current research focus is on policies and cultures surrounding emergent record-keeping and record producing technologies across the criminal legal system.

Advancing Digital Humanities Infrastructure Using Research Objects

March 5, 2019
11 am – 12 pm
2116 Hornbake Bldg, South Wing

Abstract: The growth and evolution of digital scholarship have overwhelmed traditional systems for scholarly communication in every discipline. The past few decades have witnessed a sweeping effort to rethink how scientists, scholars, and researchers communicate with one another, and to develop data models and infrastructures that support new kinds of publishing and data sharing. In the humanities, digital scholarship produces resources that range widely beyond traditional publications like articles and books. The products of digital humanities scholarship integrate narratives, mixed media, datasets, interactive components, and objects and processes that are physically and logically dispersed as well as dynamic and evolving over time. Because such products do not fit well into existing infrastructures for publication and preservation, the scholarly record in the digital humanities has become unsustainable. This paper considers the potential for an emergent model of scientific communication—the research object—to underpin next-generation research infrastructures in the humanities. 

Speaker: Katrina Fenlon is an assistant professor at the iSchool, researching the use, sustainability, and curation of digital cultural collections. Her recent work explores the intersection of cultural data and humanities publishing, and the social and technical challenges to sustaining collections over time. Dr. Fenlon is an affiliate faculty member at the Maryland Institute for Technologies in the Humanities (MITH) and the Digital Curation Innovation Center (DCIC), where she engages in interdisciplinary work focusing on digital collections, data modeling, and digital curation.

Digitizing Narrative: Building a Cyborg Classifier to Detect and Deter Disinformation

March 26, 2019
11 am – 12 pm
2116 Hornbake Bldg, South Wing

Abstract: Does the intersection of narrative, human coding, and machine classification offer a way to crack the problem of tracking disinformation in the online sphere? This discussion will center on the attempt to create a software application that operationalizes the concept of narrative so that both human coders and machine classifiers can zero in on specific narratives as they move through an information ecosystem. At issue are both theoretical and practical issues. Can we operationalize narrative, i.e. the way that humans organize and tell stories, into reliable and valid coding
categories? How can we translate those categories into linguistic elements beyond keywords? How can we write a codebook that trains humans how to interact with machine classifiers? The discussion will focus on our prototype app, PropagandaIQ, which was developed at the University of Maryland last year and measures the spread of English-language Russian narratives in U.S. media.

Speaker: Sarah Oates is Professor and Senior Scholar in the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at UMD. A former journalist, she has a PhD in Political Science. She has studied the Russian media for the past 25 years and published widely on how media subverts or supports democracy in a range of countries. Her most recent book (Revolution Stalled: The Political Limits of the Internet in the Post-Soviet Sphere, Oxford University Press 2013) analyzed the potential of the internet to bring political change to Russia. More recently, she has been studying the spread of Russian propaganda in the West and is currently on sabbatical as a scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center in DC. You can learn more about her work at

Collaborative Parsimony and How Distributed Scientific Teams Organize to Work

April 16, 2019
11 am – 12 pm
2116 Hornbake Bldg, South Wing

Abstract: We advance ‘collaborative parsimony’ as a concept to embody what we have learned from our recently completed study of distributed scientific teams. We see collaborative parsimony as an aspirational activity: the scientists and scholars we spoke with and observed are keen to see their collaborations succeed and work hard to make this happen.  Scientists are aware their peers and colleagues are working on multiple teams, pursuing work other than research; and, facing multiple deadlines.  Collaborative parsimony begins with this shared understanding of legitimated external (to the current collaboration) commitments, an awareness that each person has their own working style, and that the collaboration will be best served by finding the set of shared practices that either allow for or are the most similar to each person’s preferred work style.  Drawing on examples from our field work, we show how collaborative parsimony guide how work is arranged, what shared activities need to be addressed, and how differences are negotiated. We conclude by speculating on what needs be done to advance this nascent theorizing.

Speaker: Steve Sawyer is on the faculty of Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies. His research focuses on the changing forms of work and organizing enabled through uses of information and communication technologies. This is done through detailed field-based studies of scientific collaborators, software developers, real estate agents, police officers, organizational technologists, and other information-intensive work settings.  He has also been active in advancing sociotechnical approaches to studying computing collectively known as social informatics and emphasizing the sociotechnical basis of digital technologies. Sawyer’s work is published in a range of venues and supported by funds from the National Science Foundation, IBM, Corning, and a number of other public and private sponsors. Prior to returning to Syracuse, Steve was a founding faculty member of the Pennsylvania State University’s College of Information Sciences and Technology. He earned his Doctorate from Boston University in 1995.

Big Data, Privacy, and the U.S. Intelligence Workforce

April 30, 2019
11 am – 12 pm
2116 Hornbake Bldg, South Wing

Abstract: The Laboratory for Analytic Sciences (LAS) at North Carolina State University,funded by the National Security Agency, is a collaborative, long-termresearch enterprise focused on improving intelligence analysis using BigData. In its work, LAS has recently begun dealing with the trade-off betweenthe collection, storage, and use of large unclassified data-sets and analystprivacy. I will discuss particular privacy challenges at LAS and what intelligenceanalysts themselves think about these privacy concerns.

Speaker: Kathleen Vogel is an Associate Professor at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy. After receiving her PhD in biological chemistry from Princeton University, she transitioned from a scientific career to one in science policy. Although her policy-oriented positions were fruitful learning experiences, Vogel was not satisfied with the existing tools and policy frameworks for understanding bioweapons threats and how to design appropriate policy responses. This dissatisfaction has led to the search for and discovery of alternative theoretical tools that reshape the discourse centered around biological weapons, with the hopes of creating a new and generative intellectual conversation between academia and policy. Vogel has a BA in Chemistry, Biology and Spanish from Drury College, and holds an MA and PhD in Chemistry from Princeton University.

The Digital Future, In Retrospect

May 14, 2019
11 am – 12 pm
2116 Hornbake Bldg, South Wing

Abstract: The Internet has been treated as a revolutionary catalyst of sociopolitical change for over a quarter-century. In this lecture, Dave Karpf will explore how the “Internet Imaginary” has changed over the intervening decades, as viewed through the archives of WIRED magazine. How did the digital future look in the 1990s, the 2000s, 2010, and today? Which predictions and mistakes reoccur over the years? How has the discourse about the digital future departed from the original cyber-optimist mythos? Centrally, Karpf argues that all of the focus on digital disruption has overlooked a stronger trend of institutional fragility.

Speaker: Dave Karpf is associate professor and associate director in the George Washington University School of Media & Public Affairs. His research primarily focuses on political associations in the digital age. He is the author of The MoveOn Effect: The Unexpected Transformation of American Political Advocacy (Oxford University Press, 2012) and Analytic Activism: Digital Listening and the New Political Strategy (Oxford University Press, 2016). His more recent work takes a broader look at the history of the digital future.

The Spring 2019 CASCI Talk Series is organized by Priya Kumar. Please send questions about the schedule to pkumar12 [at] umd [dot] edu or casci [at] umd [dot] edu.