I recently proposed a sequence of lightning talks for the next Modern Language Association convention in Chicago (January 2014). The participants are tackling a literary issue that is not at all theoretical: the future of electronic literature. I’ve also built in a substantial amount of time for an open discussion between the audience and my participants—who are all key figures in the world of new media studies. And I’m thrilled that two of them—Dene Grigar and Stuart Moulthrop—just received an NEH grant dedicated to a similar question, which is documenting the experience of early electronic literature.
Electronic literature can be broadly conceived as literary works created for digital media that in some way take advantage of the unique affordances of those technological forms. Hallmarks of electronic literature (e-lit) include interactivity, immersiveness, fluidly kinetic text and images, and a reliance on the procedural and algorithmic capabilities of computers. Unlike the avant garde art and experimental poetry that is its direct forebear, e-lit has been dominated for much of its existence by a single, proprietary technology: Adobe’s Flash. For fifteen years, many e-lit authors have relied on Flash—and its earlier iteration, Macromedia Shockwave—to develop their multimedia works. And for fifteen years, readers of e-lit have relied on Flash running in their web browsers to engage with these works.
Flash is dying though. Apple does not allow Flash in its wildly popular iPhones and iPads. Android no longer supports Flash on its smartphones and tablets. Even Adobe itself has stopped throwing its weight behind Flash. Flash is dying. And with it, potentially an entire generation of e-lit work that cannot be accessed without Flash. The slow death of Flash also leaves a host of authors who can no longer create in their chosen medium. It’s as if a novelist were told that she could no longer use a word processor—indeed, no longer even use words.
Or is it?
This roundtable brings together a range of practicing e-lit authors and scholars to discuss what the end of Flash means for electronic literature, new media, and the broader field of digital humanities. Each participant will limit his or her remarks to a strictly-timed six minutes, with the bulk of the session devoted to an open discussion between the panel and the audience. We will open with Chris Funkhouser, who argues that the importance of Flash to digital poetry in the early years of the 21st century cannot be understated. An e-lit poet himself, Funkhouser suggests that it is not the end of the software itself that is his primary concern, but the question of what happens to the aesthetic principles that have emerged out of Flash.
Building on Funkhouser’s ideas, Dene Grigar will next highlight two critical characteristics of Flash poetry: kinopoeia (movement that imitates or suggests a word or idea) and musicopoeia (music that imitates or suggests a word or idea). Grigar highlights three works that show the need for such new terminology: Ana Maria Uribe’s Anipoemas, John Kusch’s Red Lily, and Thom Swiss’s Shy Boy.
After Funkhauser’s and Grigar’s introductions to Flash we move to questions about the preservation, emulation, and study of Flash-based electronic literature. Zach Whalen begins this discussion by recalling earlier concerns about the preservation of web-based e-lit. Whalen focuses on Talan Memmot’s groundbreaking Lexia to Perplexia, which cannot be viewed in modern web browsers. Whalen explores why Lexia to Perplexia “breaks” and what one must alter in order to “fix” it. Whalen then questions the tacit assumption of digital preservation projects, which is that digital works must always be preserved. Ultimately, Whalen concludes that ephemerality and obsolescence are significant aesthetic properties of electronic literary works.
Next, Leonardo Flores picks up on the ethical and artistic dimensions of preservation by exploring the strategies that e-lit authors have developed to extend the life of their works. Using Dreaming Methods and R3/\/\1X\/\/0RX (remixworx)—two British e-lit collectives—as his case studies, Flores finds one strategy is to make the source material of individual works public, while another strategy involves migrating works to alternative platforms, such as HTML5 or iOS, that offer similar—but not the same—functionality.
The importance of code arises in both Whalen’s and Flores’ lightning talks, and Mark Marino pursues this question full throttle in his talk about code studies and Flash e-lit. Marino grounds his insights in his collaborative study of William Poundstone’s canonical work, Project for Tachistoscope [Bottomless Pit]. Marino suggests that studying the underlying ActionScript code of Project for Tachistoscope can deepen our understanding of the work, revealing new layers to the work that more screen-focused analyses neglect.
The final two lightning talks imagine the future of electronic literature without Flash. Amanda Visconti surveys the way e-lit can appropriate digital platforms that were never designed for poetics or narrative. Visconti argues that such platform poaching combines the veneer of credibility associated with a digital archive or a wiki with a narrative license that is simultaneously ethically dangerous and rich with possibilities for counterfactual knowledge.
Finally, the formal part of the roundtable ends with Stuart Moulthrop, the author of some of the most widely read and taught electronic literature works. In an act of provocation Moulthrop argues that “there never was such a thing as Flash.” Moulthrop sees Flash as a blip in the idiosyncratic timeline of electronic literature. Flash was, Moulthrop points out, an always-limited convenience, merely a way of developing interesting interfaces for the Web. Moulthrop ultimately finds that the idea of an interface-based literary art is larger and more durable than Adobe’s powerful but deeply flawed product.
Moderated by Mark Sample, this diverse “Electronic Literature after Flash” roundtable capitalizes upon the growing interest in electronic literature—and the digital humanities more generally. Given its focus on the preservation and study of soon-to-be obsolescent forms of technology, this roundtable will also appeal to MLA members invested in the more conventional fields of textual studies, bibliographic preservation, media studies, and information sciences. And finally, the roundtable speaks to the enduring concerns of authors and artists who simply want their works to be available and accessible to future generations of readers.
Seeking to have a rich discussion period—which we did indeed have—we limited our talks to about 12 minutes each. My presentation was therefore more evocative than comprehensive, more open-ended than conclusive. There are primary sources I’m still searching for and technical details I’m still sorting out. I welcome feedback, criticism, and leads.
An Account of Randomness in Literary Computing
MLA 2013, Boston
There’s a very simple question I want to ask this evening:
Where does randomness come from?
Randomness has a rich history in arts and literature, which I don’t need to go into today. Suffice it to say that long before Tristan Tzara suggested writing a poem by pulling words out of a hat, artists, composers, and writers have used so-called “chance operations” to create unpredictable, provocative, and occasionally nonsensical work. John Cage famously used chance operations in his experimental compositions, relying on lists of random numbers from Bell Labs to determine elements like pitch, amplitude, and duration (Holmes 107–108). Jackson Mac Low similarly used random numbers to generate his poetry, in particular relying on a book called A Million Random Digits with 100,000 Normal Deviates to supply him with the random numbers (Zweig 85).
Million Random Digits with 100,000 Normal Deviates
Published by the RAND Corporation in 1955 to supply Cold War scientists with random numbers to use in statistical modeling (Bennett 135), the book is still in print—and you should check out the parody reviews on Amazon.com. “With so many terrific random digits,” one reviewer jokes, “it’s a shame they didn’t sort them, to make it easier to find the one you’re looking for.”
This joke actually speaks to a key aspect of randomness: the need to reuse random numbers, so that, say you’re running a simulation of nuclear fission, you can repeat the simulation with the same random numbers—that is, the same probability—while testing some other variable. In fact, most of the early work on random number generation in the United States was funded by either the U.S. Atomic Commission or the U.S. Military (Montfort et al. 128). The RAND Corporation itself began as a research and development arm of the U.S. Air Force.
Now the thing with going down a list of random numbers in a book, or pulling words out of hat—a composition method, by the way, Thom Yorke used for Kid A after a frustrating bout of writer’s block—is that the process is visible. Randomness in these cases produces surprises, but the source itself of randomness is not a surprise. You can see how it’s done.
What I want to ask here today is, where does randomness come from when it’s invisible? What’s the digital equivalent of pulling words out of a hat? And what are the implications of chance operations performed by a machine?
To begin to answer these questions I am going to look at two early works of electronic literature that rely on chance operations. And when I say early works of electronic literature, I mean early, from fifty and sixty years ago. One of these works has been well studied and the other has been all but forgotten.
My first case study is the Strachey Love Letter Generator. Programmed by Christopher Strachey, a close friend of Alan Turing, the Love Letter Generator is likely—as Noah Wardrip-Fruin argues—the first work of electronic literature, which is to say a digital work that somehow makes us more aware of language and meaning-making. Strachey’s program “wrote” a series of purplish prose love letters on the Ferranti Mark I Computer—the first commercially available computer—at Manchester University in 1952 (Wardrip-Fruin “Digital Media” 302):
YOU ARE MY AVID FELLOW FEELING. MY AFFECTION CURIOUSLY CLINGS TO YOUR PASSIONATE WISH. MY LIKING YEARNS FOR YOUR HEART. YOU ARE MY WISTFUL SYMPATHY: MY TENDER LIKING.
M. U. C.
Affectionately known as M.U.C., the Manchester University Computer could produce these love letters at a pace of one per minute, for hours on end, without producing a duplicate.
The “trick,” as Strachey put it in a 1954 essay about the program (29-30), is its two template sentences (Myadjectivenounadverbverb your adjectivenoun and You are my adjectivenoun) in which the nouns, adjectives, and adverbs are randomly selected from a list of words Strachey had culled from a Roget’s thesaurus. Adverbs and adjectives randomly drop out of the sentence as well, and the computer randomly alternates the two sentences.
The Love Letter Generator has attracted—for a work of electronic literature—a great deal of scholarly attention. Using Strachey’s original notes and source code (see figure to the left), which are archived at the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford, David Link has built an emulator that runs Strachey’s program, and Noah Wardrip-Fruin has written a masterful study of both the generator and its historical context.
As Wardrip-Fruin calculates, given that there are 31 possible adjectives after the first sentence’s opening possessive pronoun “My” and then 20 possible nouns that could that could occupy the following slot, the first three words of this sentence alone have 899 possibilities. And the entire sentence has over 424 million combinations (424,305,525 to be precise) (“Digital Media” 311).
A partial list of word combinations for a single sentence from the Strachey Love Letter Generator
On the whole, Strachey was publicly dismissive of his foray into the literary use of computers. In his 1954 essay, which appeared in the prestigious trans-Atlantic arts and culture journal Encounter (a journal, it would be revealed in the late 1960s, that was primarily funded by the CIA—see Berry, 1993), Strachey used the example of the love letters to illustrate his point that simple rules can generate diverse and unexpected results (Strachey 29-30). And indeed, the Love Letter Generator qualifies as an early example of what Wardrip-Fruin calls, referring to a different work entirely, the Tale-Spin effect: a surface illusion of simplicity which hides a much more complicated—and often more interesting—series of internal processes (Expressive Processing 122).
Wardrip-Fruin coined this term—the Tale-Spin effect—from Tale-Spin, an early story generation system designed by James Mehann at Yale University in 1976. Tale-Spin tended to produce flat, plodding narratives, though there was the occasional existential story:
Henry Ant was thirsty. He walked over to the river bank where his good friend Bill Bird was sitting. Henry slipped and fell in the river. He was unable to call for help. He drowned.
But even in these suggestive cases, the narratives give no sense of the process-intensive—to borrow from Chris Crawford—calculations and assumptions occurring behind the interface of Tale-Spin.
In a similar fashion, no single love letter reveals the combinatory procedures at work by the Mark I computer.
MY AFFECTION LUSTS FOR YOUR TENDERNESS. YOU ARE MY PASSIONATE DEVOTION: MY WISTFUL TENDERNESS. MY LIKING WOOS YOUR DEVOTION. MY APPETITE ARDENTLY TREASURES YOUR FERVENT HUNGER.
M. U. C.
This Tale-Spin effect—the underlying processes obscured by the seemingly simplistic, even comical surface text—are what draw Wardrip-Fruin to the work. But I want to go deeper than the algorithmic process that can produce hundreds of millions of possible love letters. I want to know, what is the source of randomness in the algorithm? We know Strachey’s program employs randomness, but where does that randomness come from? This is something the program—the source code itself—cannot tell us, because randomness operates at a different level, not at the level of code or software, but in the machine itself, at the level of hardware.
In the case of Strachey’s Love Letter Generator, we must consider the computer it was designed for, the Mark I. One of the remarkable features of this computer was that it had a hardware-based random number generator. The random number generator pulled a string of random numbers from what Turing called “resistance noise”—that is, electrical signals produced by the physical functioning of the machine itself—and put the twenty least significant digits of this number into the Mark I’s accumulator—its primary mathematical engine (Turing). Alan Turing himself specifically requested this feature, having theorized with his earlier Turing Machine that a purely logical machine could not produce randomness (Shiner). And Turing knew—like his Cold War counterparts in the United States—that random numbers were crucial for any kind of statistical modeling of nuclear fission.
I have more to say about randomness in the Strachey Love Letter Generator, but before I do, I want to move to my second case study. This is an early, largely unheralded work called SAGA. SAGA was a script-writing program on the TX-0 computer. The TX-0 was the first computer to replace vacuum tubes with transistors and also the first to use interactive graphics—it even had a light pen.
The TX-0 was built at Lincoln Laboratory in 1956—a classified MIT facility in Bedford, Massachusetts chartered with the mission of designing the nation’s first air defense detection system. After TX-0 proved that transistors could out-perform and outlast vacuum tubes, the computer was transferred to MIT’s Research Laboratory of Electronics in 1958 (McKenzie), where it became a kind of playground for the first generation of hackers (Levy 29-30).
In 1960, CBS broadcast an hour-long special about computers called “The Thinking Machine.” For the show MIT engineers Douglas Ross and Harrison Morse wrote a 13,000 line program in six weeks that generated a climactic shoot-out scene from a Western.
Several computer-generated variations of the script were performed on the CBS program. As Ross told the story years later, “The CBS director said, ‘Gee, Westerns are so cut and dried couldn’t you write a program for one?’ And I was talked into it.”
The TX-0’s large—for the time period—magnetic core memory was used “to keep track of everything down to the actors’ hands.” As Ross explained it, “The logic choreographed the movement of each object, hands, guns, glasses, doors, etc.” (“Highlights from the Computer Museum Report”).
And here, is the actual output from the TX-0, printed on the lab’s Flexowriter printer, where you can get a sense of the way SAGA generated the play:
In the CBS broadcast, Ross explained the narrative sequence as a series of forking paths.
Each “run” of SAGA was defined by sixteen initial state variables, with each state having several weighted branches (Ross 2). For example, one of the initial settings is who sees whom first. Does the sheriff see the robber first or is it the other way around? This variable will influence who shoots first as well.
There’s also a variable the programmers called the “inebriation factor,” which increases a bit with every shot of whiskey, and doubles for every swig straight from the bottle. The more the robber drinks, the less logical he will be. In short, every possibility has its own likely consequence, measured in terms of probability.
The MIT engineers had a mathematical formula for this probability (Ross 2):
But more revealing to us is the procedure itself of writing one of these Western playlets.
First, a random number was set; this number determined the probability of the various weighted branches. The programmers did this simply by typing a number following the RUN command when they launched SAGA; you can see this in the second slide above, where the random number is 51455. Next a timing number established how long the robber is alone before the sheriff arrives (the longer the robber is alone, the more likely he’ll drink). Finally each state variable is read, and the outcome—or branch—of each step is determined.
What I want to call your attention to is how the random number is not generated by the machine. It is entered in “by hand” when one “runs” the program. In fact, launching SAGA with the same random number and the same switch settings will reproduce a play exactly (Ross 2).
In a foundational work in 1996 called The Virtual Muse Charles Hartman observed that randomness “has always been the main contribution that computers have made to the writing of poetry”—and one might be tempted to add, to electronic literature in general (Hartman 30). Yet the two case studies I have presented today complicate this notion. The Strachey Love Letter Generator would appear to exemplify the use of randomness in electronic literature. But—and I didn’t say this earlier—the random numbers generated by the Mark I’s method tended not to be reliably random enough; remember, random numbers often need to be reused, so that the programs that run them can be repeated. This is called pseudo-randomness. This is why books like the RAND Corporation’s A Million Random Digits is so valuable.
But the Mark I’s random numbers were so unreliable that they made debugging programs difficult, because errors never occurred the same way twice. The random number instruction eventually fell out of use on the machine (Campbell-Kelly 136). Skip ahead 8 years to the TX-0 and we find a computer that doesn’t even have a random number generator. The random numbers must be entered manually.
The examples of the Love Letters and SAGA suggest at least two things about the source of randomness in literary computing. One, there is a social-historical source; wherever you look at randomness in early computing, the Cold War is there. The impact of the Cold War upon computing and videogames has been well-documented (see, for example Edwards, 1996 and Crogan, 2011), but few have studied how deeply embedded the Cold War is in the software algorithms and hardware processes themselves of modern computing.
Second, randomness does not have a progressive timeline. The story of randomness in computing—and especially in literary computing—is neither straightforward nor self-evident. Its history is uneven, contested, and mostly invisible. So that even when we understand the concept of randomness in electronic literature—and new media in general—we often misapprehend its source.
Bennett, Deborah. Randomness. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998. Print.
Turing, A.M. “Programmers’ Handbook for the Manchester Electronic Computer Mark II.” Oct. 1952. Web. 23 Dec. 2012.
Wardrip-Fruin, Noah. “Digital Media Archaeology: Interpreting Computational Processes.” Media Archaeology: Approaches, Applications, and Implications. Ed by. Erkki Huhtamo & Jussi Parikka. Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 2011. Print.
—. Expressive Processing: Digital Fictions, Computer Games, and Software Sudies. MIT Press, 2009. Print.
Zweig, Ellen. “Jackson Mac Low: The Limits of Formalism.” Poetics Today 3.3 (1982): 79–86. Web. 1 Jan. 2013.
On November 2 and 3, George Mason University convened a forum on the Future of Higher Education. Alternating between plenary panels and keynote presentations, the forum brought together observers of higher education as well as faculty and administrators from Mason and beyond. I was invited to appear on a panel about student learning and technology. The majority of the session was dedicated to Q&A moderated by Steve Pearlstein, but I did speak briefly about social pedagogy. Below are my remarks.
This morning I’d to share a few of my experiences with what you could call social pedagogy—a term I’ve borrowed from Randy Bass at the Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship at Georgetown University. Think of social pedagogy as outward facing pedagogy, in which learners connect to each other and to the world, and not just the professor. Social Pedagogy is also a lean-forward pedagogy. At its best a lean-forward pedagogy generates engagement, attention, and anticipation. Students literally lean forward. The opposite of a lean-forward pedagogy is of course a lean-back pedagogy. Just picture a student leaning back in the chair, passive, slack, and even bored.
A lean-forward social pedagogy doesn’t have to involve technology at all, but this morning I want to describe two examples from my own teaching that use Twitter. Last fall I was teaching a science fiction class and we were preparing to watch Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. Since I wasn’t screening the film in class, students would be watching it in all sorts of contexts: on Netflix in the residence hall, on a reserve DVD upstairs in the JC, rented from iTunes, a BluRay collector’s set at home, and so on. However, I still wanted to create a collective experience out of these disparate viewings. To this end, I asked students to “live tweet” their own viewing, posting to Twitter whatever came to mind as they watched the film.
In this way I turned movie watching—a lean-back activity—into a lean-forward practice. And because the students often directed their tweets as replies to each other, it was social, much more social than viewing the film in class together. Over a 5-day period I had hundreds of tweets coming in, and I used a tool called Storify to track rhetorical and interpretative moves students made during this assignment. In particular, I categorized the incoming tweets, bringing to the surface some underlying themes in my students’ tweets. And then we began the next class period by examining the tweets and the themes they pointed to.
My next example of a social pedagogy assignment comes from later in the semester in the same science fiction class. I had students write a “Twitter essay.” This is an idea I borrowed from Jesse Stommel at Georgia Tech. For this activity, students wrote an “essay” of exactly 140 characters defining the word “alien.” The 140-character constraint makes this essay into a kind of puzzle, one that requires lean-forward style of engagement. And of course, I posed the essay question in a 140-character tweet:
Again I used Storify to capture my students’ essays and cluster them around themes. I was also able to highlight a Twitter debate that broke out among my students about the differences between the words alien and foreign. This was a productive debate that I’m not sure would have occurred if I hadn’t forced the students into being so precise—because they were on Twitter—about their use of language.
And finally, I copied and pasted the text from all the Twitter essays into Wordle, which generated a word cloud—in which every word is sized according to its frequency.
The word cloud gave me an admittedly reductivist snapshot of all the definitions of alien my students came up with. But the image ended up driving our next class discussion, as we debated what made it onto the word cloud and why.
These are two fairly simple, low-stakes activities I did in class. But they highlight this blend of technology and a lean-forward social pedagogy that I have increasingly tried to integrate into my teaching—and to think critically about as a way of fostering inquiry and discovery with my students.
[Crowd photograph courtesy of Flickr user Michael Dornbierer / Creative Commons Licensed]
What follows is a comprehensive list of digital humanities sessions at the 2013 Modern Language Association Conference in Boston.
These are sessions that in some way address the influence and impact of digital materials and tools upon language, literary, textual, and media studies, as well as upon online pedagogy and scholarly communication. The 2013 list stands at 66 sessions, a slight increase from 58 sessions in 2012 (and 44 in 2011, and only 27 the year before). Perhaps the incremental increase this year means that the digital humanities presence at the convention is topping out, leveling out at 8% of the 795 total sessions. Or maybe it’s an indicator of growing resistance to what some see as the hegemony of digital humanities. Or it could be that I simply missed some sessions—if so, please correct me in the comments and I’ll add the session to the list.
Presiding: Brian Croxall, Emory Univ.; Adeline Koh, Richard Stockton Coll. of New Jersey
This workshop is an "unconference" on digital pedagogy. Unconferences are participant-driven gatherings where attendees spontaneously generate the itinerary. Participants will propose discussion topics in advance on our Web site, voting on final sessions at the workshop’s start. Attendees will consider what they would like to learn and instruct others about teaching with technology. Preregistration required.
Thursday, 3 January, 8:30–11:30 a.m., Republic A, Sheraton
Presiding: Alison Byerly, Middlebury Coll.; Kathleen Fitzpatrick, MLA; Katherine A. Rowe, Bryn Mawr Coll.
Facilitated discussion about evaluating work in digital media (e.g., scholarly editions, databases, digital mapping projects, born-digital creative or scholarly work). Designed for both creators of digital materials and administrators or colleagues who evaluate those materials, the workshop will propose strategies for documenting, presenting, and evaluating such work. Preregistration required.
Presiding: Trent M. Kays, Univ. of Minnesota, Twin Cities; Lee Skallerup Bessette, Morehead State Univ.
Speakers: Marc Fortin, Queen’s Univ.; Alexander Gil, Univ. of Virginia; Brian Larson, Univ. of Minnesota, Twin Cities; Sophie Marcotte, Concordia Univ.; Ernesto Priego, London, England
Digital humanities are often seen to be a monolith, as shown in recent publications that focus almost exclusively on the United States and English-language projects. This roundtable will bring together digital humanities scholars from seemingly disparate disciplines to show how bridges can be built among languages, cultures, and geographic regions in and through digital humanities.
Presiding: Robert R. Bleil, Coll. of Coastal Georgia; Jennifer Gray, Coll. of Coastal Georgia
Speakers: Susan Cook, Southern New Hampshire Univ.; Christopher Dickman, Saint Louis Univ.; T. Geiger, Syracuse Univ.; Jennifer Gray; Matthew Parfitt, Boston Univ.; James Sanchez, Texas Christian Univ.
Responding: Robert R. Bleil
Nicholas Carr’s 2008 article "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" and his 2010 book The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains argue that the paradigms of our digital lives have shifted significantly in two decades of living life online. This roundtable unites teachers of composition and literature to explore cultural, psychological, and developmental changes for students and teachers.
Speakers: Robin Bernstein, Harvard Univ.; Lindsay DiCuirci, Univ. of Maryland Baltimore County; Laura Fisher, New York Univ.; Laurie Lambert, New York Univ.; Janice A. Radway, Northwestern Univ.; Joseph Rezek, Boston Univ.
Archivally driven research is changing the methodologies with which we approach the past, the types of questions that we can ask and answer, and the historical voices that are heard and suppressed. The session will address the role of archives, both digital and material, in literary and cultural studies. What risks and rewards do we need to be aware of when we use them?
Thursday, 3 January, 5:15–6:30 p.m., Liberty C, Sheraton
Presiding: Andrew Piper, McGill Univ.
Speakers: Mark Algee-Hewitt, Stanford Univ.; Lindsey Eckert, Univ. of Toronto; Neil Fraistat, Univ. of Maryland, College Park; Matthew Jockers, Univ. of Nebraska, Lincoln; Laura C. Mandell, Texas A&M Univ., College Station; Jeffrey Thompson Schnapp, Harvard Univ.
As part of the ongoing debate about the impact and efficacy of the digital humanities, this roundtable will explore the theoretical, practical, and political implications of the rise of the literary lab. How will changes in the materiality and spatiality of our research and writing change the nature of that research? How will the literary lab impact the way we work?
Speakers: Douglas M. Armato, Univ. of Minnesota Press; Jamie Skye Bianco, Univ. of Pittsburgh; Matthew K. Gold, New York City Coll. of Tech., City Univ. of New York; Jennifer Laherty, Indiana Univ., Bloomington; Monica McCormick, New York Univ.; Katie Rawson, Emory Univ.
As open-access scholarly publishing matures and movements such as the Elsevier boycott continue to grow, open-access publications have begun to move beyond the simple (but crucial) principle of openness toward an ideal of interactivity. This session will explore innovative examples of open-access scholarly publishing that showcase new types of social, interactive, mixed-media texts.
Presiding: Alex Mueller, Univ. of Massachusetts, Boston
Speakers: Kathleen Fitzpatrick, MLA; Martin Foys, Drew Univ.; Matthew Kirschenbaum, Univ. of Maryland, College Park; Stephen G. Nichols, Johns Hopkins Univ., MD; Kathleen A. Tonry, Univ. of Connecticut, Storrs; Sarah Werner, Folger Shakespeare Library
In this roundtable, scholars of manuscripts, print, and digital media will discuss how contemporary forms of textuality intersect with, duplicate, extend, or draw on manuscript technologies. Panelists seek to push the discussion beyond traditional notions of supersession or remediation to consider the relevance of past textual practices in our analyses of emergent ones.
Presiding: Adeline Koh, Richard Stockton Coll. of New Jersey
Speakers: Moya Bailey, Emory Univ.; Anne Cong-Huyen, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara; Hussein Keshani, Univ. of British Columbia; Maria Velazquez, Univ. of Maryland, College Park
Responding: Alondra Nelson, Columbia Univ.
This panel examines the politics of race, ethnicity, and silence in the digital humanities. How has the digital humanities remained silent on issues of race and ethnicity? How does this silence reinforce unspoken assumptions and doxa? What is the function of racialized silences in digital archival projects?
Speakers: Travis Brown, Univ. of Maryland, College Park; Johanna Drucker, Univ. of California, Los Angeles; Eric Rochester, Univ. of Virginia; Geoffrey Rockwell, Univ. of Alberta; Jentery Sayers, Univ. of Victoria; Susan Schreibman, Trinity Coll. Dublin
Working only with set texts limits the use of many digital tools. What most advances literary research: aiming applications at scholarly primitives or at more culturally embedded activities that may resist generalization? Panelists’ reflections on the challenges of interoperability in a methodologically diverse field will include project snapshots evaluating the potential or perils of such aims.
Presiding: Jason C. Rhody, National Endowment for the Humanities
This workshop will highlight recent awards and outline current funding opportunities. In addition to emphasizing grant programs that support individual and collaborative research and education, the workshop will include information on the NEH’s Office of Digital Humanities. A question-and-answer period will follow.
Friday, 4 January, 1:45–3:00 p.m., Back Bay D, Sheraton
Presiding: Richard A. Grusin, Univ. of Wisconsin, Milwaukee
Speakers: Wendy H. Chun, Brown Univ.; Richard A. Grusin; Patrick Jagoda, Univ. of Chicago; Tara McPherson, Univ. of Southern California; Rita Raley, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara
This roundtable explores the impact of digital humanities on research and teaching in higher education and the question of how digital humanities will affect the future of the humanities in general. Speakers will offer models of digital humanities that are not rooted in technocratic rationality or neoliberal economic calculus but that emerge from and inform traditional practices of humanist inquiry.
Friday, 4 January, 1:45–3:00 p.m., Fairfax A, Sheraton
Presiding: Stephen G. Nichols, Johns Hopkins Univ., MD
Speakers: Karen L. Fresco, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana; Albert Lloret, Univ. of Massachusetts, Amherst; Jacques Neefs, Johns Hopkins Univ., MD
Responding: Timothy L. Stinson, North Carolina State Univ.
This panel explores the resistance of editors to explore digital editions. Questions posed: Do scholarly protocols deliberately resist computational methodologies? Or are we still in a liminal period where print predominates for lack of training in the new technology? Does the problem lie with a failure to encourage digital research by younger scholars?
Presiding: Michael Bérubé, Penn State Univ., University Park
"The Mirror and the LAMP," Matthew Kirschenbaum, Univ. of Maryland, College Park
"Access Demands a Paradigm Shift," Cathy N. Davidson, Duke Univ.
"Resistance in the Materials," Bethany Nowviskie, Univ. of Virginia
The news that digital humanities are the next big thing must come as a pleasant surprise to people who have been working in the field for decades. Yet only recently has the scholarly community at large realized that developments in new media have implications not only for the form but also for the content of scholarly communication. This session will explore some of those implications—for scholars, for libraries, for journals, and for the idea of intellectual property.
Friday, 4 January, 5:15–6:30 p.m., Back Bay D, Sheraton
Presiding: Russell A. Berman, Stanford Univ.
Speakers: Carlos J. Alonso, Columbia Univ.; Lanisa Kitchiner, Howard Univ.; David Laurence, MLA; Bethany Nowviskie, Univ. of Virginia; Elizabeth M. Schwartz, San Joaquin Delta Coll., CA; Sidonie Ann Smith, Univ. of Michigan, Ann Arbor; Kathleen Woodward, Univ. of Washington, Seattle
Doctoral study faces multiple pressures, including profound transformations in higher education and the academic job market, changing conditions for new faculty members, the new media of scholarly communication, and placements in nonfaculty positions. These and other factors question the viability of conventional assumptions regarding doctoral education.
Friday, 4 January, 7:00–8:15 p.m., Back Bay D, Sheraton
Presiding: Peter S. Donaldson, Massachusetts Inst. of Tech.
Global Shakespeares (globalshakespeares.org/) is a participatory multicentric project providing free online access to performances of Shakespeare from many parts of the world. The session features presentations and free lab tours of the MIT HyperStudio.
Presiding: Ryan Cordell, Northeastern Univ.; Katherine Singer, Mount Holyoke Coll.
Speakers: Gert Buelens, Ghent Univ.; Sheila T. Cavanagh, Emory Univ.; Malcolm Alan Compitello, Univ. of Arizona; Gabriel Hankins, Univ. of Virginia; Alexander C. Y. Huang, George Washington Univ.; Kevin Quarmby, Emory Univ.; Lynn Ramey, Vanderbilt Univ.; Matthew Schultz, Vassar Coll.
This digital roundtable aims to give insight into challenges and opportunities for new digital humanists. Instead of presenting polished projects, panelists will share their experiences as developing DH practitioners working through research and pedagogical obstacles. Each participant will present lightning talks and then discuss the projects in more detail at individual tables.
Saturday, 5 January, 8:30–9:45 a.m., Public Garden, Sheraton
Presiding: Ana-Maria Medina, Metropolitan State Coll. of Denver
Speakers: Lois Bacon, EBSCO; Marshall J. Brown, Univ. of Washington, Seattle; Stuart Alexander Day, Univ. of Kansas; Judy Luther, Informed Strategies; Dana D. Nelson, Vanderbilt Univ.; Joseph Paul Tabbi, Univ. of Illinois, Chicago; Bonnie Wheeler, Southern Methodist Univ.
Changes are happening to the scholarly journal, a fundamental institution of our professional life. New modes of communication open promising possibilities, even as financial challenges to print media and education make this time difficult. A panel of editors, publishers, and librarians will address these topics, carrying forward a discussion begun at the 2012 Delegate Assembly meeting.
Speakers: Evelyn Baldwin, Univ. of Arkansas, Fayetteville; Mikhail Gershovich, Baruch Coll., City Univ. of New York; Janice McCoy, Univ. of Virginia; Ilknur Oded, Defense Lang. Inst.; Amanda Phillips, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara; Anastasia Salter, Univ. of Baltimore; Elizabeth Swanstrom, Florida Atlantic Univ.
This electronic roundtable presents games not only as objects of study but also as methods for innovative pedagogy. Scholars will present on their use of board games, video games, authoring tools, and more for language acquisition, peer-to-peer relationship building, and exploring social justice. This hands-on, show-and-tell session highlights assignments attendees can implement.
Presiding: Claudia Cabello-Hutt, Univ. of North Carolina, Greensboro; Marcy Ellen Schwartz, Rutgers Univ., New Brunswick
Speakers: Daniel Balderston, Univ. of Pittsburgh; Maria Laura Bocaz, Univ. of Mary Washington; Claudia Cabello-Hutt; Alejandro Herrero-Olaizola, Univ. of Michigan, Ann Arbor; Veronica A. Salles-Reese, Georgetown Univ.; Marcy Ellen Schwartz; Vicky Unruh, Univ. of Kansas
This roundtable will explore renewed interest in Latin American archives—both traditional and digital—and the intellectual, political, and social implications for our research and teaching. Presenters will address how new technologies (digitalized collections, hypertext manuscripts, etc.) facilitate access to research and offer strategies for introducing students to a variety of materials.
Speakers: Sarah J. Arroyo, California State Univ., Long Beach; R. Scot Barnett, Clemson Univ.; Ron C. Brooks, Oklahoma State Univ., Stillwater; Geoffrey V. Carter, Saginaw Valley State Univ.; Anthony Collamati, Clemson Univ.; Jason Helms, Univ. of Kentucky; Alexandra Hidalgo, Purdue Univ., West Lafayette; Robert Leston, New York City Coll. of Tech., City Univ. of New York
This roundtable will present separate, yet unified, digital writings on laptops. Instead of making a diachronic set of presentations, we will make available a synchronic set, in an art e-gallery format, arranged separately on tables as conceptual art installations. The purpose is to demonstrate how digital technologies can reshape our views of presentations and of what is now called writings.
Saturday, 5 January, 1:45–3:00 p.m., Back Bay D, Sheraton
Presiding: Paul Fyfe, Florida State Univ.; Robert H. Kieft, Occidental Coll.
Speakers: Tanya E. Clement, Univ. of Texas, Austin; Rachel Donahue, Univ. of Maryland, College Park; Kari M. Kraus, Univ. of Maryland, College Park; John Merritt Unsworth, Brandeis Univ.; John A. Walsh, Indiana Univ., Bloomington
This roundtable extends current conversations about reforming graduate training to a burgeoning field of disciplinary crossover and professionalization. Participants will introduce innovative training programs and collaborative projects at the intersections of modern language departments, digital humanities, and library schools or iSchools.
Saturday, 5 January, 1:45–3:00 p.m., Liberty A, Sheraton
Presiding: Elizabeth M. Schwartz, San Joaquin Delta Coll., CA
"Peer Review 2.0: Using Digital Technologies to Transform Student Critiques," Elizabeth Harris McCormick, LaGuardia Community Coll., City Univ. of New York; Lykourgos Vasileiou, LaGuardia Community Coll., City Univ. of New York
"How I Met Your Argument: Teaching through Television," Lanta Davis, Baylor Univ.
"Writing Wikipedia as Postmodern Research Assignment," Matthew Parfitt, Boston Univ.
"Weaning Isn’t Everything: Beyond Postformalism in Composition," Miles McCrimmon, J. Sargeant Reynolds Community Coll., VA
Speakers: David Kim, Univ. of California, Los Angeles; Jennifer Sano-Franchini, Michigan State Univ.; Lee Skallerup Bessette, Morehead State Univ.
Responding: Tara McPherson, Univ. of Southern California
This roundtable addresses how applications and interfaces encode specific cultural assumptions about race and preclude certain groups of people from participating in the digital humanities. Participants present specific digital humanities projects that illustrate the impact of race on access to the programming, cultural, and funding structures in the digital humanities.
Saturday, 5 January, 3:30–4:45 p.m., The Fens, Sheraton
Presiding: Korey Jackson, Univ. of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Speakers: Matt Burton, Univ. of Michigan, Ann Arbor; Korey Jackson; Spencer Keralis, Univ. of North Texas; Jason C. Rhody, National Endowment for the Humanities; Lisa Marie Rhody, Univ. of Maryland, College Park; Michael Ullyot, Univ. of Calgary
This roundtable seeks to query precisely what data can be and do in a humanities context. Charting the migration from individual project to scalable data set, we explore “big data” not simply as a matter of size or number but as a process of granting researchers and educators access to shared information resources.
Presiding: Catherine Elizabeth Ingrassia, Virginia Commonwealth Univ.
Speakers: Joshua Eckhardt, Virginia Commonwealth Univ.; Molly Hardy, Saint Bonaventure Univ.; Laura C. Mandell, Texas A&M Univ., College Station; James Raven, Univ. of Essex
Consistent with the theme of open access, this roundtable explores limitations of proprietary digital archives and emergent alternatives. It will provide an interactive, engaged demonstration of 18thConnect; a historian’s perspective; discussion of British Virginia; and scholarly digital editions of seventeenth-century documents.
Speakers: Amanda L. French, George Mason Univ.; George Williams, Univ. of South Carolina, Spartanburg
This "master class" will focus on integrating two digital tools into the classroom to facilitate student-generated projects: Omeka, for the creation of archives and exhibits, and WordPress, for the creation of blogs and Web sites. We will discuss what kinds of assignments work with each tool, how to get started, and how to evaluate assignments. Bring a laptop (not a tablet) for hands-on work.
Sunday, 6 January, 8:30–9:45 a.m., Beacon A, Sheraton
Presiding: Alexander Reid, Univ. at Buffalo, State Univ. of New York
Speakers: Heather Duncan, Univ. at Buffalo, State Univ. of New York; Matthew K. Gold, New York City Coll. of Tech., City Univ. of New York; Eileen Joy, Southern Illinois Univ., Edwardsville; Richard E. Miller, Rutgers Univ., New Brunswick; Daniel Schweitzer, Univ. at Buffalo, State Univ. of New York
Responding: Alexander Reid
As our profession seeks to understand electronic publishing, the emergence of middle-state publishing (e.g., blogs, Twitter) adds another layer of complexity to the issue. The roundtable participants will discuss their use of social media for scholarship and how middle-state publishing alters scholarly work and the ethical and professional concerns that arise.
Presiding: Yohei Igarashi, Colgate Univ.; Lauren A. Neefe, Stony Brook Univ., State Univ. of New York
Speakers: Miranda Jane Burgess, Univ. of British Columbia; Mary Helen Dupree, Georgetown Univ.; Kevis Goodman, Univ. of California, Berkeley; Yohei Igarashi; Celeste G. Langan, Univ. of California, Berkeley; Maureen Noelle McLane, New York Univ.; Tom Mole, McGill Univ.
A roundtable of scholars discusses and defines “Romantic media studies,” one of the most vibrant approaches to Romantic literature today. Spanning British, German, and transatlantic Romanticisms, the exchange considers Romantic-era media while reflecting on methods of reading for media, mediations, and networks as well as on the relation between Romantic criticism and the digital humanities.
Speakers: Katherine E. Gossett, Iowa State Univ.; Erik Hanson, Loyola Univ., Chicago; Matthew Jockers, Univ. of Nebraska, Lincoln; Steven E. Jones, Loyola Univ., Chicago; Bethany Nowviskie, Univ. of Virginia; Sarah Storti, Univ. of Virginia
This roundtable explores the urgent necessity of reforming graduate training in the humanities, particularly in the light of the opportunities afforded by digital platforms, collaborative work, and an expanded mission for graduates. Presenters include graduate students and faculty mentors who are creating the institutional and disciplinary conditions for renovated graduate curricula to succeed.
Sunday, 6 January, 1:45–3:00 p.m., Liberty A, Sheraton
Presiding: Mark Sample, George Mason Univ.
Speakers: Douglas M. Armato, Univ. of Minnesota Press; Kathleen Fitzpatrick, MLA; Frank Kelleter, Univ. of Göttingen; Kirstyn Leuner, Univ. of Colorado, Boulder; Jason Mittell, Middlebury Coll.; Ted Underwood, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana
This roundtable considers the value and challenges of serial scholarship, that is, research published in serialized form online through a blog, forum, or other public venue. Each of the participants will give a lightning talk about his or her stance toward serial scholarship, while the bulk of the session time will be reserved for open discussion.
(This is the text of my five minute position statement on the role of computational literacy in computers and writing. I delivered this statement during a “town hall” meeting at the annual Computers and Writing Conference, hosted at North Carolina State University on May 19, 2012.)
I want to briefly run through five basic statements about computational literacy. These are literally 5 statements in BASIC, a programming language developed at Dartmouth in the 1960s. As some of you might know, BASIC is an acronym for Beginner’s All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code, and the language was designed in order to help all undergraduate students at Dartmouth—not just science and engineering students—use the college’s time-sharing computer system.
Each BASIC statement I present here is a fully functioning 1-line program. I want to use each as a kind of thesis—or a provocation of a thesis—about the role of computational literacy in computers and writing, and in the humanities more generally.
10 PRINT 2+3
I’m beginning with this statement because it’s a highly legible program that nonetheless highlights the mathematical, procedural nature of code. But this program is also a piece of history: it’s the first line of code in the user manual of the first commercially available version of BASIC, developed for the first commercially available home computer, the Altair 8800. The year was 1975 and this BASIC was developed by a young Bill Gates and Paul Allen. And of course, their BASIC would go on to be the foundation of Microsoft. It’s worth noting that although Microsoft BASIC was the official BASIC of the Altair 8800 (and many home computers to follow), an alternative version, called Tiny BASIC, was developed by a group of programmers in San Francisco. The 1976 release of Tiny BASIC included a “copyleft” software license, a kind of predecessor to contemporary open source software licenses. Copyleft emphasized sharing, an idea at the heart of the original Dartmouth BASIC.
10 PRINT “HELLO WORLD”
If BASIC itself was a program that invited collaboration, then this—customarily one of the first programs a beginner learns to write—highlights the way software looks outward. Hello, world. Computer code is writing in public, a social text. Or, what Jerry McGann calls a “social private text.” As McGann explains, “Texts are produced and reproduced under specific social and institutional conditions, and hence…every text, including those that may appear to be purely private, is a social text.”1
10 PRINT “GO TO STATEMENT CONSIDERED HARMFUL”: GOTO 10
My next program is a bit of an insider’s joke. It’s a reference to a famous 1968 diatribe by Edsger Dijkstra called “Go To Statement Considered Harmful.” Dijkstra argues against using the goto command, which leads to what critics call spaghetti code. I’m not interested in that specific debate, so much as I like how this famous injunction implies an evaluative audience, a set of norms, and even an aesthetic priority. Programming is a set of practices, with its own history and tensions. Any serious consideration of code—any serious consideration of computers—in the humanities must reckon with these social elements of code.
10 REM PRINT “GOODBYE CRUEL WORLD”
The late German media theorist Frederich Kittler has argued that, as Alexander Galloway put it, “code is the only language that does what it says.”2 Yes, code does what it says. But it also says things it does not do. Like this one-line program which begins with REM, short for remark, meaning this is a comment left by a programmer, which the computer will not execute. Comments in code exemplify what Mark Marino has called the “extra-functional significance” of code, meaning-making that goes beyond the purely utilitarian commands in the code.3
Without a doubt, there is much even non-programmers can learn not by studying what code does, but by studying what it says, and what it evokes.
10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1));:GOTO 10
Finally, here’s a program that highlights exactly how illegible code can be. Very few people could look at this program for the Commodore 64 and figure out what it does. This example suggests there’s a limit to the usefulness of the concept of literacy when talking about code. And yet, when we run the program, it’s revealed to be quite simple, though endlessly changing, as it creates a random maze across the screen.
So I’ll end with a caution about relying on the word literacy. It’s a word I’m deeply troubled by, loaded with historical and social baggage and it’s often misused as a gatekeeping concept, an either/or state; one is either literate or illiterate.
In my own teaching and research I’ve replaced my use of literacy with the idea of competency. I’m influenced here by the way teachers of a foreign language want their students to use language when they study abroad. They don’t use terms like literacy or fluency, they talk about competency. Because the thing with competency is, it’s highly contextualized, situated, and fluid. Competency means knowing the things that are required in order to do the other things you need to do. It’s not the same for everyone, and it varies by place, time, and circumstance.
Translating this experience to computers and writing, competency means reckoning with computation at the level appropriate for what you want to get out of it—or put into it.
McGann, Jerome. The Textual Condition. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1991, p. 21. ↩
Galloway, Alexander R. Gaming: Essays on Algorithmic Culture. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2006, p. 6 ↩
Later this week I’ll be heading to Boston for the annual conference of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies. I’m delighted to be presenting on a panel organized by my frequent conspirator Zach Whalen on code studies and videogames. I’m also delighted that there will be an abundance of other panels devoted to videogames.
For my ease—and hopefully others’—I’ve compiled a list of all of these panels. If I’m missing a videogame-oriented panel, let me know in the comments, and I’ll add it right away.
Videogame Studies Panels at SCMS 2012
Wednesday, March 21, 2012 10:00AM-11:45PM (Session A)
A7: Harder Than You Think: The Difficulty and Digital Games Panel
Aubrey Anable (University of Toronto), “Casual Games, Serious Play, and the Affective Economy”
Thursday, March 22, 2012 05:00PM-06:45PM (Session I)
I11: Playing With Feelings 2: Medium, Immersion, and Affect Room: Franklin Chair: Daniel Reynolds (University of California, Santa Barbara) Respondent: Mark J. P. Wolf (Concordia University, Wisconsin)
Daniel Reynolds (University of California, Santa Barbara), “Radical Embodiment and Affective Interactivity”
Virginia Kuhn (University of Southern California), “One More Time with Feeling: Can Agency and Immersion Co-exist?”
Chaz Evans (University of Illinois, Chicago), “The Brechtian Video Game (and Other Theatrical Conceptions of Software-based Experience)”
Friday, March 23, 2012 12:15PM-2:00PM (Session K)
Video Game Studies Special Interest Group
Friday, March 23, 2012 02:15PM-04:00PM (Session L)
L11: Code Studies and Videogames Room: Franklin Chair: Zach Whalen (University of Mary Washington)
Sheila Murphy (University of Michigan), “Parsing Code, Playing Games: A Mediation on Reading Video Games”
Mark Sample (George Mason University), “A Revisionist History of JFK Reloaded (Decoded)”
Zach Whalen (University of Mary Washington), “’//create magnetic children’: Game Code as Critical Paratext”
Christopher Hanson (Syracuse University), “Mapping Levels of Abstraction and Materiality: Structuralist Games?”
Saturday, March 24, 2012 9:00AM (Session M)
M11: Computer Games and Virtual Forms Room: Franklin Chair: Lori Landay, Berklee College of Music
Brent Strang (Stony Brook University), “Red Dead Remediation: Sandbox Games, Anti-environments and Digital Adolescence”
Juan F. Belmonte Avila (University of Murcia), “Tactility in Computer Games: Non-Visual Mediations in Digital Discourses”
Mark J. P. Wolf (Concordia University, Wisconsin), “BattleZone and the Origins of First-Person Shooting Games”
Lori Landay (Berklee College of Music), “Virtually There: Presence, Agency, Spectatorship, and Performance in Interactive Media”
Sponsor: Video Game Studies Scholarly Interest Group
Saturday, March 24, 2012 05:00PM-06:45PM (Session Q)
Q11: Video Game Industry Studies Room: Franklin Chair: Sheila Murphy (University of Michigan) Co-Chair: Julia Lange (University of Michigan) Respondent: Nina Huntemann (Suffolk University)
Benjamin Aslinger (Bentley University), “Redefining the Console for the Digital, Global, and Networked Era”
Kathryn Frank (University of Michigan), “Imagining the Cult Media Audience: Comics and Video Game Industrial ‘Synergy’”
Julia Lange (University of Michigan), “E3 or Not E3?: The Video Game Industry Online and In-person”
Q21: Beyond Strawmen, Misrepresentations, and Caricatures: Elucidating a Critical Political Economy of Media Room: Whittier Chair: Philip Drake (University of Stirling) Respondent: Philippe Meers (University of Antwerp)
Eileen Meehan (Southern Illinois University, Carbondale), “The Misrepresentation of Critical Political Economy of Media”
Randall Nichols (Bentley University), “Manufacturing the Xbox: The Other Video Game Labor Problem”
Andre Sirois (University of Oregon), “Advertising and Avatars: Investing in Subcultural Capital and Selling Authenticity in the Case of DJ Hero”
Sunday, March 25, 2012 11:00AM-12:45PM (Session S)
S7: Video Games Room: Cambridge Chair: Robert Buerkle (University of Pittsburgh)
Reem Hilu (Northwestern University), “A Pioneering Game: “The Oregon Trail” and History Simulation”
Frank Episale (City University of New York), “Roger Ebert vs. Jacques Rancière: Video Games, Art, and the Emancipated Spectator”
Robert Buerkle (University of Pittsburgh), “At a Loss for Words: Portal 2 and the Silent Avatar”
[Downhill photograph courtesy of Flickr user krelle / Creative Commons Licensed]
This is a comprehensive list of digital humanities sessions scheduled for the 2012 Modern Language Association Conference in Seattle, Washington. The 2012 list stands at 58 sessions, up from 44 last year (and 27 the year before). If the trend continues, within the decade it will no longer make sense to compile this list; it’ll be easier to list the sessions that don’t in some way relate in to the influence and impact of digital materials and tools upon language, literary, textual, and media studies.
It’s possible I may have missed a session or two; if so, let me know in the comments and I’ll add the panel to the list. Note that there’s also a pre-convention Getting Started in the Digital Humanities with DHCommons workshop; but because this workshop is application-only, it does not appear in the official MLA program.
You may also want to follow the MLA Tweetup Twitter account for updates on various spontaneous and planned meet-ups in Seattle.
[UPDATE 13 January 2012: I've begun adding links to presentations and papers if they've been posted online.]
Thursday, January 5
Pre-Convention Digital Humanities Project Mixer
1-4 pm in Convention Center, rooms 3A & 3B
Projects looking for collaborators and collaborators looking for projects, come mix and mingle in this informal project poster session that offers a face-to-face DHCommons experience. Representatives from projects looking for collaborators or just wanting to get the word out will share information and materials about their projects. This forum will also offer great opportunities for one-on-one conversations about pursuing projects in the digital humanities. If you would like to share your project, please sign up here, but otherwise there is no need to register.
This event is open to all MLA participants.
1. Evaluating Digital Work for Tenure and Promotion: A Workshop for Evaluators and Candidates
8:30–11:30 a.m., Willow A, Sheraton
Presiding: Alison Byerly, Middlebury Coll.; Katherine A. Rowe, Bryn Mawr Coll.; Susan Schreibman, Trinity Coll. Dublin
The workshop will provide materials and facilitated discussion about evaluating work in digital media (e.g., scholarly editions, databases, digital mapping projects, born-digital creative or scholarly work). Designed for both creators of digital materials (candidates for tenure and promotion) and administrators or colleagues who evaluate those materials, the workshop will propose strategies for documenting, presenting, and evaluating such work. Preregistration required.
9. Large Digital Libraries: Beyond Google Books
12:00 noon–1:15 p.m., 611, WSCC
Presiding: Michael Hancher Univ. of Minnesota, Twin Cities
Speakers: Tanya E. Clement, Univ. of Maryland, College Park; Amanda L. French, George Mason Univ.; George Oates, Open Library; Glenn Roe, Univ. of Chicago; Andrew M. Stauffer, Univ. of Virginia; Jeremy York, HathiTrust Digital Library
Aside from Google Books, the two principal repositories for digitized books are Open Library and HathiTrust Digital Library; Digital Public Library of America is now in its planning stage. What are the merits and prospects of these three projects? How can they be improved? What role should scholars play in their improvement? These questions will be addressed by participants in each project and by others experienced in the digital humanities.
12. Transmedia Stories and Literary Games
12:00 noon–1:15 p.m., 615, WSCC
“Hundred Thousand Billion Fingers: Oulipian Games and Serial Players,” Patrick LeMieux Duke Univ.
“Make Love, Not Warcraft: Virtual Worlds and Utopia,” Stephanie Boluk Vassar Coll.
“Oscillation: Transmedia Storytelling and Narrative Theory by Design,” Patrick Jagoda Univ. of Chicago
Presiding: Sean Scanlan, New York City Coll. of Tech., City Univ. of New York
“Making Online Peer Review Interactive: Sticky Notes and Highlighters,” Cheryl E. Ball, Illinois State Univ.
“The Bearable Light of Openness: Renovating Obsolete Peer-Review Bottlenecks,” Aaron J. Barlow, New York City Coll. of Tech., City Univ. of New York
“The Law Review Approach: What the Humanities Can Learn,” Allen Mendenhall, Auburn Univ., Auburn
41. Social Networks, Jewish Identity, and New Media
1:45–3:00 p.m. University, Sheraton
Presiding: Jonathan S. Skolnik Univ. of Massachusetts, Amherst
“Social Networking, Jewish Identity, and New Jewish Ritual: Tattooed Jews on Facebook,” Erika Meitner Virginia Polytechnic Inst. and State Univ.
“Electronic Apikoros: Searching for the Nineteenth-Century Origins of Contemporary Satire in the Jewish Blogosphere,” Ashley Aronsen Passmore Texas A&M Univ., College Station
“From MySpace to MyJewishSpace: The Role of the Internet in the Self-Definition of New Jews in Austria and Germany,” Andrea Reiter Univ. of Southampton
47. Old Books and New Tools
1:45–3:00 p.m. 606, WSCC
Presiding: Sarah Werner Folger Shakespeare Library
Speakers: Katherine D. Harris, San José State Univ.; Jeffrey Knight, Univ. of Washington, Seattle; Matt Thomas, Univ. of Iowa; Whitney Trettien, Duke Univ.; Meg Worley, Palo Alto, CA
This roundtable will consider how the categories of old books and new tools might illuminate each other. Speakers will provide individual reflections on their experiences with old books and new tools before opening up the conversation to the theoretical and practical concerns driving the use and interactions of the two.
Presiding: Kathleen Woodward Univ. of Washington, Seattle
“Emergent Projects, Processes, and Stories,” Sidonie Ann Smith Univ. of Michigan, Ann Arbor
“Learning Collaboratories, Now and in the Future,” Curtis Wong Microsoft Research
“It’s the Data, Stupid!,” Ed Lazowska Univ. of Washington, Seattle
“How to Crowdsource Thinking,” Cathy N. Davidson Duke Univ.
Scholars from the human, natural, and computational sciences will address the future of higher education in a digital age. They will identify problems in higher education today and provide recommendations for what is needed as we go forward. What pressure does this information age exert on the current ways we think about higher education? How does a conversation across the computational sciences and the humanities address, ease, or exacerbate that pressure?
87. Digital Literary Studies: When Will It End?
3:30–4:45 p.m. 304, WSCC
Presiding: David A. Golumbia Virginia Commonwealth Univ.
“Digital Birth, Digital Adoption, Digital Disownment: Reconceiving Computational Textuality,” John David Zuern Univ. of Hawai’i, Manoa
“Digital Literary Studies circa 1954: Lacan’s Machines and Shannon’s Minds,” Bernard Dionysius Geoghegan Northwestern Univ.
“Digital Anamnesis,” Benjamin J. Robertson Univ. of Colorado, Boulder
121. Writing the Jasmine Revolution and Tahrir Square: Graffiti, Film, Collage, Poetry
5:15–6:30 p.m., Cedar, Sheraton
Presiding: Kathryn Lachman Univ. of Massachusetts, Amherst
“Tagging the Jasmine Revolution: Social Media and Graffiti in the Tunisian Uprising,” David Fieni Cornell Univ.
“Quand la révolution filmique anticipe la révolution populaire,” Mirvet Médini Kammoun Institut Supérieur des Beaux-Arts de Tunis
“The Women’s Manifesto: Thinking Egypt 2011 Transnationally,” Basuli Deb Univ. of Nebraska, Lincoln
“Poetic Responses to the North African Revolutions,” Mahdia Benguesmia Univ. of Batna
125. What’s Still Missing? What Now? What Next? Digital Archives in American Literature
5:15–6:30 p.m., 608, WSCC
Presiding: Brad Evans, Rutgers Univ., New Brunswick
Speakers: Donna M. Campbell, Washington State Univ., Pullman; Julia H. Flanders, Brown Univ.; Kenneth M. Price, Univ. of Nebraska, Lincoln; Oya Rieger, Cornell Univ.; Robert Scholes, Brown Univ.; Jeremy York, HathiTrust Digital Library
This roundtable has two goals: (1) to provide a forum for reflection on the first twenty years of the digital archive, especially as it relates to American materials, which might include consideration of what is still missing and of methodologies for making use of what is there now, and (2) to offer an opportunity for researchers who have become dependent on the archive to talk with major players in its production, in the hope of fostering new avenues for cooperation.
150. Digital Humanities and Internet Research
7:00–8:15 p.m., 613, WSCC
Presiding: John Jones Univ. of Texas, Dallas
“Creating a Conceptual Search Engine and Multimodal Corpus for Humanities Research,” Robin A. Reid Texas A&M Univ., Commerce
“What the Digital Can’t Remember,” John Jones
“Toward a Rhetoric of Collaboration: An Online Resource for Teaching and Learning Research,” Jennifer Sano-Franchini Michigan State Univ.
161. The Webs We Weave: Online Pedagogy in Community Colleges
7:00–8:15 p.m., 615, WSCC
Presiding: Linda Weinhouse, Community Coll. of Baltimore County, MD
“Blended Learning: The Best of Both Worlds?,” Pamela Sue Hardman, Cuyahoga Community Coll., Western Campus, OH
“Magic in the Web,” Michael R. Best, Univ. of Victoria; Jeremy Ehrlich, Univ. of Victoria
“The Digital-Dialogue Journal: Tool for Enhanced Classic Communication,” Bette G. Hirsch, Cabrillo Coll., CA
“Delivering Literary Studies in the Twenty-First Century: The Relevance of Online Pedagogies,” Kristine Blair, Bowling Green State Univ.
Friday, January 6
187. Digital Humanities and Hispanism
8:30–9:45 a.m. Grand A, Sheraton
Presiding: Kyra A. Kietrys Davidson Coll.
Speakers: Mike Blum, Coll. of William and Mary; Francie Cate-Arries, Coll. of William and Mary; Kyra A. Kietrys; Kathy Korcheck, Central Coll.; William Anthony Nericcio, San Diego State Univ.; Rocío Quispe-Agnoli, Michigan State Univ.; Amaranta Saguar García, Univ. of Oxford, Lady Margaret Hall; David A. Wacks, Univ. of Oregon
Demonstrations by Hispanists who use technology in their scholarship and teaching. The presenters include a graduate student; junior and senior Latin American, Peninsular, and comparativist colleagues whose work spans medieval to contemporary times; and an academic technologist. After brief presentations of the different digital tools, the audience will circulate among the stations to participate in interactive demonstrations.
202. The Presidential Forum: Language, Literature, Learning
“Of Degraded Tongues and Digital Talk: Race and the Politics of Language,” Imani Perry, Princeton Univ.
“Learning to Unlearn,” Judith Halberstam, Univ. of Southern California
“Borrowing Privileges: Dreaming in Foreign Tongues,” Bala Venkat Mani, Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison
“Teaching Literature and the Bitter Truth about Starbucks,” Christopher Freeburg, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana
The forum addresses three fundamental points of orientation for our profession: language, in its various materialities; literature, broadly understood; and learning, especially student learning and our educational missions. The language and literature classroom has to serve the needs of today’s students. How do changing understandings of identity, performance, and media translate into transformations in teaching and learning?
215. Digital South, Digital Futures
10:15–11:30 a.m. 606, WSCC
Presiding: Vincent J. Brewton Univ. of North Alabama
“Documenting the American South,” Natalia Smith Univ. of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
“Space, Place, and Image: Mapping Farm Securities Administration (FSA) Photographs and the Photogrammar Project,” Lauren Tilton Yale Univ.
“Southern Spaces: The Development of a Digital Southern Studies Journal,” Frances Abbott Emory Univ.
“Mapping a New Deal for New Orleans Artists,” Michael Mizell-Nelson Univ. of New Orleans
217. Reconfiguring the Scholarly Editor: Textual Studies at the University of Washington, Seattle
10:15–11:30 a.m., 613, WSCC
Presiding: Míceál Vaughan, Univ. of Washington, Seattle
“Neither Editor nor Librarian: The Interventions Required in the New Context of Texts in the Digital World,” Joseph Tennis, Univ. of Washington, Seattle
“Revealing a Coronation Tribute: Decoding the Hidden Aural and Visual Symbols,” JoAnn Taricani, Univ. of Washington, Seattle
“Mapping Editors,” Meg Roland, Marylhurst Univ.
“The Editor as Curator: Early Histories of Collected Works Editions in English,” Jeffrey Knight, Univ. of Washington, Seattle
249. Building Digital Humanities in the Undergraduate Classroom
12:00 noon–1:15 p.m. Grand A, Sheraton
Presiding: Kathi Inman Berens Univ. of Southern California
Speakers: Kathryn E. Crowther, Georgia Inst. of Tech.; Brian Croxall, Emory Univ.; Maureen Engel, Univ. of Alberta; Paul Fyfe, Florida State Univ.; Kathi Inman Berens; Janelle A. Jenstad, Univ. of Victoria; Charlotte Nunes, Univ. of Texas, Austin; Heather Zwicker, Univ. of Alberta
This electronic roundtable assumes that “building stuff” is foundational to the digital humanities and that the technical barriers to participation can be low. When teaching undergraduates digital humanities, simple tools allow students to focus on the simultaneous practices of building and interpreting. This show-and-tell presents projects of variable technical complexity that foster robust interpretation.
259. Representation in the Shadow of New Media Technologies
12:00 noon–1:15 p.m., 304, WSCC
Presiding: Lan Dong Univ. of Illinois, Springfield
“Web Video and Ethnic Media: Linking Representation and Distribution,” Aymar Jean Christian Univ. of Pennsylvania
“Among Friends: Comparing Social Networking Functions in the Baltimore Sun and Baltimore Afro-American in 1904 and 1933,” Daniel Greene Univ. of Maryland, College Park
“Digital Trash Talk: The Rhetoric of Instrumental Racism as Procedural Strategy,” Lisa Nakamura Univ. of Illinois, Urbana
276. Getting Funded in the Humanities: An NEH Workshop
1:30–3:30 p.m. 3B, WSCC
Presiding: Jason C. Rhody National Endowment for the Humanities
This workshop will highlight recent awards and outline current funding opportunites. In addition to emphasizing grant programs that support individual and collaborative research and education, the workshop will include information on the NEH’s Office of Digital Humanities. A question-and-answer period will follow.
301. Reconfiguring Publishing
1:45–3:00 p.m., Grand A, Sheraton
Presiding: Carolyn Guertin Univ. of Texas, Arlington; William Thompson Western Illinois Univ.
Speakers: James Copeland, Ugly Duckling Presse; Gail E. Hawisher, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana; James MacGregor, Public Knowledge Project; Rita Raley, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara; Avi Santo, Old Dominion Univ.; Cynthia L. Selfe, Ohio State Univ., Columbus; Raymond G. Siemens, Univ. of Victoria
This session intends not to bury publishing but to raise awareness of its transformations and continuities as it reconfigures itself. New platforms are causing publishers to return to their roots as booksellers while booksellers are once again becoming publishers. Open-access models of publishing are creating new models for content creation and distribution as small print-focused presses are experiencing a renaissance. Come see!
315. The New Dissertation: Thinking outside the (Proto-)Book
3:30–4:45 p.m., 606, WSCC
Presiding: Kathleen Woodward, Univ. of Washington, Seattle
Speakers: David Damrosch, Harvard Univ.; Kathleen Fitzpatrick, MLA; Richard E. Miller, Rutgers Univ., New Brunswick; Sidonie Ann Smith, Univ. of Michigan, Ann Arbor; Kathleen Woodward
In 2010 the Executive Council appointed a working group to explore the state of the doctoral dissertation: How can it adapt to digital innovation, open access, new concepts of “authorship”? What counts as scholarship in the world today? How do we address the national problems of cost and time to degree? This roundtable will offer members of the working group an opportunity to make the case that as we shift the terminology from scholarly publication to scholarly communication we need to expand the forms of the dissertation and to reconceptualize what the dissertation is and how it can prepare graduates for academic careers in the coming decades.
332. Digital Narratives and Gaming for Teaching Language and Literature
3:30–4:45 p.m. Aspen, Sheraton
Presiding: Barbara Lafford Arizona State Univ.
“Narrative Expression and Scientific Method in Online Gaming Worlds,” Steven Thorne Portland State Univ.
“Designing Narratives: A Framework for Digital Game-Mediated L2 Literacies Development,” Jonathon Reinhardt Univ. of Arizona; Julie Sykes Univ. of New Mexico, Albuquerque
“Close Playing, Paired Playing: A Practicum,” Edmond Chang Univ. of Washington, Seattle; Timothy Welsh Loyola Univ., New Orleans
Responding: Dave McAlpine Univ. of Arkansas, Little Rock
343. The Cultural Place of Nineteenth-Century Poetry
3:30–4:45 p.m., 611, WSCC
Presiding: Charles P. LaPorte, Univ. of Washington, Seattle
“Lyric and Music at the Fin de Siècle: The Cultural Place of Song,” Emily M. Harrington, Penn State Univ., University Park
“Olympics 2012 and Victorian Poetry for All Time,” Margaret Linley, Simon Fraser Univ.
349. Digital Pedagogy
5:15–6:30 p.m., Grand A, Sheraton
Presiding: Katherine D. Harris San José State Univ.
Speakers: Sheila T. Cavanagh, Emory Univ.; Elizabeth Chang, Univ. of Missouri, Columbia; Lori A. Emerson, Univ. of Colorado, Boulder; Adeline Koh, Richard Stockton Coll. of New Jersey; John Lennon, Univ. of South Florida Polytechnic; Kevin Quarmby, Shakespeare’s Globe Trust; Katherine Singer, Mount Holyoke Coll.; Roger Whitson, Georgia Inst. of Tech.
Discussions about digital projects and digital tools often focus on research goals. For this electronic roundtable, we will instead demonstrate how these digital resources, tools, and projects have been integrated into undergraduate and graduate curricula.
378. Old Labor and New Media
5:15–6:30 p.m., 608, WSCC
Presiding: Alison Shonkwiler Rhode Island Coll.
“America Needs Indians: Representations of Native Americans in Counterculture Narrative and the Roots of Digital Utopianism,” Lisa Nakamura Univ of Illinois, Urbana
“The Eyes of Real Labor and the Illusions of Virtual Reality,” Matt Goodwin Univ. of Massachusetts, Amherst
“Digital Voices: Representations of Migrant Workers in Dubai and Los Angeles,” Anne Cong-Huyen Univ. of California, Santa Barbara
Responding: Seth Perlow Cornell Univ.
Saturday, January 7
410. Reconfiguring the Literary: Narratives, Methods, Theories
8:30–9:45 a.m. 608, WSCC
Presiding: Susan Schreibman Trinity Coll., Dublin
Speakers: Alison Booth, Univ. of Virginia; Mark Stephen, Byron Univ. of Sydney; Øyvind Eide, Univ. of Oslo; Alexander Gil, Univ. of Virginia; Rita Raley, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara
425. Composing New Partnerships in the Digital Humanities
8:30–9:45 a.m., 606, WSCC
Presiding: Catherine Jean Prendergast Univ. of Illinois, Urbana
Speakers:Matthew K. Gold, New York City Coll. of Tech., City Univ. of New York; Catherine Jean Prendergast; Alexander Reid, Univ. at Buffalo, State Univ. of New York; Spencer Schaffner, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana; Annette Vee, Univ. of Pittsburgh
The objective of this roundtable is to facilitate interactions between digital humanists and writing studies scholars who, despite shared interests in digital authorship, intellectual property, peer review, classroom communication, and textual revision, have often failed to collaborate. An extended period for audience involvement has been designed to seed partnerships beyond the conference.
428. Technology and Chinese Literature and Language
10:15–11:30 a.m., Boren, Sheraton
Presiding: Xiaoping Song Norwich Univ.
“Adaptation: Rewriting Modern Chinese Literary Masterpieces,” Paul Manfredi Pacific Lutheran Univ.
“Technology in Chinese Instruction: A Web-Based Extensive Reading Program,” Helen Heling Shen Univ. of Iowa
“Technology and Teaching Chinese Literature in Translation,” Keith Dede Lewis and Clark Coll.
“Text-Image-Imagined Words: An Approach to Teaching Chinese Literature,” Xiaoping Song
The speakers will discuss the preservation of texts as a core purpose of libraries, engaging questions regarding the tasks of deciding what materials to preserve and when and which to let go: best practices; institutional and collective roles for the preservation of materials in various formats; economics and governance structures of preserving materials; issues of tools, standards, and platforms for digital materials.
450. Digital Faulkner: William Faulkner and Digital Humanities
10:15–11:30 a.m. 615, WSCC
Presiding: Steven Knepper Univ. of Virginia
Speakers: Keith Goldsmith, Vintage Books; John B. Padgett Brevard, Coll.; Noel Earl Polk, Mississippi State Univ.; Stephen Railton, Univ. of Virginia; Peter Stoicheff, Univ. of Saskatchewan
A roundtable on digital humanities and its implications for teaching and scholarship on the work of William Faulkner.
467. The Future of Teaching
12:00 noon–1:15 p.m., Grand C, Sheraton
Presiding: Priscilla B. Wald, Duke Univ.
“Gaming the Humanities Classroom,” Patrick Jagoda, Univ. of Chicago
“Intimacy in Three Acts,” Margaret Rhee, Univ. of California, Berkeley
“One Course, One Project,” Jentery Sayers, Univ. of Victoria
“The Meta Teacher,” Bulbul Tiwari, Stanford Univ.
This session features innovative advanced doctoral students and junior scholars who are making their mark as scholars and as teachers using new interactive, multimedia technologies of writing and publishing in their research and classrooms. The panelists cross the boundaries of the humanities, arts, sciences, and technology and are committed to new forms of scholarship and pedogogy. They practice the virtues of open, public, digitally accessible thinking and represent the vibrancy of our profession. Fiona Barnett, Duke Univ., will coordinate live Twitter feeds and other input during the session.
468. Networks, Maps, and Words: Digital-Humanities Approaches to the Archive of American Slavery
482. Of Kings’ Treasuries and the E-Protean Invasion: The Evolving Nature of Scholarly Research
12:00 noon–1:15 p.m., 613, WSCC
Presiding: Jude V. Nixon, Salem State Univ.
Speakers: Douglas M. Armato, Univ. of Minnesota Press; Harriett Green, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana; Dean J. Smith, Project MUSE; Pierre A. Walker, Salem State Univ.
This roundtable addresses the veritable explosion of emerging technologies (Google Books, Wikipedia, and e-readers) currently available to faculty members to enhance their scholarly research and how these resources are altering fundamentally the method of scholarly research. The session also wishes to examine access to these technologies and how they interact with the traditional research library and the still meaningful role, if any, it plays in scholarly research.
487. Context versus Convenience: Teaching Contemporary Business Communication through Digital Media
12:00 noon–1:15 p.m., 306, WSCC
Presiding: Mahli Xuan Mechenbier, Kent State Univ.
“Reenvisioning and Renovating the Twenty-First-Century Business Communication Classroom,” Lara Smith-Sitton, Georgia State Univ.
“Contextualizing Conventions: Technology in Business Writing Classrooms,” Suanna H. Davis, Houston Community Coll., Central Coll., TX
“Teaching Business Communication through Simulation Games,” Katherine V. Wills, Indiana Univ.–Purdue Univ., Columbus
490. Reconfiguring the Scholarly Edition
12:00 noon–1:15 p.m., 611, WSCC
Presiding: Susan Schreibman, Trinity Coll. Dublin
Speakers: Michael R. Best, Univ. of Victoria; John Bryant, Hofstra Univ.; Alexander Gil, Univ. of Virginia; Elizabeth Grove-White, Univ. of Victoria; Grant Simpson, Indiana Univ., Bloomington; John A. Walsh, Indiana Univ., Bloomington
New theories of editing have broadened the approaches available to editors of scholarly editions. Noteworthy amongst these are the changes brought about by editing for digital publication. New methods for digital scholarship, forms of editions, theories informing digital publication, and tools offer exciting alternatives to traditional notions of the scholarly edition.
513. Principles of Exclusion: The Future of the Nineteenth-Century Archive
1:45–3:00 p.m., 611, WSCC
Presiding: Lloyd P. Pratt, Univ. of Oxford, Linacre Coll.
“Missing Links; or, Girls of Today, Archives of Tomorrow,” William A. Gleason, Princeton Univ.
“Anonymity, Authorship, and Digital Archives in American Literature,” Elizabeth Lorang, Univ. of Nebraska, Lincoln
“Dashed Hopes: Small-Scale Digital Archives of the 1990s,” Amy Earhart, Texas A&M Univ., College Station
532. Reading Writing Interfaces: Electronic Literature’s Past and Present
1:45–3:00 p.m. 613, WSCC
Presiding: Marjorie Luesebrink Irvine Valley Coll., CA
“Early Authors of E-Literature, Platforms of the Past,” Dene M. Grigar Washington State Univ., Vancouver
“Seven Types of Interface in the Electronic Literature Collection Volume Two,” Marjorie Luesebrink ; Stephanie Strickland New York, NY
539. #alt-ac: Alternative Paths, Pitfalls, and Jobs in the Digital Humanities
3:30–4:45 p.m. 3B, WSCC
Presiding: Sara Steger Univ. of Georgia
Speakers:Brian Croxall, Emory Univ.; Julia H. Flanders, Brown Univ.; Jennifer Howard, Chronicle of Higher Education; Matthew Jockers, Stanford Univ.; Shana Kimball, Univ. of Michigan, Ann Arbor; Bethany Nowviskie, Univ. of Virginia; Lisa Spiro, National Inst. for Tech. in Liberal Education
This roundtable brings together various perspectives on alternative academic careers from professionals in digital humanities centers, libraries, publishing, and humanities labs. Speakers will discuss how and whether digital humanities is especially suited to fostering non-tenure-track positions and how that translates to the role of alt-ac in digital humanities and the academy. Related session: “#alt-ac: The Future of ‘Alternative Academic’ Careers” (595).
566. Ending the Edition
3:30–4:45 p.m., 303, WSCC
Presiding: Carol DeBoer-Langworthy, Brown Univ.
“Mary Moody Emerson’s Almanacks: Digital Editions and Imagined Endings,” Noelle A. Baker, Neenah, WI
“Closing the Book on a Multigenerational Edition: Harvard’s The Collected Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson,” Ronald A. Bosco, Univ. at Albany, State Univ. of New York; Joel Myerson, Univ. of South Carolina, Columbia
“‘Letting Go’: The Final Volumes of the Cambridge Fitzgerald Edition,” James L. W. West, Penn State Univ., University Park
581. Digital Humanities versus New Media
5:15–6:30 p.m., 611, WSCC
” Everything Old Is New Again: The Digital Past and the Humanistic Future,” Alison Byerly Middlebury Coll.
“As Study or as Paradigm? Humanities and the Uptake of Emerging Technologies,” Andrew Pilsch Penn State Univ., University Park
“Digital Tunnel Vision: Defining a Rhetorical Situation,” David Robert Gruber North Carolina State Univ.
“Digital Humanities Authorship as the Object of New Media Studies,” Victoria E. Szabo Duke Univ.
595. #alt-ac: The Future of “Alternative Academic” Careers
5:15–6:30 p.m., 3B, WSCC
Presiding: Bethany Nowviskie, Univ. of Virginia
Speakers: Donald Brinkman, Microsoft Research; Neil Fraistat, Univ. of Maryland, College Park; Robert Gibbs, Univ. of Toronto; Charles Henry, Council on Library and Information Resources; Bethany Nowviskie; Jason C. Rhody, National Endowment for the Humanities; Elliott Shore, Bryn Mawr Coll.
In increasing numbers, scholars are pursuing careers as “alternative academics”—embracing hybrid and non-tenure-track positions in libraries, presses, humanities and cultural heritage organizations, and digital labs and centers. Speakers represent organizations helping to craft alternatives to the traditional academic career. Related session: “#alt-ac: Alternative Paths, Pitfalls, and Jobs in the Digital Humanities” (539).
603. Innovative Pedagogy and Research in Technical Communication
5:15–6:30 p.m., 615, WSCC
Presiding: William Klein Univ. of Missouri, St. Louis
1. “The New Normal of Public Health Research by Technical Communication Professionals,” Thomas Barker Texas Tech Univ.
2. “Teaching the New Paradigm: Social Media inside and outside the Classroom,” William Magrino Rutgers Univ., New Brunswick; Peter B. Sorrell Rutgers Univ., New Brunswick
3. “Technical and Rhetorical Communication through DIY (Do-It-Yourself) Digital Video,” Crystal VanKooten Univ. of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Is there gravity in digital worlds? Moving beyond both lamentations and celebrations of the putatively free-floating informatic empyrean, this roundtable will explore the ways in which representations in myriad digital platforms—verbal, visual, musical, cinematic—might bear the weight of materiality, presence, and history and the ways in which bodies—both human and hardware—might be recruited for or implicated in the effort.
730. New Media Narratives and Old Prose Fiction
1:45–3:00 p.m., 310, WSCC
Presiding: Amy J. Elias Univ. of Tennessee, Knoxville
“New Media: Its Use and Abuse for Literature and for Life,” Joseph Paul Tabbi Univ. of Illinois, Chicago
“Contrasts and Convergences of Electronic Literature,” Dene M. Grigar Washington State Univ., Vancouver
“Computing Language and Poetry,” Nick Montfort Massachusetts Inst. of Tech.
736. Close Playing: Literary Methods and Video Game Studies
This roundtable moves beyond the games-versus-stories dichotomy to explore the full range of possible literary approaches to video games. These approaches include the theoretical and methodological contributions of reception studies, reader-response theory, narrative theory, critical race and gender theory, disability studies, and textual scholarship.
Speakers: Mark Algee-Hewitt, McGill Univ.; Alison Booth, Univ. of Virginia; Amanda Gailey, Univ. of Nebraska, Lincoln; Laura C. Mandell, Texas A&M Univ., College Station
Roundtable on the theoretical, practical, and institutional issues surrounding the transformation of print-era texts into digital forms for scholarly use. What forms of editing need to be done, and by whom? What new research questions are becoming possible? How will the global digital library change professional communication? What is the future of the academic research library? How can we make sustainable digital textual resources for literary studies?
I recently received word that my proposal for a roundtable on videogame studies was accepted for the annual Modern Language Association Convention, to be held next January in Seattle, Washington. I’m very excited for myself and my fellow participants: Ed Chang, Steve Jones, Jason Rhody, Anastasia Salter, Tim Welsh, and Zach Whalen. (Updated with links to talks below)
This roundtable is particularly noteworthy in two ways. First, it’s a departure from the typical conference model in the humanities, namely three speakers each reading twenty-minute essays at an audience, followed by ten minutes of posturing and self-aggrandizement thinly disguised as Q&A. Instead, each speaker on the “Close Playing” roundtable will briefly (no more than six minutes each) lay out opening remarks or provocations, and then we’ll invite the audience to a long open discussion. Last year’s Open Professoriate roundtable followed a similar model, and the level of collegial dialogue between the panelists and the audience was inspiring (and even newsworthy)—and I hope the “Close Playing” roundtable can emulate that success.
The second noteworthy feature of the roundtable is the topic itself. Videogames—an incredibly rich form of cultural expression—have been historically unrepresented, if not entirely absent from the MLA. I noted this silence in the midst of the 2011 convention in Los Angeles:
How is it possible that I am the only person talking about videogames at #MLA11?
This is not to say there isn’t an interest in videogames at the MLA; indeed, I am convinced from the conversations I’ve had at the conference that there’s a real hunger to discuss games and other media forms that draw from the same cultural well as storytelling. Partly in the interest of promoting the critical study of videogames, and partly to serve as a successful model for future roundtable proposals (which I can assure you, the MLA Program Committee wants to see more of), I’m posting the “Close Playing” session proposal here (see also the original CFP).
We hope to see you in Seattle in January!
CLOSE PLAYING: LITERARY METHODS AND VIDEOGAME STUDIES
(As submitted to the MLA Program Committee
for the 2012 conference in Seattle, Washington)
Nearly fifteen years ago a contentious debate erupted in the emerging field of videogame studies between self-proclaimed ludologists and the more loosely-defined narratologists. At stake—or so it seemed at the time—was the very soul of videogame studies. Would the field treat games as a distinct cultural form, which demanded its own theory and methodology? Or were videogames to be considered “texts,” which could be analyzed using the same approaches literary scholars took to poetry, drama, and fiction? Were games mainly about rules, structure, and play? Or did games tell stories and channel allegories? Ludologists argued for the former, while many others defended the latter. The debate played out in conferences, blogs, and the early issues of scholarly e-journals such as Game Studies and Electronic Book Review.
In the ensuing years the debate has dissipated, as both sides have come to recognize that no single approach can adequately explore the rich and diverse world of videogames. The best scholarship in the field is equally attune to both the formal and thematic elements of games, as well as to the complex interplay between them. Furthermore, it’s become clear that ludologists mischaracterized literary studies as a strictly New Critical endeavor, a view that woefully overlooks the many insights contemporary literary scholarship can offer to this interdisciplinary field.
In the past few years scholars have begun exploring the whole range of possible literary approaches to games. Methodologies adopted from reception studies, reader-response theory, narrative theory, critical race and gender theory, queer studies, disability studies, rhetoric and composition, and textual studies have all contributed in substantive ways to videogames studies. This roundtable will focus on these contributions, demonstrating how various methods of literary studies can help us understand narrative-based games as well as abstract, non-narrative games (for example, Tetris). And as Jameson’s famous mantra “always historicize” reminds us, the roundtable will also address the wider social and historical context that surrounds games.
This topic is ideally suited for a roundtable format (rather than a panel of three papers) precisely because of the diversity of approaches, which are well-represented by the roundtable participants. Moreover, each presenter will limit his or her opening remarks to a nonnegotiable six minutes, focusing on the possibilities of one or two specific methodologies for close-reading videogames, rather than a comprehensive close reading of a single game. With six presenters, this means the bulk of the session time (roughly thirty-five minutes) will be devoted to an open discussion, involving both the panel and the audience.
“Close Playing: Literary Methods and Videogame Studies” will appeal to a broad swath of the MLA community. While many will find subject of videogames studies compelling enough by itself, the discussion will be relevant to those working in textual studies, media studies, and more broadly, the digital humanities. The need for this roundtable is clear: as we move toward the second decade of videogames studies, the field can no longer claim to be an emerging discipline; the distinguished participants on this panel—with the help of the audience—will survey the current lay of the land in videogame studies, but more importantly, point the way forward.
[This is the text, more or less, of the talk I delivered at the 2011 biennial meeting of the Society for Textual Scholarship, which took place March 16-18 at Penn State University. I originally planned on talking about the role of metadata in two digital media projects—a topic that would have fit nicely with STS's official mandate of investigating print and digital textual culture. But at the last minute (i.e. the night before), I changed the focus of my talk, turning it into a thinly-veiled call for digital textual scholarship (primarily the creation of digital editions of print works) to rethink everything it does. (Okay, that's an exaggeration. But I do argue that there's a lot the creators of digital editions of texts should learn from born-digital creative projects.)
Also, it was the day after St. Patrick's Day. And the fire alarm went off several times during my talk.
None of these events are related.]
The Poetics of Metadata and the Potential of Paradata
in We Feel Fine and The Whale Hunt
I once made fun of the tendency of academics to begin their papers by apologizing in advance for the very same papers they were about to begin. I’m not exactly going to apologize for this paper. But I do want to begin by saying that this is not the paper I came to give. I had that paper, it was written, and it was a good paper. It was the kind of paper I wouldn’t have to apologize for.
But, last night, I trashed it.
I trashed that paper. Call it the Danny Boy effect, I don’t know. But it wasn’t the paper I felt I needed to deliver, here, today.
Throughout the past two days I’ve detected a low level background hum in the conference rooms, a kind of anxiety about digital texts and how we interact with them. And I wanted to acknowledge that anxiety, and perhaps even gesture toward a way forward in my paper. So, I rewrote it. Last night, in my hotel room. And, well, it’s not exactly finished. So I want to apologize in advance, not for what I say in the paper, but for all the things I don’t say.
My original talk had positioned two online works by the new media artist Jonathan Harris as two complementary expressions of metadata. I had a nice title for that paper. I even coined a new word in my title.
But this title doesn’t work anymore.
I have a new title. It’s a bit more ambitious.
But at least I’ve still got that word I coined.
It’s a lovely word. And truth be told, just between you and me, I didn’t coin it. In the social sciences, paradata refers to data about the data collection process itself—say the date or time of a survey, or other information about how a survey was conducted. But there are other senses of the prefix “para” I’m trying to evoke. In textual studies, of course, para-, as in paratext, is what Genette calls the threshold of the text. I’m guessing I don’t have to say anything more about paratext to this audience.
But there’s a third notion of “para” that I want to play with. It comes from the idea of paracinema, which Jeffrey Sconce first described in 1996. Paracinema is a kind of “reading protocol” that valorizes what most audiences would otherwise consider to be cinematic trash. The paracinematic aesthetic redeems films that are so bad that they actually become worth watching—worth enjoying—and it does so in a confrontational way that seeks to establish a counter-cinema.
Following Sconce’s work, the videogame theorist Jesper Juul has wondered if there can be such a thing as paragames—illogical, improbable, and unreasonably bad games. Such games, Juul suggests, might teach us about our tastes and playing habits, and what the limits of those tastes are. And even more, such paragames might actually revel in their badness, becoming fun to play in the process.
Trying to tap into these three different senses of “para,” I’ve been thinking about paradata. And I’ve got to tell you, so far, it’s a mess. (And this part of my paper was actually a mess in the original version of my paper as well). My concept of paradata is a big mess and it may not mean anything at all.
This is what I have so far: paradata is metadata at a threshold, or paraphrasing Genette, data that exists in a zone between metadata and not metadata. At the same time, in many cases it’s data that’s so flawed, so imperfect that it actually tells us more than compliant, well-structured metadata does.
So let me turn now to We Feel Fine, a massive, ongoing digital databased storytelling project rich with metadata—and possibly, paradata.
We Feel Fine is an astonishing collection of tens of thousands of sentences extracted from tens of thousands of blog posts, all containing the phrase “I feel” or “I am feeling.” It was designed by new media artist Jonathan Harris and the computer scientist Sep Kamvar and launched in May 2006.
The project is essentially an automated script that visits thousands of blogs every minute, and whenever the script detects the words “I feel” or “I am feeling,” it captures that sentence and sends it to a database. As of early this year, the project has harvested 14 million expressions of emotions from 2.5 million people. And the site has done this at a rate of 10,000 to 15,000 “feelings” a day.
Let me repeat that: every day approximately 10,000 new entries are added to We Feel Fine.
The heart of the project appears to be the multifaceted interface that has six so-called “movements”—six ways of visualizing the data collected by We Feel Fine’s crawler.
The default movement is Madness, a swarm of fifteen-hundred colored circles and squares, each one representing a single sentence from a blog post, a single “feeling.” The circles contain text only, while the squares include images associated with the respective blog post.
The colors of the particles signify emotional valence, with shades of yellow representing more positive emotions, red signaling anger. Blue is associated with sad feelings, and so on. This graphic, by the way, comes from the book version of We Feel Fine.
The book came out in 2009. In it, Harris and Kamvar curate hundreds of the most compelling additions to We Feel Fine, as well as analyze the millions of blog posts they’ve collected with with extensive data visualizations—graphs, and charts, and diagrams.
The book is an amazing project in and of itself and deserves its own separate talk. It raises important questions about archives, authorship, editorial practices, the material differences between a dynamic online project and a static printed work, and so on. I’ll leaves aside these questions right now; instead, I want to turn to the site itself. Let’s look at the Madness movement in action.
(And here I went online and interacted with the site. Why don’t you do that too, and come back later?)
(Also, right about here a fire alarm went off. Which, semantically, makes no sense. The alarm turned on, but I said it went off.)
(I can’t reproduce the sound of that particular fire alarm going off. I bet you have some sort of alarm on your phone or something you could make go off, right?)
(No? You don’t? Or you’re just as confused about on and off as I am? Then enjoy this short video intermission, which interrupts my talk, which I’m writing and which you’re reading, about as intrusively as the alarms interrupted my panel.)
(Okay. Back to my talk, which I’m writing, and which you’re reading.)
In the Madness movement you can click on any single circle, and the “feeling” will appear at the top of the screen. Another click on that feeling will drill down to the original blog post in its original context. So what’s important here is that a single click transitions from the general to the particular, from the crowd to the individual. You can also click on the squares to show “feelings” that have an image associated with them. And you have the option to “save” these images, which sends them to a gallery, just about the only way you can be sure to ever find any given image in We Feel Fine again.
At the top of the screen are are six filters you can use to narrow down what appears in the Madness movement. Working right to left, you can search by date, by location, the weather at that location at the time of the original blog post, the age of the blogger, the gender of the blogger, and finally, the feeling itself that is named in the blog post. While every item in the We Feel Fine database will have the feeling and date information attached to it, the age, gender, location, and weather fields are populated only for those items in which that information is publicly available—say a LiveJournal or Blogger profile that lists that information, or a Flickr photo that’s been geotagged.
What I want to call your attention to before I run through the other five movements of We Feel Fine is that these filters depend upon metadata. By metadata, I mean the descriptive information the database associates with the original blog post. This metadata not only makes We Feel Fine browsable, it makes it possible. The metadata is the data. The story—if there is one to be found in We Feel Fine—emerges only through the metadata.
You can manipulate the other five movements using these filters. At first, for example, the Murmurs movement displays a reverse chronological streaming, like movie credits, of the most recent emotions. The text appears letter-by-letter, as if it were being typed. This visual trick heightens the voyeuristic sensibility of We Feel Fine and makes it seem less like a database and more like a narrative, or even more to the point, like a confessional.
The Montage movement, meanwhile, organizes the emotions into browsable photo galleries:
By clicking on a photo and selecting save, you can add photos to a permanent “gallery.” Because the database grows so incredibly fast, this is the only way to ensure that you’ll be able to find any given photograph again in the future. There’s a strong ethos of ephemerality in We Feel Fine. To use one of Marie-Laure Ryan’s metaphors for a certain kind of new media, We Feel Fine is a kaleidoscope, an assemblage of fragments always in motion, never the same reading or viewing experience twice. We have little control over the experience. It’s only through manipulating the filters that we can hope to bring even a little coherency to what we read.
The next of the five movements is the Mobs movement. Mobs provides five separate data visualization of the most recent fifteen-hundred feelings. One of the most interesting aspects of the Mobs movement is that it highlights those moments when the filters don’t work, or at least not very well, because of missing metadata.
For instance, clicking the Age visualizations tells us that 1,223 (of the most recent 1,500) feelings have no age information attached to them. Similarly, the Location visualization draws attention to the large number of blog posts that lack any metadata regarding their location.
Unlike many other massive datamining projects, say, Google’s Ngram Viewer, We Feel Fine turns its missing metadata into a new source of information. In a kind of playful return of the repressed, the missing metadata is colorfully highlighted—it becomes paradata. The null set finds representation in We Feel Fine.
The Metrics movement is the fourth movement. And it shows what Kamvar and Harris call the “most salient” feelings, by which they mean “the ways in which a given population differs from the global average.”
Right now, for example, we see that “Crazy” is trending 3.8 times more than normal, while people are feeling “alive” 3.1 times more than usual. (Good for them!). Here again we see an ability to map the local against the global. It addresses what I see as one of the problems of large-scale data visualization projects, like the ones that Lev Manovich calls “cultural analytics.”
Ngram and the like are not forms of distant reading. There’s distant reading, and then there’s simply distance, which is all they offer. We Feel Fine mediates that distance, both visually, and practically.
(And here I was going to also say the following, but I was already in hot water at the conference for my provocations, so I didn’t say it, but I’ll write it here: Cultural analytics echo a totalitarian impulse for precise vision and control over broad swaths of populations.)
And finally, the Mounds movement, which simply shows big piles of emotion, beginning with whatever feeling is the most common at the moment, and moving on down the line towards less common emotions. The Mounds movement is at once the least useful visualization but also the most playful, with its globs that jiggle as you move your cursor over them.
(Obviously you can’t see it above, in the static image but…) The mounds convey what game designers call “juiciness.” As Jesper Juul characterizes juiciness, it’s “excessive positive feedback in response to the player’s actions.” Or, as one game designer puts it, a juicy game “will bounce and wiggle and squirt…it feels alive and responds to everything that you do.”
Harris’s work abounds with juicy, playful elements, and they’re not just eye candy. They are part of the interface, part of the design, and they make We Feel Fine welcoming, inviting. You want to spend time with it. Those aren’t characteristics you’d normally associate with a database. And make no mistake about it. We Feel Fine is a database. All of these movements are simply its frontend—a GUI Java applet written in Processing that obscures a very deliberate and structured data flow.
The true heart of We Feel Fine is not the responsive interface, but the 26,000 lines of code running on 5 different servers, and the MySQL database that stores the 10,000 new feelings collected each and every day. In their book, Kamvar and Harris provide an overview of the dozen or so main components that make up We Feel Fine’s backend.
It begins with a URL server that maintains the list of URLs to be crawled and the crawler itself, which runs on a single dedicated server.
Pages retrieved by the crawler are sent to the “Feeling Indexer,” which locates the words “feel” or “feeling” in the blog post. The adjective following “feel” or “feeling” is matched against the “emotional lexicon”—a list of 2,178 feelings that are indexed by We Feel Fine. If the emotion is not in the lexicon, it won’t be saved. That emotion is dead to We Feel Fine. But if the emotion does match the index, the script extracts the sentence with that feeling and any other information available (this is where the gender, location, and date data are parsed).
Next there’s the actual MySQL database, which stores the following fields for each data item: the extracted sentence, the feeling, the date, time, post URL, weather, and gender, age, and location information.
Then there’s an open API server and several other client applications. And finally, we reach the front end.
Now, why have I just taken this detour into the backend of We Feel Fine?
Because, if we pay attention to the hardware and software of We Feel Fine, we’ll notice important details that might otherwise escape us. For example, I don’t know if you noticed from the examples I showed earlier, but all of the sentences in We Feel Fine are stripped of their formatting. This is because the Perl code in the backend converts all of the text to lowercase, removes any HTML tags, and eliminates any non-alphanumeric characters:
The algorithm tampers with the data. The code mediates the raw information. In doing so, We Feel Fine makes both an editorial and aesthetic statement.
In fact, once we understand some of the procedural logic of We Feel Fine, we can discover all sorts of ways that the database proves itself to be unreliable.
I’ve already mentioned that if you express a feeling that is not among the 2,178 emotions tabulated, then your feeling doesn’t count. But there’s also the tricky language misdirection the algorithm pulls off, in which the same “feeling” is interpreted by the machine to be the same, no matter how it is used in the sentence. In this way, the machine exhibits the same kind of “naïve empiricism” (using Johanna Drucker’s dismissive phrase) that some humanists do interpreting quantitative data.
And finally, consider many of the images in the Montage movement. When there are multiple images on a blog page, the crawler only grabs the biggest one—and not biggest in dimensions, but biggest in file size, because that’s easier for the algorithm to detect—and this image often ends up being the header image for the blog, rather than connected to the actual feeling itself, as in this example.
The star pattern happens to be a sidebar image, rather than anything associated with the actual blog post that states the feeling:
So We Feel Fine forces associations. In experimental poetry or electronic literature communities, these kinds of random associations are celebrated. The procedural creation of art, literature, or music has a long tradition.
But in a database that seeks to be a representative “almanac of human emotions”? We’re in new territory there.
But in fact, it is representative, in the sense that human emotions are fungible, ephemeral, disjunctive, and, let’s face, sometimes random.
Let me bring this full circle, by returning to the revised title of my talk. I mentioned at the beginning that I felt this low-grade but pervasive concern about digital work these past few days at STS. I’ve heard questions like Are we doing everything we can to make digital editions accessible, legible, readable, and teachable? Where are we failing, some people have wondered. Why are we failing? Or at least, Why have we not yet reached the level of success that many of the very same people at this conference were predicting ten or fifteen or, dare I say it, twenty years ago?
Maybe because we’re doing it wrong.
I want to propose that we can learn a lot from We Feel Fine as we exit out the far end of what some media scholars have called the Gutenberg Parenthesis.
What can we learn from We Feel Fine?
Imagine if textual scholars built their digital editions and archives using these four principles.
Think about We Feel Fine and what makes work. Most importantly, We Feel Fine is a compelling reading experience. It’s not daunting. There’s a playful balance between interactivity and narrative coherence.
Secondly, and this goes back to my idea of paradata. Harris and Kamvar are not afraid to corrupt the source data, or to create metadata that blurs the line between metadata and not-metadata. They are not afraid to play with their sources, and for the most part, they are up front about how they’re playing with them.
This relates to the third feature of We Feel Fine that we should learn from. It’s open. Some of the source code is available. The list of emotions is available. There’s an open API, which anyone can use to build their own application on top of We Feel Fine, or more generally extract data from.
And finally, it’s juicy. I admit, this is probably not a term many textual scholars use in their research, but it’s essential for the success of We Feel Fine. The text responds to you. It’s alive in your hands, and I don’t think there’s much more we could ever ask from a text.
Drucker, Johanna. 2010. “Humanistic Approaches to the Graphical Expression of Interpretation” presented at the Hyperstudio: Digital Humanities at MIT, May 20, Cambridge, MA. http://mitworld.mit.edu/video/796.
Genette, Gerard. 1997. Paratexts: Thresholds of Interpretation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
A roundtable discussion of specific approaches and close playings that explore the methodological contribution of literary studies toward videogame studies. 300-word abstract and 1-page bio to Mark Sample (firstname.lastname@example.org) by March 15.
All participants must be MLA members by April 7. Also note that this is a proposed special session; the MLA Program Committee will have the final say on the roundtable’s acceptance.
[Controllers photo courtesy of Flickr user Kimli / Creative Commons License]
Revised: This is a comprehensive list of digital humanities sessions at the 2011 MLA in Los Angeles. Many of the speakers posted the text of their talks online, and you’ll find links here to those online versions. If yours isn’t linked yet, please reply in the comments with the URL of your presentation, and I’ll add it here for archival purposes.
Thursday, 06 January
12. Labor in the Digital Humanities
12:00 noon–1:15 p.m., 407, LA Convention Center
Presiding: William Thompson, Western Illinois Univ.
Speakers: Mark Childs, Coventry Univ.; Tanya E. Clement, Univ. of Maryland, College Park; Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Pomona Coll.; Amanda L. French, George Mason Univ.; Carl Stahmer, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara
Members of this roundtable will address the professional and ethical issues raised by labor in and of the digital humanities. Questions open for discussion: the problem of authorship; the levels and kinds of recognition for contributions made to a project; issues regarding rights holding; problems raised by the differing institutional status of persons working on the same project; potential problems raised around distance education; and the complex questions raised by compensation, in the form of pay and in the form of accumulated symbolic capital.
19. Digging into Data: Computational Methods of Literary Research
12:00 noon–1:15 p.m., Platinum Salon F, J. W. Marriott
Presiding: Maura Carey Ives, Texas A&M Univ., College Station
1. “The Dangers and Delights of Data Mining,” Glenn H. Roe, Univ. of Chicago
2. “The Meandering through Textuality Challenge: Perspectives on the Humane Archive,” Stephen J. Ramsay, Univ. of Nebraska, Lincoln
3. “Exploring the Underpinnings of the Social Edition,” Raymond G. Siemens, Univ. of Victoria
29. The Brave New World of Scholarly Books: Publishing in Tempestuous Times
12:00 noon–1:15 p.m., 410, LA Convention Center
Presiding: Alan Rauch, Univ. of North Carolina, Charlotte
Speakers: James J. Bono, Univ. at Buffalo, State Univ. of New York; Gregory M. Britton, Getty Publications; Jennifer Crewe, Columbia Univ. Press; Leslie Mitchner, Rutgers Univ. Press; Eric Zinner, New York Univ. Press
The current status of scholarly book publishing is confusing, troubling, and yet, from some perspectives, about to embrace a new and potentially exciting digital future. How can scholars who don’t have regular access to editors and publishers begin to sort this out? This roundtable opens up some of the questions inherent in the “crisis” in scholarly publishing and explores the very real changes, digital and fiscal, that are altering the world of scholarly books.
This workshop will highlight recent awards and outline current funding opportunities. In addition to emphasizing grant programs that support teaching, research, and public programs in the humanities, the workshop will include information on new developments, such as digital initiatives and Bridging Cultures. A question-and-answer period will follow.
48. Hacking the Profession: Academic Self-Help in an Age of Crisis
1:45–3:00 p.m., 407, LA Convention Center
Presiding: Jason B. Jones, Central Connecticut State Univ.
Speakers: Brian Croxall, Emory Univ.; Natalie M. Houston, Univ. of Houston; George H. Williams, Univ. of South Carolina, Spartanburg
This roundtable discusses how we narrate our academic lives online, whether in blogs or on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, or in any other format. In particular, we are interested in how we talk about failure or, more gently, about the common problems that plague any academic life: the class that doesn’t quite work, the committee that’s driving us crazy, or the article that can’t quite find a home.
Speakers: Anne Bruder, Bryn Mawr Coll.; Lauren Coats; Gabrielle Dean; Patricia M. Hswe, Penn State Univ., University Park; Kevin Mulroy, Univ. of California, Los Angeles; Timothy L. Stinson, North Carolina State Univ.
This roundtable will show how practices of communication, cooperation, and exchange between the traditionally segregated roles of librarian and scholar can strengthen jobs, institutions, and knowledge production. Faculty members and librarians share at least two arenas of labor, both central to academia. First, scholars and librarians need to work together to shape the methods and forms of humanities research. Second, librarians and instructors must collaborate on curricula that help students navigate, analyze, and build pathways of knowledge. Focusing on these two issues, the roundtable will consider how the library can serve as the interface where collaboration occurs and where academic labor can be productively transformed.
125. Literary Research in/and Digital Humanities
3:30–4:45 p.m., Diamond Salon 1, J. W. Marriott
Program arranged by the Discussion Group on Libraries and Research in Languages and Literatures
Speakers: Heather Bowlby, Univ. of Virginia; Marija Dalbello, Rutgers Univ., New Brunswick; Amy Earhart, Texas A&M Univ., College Station; Manuel M. Martin-Rodriguez, Univ. of California, Merced; Susanne Woods, Wheaton Coll., MA; Abby Yochelson, Library of Congress
Respondent: Robert H. Kieft, Occidental Coll.
This session is the inaugural meeting of a new interdisciplinary MLA discussion group formed by librarians in the association for the discussion of matters of mutual interest with scholars. Panelists will present current work, and the group will discuss its future and how it can promote the creation and curation of scholarly collections and archives, publications, research data, and teaching and study tools through professional associations and on their own campuses.
140. What Is “College Level Writing” in the Twenty-First Century?
5:15–6:30 p.m., 410, LA Convention Center
Presiding: Les Perelman, Massachusetts Inst. of Tech.
1. “Local Values, Global Perspectives: College Writing at Hispanic-Serving Institutions,” Jolivette Mecenas, Univ. of La Verne
2. “Writing in the Era of the Shadow Elite: The Twilight of the Professions and the Rebirth of the Public Sphere,” Kurt Spellmeyer, Rutgers Univ., New Brunswick
3. “Negotiating College-Level Writing in New Media in the Writing Center,” Kate Pantelides, Univ. of South Florida
141. New Thresholds of Interpretation? Paratexts in the Digital Age
5:15–6:30 p.m., Platinum Salon F, J. W. Marriott
Presiding: Dorothee Birke, Freiburg Inst. for Advanced Studies
1. “Bootleg Paratextuality and Media Aesthetics: Decay and Distortion in the Borat DVD,” Paul Benzon, Temple Univ., Philadelphia
2. “The Amazon Phenomenon: New Contextual Paratexts of Historiographic Narratives,” Julia Lippert, Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg
3. “Peritexts and Epitexts in Transitional Electronic Literature: Readers and Paratextual Engagement on Kindles, iPods, and Netbooks,” Ellen M. McCracken, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara
150. New Tools, Hard Times: Social Networking and the Academic Crisis
5:15–6:30 p.m., 406A, LA Convention Center
Presiding: Meredith L. McGill, Rutgers Univ., New Brunswick
Speakers: Rosemary G. Feal, MLA
Marc Bousquet, Santa Clara Univ.
Brian Croxall, Emory Univ.
Christopher John Newfield, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara
Marilee Lindemann, Univ. of Maryland, College Park
This roundtable will examine what role the tools of social networking (e.g., blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube) have played in organizing and communicating about the economic crisis in higher education. One of the goals of the panel will be practical: to share tips and strategies about what works and what doesn’t (and to think critically about how we judge the effectiveness of any particular tool or strategy). Another will be reflective: to provide an opportunity for weighing the benefits and the risks of scholars using these tools to perform work that is often more in the mode of public or professional advocacy than scholarship in the traditional sense.
Friday, 07 January
185. Planet Wiki? Postcolonial Theory, Social Media, and Web 2.0
8:30–9:45 a.m., 406A, LA Convention Center
Presiding: Amit Ray, Rochester Inst. of Tech.
1. “Border Politics on YouTube: Heriberto Yépez’s ‘Voice Exchange Rates’ (or the Bodies That Antimatter),” Tomás Urayoán Noel, Univ. at Albany, State Univ. of New York
2. “Truths of Times to Come: Deleuze, Media, India,” Amitabh Rai, Florida State Univ.
3. “Remapping the Space In-Between: Social Networks of Race, Class, and Digital Media in the Brazilian City,” Justin Andrew Read, Univ. at Buffalo, State Univ. of New York
193. New (and Renewed) Work in Digital Literary Studies: An Electronic Roundtable
8:30–9:45 a.m., Plaza I, J. W. Marriott
Presiding: Bethany Nowviskie, Univ. of Virginia
Speakers: Ernest Cole, Hope Coll.; Randall Cream, Univ. of South Carolina, Columbia; Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Pomona Coll.; Joseph Gilbert, Univ. of Virginia; Laura C. Mandell, Miami Univ., Oxford; William Albert Pannapacker, Hope Coll.; Douglas Reside, Univ. of Maryland, College Park; Andrew M. Stauffer, Univ. of Virginia; John A. Walsh, Indiana Univ., Bloomington; Matthew Wilkens, Rice Univ.
Projects, groups, and initiatives highlighted in this session build on the editorial and archival roots of humanities scholarship to offer new, explicitly methodological and interpretive contributions to the digital literary scene or to intervene in established patterns of scholarly communication and pedagogical practice. Brief introductions will be followed by simultaneous demonstrations of the presenters’ work at eight computer stations.
Presiding: Anna Everett, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara
Speakers: Anne Balsamo, Univ. of Southern California; Ben Caldwell, Los Angeles, CA; Radhika Gajjala, Bowling Green State Univ.; Henry Jenkins, Univ. of Southern California; Toby Miller, Univ. of California, Riverside
This roundtable considers how transmedia practices advance activism around matters of social justice, critical literacy, and responsible artistic expressions. All the panelists are involved in current media activism and pedagogy projects.
235. Old Media
10:15–11:30 a.m., Olympic III, J. W. Marriott
Presiding: Kate Flint, Rutgers Univ., New Brunswick
1. “(Post)Imperial Media,” Aaron S. Worth, Boston Univ.
2. “Hieroglyphics and the Writing/Media Divide,” Jesse Schotter, Yale Univ.
3. “Aldous Huxley and the Hazards of Writing Technologies,” Emily James, Univ. of Washington, Seattle
4. “The Tachistoscope and Digital Literature,” Jessica Pressman, Yale Univ.
248. The Dictionary in Print and in the Cloud
12:00 noon–1:15 p.m., Olympic I, J. W. Marriott
Presiding: Michael Hancher, Univ. of Minnesota, Twin Cities
Speakers: Tim Cassedy, New York Univ.; David L. Porter, Univ. of Michigan, Ann Arbor; Glenn H. Roe, Univ. of Chicago; Robert Steele, George Washington Univ. For abstracts, visit http://mh.cla.umn.edu/MLA.pdf.
282. Paper as Platform or Interface
12:00 noon–1:15 p.m., Olympic III, J. W. Marriott
Presiding: Lisa Gitelman, New York Univ.
1. “The Word Made Flax: Cheap Bibles, Textual Corruption, and the Poetics of Paper,” Joshua Calhoun, Univ. of Delaware, Newark
2. “The Theory of Paper: Hume, Beattie, Derrida,” Christina Lupton, Univ. of Michigan, Ann Arbor
3. “The Wordsworths’ Daffodils: On the Page, upon the Inward Eye,” Richard Menke, Univ. of Georgia
296. Technology-Enhanced Delivery Models in Foreign Language Learning and Teaching
1:45–3:00 p.m., Platinum Salon A, J. W. Marriott
Presiding: Fernando Rubio, Univ. of Utah; Joshua Thoms, Louisiana State Univ., Baton Rouge
1. “Options in Instructional Modeling: Meeting the Demand for Spanish in Demanding Times,” Diane Musumeci, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana
2. “What CALL (Computer-Assisted Language Learning) Offers for the L2 Curriculum,” Robert James Blake, Univ. of California, Davis
305. Silent Night: The Archives of the Deaf and Blind
1:45–3:00 p.m., Atrium I, J. W. Marriott
Presiding: Marta L. Werner, D’Youville Coll.
1. “Entering the Light: Deaf Studies Digital Journal and the Archives of Sign Language Poetics,” H-Dirksen Bauman, Gallaudet Univ.
2. “Blindness and Exile in the ‘Dark Blue World’ of Jaroslav Jezek,” Michael Beckerman, New York Univ.
3. “Accessioning Helen Keller: Disability, History, and the Politics of the Archive,” David Serlin, Univ. of California, San Diego
309. The History and Future of the Digital Humanities
1:45–3:00 p.m., Plaza I, J. W. Marriott
Presiding: Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Pomona Coll.
Speakers: Brett Bobley, NEH; Katherine D. Harris, San José State Univ.; Alan Liu, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara; Tara McPherson, Univ. of Southern California; Bethany Nowviskie, Univ. of Virginia; Stephen J. Ramsay, Univ. of Nebraska, Lincoln; Susana Ruiz, Univ. of Southern California
This roundtable will bring together many different perspectives, from humanities computing to digital media studies, including senior and junior scholars, research and teaching institutions, and faculty and staff members, so that we might explore the overlap, diffusion, and multiplicity of views of the digital humanities that result.
This panel will explore the range of possibilities surrounding the use of social media in many aspects of academic life, with particular attention to the ways in which they can help broaden the audience for academic work at a time of economic and institutional crisis in the academy.
349. From N-Town to YouTube: Medieval Drama on Film, Video, and the Web
3:30–4:45 p.m., 306A, LA Convention Center
Presiding: Victor Ivan Scherb, Univ. of Texas, Tyler
1. “Queer Desire in the York Cycle and the York Festival Trust Plays,” Mary Hayes, Univ. of Mississippi
2. “Page to Stage: Film Footage and the Teaching of Medieval Drama,” Maren Clegg Hyer, Valdosta State Univ.
3. “Making a Magnyfycent Film: Representing Medieval Drama in a Digital Age,” Maria Sachiko Cecire, Bard Coll.
596. Will Publications Perish? The Paradigm Shift in Scholarly Communication
3:30–4:45 p.m., Plaza I, J. W. Marriott
Presiding: Alan Rauch, Univ. of North Carolina, Charlotte
Speakers: Cheryl E. Ball, Illinois State Univ.; Leslie Kreiner Wilson, Pepperdine Univ.; Laurence D. Roth, Susquehanna Univ.; Andrew M. Stauffer, Univ. of Virginia
The scholarly essay, once the coin of the realm in academia, is being transformed by digital technologies. Questions about the future viability of learned journals, to say nothing of practices such as peer review, confront us all. This session is an effort to deal with those questions directly and initiate a dialogue about how various branches of the scholarly community can respond to ongoing and inevitable challenges.
Presiding: Maura Carey Ives, Texas A&M Univ., College Station
1. “Be Online or Be Irrelevant,” David Parry, Univ. of Texas, Dallas
2. “Applied Media Theory: Where Digital Art Meets Humanities Research,” Marcel O’Gorman, Univ. of Waterloo
3. “Augmenting Fiction: Storytelling, Locative Media, and the New Media Lab,” Carolyn Guertin, Univ. of Texas, Arlington
617. Implementing New Knowledge Environments (INKE) and the Scholarly Edition
5:15–6:30 p.m., Diamond Salon 8, J. W. Marriott
Presiding: Paul Werstine, Univ. of Western Ontario
Speakers: Michael Choi, Univ. of Western Ontario; Stan Ruecker, Univ. of Alberta; Raymond G. Siemens, Univ. of Victoria
Topics for discussion will include bringing architectures of the book into the digital age, introducing the dynamic table of contexts for the online scholarly edition, and supporting the scholarly edition in electronic form.
619. Ecocriticism beyond Literature
5:15–6:30 p.m., 410, LA Convention Center
Presiding: Allison Carruth, Univ. of Oregon
1. “Postcolonial Ecologies: Alterity and the Genealogies of Ecocriticism,” Elizabeth M. DeLoughrey, Univ. of California, Los Angeles
2. “Ecocriticism and the Database Aesthetic,” Ursula K. Heise, Stanford Univ.
3. “Out of Our Depths: Oceanic Challenges to Environmental Theory and Animal Studies,” Stacy Alaimo, Univ. of Texas, Arlington
Presiding: Nirmal H. Trivedi, Georgia Inst. of Tech.
Speakers: Danielle Barrios, Univ. of Ulster; Kristine Blair, Bowling Green State Univ.; Joy Bracewell, Univ. of Georgia; Andrew Famiglietti, Georgia Inst. of Tech.; Antero Garcia, Univ. of California, Los Angeles; Jill Marie Parrott, Univ. of Georgia; Christine Tulley, Univ. of Findlay
This session will share the great number of practical and philosophical questions surrounding what it means to “teach digitally” today. We want to focus attention away from “toolism”—a preoccupation with new technologies for the sake of newness and technical power—and direct attention toward the pedagogy that technology and collaboration can unveil.
Presiding: Jon McKenzie, Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison
Speakers: Sarah Allison, Stanford Univ.; N. Katherine Hayles, Duke Univ.; Richard E. Miller, Rutgers Univ., New Brunswick; Todd Samuel Presner, Univ. of California, Los Angeles; Craig J. Saper, Univ. of Central Florida; Holly Willis, Univ. of Southern California; Michael L. Witmore, Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison
This session engages the nexus of literature and new media from several perspectives, ranging from emerging forms of electronic literature to computer-enabled modes of literary analysis to the broader implications of IT and new media for literary and cultural study. In an age of digital poetry, graphic novels, and iPhone “appisodes,” how useful is the notion of distinct media? In what ways do quantitative methods of “distant reading” and “counting literature” extend traditional forms of analysis, and in what ways do they threaten or simply sidestep them? And what’s at stake in recent calls to critically mash up new media forms and processes in order to reboot the humanities as “new humanities,” “Big Humanities,” and “Humanities 2.0”?
753. Sustainable Publishing
12:00 noon–1:15 p.m., Plaza III, J. W. Marriott
Presiding: Uppinder Mehan, Univ. of Houston, Victoria
1. “New Stationary States,” Brian Lennon, Penn State Univ., University Park
2. “Sustainable Publishing: The Dead-End of the Print/Digital Binary,” Robert Philip Marzec, Purdue Univ., West Lafayette
3. “The Publishing Junkyard,” Jeffrey R. Di Leo, Univ. of Houston, Victoria
In a few days the latest iteration of THATCamp will convene on the campus of George Mason University, hosted by the Center for History and New Media. Except “convene” really isn’t the right word. Most of my readers will already know that The Technology and Humanities Camp is an “unconference,” which as Ethan Watrall explains on ProfHacker, is “a lightly organized conference in which the attendees themselves determine the schedule.” You can’t really convene such a self-emergent event. But 75 or so participants will nonetheless be there on Saturday morning, and we will indeed get started, figuring out the sessions democratically and then sharing ideas and conversation. This format takes the place of “sharing” (by which I mean dully reading) 20-minute papers that through a bizarre rift in the space-time continuum take 30 minutes to read, leaving little time for discussion.
If you go into a panel knowing exactly what you’re going to say or what you’ve already said, there’s little room for exploration or discovery.
The unconference obviously stands in contrast to the top-down, largely monologic model of the traditional conference. Most THATCamp attendees rave about the experience, and they find themselves craving similar open-ended panels at the more staid academic conferences in their respective fields. Change is slow to come, of course. What happens for the most part are slight tweaks to the existing model. Instead of four people reading 20-minute papers during a session, four people might share 20-minute papers beforehand, with the session time dedicated to talking about those 20-minute papers. Yet this model still relies on the sharing of prepared material. If you go into a panel knowing exactly what you’re going to say or what you’ve already said, there’s very little room for actual exploration or discovery. It reminds me of Nietzsche’s line that finding “truth” is like someone hiding an object in a bush and later being astonished to find it there. That’s the shape of disingenuous discovery at academic conferences.
So what’s a poor idealistic professor to do?
Let’s forget about unconferences, even as they gain momentum, and start thinking about underconferences.
What’s an underconference?
Before I answer that, let’s run through some other promising alternative conference models:
The Virtual Conference: This is the conference held entirely online, in which the time and space limitations of the real world can be broken at will. The recent Critical Code Studies Working Group, held over six weeks this spring, was a good example, though the conference was, unfortunately, only open to actual participants. The proceedings will be published on Electronic Book Review, however, and at least one research idea seeded at the virtual conference may see the light of the day in a more traditional publishing venue. HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory) has had success with its virtual conference as well.
The Simulated Conference: Like Baudrillard’s simulacrum, this is the simulation of a conference for which there is no original, the conference for which there is no conference. This sounds impossible, but in fact I hosted an entirely simulated conference one weekend in February 2010. It was a particularly conference-heavy weekend for the digital humanities, and since I couldn’t attend any of them, I created one of my own: MarksDH2010. Spurred on at first by Ian Bogost and Matt Gold, the simulated conference turned into a weekend affair, hosted entirely on Twitter, and catered by Halliburton. Dozens of participants spontaneously joined in the fun, and in the very act of lampooning traditional conferences (e.g. see my notes on the fictional Henri Jenquin’s keynote), I humbly suggest we advanced forward the humanities by at least a few virtual inches. As I later explained, MarksDH2010 “was a folie à deux and then some.” You can read the complete archives, in chronological order, and decide for yourself about that characterization.
The Unconference: Do I need to say more about the unconference? Read about the idea in theory, or see it in practice by following the upcoming THATCamp Prime on Twitter.
The Underconference: The virtual conference and the simulated conference are both made possible by technology. They take place at a distance, mediated by screens. The final model I wish to consider is the opposite, rooted in physical space, requiring actual—not virtual—bodies. This is not the unconference, but the underconference. The prerequisite of the underconference is the conference. There is the official conference—say, the MLA—and at the very same time there is an entirely parallel conference, running alongside—no, under—the official conference. Think of it as the Trystero of academia. Inspired by the Situationists, Happenings, flash mobs, Bakhtin, ARGs, and the absurdist political theater of the Yippies, the underconference is the carnival in the churchyard. Transgressive play at the very doorstep of institutional order. And like most manifestations of the carnivalesque, the underconference is at its heart very serious business.
The participants of the underconference are also participants in the conference. They are not enemies, they are co-conspirators.
Let me be clear, though. The underconference is not a chaotic free-for-all. Just as carnival reinforces many of the ideas it seems to make fun of, the underconference ultimately supports the goals of the conference itself: sharing ideas, discovering new texts and new approaches, contributing to the production of knowledge, and even that tawdry business of networking. The participants of the underconference are also participants in the conference. They are not enemies, they are co-conspirators. The underconference is not mean-spirited; in fact, it seeks to overcome the petty nitpicking that counts as conversation in the conference rooms.
The Underconference is:
Playful, exploring the boundaries of an existing structure;
Collaborative, rather than antagonistic; and
Eruptive, not disruptive.
What might an underconference actually look like?
Whereas the work of the conference takes place in meeting rooms and exhibit halls, the underconference takes place in “the streets” of the conference: the hallways and stairwells, the lobbies and bars.
The underconference begins with a few “seed” shadow sessions, planned and coordinated events that occur in the public spaces of the conference venue: an unannounced poetry reading in a lobby, an impromptu Pecha Kucha projected inside an elevator, a panel discussion in the fitness room.
As the underconference builds momentum, bystanders who find themselves in the midst of an unevent are encouraged to recruit others and to hold their own improvised sessions.
The underconference has much to learn from alternate reality games (ARGs), and should incorporate scavenger hunts, geolocation, environmental puzzles, and even a reward or badge system that parodies the official system of awards and prizes.
I have reason to believe that at least a few of the major academic conferences would look the other way if they were to find themselves paired with an underconference, if not openly sanction a parallel conference. Support might eventually take the form of dedicated space, perhaps the academic equivalent of Harry Potter’s Room of Requirement.
Do you get the idea? It’s a bold and ambitious plan, and I don’t expect many to think it’s doable, let alone worthwhile. Which is exactly why I want to do it. My experiences with virtual conferences, simulated conferences, and unconferences have convinced me that good things come from challenging the conventions of academic discourse. For every institutionalized practice we must develop a counter-practice. For every preordained discussion there should be an infusion of unpredictability and surprise. For every conference there should be an underconference.
I’ve learned from following several digital humanities conferences from afar the past year (including Digital Humanties 2009 and THATcamp 2009) that the Twitter archive of a conference back-channel can be unreliable. Twitter’s default search stream for any hashtag is extremely ephemeral, and that impermanence poses a problem for conference participants and observers, as well as future scholars, students, and journalists who might want to browse, search, extract, and data-mine what can be a rich, though niche, historical record.
So in anticipation of the Modern Language Association’s 2009 conference in Philadelphia, I set up a TwapperKeeper archive of all posts on Twitter marked with the hashtag #MLA09. I also began archiving the material on my own computer, using a program called The Archivist. (I’m into redundancy, especially when it comes to backing up data.) Anybody can export the collected tweets from Twapperkeeper as a compressed file, but I’m also posting here my own archives.
The first is an XML file of the over 1,600 tweets marked with the #MLA09 hashtag, dating from November 28, 2009 all the way to just about midnight on December 31, 2009: #MLA09 (I’ve zipped the xml file for easier downloading).
Second is an Excel version of the file, which has stripped away some of the XML tags, but is a more reader-friendly document: MLA09.xls
There is also a Google Docs version of the file:
I hope people find these archives useful. You can easily create some superficial data visualizations, such as the word cloud pictured above [
My own high visibility is mostly due to the satirical “tips” about the MLA I posted in the days running up to the conference. And notice that two of the most active Twitterers were only virtually present at the conference: Brian Croxall and Amanda French, who both made substantial contributions to the intellectual discourse of the conference even with — or, more accurately, because — of their absences.
Pairing Brian’s bleak analysis of what the profession is now euphemistically calling “contingent” faculty with Amanda’s vision of a grassroots movement to amplify scholarly communication through social networking suggests that the MLA conference has the potential to be more diffuse, more rhizomatic, more meaning making in the future, something I’ll be proposing a few ideas about soon.
Today the Modern Language Association Conference goes into its second full day of meetings in Philadelphia. What’s the conference been like so far? You can be the judge of whether the conference backchannel on Twitter captures the conference or not. Here’s a word cloud of all #MLA09 tweets from Monday, December (minus the hashtag itself) [
Last spring I participated in an interdisciplinary symposium called Unthinking Television: Visual Culture[s] Beyond the Console. I was an invited guest on a roundtable devoted to the vague idea of “Screen Life.” I wasn’t sure what that phrase meant at the time, and I still don’t know. But I thought I’d go ahead and share what I saw then — and still see now — as four trends in what we might call the infrastructure of screens.
Moving from obvious to less obvious, these four emergent structural changes are:
Bigger is better and so is smaller
Screens aren’t just to look at it
Our screens are watching us
And a few more details about each development:
1. Proliferating screens
I can watch episodes of The Office on my PDA, my cell phone, my mp3 player, my laptop, and even on occasion, my television.
2. Bigger is better and so is smaller
There is a much greater range in sizes of screens that we encounter on a daily basis. My high definition videocamera has a 2″ screen and I can hook that up directly via HDMI cable to my 36″ flat screen, and there are screen sizes everywhere in between and beyond.
3. Screens aren’t just to look at
We now touch our screens. Tactile response will soon be just as important as video resolution.
4. Our screens are watching us
Distribution networks like Tivo, Dish, and Comcast have long had unobtrusive ways to track what we’re watching, or at least what our televisions were tuned to. But now screens can actually look at us. I’m referring to screens that aware of us, of our movements. The most obvious example is the Wii and its use of IR emitters in its sensor bar to triangulate the position of the Wiimote, and hence, the player. GE’s website has been showcasing an interactive hologram that uses a webcam. In both cases, the screen sees us. I think this is potentially the biggest shift in what it means to have a “screen life.” In this trend and my previous trend concerning the new haptic nature of screens, we are completing a circuit that runs between human and machine, machine and human.