Monthly Archives: October 2009

“The Child is father of the Man.”

expand-cfb“Multimedia and Multitasking: A Survey of Digital Resources for Nineteenth-Century Literary Studies” by John A. Walsh is a meet-the-parents moment for the digital scholar. Walsh acquaints his reader with the “parents of the digital age” (Walsh unpaginated); the nineteenth century and the industrial Revolution. He believes the nineteenth century “holds a special attraction for digital literary scholarship” (unpaginated) because of the parallels and similarities shared between the two eras’ proximate chronology. Like the digital revolution, the industrial revolution effectuated “rapid technological and social change” (unpaginated), resulting in a boom of information, and technologies to communicate that information.

After a brief historical overview of nineteenth century’s rich literary achievements, Walsh parallels the literature and culture of nineteenth century to the digital age. He links multimedia, the combined use of several media in computer applications, to forerunners like Blake, Ruskin and Rossetti’s work. Therefore, digital media is particularly conducive to the presentation of “multimedia primary works and related scholarship” (unpaginated).

However, there is an additional justification for Walsh’s infatuation with the nineteenth century. He claims the nineteenth century is “the final age of literature…freely accessible and unencumbered by copyright restrictions” (unpaginated). Copyright laws have prohibited the entry of works developed since 1923 to public domains until 2019, with the possibility of a further extension by wealthy copyright holders. This reopens the can of worms relating to open source distribution which I discussed earlier, and it appears that this proverbial can of worms will remain open for the foreseeable future.

Finally, Walsh includes at the end of his essay a number of digital projects targeting nineteenth-century literature that sum up his discussion of multimedia remarkably well. His examples illustrate the physical and financial restrictions of printed texts but, also, how the availability of digitized texts “is a great boon to literary scholarship” (Walsh unpaginated”).

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WIKIPEDIA IS ACCURATE. (citation needed)

wikipedia_iraq“ePhilology: When the Books Talk to Their Readers”, by Crane, Bamman, and Jones, explores the evolutionary direction ePhilology may take in the digital humanities. For those, like me, who fall under the category of neophyte, Philology can be loosely defined as the study of literary texts and of written records.

In their essay, Crane et al. focus on the use of digital technology in the study of classics but, unfortunately, this is where the trouble starts. Without a background in classics, one will find the examples and references they use almost futile. Bear in mind that effort is required in understanding their argument, but a little effort goes a long way.

Crane et al. lay the foundation of their essay with a print-digital dichotomy, with apparent favouritism falling on the side of digital culture. They argue the weaknesses of print culture as being static, inadaptable “to the needs of their varying users” (Crane et al. unpaginated) and restricted.

Subsequently, Crane et al. propose six features that “distinguish emerging digital resources” (unpaginated). These can be summarised as accessibility, link-ability, use-ability, learn-ability and adapt-ablility, and these are expanded upon throughout the essay with examples such as: TLG and Ibycus.

However, Crane et al. muddy the water when they demonstrate how the transition from print to digital culture is not as clear-cut as initially perceived. Subscription barriers and advertising-based revenue restrict scholarly activity and these “limitations support the practice of print culture” (unpaginated). The solutions to this being: Project Gutenberg, Google Library and OCA (open content alliance), which have contributed vastly to open source distribution.

All in all, two phrases sums up Crane et al.’s argument and they are: “print publication freezes documents” (unpaginated) while “digital publication only begins its functional life after publication” (unpaginated). The ability of a document to evolve and be dynamic over time is exemplified in the example of Wikipedia which has sparked much heated debated about its reliability.

However, this community-driven open domain requires a “new kind of editor” (Crane et al. unpaginated) which shifts the demand from human methods to automated methods. This places greater restrictions on the altering of texts, in an inappropriate manner by illegitimate users, thus increasing the reliability of material content.

Consequently, the development from print to digital is not a simple copy-and-paste task but, instead, it is “creating a wholly new, qualitatively distinct infrastructure.”

“I’m not harrassing people, Officer…I’m just blogging out loud.”

No Fear Shakespeare

“Blogs and Blogging: Text and Practice” by Aimée Morrison is a stroll in the park in comparison to the challenge of comprehension that Alan Liu punishes his reader with. From the offset, Morrison establishes her literary tool of choice is going to be clarity. Her introduction clearly defines blogs and blogging to her reader but, not only that, she offers also a list of resources for those brave enough to take a plunge into the blogosphere.

Morrison analyses a blog comparatively with a webpage and says that it is “not static…but not private like an email” (Morrison unpaginated). Along with constructing an understanding of a blog in layman’s terms, Morrison immerses her reader in the history of blogging. She declares that with the launch of “simple-to-use blogging software” (unpaginated) in 1999 detonated the explosion of “the push button publishing tool for the people” (unpaginated). As a result, today we have a plethora of weblog software to choose from, with blog tracking websites such as Technorati to help us along the way.

However, Morrison refuses to lull her reader into a false sense of security about blogging because all is not rosy in the blogosphere. She discusses how “the first wave of these new bloggers…were distressed to find themselves being fired for their online activities” (unpaginated). With further inquiry, I discovered that a flight attendant, of a renowned American airline, was fired as a result of posting pictures on her blog, of herself in uniform on an airline, which were titled “Queen of Sky: Diary of a Flight Attendant” (Squidwho unpaginated). Surprisingly, the Airline deemed the content of her blog as inappropriate which demonstrates the power of the blog and its ability to “dooce” (Morrison unpaginated) somebody; the verb defining someone who loses their job as a result of blogging.

Furthermore, there is an additional concern which follows blogger everywhere like their shadow and that is the question of reliability. Accompanying anonymity, a symptom of the internet’s accessibility and global reach, is the issue of credibility. Because of the apparent lack of editorial control or regulation of content on blogging sites, everyone or anyone is free to publish whenever and whatever they like. Therefore, one has to adopt a critical role as a consumer of blog content, in order to fish out legitimate sources from the baloney or what could be called the information super highway debris.

As a final word, I would applaud Morrison’s essay for its clarity, comprehension and readability.

Morrison, Aimee E. “Blogs and Blogging: Text and Practice”. A Companion to Digital Literary Studies.

“Who is Ellen Simonetti- Diary of a Dysfunctional Flight Attendant”. Squidwho.

Ellen Simonetti on Wikipedia

ONE SMALL ‘CLICK’ FOR MAN. ONE GIANT LEAP FOR THE NEOPHYTE!

As I read Alan Liu’s essay “Imagining the New Media Encounter” in A Companion to Digital Literary Studies , I could not resist feeling like Homer Simpson attempting to appreciate modern technology. Every one of my failed attempts, at comprehending Liu’s essay, was followed by loud outbursts of “D’oh!” and “¡Ay, Caramba!”. The simple reason for this being that Liu’s article is so dense it is almost innavigable. I found myself wandering off on tangents, exploring areas that I never expected to explore and, at the same time, becoming lost in the process.

Not only is Liu’s essay compact, it is also extremely inter-textually polluted with techno babble. The text becomes one big cloud of “data smog” (Shenk 1) which, as an introduction to the field of digital humanities, can be disconcerting for a pre-Luian reader. With that in mind, one of the biggest handicaps of Liu’s essay is its maintenance of the failures of print media. Liu’s omission of multimedia features such as links to explanatory or exemplary sites, other than the links to his notes, leaves the neophytic reader stranded and relying on resources like Wikipedia to shine some light on the area.

However, having purged Liu’s essay of the above negativity, it becomes clear that he does manage to explain the new media encounter with relative clarity in some areas. Liu traces the new media encounter back to Plato’s Phaedrus to convey the point that, at first, new media is seen as strange and alien before it begins to be accepted and integrated into society. This is exemplified with the example of the transition from oral to written, from written to print and print to digital culture.

Once this encounter is established, “media changes us. We [become] changelings of media” (Liu unpaginated). Whether that is a good thing or a bad thing is questionable, but despite being aware of it or not, it is still occurring. Take the new E-book reading-device, for example. In contrast to the gizmorgasmic reaction of the technophile, a vast majority of the old school, semi-technophobic, print-culture lovers would cringe from the thought of reading a new novel from a digital media equivalent of a conventional printed book.

However, E-books are benefical in the green-friendly sense because they save the destruction of trees. The use of paper in recent years has multiplied drastically thus putting a demand on our environment to maintain pace with the needs of a largely paper dependent society. On the other hand, by replacing paper with a LCD screen most of the reading experience is lost. The simplicity of completely substituting ink with pixels seems inconceivable at first but, like all new media, with time this medium will establish itself in society. If the E-book will replace the printed book entirely is yet to be seen, but it’s presence in our society is creating changes already by challenging our notions of how we view texts.

Greetings Fellow Bloggers!

 

 This is my first new blog. I will be using my blog throughout the year to comment on and review literature that I will be reading as part of the Te[/ch]xtualities seminar I am doing.