Columbia's Group for Experimental Methods in the Humanities
about events impact projects lab-culture people

More than half of the world’s population accesses the internet through a mobile phone. And yet, much of academic practice in digital humanities and computational social sciences is aimed at bandwidth-heavy, visually complicated, high-performance vision of knowledge production. Inspired by principles of minimal computing, we would like to experiment—study, imagine, build—knowledge architectures that answer to humanistic ideals: local, contextually aware, historically rich, universally accessible, hackable, sustainable, empowered, fair, and just. We ask: How does technology affect the ways in which we think of ourselves, talk to each other, and make decisions? Projects in this research cluster engage in the critical examination of ideas at the core of deliberative democracy: freedom of speech, participatory culture, and collective memory. These theoretical concerns manifest in the applied mechanisms of governance and citizenship, contesting, in practice, our commitment to the politics of privacy or surveillance, secrecy or transparency, preservation (as in the duty to remember) or entropy (as in, the right to be forgotten). Our (NYC-based) proximity to the worlds of journalism, library science, and publishing gives us an opportunity to affect meaningful change in redressing inequalities of access, to envision the future of books and literacy, and to experiment with new modalities of human-computer-human interaction.


» The Roma Project

  • Cristiana Grigore
  • Alex Gil

The Roma People’s Project is a start-up initiative which aims to address misconceptions as well as foster research and public education about the Roma people and culture. At core of our project is the Roma Digital Archive–a platform that identifies, examines, and curates material about how Roma define themselves and how others have represented them.

Most people know so little about the Roma that the very word is often alien to them. However, the term “Gypsy” (as well as “Travelers”) is more widely recognized and often serves as the only point of reference. Yet, the word conjures images of horse thieves or pickpockets that tourists are warned about in Europe, in addition to more romanticized images such as fortune-tellers with a crystal ball or...

» Jekyll-Wax tools

  • Marii Nyröp

Jekyll-Wax is a heterogeneous collection of experiments, strategies, and functional components for adapting Jekyll to evolve with the needs of digital humanities researchers and practitioners.

Project Description

Minimal computing practices and priorities have proven well suited to the needs of digital humanities projects and scholars. Specifically, its tenets of Minimal Dependencies, Minimal Maintenance and Minimal Presence help offset DH’s frequent scarcity of resources, and its emphases on Maximum Access, Minimal Consumption and Minimal Obsolescence complement and strengthen the core of critical digital humanities work.

In line with the goals of minimal computing, Jekyll-Wax is a set of experiments, strategies, and functional components for adapting Jekyll (a modular, minimal static site generator) to evolve with the needs...

» Outcaste Press publishing

  • Varsha Ayyar

Outcaste Press is the first international Dalit Feminist press committed to promoting anti-caste thought worldwide and to bringing global attention to Dalit women.

Rooted in the thought of Dr. B.R Ambedkar and the radical feminism of Jyotiba and Savitribai Phule, the Press sheds light on the struggles of India’s marginalized groups.

Our objective is to democratize the reading cultures in India and to bring diversity in women’s writing. We are interested in furthering critical debates around gender, participatory democracy, socio-political and economic inequalities, culture, and difference. Our vision is to become a catalyst of social transformation: to educate, organize, and agitate for a more equitable India. To these ends we are soliciting academic monographs, collections of essays, fiction, non-fiction, and work in translation.

» Experimental Philology and Minimal Editions archive

  • Susanna Allés Torrent

For centuries, the theories and methods of textual scholarship have presupposed the analog media of ink and paper, but the ever-growing digitality of today’s texts requires us to challenge our assumptions about scholarly editing, textual scholarship, and publication. This research cluster aims to reimagine the tools and workflows of digital scholarly editing, with a focus on sustainability, scalability, and reproducibility.

A Digital Critical Edition for the Vitae Illustrium Virorum Project

At the end of the fifteenth century, the Spaniard, Alfonso de Palencia (1423-1492), chronicler of the Catholic Kings, translated all of Plutarch’s Parallel Lives from Latin into Spanish. All these biographies had been translated since the beginning of the Quattrocento by relevant Italian humanists from Greek into Latin; Palencia didn’t know...

» Ed template

  • Alex Gil

One of our most pressing and ever revolving needs as scholars is to pass on our textual artifacts from one generation to another. The art of textual editing, among other practices, has helped many cultures to remember and interpret for centuries. Alas, that art is practiced and encouraged in its highest form by a dwindling number of scholars. In a digital environment the problem is compounded by the difficulties of the medium. While vast repositories, and “e-publications” appear on the online scene yearly, very few manifest a textual scholar’s disciplined attention to detail. In contrast, most textual scholars who have made the...

» Git-Lit archive

  • Jonathan Reeve

(Adapted from the original blog post on

Git-Lit is an initiative to parse, version control, and post each of the approximately 50,000 works in the British Library’s corpus of digital texts. Parsing the texts will transform the machine-readable metadata into human-readable prefatory material; version controlling the texts will allow for collaborative editing and revision of the texts, effectively crowdsourcing the correction of OCR errors; and posting the texts to GitHub will ensure the texts’ visibility to the greater...

» No Connect web development

  • Alex Gil
  • Dennis Yi Tenen

No Connect is a template for Jekyll static site generator that works on a local machine or a USB key, without an html server. Our template is based on the standard Jekyll theme.

This theme is part of our effort to investigate minimal computing technologies, and their possible use in humanistic work. Not all forms of scholarship can be shared on the internet, whether the reason is an unfriendly government or copyright regimes. Tapping into the affordances of Sneakernets is one of the ways we can carve out space for digital work to continue under adverse circumstances.

» Small Axe Archipelagos agile publishing

  • Kaiama Glover
  • Kelly Josephs
  • Alex Gil
  • David Scott
  • Dennis Yi Tenen

How do we reduce the production cost for sx:archipelagos online peer reviewed academic publication while preserving the quality of the longstanding print journal Small Axe?

In our first encounter, Kaiama L. Glover (Associate Professor of French and Africana Studies at Barnard College), Alex Gil and Kelly Josephs (Director, York College Honors Program, and Associate Professor of English at CUNY) presented on the new stage of development of Small Axe: sx:archipelagos, and worked with xp-methods to re-imagine a workflow for the publication of academic content around Dennis Tenen’s and Grant Wythoff’s “Sustainable Authorship in Plain Text using Pandoc and Markdown.”


» Architectures of Knowledge workshop



Architectures of Knowledge is a series of workshops that brings together activists, scholars, artists, and librarians concerned with global inequalities facing knowledge work. These manifest in the aggregation of material and scientific archives in northern Europe and America; the pay-walls constructed by the corporate publishing industry; and the amassing of digital labor in the Global South while the prestige economy remains in the Global North. Together, we will investigate technological and artistic practices of epistemic action, build alliances across borders and economies, share notes, and outline possibilities for further concerted action.


» A Digital Critical Edition for the Making and Knowing Project encounter

  • Pamela Smith

Pamela Smith, Seth Low Professor of History and Director of the Center for Science and Society at Columbia will present on her ongoing research with [The Making and Knowing Project: From the Workshop to the Laboratory][11].


Historians have long acknowledged the foundational importance of craft knowledge to the development of modern science. In recent years, historians of science have investigated the relationship of craft practice to various learned communities in early modern Europe, such as humanities scholars, medical practitioners, (al)chemists, and advocates of the “new experimental philosophy.” Simultaneously, historians of science, technology, material culture, and book history have become increasingly interested in the genre of early modern recipes, books of secrets, and how-to manuals that shed light on a remarkable transition in...

» Open Syllabus Project database

  • Alex Gil
  • Joe Karaganis (American Assembly)
  • David McClure (Stanford)
  • Dennis Yi Tenen

Opening the Curricular Black Box

In late January of 2016, we were a part of a group of scholars at Columbia and Stanford Universities who unveiled the Open Syllabus Explorer—an online tool that aggregates data from over one million syllabi collected from college and university websites. So far the Syllabus Explorer does only a few things: It shows how often works are taught, what works are taught together, and where and in what field they’re taught. But we think it has the potential to evolve into something more powerful: a tool that can help us better reflect on the formation of our intellectual legacies and, in the process, improve the quality of higher education globally.

Building on the work of scholars like Dan Cohen, Alison Head, Jeffrey Schnapp, and David Weinberger, the Explorer offers a rich empirical account of...

» Annotags: Decentralized Literary Annotation protocol

  • Jonathan Reeve

Read the original post at Link to a beta version of the webapp here.

Have you ever wanted to livetweet a book? I often want to. Yet there doesn’t seem to be a standard way of doing that. You could tweet, for instance, “Oh Captain Wentworth! When will you propose? #JaneAustenPersuasion” but the hashtag isn’t standardized, so some people might be tweeting under #Persuasion and others under #AustenPersuasion. Furthermore, the hashtag isn’t specific enough to make it clear which part of the book you’re tweeting about. If you browse other tweets marked #JaneAustenPersuasion, you might find comments about other parts of the book, which may contain spoilers.

Enter Annotags, a concept for a literary annotation hashtag, or annotag. Whenever you want to...

» Sustainable Authorship workshops + article

  • Alex Gil
  • Dennis Yi Tenen
  • Grant Wythoff

A series of workshops on authorship using markdown, plain text, and pandoc, that culminated in an article for the Programming Historian.

Writing, storing, and retrieving documents are activities central to the humanities research workflow. And yet, many authors base their practice on proprietary tools and formats that sometimes fall short of even the most basic requirements of scholarly writing. Perhaps you can relate to being frustrated by the fragility of footnotes, bibliographies, figures, and book drafts authored in Microsoft Word or Google Docs. Nevertheless, most journals still insist on...

» piracyLab

piracyLab was convened by the faculty, students, and librarians involved in the Hacking the Archive course taught in the spring of 2013 by Professors Matthew Connelly and Dennis Tenen at Columbia University.

piracyLab is an academic research collective exploring the impact of piracy on the spread of knowledge around the world. Our work combines critical, historical, and quantitative approaches to the study of illicit knowledge, information “leaks,” and underground archives. We are interested in understanding the ethics and the social dynamics of piracy in its legal, technological, and socioeconomic contexts.