Summer Brings Russell Scholars, a pair of education projects, two arts projects, and digital collaborations to the Obermann Center

Authored on:

Apr 25, 2017
Collage of images related to Summer 2017 programming

The Obermann Center will host multiple groups this summer, working on projects ranging from an edited anthology to a "film opera." 

Bertrand Russell's Logical Atomism Draws International Scholars

The Philosophy of Physical Atomism is the focus of this year's Obermann Summer Seminar. These lectures, given by Bertrand Russell in the early months of 1918, were published in pairs in four issues of The Monist from 1918 to 1919. They record the culmination of Russell’s thinking in response to discussions with Wittgenstein on the nature of judgment, philosophical analysis, and philosophy of logic, interaction with Moore and other philosophical realists about atomism, and Whitehead and Russell’s novel extension of revolutionary work in mathematics and logic in the late nineteenth century. The seminar brings together twenty of the leading experts on Russell’s philosophy, including his historical and intellectual context and influence, to critically assess the nature and impact of Russell’s logical atomism.

Interdisciplinary Research Grant Program Includes Multiyear Trans-media Film, Theatre, Musical Collaboration

In June and July, four different groups that have been awarded an Obermann Interdisciplinary Research Grant will work at the Center. These grants are intended to foster collaborative scholarship and creative work and often lead to the publication of articles and books, grant applications, concerts, and websites. 

Iphigenia: Story of a Refugee is a culminating performance piece of The Iphigenia Project, a multiyear trans-media collaboration between three award-winning artists from different countries. Filmmaker Irina Patkanian (Russia/USA), playwright/theatre activist Lisa Schlesinger (USA/Greece), and director/translator Marion Schoevaert (France, Korea, USA) join cultures, artistic media, and different ways of seeing to bring the refugee crisis center-stage through film, theatre, and digital media. The trio will also work with Syrian composer and clarinetist Kinan Azmeh, who tours with Yo Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble, as well as with his own band.

"The project excavates the mythological character of Iphigenia from pre-classical history, through Euripides’s plays, into the twenty-first century," says Schlesinger, a faculty member in the Theatre Department (CLAS). "Iphigenia is portrayed as the first refugee of war and the central metaphor for questions of forced displacement in global conflict."

Why did an artistic vanguard emerge in Iowa, and more specifically at the University of Iowa, beginning at mid-century?

This is a central question of another arts-focused project, Avant-Garde in Iowa, which brings together Jennifer Buckley (English, CLAS) and Joyce Tsai (UI Museum of Art and Art History and the College of Education). The two have begun working with faculty and staff across campus to lay the intellectual and logistical groundwork for a five-year program of interrelated exhibitions, performances, lectures, and courses across campus. This initiative examines the UI's longstanding commitment to avant-garde ideas and practices, evident in its rich pedagogical, artistic, and collections histories. Not only do Buckley and Tsai seek to alert students, faculty, and the broader community to the history of the interdisciplinary artistic vanguard in and around the UI, they also hope that these activities will lead participants to excavate and activate the physical traces of that legacy in institutional repositories. 

Health Literacy of Immigrants Topic of NIH Grant Application

As immigrant populations in the U.S. and Iowa continue to boom, it is significant to note that immigrants are among the most vulnerable groups in the United States for incidence of health disparities. Part of this disparity can be attributed to low literacy skills. Literacy, as it relates to health issues, can be defined as the currency of being in charge of one's health and the ability to navigate the healthcare system with agency.

Carolyn Colvin (Teaching & Learning, College of Education) and Sandra Daack-Hirsch (College of Nursing), will be writing a grant in response to a National Institutes of Health announcement, "Education and Health: New Frontiers." Both faculty members work on literacy initiatives (an adult literacy program, pre-school literacy program, and career education program) in two southeastern Iowa communities, West Liberty and Columbus Junction, and have become increasingly aware of literacy and its relationship to health knowledge and health decisions among members of immigrant communities in rural Iowa. 

Role of Text Modifications in Literacy Among IDD Community

Another pair, Erica Kaldenberg (UI REACH, College of Education) and Meredith Saletta (Communication Sciences & Disorders, CLAS) will work on a meta-analysis about literacy in children, adolescents, and adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDD), including individuals with Down syndrome, autism spectrum disorders, cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, and other disabilities that affect cognition. They will compile literature regarding the issue of text modifications. The dearth of meta-analysis related to this area has made it unclear how to design therapeutic interventions for promoting literacy in children, adolescents, and adults with IDD. The faculty duo will compile both single-subject and group studies, and then use the Phi statistical method to analyze effect sizes from these published studies. Finally, they will write up their manuscript for publication in Exceptional Children

Andrew W. Mellon-funded Digital Bridges for Humanistic Inquiry: A Grinnell College/UI Partnership

The Obermann Center is hosting the 2017 Digital Bridges Summer Institute in June, which will welcome a team from StoryCenter to Iowa City to work with Grinnell College faculty and University of Iowa faculty and graduate students. The Digital Bridges Summer Collaboration grants and support for exploratory work will also bring several teams to the Obermann Center.

  • Barbara Eckstein (English, UI) and Casey Oberlin (Statistics, Grinnell) will consider digital options for making Eckstein's ongoing project, The People’s Weather Map and Social Media: Iowans Talking about Weather Hazards, more interactive.
  • Fred Boehmke (Political Science, UI), Paul Dilley (Classics, Religious Studies, UI), and Pamela Fellers (Statistics, Grinnell) will develop courses that introduce undergraduates to the uses of "big data." They will be collaborating with Digital Bridges Postdoctoral Fellow Matt Hannah and Erik Simpson, a co-P.I. and professor of English at Grinnell.
  • Laurel Farrin (School of Art and Art History, UI) and Matthew Kluber (Art, Grinnell) will be "Drawing Structures," experimenting with dimensional practice.
  • Daniel Fine (School of Art and Art History, UI) will work with Grinnell Digital Bridges Postdoctoral Fellow Jen Shook on a project that asks how art can be used in discussions about race and ethnicity.
  • Kyle Rector (Computer Science, UI) will collaborate with Justin Thomas (Theatre and Design, Grinnell). Their project will experiment with several ways to enrich the experience of art for people who are visually impaired, asking how playwrights' stage directions can help to create a more enjoyable audio description of art for people who are blind, how a motion camera or sensor able to track people on the stage might provide verbal descriptions of these visual actions to people who are blind, and how they can integrate these accessible designs into the theatre so that all people can enjoy them regardless of visual acuity.  
  • Finally, Caleb Elfenbein (History and Religious Studies, Grinnell) has developed an online Mapping Islamophobia project. He and Jason Harshman (Teaching and Learning/Social Studies Education, UI) are considering how the site might become a resource for students and teachers in high school, college, and university settings.