The Harvard Discovery Series brings scholars on the frontiers of digital knowledge-making to a Harvard audience in an intimate and interactive setting. From an archaeologist reconstructing tombs in virtual reality, to scholars challenging power differentials through data feminism, to a quantum astrochemist using high-performance computing to search for life among the stars, these presentations of disparate topics demonstrate the unifying potential of digital methods and tools in scholarly and pedagogical pursuits.

The Harvard Discovery Series is organized by Susan Berstler (Cabot Science Library), Enrique Diaz (Harvard Library Digital Strategies and Innovation), Kevin Guiney (AT-FAS), Cole Crawford (Arts and Humanities Research Computing), Jeremy Guillette (AT-FAS), and Jeff Emanuel (AT-FAS), with event support provided by Lynn Sayers (Lamont Library). The event series is sponsored by the DSSG Standing Committee.

The Digital Futures Discovery Series was previously sponsored by the Digital Futures Consortium at Harvard (DFC). Active from 2012 to 2019, the DFC was dedicated to the furthering of digital methods and tools through collaboration and the sharing of experiences and expertise. As these efforts were successfully adopted into the core missions of several positions and units across the University (including the DSSG), the DFC was sunset in recognition that its raison d’être had been fulfilled.

Spring 2022 Discovery Series Events

Discovery Series: Emotion in Data Visualization

01/19/22 3:30 pm – 01/19/22 4:30 pm

Speakers: Martin Wattenberg and Fernanda Viégas Join us for the first event in our spring 2022 Discovery Series! Martin Wattenberg and Fernanda Viégas, leaders of Google’s PAIR (People+AI Research) initiative and new SEAS faculty, will speak on Emotion in Data Visualization. Zoom registration About the Read more…

Discovery Series: An Update on Virtual Harvard

02/09/22 2:00 pm – 02/09/22 3:00 pm

Speaker: Rus Gant As we move forward with an ever rapidly increasing on-line component to everyday education at Harvard it is clear from the experience of the last two years that we need new ways to deliver a high-quality pedagogical Read more…

From Portable Studio to Digital Archive: Otto Piene’s Sketchbooks

03/23/22 2:00 pm – 03/23/22 3:00 pm

Speaker: Lauren Hanson and Jeff Steward The Harvard Art Museums was recently gifted more than seventy sketchbooks by artist Otto Piene (1928–2014), a pioneer in multimedia and technology-based art. Piene was long interested in optical perception and kinetic forces, resulting in a Read more…

Placing Virtual Reality: Japan’s Alternative VR History

04/13/22 2:00 pm – 04/13/22 3:00 pm

This talk tracks the emergence of virtual reality during the “VR boom” of the early 1990s, exploring how the cultural understanding of VR transformed as it crossed the Pacific and was taken up in Japan. Japan’s embrace of VR shifted it away from both its early military contexts and American-style techno-utopianism, reimagining the technology Read more…

Past Harvard Discovery Series Events

Discovery Series: Opportunities Beyond Bars

11/17/21 2:00 pm – 11/17/21 3:00 pm

Speaker: Jenn Halen Can Virtual Reality be used in a time of extreme isolation to connect undergraduate students from Harvard with mentees in a juvenile detention center in meaningful ways? Will this service-learning environment be as fulfilling as in person Read more…

Discovery Series: Living in Data

10/20/21 2:00 pm – 10/20/21 3:00 pm

Speaker: Jer Thorp To live in data is to be incessantly extracted from; to be classified and categorized, statisti-fied, sold and surveilled. Data (our data) is mined and processed for profit, power and political gain. Our clicks and likes and Read more…

Discovery Series: Figures in the Sky Initiative

09/29/21 2:00 pm – 09/29/21 3:00 pm

The Figures in the Sky Initiative (FITSI) is a digital public history project under development at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics’ Wolbach Library. FITSI’s main goal is to connect people with resources to help them understand and appreciate different astronomical Read more…

Would We Know Life If We Saw It?

04/21/21 3:00 pm – 04/21/21 4:00 pm

Presentation Recording Over the last few decades, scientists have found thousands of planets beyond our own. Some of those planets might be habitable, and perhaps even inhabited already; but how can we tell? Clara Sousa-Silva (Center for Astrophysics | Harvard-Smithsonian) Read more…

Newspaper Navigator: Re-Imagining Digitized Newspapers with Machine Learning

03/24/21 1:00 pm – 03/24/21 2:00 pm

Slides: Recording: The millions of digitized historic newspaper pages within Chronicling America, a joint initiative between the Library of Congress and the National Endowment for the Humanities, represent an incredibly rich resource for the American public. Historians, journalists, genealogists, students, Read more…

Plant Biology Education in Virtual Reality

02/24/21 2:00 pm – 02/24/21 3:00 pm

Watch the presentation VRPlants is a team of staff and students from the North Carolina State University Libraries and Department of Plant & Microbial Biology that is developing virtual reality educational experiences dealing with plant biology and natural sciences. VRPlants Read more…

Storytelling in Action: The GRX Immersive Labs Way

01/27/21 3:00 pm – 01/27/21 4:00 pm

Presentation Recording The Harvard Online Discovery Series kicks off 2021 with a special tribute in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King featuring VR filmmakers Alton Glass and Paris McCoy from GRX Immersive Labs. In the Storytelling in Action: The GRX Immersive Labs Way session, Read more…

The Intersection of Art, Technology and Activism

12/07/20 2:00 pm – 12/07/20 3:30 pm

Recording link: We need to rethink whom we, as a society, are choosing to memorialize in the form of public statues and monuments. “The People’s Memorial Project” is a campaign to rethink the future of memorials and monuments on the Read more…

Data Feminism

10/15/20 12:00 pm – 10/15/20 1:00 pm

Watch a recording of “Data Feminism” As data are increasingly mobilized in the service of governments and corporations, their unequal conditions of production, asymmetrical methods of application, and unequal effects on both individuals and groups have become increasingly difficult for Read more…

Data Visualization: Reasons, Not Rules

09/16/20 2:00 pm – 09/16/20 3:00 pm

For a long time data visualization has been taught as a craft that is based on strict rules (“don’t use pie charts!”, “bar graphs should always have a 0 baseline!”) This talk explains that this strategy is both limiting and Read more…

Cover image, Digital Futures Discovery Series 11-6-19, Gabriel Pizzorno on Identity, Personhood, and Material Culture: Personal Effects Confiscated from Prisoners at Dachau Concentration Camp

Identity, Personhood, and Material Culture: Personal Effects Confiscated from Prisoners at Dachau Concentration Camp

11/06/19 2:00 pm – 11/06/19 3:00 pm

Concentration camps were much more than a corollary to National Socialism: they represented the most fully articulated manifestation of its ideology. From the very beginning, they formed the backbone of the Third Reich’s repressive apparatus and, through mass detention, deprivation, Read more…

Digital Futures Discovery Series: Machine Learning – How Does it Work?!?

10/23/19 2:00 pm – 10/23/19 3:00 pm

Click here for more information on the Digital Futures Discovery Series, a monthly presentation series on digital innovations in research and teaching presented by Cabot Library and the DSSG. Andromeda Yelton ( is a software engineer and librarian. Currently she Read more…

Using Augmented Reality to Improve Physics Learning in Maker Spaces

10/02/19 2:00 pm – 10/02/19 3:00 pm

Emerging technologies such as Augmented Reality (AR), have the potential to radically transform education by making invisible phenomena to become visible and accessible to novice learners. This talk discusses research projects at the intersection of makerspaces, physics education, and immersive Read more…

Digital Futures Discovery Series: Envisioning Cultures in Virtual Reality

09/11/19 2:00 pm – 09/11/19 3:00 pm

The Digital Scholarship Support Group and Cabot Science Library warmly invite you to the first talk in our 2019-2020 Digital Futures Discovery Series. This presentation will showcase a project in which four different Parisians from the same quarter were asked Read more…