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. []

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