Letterlocking and Virtual Unfolding: new techniques for the study of communication security
- Jana Dambrogio, Daniel Starza Smith, & Holly Jackson
- Thursday, April 29, 2021
- 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM
Jana Dambrogio, Wunsch Conservation Lab, MIT
Daniel Starza Smith, King’s College London
Holly Jackson, MIT ‘22
How did letter writers through history ensure the security and safe delivery of their messages—and how can modern computational techniques help us understand historical practices of communication security? In March 2021, an international research team partly based at MIT announced a world-first, virtually unfolding an unopened letter from 1697 using a new algorithm and the novel study of “letterlocking”: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-021-21326-w.
This research brings together enduring concerns about privacy and security with urgent contemporary questions about the intersection of computational methods, digital humanities, and cultural heritage. Our session will introduce the main findings of our Nature Communications paper, as well as a range of associated open-access resources (including our latest code, on GitHub). Advocating for interdisciplinary and collaborative work, our session will discuss possibilities for using our methods and philosophies in your own research.
This “Unlocking History” Research Group will also include a hands-on workshop. In this session you will lock several letter models that have emerged through the team’s research. We want everyone to be involved and have a go—it’s fun. You will need to get hold of the following: a few sheets of blank paper (printer paper is great); a couple of lengths of thread (bright-coloured sewing thread would be ideal, but string will do); something adhesive (a bit of sticky tape is OK; children’s stickers are much more fun; perhaps some poster tack, Glue-Stick or equivalent). You can, if you wish, post the letters you make, so if you want to prepare by writing short notes to friends, just make sure to leave quite wide margins on all four sides.
We look forward to welcoming you all!