MLA: Literature and/as New Media


This is a live blogging of the session.

Not focusing on a single topic. It’s a conversation with each other. What would it mean to data mine experimental poetry? In what ways do quantitative methods of “distant reading” and “counting literature” extend traditional forms of analysis and in what ways do they threaten or simply sidestep them?

manifesto for digital humanities
blog entry on reading text
a summary of digital analysis of Victorian moralizing
funding proposal for general-access composition center

Sarah Allison,
Stanford U

Katherine Hayles,
Duke U

Richard E. Miller,
Rutgers U

Todd Samuel Presner,
U of Ca: LA

Craig J. Saper,
U of Central Fl

Holly Willis,
U of Southern Ca.

Michael L. Witmore,
U of Wisconsin: Madison

Round One:
Miller and Presner

What is at stake with digital humanities for literature and the other arts?
Conversation about this issue.
Come to Todd’s work through Digital Humanities Manifesto 2.0
Todd, how did you come to decide that the manifesto was the form to turn to bring about change?
Response: Understanding new humanities.
Manifesto is a document that makes reference to 20th C avant garde work.
Anarchist thread in the manifesto.
What the digital opens up is the role of the hacker, the subversive? How we really think about copyright, intellectual property, proper behavior of scholar, author, library, institutions.
Opportunity to examine those questions.
Napster as example. Ways in which there is a certain amount of value added, how is remixing important? Knowledge becomes important.
Handedness of knowledge production. About designing.
Reception- flaming hatred, loved, anthologized (loses quite a bit of pique)
birth of the networked world

Witmore and Allison
What happens when literature becomes data?
Allison’s work is on Victorian… provoke moral reflection
Intuition that clausal structure is something that allows for certain types of narrative effects and a distance that connects to moralizing
Ex: interested in sentences that were partitioned by two different verb tenses. She had a group of scholars tag Victorian novels according to parts of speech. Looked for sentences with bimodal structure. Consulted with a linguist. Took every third sentence in Middlemarch tagged with grammar parts. Then went through those to find those with split structure.
“It is a pervasive grammatical structure in Eliot and it is part of the moral vocabulary that Eliot is fashioning as an author.”
First sentence.
Beauty is asserted.
Distance from the beauty.
Then temporal frame of reader gives context.

MISS BROOKE had that kind of beauty which seems to be thrown into relief by poor dress.

One has to iterate back into regular reading.

Allison answers:
Was a very back and forth process for me.
Narrative and clauses intimately connected.
Visualization, of Excel spread sheet… “pushes you through your well”
New purchase on the kinds of patterns.
How many which clauses are there? (Only a few hundred.)
Some of the most important of these hybrid sentences are NOT included in my database (b/c only has 1/3).

Mike and I collaborated on a project on genre.
Shakespeare’s Docuscope categorizes plays. (Blog post on these types of works.)
Helps us focus on the bulk of the plays.
Othello figured as comedy. Myriad tiny units.
You point out that literature has always been data. You show a long-standing interests in the data of literature. How do you understand moving from scene back to the play?

Mike answers:
I don’t go back to the play.
I am not studying texts, but I am studying people’s decisions about texts.
The status of that redescription is normal.
Statistics let me move into the patterns that must have been perceived by the audiences.
Any text is a set of swerve through multiple possibilities.

With Docuscope, you can measure every text in your collection in terms of its score.
When you put the chunks into three-dimensions you get histories versus comedies. History plays themselves are the most coherent.

Hayles and Saper:
Saper’s work on Bob Brown’s Reading Machine reminds us of new in the media.
Reading protocol is important.
Idiosyncratic nature of machine was never built or manufactured. Status of historical oddity.
The Reading Machine (with web simulation)
Too slow or too fast. The jump from where I am reading “aloud” and when I am not is too high. Needs one more level in there.
Full stop seems to fly by.
Author’s voice came from page and joined with reader’s.
Reading machine comes to take the place of the author’s voice.
Left word and right word reading protocols.
Away from orality towards digitality.
Anticipates some of the reading on the web, fast scanning and juxtaposing, etc.
Desire for distraction. This effect may be bad or not.
Hyperattention. Up side effects? Or only down? Adaptive potential in developed societies.
Reading Machine existed before MRI’s and never became a widespread reading advice. Shift from subvocalization to visual patterns anticipated reading of 21st C.
You hint at the fact that the reading may be associated with a new kind of subjectivity. Can you say something about that?

Saper answer:
Please put on your 4-D glasses
How We Think Transforming
Only Revolution
Hayles notes: need to study literary information explosion
not a mutually-exclusive choice, OR (Only Revolutions)
Requires moving the book through a circle. Not unlike reading every codex, but differentiates it enough to differentiate.
Old fashioned place markers reinforce..
numerical, machinic, search engine forces
Monthly updates to the readings.
Hayles discusses how reading permutations impact experience.
Multiple narratives using data/search engines.
As a densely patterned work it lends itself to machine reading.
Correlation …
Movie takes OR (Only Revolutions) out for a spin.
Question: Where do you see the future of the book? Past or future?

Answer from Hayles:
The Passing of the Age of Print
print will not die but will cease to be the default medium of communication
more fetishistic object
qualities of the book that are codex specific seem to be a very energetic wave of reading
new energies liberated because print is no longer the default medium of information

Answer from Saper:
question is hard.
Thinking of reading as a poetics practice.
Panels where people will look at the thing we call reading the way we now talk about torture. (?)

Willis and McKenzie
Director of IML
research and pedagogical component
produce a slew of projects
how can it move into education programs?
Digital Humanities Initiative
honors program, media rich senior course
minor in Digital Studies, electives in American studies, animation, journalism
multimedia across the college, pairs multimedia across the different departments
mix scholarly work with media production
all welcome students without media experience
Where/when/how new media has entered into the university?
How emergence is shaped for better and worse by institutional sources?
cinematic arts is a good place for new media to come from

There are difficulties. Comm didn’t want anyone else to use “media” in course titles. Film didn’t want to help create anything at two different universities.

Technological, information, digital literacies- essential

media-savvy historian colleague interested in digital literacy? Sounds too remedial.

emerging network world
understand and institutionalize something beyond literacies.
Can you talk about some of the institutional battles you’ve had to fight?

produce what John at Wisconsin is doing.
IML for 4 years only. Inherited a lot of work. 10-12 year history.
4 areas that are important to think about for ecology for transformation

innovation in all areas

Space is important. Where it is housed is very important.

as we get more networked, space is still very important symbolically.
Where it is housed has resonance.

Curriculum: design competencies

Echoes what we are hearing as design as a core competency.
Elizabeth Coleman, design literacy foundational to education
XXX put video in here.

Design gets to a core idea of how authoring and creating takes place. Not just bells and whistles and make it look pretty.

In terms of pedagogy:
interested in new ways of composing for students- structure for help for projects
learning lab, teaching lab- where faculty can come and learn how to use new media
attempts to create cross-constituency support, collaborations with IT and library staff as well as the faculty

looking at the ways we assess these
how do we look at faculty’s work in this? highly debated, highly contested

Rather than listing lots of lists of literacies, we have tried to rethink the epistemological shift. What happens when the things around us are communicated.

Question for John: Speaking of the metaphors, algorithm of machine and parts (not static but way to interact), what are some of the metaphors that apply?

Libraries provide neutral place that faculty trusts. Respecting departments and colleges. IT agree.

In terms of metaphors, tension between centralized and decentralized/siloed. “Shared solutions.” Film folks didn’t want to share solutions. They didn’t want to have to share HD cameras, if new media people helped.

Is datamining possible with interactive visual elements?
Those texts are a form of datamining.

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