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Hi, I'm a pick-up artist?

2 min read

The Forums for Lost Innocence presentation (see Nora Batelle's detailed blog summary) made me wonder about the connection between web prestige and extra-web social norms. Being perceived as an expert is, Wallace noted, of paramount importance for something as subjective as pick-up artistry. Wallace shared data visualizations that track, in various ways, the influence or popularity of several leaders on seduction forums. They seemed to mostly have pseudonymous usernames, although clearly some of these men (like those who have published books and appeared on TV or at live events) lose or do not seek that anonymity. Wallace also talked about social networking as happening through the pick-up practice: paraphrasing, he said something to the effect of, 'The men on the seduction forums complete social and capital transactions with each other through the bodies of women.' That was a powerful thought. It hearkens back to this Mad Men 1950s image of men making deals and networking on golf courses and smoking cigars--except over women, instead of firms. But I wonder how it's different? For instance, how much of this transaction thrives on relative secrecy? Can or do men talk about their participation in the forums with their families--siblings, parents? With coworkers? With women they may end up dating? Considering a practice so dependent on real world implementation or embodiment of ideas propagated through a digital forum, I am left wondering about the line of separation between digital and unplugged social lives.

Reflections on Friday's Showcase Presentations at the Keystone Digital Humanities Conference

10 min read

The Keystone DH Conference has ended, but I want to take some time and line space to share reflections on the projects I heard about during Friday’s lightning round showcase. Broken up by presentation, these are some highlights that expanded my understanding of DH, and that I will take with me for my future work as both a humanities researcher and student.

*Talk title: Bliss-Tyler Correspondence Project: Bliss-Tyler Correspondence Presenters: Lain Wilson, Sara Taylor, and James Carder

The Bliss-Tyler Correspondence presentation emphasized the need for indexing and keyword searching not only of records, but of object transcriptions. This is clearly important for connecting the online materials to the researcher: it is like creating digital data pathways that mirror though associations and disciplinary networks. Wilson noted something towards the end of the presentation that I had not considered before: for Bliss-Tyler, he said, this project was valuable as a way of creating a working organizational blueprint for future projects, for instance, their digitization of the Dumbarton Oaks Byzantine art collection. It is very meta to think about the data pathways created for one project as the base layer of organizational pathways for future DH work. The Keystone DH Conference itself provides this opportunity: building up and off of work previously completed.

*Talk title: Early Modern Manuscripts Online (EMMO), Folger Shakespeare Library Project: Early Modern Manuscripts Online Presenter: Paul Dingman

While transcription was a component of many exhibitions mentioned in the showcase talks, they are especially vital for EMMO. Dingman explained that many manuscript archives are limited in audience because they do not provide transcription; without those, the handwritten print of manuscripts is often illegible to people who are not specialists in medieval and early modern studies. Transcription itself is a multi-step and multi-person process, as what looks like an s to one could be an f to another: programs that overlay different transcriptions and highlight trouble words allow an archivist to refine and vet with greater ease the transcriptions that appear on EMMO’s site. Dingman also pointed out the potential for Zooniverse crowdsourcing for transcriptions, as a fun and educational way to engage the public with early modern paleography.

*Talk title: Black Liberation 1969: A Case Study in Risky DH and Activist Histories Project: Black Liberation 1969 Archive Presenter: Nabil Kashyap

Black Liberation 1969 was an undergraduate course that also grew into an online archive, focused on reexamining and revising the historical narrative surrounding the black liberation movement and its intersectionality with higher education, in the year of 1969 at Swarthmore College. The course and archive are examples of digital humanities that involve the intentional redefinition of memory: collecting oral histories from students who lived through that time, putting current Swarthmore students in discussion about ethics, college history, and community with those 1969 students-now-alumni, and adding to the record future community members will have to tell the story of race and identity at Swarthmore. Kashyap stated that one of the strengths of an online and real life project like this is that it “resists teleology.” This statement stuck with me because it supports the idea that intentionality in the ethics of archiving, a sort of up-front statement of desire to change a dominant view about the past, does not mean creating a static, predetermined conclusion to the question of the historical record. It means setting forth with a keen eye and a compass of values, working toward and through someplace different than where we’ve already been mired.

*Talk title: The New Schoenberg Database of Manuscripts Project Project: The Schoenberg Database of Manuscripts (SDBM) Presenters: Lynn Ransom and Jeff Chiu

SDBM provides free access to detailed metadata and digital images of pre-17th century manuscripts, established through the collaboration of many academic and archival institutions’ collections. Ransom’s talk point out that however rich SDBM’s data is, and digital humanities collections can be in general, if data is not structured to allow flexibility, growth, and user agency, it is wasted. SDBM is now working to implement a new data model allowing users to explore, group, and adapt their collection with greater ease. This talk reminded me of the importance of the frameworks supporting the data on which digital humanities relies and that, although it may not be visible to the average user, its effects certainly are.

*Talk title: Developing the Elements of "Learning As Play:" an Interactive Digital Project Project: Learning as Play Presenters: Sandra Stelts, Linda Friend and Carlos Rosas

One of the questions we regularly encounter cataloging with END revolves around standardization of terms: when trying to describe a bizarre typographical oddity in Tristram Shandy, we consider not only how to best fit what we see in print, but also how to stay in conversation with work being done outside of END, and so keep our records locatable and usable. It surprised me, but it makes perfect sense that one of the first steps Stelts, Friend, and Rosas took in their project was coming up with a descriptive, controlled term for the objects of their project: metamorphic picture books.They wanted to start to grow scholarship on the metamorphic books of a thousand names by codifying some of their metadata, putting together a central digital collection, and ensuring that the magic of these books-- that they change as you put up or pull down a flap-- remained. So they collaborated with students in Rosas’s computer science and design class to digitize and animate some of these books. They also work with elementary school classes, to incorporate the creation of simpler paper metamorphic books into a lesson plan. The layers of engagement the project enabled--among archivists, academic researchers, professors, elementary school educators and students--seems to echo the interactive and transformative nature of the metamorphic books themselves.

*Talk title: The InstaEssay Archive Project: The InstaEssay Archive Presenter: Jonathan Fitzgerald

Fitzgerald’s archive is dedicated to the collection and analysis of InstaEssays: a new genre of instagram photos that are accompanied by long (for Instagram) captions, maxing out at 2,200 characters. The caption and photo work together to tell a brief, concentrated (often self) narrative. Fitzgerald spoke about the difficulty in capturing these InstaEssays: how to find them all (there is no cataloging standard equivalent for Instagram users’ tags) and then how to store them (their original posters may delete or edit them long after they have been archived, rendering them essentially different objects than they were at the outset of the archiving). The project provides a lens into the difficulty of making the digital ephemeral permanent, especially when the object of archiving is, paradoxically, a permanizing record in of itself (a photo as a moment caught) and an object that is not an object, that exists nowhere outside of the digital plane. I consider this conundrum frequently when archiving and digitizing physical collections (of books, of stereographs): are we really preserving or are we just creating--adding new reams of things in need of taxonomizing and saving.

*Talk title: Crowdsourcing In Theory and Practice: Lessons from The Boston Bombing Digital Archive Project: Our Marathon Presenters: Jim McGrath and Alicia Peaker

Our Marathon was a response to the 2013 Boston Bombing: a story sharing project to record and collect the experiences of people from diverse communities, with distinct connections to the impact of the bombing (medical responders, runners, crowd members, people from the neighborhoods under lockdown following the bombing) and create a sense of public, organic, and yet preservable memorial. McGrath and Peaker pointed to their collaboration with local oral historians and librarians in their communities’ public libraries as one of the keys to their success. They also spoke about the need to provide the tools (ie: laptops, recorders) and the environment (space in the libraries, special events where people could gather to record their narratives, adding a real-time dimension to the storytelling) that would give access to a wider group of people. I was struck by the sense that Our Marathon is so successful because it started as a community project and developed through existing community networks and resources. So often there is a panicked moment at the end of DH projects when we wonder, “Now that we have this, who’s going to use it?” Or, perhaps even more common, “How do we make this accessible and relevant to people outside of our small cluster of scholars?” Instead of treating the questions of audience and community involvement as afterthoughts, Our Marathon seems to have made them an integral part of the whole process of their project, to positive effect.

*Talk title: "Why Should I Care?" - Students and Online Primary Sources Project: Doctor or Doctress? Presenter: Matt Herbison and Margaret Graham

Doctor or Doctress? stood out as a project with a particularly clear desired outcome: students honing their primary source analysis skills through engagement with the history of women doctors. To facilitate this, the site includes basic questions about the content of each digitized primary source (the granular component), and then broader thematic questions linking together the various materials (the big concept component). This gamut of questions was additionally intended to increase the mediation between student and material (preventing the materials from seeming overwhelming), while maintaining the ability of the students to explore the site as an independent learner. Audio transcriptions of written sources were created by a group of high schoolers, adding to the interactivity of the website and allowing students to hear their peers narrating the historical documents. Doctor or doctoress? made me reconsider the possibilities for form to follow function in the digital humanities. Having attended Linda Rosner’s talk on Thursday morning about the development of a game set in 18th century Edinburgh, meant to teach students about the history of medicine, I wonder kinds of conclusions students reach from the sort of engagement with primary sources they have through Doctor or Doctoress? versus those through the game (Pox and the City). It seems like the two would be a very fruitful curricular pairing.

*Talk title: Multicultural, Bilingual, and Interactive Arabic and Hebrew Digital Edutainment: A Digital Project at University of Pennsylvania Project: Multicultural, Bilingual, and Interactive Arabic and Hebrew Digital Edutainment Presenter: Abeer Aloush

My art and architecture instructor in Granada, Spain invited a calligrapher to our class one day and we practiced writing different Arabic letters with ink. They were beautiful but inscrutable and I had trouble remembering the letters let alone how to pronounce them. Aloush’s project seeks to “humanize” two languages, Arabic and Hebrew, which often prove difficult for native English or Romance language speakers to gain a foothold into. By combining animation and audio in games with visual markers of progress, the immersive site allows a user to play their way to an understanding of the link between the written alphabets, the sounds they signify, and the words they compose. Most exciting was Aloush’s emphasis on relationality: the machine/program in relationship with the learner/player in relationship with the languages, and Hebrew and Arabic in relationship with each other. It seems to be a digital space for pluralism and, as Aloush put it, linguistic and cultural “inter-dialogue.”

There's proof

4 min read

"I haven't seen that since ninth grade math," Molly noted when I pointed out the Q.E.D. As we browsed through The Oxford World's Classics edition of Tristram , the tiny oddity among many larger (literally--the famed full pages of black, of marbled paper) had popped out at me. Q.E.D.

Perhaps I have extra sensitivity to symbols which bring back high school geometry (the most positive outcome of which had been I knew with certainty I was going to be a humanities major in college), or its all-caps type setting drew my eye.

The Q.E.D. concludes the senior Mr. Shandy's philosophizing about the location of the soul:

"Now, from the best accounts he had been able to get of this matter, he was satisfied it could not be where Des Cartes had fixed it, upon the top of the pineal gland of the brain; which, as he philosophized, formed a cushion for her about the size of a marrow pea; tho' to speak the truth, as so many nerves did terminate all in that one place,—'twas no bad conjecture;—and my father had certainly fallen with that great philosopher plumb into the centre of the mistake, had it not been for my uncle Toby, who rescued him out of it, by a story he told him of a Walloon officer at the battle of Landen, who had one part of his brain shot away by a musket-ball,—and another part of it taken out after by a French surgeon; and after all, recovered, and did his duty very well without it.

"If death, said my father, reasoning with himself, is nothing but the separation of the soul from the body;—and if it is true that people can walk about and do their business without brains,—then certes the soul does not inhabit there. Q.E.D."

The force of that Q.E.D. leave you breathless. With a resounding bang of thought associations--math, reason, logic, proofs, proved--it hammers closed the case of the soul. It makes you pause, to catch up to the progression of thoughts leading to such conclusiveness. It is logos, given form in print. And when you finally say, okay, Shandy, continue narrating, you laugh. Because Q.E.D. does not conclude the matter for Sterne. He goes on about soul locations, in a maundering way, till the end of the chapter. The tangible force of that Q.E.D. is overridden--it does not have the last word, and, indeed, one wonders how a last word could really even be located in Tristram Shandy.

Through this Q.E.D., Sterne seems to be underlining the tensions among philosophy, lived religious experience, and embodiment. Yes, the Walloon officer anecdote is funny, even absurd. But that story and Sterne's trick with the Q.E.D. probe the possibilities and limitations of empirical approaches (like observation of medical phenomena) to questions as thorny as the materiality of the soul and the essence of humanity. How does one define humanity, in the face of bodily loss? What does it mean for the invisible to be locatable, categorizable? How can one reason and prove that which is fundamentally uncertain? What is the power of naming, of giving form? The Q.E.D. is almost like a stand-in for the soul-filled person Shandy's father considers. And its inability to complete the operation--the closing of a case--which constitutes its being asks us, as readers, how we define our own being and significance.

-*Quoted text from Gutenberg's 2008 digitized, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman.

How much do we have?

1 min read

One of my project queries is, what percentage of our catalog records (and by approximate extension, our 18th cent. texts) contain the words, "the reader"?

Beth has been helping me calculate that number from the spreadsheets we already have (data conversion 2015 and through 2013). But I'm wondering what fraction of records that END has culled over the years, total, as potentially part of the novel genre, such a number represents? of franklin records that represents? Or thoughts about how to find out those comparative numbers? I just hope to get a better idea about the significance of the data I'm using.

The reader's place in the narrative world

3 min read

This project will probe the way 18th century novels negotiate fictionality and reality in the construction of a narrative world. This is a massive topic. To begin to engage it, I will proceed to a smaller issue: the relationship that emerges between the reader and the authoritative voice(s) (the editor, the author, the translator) of a text when that text directly addresses the reader. Most fundamentally, an explicit invocation of the reader establishes both the division and the connection between the realm of the novel and the life beyond the print.

In conjunction with research into scholarship previously published on the novel as fiction and the novel as object with an audience, I will gather data from END’s catalog records. This will allow me to consider not only novels fully explored in standard histories of the rise of the novel (Pamela, Tristram Shandy, Robinson Crusoe, etc), but more obscure works. I will pull from the 500 field (wildcard notes on the significant features and anomalies of a work), 520 field (paratext information, including transcriptions of content and headings), and 592 field (notation of narrative form) to gain a qualitative and quantitative understanding of the way novels explicitly acknowledge the reader. Compiling statistics from our field data, I hope to answer the following questions: What percentage of our texts contain explicit references to the reader? Is there a strong correlation between narrative form and likelihood of an address of the reader? And are works with paratextual reflections on the narrative (an editor’s note, a dedication, a preface) more likely to contain references to the reader?

My ability to answer these questions will be limited and skewed, in some senses, by what catalogers have noticed and chosen to record about these works. To compliment this large-scale data analysis, then, I will turn towards a smaller sample of novels, ones whose full texts are already digitally available, and run them through a topic modeling program. Topic modeling clusters words that tend to appear near to one another in a text. In the context of this project, topic modeling provides a visualization of what is happening , narratively, when the words “the reader” occur. Are words like virtue, lady, edition, history, true, or fact clustered with “the reader”? From this data, I will be able to determine some of the discourses that materialize around the reader as acknowledged audience.

I also aim to expand access to texts, for future projects like this. One of the great joys of working with END is encountering the philosophical musings and humorous protestations surrounding 18th century novels’ invocations of the reader. I will create images and text transcriptions of paratexts that I have been struck by in my cataloging work, because of their especially intriguing usage of “the reader.”

Last, I will create an online exhibition of this project. This ultimate part of my plan may be more extensive than is immediately accomplishable during the time I am with END. With that in mind, I will be writing about the process of the project and sharing some of the results of my investigation on the END blog as I go.

The Novel's Individual and Other--questions about race and subjectivity in the early modern period

2 min read

During yesterday's discussion on Gallagher's "The Rise of Fictionality," we considered how the novel fosters the development of the subjectivity of the individual. We attempted to describe the defining features of 18th century modernity and decided that one of the most essential characteristics of that modernity was the idea that the individual determines reality. Metaphysical and existential agency as relates to consumption (producing and using goods with no basic material function), to scientific discovery (man can sensorily and logically ferret out the mechanics of the natural world), to social status (greater class mobility, the responsibility for one's own prosperity), to governance (the expansion of suffrage)...And to the novel which (as Gallagher describes) gives primacy to the individual through its constitution of the individual not just as a general symbol of a real, external society, but as a meaningful microcosm in its own particularities.

But all of this elaboration of the individual we think was happening in modernity and in the novel is dependent on a narrowing of who can count as an individual. In our discussion, we located the novel as a type of fiction that is less concerned with the aristocrat and more with the middle class--something typically viewed as positive. And we talked about how even people socially considered less than virtuous--like Moll Flanders--could become heroes in the novel. But we know the early modern period was also a time of racism in many forms, including colonialism and slavery. I have been wondering if the subjectivity of the individual so championed by the novel is not intricately linked to the dehumanization and homogenization of people based on their race. If, as the novel introduces the possibility of accessing the thoughts and daily lives of various character-people, and in so doing, supports the emergence of the individual, it also, simultaneously, as those character-people, of whatever class and background, are still typically white, also inscribes individuality with whiteness and whiteness with individuality? That might be a leap. But I think we cannot consider the Enlightenment, the novel, and the development of the individual as divorced from an insidious idea of the Other.

Preliminaries for the preface project

3 min read

Data Collection

-search 500 field for term “reader”

-search 520 $x for preface transcription that includes “reader”; search 520 $a for “To the Reader”

-search 520 $a for Table of contents

-search 599 $2 for “reader” in transcription author claim could i just search entire MARC record for “reader” at once?

-once i have the smaller sample of novels i want to use (ie: one sample large enough to include data visualization and one smaller sample for highlighting individual novels exhibit style) i could look up the novels themselves, to see what scholarship has been produced about them

-whatever novels come up in my field searches, i would want to look at. i think simply going from the catalog records won’t give me a clear enough picture of how the “reader” is being addressed. so a big step would be paging and then examining the books -photographing pages where addresses to the “reader” occur is another step. it will be helpful for putting together the exhibit and making sure anyway else who sees the project can get in on the conversation, and not just be forced to take my word for the conclusions

Some Questions Project Could Address

-whose voice is addressing the reader? -how does addressing the reader, in turn, enable the emergence of an authorial, editorial, or narrative voice? -what kind of things are being said to the reader? (apology, warning, flattery?) -how does talking to the reality relate to novel’s self-categorization, as fiction/reality/truth etc?

Some novels I’ve come across already

-Mr. Cleveland -Launcelot Greeves -Don Antonio de Trezzanio -Dialogues of the Dead -Tales of the Genii

Other Thoughts

I may want to look into Pamela, Robinson Crusoe, Clarissa, Tristram Shandy for comparison sake and because there is a lot of scholarship on them. But for that same reason, I plan on excluding them from the project. Or, at least, I definitely won’t include them in the smaller sample of books I highlight in the exhibit.

Scholarly Research

-“Fielding’s Novel about Novels” -“Revisions of the Published Texts of...Preface to Clarissa” -“...Gendered Paratexts” -“The Exegis and the Gentle Reader/Writer -“Retelling Moll Flander’s Story” -“Prefatory Fictions” [less about novels] “The Romantic Era Literary Preface” -“In the Space between History and Fiction” -Robert Boyle and the Epistemology of the Novel -Prefacing Fictions

The Nobles, the circulating library, and debauchery

1 min read

I was looking up two 'printed for' folks and one of their publications in WorldCat came up with this description:

"A defence of 'The way to lose him' and 'The way to please him', both published in November 1772 by the Nobles, against the reviewer of both books in the London Magazine and his comment (in the review): 'written solely for the use of the circulating library, and very proper to debauch all young women who are still undebauched.'"


Project I'd like to do

1 min read

Look at 989 $4 Proper place in title + 260 date publication.

With this data, create a map of how places evolve over time as fictional subjects. It could be an interactive map that allows you to shift through the years (ie: each year in the 1760s), to see what kind of world is established by the fiction published that year. This map would allow people to see how places mentioned in fiction titles in the 1760s map on to our current perceptions of geography (ie: what is place is now where Babylon and the East Indies were?). You could use different colors to show frequency of title mention in relation to a specific place (so you could visualize most popular city, country, region for fictional book settings). You would want a zoom function to show overlap (ie: maybe one novel is set specifically in Gloucester and another set generally in England). And you may have to address places that are mythological and not quite locatable as a specific coordinate on map--maybe you could make a different color or texture coordinate that could cover wide areas (ie: somewhere in what is contemporary Greece) and indicate its mythical status.

Thoughts on potential metadata projects

1 min read

596: translation claim where are sources claimed to be from + 260: where it is published + 041 : language of text and language of the original text (how often is a work originating in the place it is published? how often is the claim about place/language of origination true?)

246 length of running title vs. full title

591 epigraph lang/trans + 260 date public (how does popularity of epigraph language--ie) latin versus english--shift over time)

989 $4 Proper place in title + 260 date publ (map of how places evolve over time as fictional subjects)

594 inscription gender of inscription

989 $5 Proper names--gender and class (ie: trad. woman’s name, man’s name, lord, lady, etc--and are female or male characters more likely to be introduced with a title)

Preface to the Prefaces

2 min read

Prefaces to two of the works I cataloged, The life of Mr. Cleveland and Dialogues of the Dead, directly address the relationships among education, entertainment, reality, fiction, and truth. I hope to write more about these prefaces and their contexts later, in an extended blog. For now, I’ll lay out some of the questions these prefaces have set buzzing around my understanding of novels’ self-reflexivity:

  1. Are the prefaces just conventions? For your average 1760s author/editor/translator/fortuitous locator of long lost manuscript, is it a formal and perfunctory gesture to note and excuse the fact that a work is not entirely, literally factual? Or are these prefatory statements avant-gard, heralding in a new age of fiction as acceptable literature?

  2. Does the reader actually care? These prefaces are addressed to the reader and I wonder if, again, that is a convention, or the creators of the works are concerned that their readers will be offended by the fictional nature of the narratives.

  3. What is the face of critical reception at the time these works were published? Is it parsons giving sermons to their congregations and derailing (or praising) a work because of x, is it newspaper articles, is it university faculty assigning works? Who is even determining what a ‘good’ book, history, story, etc is and how a work gets categorized? Were works of fiction confused for works of nonfiction (assuming you can even delineate such things) and people were later outraged to find out they had been ‘tricked’? Did that spark preface declarations of fictionality?

  4. Did people then really read prefaces? I wonder if we can find marginalia indicating that previous readers did in fact pay attention to the front matter and if we could even aggregate the data about marginalia to determine if there was a general pattern (i.e.; people who scribbled notes in their books generally did so to correct typos) or if there was a ton of individuality in reading habits and no conclusion can be drawn responsibly.

Cleveland Family Website

1 min read

When researching The life and entertaining adventures of Mr. Cleveland, I came across a homespun website dedicated to tracing the genealogy of the Cleveland family. They were disappointed to realize there was probably no real link between them and Oliver's 'natural son,' but created a synopsis of each of the volumes in a 1735 edition nonetheless.