Skip to main content

I spend most of my time drinking tea, reading books, and making sweets.

I finally got my technical difficulties sorted out. Here is the link to my project's BuzzFeed quiz: https://www.buzzfeed.com/earlynovels/fact-or-fiction-2h203

Social Cataloging

3 min read

A lot of the Early Novels Database project feels like common data entry. We see the paratexts, learn the various data fields, and plug and chug from one record to the next. Except for the very first week on the job which was spent learning with our more experienced peers, the day to day protocols have little to do with social interactions. Looking at it this way, the act of cataloging itself seems like it should be a solitary experience. That couldn’t be more wrong. The END Project in its entirety revolves around the idea of access, shared knowledge, and communal interest. Every step of the novel documenting process we employ here expands the sphere of communications exponentially.

Let’s start from the very beginning: many of the novels we work with were once part of private libraries. Their original owners and maybe a couple of friends and acquaintances had the opportunity to handle them, and that’s it. From there the novels passed from hand to hand until eventually they ended up here in one our libraries’ collections. With this simple move, private becomes public. However, though thousands of curious people can get in to interact with the novels, this level of access is not enough because for the most part these lesser known texts are still hovering in dusty obscurity in dark shelving units.

Now END plays a more active role in the socializing of these novels. Why are we cataloging these things? Who really cares that Blah-Blah a Novel was written in 1863? The answer is we do. There is a reason we, the catalogers, sit in a single room together for nearly seven hours Monday through Friday when there are plenty of places (warmer places) we could spread out to. Instead of burying our heads completely in clicking keys and XML displays we ask questions, share amusing footnotes, and work together to puzzle out whether messily written inscriptions say “Bill” or “Belle.” This isn’t just for the sake of accuracy in the records, but for our own curiosity as well. There is something exciting about the act of discovery that compels us to share our finds, if for no other reason than one person finds it interesting and another might as well.

So far this is only one group of catalogers in one room, but the END has branched off to another school as well and is hoping to bring in even more. Now there is twice as much exposure for the novels as we swap back and forth with check-ins, discussions, and all manner of live interaction. We get to know each other in this digital humanities community. On top of that we are generating a discourse through our records.

By far the largest step cataloging takes into the social sphere—and the last step of our process—is digitizing various pages of the novel and throwing them up on to various social media platforms. Illustrations and titles that used to only be seen by a handful of people over the course of a lifetime have become available for literal millions to observe. It is quite common of the course of a cataloging day to hear someone casually mention tweeting one of their pictures or commenting verbally on another person’s withknown post. To put it simply, cataloging with this project is a highly social experience not just for the catalogers but for the novels as well.

Computer vs. Human

1 min read

Digital humanities is all about using techology to act in a way a human can't, and there is a huge amount of value in that. Things get tricky, however, when we try to translate literary data into quantifiable forms. It is tough to pin down the shifting of a genre to a specific pattern because of the issues of citation and interpretation. Perhaps I am getting off track, but I feel as though the combination of computer processing and human direction will greatly help the humanities field in regaurds to large scale analysis.

Project Proposal

1 min read

Here is the link to my blog with the project proposal as the most recent entry. https://balphonsoendblog.wordpress.com/blog/

Recipe for French Dressing

1 min read

It is strange how digitization takes the smallest of off hand notes and makes them available to the world. It is a matter of access, documentation, and personal history. On the Art of Google Books tumbler, there was a little hand written note for a recipe for french dressing. I have no idea who wrote it or when, but somehow I was able to find something so small that it was nearly lost to time. That's really cool in my mind!

Website

1 min read

I found creating a website surprisingly easy. Not that it was entirely simple, but I expected it to be a bit harder. The video blog we were given was exceedingly helpful, and I found it kind of fun to go into the code and try to emulate the things I saw him doing. Here is a link to my website: http://balphonso.com

Claims to truth

1 min read

Many titles claim to be true histories or eye-witness accounts, and the premise of the text as a whole is that the events it describes really happened. We assume, despite the claims, that the novels are fiction, but how far do the authors take the 'truth' of their novels and why? Is the paratext (footnotes, author's notes, publisher/editor notes, contributor's lists) true, or does it exist within the narrative? Based on where the texts were published, when, by whom, and for whom I want to see if there is a pattern relating to why the false-truth genre appears so frequently. Some possible hypotheses (based on absolutely zero evidence) are that claims of truth give texts legitimacy that allows them to sell better, that there is a particular genre (love-stories, adventure, travel...etc.) in which false-truth is an often seen trope, or that the claims are made to disguise the author (such as a false gender claim).