Archive for the ‘Digital Humanities’ Category

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#TransformDH

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.

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Aesthetics and Mechanics

January 31, 2013

The more I follow this little spur of the digital humanities railroad called game studies, the more I find myself sympathizing–and even collaborating–with art historians. Chris Solarski helps me understand why.

Video games rely on the very same design principles — perspective, form, value, etc. — which classical artists employed to create the illusion that the television (or canvas) is a window into an imagined world. These design techniques also serve a second purpose equally applicable to game design, which is their aesthetic value, and application in visual narratives.

I’ve a bone to pick with Solarski’s notion that games’ interactivity is unique, but I’m increasingly aware that games do configure their interactivity uniquely–even my beloved parallel to homeric epic relies on an analogy of configuration that applies centrally to the bard and much less to his audience, who could never sing the tales the bard sings. The barrier of entry to game-performances is much, much lower, and Solarski’s piece may help us describe the available performances more thickly.

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Roger on Rulesets and the Humanities

January 30, 2013

Frankly, my new language is “games precede humanities.” I’ll be trying to take that on the road this summer. From my latest post at Play the Past.

The codification of the essentially humanistic analysis available to every player of BioShock into writing articles for scholarly journals in order to win promotion is a ruleset of its own, but I want to persuade you that if we mistake that ruleset for the essence of humanistic endeavor, the humanities really are doomed.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.