The Routledge Companion to Media Studies and Digital Humanities (2018) introduces readers to the theory and practice of engaging media through new media. I edited the book to be neither a textbook nor a collection of debates. It instead provides snapshots of how media are variously made and interpreted.
The Companion’s 52 chapters address issues such as moving beyond text as a medium in the humanities, foregrounding the importance of collaboration and laboratories outside the sciences, attending to cultural criticism and social justice in the design and development of technologies, and expanding what “intervention” and “research contribution” mean in scholarship.
The book’s official description, its table of contents, a glossary of media projects mentioned in it, and abstracts for all 52 chapters are below. The book is available for purchase in paperback, hardback, and ebook formats, and 38 of the chapters are open access. Look for “open access” links after chapter titles listed on this page.
Thanks to all the Companion’s contributors, who engaged in dialogue with me for four years and were (and remain) a positive force for change. Danielle Morgan produced the cover image for the Companion. Nadia Timperio worked with me to prepare the Companion for publication, and Allison Murphy indexed it with me. Students in English 508 at UVic provided valuable feedback on several chapters, and Steven E. Jones, Willard McCarty, Stuart Moulthrop, and Melissa Terras offered insightful responses to the Companion during the proposal stage. Endless thanks to Nina Belejovic, Tiffany Chan, Cathy Davidson, Katherine Goertz, Julie Klein, Shaun Macpherson, Tara McPherson, Danielle Morgan, and Kathy Woodward for their advice, support, and perspective early in the process. Of course, the Companion would not have been possible without the teams at Routledge and Florence Production, including Mia Moran, Erica Wetter, Emma Sudderick, and Jessica Bithrey.
The Routledge Companion to Media Studies and Digital Humanities
Published with Routledge in 2018 | 52 chapters (38 open access) | 564 pages including the index
Although media studies and digital humanities are established fields, their overlaps have not been examined in depth. This comprehensive collection fills that gap, giving readers a critical guide to understanding the array of methodologies and projects operating at the intersections of media, culture, and practice.
Table of Contents
The Companion is organized into five sections: 1) Access, Praxis, Justice; 2) Design, Interface, Interaction; 3) Mediation, Method, Materiality; 4) Remediation, Data, Memory; and 5) Making, Programming, Hacking. I wrote the introduction (PDF), and with Nadia Timperio I produced a glossary of media projects mentioned in the book.
Here’s the table of contents (PDF), with titles and authors for all 52 chapters. The chapter abstracts are below.
I. Access, Praxis, Justice
This section highlights social justice issues that permeate the entirety of the Companion. It also demonstrates how social justice work is enacted through new media as a form of praxis, in part by expanding the definition of “access” through an emphasis on participation, but also by sharing various modes of activism involving new media.
Chapter 1. “Theory/Practice: Lessons Learned from Feminist Film Studies,” by Tara McPherson
This chapter investigates possible relationships of theory to practice within digital humanities and media studies and also calls for a more politically engaged approach to both fields. It seeks to move beyond the binary framing of the DH slogan, “less yack, more hack,” by arguing for a more integrative and dialectical melding of making and critique. In particular, the piece turns to feminist film studies of the late 1970s to examine an earlier moment in media studies that sought to integrate media production, distribution, theory, and pedagogy toward expressly political ends. In conversation with contemporary feminist scholarship in new materialisms and digital media studies, it argues that practices of making can and should enrich our theoretical and discursive endeavors.
Chapter 2. “#cut/paste+bleed: Entangling Feminist Affect, Action, and Production On and Offline,” by Alexandra Juhasz (open access)
This chapter considers one of the author’s media-critical and -situated projects, ev-ent-anglement, as a lab where doing and thinking in community and within the sites or technologies under consideration are the scholarship. In such scholarly work, the doing and the process are the product, and what is built towards those ends can also be shared and/or evaluated in other contexts and for different communities. This allocating and re-allocating of process in and as the product is modeled in the essay itself, albeit within yet another technology: the paper-bound scholarly anthology. The chapter places ev-ent-anglement into the author’s larger scholarly project that engages, critically, with social media networks from inside them; shares lessons learned about practice-based research; and concludes with why such methods (as much as findings) might matter. She explains her thinking and doing, and the histories and theories that motivated this critical internet experiment where “our object was our self and ourselves and then these objects got out of hand.”
Chapter 3. “Analog Girls in Digital Worlds: Dismantling Binaries for Digital Humanists Who Research Social Media,” by Moya Bailey (open access)
Not only academics have the skills and means to integrate digital tools and humanistic inquiry. We argue that these distinctions are both real and imagined and as such need to be examined closely to determine the intricate and multilayered dynamics of each space. We make two main arguments in this chapter: the digital world and the ivory tower are powerful tools for circulating ideas and creating access to our communities, and the power that the digital and academic worlds wield needs to be challenged, both from the inside and out.
Chapter 4. “(Cyber)Ethnographies of Contact, Dialogue, Friction: Connecting, Building, Placing, and Doing ‘Data,’” by Radhika Gajjala, Erika M. Behrmann, and Jeanette Dillon (open access)
This chapter takes a look at questions of methods in the age of big data while asking questions about epistemic considerations and digital ontologies. The three co-authors discuss these issues in the context of cyberethnography and of building and doing data by using each of their research projects as points of entry. They write about global connections and frictions in three related contexts where millennials are engaged in philanthropy. Behrmann draws on an examination of the Half the Sky movement, Dillon draws on her study of college students engaged in social entrepreneurial projects, and Gajjala examines this intersection through a look at how do-it-yourself (DIY) prosumerism intersects with online microfinance.
Chapter 5. “Of, By, and For the Internet: New Media Studies and Public Scholarship,” by Aimée Morrison (open access)
This chapter proposes we must actively work to craft a new media studies of, by, and for the internet, one that must seek to transform rather than simply disrupt both scholarship and the broader social landscape, or our online scholarly practices will certainly reinscribe existing hierarchies and inequities. New media studies, of, by, and for the internet is not the abstract and utopian dream for perfect communication envisioned in the early 1990s, suited to more idealistic aims of seamless transmission of information. It is about whose speech is suppressed, by what means, and how this suppression can be countered. It is about the care work entailed in seeking social change, accounting for the toll this care work exacts, and sharing that load more equitably by extending material and emotional supports to those from whom this work demands the highest personal costs. I consider viral academic speech as offering the opportunity to develop and sustain new modes of “public/scholarship,” beginning by examining a viral academic speech event that happened to me.
Chapter 6. “Women Who Rock: Making Scenes, Building Communities (Convivencia and Archivista Praxis for a Digital Era),” by Michelle Habell-Pallán, Sonnet Retman, Angelica Macklin, and Monica De La Torre
Women Who Rock: Making Scenes, Building Communities (WWR) brings together scholars, musicians, media-makers, performers, artists, and activists to explore the role of women and popular music in the creation of cultural scenes that anchor social justice movements in the Amerícas and beyond. Our vision of digital humanities and media production is process-driven. Grounded in women-of-color feminist theorizing, WWR reshapes conventional understandings of music and cultural production by initiating decolonial methods of research, archiving, teaching, and community / scholarly collaboration. At WWR’s center is an oral history archive that ties together an annual community engagement unconference and film festival, and project-based graduate and undergraduate coursework. This chapter explores our experiences of “doing” digital humanities together through a method of convivencia and archivista praxis to develop a networked, digital archive hosted by the University of Washington Libraries.
Chapter 7. “Decolonizing Digital Humanities in Theory and Practice,” by Roopika Risam (open access)
The relationship between digital humanities and decolonization has become a popular one, representing a range of interventions. These include decolonizing digital archives, addressing representation in digital knowledge production, and using digital media to create spaces for voices that go unheard in dominant narratives of literature, history, and culture. This chapter examines the complex politics of decolonization in digital humanities. It begins by considering how discourses of decolonization have been deployed in the context of digital humanities and situating them in postcolonial theory and science and technology studies. The chapter then explores digital humanities projects that participate in decolonizing knowledge production. In doing so, it makes the case for culturally located approaches to digital humanities that resist reinscribing the politics of colonialism.
Chapter 8. “Interactive Narratives: Addressing Social and Political Trauma through New Media,” by Isabel Cristina Restrepo Acevedo (open access)
This chapter addresses the development of collective and unofficial dialogic spaces through new media as a way to engage social and political trauma and also facilitate mobilization towards healing and change. Specifically, it examines the creation of interactive narratives that go beyond words or written expression by integrating audience participation (physically and mentally) with different levels of impact. As a case study, it focuses on interactive narratives that use remote sensing technologies to track audience members’ bodies and actions during art installations about the traumatic social and political circumstances surrounding people in Colombia, Argentina, and Mexico.
Chapter 9. “Wear and Care: Feminisms at a Long Maker Table,” by Jacque Wernimont and Elizabeth Losh (open access)
With the rise of popularity in hacker/makerspaces has come an old reproduction of inequality at the sites of innovation and education in which women, people of color, middle-aged and elderly citizens, queer and genderqueer people, and people with disabilities are affectively and/or economically excluded. This chapter leverages pedagogical case studies, including our summer course, Feminist Digital Humanities: Theoretical, Social, and Material Engagements around Making and Breaking Computational Media, to sketch out a vision of a “long maker table” that draws on the feminist performance art tradition to break into and break open makerspaces that have been traditionally coded as white, affluent, masculine spaces.
Chapter 10. “A Glitch in the Tower: Academia, Disability, and Digital Humanities,” by Elizabeth Ellcessor
Disability poses a challenge to academic uses of digital media technologies. It is a “glitch,” a moment in which things do not work as they should, as is often the case when digital media are inaccessible to disabled people. This chapter begins with that “glitch,” asking how it might cause us to reflect on the ways in which technological design privileges and excludes different people. Using literature on disability and digital media and drawing on universal design for learning, the chapter proposes three avenues by which digital humanities may promote inclusive academic environments: humanistic analysis, critically engaged praxis, and direct advocacy.
Chapter 11. “Games Studies for Great Justice,” by Amanda Phillips (open access)
In the age of GamerGate, the “social justice warrior” has become a polarizing figure in gaming culture: a hero to some (who might prefer job classes like wizard or rogue instead), but an emblem of all that is wrong with political correctness to others. Videogames may seem a trivial object for those concerned with something so grand as cultural equity, but they are an increasingly important component of the media landscapes that shape the world around us. There are many disciplinary strategies for seeking justice, and the popular turmoil around videogames and social justice demands more attention and resources. This chapter offers five concrete suggestions for game studies academics to leverage their work for the greater good.
Chapter 12. “Self-Determination in Indigenous Games,” by Elizabeth LaPensée (open access)
Games are a powerful medium for expression, with their unique layering of play, story, art, and audio brought about through design and code. Self-determined Indigenous games could be considered what Anishinaabe writer, Gerald Vizenor, refers to as survivance – survival, endurance, and resistance. The award-winning platformer, Never Alone (developed for consoles and PCs by the Cook Inlet Tribal Council in collaboration with ally game company, E-Line Media), weaves a historical-traditional story into gameplay with Iñupiaq art, language, and teachings. The mobile game, Invaders (with art by Steven Paul Judd inspired by the classic arcade game, Space Invaders), represents colonization as an 8-bit alien invasion. Blood Quantum, a Real Time Strategy game (by Renee Nejo), which uses non-human droplet characters battling over communities, represents a statement about how blood quantum policies contribute to ongoing colonization. Looking at these games exemplifies the ways in which Indigenous culture and experiences bring about unique game design.
II. Design, Interface, Interaction
Design, interfaces, and interaction are too often considered additive, as if they are features layered over code just before release. Against such tendencies, this section exhibits the centrality of design to critical and creative inquiry with media.
Chapter 13. “Making Meaning, Making Culture: How to Think about Technology and Cultural Reproduction,” by Anne Balsamo
Whereas many digital humanities projects focus on the creation of new applications and platforms, less frequently will these projects take into account the “infrastructuring” of cultural meanings. This chapter considers the challenge for digital humanities projects to manifest critical insights about the relationship between culture and technology. I promote a reproductive theory of technology as a framework for understanding the cultural implications of designing digital applications. This approach asserts that such projects must be considered not merely as technological applications, but rather as complex socio-techno-cultural assemblages that both replicate and reconfigure cultural understandings. To illustrate how these theoretical insights manifested in a specific project, I describe an interactive application called AIDS Quilt Touch that enables people to view, search, and annotate digital images of the AIDS Memorial Quilt. Designed by a distributed team of digital humanists, creative technologists, and public artists, the project unfolded as a hybrid media system focused on engaging members of the public in learning about an important work of cultural heritage. This chapter reflects on the AIDS Quilt Touch design process to identify how questions of culture eclipsed questions of technology.
Chapter 14. “Contemporary and Future Spaces for Media Studies and Digital Humanities,” by Patrik Svensson (open access)
This chapter looks at space as an institutional, critical, and creative category for media studies and digital humanities. Following a background section on space and knowledge production, a hypothetical merger between a digital humanities initiative and a media studies department explores some of the tensions and possibilities at play. A basic issue discussed throughout the chapter is the entanglement of conceptual foundations (goals and intentions) and material manifestations (physical and digital structures). This entanglement is discussed through a framework based on the notions of intellectual middleware and design principles. The final section looks at the question of whether there can be a shared vision of the two fields in question, including whether we might consider manifesting such a vision through shared space.
Chapter 15. “Finding Fault Lines: An Approach to Speculative Design,” by Kari Kraus (open access)
This chapter proposes a classification system of the various subjunctive practices that unify otherwise disparate artists, inventors, historians, conservators, and others whose work involves imagining or inferring the unknown. The “speculative design” of my title refers to the output or end products of all eleven categories in the classification system. Thus, for example, a conjecturally restored painting, a reconstructed text, and a scientific simulation of a flu pandemic are all works of speculative design that fall under the respective categories of “restoration,” “conjectural criticism,” and “scientific prediction.” Drawing on cognitive scientist Ruth Byrne’s notion of “fault lines in reality,” I argue that the fractures and cracks – both literal and conceptual – in everyday objects and events yield the fragments that form the raw material of speculative design. I illustrate the method of fault lines and various types of subjunctive practice with the help of the Whereabouts Clock, a make-believe technology found in the Harry Potter universe that has crossed over to the real world as a hybrid, physical-digital object. The chapter closes with a set of workshop activities informed by the subjunctive practices, including the category of “speculative wear.”
Chapter 16. “Game Mechanics, Experience Design, and Affective Play,” by Patrick Jagoda and Peter McDonald (open access)
This chapter explores games as a major object of study in both new media theory and practice. Two primary critical approaches, organized around procedure and play, have dominated game studies in the early 2000s. This essay advocates a middle ground through a form of experience design that foregrounds the ways a game affects players and how players can be affected by it: experientially, kinesthetically, and ideologically. The main site for this elaboration of affect is game mechanics. A focus on mechanics helps us be attentive to the range of possible play experiences, including gradations and shadings of various named emotions and non-conscious intensities. A brief theoretical overview of major competing contemporary perspectives in game studies opens up into a consideration for using a practice-based research method to design learning-oriented and serious games in new media studies. The chapter draws from close readings of existing digital and analog games, as well as techniques developed through the creative process in the Game Changer Chicago Design Lab.
Chapter 17. “Critical Play and Responsible Design,” by Mary Flanagan
There is great interest in how games promote pro-social values, due to the impact other media forms have had toward a more progressive society. In light of the financial and cultural sway of games, designing and playing critically is an indispensable approach in the domain of applied media studies research and for engaging the social and cultural dimensions of digital games. Critical Play is a useful concept to media studies and digital humanities, for it interjects notions of critical thinking and values into both the examination of games and the creation of playful artifacts. Games can operate as attitude shifters, as platforms for exploring subjectivity, and as sites for community engagement and collective visioning. How games function as their own art form – and not mere delivery mechanisms or media – is essential to understanding the role they play in criticality and social impact.
Chapter 18. “A Call to Action: Embodied Thinking and Human-Computer Interaction Design,” by Jessica Rajko (open access)
This chapter is not a guide to embodied thinking, but rather a critical call to action. It highlights the deep history of embodied practice within the fields of dance and somatics and outlines the value of embodied thinking within human-computer interaction (HCI) design. While there are strong parallels between the use of the term “embodiment” in both somatic (self-reflective) practices and the empirical (observational) practices most commonly cited in HCI design theory, the fundamental differences in methodology lead to striking differences in how embodiment is understood and used as a means of thinking. This chapter explores some of the pitfalls of only considering embodiment within the context of observation and articulates the potential for more thoughtful and ethical wearable technology (WT) design through somatic and dance-based practices.
Chapter 19. “Wearable Interfaces, Networked Bodies, and Feminist Sleeper Agents,” by Kim A. Brillante Knight (open access)
In this chapter, I argue that one must account for the materiality of the body in the wearable interface. The wearable interface is a process enacted within an assemblage of dress-body-technology, with the potential to construct a radical cyborg subject. However, the current most ubiquitous form of wearable technology, the fitness tracker, fails to fulfill the cyborg’s promise of kinship and affinity. Instead, it facilitates the myth of self-reliant neoliberal subjectivity. I examine alternative landscapes in which wearables might contribute to counterpublic formation through arts and design, as well as feminist epistemologies and critical making in the university classroom.
Chapter 20. “Deep Mapping: Space, Place, and Narrative as Urban Interface,” by Maureen Engel (open access)
Deep mapping is an emergent scholarly practice that makes arguments spatially, frequently in the form of a map. This chapter puts deep mapping practices into an historical context with geography and cartography to show how practitioners have taken theoretical liberties with maps and geographic information systems (GIS) by challenging their claims to indexicality and objectivity. First, the chapter outlines theoretical interventions of the last 30 years that have challenged our commonplace ideas of space and place. It then examines three specific examples of deep mapping projects: The Edmonton Pipelines Project, a research cell at the University of Alberta; The London Streetmuseum app, a locative media application that annotates contemporary London with historical images and narratives; and HyperCities, a UCLA-based project and platform that allows scholars to build deep maps without having to acquire prohibitive technological skills. Bringing these three projects together shows the different paths and practices that deep mapping can take, self-consciously producing spatial arguments as situated knowledge.
Chapter 21. “Smart Things, Smart Subjects: How the ‘Internet of Things’ Enacts Pervasive Media,” by Beth Coleman
Known variously as “smart” technologies, ambient intelligence, and social machines, Internet of Things (IoT) technology extends our reach across networked information (internet and mobile computing) into the material world. There are objects such as “smart” cars that drive themselves and “smart” tiles that tell us where our dumb objects, such as keys and bikes, are hiding. This chapter asks, “What is the place of the human actor in this network of interactions and automated exchanges?” If there is an emergent smart thing, is there also a corollary smart subject?
III. Mediation, Method, Materiality
Instead of treating media as “containers” that transmit content, this section of the Companion attends to various forms of mediation, affect, and materiality important to humanities research. Many of the authors also translate mediation into a method for inquiry. Here, mediation is not something delegated to instruments or overwritten by research techniques; it is what prompts interesting questions.
Chapter 22. “Approaching Sound,” by Tara Rodgers (open access)
Sound is a material and cultural phenomenon that embodies and catalyzes a diffuse set of relations. It functions as both a carrier of cultural knowledge and an expressive medium modulated by individual and collaborative creativity. It is sound’s relational aspects, and its dynamic modes of connecting and transecting individual elements and complex wholes, that make it resoundingly political. This chapter presents sound definitions, histories, and methods by examining soundmakers’ work alongside key concepts in cultural studies of music and sound, proposing a range of possibilities for approaching sound creatively and critically.
Chapter 23. “Algorhythmics: A Diffractive Approach for Understanding Computation,” by Shintaro Miyazaki (open access)
This chapter offers an alternative approach to computation, with an emphasis on our senses (especially hearing) and the notion of algorhythmics, a neologism combining algorithm with rhythm. As a method, algorhythmics builds on Karen Barad’s approach to diffraction and extends media theory through feminist thinking by prompting researchers to study media through other media. Via two examples, the chapter demonstrates how a sensitivity towards time-based processes, especially the rhythms of digital storage, transmission, and processing, might be useful for a critical understanding of digital cultures. It also provides some arguments for algorhythmics as a crucial method within digital humanities.
Chapter 24. “Software Studies Methods,” by Matthew Fuller
This chapter provides a short overview of some of the conceptual and practical methods developed in the interdisciplinary field of software studies. After assessing some of the contexts in which software studies arose, it briefly reviews technical, cultural, theoretical, and artistic means of understanding the nature of computational structures and processes and their role in the constitution of contemporary forms of life. It also addresses some of the controversies, points of differentiation, and critical articulations in the field as well as examples of key methodological tendencies.
Chapter 25. “Physical Computing, Embodied Practice,” by Nina Belojevic and Shaun Macpherson (open access)
Physical computing is broadly defined as the practice of combining hardware design with computer programming to create networked, interactive devices and environments. Most often associated with increasingly popular “maker cultures,” it constructs interfaces between computers and bodies beyond the screen, mouse, and keyboard, which are most often associated with human-computer interaction (HCI). Since physical computing is an inherently embodied practice, it encourages practitioners to apply a reciprocal methodology whereby hands-on exploration is combined with the development of new discourses. This chapter explores physical computing and its potential application in critical studies of media, technology, and other scholarly inquiries via a brief introduction to the histories, practices, and effects that computers have on culture, society, and the physical world.
Chapter 26. “Turning Practice Inside Out: Digital Humanities and the Eversion,” by Steven E. Jones (open access)
What William Gibson called the “eversion of cyberspace” – its turning inside out – provides a context for understanding the emergence of the new digital humanities (DH) around 2004-2008. Digital humanities practice has both contributed and responded to the eversion. What was once understood as a transcendent virtual reality is now experienced as a ubiquitous grid of data that we move through and interact with every day, a new perspective that calls on DH practice to engage the social, locative, embodied, and object-oriented nature of our experience in the networked world.
Chapter 27. “Conjunctive and Disjunctive Networks: Affects, Technics, and Arts in the Experience of Relation,” by Anna Munster (open access)
As sociotechnical assemblages, networks are both singular and nonlocalized. They are constituted by standardized communicative protocols that operate across open architectures that make them available to artistic intervention, corporate takeover, and nonpartisan political ends. Yet the ways in which networks experience, as well as human experience in and of networks, must be thought in close proximity to questions of affect. For networks are not simply organizational forms or maps of contemporary life. They involve processes of joining with and disjoining from others, not to mention technical elements and their operations. This chapter takes affect, technics, and their relations as primary in the experience of online networked life and looks to the ways in which early online, artistic cultures experimented with these relations. My engagement with the critical networked culture of the late 1980s and early 1990s was formative in the development of my current approach to thinking through these relations as an “aesthesia” of networks. This concept approaches the experience of networks through technical, affective, human, and nonhuman elements. It sees the transitions and breaks in their relations as critical for an understanding of contemporary media and culture.
Chapter 28. “From ‘Live’ to Real Time: On Future Television Studies,” by Mark J. Williams
This chapter surveys critical constructs and methodological differences within television studies as they relate to the challenges and opportunities posited by digital media and technologies. A key arc of consideration is the seemingly linear and arguably triumphalist progression from “live” to “real time,” provisionally an arc from analog media to digital media. The chapter concludes with some example projects that combine television studies with approaches to streaming media and online participation.
Chapter 29. “ICYMI: Catching Up to the Moving Image Online,” by Gregory Zinman (open access)
The ever-increasing scale of online video offers both a challenge and opportunity to scholars and students of the moving image. How can we make sense of so much material, and how does online video shape our understanding of the history and theory of the moving image? This chapter sets out three conceptual rubrics to help us think through online video: viewing, content, and genre. An accounting of the developing relationships between viewers and producers, individuals and communities, humans and technology, and industry and consumers allows for a new understanding of how the moving image is changing in the 21st century.
Chapter 30. “Images on the Move: Analytics for a Mixed Methods Approach,” by Virginia Kuhn (open access)
This chapter argues for a mixed methods approach to research with moving image media. Given the medium’s complexity and its increasing ubiquity, some form of computational analysis is necessary, not to replace other forms of humanities-based inquiry, but rather to extend and enhance these methods. Noting that, to date, tools developed for this purpose have focused either on textual tagging and annotation or on image processing, the author suggests combining the two processes to render video archives discoverable and searchable. The chapter ends with a brief survey of some nascent but compelling research that combines neuroscience and cinema studies.
Chapter 31. “Lost in the Clouds: A Media Theory of the Flight Recorder,” by Paul Benzon
This essay traces the history of the flight recorder–the technology colloquially known as the black box–across the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, from its earliest photographic incarnations in the 1930s to current debates around wireless, cloud-based flight recording. Through this history, I treat the flight recorder as an exemplary object of media archaeology, a critical subfield of media studies that attends to issues such as obsolescence, forgetting, and nonlinear histories of technological change. Approaching the flight recorder through media archaeology illustrates the importance of storage and ephemerality to a critical approach to contemporary digital culture. If we take the flight recorder as a test case for these questions, we become more able to see the need for a perspective within media studies that attends to the complex materiality of the digital archive.
Chapter 32. “Scaffolding, Hard and Soft: Critical and Generative Infrastructures,” by Shannon Mattern (open access)
Infrastructures are the networks and platforms–as well as the institutional structures and operations–that bring us goods and services, including communication and informational resources. Thinking about media and design through the framework of infrastructure enables us to expand the scale, historical scope, and material and social complexity through which we understand our mediated and designed environments and practices. Media and design work – both critical and creative – can not only promote infrastructural literacy, but can also contribute to the development of new, or better, infrastructural systems that embody the values we want to define our society.
IV. Remediation, Data, Memory
How is media preserved in the humanities? What role does it play in memory? When does it become “data”? And how does it change across formats over time? Moving between new and old media, the past and present, this section of the Companion addresses these questions and more.
Chapter 33. “Obsolescence and Innovation in the Age of the Digital,” by Kathleen Fitzpatrick (open access)
The concepts obsolescence and innovation demonstrate not only a complex relationship between contemporary consumer culture and temporality (in which the past is somehow produced by the future) but also an equal complexity at the heart of contemporary cultural criticism (in which our ways of reading and understanding appear to require constant upgrades in order to stay current). This chapter explores the lenticular logic of obsolescence and innovation, in which each concept is defined by and inseparable from the other, and the effects that logic might have on our understanding of digital media and of ourselves in the act of engaging with it.
Chapter 34. “Futures of the Book,” by Jon Bath, Alyssa Arbuckle, Constance Crompton, Alex Christie, Ray Siemens, and the INKE Research Group (open access)
In this chapter, we examine the relationship between the printed book and the electronic book, but not as a progression from the old to the new. We begin by looking at how the electronic book has been shaped by understandings of printed books. Electronic text was initially created to encode pre-existing books and continues to carry traces of this materiality forward. As we reveal the depth of this influence it becomes clear that the e-book, and the infrastructure that supports it, have been built by those with a very narrow understanding of what a “book” is; an Amazon Kindle may be a marvelous tool for reading novels, but it should be remembered that novels themselves are a fairly recent development in the book’s existence. In opposition to this singular definition of a book, we provide an example, the Social Edition of the Devonshire Manuscript, of how a more fulsome understanding of the socially and institutionally contingent forms that books (and authors, editors, and readers) have taken can result in an e-book that respects, reflects upon, and responds to the book in all its diversity.
Chapter 35. “Becoming a Rap Genius: African American Literary Studies and Collaborative Annotation,” by Howard Rambsy II
This chapter explains the processes of using the crowd-sourced annotation site, Rap Genius, for pedagogical purposes in African American literature courses. The chapter first provides brief background on Genius and then summarizes the implementation of two “Becoming a Rap Genius” courses. Finally, it addresses the implications of offering students opportunities to take African American literature courses with a technological or online basis.
Chapter 36. “Traversals: A Method of Preservation for Born-Digital Texts,” by Dene Grigar and Stuart Moulthrop
This chapter describes a method of preserving works of digital creativity by documenting the experience of play, assembly, navigation, and co-performance that represents a traversal of the work in its original technical context. We discuss outcomes of Pathfinders, a multi-year project focusing on five works of early electronic literature. Traversals of these works, accompanied by oral history interviews, generate important insights into the nature and history of computational art. Considering the affordances and limits of traversals, we suggest ways to integrate our approach with other strategies of preservation, including archiving, migration, and emulation.
Chapter 37. “New Media Arts: Creativity on the Way to the Archive,” by Timothy Murray
In the 1990s, artists enthusiastically embraced the creative and archival dynamics of the digital interface. In recounting the parameters of this history and its institutional context, this chapter reflects on the range of interactive interfaces embraced by the artistic community, from the CD-ROM to net.art. While individual artists collaborated with programmers and designers to expand the limits of artistic expression, emergent arts organizations and archives worked with artists to develop portable platforms for their artworks. The expanding power of the internet and informal international networks of new media arts provided unanticipated opportunities for building broad and diverse artistic collectives. In recognition that digital formats were far less stable than initially imagined, preservation developed into a predominant concern of new media art curators, often in tension with the artists’ enthusiasm for the embrace of unpredictable and unstable formats and their affection for the artistic ephemerality associated with performance, installation, and online interaction. Ironically, the archival celebration of memory, interactivity, and digital durability that propelled artistic creation in the early 1990s became the new millennial threat to new media’s archival future.
Chapter 38. “Apprehending the Past: Augmented Reality, Archives, and Cultural Memory,” by Victoria Szabo (open access)
This essay explores the state of, and potential for, mobile augmented reality (AR) for digital heritage applications within urban environments. It takes as its focus the notion that “apprehension” of the past serves as a valuable complement to traditional comprehension-based approaches to understanding historical sites. Drawing upon experiential learning theory, critical theories of space and place, and digital interaction design principles, it suggests that location-based or “situated” access to archival resources offers opportunities both for deeper visitor engagement with historic sites and urban spaces and for new, multimodal approaches to digital humanities project development. This approach explores sharing scholarly research and received knowledge on site and on location, while at the same time offering opportunities for active engagement for users.
Chapter 39. “Experiencing Digital Africana Studies: Bringing the Classroom to Life,” by Bryan Carter
With attention to the Virtual Harlem project as well as to virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technologies, this chapter outlines several approaches to teaching Digital Africana Studies. Creating memorable classroom experiences is an inherent part of every assignment in the Digital Africana Studies environment. Through interaction, engaging activities, experiential learning, and meaningful digital projects, it is possible to shape ideas about Africana topics that may have a better chance at becoming an inherent part of a learner’s consciousness. Digital Africana Studies not only teaches students about a culture; courses are also designed to connect and immerse students in a way different from traditional approaches to literature and history.
Chapter 40. “Engagements with Race, Memory, and the Built Environment in South Africa: A Case Study in Digital Humanities,” by Angel Nieves
Over the past decade, scholars and community leaders have experimented with the use of new digital technologies to tell the history of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. Technologies now at our disposal allow us to layer victim testimony in hypertexts using multiple tools for mapping, text mining, and 3-D visualizations. Digital humanities may also help analyze documentation so as to reconstruct and recover an alternative historical narrative in the face of conventional wisdom or officializing histories. The layering of the many narratives also helps lay bare the messiness of archive making, the methodologies of digital ethnography, and, in particular, the endangered nature of those archives across South Africa related to the Soweto Uprisings of June 1976.
Chapter 41. “Relationships, Not Records: Digital Heritage and the Ethics of Sharing Indigenous Knowledge Online,” by Kimberly Christen (open access)
Although physical archives were never intended to be input, they are often defined as places where one deposits materials. Over the last ten years, however, with digital tools and platforms that rely on user-generated content growing in popularity, curation has been linked to an outward-facing public view. In digital humanities and media studies, using archival content or generating one’s own archive has become prevalent. Remixing content from online sources and mining archives for data are seen as beneficial forms of digital knowledge creation. What is marginalized in these practices are the histories of archival content creation, diverse ethical systems of knowledge management, and cultural values that highlight differential access to material. Examining Indigenous systems of knowledge sheds light on alternative forms of archival practices and opens another avenue for collaboration and digital production.
Chapter 42. “Searching, Mining, and Interpreting Media History’s Big Data,” by Eric Hoyt, Tony Tran, Derek Long, Kit Hughes, and Kevin Ponto (open access)
As search has become a key tool in how we conduct research, this chapter introduces Scaled Entity Search (SES), an alternative method to traditional keyword searching, and Arclight, a software platform for applying SES to media history sources (search.projectarclight.org). In exploring how search works as a method, we highlight the potential strengths and limitations SES and Arclight can bring to historical research. SES enables users to perform searches for multiple entities simultaneously across a large body of documents, as well as a critical framework for interpreting their search results. With Arclight, users can employ the SES method, which allows them to visualize and examine how entities trend across the Media History Digital Library’s 2 million-page corpus. Using the popular Japanese American silent film actors, Sessue Hayakawa and Tsuru Aoki, as examples, we demonstrate how SES and Arclight can be productively applied to new historical questions and confirm and enrich existing historical scholarship.
Chapter 43. “The Intimate Lives of Cultural Objects,” by Jeffrey Schnapp (open access)
This chapter is concerned with the manifold ways in which cultural objects are represented, from the standardized data schemes that translate them into fields such as title, creator, date, place of creation, medium, and provenance to the representations (photographic and other) that seek to capture aspects of their existence or meaning. It argues for expanded modes of registration, record-making, and linking that thicken and enrich the experience of cultural objects, whether from an informational or social standpoint or the standpoint of the sensory data they convey, whether on the micro level (as individual physical things) or on the macro level (as elements within aggregates such as entire collections). In so doing, it suggests that the critical skills associated with traditional humanistic approaches to the art of description should be brought to bear both on data schemes as well as in the design of hybrid digital/analog experiences of objects in galleries and museums.
Chapter 44. “Timescape and Memory: Visualizing Big Data at the 9/11 Memorial Museum,” by Lauren F. Klein (open access)
This chapter positions Timescape (Local Projects, 2014), a large-scale data visualization installed in the 9/11 Memorial Museum, as evidence of how humanistic inquiry must stand alongside data visualization and other computational practices if we are to most fully address the complexity of twenty-first-century daily life. I demonstrate how Timescape, and all data visualizations, must be analyzed on three levels: 1) at the level of the data-image, 2) at the level of data-processing, and 3) at the level of the dataset itself. By analyzing Timescape according to this scheme, I show how the piece must be interpreted so as to better understand the assumptions and arguments embedded in its design. I claim that the knowledge produced by data visualization is always partial, and that no quantity of data, however large, and however it might be visualized, can be made to represent the global impact of 9/11 in a single view. I conclude that Timescape, as a result of its relation to 9/11 as a media event, does not merely produce knowledge in the particular terms that its algorithms identify and visualize; it also represents the larger process of knowledge production itself.
V. Making, Programming, Hacking
Practices such as making, programming, and hacking entwine in many ways with writing, ethnography, and even archival work. Underscoring the critical and creative dimensions of these practices, this section surveys noninstrumentalist approaches to code, platforms, and machines that privilege inquiry over proof.
Chapter 45. “Programming as Literacy,” by Annette Vee (open access)
“Computer programming is the new literacy,” say countless popular articles on education. In fact, the claims for programming as a kind of literacy stretch back to the 1960s. Linking programming to literacy is rhetorically expeditious because literacy can be an argument for funding and political support. But connections between programming and writing are more than political savvy: like writing, programming is a symbolic system operating through an inscribed language and social contexts. This chapter introduces several influential projects that have posited programming as a literacy, provides logical reasons for these connections, points to several legal cases that demonstrate how programming functions like (and unlike) writing, and concludes by pointing to several ways the humanities can contribute to understandings of computer programming as part of the environment in which people now dwell and communicate.
Chapter 46. “Expressive Processing: Interpretation and Creation,” by Noah Wardrip-Fruin (open access)
Software Studies approaches use humanities and/or social science methods and engage the specific operations of particular software – for purposes ranging from understanding digital culture to the development of procedural literacy and the creation of novel software. “Expressive processing” names a particular software studies approach that focuses on the (perhaps unconscious) ideas, as well as intellectual and material histories, expressed through the design and operation of computational processes. Using this approach to examine existing works can reveal something quite different from what software authors state publicly, as this chapter outlines with Abelson and Carroll’s “Goldwater Machine.” This approach can also help guide the creation of new works, complementing techniques such as playtesting and arts critique, as this chapter outlines with the social simulation storytelling game, Prom Week. Through such work, we can not only better understand the computational media that shapes our society, but also develop perspectives that can help us understand software more generally and find ways to extend what it can express.
Chapter 47. “Building Interactive Stories,” by Anastasia Salter (open access)
Interactive stories sit at the intersection of many fields and forms, including games, comics, electronic literature, hypertext, and interactive fiction. An interactive story is any narrative-driven experience in which the reader becomes a user or player by becoming a participant in the work, usually through clicking, choosing, or exploring. This intersection has created many challenges in defining and recognizing interactive stories, as it often leads to grouping interactive stories that share particular platforms or technologies without recognizing the larger characteristics of a growing form. Building interactive stories requires considering narrative in terms of interaction and simulation, which can transform our relationship with a text and allow readers to explore choices and spaces. Open source platforms, including Twine and Inform 7, offer affordances and accessible methods for building procedural systems that take advantage of these structures for designing story-driven experiences.
Chapter 48. “Reading Culture through Code,” by Mark C. Marino (open access)
The analysis of source code is an emerging approach to interpreting digital texts. This chapter introduces the methodologies of Critical Code Studies (CCS), situates it within the landscape of media and technology studies, and models the interpretive practices through a few case studies to demonstrate how understanding source code can enrich readings of technoculture through electronic texts.
Chapter 49. “Critical Unmaking: Toward a Queer Computation,” by Jacob Gaboury (open access)
This essay explores the intersection of queer theory and critical practices in digital humanities, offering up a critique of our impulse toward productivity and making through an engagement with critical practices of unmaking. Engaging with queer discourses on the politics of failure alongside tactical and artistic practices in glitch studies, computer history, and critical code studies, the essay looks to model various modes of working with digital technologies to critique the ideological and technological assumptions that structure them. In acknowledging the challenge of making queer bodies, identities, and theories legible to digital media, the essay calls for further experimentation by scholars, artists, and students of digital humanities to think technology, sexuality, and identity together.
Chapter 50. “Making Things to Make Sense of Things: DIY as Research and Practice,” by Kat Jungnickel (open access)
This chapter is about making as research or, more specifically, making things to make sense of things. I draw on a mixed method project about the cycling boom of the late nineteenth century, gender relations, and radical feminist cultures of invention. The 1890s were a remarkable period of socio-technical change. Here, the history of Victorian women’s inventiveness is rendered visible in the form of design patents for new types of cycle wear, specifically “convertible” costumes that enabled the wearer to adapt street wear to cycle wear when required. As a tactic for making sense of the complexity of these designs, I collaborated with an interdisciplinary research team – pattern cutter, weaver, and artist – to sew a collection of convertible cycle wear inspired by these patents. Taking a DIY (Do-It-Yourself) ethic as both a central theme in the research and my practice, I discuss what emerges in this process of learning from doing, rendering public the mess, mistakes, and tangential happenings and how making and entangling through design histories surfaces new and different ways of exploring mobilities, gender relations, and inventive practice.
Chapter 51. “Environmental Sensing and ‘Media’ as Practice in the Making,” by Jennifer Gabrys (open access)
Environmental sensors are proliferating for a range of uses within the wider context of the Internet of Things. Sensors are also being taken up as low-cost digital technologies that allow citizens to monitor their environments, collect data, and report on events such as pollution. These emerging sets of practices, often termed “citizen sensing,” present new questions for how participation, sensing, and citizenship are understood and practiced within the context of digital media. Through a review of technologies, practices, and literature, this chapter outlines the newly developing area of citizen sensing and then discusses one research project, Citizen Sense, which undertakes a practice-based and participatory investigation into the possibilities and issues that arise with citizen sensing. Ultimately, the chapter suggests that citizen sensing presents new methods and approaches for understanding digital media in and through practice.
Chapter 52. “Approaching Design as Inquiry: Magic, Myth, and Metaphor in Digital Fabrication,” by Daniela Rosner (open access)
This chapter considers three projects of digital fabrication and the productivist and integrated approaches to design inquiry they set in motion. In reflecting on these cases and scholarship from media studies and digital humanities, I show how digital production becomes a means rather than an end, a mechanism by which researchers might mutually engage their sites of study. Using this integrated approach, I locate small-scale manufacturing prototypes in a wider historical context of “mimetic machinery”: machines for mechanical reproduction that draw their symbolic power from a material connection with the phenomena represented.