After receiving a research grant from the Colby College Center for Arts and Humanities, we (Tara Venkat and Louisa Baum, class 2021) spent the month of January 2021 in Bologna, Italy researching its unique architectural features. This research highlights not only the physical modifications they have undergone over time, but also the impact they have had on the identity of the Bolognese citizens. We focus mainly on how Bologna has recently allocated and re-negotiated the use of its urban spaces in response to the changing socio-economic, religious, cultural, and political demands. This focus was undertaken through an aesthetic and practical lens as well as a sociological and ethnographic perspective to dive deeper into the connection between the portici (a pervasive architectural feature of Bologna)and the political commune of Làbas (a community based political organization which reclaimed some spaces in the city center). We welcome you to explore these elements with us through this site.



Italiamo is a portal of Italian Grammar created by Jessica Reinhart, class of 2020, to document her progress in learning Italian and to serve as a tool for future generations of Italian students at Colby.

DH [email protected]

The DH [email protected] is an Italian Studies + Digital Humanities workshop open to everyone in the Colby community (students, faculty, and staff) that we offered in the spring of 2017.

It met for lunch in Miller 205 on Tuesdays from 1pm to 2:30pm. Everyone was invited to come and see our digital work, ask us questions, give us feedback, and learn how to use Neatline (the platform we utilized for our geo-spatial work).

The Navigli Project is our current Digital Humanities project that we started developing in the fall of 2016 in a Humanities Lab. This Neatline exhibit displays and narrates the visual, thick history of water in the city of Milan, Italy and can be explored by clicking the points on the map, scrolling along the timeline, opening each of the listed records or by following one of the “Itineraries.”
(Lunch was provided courtesy of the Center for the Arts and Humanities)

Contact: [email protected]

The Navigli Project

The Navigli Project is a digital map of Milan’s waters that displays and narrates the visual, thick history of water in the city of Milan, Italy. It is an interactive resource for students, researchers, and the general public interested in discovering and learning about Milan’s disappeared canals and current plans to bring them back. It comprises several layers of history, politics, literature, architecture, sound, video, photography, andgeography that show the different factors that throughout the centuries have created the cityscape of Milan today. The map can be explored by clicking the points on the screen, scrolling along the timeline, opening each of the listed records or by following one of the “Itineraries.” The Navigli Project was developed in the Humanities Lab titled IT397A City of Water. Uncovering Milan’s Aquatic Geographies in the fall of 2016, and was also the main project being curated and expanded at the DH [email protected] in the spring of 2017. The exhibit is constantly evolving and expanding.

 Follow us on Instragram at the_navigli_project.

 Like our Facebook page to follow our development!

We are very interested in your feedback, comments, and suggestions. If you have any questions, please contact serena.ferrando@asu.edu










(Click the image above to view the interactive exhibit)



IT298 Noisemakers! Tracing the Origins of Modern Music in Italy.

In this Origins Humanities Lab, students explored the history of noise and its impact on 20th-century Italian music. They also produced digital soundmaps of the city of Waterville and the Colby campus. The embracing of noise by Avant-Garde and Neo-Avant-Garde musicians marked the origins of a new way of conceiving and writing music, and noise was therefore a gateway to the investigation of the main features and principles that guided modern composers. In a multimedia environment that fostered an atmosphere of creative collaboration and encourages creative design, students turned from consumers of information into producers of cultural artifacts by generating annotated, playable maps, and disseminating them outside the classroom. Primary sources included music, sound clips, music scores, maps, manifestos, poems, essays, city plans, and historical accounts. Secondary sources comprised scholarly works, online archives as well as other digital humanities projects. The Lab traveled once to Harvard’s Harvard Group for New Music for a conversation with the composers and a concert.

The tangible results of this lab were the students’ projects (soundwalks, remixes, an immersive sonic Virtual Reality experience of Waterville, a 2D laser cut map of Waterville with Arduino components, and a noiseintoner) that were showcased at Noisefest!

Find more about the students’ projects at the links below:

Walking Sound

Follow some of the projects’ construction phases on Twitter @Noisemakers11

Provocative Texts: A Critical Toolbox

FR252 Provocative Texts (2017): http://web.colby.edu/provocativetexts/

PLOTTING POETRY. On Mechanically-Enhanced Reading

In 1917, commenting on the rise of new media, Apollinaire urged for “plotting/mechanising (“machiner”) poetry as has been done for the world”. A century later, the slogan’s rich metaphor is made all the sharper with the new technologies’ emergence in literary studies. What role have machines taken up in text reading? What do they teach us about the mechanics of poetry? What mechanical and strategic devices are we developing, with what results?

We are producing all sorts of computing and statistical apparatuses to describe and analyse metre, style and poeticity. We entrust them with part of our research to gain in speed and/or power, escape the physical boundaries of what our mind can embrace, rethink the usual questions and address new ones previously out of reach of traditional readings. Statistical analyses, digital corpuses, miscellaneous inventories shed light upon literature and provide our interpretations with the physical evidence they had to do without so far, but they in turn raise hermeneutic challenges.

To apply mechanical processes to the reading of texts is to raise the question of poeticity. Is it to be found in the measurable sum of artfully assembled processes, or does it escape normalisation efforts? Reading machines, by allowing a distant vision, measure phenomena that a natural reading would not detect, thus questioning the role of such invisible features in readers’ perception. Jacobson’s poetic function has objective linguistic features at its centre, but shall its efficiency be reduced to that of a machine, with levers and pulleys we can take apart?

Finally, the machine carries some notion of dehumanisation of the processes where it replaces us, and symmetrically, we readily adopt an anthropomorphic perception of it. Its use questions the usefulness and legitimacy of adopting “non-human” readings to access a fundamentally “human” material. Must the literary scholar, whose object is not a natural phenomenon, meet the burden of proof, or can one rely on intuitions? How shall mechanically enhanced “readings” and more traditional ones be linked together?

(University of Basel, 5-6-7 October, 2017/https://machinerlapoesie.wordpress.com)


MACHINER LA POESIE. Sur les lectures appareillées

En 1917, commentant l’essor des nouveaux media, Apollinaire exhortait à « machiner la poésie comme on a machiné le monde ». Cent ans plus tard, la riche métaphore de ce slogan revêt une acuité croissante au regard du surgissement des nouvelles technologies dans les études littéraires. Quel rôle les machines ont-elles pris dans la lecture des textes ? Que nous apprennent-elles sur la mécanique poétique ? Quelles machinations et quelles machineries développons-nous et avec quels résultats ?

Nous produisons des appareillages informatiques ou statistiques de toute sorte pour décrire et analyser mètre, style et poéticité. Nous leur confions une partie de nos recherches pour gagner en vitesse et/ou en puissance, échapper aux limites physiques de ce que notre esprit peut traiter, envisager différemment les questions habituelles et en faire émerger de nouvelles que les lectures traditionnelles ne permettaient pas. Les analyses statistiques, l’exploration de corpus numérisés, les recensements divers, éclairent la littérature et fournissent à l’interprétation des preuves matérielles dont elle a longtemps dû se passer, mais posent à leur tour des défis herméneutiques.

Appliquer des procédés mécaniques à la lecture des textes, c’est poser la question du poétique. Réside-t-il dans la somme mesurable de procédés ingénieusement agencés, ou bien échappe-t-il aux tentatives de normalisation ? Les machines à lire, en permettant une vision à distance, mesurent des phénomènes que la lecture naturelle ne permet pas de détecter, et interrogent le rôle des traits invisibles ainsi décelés dans notre perception de lecteurs. Quel contrôle le créateur exerce-t-il sur eux ? Ce que Jacobson appelle la fonction poétique a pour élément central des traits linguistiques objectivables, mais son efficacité est-elle pour autant réductible à celle d’une machine dont on peut démonter rouages et ressorts ?

Enfin, la machine représente une certaine déshumanisation des processus dans lesquels elle nous remplace, et symétriquement, nous en adoptons volontiers une perception anthropomorphique. Son emploi interroge l’utilité et la légitimité de procéder à des lectures « non-humaines » pour interroger un matériau par nature « humain ». Le spécialiste de littérature, dont l’objet n’est pas un phénomène naturel, est-il soumis à l’obligation de preuve, ou peut-il se contenter d’intuitions ? Comment articuler « lectures » appareillées et autres plus traditionnelles de la poésie. (Université de Bâle, 5-6-7 octobre 2017: https://machinerlapoesie.wordpress.com)

Writing the Self

In the course “L’écriture de soi”, students explored concepts of memory and self-fashioning in French and Francophone non-canonical/non-traditional autobiographical narratives, and questioned the (im)possibilities of writing the self. Through theoretical readings and creative research projects with digital platforms such as Tumblr and Storymaps, students acquired a better understanding of the processes by which written/visual memoirs and autobiographies were produced. To help them frame their own digital project, students analyzed a variety of texts (written/visual) to understand how writers, artists, theoreticians and filmmakers were writing and conceptualizing the self. In this Humanities Lab, students put into practice what they learned in class by conducting research/creative digital projects that challenged their own notion of “self” vis-à-vis issues of race, gender, identity, and community.

Nos Éternels Sentiers

(Click the image above to view the interactive exhibit)