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Big Quilt, Big Data: The AIDS Quilt Touch Project

"Epidemics, like wars, mark a generation for life."

The AIDS Memorial Quilt was created 25 years ago as a work of community activism to protest the appalling lack of attention by the US health agencies to what was then, in 1987, an increase in improbable fatalities among previously healthy gay men in the United States.  Its first inception unfolded in October 1987 on the National Mall in Washington DC as part of the March for Gay Rights; it included 1,920 Quilt panels.  Now 25 years later, the Quilt encompasses more than 48,000 panels, representing 60 countries and commemorating more than 93,000 names.   It is the largest living memorial of its kind in the world.

This presentation discusses the creation of an interactive memorial that was designed to augment viewing of the textile Quilt. Balsamo will demonstrate three interactive experiences that are part of the AIDS Quilt Touch project.  This talk is framed by a discussion of the role of the digital humanities in the creation of technological innovation.


Anne Balsamo is a scholar, educator, entrepreneur, and designer of new media who has published multiple works exploring the cultural possibilities of emergent media technologies. Before being named Dean of the School of Arts, Technologoy, and Emerging Communication at the University of Texas in Dallas, Balsamo served as Dean of the School of Media Studies at The New School in New York City. She received her Ph.D. in Mass Communications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Balsamo has been a leader in the growth of digital humanities in the United States, having served on the board of HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory) since its founding in 2003. Her most recent book, Designing Culture: The Technological Imagination at Work (Duke University Press, 2011), is a transmedia platform that addresses the role of culture in the process of technological innovation in the 21st century.

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.