Exploring the Digital Humanities at UF’s first Latin American and Caribbean DH Symposium

When I first began my tenure as the Immersive Scholarship graduate assistant at FSU’s Office of Digital Research and Scholarship in August of 2022, I had no idea where this nebulous and exciting journey would take me. I came into this position as a second-year MA from the Museum and Cultural Heritage Studies program, a subsect of the Art History department. While initially outside of my comfort zone, this new role afforded me the flexibility to experiment and evolve; particularly by advancing and reshaping my burgeoning scholarship on the Caribbean. This growth took the form of a proposal submission to the University of Florida’s first Latin American and Caribbean Digital Humanities Symposium to which I was accepted and presented at on March 3rd, 2023.

My presentation followed the trajectory of my work with The Forgotten Canopy, a hybrid conference analyzing the contact points between imperialism, ephemeral architecture, and ecology in the Caribbean, South American, and transatlantic worlds. As a component of the conference, graduate students from both Florida State and University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) collaborated to produce a digital guidebook that would accompany its ecological workshop. Our guidebook, hosted on open-source publishing platform Manifold, contained immersive components such as satellite mapping and a responsive map that allowed scavenger hunt participants to proactively chart the positions of plants in the botanical garden.

From left to right: Amanda Elena Brito, Kevin Torres-Spicer, Estefanía Vallejo Santiago, Alex Casteel, Sheila Scoville, Gabriel Silva Collins, Syon Vasquez, Rachel Schloss, Camille Neira, Wendan Wang, and Alba Menéndez Pereda. Photo courtesy of Dr. Paul Niell.

Our goal in using Manifold was twofold: not only would it allow for the integration of immersive technologies, but its structure also allowed us to experiment with open access and non-conventional forms of scholarly publication. Many other symposium participants shared in this sentiment— pulling on platforms such as SCALAR, Omeka S, and StoryMaps as a means of integrating digital storytelling into their research. This opportunity to engage with other like-minded researchers was incredibly enriching, even beyond the scope of digital publication. Much of my work on the Caribbean, particularly Cuba, has been informed by a need to extensively analyze the digital—to grapple with the implications of working in time-based media such as photography and film. This coincides with the research of Dr. Andrea A. Gaytán Cuesta, for example, who gave a phenomenal lecture entitled Creating a Digital Encyclopedia of Glitch Cinema in America. UF’s Associate Processing Archivist Martha Kapelewski also delivered a compelling lightning talk on Escribanos Cubanos Coloniales y sus Signos (Colonial Cuban Notaries and their Signs).

Overall, I feel very fortunate to have participated in such a wonderful and academically rich colloquium. As an entry level digital humanities professional, this symposium has reaffirmed my enthusiasm for the discipline and re-energized me as I approach graduation in May. With that milestone in mind, I am incredibly eager to begin searching for jobs that align with my research and that move the needle in terms of Caribbean digital scholarship. In the future, I hope to return to Cuba and work on a digital repository of cultural heritage on the island, but until then I am happy to work out of my home base in Miami. Either way, being part of the Immersive Scholarship team has been an immeasurable gift and I am excited to take the lessons I have learned here forward into the field.

Amanda Elena Brito
Amanda Elena Brito
Immersive Scholarship graduate assistant
Amanda is currently pursuing an M.A. in Museum and Cultural Heritage Studies at Florida State University. Her research focuses on Contemporary Latin American and Caribbean visual culture with an emphasis on socially engaged, decolonial art practice. Her current research mines the intersection of the digital humanities and Caribbean time-based media, with a special interest in Cuban cultural production.