My Duke Literature dissertation, Digital Metabolisms, includes a 3D printed research element. As part of an intervention investigating the codependent co(r)relation of the human and the digital, the Manifest Data project translates personal Internet browsing history into a 3D printed representation of that data. In collaboration with visiting artists Karin Denson and Shane Denson, my personal Internet browsing history has also become a hand-sculpted gnome enhanced by Augmented Reality virtual overlays. Manifest Data came about as a result of a transmedia, interdisciplinary collaboration by the Duke S-1 Speculative Sensation Lab. The S-1 Lab is a space for artistic experimentation with emerging digital technologies and their impact on sensory experience.

The Lab recently presented itsScreenshot 2015-02-02 14.10.03 Manifest Data project on Wednesday, January 21, 2015 at the Duke Libraries’ The Edge: The Ruppert Commons for Research + Technology + Collaboration. This presentation was the inaugural presentation for the Murthy Digital Studio’s ‘What I Do With Data’ series (run by Duke Libraries’ Digital Scholarship Services department). I was joined by Luke Caldwell (Duke Literature, PhD Candidate), Shane Denson (Duke Visiting Scholar), and David Rambo (Duke Literature, PhD Candidate) and each of us presented a different aspect of the project.

  • I, Amanda Starling Gould, introduced the S-1 Speculative Sensation Lab and its working method—a method we believe demonstrates a model for hacking humanities scholarship through the use of digital research tools and interdisciplinary collaboration. The S-1 Lab
    From Person to Databot to Gnome

    From Person to Databot to Gnome

    shows that the digital research lab can be a makerspace environment for productive knowledge creation. As a digital researcher and digital humanities instructor, I focused on the importance of injecting the ‘digital’ into the humanities to encourage rigorously creative humanities research outcomes. As S-1 member David Rambo states, the S-1 Lab “comes together and then proceeds by divergence,” and my presentation illustrated how that method results in expansive multimedia scholarship. The presentation introduced the originary research question of the Manifest Data project, one that stems from my own dissertation research, and outlined how this question—Does the digital have its own metabolism?—became a 3D printed artifact, a hand-sculpted garden gnome, and a living AR data portrait.

  • Luke Caldwell spoke about leveraging ‘benevolent spyware’ for humanities research. The code recipe for Manifest Data, authored byScreenshot 2015-02-02 14.10.07 (2) Caldwell, transforms the protocological underpinnings of networking technologies—specifically IP addresses and port numbers—into points defining a vector field that can be fed into a 3D printer. A second code recipe geolocates these origin and destination IP addresses to produce a Google Map of connectivity and data leakage. In his presentation, Luke outlined his programming process for translating the voluminous datastores produced by our ‘benevolent spyware’ into forms that are both legible and meaningful for human(ities) research.
  • Shane Denson’s presentation described the process of sculpting data in physical and virtual media as a way of giving spatial form and environmental concreteness to interfaces and exchanges that occur beneath the realm of sensory experience. Against a neo-cyber-Marxian dictum that “all that is solid melts into zeroes and ones,” his collaborative contribution, with artist Karin Denson, explores sculptural techniques as a means for reclaiming our data and creating artifacts of personal or collective value that resist corporate cooptation and exploitation.
  • In the concluding portion of our presentation, David Rambo spoke on a more implicit reference in the title of our Manifest Data project. Rambo’s contribution proposes an analogy between the cultivation of online social relations and activities for profit and the real effects of western expansion driven by the 19th-century USA ideology of Manifest Destiny. Like the rest of Manifest Data, Rambo’s exposition undercuts the sanguine, egalitarian view of corporate Internet platforms by drawing our attention to another history of violence, profit, and growth.

We’ve posted our presentation slides on Slideshare for all to view: Manifest Data

In order to expand the presentation beyond the Duke Edge presentation space, I live-tweeted the presentation while presenting. Duke Digital Scholarship Services’s Liz Milewicz joined me in live-tweeting and I’ve curated those tweets in a Presentation Twitter Storify: #ManifestData


“Manifest Data brings together programmers, 3-D printing specialists, sculptors, and theorists to reflect on the production of value in the digital age, the materiality of information, and the (non-)place of mediated relations.” (via Shane Denson)




Stay tuned for upcoming Murthy Digital Studio events by following our Calendar on our website Duke Digital Scholarship Services and following updates via our @DukeDSS Twitter feed.

More scenes (and screens) from a presentation:


-Amanda Starling Gould

PhD Candidate, Duke Literature
Digital Research Intern for the Digital Studio
Duke Humanities Writ Large Research Assistant
Also tweeting at @DukeDSS