Skip to main content

Conference reflection

3 min read

This DH conference was the first conference I have ever had the chance to attend. I ended up going to three talks in total: Lauren Klein's keystone, an introduction to Scalar, and a talk on temporality.

Lauren Klein's framing of cataloguing and digital humanities as "carework" was not only enlightening, but also relatively reassuring. I sometimes worry about whether or not the data that we are encoding this summer will ever be used and whether our efforts will be important to the later field of research. Her characterization of "carework" as invisible work was something that I identified with and wanted to hear more about. How can invisible work be brought into the light, especially in cases that are difficult to quantify? There are so many social inequities in the recording of history; there is no guarantee that everyone's work is documented. There is no guarantee that credit will be given where credit is due. I only wish that Dr. Klein had elaborated more on what methods or mindsets we can take to bring carework into view. "Not doing or creating, but opening paths for future knowledge" is a beautiful sentiment, but is it a mindset that needs to gradually infiltrate academic circles? I want to know how we can actively, rather than passively, apply it to research.

The introduction to Scalar was an effective workshop! While I cannot make beautiful Scalar presentations yet, I can now definitely make workable Scalar presentations. I think that this is indeed the presentation platform I am going to use in the final stages of my project, since multi-media essay is close to what I am aiming for. The workshop itself was very direct and clear; I also appreciated that time was taken to explain the adminstrative functions of Scalar. Overall, it was a fruitful workshop.

The talk on temporality also gave me a lot of things to consider. The section I was most interested in was the last "fuzzy dates" talk. The concept of "precision of duration" was wild. How can such wildly disparate durations of dates refer to the same state? Of course, like was brought up, losing context is unavoidable in that case. The only quibble I have with this talk is that I seem unable grasp its importance in humanities research. Usually all that is necessary is to have a date (e.g. 1791) that denotes a publication year, or other such dates of genesis or destruction. I think ultimately, this talk seems like a really cool and perhaps introspective, philosophical discussion on how to discuss "when."

Project write-up

2 min read

This week I have been continuing to work my way through the secondary sources that I already have. Raven's "The book as a commodity" has been incredibly helpful when it comes to placing the novel in the market as a luxury good, as well as elaborating on the advertising techniques used by publishers in order to promote the sale of books to the gentry and middling classes and as an effective analysis of the bookselling industry altogether. The possession of books as not only material wealth but as a sign of status is an interesting point to consider. The first two chapters of Berg's "Luxury and Pleasure in 18th Century Britain" give some concrete information about the income strata that differentiates the gentry and middling classes. Berg also brings up some fascinating points about advertising itself becoming an object of consumption (i.e. the collectible nature of trade cards). I have also called books through Aeon, though I have not had a chance to retrieve them yet and will thus do so next week. I think my next steps are, concretely, to retrieve the books on my list to take pictures of the advertisements that I am interested in and, less concretely, to look for more secondary sources. I don't think that the sources I have now are discussing exactly what I need. I'd like to find more sources that talk about in-book advertisements, ideally. As for presentation, I think I would like to use Scalar as the preferred method. The workshop from the conference was enlightening.

To-Do 7/10/17

1 min read

-take notes on secondary sources to compile organized outline for background

-request more books on my list

-take pictures of books' ads

-take another look at full END dataset for anything noteworthy that may not be coded according to current regulated keywords

-look into html coding for wordpress for how to embed images as heading and side banners

-how does Scalar and Omeka work?? see tutorials on Slack and otherwise

Final Proposal

4 min read

The 18th century saw the rise of the novel and with it, the rise of a new market. Novel readership was often determined by social class and the financial means of a family; literacy itself already was a relatively reliable litmus test for one’s value as a participant in consumer culture. If someone was well off enough to afford novels, it was likely that they would be well off enough to buy other consumer products as well. The content of the publisher advertisements included in the back matter of 18th century novels led me to question whether publishers transpose their assumptions about the audience into their advertising choices. What does being a consumer of novels mean for general consumerism?

The goal of my project is to study how novels and being a novel reader in the 18th century play into the consumer culture of the time. Although it would be interesting to see if the place of the novel as a material object holds true internationally, I will be limiting the scope of my research to Britain as most published works are centered there geographically pre-1800s. Because I am interested in the novel reader’s relationship with consumer culture, I am specifically looking at publisher advertisements that hawk products other than additional novels and texts. Due to constraints within the END dataset, it will not be possible to draw wide-ranging conclusions about the data. For this reason, I will be using case studies to highlight the nuances within these advertising choices that are most salient to the questions am I trying to answer.

There are several stages that I will be implementing in order to complete this project. The first is to pull all the advertisement related data from the END database to create a tabular dataset. I will be specifically looking at category 656 (“Publishers’ advertisements”), field $a for “Miscellaneous” advertisements. However, since that controlled term has only been implemented recently, I will also be looking at field $x for the transcriptions or descriptions of the advertisement content. Category 989, field $7 would also provide some information about the objects represented in these novels.

The second stage is to build a foundation of secondary sources to draw upon when I am studying the advertisements. I will be mainly considering The Oxford Handbook of the History of Consumption and The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain for my construction of a profile of the average 18th century consumer and for the types of items consumers spend their money on. Raven’s The Book as a Commodity, Blackwell’s The Secret Life of Things, and Brown’s thing theory will help me formulate an argument of how people think about the novel as an object and how consumer space is negotiated around it. These two prongs will combine to articulate what being a consumer of the novel means for general consumerism. Additionally, it might be helpful to look into the bookshop as a space of commerce. Many of the objects advertised in the advertisements I have looked at so far could have been easily sold in a bookshop alongside the books. This frame would be another method to contextualize the consumer culture that surrounds novels, as both objects and facilitators of additional commerce.

The third is to start requesting books to look at their advertisements firsthand. The books called will be from the second, consolidated spreadsheet. I will be taking pictures and notes on the content. I think I may also note the content of the novel itself and the publisher or bookseller. Afterward, I will present this information in either Scalar or Omeka; the ideal presentation is an intuitive and visual representation of the information. I also want to consider if analogies both conceptual and visual can be drawn to Google AdSense ads from my study of 18th century advertisements; both involve targeted marketing of consumers’ wants and needs tailored to a specific environment—the website and the bookshop, respectively. It would be interesting to see if the type of marketing strategies and advertisement prediction algorithms prevalent in Google AdSense could have been similarly used by booksellers and publishers in order to best anticipate what novel consumers want or need.

outline

2 min read

• Question

o What does consumption of novels imply for general consumerism?

• Tentative Argument (based on initial observations)

o Buying novel implies baseline personal wealth, determining one’s consumer profile

o Aka what else can you buy if you can afford novels

• Object of study and scope

o Publisher advertisements from novels published in 18th century that advertise objects that are not other novels

• Method

o Close reading of ads from category 656 and of category 989 field $7

• Theoretical framework

o I’ll be looking into Weatherill’s Consumer Behavior and Material Culture in Britain for my construction of a profile of the average 18th century consumer and also for what consumers would usually buy. Park’s The Self and It: Novel Objects, Blackwell’s The Secret Life of Things, and Brown’s thing theory will help me formulate an argument of how people think about the novel as an object and how consumer space is negotiated around it. These two prongs will combine to articulate what being a consumer of the novel means for general consumerism. Additionally, it might be helpful to look into the bookshop as a space of commerce.

• Stakes

o How can this kind of advertising develop into the modern data-mined ads of today (from companies like Google)? The negotiation of novel as text and as object

Draft Proposal

3 min read

The 18th century saw the rise of the novel and with it, the rise of a new market. Novel readership was often determined by social class and the financial means of a family; literacy itself already was a relatively reliable litmus test for one’s value as a participant in consumer culture. If someone was well off enough to afford novels, it was likely that they would be well off enough to buy other consumer products as well. The content of the publisher advertisements included in the back matter of 18th century novels led me to question whether publishers transpose their assumptions about the audience into their advertising choices. What does being a consumer of novels mean for general consumerism?

The goal of my project is to study how novels and being a novel reader in the 18th century play into the consumer culture of the time. Although it would be interesting to see if the place of the novel as a material object holds true internationally, I will be limiting the scope of my research to Britain as most published works are centered there geographically pre-1800s. Because I am interested in the novel reader’s relationship with consumer culture, I am specifically looking at publisher advertisements that hawk products other than additional novels and texts. Due to constraints within the END dataset, it will not be possible to draw wide-ranging conclusions about the data. For this reason, I will be using case studies to highlight the nuances within these advertising choices that are most salient to the questions am I trying to answer.

There are several stages that I will be implementing in order to complete this project. The first is to pull all the advertisement related data from the END database to create a spreadsheet in Excel. I will be specifically looking at category 656 (“Publishers’ advertisements”), field $a for “Miscellaneous” advertisements. However, since that controlled term has only been implemented recently, I will also be looking at field $x for the transcriptions or descriptions of the advertisement content. This information will be copied to another spreadsheet to consolidate it all in one place. Category 989, field $7 would also provide some information about the theoretical objects in these novels.

The second stage is to build a foundation of secondary sources to draw upon when I am studying the advertisements. For consumer culture and commodity in the 18th century, I will be reading Luxury and Pleasure in Eighteenth Century Britain (Maxine Berg), Consuming Subjects: British Women and Consumer Culture in the Eighteenth Century (Elizabeth Kowalski-Wallace), and Consumer Behavior and Material Culture in Britain 1660-1760 (Lorna Weatherill). I think I will also be reading The Oxford Handbook of the History of Consumption. For the novel as a consumer object, I will be reading The Self and It: Novel Objects in Eighteenth-Century England (Julie Park), The Secret Life of Things (Mark Blackwell), as well as looking into Bill Brown’s thing theory.

The third is to start requesting books to look at their advertisements firsthand. The books called will be from the second, consolidated spreadsheet. I will be taking pictures and notes on the content. I think I may also note the content of the novel itself and the publisher or bookseller. Afterward, I will present this information in either Scalar or Omeka; the ideal presentation is an intuitive and visual representation of the information.

Project Proposal II: Carolyn

2 min read

A time in which social class and financial means often determined literacy creates interesting implications about the place of novel readers in consumer culture and the novel as a material object. I will be exploring the paratextual advertisements—specifically those advertisements that market goods other than books, marked as “Miscellaneous” in the 656 datafield of the XML files—included in 18th century novels published in Britain (given that the American publishing market does not pick up until the 19th century). What does being a consumer of novels mean for general consumerism? Do publishers transpose their assumptions about the audience into their advertising choices? I will be constructing a profile of the average 18th century reader to frame these questions.

Due to constraints within the END dataset that I will be using, a large-scale data analysis will not have high internal validity. It would not be feasible to draw any conclusions about the data, especially considering the small sample size. Instead, case studies will highlight the nuances within these advertising choices that are most salient to the questions am I trying to answer. Currently, I am building a foundation of secondary sources in order to construct a profile of the average 18th century reader and to dig more into the consumer culture of the time.

Project Proposal

2 min read

(typing this for the second time because known doesn't like me ;;)

While cataloging over the last few days, what really caught my eye were the advertisements innocuously hiding in the backs of the novels. Specifically, the advertisements that were unrelated to the publisher or the printer hawking other works that had passed through their hands and that instead were trying to sell other things were fascinating. Businesses must have been assuming certain characteristics about the readership of that particular novel, in order to effectively market products that would fulfill the average reader's everyday wants and needs. Could there be a correlation between a novel (and its assumed audience) and the type of ads included? I am interested in answering this sort of question.

I am, however, not entirely certain what methodology I want to use, since different methods will present different facets of the same question. As I am looking to analyze customer data (which I have been told END has compiled), perhaps Google Fusion could be helpful. The network graphs would provide a simple and clear visual representation. I am still holding on to a flame of hope that I could spin this project with a creative (artsy?) slant, but I suppose that depends largely on time constraints and viability.