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This article presents a project that explored the question: How shall we talk about the Anthropocene? We left a trace of our exploration in a website: Habitation in the Anthropocene.1 While we encourage you to explore the site directly, this article will discuss the site’s design. In particular, we will try to explain the decisions we made about the site’s interface—the way readers interact with its content—for those decisions were based on our thinking about how to convey what we had to [End Page 18] say about the Anthropocene. We will describe the development of our interface after first providing some background on our project.

The question of how to talk about the Anthropocene has two broad dimensions: the substantive dimension of what sorts of things should be said and the formal dimension of how those things should be presented. These dimensions are intimately related, yet we can focus on each in turn.

Our fundamental assumption was that the content of what is to be said about the Anthropocene is interdisciplinary. Understanding the Anthropocene proposal demands contributions from the natural sciences, social sciences, and the humanities. This is a well-established idea. As one of us has argued, “Theorizing the origin and character of the Anthropocene requires a collaborative effort across a wide range of scholarly disciplines.”2 Thus, our project was an outgrowth of already existing efforts by a team of scholars from departments across the University of Oklahoma who were members of the Anthropocene Learning Community, which was devoted to studying the Anthropocene idea from as many perspectives as possible. Our project, in other words, was anchored in our commitment to an interdisciplinary approach.

Our group pursued its goal by implementing a version of social learning. That term is used quite broadly in a variety of contexts; hence, its meaning is somewhat diffuse.3 We will stipulate a specific sense built on its precise use in studies of animal behavior.4 This sense contrasts social learning with the case of an individual learning directly from its interaction with its environment—an animal learns socially when it acquires a behavior by observing another member of its species.

In an analogous sense, our group used social learning to facilitate interdisciplinarity. We recognized that we needed to engage with work from a variety of disciplines—thus, each of us would be confronted with unfamiliar materials. However, we did not ask ourselves to learn directly from the highly diverse intellectual environment. Instead, at our meetings one of our members would present a relevant work from his or her discipline, in order to orient members from other disciplines to the concepts and methods of that field. Any seminar, of course, is an exercise in learning from others—but our format demonstrated the [End Page 19] value of social learning in the more specific sense of the term, by facilitating an interdisciplinary group’s efforts to develop shared understandings of an interdisciplinary subject.

That format lent itself quite easily to Inhabiting the Anthropocene, the blog we launched in 2014, as a forum in which we could continue our conversations and open them to a wider circle of participants.5 We created the blog precisely on the view that the blogging form is an especially appropriate medium for presenting the kind of broad discussions among scholars of diverse backgrounds and interests that the Anthropocene idea invites.6 In addition, the complexity of the Anthropocene idea makes the convenience that blogs offer of linking to multiple sources especially valuable.7 A central goal of the blog was to make available the kind of social learning just described, by having specialists in a range of disciplines post short discussions of articles in their fields in order to offer nonspecialists access to the disciplinary outlooks represented.8 We also post statements of our own views directly, likewise giving readers of the blog a sense of how scholars in different disciplines approach the Anthropocene. We take seriously the vision of a blog as a public conversation in which we can respond to and build on each other’s views.9

Our commitment to the view that the blogging form fit our subject led us to join the “Social Media in the Anthropocene” project.10 Indeed, we joined in part with an eye toward experimenting with the form in which an interdisciplinary set of blog posts might be presented. We will return to that topic below. First, though, let us address another aspect of the question of content: What sorts of things should be said about the Anthropocene?

A recurring theme in discussions in our learning community was the idea of habitation. For, clearly, the phenomena of pervasive global environmental change that have prompted the Anthropocene proposal are the results (sometimes but not always unintended) of activities human beings engage in to make their lives on—to inhabit—the earth. This was indeed the inspiration for the name we chose for the blog: Inhabiting the Anthropocene. Of course, one of the key issues in the Anthropocene has to do with the fact that the human species is not a unitary agent [End Page 20] but a highly diverse set of different agencies whose different patterns of habitation have highly differential impacts, which in turn cause suffering inequitably among different groups.11 This is indeed an essential issue and is discussed repeatedly on the blog.

For the “Social Media in the Anthropocene” project, we decided to address the theme of habitation quite specifically. In order to speak to the Anthropocene, we sought to elaborate an understanding of habitation as essentially transformative: the process of living in a place cannot but leave it different than it was. Those transformations can be understood as aimed at making the place more habitable (i.e., more suited to the form of habitation desired by the inhabitants responsible for them). This understanding of habitation is consistent with current work in ecology and evolutionary theory. Drawing from those fields, we refer broadly to concepts like ecological engineering and niche construction, which describe ways that animals, instead of adapting themselves to their environment, adapt the environment to themselves.12 A growing body of work is applying these ideas to the Anthropocene, by showing how, from the time of the emergence of their modern characteristics, human beings have transformed their physical surroundings quite extensively.13

Thus, from February to April of 2015 we devoted the Inhabiting the Anthropocene blog to a series of posts for the “Social Media in the Anthropocene” project. The eight of us each agreed to post twice—first by offering a reading of an article from his or her field that illuminates the theme of habitation in the Anthropocene and then by offering a reflection on the topic from his or her point of view but responsive to previous posts in the series. Therefore, the substance of our series was a set of discipline-based perspectives on habitation, applied to challenges to habitability posed by massive, anthropogenic global change. That substance was, in part, conveyed by the form associated with our blog. Each post was, so to speak, a unit of discourse expressing an individual outlook informed by a specific disciplinary training refracted through a personal point of view.

Now it can be argued that the somewhat atomistic form just suggested is in fact an appropriate way to talk about the Anthropocene. For it [End Page 21] leaves open to the reader how—or even whether—to solve the problem of producing an overarching vision of the Anthropocene associated with the posts taken as a single set. Indeed, among us as a diverse group of authors there was no single point of view. To the contrary, some pronounced differences among us emerged on a variety of points. To be sure, we took advantage of the blog form by including links among our posts. Reading the set of posts in chronological order would yield some feeling of a conversation—but one that was more like a series of monologues than an integrated statement of a single outlook. In formal terms this perhaps matches the situation of readers confronting the diverse literature on the Anthropocene, since they must assemble an interdisciplinary synthesis for themselves. Formally, then, our posts as a set thus retains an openness of meaning.

Note that we might have attempted to obtain some closure of meaning—by, for example, attempting to agree on some specific propositions about habitation in the Anthropocene, conveyed in a summary introduction or conclusion to the set. The goal of a focused interdisciplinary synthesis, the production of a single higher-level outlook informed by specific disciplinary inputs, is worthwhile though difficult—a difficulty faced in particular in interdisciplinary research aimed at solving a practical problem.14 However, because our group was not attempting to answer a specific research question or to attain a practical result, the goal of a focused interdisciplinary synthesis was not one we embraced for this project. Rather, we sought a form that would convey the fact that our posts were conceptually interlinked without effacing their distinctiveness. This led us to the problem of designing an interface, an embodied form for presenting what we had to say about the Anthropocene.

The noted digital humanities scholar Johanna Drucker has insightfully described the ways an interface implements an interpretation of the materials it makes available to the audience of a digital publication. In her apt phrasing, “Interface is a provocation to cognitive experience.”15 As she notes, following web designer Jesse James Garrett, interfaces serve two functions: “An interface can show information or it can support tasks and behaviors.”16 In that light, the problem we faced was to [End Page 22] develop a site that would both afford readers access to the posts and represent features of salient relationships among them. In the spirit of Drucker’s call to add “humanistic values to the ways interfaces structure critical insight,” we aimed to develop a form that would allow for “contrast, comparison, and exposure of the act of making meaning rather than simply presenting options on a menu.”17 In what follows we will describe how we worked toward this broad goal for our site.

To be candid, we did not begin with a well-articulated understanding of the thematic relationships among our posts. Thus, once the series was completed, we entered into a development process driven by two related concerns correlated with the two interface functions Drucker mentions.

On the one hand, we were concerned with the issue of sequence: which post to read first and which to read next. The temporal sequence in which the posts appeared on the blog was completely arbitrary—it resulted from convenient scheduling for the authors. But the blog interface, with its scroll of posts from latest to earliest, subliminally encourages the reader to attribute to the full set of posts a kind of conceptual narrative that is in reality an artifact of the form.

Obviously, however, to read the posts as a set they have to be read in some sequence or other. In keeping with the idea that sequence contributes to meaning and with our desire to maintain the openness of the meaning of the set, we sought to avoid identifying a specific sequence of posts as authoritative (i.e., endorsed by an author). In a purely formal sense, authorship involves the stipulation of an order—the designation of what is the beginning, what is the middle, and what is the end of the story. In this sense, authorship is diachronic: it declares how a work will unfold in time. We undertook to offer that aspect of authorship to our readers. We sought an interface that “supports the task and behavior” of choosing the order in which to read the posts. In that sense, we sought an interface that makes readers into coauthors.18

On the other hand, we were concerned with the issue of the precise character of the relationships among our posts. This issue certainly intersects with the issue of sequence, since sequence can express relationship. A strictly chronological sequence obviously expresses a temporal relationship—but as noted above, it can also convey the emergence and development of topics, showing how later posts build on earlier ones. But with an eye toward maintaining openness of meaning, we sought [End Page 23] a way to display information about relationships within the set so that readers could construct sequences of posts in a deliberate way. This involves our retaining a kind of authorship, though in a synchronic sense. (This point was articulated by Asa Randall, who, as an archeologist, is deeply sensitive to matters of time.) Thus, we not only sought an interface that makes all our posts available simultaneously, enabling readers to choose whichever one they want. We also sought to inform that choice by showing information about the set—in effect, annotating the structure of the conceptual space they occupy. Our objective, in sum, was an interface that, so to speak, more than providing a set of songs that can be mixed into different playlists, provides readers with navigational guidance to help them choose a path through that space that rewards their own interests.

Our reflections about these concerns fed into and was fed by thinking about how to implement them in an interface. This recursive cycle led us to articulate a conception of interdisciplinary synthesis that avoids the closure of a higher-level outlook by internalizing the openness of interdisciplinary interaction; that synthesis is based on the identification of certain dimensions along which posts can be compared. That articulation involved our imagining a visualization that both expresses the conception by representing the dimensions of comparison and gives readers a way to call up a post. In what follows, we will explain our thinking by discussing the way the interface we designed allows for several distinct presentations of the set of posts.

From an early stage in the project, we had discussed the idea that our posts would constitute nodes in a network. Unknowingly, this very general idea recapitulated a classic system for organizing scholarly work articulated by Vannevar Bush in 1945, which has remained influential.19 Thus, from the outset, we imagined representing the set by means of a network graph that would function as a hyperlinked table of contents, where clicking a node would lead the reader to the respective post.

That was a very general and undeveloped plan. Once we began the process of reflection on the complete series described above, we began to explore specific ways to realize it. We were aided by James McAdams, an emerging-technologies librarian at the University of Oklahoma’s [End Page 24] Bizzell Library, who used the Cytoscape open-source graph theory library to create the network graphs we envisioned and who also coded the website that contained them and collected the posts.20

An initial plan for the network was to have links between nodes represent links between posts (i.e., occasions when one post included a hyperlink to another). This approach quickly proved unproductive. Most obviously, it was skewed toward later posts, since earlier posts did not link to later ones. More substantively, however, the inclusion or non-inclusion of post-to-post hyperlinks was largely arbitrary and did not yield an interesting graph. We therefore decided to think more carefully about conceptual structures we could discern in the set of posts, so that we could then tag posts more comprehensively and produce graphs that were more meaningful. We settled on two systems for describing the set, both of which we used to arrange the posts into networks (our website refers to these as “views” of the posts). We then used these two systems to produce two additional views. We will present the four views in turn (click each graph below to see the respective view on the site).

Approaches View

The most obvious way to compare our posts was in terms of the disciplinary approaches taken in them. The disciplinary composition of our group—with members from various natural sciences, social [End Page 25] sciences, humanities, and applied disciplines—was somewhat arbitrary. And as we discussed our work, we noted overlaps among our approaches. We therefore undertook to characterize them in terms of a broad interpretation of the methodologies deployed in each, as described below. In the graph, each approach is represented by a square, and each has a different color. Posts are represented by circles, whose colors are derived from the color for the author’s approach. The range of color in the graph is meant to convey the interdisciplinary character of our project.

D Descriptive Approach: focuses on the material basis for habitation in terms of physical and biological processes and on how these processes are found across species; characteristic of the natural sciences.
I Interpretive Approach: focuses on human habitation as a social and cultural phenomenon and on how human habitation practices are invested with meaning; characteristic of the social sciences.
N Normative Approach: focuses on the justification or evaluation of human habitation practices in moral terms and on the moral values that those practices can be interpreted to express; characteristic of the humanities.
P Practical Approach: focuses on the implementation of habitation practices and infrastructure through the creation of the built environment; characteristic of the applied disciplines.

We also observed that many posts displayed features of more than one approach. By default each post is associated with the discipline of its author. But once we reached consensus on our list of approaches, we each identified a second approach for our posts as we saw fit. Posts are linked to the author’s main approach by a solid line and to the second approach (if present) by a broken line.

The approaches view thus shows information about the disciplinary interactions to be found in the set of posts—in particular, by showing how many posts engage more than one disciplinary approach. It allows readers to produce sequences of posts around specific approaches of interest. [End Page 26]

Themes View

As noted above, at the level of content, our posts all engaged with a very general understanding of habitation as a process that transforms the landscape. That process might in fact compromise the landscape’s habitability—the manifest challenge of the Anthropocene, and a recurring motif in our posts. But in looking back on our work we acknowledged that we each had brought particularized interests to the project as well, leading us to raise other issues and explore other questions.

In our discussions we articulated a number of concerns that seemed most significant across the set of posts. (Note that we did not employ a formal methodology such as content analysis of posts to identify these concerns; they came forth discursively and were settled on by consensus.) Not all of them came up in every post, but each came up frequently enough that we can speak of posts clustering around several themes. The themes are represented in the graph by gray polygons and are described below.

Not surprisingly some authors had similar outlooks on some themes. There were also revealing divergences. Below we describe the themes. Each description is followed by brief statements of contrasting outlooks on the theme. We used these to sort the posts dealing with that theme into two broad groups. Posts in a group are by no means in complete agreement, but they share a similar kind of emphasis. [End Page 27]

We do not mean to suggest a rigid categorization with these labels. Rather, their ultimate function is to help us articulate ways that two posts can be seen as similar or different. For convenience we label the two outlooks (indicated by italics), though the labels are meant to be suggestive, not precise. The outlooks are represented in the graph by different line styles—solid and broken (assigned arbitrarily and without suggesting a connection between views indicated with the same style). The themes view thus shows the structure of the thematic space the authors explored with their posts; posts can be interpreted as sights seen on pathways flagged by the questions that articulate each theme. Parallel to the approaches view, the graphical interface allows readers to follow a sequence of posts dictated by their thematic interests. But the information conveyed by the graph offers more detailed guidance. For readers are informed how to move on from a given post, either to one that is in broad agreement with it or to one that takes a broadly different point of view.

The approaches and themes views display the underlying conceptual structure within our set of posts. Thus, they show readers features of the posts that can inform the decision at the heart of creating a sequence—namely, the decision on what to read next. In this sense, these views display metadata about the posts—not their content directly but facts about their content (though another part of the screen does offer previews of the posts’ content). With respect to sequence, therefore, these elements of our interface are quite neutral; they allow the reader to make comparisons between posts but offer no positive recommendation on the construction of sequences.

However, we decided to explore ways the interface might add value to the bare facts of the metadata, by offering some interpretation of the conceptual structure the approaches and themes views display. We by no means rejected the ideal of openness described above, which is why we leave the construction of sequence open to the reader. Rather, we undertook to annotate pathways between posts in a way that gives more determinate content to our understanding of the collection as a coherent set (i.e., as the product of an organized effort by a single group rather [End Page 28]

H History. The situation of inhabitants of the Anthropocene—that they live in a world shaped by human activity—is not new or unique. Every generation of humans has inhabited a world that was already inhabited before them; the landscape they occupied had already been shaped to make it habitable by its prior inhabitants. In this sense, habitation has a history. But what is the character of that history? Does it follow an inner logic, whereby an inevitable increase in technological power enables indefinite improvement in human habitation? Or is the history of human habitation more contingent and complex, so that present forms reflect an accumulation of more-or-less diverse and arbitrary actions taken in the past?
Labels for alternative outlooks:
Hc: emphasis on complexity of factors shaping a habitat (solid line)
Hr: emphasis on conceptual reduction in explanation of habitation to a core factor (broken line)
F Future. Though the Anthropocene may well have already begun, discussions of it as a new geological era conjure visions of the future—a future in which the habitability of the earth has been put in question. What then is the future of habitability? Is envisioning that future an exercise in pessimism—imagining a secular, environmental apocalypse determined by what human beings have done and are likely to continue to do in their habitation practices? Or is there room for hope—imagining a “good Anthropocene” marked by ways of inhabiting the earth that protect or even enhance its habitability?
Labels for alternative outlooks:
Fh: emphasis on the possibility of hope for a good Anthropocene (solid line)
Fd: emphasis on the danger of the Anthropocene (broken line)
A Agency. The Anthropocene proposal seems to accept as a basis for any further thinking the claim that human activity is the decisive factor shaping the earth’s habitability—for humans and all other forms of life. But is this attribution of overwhelming influence to humanity correct? Does it indeed convey the reality of the situation with the earth’s system processes? Or does it overstate human power and understate the workings of nonhuman factors in shaping the environment—and perhaps, in so doing, at once flatter humans’ sense of preeminence and discount the moral status of other species? And as must be asked, who is the “anthropos” of the Anthropocene? Is the agency responsible for the putative new era held by undifferentiated humanity as a whole? Or ought it to be attributed to specific groups in specific societies, in view of the impacts of their specific habitation practices?
Labels for alternative outlooks:
Ax: emphasis on humans as exceptional in ability to shape habitat (solid line)
An: emphasis on human habitation as entangled with other factors (broken line)
L Limits. The recognition that human beings are profoundly adept at altering their environment to meet their standards of habitability reinforces a conception of ourselves as capable of transcending constraints on our way of life apparently imposed on us by nature. Does humanity indeed have the potential to escape natural limits? Or are our modes of habitation subject to the kinds of limitations expressed by the proposal that there are “planetary boundaries”—parameters determining the conditions under which the earth system is habitable? Alternatively, whether or not technology makes habitation feasible outside those boundaries, are there moral limits to human habitation practices that demand consideration of whether all people—and other species—have fair access to habitability?
Labels for alternative outlooks:
Lp: emphasis on limitations on habitation set by physical factors (e.g., planetary boundaries) (solid line)
Lm: emphasis on limitations on habitation set by moral factors (e.g., justice) (broken line)

than simply an aggregation of otherwise-disconnected statements). The content we sought to present is not the focused synthesis of a unified position on the question we wrote about. Instead, it is an explication of the conceptual interrelationships among the posts we wrote.

We operationalized this goal by thinking of ways to characterize posts as similar to and as different from one another. This strategy is linked to the task our interface leaves open to the reader: choosing the next post to read. Characterizing posts as similar or different addresses that problem by interpreting options. We sought to offer readers guidance by, in effect, asking if they would like to see an elaboration of the ideas in the post they have just read or to consider an alternative outlook.

Similarity and difference are always present in certain respects. Those respects are precisely the characteristics of the posts articulated by the metadata. They function, in effect, as labels for dimensions along which posts can be compared and determined to be similar or different. We sought, therefore, to add the capability to the interface of using the information in the metadata to make such comparisons salient to the reader. This would visualize our collective interpretation of the conceptual structure of the set of posts, thereby informing readers’ choices as they decided on the sequence in which to read them. Indeed, we regard that conceptual structure as our collective authorial contribution to the reader’s experience of our posts. We pursued two different strategies for [End Page 30] developing this capacity for the interface, which we built into the following two additional views.

Emergent Pairings View

One strategy we took involved exploiting the computational capacities of the digital medium. We used features of the visualization software to represent comparisons between posts in a network graph: posts linked by wider edges are more similar than posts linked by narrower (or no) edges. Readers can follow wider links to identify posts that are more similar or narrower links (or jump to an unconnected node) to identify posts that are less similar.

The pairings in the graph are emergent in the sense that they were generated algorithmically from the metadata—the listing of the approaches and outlooks on themes taken by each post. We developed a numerical index for comparisons between posts, based on this information. The graph thus reveals an aspect of the structure of the set of posts that literally emerges at the level of the collection as a whole from the characteristics of the individual posts contained in the metadata.

The numerical index was derived using a simple social network analysis of the posts. The collection of posts constitute a social network in the sense that posts can have certain characteristics in common, as shown by their metadata. Two posts that have one or more common characteristics [End Page 31] are therefore linked, and the linkages among all the posts constitute a network. Social network analysis is the technique used to determine the full set of linkages from data about each post individually.21

The metadata we used in our analysis were the approaches and outlooks on themes each post took. We used the mathematical technique of matrix multiplication to count the number of characteristics two posts have in common. Our analysis is explained on the website. In our analysis the number of common characteristics can range from zero to four, as measured by the number of approaches (up to two) and the number of outlooks on themes (up to two) the posts share. On this operationalization of similarity, the higher the number, the more similar the posts (an index of zero means posts have no common characteristics at all).

The graphing software then represents these comparisons visually by producing links of corresponding widths. The width of the link between two nodes is proportional to the total number of approaches and outlooks on themes shared by the respective posts; posts with no common approaches or outlooks on themes have no links between them. As an element in our interface, the graph thus reveals a structural feature of the set of posts—the degree of similarity and difference among them, in the stipulated sense—and thereby informs the reader’s choice of what to read next.

Author-Supplied Pairings View

[End Page 32]

The second strategy we pursued was more discursive. It involved a direct discussion among us around the topic of sequencing posts. As noted above, once the series of posts was completed, we met to reflect on the series as a whole. A key result was the articulation of the conceptual structure expressed in the elements of the interface presented so far. However, we explored the issue of sequences of posts—though with a keen eye toward maintaining the openness we have mentioned repeatedly above.

Our solution—geared toward leaving the determination of full sequences in the hands of readers—was to offer suggestions for sequence segments. Each of us provided suggestions for posts to read alongside our own. For each of our posts, we identified one by another author we saw as broadly similar and one we saw as broadly different. Those comparisons were qualitative, rather than quantitative as in the previous view. But they were informed by and expressed in terms of the same dimensions of comparison (i.e., the approaches we took, the themes we addressed, and the outlooks we took on those themes).

We then represented those suggestions as a network, where links indicate suggested pairs of posts to read together (in some cases, in a specific order). The links themselves are annotated so that the reader understands the rationale for the pairing, in terms of the basis of comparison between them. This element of our interface thus offers the most active guidance to readers: hovering the mouse above a link shows a brief explanation of the relationship the respective author sees between the two posts. It thus provides readers the opportunity to receive some interpretive advice as they explore their options for what to read next. Visually, the graph shows the interlocked assessments made by each author of the relationships between their own posts and others. Together these constitute an image that displays an aggregated commentary on the interdisciplinary interactions within the set of posts.

Johanna Drucker calls for an interface to be “an event-space of interpretive activity.”22 We hope that our interface at least approximates that ideal—that, in her words, it “expose[s] and support[s] the activity of interpretation.”23 As we have described, we designed it to express our [End Page 33] own interpretation of our collective thinking about habitation in the Anthropocene. But the goal of maintaining openness to which we have recurred throughout this article can be restated in terms of supporting readers’ efforts to interpret our interaction for themselves. Our interface facilitates their construction of sequences of posts and guides their understanding of the relationship among posts without stipulating a univocal view of our topic. That interpretive guidance constitutes our open conception of interdisciplinary synthesis (i.e., not a point of view synthesized from multiple approaches but an overview of the conceptual dynamics of interdisciplinary interaction). We take our interface to operationalize those dynamics, making them available for readers to think through in their own intellectual experience.

Such at least is our aspiration for this project. But at the same time, we take to heart the view of work in the digital humanities that “one of the strongest attributes of the field is that the iterative versioning of digital projects fosters experimentation, risk-taking, redefinition, and sometimes failure.”24 In that spirit, we regard the state of the project we describe here as provisional—as an example of how an interdisciplinary interaction might be organized and presented. We hope it is indicative of promising avenues to explore further. [End Page 34]

Zev Trachtenberg

Zev Trachtenberg is at the Department of Philosophy at the University of Oklahoma.

Antonio J. Castro

Antonio J. Castro is at the Department of Biological Sciences, Idaho State University.

Kiza Gates

Kiza Gates is at the Washington State Department of the Environment.

Asa Randall

Asa Randall is at the Department of Anthropology at the University of Oklahoma.

Ingo Schlupp

Ingo Schlupp is at the Department of Biology at the University of Oklahoma.

Lynn Soreghan

Lynn Soreghan is at the School of Geology and Geophysics at the University of Oklahoma.

Noah Theriault

Noah Theriault is at the Department of History at Carnegie Mellon University.

Meghan Wieters

Meghan Wieters is at the Division of Regional and City Planning at the University of Oklahoma.


1. See Habitation in the Anthropocene: An Interdisciplinary Interaction. The source code for the site is available through Zenodo, at, doi:10.5281/zenodo.1009685.

2. Michael A. Ellis and Trachtenberg, “Which Anthropocene Is It to Be?” For a particularly influential statement of the interdisciplinarity of the Anthropocene, see Chakrabarty, “Climate of History.” Environmental issues in general have long been seen as peculiarly interdisciplinary, due to the way they involve entangled natural and social processes. See, for example, Miller et al., “Epistemological Pluralism”; Andrade et al., “Finding Your Way in the Interdisciplinary Forest.” A fine example of this kind of work is Groffman et al., “Ecological Homogenization of Urban USA.”

3. The term social learning has been taken up in studies of organizations (e.g., Brandi and Elkjaer, “Organizational Learning Viewed from a Social Learning Perspective”), and in particular it has been discussed with respect to the use of social media in business and education (e.g., Bingham and Conner, New Social Learning; Zhang et al., “From E-Learning to Social-Learning”; Scoble, “Contemporary Technologies’ Influence on Learning as a Social Practice”).

4. Hoppitt and Laland, Social Learning, 3–5. See also Rendell et al., “Cognitive Culture.”

5. See Inhabiting the Anthropocene,

6. On the possibilities of blogging as a forum for scholarly communication, see Halavais, “Scholarly Blogging”; Walker, “Blogging from inside the Ivory Tower”; Kjellberg, “I Am a Blogging Researcher”; Shema, Bar-Ilan, and Thelwall, “Research Blogs and the Discussion of Scholarly Information.”

7. For a thoughtful discussion of hyperreading, see Hayles, How We Think, chap. 3.

8. On the particular value of blogging for interdisciplinary scholarship, see Weller, Digital Scholar, 66.

9. Compare with the discussion of participatory culture in Jenkins, Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture.

10. On projects as the basic unit in the digital humanities, see Burdick et al., Digital Humanities, 124–25.

11. See Ogden et al., “Global Assemblages, Resilience, and Earth Stewardship in the Anthropocene”; Malm and Hornborg, “Geology of Mankind?”

12. See Jones, Lawton, and Shachak, “Organisms as Ecosystem Engineers”; Odling-Smee, Erwin, et al., “Niche Construction”; Odling-Smee, Laland, and Feldman, “Niche Construction Theory.”

13. See Erle C. Ellis and Ramankutty, “Putting People in the Map”; Erle C. Ellis, “Ecology in an Anthropogenic Biosphere.”

14. For a discussion of different ways of integrating interdisciplinary research, see Rossini and Porter, “Frameworks for Integrating Interdisciplinary Research.” [End Page 35]

15. Drucker, “Humanities Approaches to Interface Theory,” 9; see also Drucker, Graphesis.

16. Drucker, Graphesis, 62.

17. Drucker, Graphesis, 62.

18. For discussions of transformations in authorship in the digital context, see Fitzpatrick, “Digital Future of Authorship”; Burdick et al., Digital Humanities, 82–84.

19. Bush, “As We May Think.” For a related set of discussions on the use of networks, see Kirschner, Buckingham-Shum, and Carr, Visualizing Argumentation, especially chaps. 1 and 9.

20. See the Cytoscape graph theory library at Donnelly Centre, Cytoscape.js,

21. Our analysis is based on the extremely accessible explanation of the technique by Healy, “Using Metadata to Find Paul Revere.”

22. Drucker, Graphesis, 178.

23. Drucker, Graphesis, 179.

24. Burdick et al., Digital Humanities, 21.


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