Author Archives: Colin Geraghty

The Four Dimensional Human

My first annotation is – 

“A view from the window, a meeting with friends, a thought, an instance of leisure or exasperation – they are all candidates, contestants even, for a dimensional upgrade.”

The author implies that there’s no choice – that we are already living in a fourth digital dimension. I want the students to question that. I want them to know that they can decide what it means to be a four-dimensional human. There’s a sense of inevitability in the quote that all aspects of our lives will be uploaded at some point. But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. The challenge is how you do it in a way that’s good for you. 

So the question I ask with the annotation is – 

What does it mean to digitize a thought? Or is it even possible to digitize what’s going on in our heads?

Second annotation:

“That being an individual entails a sort of exile from others may be a story that we tell ourselves, but it is no less solid for that. Of course the irony here is that we also can’t seem to get enough of the pack. We gather our lonesome selves together in groups by day, clinging together in warm, mealy huddles by night. Yet no matter how tight the clinch, we’re still flung to different corners of the dream- scape.”

My note is – Do you have to isolate yourself from others to be an ‘individual’, or how can you be your true self in a ‘pack?’

There’s a mildly depressing vibe throughout the piece. It’s like we are all destined to be lonely in this fourth dimension. I want the students to create their own healthy digital fourth dimension where they don’t ultimately feel isolated. 

This article would be a good addition to help through the concepts or ideas.

Blog post (The Remix)

That word ‘remix’ keeps popping up in our readings, and every time it does, the synthesizer intro to Donna Summer’s “I feel love” starts playing in my head. Specifically, a remix of the song – Patrick Cowley’s 1978 nearly 16-minute version. Cowley adds his bold synthesizer, electric guitar(I think), and aggressive extra percussion riffs over the song’s unmistakable synth rhythm. The product is a musical flirt between Cowley and Summer. His additions run wild over the original track, only for Donna Summer’s warm, smooth voice to mellow things out. It was a pure labor of love for Cowley. Being a bootleg recording, his version didn’t earn him a penny, and only a handful of copies were ever pressed on vinyl. Yet, it’s known today as one of the best remixes ever, and I think it is an excellent example of the approach we should take when attempting to remix a thing. In other words, you must love the thing you want to remix. 

Cowley didn’t have access to the 16-track original version of ‘I feel love’ Giorgio Moroder produced in 1977. Instead, he worked with his own vinyl copy of the record. Lauren Martin, a collaborator of Cowley’s, recalls in an interview with Mixmag, “I used to stand there and watch over Patrick’s shoulder while he worked on these electronic boxes and patch-boards and I just had no idea what he could be doing…now…I realize that he didn’t have sequencers and he didn’t have MIDI. He was doing it the hardest way possible: by hand.” It cannot be overstated how painstakingly slow and tedious this process must have been compared to trying to create something even remotely similar using the digital wizardry tools available today. And yet he produced something that sounded like it was plucked directly from the future. Sadly, Cowley would not live long enough to see how influential his ‘I feel Love’ remix, along with his other music productions, would become. 

In the early 1970s, Cowley studied music at City College of San Francisco and made the city his home afterward. Later in the decade, he met the musical artist Sylvester and quickly became collaborators and friends. Cowley played synthesizer on Sylvester’s 1978 Album Step II, which includes the hugely inspirational hit “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real).” Cowley was instrumental in creating Sylvester’s signature pulsing disco sound. Probably the best example of this is their collaboration on the Cowley-written song –“Do You Want To Funk.” In late 1981, Cowley became ill; doctors couldn’t find out what was wrong with him. In truth, he was dying of undiagnosed AIDS. Patrick Cowley passed at his home in the Castro District in November 1982. His friend Sylvester died of the same disease in 1988. 

Patrick Cowley dying of AIDS and his work on “I Feel Love” are two separate things. All his musical work is an incredible gift to the world. But there’s something about Patrick Cowley being one of the beautifully creative people chopped down in their prime by a cruel stigmatized disease that makes his remix of ‘I feel love’ extra special. Not that it needs to be because — It’s so good.  

Ideas Change The World part 2.  (PRAXIS 2)

Data and Visualization

I singled in on the sterilization aspect of Eugenics for data visualization. I found a study done in the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH) with the objective of comparing population-based sterilization rates between Latinas/os and non-Latinas/os sterilized under California’s eugenics law. I purposely did not look at AJPH’s conclusions. Instead, I transferred their data into Excel and then to Tableau to analyze it. 

A total of 17,362 individuals were recommended for sterilization from, as they were then known, “Feebleminded Homes” and “Homes for the Mentally ill” from 1920 to 1945 in California. AJPH broke this down under the headings of `Non-Spanish Surnames’ and ‘Spanish Surnames’ and then ‘Year recommended for sterilization’, ‘Gender’, and ‘Age’.  

Year recommended for sterilization

This shows sterilization laws were disproportionately applied to Latina/o patients later in the time frame. Yet, the differences are not much, and more data is needed to establish a clear bias. For instance, I think the location of these institutions could play a factor. It could be that they were in predominately non-Latina/o areas or with an increase of immigrants.


Like with ‘Year recommended for sterilization,’ the Gender visualization does not show sterilization laws were disproportionately applied to Latina/o. What would be interesting to find out is if the above table correlates to California’s entire population during the time frame. Or other factors like, of the males sterilized, what proportion of Spanish surnamed to non-Spanish surnamed patients were committed because they were convicted of a crime.


Age is where there is clear evidence that sterilization laws were disproportionately applied to Latina/o patients. The bar chart above shows that California sterilized Spanish surnamed patients younger than Non-Spanish surnamed ones. It would be interesting to know, of the under fifteen-year-olds and fifteen to nineteen-year-olds, how many were male and female. I suspect that there were more Spanish surnamed girls than boys sterilized. Although both sexes were sterilized equally overall, there’s something profoundly sad about it being done to a girl who hadn’t reached adulthood.

Source-Nicole L. Novak, Natalie Lira, Kate E. O’Connor, Siobán D. Harlow, Sharon L. R. Kardia, and Alexandra Minna Stern, 2018:
Disproportionate Sterilization of Latinos Under California’s Eugenic Sterilization Program, 1920–1945
American Journal of Public Health 108, 611_613,

Ideas Change The World (PRAXIS 1)


Back in the 1860s, when Sir Francis Galton first conceived Eugenics, it wasn’t rejected as the pseudoscience we know it as today. On the contrary, the idea spread as a form of humanitarian compassion. My mapping idea was to visualize how this ‘noble’ idea spread worldwide and ultimately set the foundation for justifying genocide in Nazi Germany.

I gathered data from, which is a database of Eugenics-related information about its history and continued significance today. I picked what I considered some of the more significant developments in Eugenics over time for mapping. I gathered the coordinates of where these took place, put them into an Excel spreadsheet, and then imported them to Tableau. My first visualization (History of Eugenics on the Tableau page above) mapped the locations, and if you click on any red dots, you get a description of what happened there. 

What this map didn’t show was how eugenics spread over time so I set myself the goal of animating this evolution. I spent way too much time trying to figure this out, but the little victories of accomplishments made it worth while.

If you go to my Tableau public page and view the ‘History of Eugenics Over Time’ visualization and hit the small play button above ‘Show History’ in the top right corner, it should play the animation I made. You can view a video of it below, but it’s better played on Tableau, if it works!

I chose the dark background and laser-like red lines to convey a sense of danger and how these ideas were sooner or later going to reach an inevitable conclusion in a place like Nazi Germany. Overall, I’m happy enough with the results, but I’d prefer it visualized more powerfully.

‘ John Locke likes this’ – An analysis of a Digital Humanities Project.

I chose Mapping the Republic of Letters and focused on Locke’s Letters Project for a deeper analysis. 

The author of Locke’s Letters Project – Claude Willan of Princeton University, provides an attractive subheading for his work -‘ John Locke likes this’: An ego-network analysis of Locke’s letters. Willan says his goal was to answer a simple question about John Locke: how did Locke think of his letters? I wanted to know what an ego network was/is, and did John Locke speak about himself in the third person in his letters when he said, “John Locke likes this?” Sadly I couldn’t find these answers on the website and didn’t have the time to investigate for myself. 

Willan’s visualizations are impressive, and you get a sense of how much work it must have taken to put them together. His visualizations all have the same design -a colorful cluster of what resembles an island surrounded by a circular coral barrier. When you zoom in and click on one of the circles on the island, it brings up interesting information about a person whom Locke wrote. For instance, Philippus van Limborch was a Dutch philosopher, theologian, editor, letter writer, and latitudinarian. According to Wikipedia, Latitudinarians were people of that time who believed “The sense that one had special instructions from God made individuals less amenable to moderation and compromise, or to reason itself.” They sound fascinating, and the visualization would be so much more interesting if there were accompanying links explaining such things and how someone like van Limborch and latitudinarian were relevant to John Locke and his letters. 

I think that because there isn’t more context, it diminishes the significance of Willan’s work. I know the project is ‘mapping the republic of letters,’ but it would be great to have a little more background on why these letters were so important and what they contributed to the enlightenment. That information is out there, but if it was alongside Willan’s visualizations, more people could appreciate his efforts.

Decolonizing the narrative

Although an entirely different experience than someone in the Caribbean, I still know how the aftereffects of colonization can be complicated and painful. I grew up in southern Ireland, which fought and won its independence from Great Britain. The top bit of the Island is still part of the United Kingdom, and until recently the bitter division colonialism caused left a trail of blood and misery. Even today, any peace that exists is always on a knife edge. But I did think of a glaring difference between Ireland’s struggle with colonialism and somewhere like the Caribbean. Ireland has always had a voice. In the field of humanities, Ireland, historically, had some of literature’s finest promoting its freedom. 

Take people like W.B Yeats and Oscar Wilde. Yeats passionately promoted Irish culture and literature, and Wilde believed in his country’s “evolution of a nation” free from the UK. It helped that they wrote in English, but there is a difference between people like Yeats and Wilde from my ancestors and me. They were born into Anglo-Irish families. It didn’t make them any less Irish, but their background is closer to the colonizers and mine to the colonized. The anglo Irish were the minority in numbers and the majority in wealth. They had nicer everything, and their children achieved more out of life. So, as proud as Irish people are of Yeats and Wilde, it can also be tainted with a sense of inferiority. We want to ‘own’ gifted people who said lovely things about the land of our birth, but deep down, you know that their existence was very different. And these mental contractions contribute to the inferiority complex of a country post-colonialism. 

I thought of this concerning our DH readings these first weeks. There is a general desire to speak on behalf of marginalized groups within DH. But I believe we can never honestly know someone else’s experience, even with the best intentions. I think that one of DH’s primary goal’s should be to find ways for people to tell their own stories, particularly if they have an inferiority complex.

Week 1 DH

What I found the most interesting of the sites/projects was browsing the texts from the Early Caribbean Digital Archive. Its objective is “to use digital tools to “remix” the archive and foreground the centrality and creativity of enslaved and free African, Afro-creole, and Indigenous peoples in the Caribbean world.” There are some fascinating accounts of the time. How could you not be enticed by a story titled “Camps in the Caribbees: The Adventures of a Naturalist in the Lesser Antilles”? Even Victor Hugo’s tale of interracial friendship and rivalry “Bug -Jargal” is in there. I read some sections from “Camps in the Caribbees,” which are fascinating. Unfortunately, I couldn’t read “Bug-Jargal” because the PDF was in French, but given the author, I’m sure it’s great stuff. So I couldn’t help but feel that DH’s only role with such work is to help explain the context of when and by who it was written. I believe DH should be about simplifying the subject of Humanities, and what I found from this project and our readings is that this is not often the case.

One of the questions “The Digital Humanities Moment” asks is: Can [DH] save the humanities? The university? It can play a central role in progressing the humanities and third-level education. But, I think some of the arguments in the readings potentially make DH look like academic elitism. There’s a danger in intellectualizing and ‘owning’ the debate around very complex issues. For instance, in “Bodies of Information: Intersectional Feminism and Digital Humanities,” it says:

“Yet as women and feminists who have been active in the digital humanities since it was called “humanities computing,” we are often astonished to see forms of intellectual engagement that confront structural misogyny and racism relegated to the status of fringe concerns.” The implication that someone active in the beginnings of DH carries more credence on significant issues like misogyny and racism suggests that there’s a hierarchy within DH and those at the top get to say what’s what. 

As it says in A DH that maters: “Now is a time when digital humanists can usefully clarify our commitments to public scholarship, addressing our work not simply to “the public” but also, as Sheila Brennan has observed, to specific communities and the needs that they, and not we, identify as most pressing.” I think this advice applies to us too. We should carefully assess what’s already identified as pressing issues, but make sure to follow our own paths envisioning where DH is going .