Unit 2

Unit 2: Understanding Material Culture through Digitization


Key Due Dates:

Feeder 2.1: March 5th before class

Feeder 2.2: March 21st before class

Unit 2 Project Presentations: Monday April 2nd in class.

Unit 2 Questions



 Unit 2: Understanding Material Culture through Digitization

“Ontology is the philosophical study of existence. Object-oriented ontology (“OOO” for short) puts things at the center of this study. Its proponents contend that nothing has special status, but that everything exists equally—plumbers, DVD players, cotton, bonobos, sandstone, and Harry Potter, for example. In particular, OOO rejects the claims that human experience rests at the center of philosophy, and that things can be understood by how they appear to us. In place of science alone, OOO uses speculation to characterize how objects exist and interact.”        -Ian Bogost



For our second unit, you will take on the role of a Digital Humanities student who has been tasked with  researching, digitizing and analyzing one specific object in the Rare Book Collection at UNC Chapel Hill. The end product is a printed surrogate of the object and corresponding analysis that will inform and enlighten the greater university community about an item held in its collection.


Genre Purpose Audience Writer’s Role Rhetorical Situation


Inform audience about items in Wilson Library.


University Community Digital Humanities


You are a Digital Humanities student who has been tasked with digitizing and recreating an item held in the Rare Book Room.


Feeder 2.1: Close Reading of Item

Due March 5th before class

The “bread and butter” of Humanities methodology is called close reading. It is a form of analysis or interpretation applied to texts or objects. To close read a object, you read it as if through a magnifying glass, examining not simply what the the object says about the world, but how it says.

In this assignment, you will do a close reading of your chosen object. The Close Reading will consist of a 150-300 word description of your object. In order to complete this assignment, you will need to do additional research on your object and convey that through a description. After you have researched your object a little, then you can begin to look more deeply into it.


Use our library Guide to help:  http://guides.lib.unc.edu/engl105i-028s18




Feeder 2.2: Material Culture research proposal

Due March 19th before class

 The study of material culture is concerned with the relationship between persons and things, specifically how those things reflect the culture of the society that produced them. Texts we read in this class came from something material. They do not exist as just letters on a screen or on a page, they come from books.

In this assignment, you will write a 750-1,000 word research proposal. Your proposal should take this form:

  1. Research Question. This should be an argumentative research question. That is, it should identify a puzzle, pattern, or problem that you believe considering the materiality of the object will help you solve.
  2. Materials. You will describe your object and provide a description of any theoretical backing that will help you understand your object better and its digitization.
  3. Background and Justification. In this section, you lay out the stakes of your research question. Why does it matter? And why is considering material culture  best suited to answering your question, to solving your particular puzzle?

Here is an example and here is a rubric

Unit Project: Material Culture presentation

Due Monday April 2nd in class.

Our class will participate in a material culture “conference.”

You will have 5-minutes to present a lightning  style talk on your chosen material object from your proposal. These short presentations are meant to inspire group discussion around your object, like show-and-tell. You might want to call attention to the unique features or functions of your object, or its remediations. This will include showing off your prototype through either a printed 3D object or digital mockup.



Powerpoint: 3-5 slides

3D Printed Object “Show and Tell”

Digital Mockup: 3 pictures of prototype


Adobe Spark Page


List of Objects (Please Choose One):

1. Chumbe weaving

Date: 2015

Author: Juajibioy, Pastora

Call #: Folio-2 N7433.4.J83 C4 2015




Critical Pairing:

Historical archaeology and ‘modern material culture studies’ in Hicks, Dan, and Mary C. Beaudry, eds. The Oxford handbook of material culture studies. OUP Oxford, 2010.


2. A Scroll – Megilat Ester.מגילת אסתר.Produced:    [Place of production not identified], [date of production not identified]Folio 2 BS1372.5 .M44http://search.lib.unc.edu/search?R=UNCb8984120



Critical Pairing:

“Myth Today” in Barthes, Roland. “Mythologies. 1957.” Trans. Annette Lavers. New York: Hill and Wang (1972): 302-06.


3. “Face Book”Conjuros y ebriedades : cantos de mujeres mayasprólogo de Juan Bañuelos ; versiones en castía por Ámbar Past ; con la colaboración de Xun Okotz y Petra Ernándes.Published:    [San Cristóbal de Las Casas], México :
Taller Leñateros, c1997.http://search.lib.unc.edu/search?R=UNCb4789058
Critical Pairing:Critical Pairing: Chapter 1: THE SCIENCE OF THE CONCRETE in Strauss, Claude Levi. Savage mind. University of Chicago, 1962.
4.  Analog tweeting.Author:    Pattison, Todd, artist.Published:    [United States] : Todd Pattison, 2013.http://search.lib.unc.edu/search?R=UNCb8696878


Critical Pairing: Friedrich Kittler, “Typewriter,” in Gramophone, Film, Typewriter (Stanford UP, 1999) — I’ve also given you the preface and introduction.


5. 3D Printed Book CoverOn such a full sea Chang-rae Lee.Author:    Lee, Chang-rae, author.Published:    New York : Riverhead Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA), 2013.Edition:    Special limited edition.http://search.lib.unc.edu/search?R=UNCb7677501


Critical Pairing:

Critical Pairing: Shep, Sydney J. “Digital Materiality.” A New Companion to Digital Humanities (2016): 322-330.


6. Handkerchief

[Linen handkerchief] [realia].Published:       [1913?]Description:     1 handkerchief : linen ; 38 x 47 cm.http://search.lib.unc.edu/search?R=UNCb1868645
Critical Pairing: Barthes, Roland. Rhetoric of the Image. na, 1993. 


7. Wood Block

[Block of type] [realia].Author:            Baer, George A., 1903-1994.Published:       [196-?]Description:     1 wood block ; 19 x 5 x 3 cm.http://search.lib.unc.edu/search?R=UNCb5948396



Critical Pairing: Lori Emerson, “Introduction” and “Indistinguishable from Magic,” in Reading Writing Interfaces (University of Minnesota Press, 2014)


8. Incunabulum

Prologus : Incipit vocabularius variloquus ide[m] exprime[n]sAuthor:    Melber, Johannes, active 15th century.Published:    [Strasbourg : Georg Husner, 1497?]http://search.lib.unc.edu/search?R=UNCb4866624



Critical Pairing: Shep, Sydney J. “Digital Materiality.” A New Companion to Digital Humanities (2016): 322-330.


9. Cardboard BookBarquitos del San Juan [serial] : boletín de los niños matanceros.Published:    Matanzas, Cuba : Ediciones Vigía de la Casa Del EscritorPQ7382.5 .B37 año 13:no.23 (féb. 2007)http://search.lib.unc.edu/search?R=UNCb5312186
Critical Pairing: Chapter 1: THE SCIENCE OF THE CONCRETE inStrauss, Claude Levi. Savage mind. University of Chicago, 1962.
10. MapBirds eye view of North and South Carolina and part of Georgia [cartographic material]drawn from nature and lith. by John Bachmann.Author:            Bachmann, John, active 1849-1885.Published:       [New York, John Bachmann, c1861]Cm912p 1861b





Critical Pairing:  Ellen Gruber Garvey, “Introduction,” Writing with Scissors: American Scrapbooks from the Civil War to the Harlem Renaissance (Oxford UP, 2012)