Butter Archive #12: Outline and Digital Strategy

Outline:

I’ve made my outline on Gliffy and it is available to view HERE.

Digital Strategy:

My goal with this project is to create a fully functioning, interactive, and cross-platformed ebook. My main hope with this essay, as stated in my pitch and outline, is to explore what ebooks are, what projects are currently being produced, and most importantly, why ebooks should be thought of as a medium separate (although definitely related) to physical books. I’ve decided, therefore, to be very meta and make an ebook. I want to incorporate multi-media aspects, (music, animations, images, hypertext) but it will depend on what I can figure out. I’ve never made an ebook, and it might prove impossible (or at least impossible for me in my short time crunch) to make some of these things come to fruition. I believe that this way of presenting and constructing my thesis is the most effective in proving it’s legitimacy: hypothetically you would be holding in your hands the very artefact I feel more attention should be focused on creating. It will allow me to better understand what goes behind creating an ebook, what challenges it creates, and what unique possibilities it offers.

Does BuzzFeed contribute to the violence against women online?

The other day in class, I mentioned a BuzzFeed article that some women found to be an example of violence against women online. The article was based around a joke that Amy Schumer made about Khloe Kardashian on SNL about losing too much weight. The comment had mixed reviews amongst women. Some women found Amy Schumer’s joke to be quite funny, while other women found the comment to be quite offensive. Khloe Kardashian herself tweeted that she was not fond of the comment. Did you find the BuzzFeed article to be an example of the type of online violence against women that Jacque Wernimont discusses in her article, “A conversation about violence against women or a re-telling of a funny joke?

Here is the article:

http://www.buzzfeed.com/michaelblackmon/she-lost-a-kendall#.urAeWbz72

Butter Archive #6: Burn The Books, Plug In The E-Readers

When I first thought about digital writing and reading my mind went to e-books – an obvious conversion from something physical to something digital. A few weeks ago, after reading Katherine Hayles chapter, I proclaimed to my partner that “We should only be using e-books.” This is, of course, an inflammatory statement (just like my title), but one that I couldn’t stop thinking about. After much consideration about what digital writing could afford us, I couldn’t think of any reason besides nostalgia and stubbornness as to why we’re still clenching onto physical books. (And believe me, with over 400 books, I’m extremely guilty of this myself.)

In my project, therefore, I hope to tackle this question: should we fully convert to e-books? I will investigate the effects of reading digitally (why do we retain less information when we read on a screen?), current arguments for or against e-books, what interesting projects have been created around harnessing the unique offerings of e-books, and what can be accomplished with e-books (the Harry Potter books were just released on iBooks with “enhanced content” … but what does that mean?). Most excitingly, I hope to attempt two big experiments with this project. Firstly, I will choose a few different things to read on an e-reader (eg/ a novel, a graphic novel) to test my experiences with it’s allowances. Secondly, I’m hoping to publish and share my work as an e-book itself, to interact directly with the medium and see if it affects what and how I write.

It is undoubtable that bookstores are having a tough time, but it is also true that people are reading more than they ever were before. I want to explore if e-readers are “the future of reading” as I think they’ve oftentimes been marketed, and if they are worthwhile if they are simply a slightly more portable version of physical books. I’ve not met many people who feel that e-books are an exciting medium – most seem to admit that they’re convenient, but I’ll stick with normal books, thank you very much. Is it, perhaps, because e-books have not been harnessing there potential (whatever that potential may be)? As David Birnbaum said in What Is XML and Why Should Humanists Care?, “… publishing something on the screen does not automatically move the researcher very far beyond what would be possible with paper publication.” I want to research this to find what people are doing with this medium and whether or not it can create something special and valuable.

_____

Works Cited:

Birnbaum, David J. “What is XML and why should humanists care?” dh.obdurodon.org.

            dh.obdurodon.org, 28 Aug. 2015. Web. 1 Oct. 2015.

Project Proposal: Lost in Translation (a working title)

As someone who is officially qualified as bilingual (I speak both French and English fluently), who also has a relatively advanced knowledge of Latin, I have always been fascinated with language and how it functions; in particular how words are translated from one language to another. Much of my education in languages has been surrounded by the act of translating from one language to another, whether that be through the act of thinking in my native English and translating that into French in my head before speaking, or sitting down with a passage written in Latin or French and attempting to put it into proper, idiomatic English. This process is slow, tedious, and also flawed. There have been times (and there always will be) where the translation I, or others in my position, come up with seems to lack a certain je ne sais quoi, that is, some element of the text in its original language has been “Lost in Translation”.

When faced with a text in another language, the translator must always make a choice: whether to perform a literal, word for word, translation of the text before them, or whether to take some creative liberties in order to preserve some sense of artistry in the new translated text. This choice alone leads to the production of countless different translations of texts like Homer’s Iliad or Odyssey for example. But that choice aside, the translator is faced with another problem: that is, that some words in Latin, for example, have several different meanings in English (or other languages); and further, some words just don’t have perfect translations in other languages. Take the term Dasein, coined by Heidegger in German to elucidate a certain state of ideal being in the world. Translated literally into English this term is “There being” but most Heidegger scholars don’t feel that this is an accurate translation of the term. In fact, in translation, many people leave Dasein as it is, in its original German so as not to take its full meaning away.

All of this is to say that, simply put, translation is an imperfect art. When one reads a translation of a text, one is not reading the text, but the translator’s interpretation of the text. This leads to a question of authorship, which has tremendous implications for those reading and looking to interpret a text.

Looking at several examples of widely translated texts like Homer’s epics, and Virgil’s Aneid, several smaller scale translations like Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot published originally in French (En Attendant Godot) and then translated by Beckett himself into english, and some less literary sources like packaging and government documents and releases, I aim to tackle this issue of translation and the imperfect way in which languages intersect and cross over. I will also seek to discuss some of the larger scholarly, and sometimes political implications of this breakdown of language that occurs in translation.

 

Project Proposal: Reading the Cards

For this project, I would like to investigate mysticism in computation, with a particular emphasis on tarot cards. I’ll look at a number of different online divination communities, keeping in mind Morrison’s work on the intimate public. Depending on the malleability of the medium in which I present this, I may also look at spontaneous myth-creation on the internet, and oral storytelling as interactive fiction.

I believe that tarot cards can be understood as a form of computation and interactive storytelling. Some of my reasoning comes from Maggie Steifvater’s Illuminating The Prophecy. She writes about tarot cards (emphasis mine):

I love stories. I love them in all forms: in writing, in art, in music. I love how humans everywhere feel compelled to fold and carve and structure events into a narrative — we’ve been doing it for as long as we’ve been around. We mutter cautionary tales to remind others what frightens us, whisper love stories to give form to our hope, and shout heroic epics to underline what we believe in. (1)

There are three basic components of a tarot reading — the cards, the querent, and the reader. The cards are essentially units of meaning. The reader’s job is to combine and interpret those units in order to create a satisfactory answer to the querent’s question. In this model, the querent acts as the user, the cards as the software, and the reader as the parser.

I think that this approach will be interesting on its own, but it will also be a helpful model for looking at stories as movable units of meaning. This was once fairly standard. (Milman Parry has some fascinating work about the system of specific phrases that Homeric work relied on, for example. [Ong, 30]). By fixing words on a page and allowing for identical copies of a work to be disseminated, print technology helped create the idea of stories as static collections of words; the digital age is beginning to change this. Words are movable on a page. Languages such as XML can isolate various parts of meaning that are present in a word — breaking down a name into the gender, age, and occupation that it represents, for example.

Tarot cards are also interesting because they are an appropriated medium — they originated as a non-mystical card game. I strongly suspect that their popularity and transformation into a divinatory tool is related to trade and to print technologies. (Today, the printing of several tarot decks has been funded through Kickstarter.) Those are avenues I’ll explore through academic books and journals.

On more concrete level, online divination communities are interesting because they take a nontraditional and casual approach to divination. Their work also affected by their form — for example, a common practice is a blogger to post a photograph of several facedown cards at the beginning of the day. Viewers choose one of the facedown cards to focus on. When the cards are flipped over at the end of the day, that is considered to be their reading. There are also communal activities — for example, during one month, a group of bloggers committed to creating their own decks.

To investigate this project, I’ll look into both academic sources and writing from communities. I also have some personal immersion to draw from. After Danielle’s presentation, I’ve also set up an experimental blog at Medium.

WORKS CITED

Steifvater, Maggie. Illuminating the Prophecy. Woodbury: Llewellyn Publications, 2015. Print.

Ong, Walter. Orality and Literacy. New York: Routledge, 1982. Web. (2015)

Project Pitch: It’s a Man’s World – Or Is It?

I have always been fascinated by pseudonyms – particularly male pseudonyms used by female writers – and the implications that come with them. We’ve seen this throughout history, but what interests me is that gender bias is still very alive today, and modern female writers have used male, or male-sounding, pseudonyms to write under. In an article from the Wall Street Journal Asia, Stephanie Cohen explains, “The Bronte sisters published their 19th-century masterpieces as the Bell brothers, because, Charlotte Bronte wrote, ‘we had a vague impression that authoresses are liable to be looked on with prejudice.’ More than 150 years later, women are still facing the same “prejudice” in some sectors of the publishing industry” (Cohen 2012).

For my project, I want to conduct a series of experiments by writing under a male pseudonym. I want to establish if I receive more responses, views, followers, etc., if any changes at all. I will be examining examples from the 19th Century to current time where female writers specifically utilized a male pseudonym to hide their identity. I’m curious to discover whether or not the motives have altered over the last 200 years. Gender bias is still a prominent issue, and I would like to conduct an experiment of my own in order to see if this applies to digital writing, particularly on the platform Medium. As I mentioned in my presentation, Medium is a fantastic platform for networking. This is why I selected it for the experiment component. I want to start on a platform where I can not be linked to my real identity through the use of a fake email, fake birth date, and a fake male name. I want to reach as many people as possible, and through the “stats” page, I will be able to discover how my pieces are received.

Through my research, I hope to answer questions regarding what has held women back, as writers, over time that led them to using pseudonyms. Are there any trends over the years, and why are women using pseudonyms today? Through my own experiment, I want to gauge my personal response to writing under a male pseudonym: is there a confidence that comes with concealing your identity? Will there be negative results? Would I do this again after the project is over, on my own terms, based on the research I have found?

In terms of my approach, I will be turning to primary and secondary sources to receive a wide range of perspectives and instances where pseudonyms were utilized. For example, in an article on Jezebel, Catherine Nichols learned the detriments of using a male pseudonym, when she says, “The judgments about my work that had seemed as solid as the walls of my house had turned out to be meaningless. My novel wasn’t the problem, it was me—Catherine,” (Nichols 2015). While I was gathering information on The Orlando Project, I noticed there was an increase of male pseudonyms from early/mid 19th Century, which was why I selected that particular century with which I would begin. Although I won’t be able to examine all cases, I want to take a sampling of some over the years, in order to determine (if plausible) the successes, failures, and/or implications that come with writing under pseudonyms.

I selected the title, “It’s a Man’s World – Or Is It?” because it invokes the second-guessing nature that occurs when we realize an author has a different identity than what we originally expected. I want us to question why we assume what we do about male and female writers. Gender should be an irrelevant factor to determine whether a writer is talented or not, but this, unfortunately, is not always the case. Through my analysis I hope to establish these effects of writing pseudonymously, particularly in digital writing.

Works Cited

Cohen, Stephanie. “Culture & Entertainment: Why Women Writers Still Take Men’s Names.” Wall Street Journal Asia (2012): ProQuest. Web. 6 Oct. 2015.

Nichols, Catherine. “Homme de Plume: What I Learned Sending My Novel Out Under a Male Name.” Jezebel. 4 Aug. 2015. Web. 7 Oct. 2015.

Project Pitch: Wanderlust

I have chosen to create my final project to focus on travel blogs. The first quote that comes to mind is McCarthy in Kirschenbaum’s Track Changes: “technology reveals us to ourselves as we always in fact were, networked, distributed, laced with code” and this can relate to our wanderlust, the desire to expand our horizons and travel to new places. We as humans are distributed throughout the world and naturally create our own social network that is capable of expanding beyond physical borders with the help of technology and travelling. Some choose to document their national and international travels through the use of these travel blogs. I know I did. When I went on my study abroad, I knew I had to document my experience. It is through my weekly posts that I gained a few followers, some of them being fellow travel bloggers, and I in turn was interested in their travels therefore I would follow their blogs as well. It is through my personal experience that I became interested in the subject of travel blogs and how they act as large influences for the tourism industry. Thus, it has led me to ask a few questions: ‘what are the purposes of travel blogs?’, ‘how have they affected the travel industry?’, ‘how are people reacting to these blogs?’, and ‘how have these blogs affected literature?’ in terms of how we approach travel writing and what it entails. These questions have led me to configure the title for my project, Wanderlust, because I believe that this is the main function of travel blogs. They consume us, as readers, with a strong desire to travel.

How I plan to approach this project is to first discover academic literature to provide me with context and answers behind my questions. For example, in Social Media in Travel, Tourism, and Hospitality, “travel blogs were identified not just as a good platform that can communicate travel experiences outside of the narratives of tourism marketers but also an effective tool for promotion, product distribution, management as well as research” (Sigala et. al, 191). Alongside academic literature, I will explore other forms of literature, such as a blog post from Ramsay which suggests that the importance of travel blogs is to document historical events, “some of the most important moments in history have been recorded on film or written down by travellers. Make sure you take your camera and pen everywhere” (Ramsay). And this suggests how bloggers utilize different tools to incorporate into their travel blogs, which I believe will also be essential to research into further. I also plan to analyze other famous travel blogs to gain insight into the popularity of these blogs and what they include to attract an audience (for example: http://www.12hrs.net/#welcome). In addition, I plan to analyze my own blog (https://notallthosewhowanderarelost2015.wordpress.com/) as well as the blogs that I personally follow (such as: https://wwellend.wordpress.com/). It is through this analysis that will provide me with my own insight into the matter which I can compliment alongside the insight I obtain from academic scholars.

Works Cited:

Kirschenbaum, Matthew. Introduction: It Is Known. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP. Print.
Ramsay. “Why We Need More Travel Bloggers (but Not the Annoying Kind).” ytravel. N.p., n.d. Web.
Sigala, Marianna, Evangelos Christou, and Ulrike Gretzel. “Social Media in Travel, Tourism and Hospitality : Theory, Practice and Cases.” Ashgate Publishing Limited (2012): n. pag. Print.