University of North Dakota Faculty/Staff Newsletter

Digital Humanities and Arts Month continues with ‘The Digital Maya’

The Working Group in Digital and New Media is declaring April Digital Humanities and Arts Month at UND. The month will feature invited lectures, presentations, and web events that highlight the impact of the digital humanities and arts, digital media studies, and technology across campus.

On Thursday, April 11, at 9 a.m. in 203 O’Kelly Hall, Genner Llanes-Ortíz will speak on “The Digital Maya: Cos-Mayapolitan technologies for the 14th Bak’tun”Genner Llanes-Ortiz is a Yucatec Maya anthropologist from Mexico. He is currently working as a postdoctoral researcher in the Indigeneity in the Contemporary World project at the Royal Holloway University of London. He obtained his first degree in Yucatán, and completed a DPhil in Social Anthropology at the University of Sussex, UK.

His main academic interests are Indigenous movements, intercultural dialogue, and subaltern epistemologies, including the performative aspects of knowledge. He has conducted research in collaboration with Indigenous and non-Indigenous organizations in the Yucatán Peninsula and Belize. His most recent publication is “Grains of resistance: Celebrating rituals, bodies and food in the Yucatan and Belize”, in Taylor (2013), Resistant Strategies. He writes a multi-lingual blog (, and curates a mini-blog in Spanish ( focusing on the contemporary voices of the Yucatec Maya.

On Tuesday, April 16, at 9:45 a.m. in 203 O’Kelly Hall, Mark Danger Chen will speak on “Gaming is Learning: Communicative and Material Practices of Online Gamers.”

Topics of Mark's talk will include an overview of current trends in games and education, a case study on World of Warcraft players and their expertise development, a look at some of the wide variety of cultural production found in gaming culture, and a statement on the potential of games for learning and transformation thoughts on the concept of "Gamification."   Mark Chen is scholarly researcher of gaming culture and game designer. He currently holds an appointment at Pepperdine University Graduate School of Education and Psychology, teaching game design for learning technologists. Mark earned his doctorate and completed post-doctoral study in Education at the University of Washington (Seattle), working with Computer Science & Engineering’s Center for Game Science on evaluating science and math games such as Foldit and Refraction. He also helped the Educurious project there, by integrating games and gameplay into the redesign of high school biology, English, and algebra.  He has a new book out based on his dissertation work on learning in online games titled Leet Noobs: The Life and Death of an Expert Player Group in World of Warcraft. (New Literacies and Digital Epistemologies Series, Peter Lang, New York, 2012).

Currently, Mark is developing experimental and artistic games designed to promote exploration of moral dilemmas and human nature, researching the communication practices of BoardGameGeek users, and writing reviews of free game-making tools.  Prior to doctoral work, Mark was the webmaster and a web game developer for the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. He holds a bachelor's in Studio Art from Reed College and grew up in the Bay Area. You can read more about Mark on his blog at

Finally, on Monday, April 22, at 4 p.m., join the Working Group in the Gransberg Community Room in the Gorecki Alumni Center and experience Digital Lightning. Over the course of an hour, you’ll see 11 presentations asking questions about the power of digital technology, the provocations of digital life, and the multidisciplinary possibilities of digital scholarship. Because the presentations are aimed at asking as opposed to answering questions, provoking as opposed to resolving tensions, the event will be followed by a thunderous meet-up at Rhombus Guys Pizza to discuss the new digital connections sparked by the presentations.

Our digital life has come to be understood as life in The Cloud, a metaphor for the ethereal presence of data. But we can also think of the cloud as a powerful force of possible connections waiting to electrify our fields of vision. The presence of digital technologies in our world occurs so quickly and across so many different areas of expertise and interest that our world is increasingly shaped by multiple and unexpected points of connection and output. When we discover these connections, we discover something that burns fast and bright. We witness digital lightning.

On April 22, the Working Group in Digital and New Media will ask questions about these bursts of digital possibility. Like lightning, the presentations will be quick and in rapid succession. Like lightning, the topics seek to illuminate a subject and to find points of connection to our world. Like lightning, the speakers aim to electrify.

Bill Caraher "What's Next in Archaeology?"
Kyle Conway  "How Media Translate, or, Why do I Like Chase Scenes?"
Travis Desell "Crowd Sourcing Big Data?"
Paul Worley " What Matter Who’s Speaking? Performance, Shapes, Knowledge"
Michael Wittgraf "Is it Music?"
Richard Van Eck "Does Tech Make You Smarter?"
Crystal Alberts "The Writers Conference, So What? Who Cares?
Brett Ommen "Who is Talking on Twitter?"
Tim Pasch "Do I own my digital content that I paid for, created, or uploaded? Well…"
Joel Jonientz "Art in the Age of Digital Authenticity. Should we Abandon the Concept of Originality?”

Joel Jonientz, the chair of the Working Group and assistant professor in the Department of Art and Design observed, “The talks and events this April are the culmination of an extraordinarily busy month in the digital humanities, arts, and media on campus and give us the opportunity to bring together the most innovative and dynamic work on campus and place it in a national and international context.”

The Working Group in Digital and New Media is a collective of scholars working in the digital humanities, time-based media, digital history, communication, archaeology, music, and web technologies. Spanning departments, media, colleges, and technologies, the Working Group is the center of digital innovation at UND.

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