Columbia's Group for Experimental Methods in the Humanities
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Walking can be a mode of analysis that extends body through space. The Embodied Space Lab incorporates mobile methods of reading and map-making into philology and historiography. In the dialectic between body and space we trace apparent vectors of power, technology, gender, class, and ethnicity and draw critical cartographies: ways of seeing and reflecting on an embodied and embedded world.


» Mapping Mughal Hindustan, 1500-1600 CE geocoding

  • Manan Ahmed
  • Juan Francisco Saldarriaga
  • Sriharsha Devulapalli
  • Nadine Fattaleh

Project Goals: The aim is to publish a co-authored paper where the various sites of early Mughal Hindustan are re-framed as affective geography. The secondary aim is release the data-sets for Mughal India on git. Parameters are below.

  1. Aim: To produce a data-set, visualization, and position paper for a DH journal.
  2. Data: To extract place-names from three sixteenth century texts. The texts are in English and Persian and exist in both print-form and manuscript form. Besides place-names, we would also extract qualifiers and descriptors of the place-names. The texts are Baburnama, Humayunnama and Akbarnama. Baburnama was written in the first two decades of the sixteenth century by Zahiruddin Babur (1483-1530)– English edition and Persian edition. Akbar Nama and Humayun Nama were both...

» NYWalker: Hand-Geocode Texts geocoding

Read the README at GitHub. NYWalker as hosted by the NYU collective, NewYorkScapes.

NYWalker is a web application that tries to simplify the process of geocoding texts by hand. To this end, it uses both the Geonames gazetteer and the Google Maps API to help find locations, while also building a database, thereby reducing duplicate lookups.

Every instance of a place can be included, and they are kept sorted by page and order on page, making it possible to recreate the narrative “path” of the text in space.

The goal of the application is, again, to facilitate data entry, not data analysis, so its maps are rudimentary, serving mostly as a sanity check against whether the right places are being...

» Semi-Automated Literary Mapping interface

  • Phillip R. Polefrone

Literary mapping presents exciting possibilities for criticism and the digital humanities, but it is hampered by a seemingly intractable technical problem. A critic interested in mapping must rely on either full hand-coding, which takes too much time and labor to be useful at scale, or full automation, which is frequently too imprecise to be of any use at all. As a result, mapping projects are usually either narrow but reliable or broad but dubious.

I am therefore developing an interface that will combine the best aspects of both approaches in a process of semi-automated literary mapping. This interface will combine automatic pre-processing of text data, to identify locations and suggest geotags, with a backend framework designed to speed up the process of cleaning the resulting data by hand. The end product will work something like this: the interface prompts its user for a plain text file, then presents the user...

» Muslim World Manuscript Project archive

  • Manan Ahmed, Sadegh Ansari, Zeinab Azarbadegan, Olivia Clemens, Mahmood Gharavi, Matthew Gillman

We aim to create a data-rich digital repository of rare manuscripts from the Muslim world in the holdings at Columbia University. The archive will engage critically with questions of access, marginality, scholarly and enthusiast collecting, and related issues. It will build on some of the work undertaken by the Group for Experimental Methods in the Humanities at their Mumbai meeting on free archives and shadow libraries. The first event for the project is a 3-day conference. You can learn the details here.

Collection Details

There is a substantial collection of Muslim-world manuscripts housed at Columbia’s Rare Book and Manuscripts Library (RBML), as well as in some other affiliated institutions (i.e., the Burke Library). These manuscripts are in Perso-Arabic or related scripts. Though...

» Mapping Indexicality graphic

This project interprets the text of The Arcades Project as a collection of indexical gestures, reading instances of linguistic deixis as concretized moments of textual interiority. According to Charles Sanders Peirce, the word “this” is a certain type of index, which “calls upon the hearer to use his powers of observation, and so establish a real connection between his mind and the object.” Within a textual setting, the word “this” takes on a different kind of identity. Couched in a grammatical context, it becomes a marker of intratextual reference and a signifier of its own position. It embodies something close to a...

» Reading BroPages draft

  • Manan Ahmed

How is masculinity and femininity constructed in Man Pages and Bro Pages?1 What are the discursive travails behind “master/slave” terminology in Sysadmin circles.2 What subjectivity is self-evident to Edward Snowden when he thinks about “Privacy”? I wish to locate race, gender and power in the sub-terrains of CS programming and IT infrastructure languages. Why do we assume that these programming languages, algorithms and applications are free from bias and prejudice concerning race or gender or sexuality? How would we go about building a critical archive of such readings? The recent #Gamergate campaign led by video gamers against women who spoke out against sexism in videogames is but one indication of...

» Mapping Medieval Pasts map

  • Manan Ahmed

One of my central concerns has been to think about medieval and early modern conceptions of space—place, landscape, and affective resonances around the built environment. I am dissatisfied with the established practice of scanning maps, geotagging them to known geography, and attaching text layers.


An early effort took eighteenth- and nineteenth-century maps of Delhi and rendered them according to spatial descriptions in textual accounts of the city. We considered creating and structuring an archive of Delhi that combined maps, historical texts, and rich text along with scholarly commentary and annotations. Our sources included Persian histories of Delhi, such as the Salih-e Amal by Kanbo, the Ma’asir ul Umara, and travel accounts such as the memoirs of Bernier, Tavernier, and Dargah Quli Khan....