Category Archives: announcements

Quantifying Addictive Pleasure, from Gary Becker to Thomas De Quincey

Update: My talk is now available.

Quantifying Addictive Pleasure, From Gary Becker to Thomas De Quincey from John Mulligan on Vimeo.

Health Museum’s Facebook page:

Tonight at 5:30 I’m giving a talk at the Health Museum (1515 Hermann Drive) that provides a brief history of quantifying addictive pleasure, as part of the 2017 History and Culture of Disease and Healing Seminar Series.

The title is “Hooked: Measuring Addictive Pleasure from Romanticism to Neoliberalism,” and is an analysis of different prominent figures in the debate, focusing on Gary Becker, Thomas De Quincey, and Bruce Alexander. I (attempt to!) show sympathies and conversations between economics, psychology, and aesthetics, bookending my discussion with a reading of Narcos on the front end, and (how very exciting!) the 1821-22 publication history of De Quincey’s Confessions on the back end.

October 26 API Workshop

This semester, the Humanities Research Center, the Center for Research Computing, and the Digital Scholarship Services department at Fondren are experimenting with a digital humanities workshop series format that weaves together:

  • Practical coding skills,
  • Theoretical discussions of the utility and significance of specific tools and techniques,
  • And introductions to resources available for humanities and social sciences research computing at Rice.

Our October 26 workshop (3pm, the Digital Media Commons room in Fondren’s basement) focuses on public, web-based API’s (application programming interfaces) as objects of use and study for researchers. API’s provide users structured access to complex process and data sets, such as Twitter’s massive database of public social media activity, or JSTOR’s search functionality. This structured access makes it easy to piggyback lightweight applications on bigger applications, to produce outsized results.

Event Details

To show how using big data creatively can help us to revise humanities computing methodologies, we will also be looking at a Shakespeare intertextual reader that I built using JSTOR data.  It takes ~100,000 lines in Shakespeare, referenced by ~70,000 articles in the JSTOR database, to make ~4.5 million associations between these individual lines. You can see similar (but simpler) co-citational work elsewhere on this blog.

My first implementation of this dataset was to build a recommendation engine for Shakespeare passages — except that the recommenders here are the expert Shakespeare scholars in the JSTOR database. We are temporarily hosting this application (called Ariel) on Rice servers for the workshop:

The Green-Eyed Monster



Workshop attendees will learn:

  • A few quick methods for interacting with the JSTOR API to gain access to big, structured data,
  • A few quick methods for handling all that data,
  • And we will look at the nuts and bolts of Ariel, an example implementation of JSTOR’s Shakespeare dataset.

For this workshop, please install:

And please register for:

Email me with any questions:

Put the event in your calendar at

Student: Honorable Mention in Science Fiction Competition

I’m catching up on news from my summer students. Phoebe Shalloway, a student in my course Future Perfect: The Politics of Science Fiction, has received honorable mention in the 2013 Writers of the Future competition. Judges for the award include Orson Scott Card and other SF big-shots.

Congrats to Phoebe, whose short story “The Skyfill” was her final project for the course, imaginatively reworked some of the motivating questions behind M. John Harrison‘s novel Light. It was a real pleasure to read, and Phoebe has been kind enough to let me share the work with you, below.
(Download the pdf here)

I will be teaching this course again in July! I’m reworking the syllabus now. Among the changes: Neal Stephenson is out. Eileen Gunn is in.

Student wins film award

Brown CE Digital Storytelling Student Wins Film Award
Brown CE Digital Storytelling Student Wins Film Award

Jihyun Lee, a student in my 2013 Digital Storytelling course, has notified me that one of her film projects won 2nd place in the Asian International Children’s Film and Video Festival. There were some excellent projects produced in the course, and I’m thrilled to see Jihyun receiving recognition for her work.

Jihyun’s film:

Portfolio of various students’ projects:

I am very much looking forward to teaching the course again this summer, and seeing what the new batch of storytellers produces!