the project from hell (haha)


Below is a link to my WordPress. A big thank you to Susan and Danielle for the constructive feedback. Hope everyone has a wonderful break! If anyone is interested in borrowing From Hell, drop me a line.

notcailin out 🙂


Borgman meets Fitzpatrick, pushing the DH field forward and collaboration

In Christine Borgman’s article, The Digital Future is Now: A Call to Action for the Humanities, she argues that the digital humanities depend on the scholars themselves to push the field forward.

The argument is structured around the comparison between the budding field of digital humanities and the more established field of eScience. Unlike the humanities, digital scholarship has become the norm for science; over the past two decades eScience has transitioned from being an “emergent” to an “established” field. By assessing the progress and limitations of eScience, Borgman argues we can construct a digital future for the humanities.

Fusing two definitions together, Borgman comes to a more encompassing definition for digital humanities that frames the issues at stake. According to her, digital humanities can best be described as “a new set of practices, using new sets of technologies, to address research problems of the discipline” (Borgman).

Similar to Fitzpatrick’s article, Authorship, Borgman also believes that collaboration is important to writing and, more specific to her argument, to establishing digital humanities as a field. Similar to Fitzpatrick’s writing anxieties, Borgman recognizes that humanists value a sense of individualism to their work, problematically there still seems to be an idealization of a kind of “’lone scholar’ spending months or years alone in dusty archives, followed years later by the completion of a dissertation or monograph” (Borgman). She argues that collaboration, especially in fields such as computer science, will “attract more resources and more attention” (Borgman). Humanist projects like Orlando are a good example of this—it uses computer science skills such as coding to organize a large field of humanist research in a meaningful way while allowing that information to be easily accessible.

(1) Do you believe that it is the responsibility of scholars to establish the digital humanities? What responsibility might we take on as students?


(2) Furthermore, recall Fitzpatrick’s thoughts on collaboration:

“We need to think less about individual authorship and more about collaboration; we need to think less about originality and more about remix; we need to think less about ownership and more about sharing” (Fitzpatrick 28).

I’ve asked something similar before but since there’s been some overlap in the articles: To what extent do you believe that work in the humanities ought to be collaborative? Is it that the digital humanities ought to be collaborative while (nondigital) humanities might not benefit? Why/why not should the humanities focus on collaboration? There does seem to be a weird idealization of the “lone scholar”, I might argue that the some of the kind/nature of scholarly work in the humanities (such as forming arguments and expressing new ideas) is geared towards the individual.

Week 11: Kirschenbaum on MLA Commons (and the prediction of a DH apocalypse?)

Matthew Kirschenbaum’s talk, Distant Mirrors and the Lamp, considers the future of scholarly communication within digital humanities through a brief analysis of the development of the web and the humanist site, MLA Commons.

He argues that the World Wide Web is celebrated as “a liberating force, [and] a new paradigm” (Kirschenbaum), however, this is not necessarily true. According to Kirschenbaum, it would be more accurate to say that the web merely aspires to achieve liberation.

He explains how in the past, online scholarly communication relied solely on listserv email. Unlike today, “you didn’t have to worry about how many followers you had or if you were popular or pithy enough to be retweeted. You didn’t have to ask someone else if you could be their friend in order to converse with them” (Kirschenbaum). When scholarship first began forming a presence online and one wanted to become part of that community, all you had to do was subscribe to become a member.

Kirschenbaum claims that making sites such as the MLA commons (Modern Language Association), leads to issues of power, risk, and time. As MLA commons becomes more and more popular, Kirschenbaum suggests, at what point should the site be monitored and made exclusive like we do to any other social media site, such as Facebook? Secondly, he explains how accessibility entails the risk of plagiarism. Because the web is designed for sharing and extracting information, we are more susceptible to plagiarism online. Lastly, Kirschenbaum argues that highly accessible sites require time. The more accessible MLA Commons becomes, the more time and effort goes into up-keeping profiles, contacts, comments, posts, etc. There will come a time, he argues, when the scholarly genre and platform will blur as we invest more time and effort into the social aspect of these websites. As a result scholarly websites for the digital humanities, such as MLA Commons, will feel like any other time-demanding social media site.

Can you recall any examples of a website that originally set out to serve a purpose and became more of a social media site? Would you say this was a positive or a negative change based on the purpose of the site? IMDB, for example, started out as an encyclopedia for film and later incorporated forums for people with a specialized knowledge to participate in meaningful discussion. Now the site is used by practically everyone, and as a result has become less of a space for sharing knowledge, and more for sharing opinions and interests. Although films are still reviewed, seldom the reviewer is a qualified film critic.

Week 10: Fitzpatrick and writing anxieties

I also found Kathleen Fitzpatrick’s writing anxieties relatable. During the early stages of writing, Fitzpatrick claims she has difficulty talking about her work at all out of a fear that “someone else’s opinions might interfere with [her] writing processes, confusing [her] sense of the issues that [she’s] exploring before [she’s] been able to fully establish [her] opinion” (Fitzpatrick 20). As a student I have similar academic anxieties regarding originality and ownership. I’ve become especially aware of this working through the creative project. I’ve asked myself: If a significant portion of my project is article excerpts and commentary, is the argument really mine? Has what I’m trying to say already been said? (yes)

Fitzpatrick argues that we ought to move past our writing anxieties and open ourselves up to the opportunities that sharing writing offers. If we share drafts during the process of writing we create a network of supportive writers that can help improve, rather than take away or disqualify our ideas. When it comes to writing “we need to think less about individual authorship and more about collaboration; we need to think less about originality and more about remix; we need to think less about ownership and more about sharing” (Fitzpatrick 28).

I think what she’s saying in response to these anxieties is that no (good) idea or argument is the product of a pure, spontaneous, or original stroke of genius. Part of what makes a good argument is that it’s an informed argument; this is true whether the argument is building off of history, philosophical/literary theory, our professors, or our peers. Although sharing an idea can be tough while we are still in the early stages of figuring out what exactly it is that we’re trying to say, collaboration can generate important discussion that might help us bring these ideas to fruition.

Our projects have seemed pretty collaborative so far; we’ve presented our ideas, discussed them as a class, and now we’re going to do some peer editing. What positive (or maybe negative?) experience have you had with the collaborative writing process? Have your ideas changed in a significant way? If so, do you feel like these ideas are still yours?

Week 9: Frag Men Tar Y

In Guy Patrick Cunningham’s article, Fragmentary: Writing in a Digital Age, he argues that fragmented reading is our reality; it is simply part of modern reading, and it is not necessarily a good or bad thing.

He claims that we are most likely to retain linear text and forget fragmented ones. This is because fragmented texts often incorporate many links, which force us to make a value judgment in order to decide whether or not to click it. In this way, not only the text, but also the reading itself becomes fragmented. I might argue that although a physical book is linear and free of distracting links, its structure or “interface” has distracting components.

We mentioned a book’s index a few weeks ago. The index breaks up a book into topics/chapters and readers will make a kind of value judgment for each. A reader might ask himself or herself something like, “Should I bother with this chapter?” and decide whether to actually read, skim, or maybe skip the section entirely. Sometimes I find myself referencing the index in the middle of reading for the purpose of deciding if I need to revisit a section before continuing on in the text. Another example, and this one seems more similar to the idea of fragmentation, would be footnotes. Every time I encounter a footnote in an academic article I must read it. It’s just like a hyperlink for me—I cannot not go there. Although footnotes are useful and often necessary to understanding the text, there is a real sense of fragmentation. After the flow of reading is interrupted, I won’t be able to carry on reading the sentence from where the footnote occurred, since by that time I have forgotten what was being said.

The final thoughts of the article are positive; fragmentary writing, Cunningham claims, “accumulates fragments of text and presents them in a way that encourages introspection and contemplation”. In class we have assessed the thoughtful process that goes into reading and writing a fragmented text, especially in the case of e-literature. My question: Do you have any other personal examples of fragmented writing? Was the experience introspective and contemplative?

Drucker on Interface Theory (and comics!)

In her article, Humanities Approaches to Interface Theory, Johanna Drucker argues that scholarship is in transition; no longer limited to print, scholarly work is starting to become equally (if not more) accessible online—to the “multi-faceted modes of digital media” (Drucker 11). Due to this shift, the humanities need a theory of interface, and this theory would include what are currently the less familiar elements of analytic tools, such as: “graphical reading, frame analysis, and constructivist theories of perception” (Druckers 11).

To support her argument, Drucker looks at the graphic novel as a kind of interface, drawing on Scott McCloud’s article, Understanding Comics. McCloud claims that the graphic novel uses different styles of panels to help generate a specific reading of the text. For example, there is panel-to-panel (which describes moment by moment activity), action-to-action (which helps narrate the progression of story), and non-sequitur panels (which don’t immediately seem to connect or make sense, creating confusion rather than comprehension).

Drucker argues that a “tremendous number of connections in electronic space fall into the non-sequitur category” (Drucker 12). For example, when we are reading a text online we find ourselves being drawn out of the text and distracted by advertisements, embedded videos, images, etc. In this way, the web seems to be a place of infinite distractions, unless we are in a controlled environment, such as a library database (Druckers 12). Although we have the cognitive ability to understand these distracting texts through graphical readings, it is evident that the reader is “constituted in a codependent relation to interface as experience” (Drucker 12).

I found it really interesting that the graphic novel was discussed as a kind of interface, and I think it works well with the argument that we have to be weary of distractions when dealing with digital texts. Online, we are required to read carefully in order to process a multitude of information, make connections, and distinguish between essential and non-essential features of a text. I wanted to include an example of a non-sequitur comic strip, but had trouble because once a sequence is separated from the text as a whole it doesn’t seem to have the same effect. Below is what I think is a non-sequitur from Craig Thompson’s Blankets  (sorry for the quality!):

Week 7 — These Waves of Girls

These Waves of Girls by Cailtin Fisher was definitely my favourite of the week 7 readings. This bildungsroman (maybe we can call it that?)  takes the form of a hypertext novella and incorporates a mixture of images and sound clips. I found this reading interesting because it was so interactive.

During the first few minutes of reading I was getting pretty confused because I clicked every link as it came up, which resulted in a really fragmented sense of the plot. After a few minutes I changed my reading strategy and became more selective about the links, reading a whole page and then picking a link based on where I thought/where I wanted the story to go.

Although the fragmented nature of a hypertext novella could seem problematic as a mode of storytelling, I think it works very well for the piece. The story deals with sexuality, childhood, adolescence, etc., which is complicated subject matter on its own, and in presenting the story this way seems to compliment these themes. Since navigating the text is disorienting, it places the reader in a similar frame of mind as the character.

I came across a review of the text by Zach Tomaszewski. The introduction is nice and short (it introduces the idea of a hypertext being a conceptual metaphor) and cites Katherine Hayles.

checkitout 🙂