Monthly Archives: January 2013

Blog Round Up 2: Would you like to read Moby Dick on easy, medium, or hard?

Last week we spoke in broad terms about media and remediation; this week those broad concerns are given a more local habitation and home, in questions of text encoding and markup.

  • Chris does a nice job connecting last week’s readings to this weeks, before asking some questions about the purposes and uses of encoded texts—and how such encodings, and indeed digital texts in general, may provide an illusion of democratized knowledge.
  • Jesse expresses skepticism about the value of markup; agreeing often in spirit (if not always in letter)1 with David Golumbia’s comments on “linguistic computationalism.” Jesse asks, doesn’t TEI reify a notion of the “text itself”?
  • Joseph wonders about the limits of text without semantic markup; he offers, as an instance of Cummings’s point about the multiplicity of versions which a single marked-up text can afford, an imagined edition of Moby Dick and asks, I think quite wonderfully, “would you like to read Moby Dick on easy, medium or hard?” This strikes me as a rather savvy converge of the possibilities of markup and of traditions of the video game. (And, as a bonus, Joseph’s post includes a nice link to a Radiolab story featuring a good example of text analysis; if you haven’t heard that story, I recommend it!).
  • Peter K’s post brings together questions of markup and literary theory (and his anecdote of theory being itself a formalization, not so far from quantification, might be worthy of discussion) and imagines an experiment too. “Search this text,” he writes, “and mark up all the places where someone could do a reading with Theory X.” Perhaps the key phrase here is “quantification of the subjective”. (Hmm… has he been looking at Prism?).
  • Peter D expresses skepticism about David Golumbia’s concerns about the monolingualism (and concomitant asymmetries of power) of the Web. At the heart of this question seems to be a relatively fundamental question about the separability of a technology from its effects; Peter invokes Saussure in the course of trying to separate computer “languages” which bear some relationship to English. We’ll see…
  1. Please, please, please, tell me that the salience of this metaphor, and its failure, is not lost here. Please. []

Blog Round Up 1: Bibliotics, Verve, Hypertext, and Aura

We are beginning the semester by trying to think through the question of digital textuality. In concrete terms, we might imagine ourselves wondering: how does the fact of digitization change our study of works of literature (and, indeed, culture more broadly—a breadth worth remaining sensitive to, especially for you folks interested in film, new media, and visual culture)? Does it? This is a question most appropriate to media studies and we might fairly wonder if it is relevant to works of literature (etc) at all. After all, we don’t study paper, do we? (And here, students of book history and bibliography should already be on high alert).

In our first set of blog posts we find folks picking up discussions from our first meeting as well as venturing into (and off from) the essays and chapters we’re reading this week; the discussions are sufficiently numerous that I’ll leave the potential for cross-pollination until class meets.

In this week’s posts:

  • Adam Kozaczka follows a footnote from Kirschenbaum in order to explore nineteenth century textual materiality and forensics as practiced by Persifor Frazer. In Frazer, Adam finds: “a kind of inter, extra, meta (and maybe even hyper) –textual[ity]. Adding a nineteenth century voice to the ‘is literature data?’ debate, Bibliotics expands the concept of ‘text’ by locating the technical aspects of writing as evidence.”
  • EM pleasantly amplifies a note from our first meeting by tracing Stephen Marche’s fascination with Macbeth‘s “rooky wood” to Empson, in order to tease out a more sensitive reading of the relationship between “literature” and “data.” Along the way he suggests something potentially scandalous: “The goodness or badness or literary scholarship is a question, simply, of verve.” I’ll reserve my own scandalized response for the comment thread.
  • Staci ruminates on remediation and wonders about the contradictions inherent in the model of relation between media Bolter & Grusin’s account. She focuses in particular on their description of hypertext and their claim that “replacement is the essence of hypertext,” wondering to what extent this description falls into the trap Kirschenbaum describes, of treating new media as fleeting and ephemeral.
  • Jordan’s post treats of sacred cows and petting zoos, in order to find, in Latour and Lowe’s rejection of Waler Benjamin’s famous account of aura a lingering (and, to Jordan I take it, pernicious) residue of auratic conservatism. At the heart of this critque is Jordan’s insistence: “Interpretation != replication.” I take it that Jordan (in the spirit of Benjamin?) wants to preserve the progressive tendency of the former against the conservative tendency of the latter—and doing so requires us to not, as Latour & Lowe do, so easily collapse them.

I’ll see you folks tomorrow evening.

Blogging Requirement for 630

As part of this class, you will be required to maintain a blog where you will post short (500 words)1 weekly responses to the reading we’re doing, and where you will be expected2 to comment on the posts of your peers.

The benefits of this process will be, I hope, many. For one thing, I believe interacting regularly in writing will deepen our intellectual engagement with the material we study and (at risk of sounding saccharine) with one another. Beginning our discussions online will enrich our discussions in class.

Such public writing also invites the possibility of comments from the world outside, from people not in the class. All classrooms are always implicitly engaged with the world beyond their walls. The material we read, the assumptions we make, and the arguments we have are all made with at least implicit reference to standards, norms, and realities which have their origin elsewhere. By blogging, in public, the implicit engagement of the seminar classroom can, at least in a minor way, become explicit; that world outside can, at least potentially, talk back.3

In addition to the benefits I hope the blog will bring to the class, there is another, more pragmatic benefit (for you) which is less tied to this class. By asking you to develop an online presence, and to build that presence with (some really excellent) writing, you will be well on your way to creating an online professional identity which has at least the possibility of benefiting you later. Indeed, the reason I am asking everyone to start their own blog (to which this blog will link) is so that the work you do has the possibility of benefiting you.4 For some additional reflections on the value of creating an professional presence online (and some practical tips), this article is excellent and collects some fantastic links.

If you already have a weblog (that archaic origin of the term "blog" may inspire a snicker) that you’d feel comfortable using, great5 If not, you will need to set one up. How you do this is up to you. If you’re feeling adventurous, you may want to host your own blog.6 The easier route is to create a free, hosted blog on a service like or Blogger (a once independent blog publishing service, now owned by Google). Looking into this sooner, rather than later, is strongly advised. We will discuss the logistics of posting and commenting for class at our first meeting; but your blog should be up and running by our second class meeting (i.e. Thursday, January 24).

This doesn’t seem like the sort of post likely to elicit comments or discussion… but feel free to do so. Also don’t hesitate to send me an email about course blogging or any other aspect of the class.

  1. I will try to enforce this limit as a protection of everyone’s time. []
  2. Ahem, required. []
  3. Note: If you are profoundly uncomfortable writing in public in this way, speak to me and we will try to set up something which will you allow you to meet the requirements of the class; I think, though, you will most benefit from the class if you give it a try. []
  4. Call this "not alienating you from your labor" if you’re a Marxist; call it allowing you to "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" if you’re of another persuasion. []
  5. You might carefully consider whether you want to use an existing blog for this class; your identity online is a complex and multiform thing, and it might make sense to preserve that diversity in some way; if you have a “personal” blog, it might make sense to separate it from a “professional” blog. []
  6. This would entail purchasing a domain and web hosting—I’m happy to talk with you about this sort of minutiae if you’re interested []