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  • Does It Work? Where Theory and Technology Collude (21 comments)

    • Comment by Lou on July 23rd, 2012

      [Apologies for making this a comment on the whole thing rather than one para, but since the paragraphs are not visibly numbered I don’t know how to say that this is a comment on the paragraph beginning “In encoding Lynda Pratt’s edition…” (so this one actually IS a comment on the whole thing)]

      I think you misrepresent the purpose of using TEI markup. It allows you to *separate* what something is from how you would like it to be realised in display, or used in analysis. The references to people’s names in the edition in question are all references to people’s names, and should (could) be marked as such. In some cases you want to realise those references as links to a biographical dictionary, in others as links to explanatory notes. So you may need to add something to your markup to make explicit whether “George” is, in your view, a reference to Southey’s friend Lord Byron (not very likely I grant you) or the Hanoverian monarch, and you would have to make that identification anyway. It’s on that basis that your display procedure can decide how to realise the link — TEI doesn’t have a view on the subject. How could it?

      • Comment by mandell on July 23rd, 2012

        Lou: I think you reiterated my argument rather than attacking it. Yes. Exactly. The TEI wants to separate text from document. Yes, you have to manually encode any distinctions among people that you wish to make. Yes, the TEI doesn’t tell you how to do this — how could it?

    • Comment by nknouf on July 23rd, 2012

      Unfortunately the links for posting comments on specific paragraphs are not working in Firefox or Chrome on Linux, so this comment is being left for the whole page.

      I was wondering if you could be more specific regarding what type of new media theory you are speaking of when you make reference to Durham or California? It’s unclear who you mean. I find this reference problematic because much new media theory (including some produced in California and Durham) has precisely shown the relationship between the critical and the computational traditions; that is, the ways in which critical theorists were aware of the latest developments in cybernetics and information theory and were commenting on these developments in light of semiotics, of the distinctions between humans and non-humans, etc. It’s precisely these interferences and interrelationships that I believe are both the most interesting aspects of this history as well as one of the keys to our ability to shape computational technologies in the future.

      • Comment by mandell on July 23rd, 2012

        I had a few years ago distinguished between digital humanities textual studies and digital humanities descending from film (and, yes, cybernetic theory) (http://aims.muohio.edu/2009/03/02/what-isareisnt-the-digital-humanities/), a distinction that Alan Liu makes much more carefully in the essay mentioned here which should be fully cited: “The State of Digital Humanities: A Report and a Critique,Arts and Humanities in Higher Education 11.8 (2012): http://ahh.sagepub.com/content/11/1-2/8 . Liu’s argument, as I understand it, is that critical media studies is not critical enough –I’m paraphrasing a comment Stanley Cavell makes in The Claim of Reason about skepticism never being able to be skeptical enough. It isn’t sufficiently aware of the conditions sustaining its own capacity for public articulation. For Liu, those are institutional conditions:

        The side of the digital humanities that descends from humanities computing lacks almost all cultural-critical awareness, and the side that descends from new media studies is indiscriminately critical of society and global informational ’empire’ without sufficient focus on the specifically institutional — in this case, higher education — issues at stake.

        I mention in my blog posting Vectors authors — I’m now thinking of people like Wendy Chun — or California authors such as Rita Raley. All of this work I admire. For me, as I’ll argue in my book, it isn’t sufficiently critical because it doesn’t analyze the conditions of disciplinarity itself as fostered by the mass-printed book; that’s where my argument will go. In thinking of Duke, I’m referring specifically to HASTAC, Cathy Davidson, and the quasi-utopian discourse surrounding public humanities and projects such as HyperCities. These to me come closer to understanding the emergence of the Humanities as an institutional category in the medium of the mass-printed codex, but they too veer away from self-critique, from critique in the Kantian sense — except that, instead of trying to understand the limits of “pure reason,” as Kant tried to do, I think they should be trying to understand the limits of the powers of their own discourse imposed by medium, distribution, audience, etc.

        I think you are right about critical theorists and their relationship to cybernetics–obviously in the case of Donna Haraway. N. Katherine Hayles’s reading of Maturana and Varela in the book on Posthumanism is deeply flawed, in my view, and I think she realizes as much by the time she writes Writing Machines. There are much more covert connections: can you name the critical theorists whom you are talking about?

    • Comment by Matthew Kirschenbaum on July 23rd, 2012

      It’s odd that while California and Durham are called out, Cambridge, MA is not. More than either of those, I’d argue, MIT Press “made” new media studies (I say “made” in multiple respects). Of course the sort of work that comes out of MIT nowadays–platform studies as pioneered by Nick Montfort and Ian Bogost, or the careful historical recovery work of Noah Wardrip-Fruin, or the remarkable collaborative close reading on display in the forthcoming 10 PRINT volume–all of this cuts against any easy caricature of “theory” as out of touch or disengaged. So maybe the absence is in fact deliberate? Incidentally (okay, actually *not* incidentally, quite the contrary), all of those people who I just mentioned make stuff, and their stuff works too.

      • Comment by mandell on July 23rd, 2012

        Yes, and you too–MIT Press book author who makes things. But right, I’m not thinking of MIT as a disciplinary force, and should be.

    • Comment by nknouf on July 23rd, 2012

      Thanks for your reply. Many of the people you mention were those that I was thinking of, although I was also thinking of Fred Turner as well (perhaps not fitting into the “critical theory” vein, but an important touchstone for this historical recuperation). While there might be debates over Hayles’ reading of Maturana and Varela, I also consider her earlier work on chaos and field theory as key in understanding (and performing) interdisciplinary work.

      Perhaps it is a result of my own idiosyncratic reading, but my own understanding of Deleuze and Guattari (and Lyotard’s early work, a la _Libidinal Economy_ and his political writing for _Socialism or Barbarism_) has been marked by their own attention to institutional position, especially Guattari’s experiments around the clinic and his descriptions of transdisciplinary practice. In that sense, my readings of their work as taken up by later new media scholars is always indebted to Deleuze, Guattari, and Lyotard’s questioning of disciplinary boundaries, something that is key to the work of tactical media collectives such as CAE and EDT. Whether that is recognized by contemporary new media scholars or not, I think it’s important to remember that the theories and practical work of D+G and Lyotard came both from the boundaries and the margins of the disciplines, while at the same time recognizing the importance of (re-working) the various canons. In that sense, it would seem to me that engaging with this earlier theory via the context of its production might contribute to contemporary discussions regarding the importance of self-critique.

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    • Comment by Carolyn Guertin on July 24th, 2012

      There’s much that I want to say in response to your talk, Laura, but don’t have time right now. For now, just a quick comment: Rita Raley and I are currently working on an anthology that questions and rethinks the academic edition, so I am hard-pressed to understand why you think her to be uncritical of the disciplinarity of the book or academic institution. In fact, I presented an overview of this work at the MLA last year. Perhaps you are faulting Rita for not wrestling with this issue in other contexts precisely because she deems it so important that she has reserved the issue a separate volume for its own discussion?

      • Comment by mandell on July 24th, 2012

        Carolyn: thanks for your comment — I don’t want to fault Rita Raley in particular for anything! Her book describes the “tactical media” movement which includes the CEA (mentioned by Nicholas Knouf in his comment) concerning which Liu argues that “new media studies often seem oblivious to the complex nature of the higher-education institutions in which they are embedded — i.e., the concrete tactical ground of what Foucault called the ‘specific intellectual'” (30), http://ahh.sagepub.com/content/11/1-2/8 . From my perspective, the structure of these institutions insofar as they contain “the Humanities” or “Liberal Arts” is bound up in the emergence of mass print culture. Rita Raley is very well positioned to analyze both old Humanities and new Tactics, so I am very much looking forward to your anthology.

        The one thing I do want to fault is what I see happening in Christopher Newfield’s response to John Guillory in Critical Inquiry (2002, 2003). Guillory argues — in relation to the Sokal Hoax to which it seems unrelated — that the Humanities need to say that we offer positive knowledge, historical knowledge, rather than simply a methodology (critique). Newfield’s response discusses (as does his book) the failure of the Humanities discipline in terms of marketing “critique,” and then, in the last paragraph of the essay, reverts to discussing “critique” as Truth of precisely the sort that Foucault tried to avoid summoning from the dead through his analyses of power (as opposed to “ideology”). I suspect, though, that the supremacy of critique as Truth is in fact a hidden, undefended norm or value animating a lot of critical theory, in just the way that in business discourse no one every discusses whether profit is good.

        I think there are problems with the methods of critique that are norms in our discipline. But rather than seeing that methodology as Guillory does, as the “spontaneous philosophy” of postmodernist Literature and Cultural Studies, I want to see its originary relationship to media affordances offered by the printed codex. Thanks for helping me think more.

        Christopher Newfield, “Critical Response I. The Value of Nonscience,” CI 29.3 (2003): http://www.jstor.org.lib-ezproxy.tamu.edu:2048/stable/10.1086/376308 — see especially the last paragraph.

    • Comment by R Grusin on July 24th, 2012

      I appreciate the complexity of the argument, Laura, especially in contrast to its Pannapacker-phrase in The Chronicle. Regarding Matt’s comment on MIT, I, too, published a book on new media theory with MIT back in the olden days when people still remembered the command-line interface. But I do not, as you and Matt are using the term, “make things.” As an old-timer I would urge you to avoid a facile definition of “making things” that does not consider writing and publishing blogs, articles, and books as “making things”–not to mention building programs, developing departments, or directing interdisciplinary centers. This kind of invidious distinction does more harm than good for the future of the humanities writ large.

      • Comment by mandell on July 24th, 2012

        Richard: this is SO FUNNY, because I actually GOT the question, “does it work,” from YOU: at the LA MLA, you and I attended the same Code Studies panel, in which you asked the participants whether reading code for its content was enough and whether one should ask, “does it work?” Mark Marino answered you with, “I am not at all interested in whether it works.” It seems to me that, if DH has anything at all to offer humanities disciplines, it is precisely an attitude toward working (and I want to NOT use the term “making,” as I have in these comments — you rightly point out that it can be an invidious, labor-obfuscating distinction). The attitude would not consist in saying “yes” or “no” as a response to the question, but would consist in troubleshooting: not whether but HOW can I make it work? If we, as Alan Liu suggests, see DH as an allegory for the future Humanities in a restructured academy, can trouble-shooting become a new mode of interaction among humanists as researchers and collaborators, among faculty and students, among civil and academic humanists?

        • Comment by R Grusin on July 24th, 2012

          Well, Laura, if you had only cited me…. :-)

          I think my question at that panel was about how code worked and whether critical code studies should treat code as, say, poetry to be interpreted, or whether it should read it in terms of how it acted, the work of mediation it performs, not only within the formal system of a program but how it mobilizes and translates humans and nonhumans within larger mediatic environments. That is, I think there is lots of good work to do.

          As you know, I began advocating for and implementing the integration of digital media into humanities education and curricula twenty years ago at Georgia Tech. The key for me then and now is to integrate the operational aspect of DH with critical, historical, and theoretical engagement with mediation and technoscience. Much critical theory has admittedly shied away from such engagement, but the current formation of DH too often shies away as well. The radical move would be a fundamental reinterpretation of the history of western (and nonwestern) thought and civilization from a perspective informed by our recent engagements with digital media technologies. This would create plenty of work for all of us!

          • Comment by mandell on July 24th, 2012

            Thank you — beautifully stated.

          • Comment by mandell on July 24th, 2012

            Oh, and I DO cite you in the long version, even including the name, date, of panel, but now I’ll also cite this, if that’s o.k.

      • Comment by Matthew Kirschenbaum on July 24th, 2012

        Sigh. Captcha just ate my reply. Suffice to say: I hear you.

        • Comment by mandell on July 24th, 2012

          Damn — wish I could see it. L

  • Language by the Book (10 comments)

    • Comment by Peter on September 5th, 2012

      Where to start. Obviously, the words come easily. Clarity does not. It is always bad to use “as” as a conjunction when no equivalence is implied, equally bad to use strange words when ordinary ones would serve. This chapter “enacts” manifesto-like … something. We can skip it, as suggested, or we can really (split infinitive) understand by reading carefully. What a choice! Skip or read carefully. We are not really talking about “speaking” here, we are writing about “writing.” No offense intended. Just giving first impressions.

      • Comment by mandell on September 5th, 2012

        maybe take the preamble off altogether?

    • Comment by Lewis Ulman on September 5th, 2012

      Hi, Laura. Thanks for posting this preview! In this paragraph, the language we have ready-to-hand for discussing text in media inescapably blurs the distinction between textual structures and physical media. At first, you handle the problem adroitly with phrases such as “printed texts that have been put up on screen” and “printed book form,” but then you write, “whether the printed book is on the [K]indle or the [W]eb.” But if we understand “print” as a class of technologies for fixing text (and other visual matter) more or less indelibly on surfaces (rather than projecting underlying coded representations of text temporarily on a screen), then a “printed” book can’t be “on” a Kindle or the Web. I sound as though I am straining at a gnat, but the problem of the language available for talking about representing text and other semiotic and aesthetic codes in/on physical media seems constantly to trip us up.

      • Comment by mandell on September 5th, 2012

        Yes, thank you — no shortcuts are really available, and such low “affordances” hamper discussion. This response is to Lewis Ulman, who has somehow angered the word press gods who will not let his comment be seen, so I copy it here:

        Hi, Laura. Thanks for posting this preview! In this paragraph, the language we have ready-to-hand for discussing text in media inescapably blurs the distinction between textual structures and physical media. At first, you handle the problem adroitly with phrases such as “printed texts that have been put up on screen” and “printed book form,” but then you write, “whether the printed book is on the [K]indle or the [W]eb.” But if we understand “print” as a class of technologies for fixing text (and other visual matter) more or less indelibly on surfaces (rather than projecting underlying coded representations of text temporarily on a screen), then a “printed” book can’t be “on” a Kindle or the Web. I sound as though I am straining at a gnat, but the problem of the language available for talking about representing text and other semiotic and aesthetic codes in/on physical media seems constantly to trip us up.

    • Comment by Peter on September 5th, 2012

      Good point, we can learn from misinterpretations, we can learn from bad summaries, we can learn from the intentionalaities that show themselves. Are you going to tell us what Wittgenstein actually says?
      The digital humanities approach would be to make a database of quotes: 1 going back – what is quoted and 2 going forward who is quoting. By looking at Gellner’s other quotes we can find his ideological birds of a feather. By looking at what of W is quoted we can understand reception.
      I get a sense you have to justify books or lit crit. Not necessary, generally. Digital methodologies do not have to seek a separate forum.

    • Comment by Peter on September 5th, 2012

      I have some problems with the notion that digital does away with descriptive analysis. I do not quite share E’s application of the notion of computational exactitude. I can measure anomalous vocabulary that deviates from language in general or the language used in chapters of a single text. Thus I can be made aware of features in the text that escape eye-ball data capture which generally only reinforces pre-existing ideologies. Working with two sentences is standard practice, because memory allows little more. Working with a good streaming filter will cull out all sorts of features that will have to be explained. I usually start with plotting the lexical items in the first few paragraphs on the rest of the text. Then I look for newcomers and the themes they imply, then I look for and pairs (words connected by “and”) especially when they have adjectives. One can discover semantic sets, and all without intruding ideologies on the text. Evans might look at McKinnons work at McG on Kierkegaard. Important to have hands on with text to experience what is possible. Remember, the computer is an aid to your own brain – and you still have to write it up.

    • Comment by Peter on September 5th, 2012

      OK, my last comment before I return to my own writing. On “When someone writes…” I am trying to figure out the audience. Obviously, there is a great literature on Swift and the 18c. Much of it is ready for data mining techniques. It would be possible to find a digital path that would shadow Prof. Anderson’s work beyond “sifting through ideas, comparing sentences etc…” I would take Anderson’s book on the Victorians and see if data mining would bring forth more examples of “fallenness.” Or even counter-examples. Take her eye-balls criticism – good as it my be – and find the digital path. See if you can substantiate her points. Verify her experiment. As I understand it this is to be part of the digital discussion. There are many DH’s who measure success by appointment to a main-line department. These departments and their methodologies are floundering. DH can help, but from your preamble I get a rather fuzzy, blurred vision. Are you really maintaining “literary precision” as a concept. Are you happy with your chiasmus “precision … precision.” Do you program yourself? Do you have personal experience with the “imprecise exactitude of coding?” Ouch, don’t touch the hot stove.
      OK, everybody takes a shot, but you did ask for comment. I have skimmed a bit past the prologue, but will leave it at that. Try programming. It is not that hard and it is essential if you want to generalize. Failing programming, learn to rely on data mining. Really try to use the output of your query strategies. Forget “essay” as a verb, does not work, cut down on the use of “as” or count them at least and drop “can fully understand.”
      Alas, that is as far as I can go, Oh, bad to start with Swift, your readers may not understand irony. cheers, Peter, over and out.

      • Comment by Laurie N. Taylor on September 7th, 2012

        I feel like I’m dropping in on a conversation I don’t fully understand, so please forgive me if I’m misunderstanding and so not responding in a helpful manner and/or if my response does not follow. I’m not sure how the response on text-mining fits. Text-mining certainly has great capacity when it’s possible. I’ve been following Mandell’s work on improving OCR of 18th century texts, where (like for much of the OCR that is computer-only without any review) there are significant issues that prevent automated analysis. While that’s a technical problem and will be overcome at some point (crowdsourcing for OCR text correction is also proving useful, as the Australia National Digital Newspaper program has shown), it seems very productive to have more information on processes and the larger flows of scholarly communication for those to be considered as existing practices, in some cases, become digital processes.

    • Comment by Laurie N. Taylor on September 7th, 2012

      The quote on “exactitude” reminds me of the distinction found in project management, and which I’m fond of using for managing DH and digital scholarship projects more generally, that differentiates precision (which seems parallel to exactitude here) and accuracy. Precision is easy to plot for project management and can be done with a host of tools or simple calculations whereas accuracy is much more difficult because of the actual variety of factors, cascading events that impact other areas, etc. In _Making Things Happen: Mastering Project Management_, the author states: “Precision is easy, but accuracy is very difficult” (31) before going on to explain that planning schedules is about working with probability and thus the hard work is accuracy and not precision. This seems parallel to and to support your use of the quote on exactitude. The vocabulary I’m more familiar with simply differs a bit (matching exactitude with precision and your use of precision with accuracy/validity), but I think the vocabulary and distinction here are clear and productive.

    • Comment by Laurie N. Taylor on September 7th, 2012

      It may be worth including a footnote on the “body of work” that there are attempts and processes undertaken by libraries and publishers to physically/digitally redact and/or remove articles/publications when retractions are required. I’ve only heard of this being done for the sciences and social sciences where notes have been added to articles in printed volumes and where digital versions have simply disappeared after the article is retracted for a problem with the lab, etc. This is peripheral to the discussion in the paragraph, but it points towards some of the other supports/practices/problems for distribution and socio-technical network protocols for scholarly communications that are part of interactive and precise work.

  • DH White Paper (5 comments)

    • Comment by mandell on December 13th, 2011

      Quoted by Scholarly Communications @ Texas A&M: http://blogs.tdl.org/tamu-scholarly-communication/2011/12/13/spotlight-burgeoning-digital-initiatives-at-tamu/

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