This seminar introduces you to making arguments about literature, history, and culture through new media and computation. It is also a survey of methods and debates across digital humanities and media studies.
During Hermes's tedious monologue, all of Argus's many eyes gradually close in sleepiness, and his fate is sealed. Argus, in essence, was bored to death by the most boring thing of all, tales about technology. --- Alexander Galloway, "Love of the Middle"
Hello World: Introducing Us + the Seminar
Discussion: Let's begin the seminar with a conversation about the role of literary and cultural criticism today, in what we might call (for better or worse) an age of algorithms, networks, and digital technologies. Why does hermeneutic interpretation matter or remain relevant in our current moment? How (if at all) does hermeneutic practice change with or through computation? How is it expressed in media other than print or electronic text? Does literary or cultural criticism simply respond to technological developments? Or can it spark them, intervene in them, or repurpose them? Don't computers just make hermeneutics tedious and boring? Don't they just reduce literature to mere data? (notes)
Workshop: How to Use a Text Editor and Write in Markdown (notes)
Reminder: Please tell me what computer you will be using, version included. Also, it would be great if you could come to the first seminar meeting having already selected a text editor for the semester. (I recommend Sublime Text.)
The text is no longer composed of strata and the critic does not burrow down but stands back. Instead of brushing past surface meanings in pursuit of hidden truth, she dwells in ironic wonder on these surface meanings, seeking to “denaturalise” them through the mercilessness of her gaze. Insight, we might say, is achieved by distancing rather than by digging. --- Rita Felski, "Critique and the Hermeneutics of Suspicion"
Required: Galloway, “Love of the Middle” | Felski, "Critique and the Hermeneutics of Suspicion" | Sayers, "Technology" | Tenen and Wythoff, "Sustainable Authorship in Plain Text"
Related: Latour, "Why Has Critique Run Out of Steam?" | McPherson, "Digital" | Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, "Hermeneutics" | Ricoeur, Freud and Philosophy | Sayers, "git commit -m 'The Classroom'" | Milligan and Baker, "Introduction to the Bash Command Line" | Turkel, "A Workflow for Digital Research Using Off-the-Shelf Tools" | Davis, Gold, Harris, and Sayers (eds.), Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities | Drucker et al., Introduction to Digital Humanities | Rommel, "Literary Studies" | Sterling, "Eighteen Challenges in Contemporary Literature"
Discussion: For this seminar meeting, let's stress the relationships between mediation and critique, or new media and critical practice. Is critique just mediation all the way down? Has it run out of steam? What motivates claims for "post-critical" scholarship? How do we think about mediation and critique together? Or how do we understand the histories of technology and literary/cultural criticism as entangled phenomena? Can mediation even be historicized? Wouldn't such a history require some significant interpretive leaps? (notes)
Workshop: How to Use the Command Line, Git, and GitHub for Research (notes)
Reminder: Install Git, start a GitHub account (I recommend the "student developer pack"), email me your GitHub handle, and consider (if nothing else) Zotero for citation management and Evernote for making local copies of web materials. You might want to follow Digital Humanities Now, too. Also, please become familiar with how Galloway defines the following as forms of communication/mediation: exegesis, hermeneutics, symptomatics, immanence, and networks. You should also familiarize yourself with what's implied by a "hermeneutics of suspicion" (see Felski and, if you wish, Ricoeur).
If our machines' memories are more permanent, if they enable a permanence that we seem to lack, it is because they are constantly refreshed so that their ephemerality endures, so that they may store the programs that seem to drive our machines. --- Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, "The Enduring Ephemeral, or the Future Is a Memory"
Required: Chun, “The Enduring Ephemeral, or the Future Is a Memory” | Manovich, from The Language of New Media | McPherson, "Media Studies and the Digital Humanities" | Milligan, "Automated Downloading with Wget"
Related: Benjamin, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" | Chun, "Did Somebody Say New Media?" | Bolter and Grusin, Remediation | Mitchell and Hansen, Introduction to Critical Terms for Media Studies | Montfort and Wardrip-Fruin, The New Media Reader | Bush, "As We May Think" | Liu, "Imagining the New Media Encounter" | Gitelman and Pingree, "What's New about New Media?" | Gitelman and Collins, "Medium Light" | McPherson, "Why Are the Digital Humanities So White?" | Doane, The Emergence of Cinematic Time | Jackson, "Rethinking Repair" | Rosner and Ames, "Designing for Repair?" | Rosner et al., "Resisting Alignment: Code and Clay" | Sterne, MP3: The Meaning of a Format | Barad, Meeting the Universe Halfway | Kurschinski, "Applied Archival Downloading with Wget" | Internet Archive, "Downloading in Bulk Using Wget"
Log Entry Due: After Hermes?
Discussion: This week, I would like to focus on new media as both object and method. How are new media studied as scholarly objects, and how are they integrated into modes/means of scholarly production? How can we make arguments about mediation through new media, and to what effects on our expectations of scholarly communication? How and under what assumptions do we approach new media as historical material? For instance, when and why does it matter that we are studying digital versions of analog/print materials? Or what assumptions motivate references to "source" code? (notes)
Workshop 1: How to Use the Wayback Machine to Study Change Histories (notes)
Workshop 2: How to Use Wget to Gather Primary Sources (notes)
Workshop 3: How to Start Arguing with Computers (see Posner)
Reminder: If you want to use Wget during the workshop, then please install it. Also, to GitHub, please don't forget to push all changes to your local 507 repo, including your first log entry (due today). Finally, please become familiar with the following concepts in the context of new media: enduring ephemeral, multimodal scholar, new, old, numerical representation, modularity, automation, variability, transcoding, and the myth of interactivity.
Speculative approaches make it possible for subjective interpretation to have a role in shaping the processes, not just the structures, of digital humanities. When this occurs, outcomes go beyond descriptive, generative, or predictive approaches to become speculative. --- Johanna Drucker and Bethany Nowviskie, "Speculative Computing"
Required: Posner, "How Did They Make That?" (video version) | McCarty, "Knowing . . .: Modeling in Literary Studies" | Drucker and Nowviskie, "Speculative Computing" | Galey and Ruecker, "How a Prototype Argues" | Balsamo, from Designing Culture
Related: Bowker and Star, from Sorting Things Out | Brown, Clements, and Grundy, “Going Electronic” | Kirschenbaum, "Bookscapes: Modeling Books in Electronic Space" (with slides) | McGann, "Marking Texts of Many Dimensions" | Lampland and Star, Standards and Their Stories | Star and Griesemer, "Institutional Ecology, 'Translations' and Boundary Objects" | Besser, "The Past, Present, and Future of Digital Libraries" | Ramsay and Rockwell, "Developing Things: Notes toward an Epistemology of Building in the Digital Humanities" | Siemens and Sayers, "Toward Problem-Based Modeling in the Digital Humanities" | Kraus, "Conjectural Criticism: Computing Past and Future Texts" | Liu, "Transcendental Data" | McPherson, "Designing for Difference" | Gitelman, Raw Data Is an Oxymoron | Lukens and DiSalvo, "Speculative Design and Technological Fluency" | DiSalvo, Adversarial Design | Nowviskie, "Neatline and Visualization as Interpretation"
Log Entry Due: Thought Piece
Discussion: During this seminar meeting, let's attend primarily to how data models, prototypes, and design play a unique role in digital scholarship. In the context of new media and computation, what's a data model? Why do modeling and prototyping matter when arguing with computers? Before they are executed or enacted, how are models and prototypes already arguments? How are they embedded in culture? How are they standardized, how can they foster conjecture or speculation, and to what effects? Generally speaking, how do they turn this into that?
Workshop: Thought Piece Review
Reminder: For this meeting, I am asking you to circulate your thought piece for feedback. I am also asking you to provide feedback on thought pieces by three other people in 507. Additionally, please become familiar with McCarty's use of "model of" and "model for" (via Geertz), Drucker and Nowviskie's notion of "speculative computing," Balsamo's "ten lessons about technoculture innovation," and Galey and Ruecker's checklist for reviewing prototypes. Thanks!
Indeed, among the greatest contributions of the digital humanities is its ability to illuminate the position of the critic with respect to his or her archive of study, and to call attention to the ethical and affective as well as epistemological implications of his or her methodological choices. --- Lauren F. Klein, "The Image of Absence"
Required: Moretti, “Conjectures on World Literature” | Best and Marcus, “Surface Reading" | Klein, "The Image of Absence" | Rhody, "Topic Modeling and Figurative Language" (+ the data)
Related: McPherson, Jagoda, and Chun, "New Media and American Literature" | Posner, "Very Basic Strategies for Interpreting Results from the Topic Modeling Tool" | Underwood, "How to Find English-Language Fiction, Poetry, and Drama in HathiTrust" and "Topic Modeling Made Just Simple Enough" | Schmidt, "Compare and Contrast" | Weingart, "Topic Modeling for Humanists: A Guided Tour" | Moretti, "Graphs, Maps, Trees," Part 1, 2, and 3 | Bartolovich, "Humanities of Scale: Marxism, Surface Reading---and Milton" | Straub, "The Suspicious Reader Surprised, Or, What I Learned from 'Surface Reading'" | Jockers, "500 Themes from a Corpus of 19th-Century Fiction" and Macroanalysis | Collier, "Text Mining the Complete Works of William Shakespeare" | Eden, "Which Painting Do You Look Like?" | Manovich, "Media Visualization" | Nowviskie, "What Do Girls Dig?"
Log Entry Due: Revised Thought Piece (no prompt; just revise based on feedback from me and your peers)
Discussion: This week, let's have a conversation about surface + distance reading in the context of hermeneutic interpretation, including the ethical, reflexive, affective, and epistemological dimensions of surface + distant reading. Plainly put, is surface or distant reading simply hermeneutic interpretation by another name? From another perspective/position? Or are they "post-hermeneutic"? To what degree are both about faith in computation? What are we to make of appeals to "surprise" in critical practice? Do we need computers to afford such surprise? For instance, to what degree does collaborative work afford conditions for interpretation similar to the distance prompted by computation? (notes)
Workshop 1: How to Use MALLET to Topic Model Texts (notes)
Workshop 2: How to Use OpenCV to Read Image Archives (notes)
Reminder: If you want to use MALLET during the workshop, then please install it. If you want to use OpenCV during the workshop, then please clone Eden's "Tate Hack" repo. Also, at this point in the semester, you should be sure or nearly sure what type of argument you're making with a computer, even if (as I assume) you're not sure what your argument is. Also, as you read this week's required materials, please define the following in your own words: distant reading, surface reading, logic of recovery, topic model, and Latent Dirichlet Allocation (LDA).
We don’t meet this week. It’s reading break.
One could do worse than to recall, even in this special aesthetic frame of reference, Marx's last thesis on Feuerbach. Only philosophers try to understand art. The point is to change it. Our actions on these works, as on anything else in our experience, allow us to begin to understand our thinking about them. To essay a more direct application of "interpretation" to poetical work runs the risk of suggesting that interpretation can be adequate to poiesis. It cannot; it can only run a thematic experiment with the work, enlightening it by inadequacy and indirection. In a hermeneutic age like our own, illusions about the sufficiency of interpretative meaning before the work of art are especially strong. At such a historical moment one might rather look for interpretations that flaunt their subjectivity and arbitrariness, interpretations that increase their value by offering themselves at a clear discount. --- Lisa Samuels and Jerome McGann, "Deformance and Interpretation"
Required: Samuels and McGann, "Deformance and Interpretation" | Ramsay, "Algorithmic Criticism" and "The Hermeneutics of Screwing Around; or What You Do with a Million Books" | Wernimont, "Whence Feminism? Assessing Feminist Interventions in Digital Literary Archives" | #transformDH
Related: Lothian and Phillips, "Can Digital Humanities Mean Transformative Critique?" | Koh and Risam, Postcolonial Digital Humanities | Gil et al., Around DH in 80 Days | Ramsay, "Algorithms Are Thoughts, Chainsaws Are Tools" | Johnson, African Diaspora, Ph.D. | Forster, "With Thanks to Woolf and emacs, Reading The Waves with Stephen Ramsay" and "(de)Bugging Ramsay—A Last Stab at tfidf and The Waves" | Rydberg-Cox, Statistical Methods for Studying Literature Using R | Sample, Hacking the Accident and "Notes towards a Deformed Humanities" | Marino, "Code as Ritualized Poetry: The Tactics of the Transborder Immigrant Tool" | Phillips, A Humument | Henderson, Galerie de Difformité + the online gallery | The N+7 Machine | Grusin, "The Dark Side of Digital Humanities: Dispatches from Two Recent MLA Conventions" | Raley, "Digital Humanities for the Next Five Minutes" | Critical Art Ensemble, Digital Resistance: Explorations in Tactical Media | Losh, "Hacktivism and the Humanities" | Liu, "Where Is Cultural Criticism in the Digital Humanities?" | Barnett, "The Brave Side of Digital Humanities" | Koh, "Niceness, Building, and Opening the Genealogy of the Digital Humanities" | Gaboury, "A Queer History of Computing" | Jaksch and Nieves, "Africa Is a Country?" | Barclay et al., "Digital Humanities, Public Humanities" | Hybrid Pedagogy journal | Vectors journal | Kairos journal | Nahuis and van Lente, "Where Are the Politics? Perspectives on Democracy and Technology" | Wajcman, "Feminist Theories of Technology"
Log Entry Due: Annotated Bibliography
Discussion: For this seminar meeting, we'll look at the tensions and overlaps between deformation and transformation as interpretive practices. How do critique and art function algorithmically? Under what assumptions, and through what histories? How are algorithms conducive to racism, sexism, exploitation, and supremacy? What subtends the determinacy of method? Or calls for play in scholarship? What should be the functions of algorithms in literary or cultural criticism? How is algorithmic criticism also about control? Does either deformance or transformance assume that form is stable or ahistorical? That essence exists? Is all interpretation necessarily deformative or transformative? Ultimately, what are the relationships between deformance, transformance, and hermeneutics? Where are their politics? (notes)
Workshop 1: How to Approach Technology as a Social Justice Issue (notes)
Workshop 2: How to Use R for Text Mining and Stylometry (notes)
Reminder: If you would like to use R during the workshop, then please install it and R Studio. As you read, please also define deformance, transformance, the screwmeneutical imperative, feminist digital literary archive, and algorithmic criticism in your own words.
Also: Lisa Nakamura's Lansdowne lecture ("Media Archaeology from the Margins: Race, Gender, and Indigenous Labor") is Friday at 12:30pm in David Strong C116. I highly recommend attending. We are very lucky to have Dr. Nakamura on campus. Please spread the word.
At the core of a medial ideology of electronic text is the notion that in place of inscription, mechanism, sweat of the brow (or its mechanical equivalent steam), and cramp of the hand, there is light, reason, and energy unleashed in the electric empyrean. --- Matthew Kirschenbaum, Mechanisms
Required: Bogost, from Persuasive Games | Kirschenbaum, from Mechanisms | Hart and Case, "Parable of the Polygons" | Molleindustria, To Build a Better Mousetrap | Camille Davis, "Making a Twitter bot in Python"
Related: Play the Past | Preserving Virtual Worlds | Montfort, "Continuous Paper" | Kirschenbaum et al., "Digital Materiality: Preserving Access to Computers as Complete Environments" | Bogost, "Cow Clicker: The Making of Obsession" | The Deena Larsen Collection | Electronic Literature Collection, Volumes 1 and 2 | Hayles, "Electronic Literature: What Is It?" | Loftus, "The Author's Desktop" | Willett, "Electronic Texts: Audiences and Purposes" | The Agrippa Files | Jagoda, "Gaming the Humanities" and "Fabulously Procedural" | Gillespie, "The Politics of 'Platforms'" | Guins, Game After | Hayles, Writing Machines | Sample, "A Protest Bot Is a Bot So Specific You Can’t Mistake It for Bullshit" and "Criminal Code: Procedural Logic and Rhetorical Excess in Videogames" | Murray et al., Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Art | Sterling, Shaping Things | Acland, Residual Media | Fuller, Media Ecologies | Kittler, Gramophone, Film, Typewriter | Parikka, What Is Media Archaeology? | Syllabus for DHum 350 @UVic, "What's in a Game?" | Menkman, The Glitch Moment(um) | Internet Archive, Software Library: MS-DOS Games | Esolang | Sayers, "Making the Perfect Record"
Discussion: This week is more or less about the materiality of new media, networks, and systems. As critiques, how do screen essentialism, medial ideology, procedural rhetoric, surface reading, and distance reading differ? What tensions exist between technological progress, obsolescence, and critique? What does a materialist approach to new media afford? What does it risk fetishizing? How do simulation, emulation, and digitization differ? When working with enduring ephemerals, what cannot be recovered? What tasks and responsibilities are we willing to delegate to machines? What are we willing to forget or lose over time? What does it mean for something to "gracefully degrade"?
Workshop 1: How to Make a Simple Bot with Python
Workshop 2: How to Prep for Emulation (notes)
Reminder: If you would like to make a simple game or during the workshop, then please install PythonO and Tweepy. Also, please become familiar with the following terms: procedural rhetoric, formal materiality, forensic materiality, screen essentialism, and medial ideology.
Interface, like any other component of computational systems, is an artifact of complex processes and protocols, a zone in which our behaviors and actions take place. Interface is what we read and how we read combined through engagement. Interface is a provocation to cognitive experience. --- Johanna Drucker, "Humanities Approaches to Interface Theory"
Reading: Drucker, "Performative Materiality and Theoretical Approaches to Interface" | Shneiderman, "Eight Golden Rules of Interface Design" | Galloway, from Gaming
Related: Drucker, "Humanities Approaches to Interface Theory" and "Humanities Approaches to Graphical Display" | Emerson, Reading Writing Interfaces | Galloway, Interface Effect | Chun, Programmed Visions | Ruecker, et al., "Designing Data Mining Droplets" | Sayers and Dietrich, "After the Document Model for Scholarly Communication" | Garrett, "The Elements of User Experience" | Jessop, "Digital Visualization as a Scholarly Activity" | Victor, "Explorable Explanations" | Daniel, "The Database: An Aesthetics of Dignity" | McGann, "Texts in N-Dimensions and Interpretation in a New Key" | World Wide Web Consortium | Weiser, "The Computer for the 21st Century" | Shaviro, Post Cinematic Affect and "What Is the Post-Cinematic?"
Log Entry Due: Abstract for Your Final Essay
Discussion: This week we'll talk about formal and cultural approaches to interfaces. Where are interfaces? How are they at once treated systematically and experimentally, through standards and as illusive forms of mediation? How (if at all) does hermeneutic interpretation engage an interface? Are interfaces windows or edges? How are interfaces rendered accessible, by whom, and for whom? What does it mean to call an interface "intuitive" or "natural"? How do we understand interfaces as entanglements of human and computer relations? How are interfaces cognitive as well as affective experiences?
Workshop: Feedback on the Abstracts
Reminder: Your final essay is due Tuesday, April 14th. Before Tuesday, March 31st, feel free to send me a draft for feedback. In the meantime, as you read, please define the following terms in your own words: machine act, operator act, performative materiality, and interface. Thanks!
Also: As an extension of the Digital Humanities Summer Institute, I'm holding a free, two-day Python workshop for humanities grad students. It's on campus this weekend. Please let me know if you'd like to attend. There may still be room available.
Getting anything done generally requires the collaboration of people who do different kinds of work, and whose various kinds of work has shaped various kinds of thinking. It calls for some kind of translation or code switching. It can be hard enough getting people who do different kinds of intellectual labor aligned towards a common task. Collaborations between mental and manual labor, not to mention affective labor, rather complicates the whole endeavor. So perhaps it would be a start for those of us who do some kind of intellectual labor to practice some code switching. --- McKenzie Wark, "Against Social Determinism"
Required: Peruse maker.uvic.ca | Also peruse Nicole Clouston's website | Belojevic, "Circuit Bending Videogame Consoles as a Form of Applied Media Studies" | Macpherson, "Makerspaces in the Humanities" | Sayers, "Bringing Trouvé to Light: Speculative Computer Vision for Victorian Media History"
Related: Nowviskie et al., alt-academy and Speaking in Code (Codespeak Kit) | Wark, "Against Social Determinism" | Habell-Pallán et al., "Notes on Women Who Rock" | Bartscherer and Coover, Switching Codes | Haraway, "A Cyborg Manifesto" | Anzaldúa, Borderlands/La Frontera | Stone, The War of Desire and Technology at the Close of the Mechanical Age | 4Humanities
Discussion: This week the focus is translating the work of 507 (in particular) and digital studies (in general) into contexts beyond the seminar. How do we communicate the relevance of what we do? How does collaboration happen across groups, fields, and even sectors? Where technical or computational work is concerned, when (if ever) should the humanities be instrumentalist? How do expectations, values, protocols, and codes shift across sectors, and to what effects on the arguments we make with computers? How do humanities grad students receive the sort of training or opportunities they want/need for collaborative work? For laboratory work? For computational work? For social justice work?
Reminder: Next week, you'll share the arguments you're making with computers. We'll treat them as prototypes (of a sort). At some point this week, feel free to ask me any questions you have or send me drafts of your argument. Also, wherever possible, determine how you'll share your argument and data (where applicable) online (e.g., via GitHub).
With a few exceptions, we remain content to comment about technology and media, rather than to participate more actively in constructing knowledge in and through our objects of study. --- Tara McPherson, "Media Studies and the Digital Humanities"
Log Entry Due: Working Prototype of Your Argument
Workshop: How to Use MLA Guidelines to Review Digital Projects (notes coming soon)
Reminder: Your final presentations are March 31st. To prepare for them, consider meeting with me soon, or email me any questions or concerns you have.
Gold farming is an example in extremis of informationalized capitalism, for the avatar is a form of property that is composed of digital code yet produced by the sweat of a worker's brow. --- Lisa Nakamura, "Don't Hate the Player, Hate the Game"
Required: Nakamura, "Don’t Hate the Player, Hate the Game" and "Indigenous Circuits: Navajo Women and the Racialization of Early Electronic Manufacture" | Fitzpatrick, "Beyond Metrics: Community Authorization and Open Peer Review"
Related: HASTAC | FemTechNet | CWRC | GO::DH | Fitzpatrick, Planned Obsolescence | Aneesh, Virtual Migration | Scholz, Digital Labor | Dyer-Witheford, Cyber-Marx | Beller, The Cinematic Mode of Production | Cong-Huyen, "'Dark Mass,' or the Problems with Creative Cloud Labor" | Finn, "Revenge of the Nerd" | Nowviskie, "Why, Oh Why, CC-BY?" | Ang and Pothen, "Between Promise and Practice: Web 2.0, Intercultural Dialogue and Digital Scholarship" | Twitch Plays Pokemon | Bogost, "Persuasive Games: Exploitationware" | Wark, "Digital Labor and the Anthropocene" | Causer and Wallace, "Building A Volunteer Community" | Castells, The Rise of the Network Society | Mattern, "Scaffolding, Hard and Soft"
Log Entry Due: Draft Essay (prompt coming soon)
Discussion: With your presentations next week, this is our last proper seminar meeting, which will involve looking specifically at how digital labour and networks (as scholarly objects and scholarly practices) play a role in digital studies. How is digital labour embodied? How is it quantified or rendered immaterial? How it is exploited? For practitioners, what can networks and online environments do for scholarship that other approaches cannot? How do we understand exchange, justice, attribution, and responsibility in networked environments? How are digital labour practices influencing the space of place? (notes coming soon)
Workshop: How to Use Pandoc to Convert Files (notes coming soon)
Reminder: If you would like to use Pandoc during the workshop, then please install it. Also, be sure to touch base with any concerns about the final presentation and essay, both of which are due soon. Finally, as you read, do your best to articulate how digital labour differs from and overlaps with other forms of labour, especially how it's embodied, performed, quantified, and tracked.
I gesticulated. I marked in the text where to look up at the audience. I marked in the text where to slow down to deliver the punchlines to maximum effect. (This also allows people to live tweet better; they're better able to quote you correctly.) When people laughed, I waited for them to stop, and I smiled at them. I also managed my slides in the same way I've done for years, but which many people on Twitter stopped to remark on: I show blank/black slides in between content-laden slides. I don't know about you but when there's a slide and someone talking, I compulsively try to relate the image to the talking. So if I just want people to focus on what I'm saying, and there's nothing I need them to look at, I just black out the screen. Pictures when relevant, blank when not. --- Aimée Morrison, "Keynote! Tips for Presenting to a Big Crowd"
Log Entry Due: Materials for Your Presentation
Discussion: Final Presentations
Reminder: We will conduct course evals after your presentations. Please make sure that your presentations remain within the time limit. Thanks a bunch!