Innovative Digital Humanities Research in Dance

by: Hannah Kosstrin, Ph.D.

The third session during our May 2019 Dancing Digital Symposium was entitled Innovative Digital Humanities Research in Dance. Its focus on digital research tools for dance yielded discussion about the kinds of modalities Dancing Digital might consider for a project. The panel members presented a range of projects, from different kinds of mapping dance data to analytical video annotation to dance notation software. The projects each build on a set of analog or kinesthetic data points off which researchers can build their analyses.

Each of the presenters detailed their current digital projects to address these objectives:

  • Investigate novel approaches to digital dance scholarship
  • Consider how a resource could connect to and enhance these approaches
  • Examine select case studies and subsequent discussion

The panel members included:

Melanie Aceto, University at Buffalo

Harmony Bench, The Ohio State University

Sybil Huskey, University of North Carolina Charlotte

Hannah Kosstrin, The Ohio State University

Eugenia Kim, City University of Hong Kong, Moderator

The following question arose from this session:

  • Is “digital dance scholarship” largely restricted to historical preservation and analysis? Or, like digital scholarship at large, can it be about using digital technology to transform existing works, how they are accessed, how are they disseminated, how they are alternatively preserved and promoting interdisciplinary collaboration? 

The following ideas addressing this question grew out of the conversation:

  • Representation of dance history versus analysis versus creation
  • How digitally-transferred embodiment supports dance history
  • How to make existing work more available through existing platforms
  • How to create unique works through digital technology
  • How to encourage user participation and data contribution

The main question and the ensuring discussion impacts the kinds of digital modalities and resources that the Dancing Digital project might consider. For example, many traditional digital humanities projects analyze existing data sets, whereas these presenters’ projects generate digital dance data that open new avenues for analysis. What might a digital dance platform offer that includes both dance documentation and tools for analysis? How might we harness users’ digital interactivity to bring them into a dance work through active engagement instead of passive viewing? How can digital tools enable analysis alongside documentation? How do the kinds of questions these researchers ask through their projects enable new ways of engaging with dance data? Since the fields of dance and dance studies have a practice of valuing non-traditional research output, there is considerable potential for digital dance projects to generate a research niche that speaks across disciplines.

The Dancing Digital project is exploring many points of articulation for interacting with these projects specifically and also to advance the ideas, modalities, and data sets that these projects introduce.

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