Archive for the ‘Future of Scholarship’ Category



May 3, 2013

It’s difficult for me to get behind the idea of transforming something (DH) that I don’t really believe exists in any meaningful sense; in a more important light, though, perhaps DH will only really exist in transformation. This piece is certainly a great read if you’re frustrated by people who pretend they know what DH is.

We wanted to think about the institutions that were forming in this ever more amorphous thing called digital humanities. We didn’t want the ways of engaging knowledge that were important to us to be left out. We felt it would be too easy to say that we were doing something other than DH, whether that be new media studies or critical cultural studies with a focus on the digital; instead, we wanted to bring what Juhasz calls “necessarily radical traditions,” which have nourished us, into the DH field in which we also felt at home.


THATcamp – the OA genre in conferencing

October 26, 2012

As mentioned in an earlier blog, I attended my first THATcamp at Brown University last weekend. It was productive, relaxed, entirely ego- and hierarchy-free (as far as I could tell), and a welcome new experience in how to exchange information. I also second Roger’s call for open access, as that was among the discussions pursued with a number of colleagues. Having served as the co-editor of an open access journal (Flusser Studies) since 2005, it is refreshing to realize how much support OAPublishing receives now. The session on OAJournals, in particular, pointed to a number of models, mostly produced on wordpress these days (including DH Quarterly; JHNA; or the entire directory), and The Public Knowledge Project. So time to upgrade, update, integrate, and think about how interactive an online journal can and should be. After all, social media may facilitate scholarly dialogue right on the site. If you need collaborators, look to DH Commons. If you seek a multi-media platform, check out SCALAR (for those in media and interarts studies, this one is fascinating). And check out this neat project on visualizing Jazz networks. For more information, go to the THATcamp summary. For next year’s THATcamp New England, join us on the UConn campus.


Open access, for anyone who still doesn’t understand why the academic publishing industry needs reform.

October 26, 2012

Just, yes. I like that it’s colored blue, because I’ve been shouting this until I’m blue in the face.


Epic Life: Roger’s case for the humanities, through gaming

October 22, 2012

I have no idea how many people read this blog who don’t also read Play the Past, but it probably makes sense to tease my Epic Life series a bit, since it’s directly on topic for what Anke and I are trying to accomplish here, as well.

I mean in Epic Life to take the formulations I made in that last post, about where a rules-of-the-text reading can get us, towards an understanding of how describing this great chain of practomime in relation to our lives in culture, as the job of the humanities, may allow us to measure at least with qualitative precision the kind of learning outcomes (call it παιδεῖα [paideia] if you want) humanistic study can effect: critical thinking, contextually-sensitive analysis of cultural heritage materials, historically-sensitive analysis of contemporary cultural performance. If my notion of text as ruleset has traction, not only performances in the Iliad and the Academy and in Skyrim, but also performances on Facebook and Twitter, are on the one hand legible both as performances of rulesets and as, themselves, iterated rulesets, and on the other hand susceptible of development in both capacities, according to analysis that is at the same time performance within the ruleset of a discipline, itself an iterated ruleset of the study of the humanities that goes back through Plato to the homeric bards themselves in such passages as the “Embassy to Achilles,” where the bards analyze the warrior-code, in the voice of Achilles, just as Plato will later analyze the work of the bards in the voice of Socrates.

Further posts in the series: here, here, here, and on Wednesday!


Multi-modal creativity

October 18, 2012

Everyone knows these days it’s tough to keep up with all technical innovation – there’s always a new code, a new program, a new cloud. As someone attending her first THATcamp (yup, newbie), I am humbled and fascinated by all these possibilities (the-kid-in-a-candy-store simile comes to mind). I do try to keep up with digital arts, though (media aesthetics again, Roger), and the Playground Digital Arts festival always presents some intruiguing work. Do check out older works, too, such as probe, a piece that challenges your notion of cinematic experiences, as Boris Debackere explains:

probe is a metaphor of cinema: cinema as a space shuttle, or a probe you enter and you are completely separated from the external world. Suddenly, the huge screen you have in front of you disappears and becomes a sort of window to travel in time and space. And you sit in this vehicle, but the whole trip takes place in your brain: you concentrate with your mind with the screen that becomes invisible and everything that is projected on the screen puts your mind and imagination into action. The setting of the film is in your brain, not on the screen: it is part of the same dynamics of cinema, which stimulate your brain, the mechanism of your perceptive abilities.”

Are we soon going to perform as our own projection screens? Or have we been there all along?


Small Imaginations, Voracious Computers, and Less Fun

October 10, 2012

After several conversations this week on the human-computer interface that is gaining greater currency as Digital (fill-in-field-as-necessary), Wired Mag’s musings feel… slightly 90s. The end of theory. Really? It makes me recall that cartoon we so revered as grad students, with the mice and the cereal box, when postmodernism was all the rage.

Breakfast as text! Foucault flakes. But I am digressing. And maybe 2012 isn’t 2008, as declaring the end of theory, accompanied by the end of methodology, whether scientific or otherwise, represents rather circular reasoning. For now, I, at least, am still grappling with context and variation, not models or theory or methods. Big data to detect correlations and define patters, perhaps. But what kind of data? Let’s take this excerpt from the article:

“Google’s founding philosophy is that we don’t know why this page is better than that one: If the statistics of incoming links say it is, that’s good enough. No semantic or causal analysis is required. That’s why Google can translate languages without actually “knowing” them (given equal corpus data, Google can translate Klingon into Farsi as easily as it can translate French into German). And why it can match ads to content without any knowledge or assumptions about the ads or the content.”

One may feel flummoxed by the announcement that “no semantic or causal analysis is required.” I pursued the fun factor, however, and stuck some Nietzsche into Google translator. For some semantic and syntactic clarity (yes, it does exist) I chose his “Why I am so clever” from Ecce Homo (just a bit of postmodern irony), translated the German into English and then copy-and-pasted an English translation to be re-translated into German. The results were hilarious – truly, even Nietzsche would have been amused. Especially when “pangs of conscience” were re-translated as certain anatomical elements that point to the posterior.

Granted, this is a cheap shot – and it may not have much to do with the science mentioned in the article. Patterns and correlations do not fill in for context and variation, though. Dare I mention the “human element”? If “science can advance even without coherent models, unified theories, or really any mechanistic explanation at all,” as claimed in the article, why do it? Or am I over-analyzing here…


Big Data and the End of Theory

October 5, 2012

The case here is way overstated, but I think the fundamental point is sound, and breathtaking. (You’re going to give me significant push-back here, Anke, I’m sure, though!)

“All models are wrong, but some are useful.”

So proclaimed statistician George Box 30 years ago, and he was right. But what choice did we have? Only models, from cosmological equations to theories of human behavior, seemed to be able to consistently, if imperfectly, explain the world around us. Until now. Today companies like Google, which have grown up in an era of massively abundant data, don’t have to settle for wrong models. Indeed, they don’t have to settle for models at all.

One thing I already see changing is that there’s a much shorter distance even in the humanities between data and analysis, a distance that used to be covered by theory. Or maybe I’m out to lunch. In my classroom, though, my students and I spend much less time hypothesizing and much more time analyzing. “The End of Theory”? Certainly not. The transformation of the role of theory, perhaps.


Barthes and networks, not to speak of hypertext…

September 19, 2012

One of the fun things about writing a blog is that you get to look at Roger’s (and many others’) blog entries and just follow your proverbial nose. You click on one link, then on another, and then go back or keep going and just lose yourself in the maze or network or meanderings of the blogosphere. Happily, searchingly, intrigued and on occasion enchanted or provoked. And you realize how much stuff there is that makes your brain stay awake way beyond its bed time. And you keep going…

Of course Barthes designed Wikipedia (just like Marcel Duchamp is still alive, but that’s my own private joke). Barthes envisioned it in S/Z, as George Landow (who really should know) reminds us:

the networks [réseaux ] are many and interact, without any one of them being able to surpass the rest; this text is a galaxy of signifiers, not a structure of signifieds; it has no beginning; it is reversible; we gain access to it by several entrances, none of which can be authoritatively declared to be the main one; the codes it mobilizes extend as far as the eye can reach, they are indeterminable . . . ; the systems of meaning can take over this absolutely plural text, but their number is never closed, based as it is on the infinity of language” (emphasis in original; 5-6 [English translation]; 11-12 [French]).

But then, how far back do we want to take that connection between text and network? Which text ISN’T a network? Florian Cramer, for instance, begins his blog entry with Borges and ends with creativity. Then again, Cramer’s work becomes much more interesting if we rephrase the question: how deep do we want that connection to go? You may find one answer in his intriguing Words Made Flesh – not a blog entry. And he has yet entirely different ideas about Wikipedia.


Philip Roth and Wikpedia: the moribundity of the author

September 16, 2012

I kind of had a feeling. The view of authorship with which Philip Roth grew up, and which in my view is peculiar to Western culture ca. 1800- ca. 1980, isn’t compatible, thank goodness, with modern information-flows. A blogger named Oliver (aka quominus) who works for the Wikimedia foundation, writes in a post that’s far more persuasive than letter of Roth’s to which he’s responding:

Lets go through his account again, shall we?

“I am Philip Roth. I had reason recently to read for the first time the Wikipedia entry discussing my novel “The Human Stain.” The entry contains a serious misstatement that I would like to ask to have removed.”

False. There was absolutely no misstatement in the article. What the article claimed at the time he wrote this open letter was that “Kakutani and other critics were struck by the parallels to the life of Anatole Broyard, a writer and the New York Times literary critic in the 1950s and 1960s who was of Louisiana Creole mixed-race descent and passed for white”.

If I’m right that Plato designed the first video game, perhaps Barthes designed Wikipedia?


Digital culture and cheating

September 8, 2012

The citation of the Harvard situation in the first paragraph of this NYT story tells you much of what you need to know. That wasn’t cheating, in fact, and what these studies really reflect is how the execrable design of school is finally coming back to bite us in the posterior.

Large-scale cheating has been uncovered over the last year at some of the nation’s most competitive schools, like Stuyvesant High Schoolin Manhattan, the Air Force Academy and, most recently, Harvard.

The Harvard situation is a particularly good example, where it would seem an instructor had stumbled upon a way of doing actual formative assessment with a collaborative element, and then decided he had to revoke it; when the students continued on to do the well-designed activity, they were accused of cheating.

What does this have to do with digital culture? For me, digital culture is all about the information flows, and it’s the information flows that are leaving school behind.


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