Category Archive: Abstracts: Papers

Jul 21

Materiality and Meaning in Digital Poetics

Representing Knowledge in the Digital Humanities (Saturday, September 24, 2011)
Conference Schedule

Buchsbaum, Julianne. Humanities Librarian, University of Kansas

Title: Materiality and Meaning in Digital Poetics

Abstract: Poetry is highly self-reflexive, even hyperverbal, in its construction. Poets pay a great deal of attention to the formal properties of language—its textures, rhythms, graphical representation, materiality (the way words sound, the “mouthfeel” of words), down to the level of the actual syllable and phoneme—all of these nonsemantic aspects of linguistic signs (the aesthetic forms they take) inform a poem’s construction and its process of meaning-making. Therefore, a poem is always, in a sense, revealing, disclosing, or calling attention to its constructedness. Some poems try to veil their constructedness, by being “transparent,” but modernist and postmodernist works tend to be more self-conscious in calling attention to their writtenness as verbal constructs. Therefore, poetry, as a practice, is helpful for understanding the ways writing and meaning-making change in a digital medium. What does it mean to “write” in a digital medium? When the tools of one’s medium are constrained and/or liberated by bits and bytes, zeroes and ones, by the plasticity and multispatiality of cyperspace? “Materiality” is a term that has been used to write about digital texts since the 1990s by at least a few critics of new media. What exactly, though, is meant by the “materiality” of new computer media? How can digital poems even be said to be “material” at all, as opposed to analog, print-based works?

One might claim that the elements of cyberspace actually enter into and inform the production and reception of digital texts, that they change the very nature of those texts. Are the seemingly behind-the-scenes codes and web addresses of a page on which a digital poem is published actually part of that poem and inseparable from it? In the same way as the spine of a book, its binding, its page numbers, its index and table of contents, the font of its type, page format, etc., inform (to an extent) the experience of reading a poem in a print-based book of poems? In the “text-environment” of a digital poem, what is meant by materiality when there is no corresponding physical, palpable artifact that exists behind the work in the extensional world? Are we, in fact, looking at the demediation or dematerialization of physical culture? Without a material substratum, can we in fact speak of a human body’s interaction with technology? Can we translate a kind of materialist hermeneutics into the digital realm? In this presentation, I will examine the assumption that simply because we cannot reach out and touch a digital text object, electronic objects are disembodied and immaterial. I propose to take into consideration what it means to treat a digital text object from a textual-material angle, taking apart the anatomy of one or more pieces of born-digital writing and analyzing them from the perspectives of platform, interface, data standards, file formats, operating systems, versions and distributions of code, etc., keeping in mind that they are artifacts subject to embedded, historical, localized modes of understanding. I propose to speak not only of the “tiny junctures of silicon and metal,” but also of how exactly encoded data is always literally situated or embedded in a material site.

Jul 21

The Graphic Visualization of XML Documents

Representing Knowledge in the Digital Humanities (Saturday, September 24, 2011)
Conference Schedule

Birnbaum, David. Professor and Chair, Dept. of Slavic Languages and Literatures, University of Pittsburgh

Title: The Graphic Visualization of XML Documents

Abstract: This presentation describes the graphic visualization of XML documents in several projects in order to support philological research in the humanities. In many cases information that may not be easily accessible when the data is viewed in textual format (even with the benefit of markup) emerges strikingly when the marked-up prose is transformed, using XML tools, into a graphic representation. Furthermore, the derived graphic representations can be interwoven with more traditional textual ones in an interactive “workstation” that allows researchers to move easily among textual and graphic views as a way of researching and interrogating the content.

Jul 21

Fan Curation on the Internet

Representing Knowledge in the Digital Humanities (Saturday, September 24, 2011)
Conference Schedule

Baym, Nancy. Associate Professor, Communication Studies, University of Kansas

Title: Fan Curation on the Internet

Abstract: Audiences have always collected and codified information and expertise about the things they love, but the networked and persistent nature of online communication have given them new ways to do this. This talk will identify the kinds of curation fans are doing with an eye toward the complexity of understanding and preserving these sites for scholarly purposes.

Jul 20

Exploring Issues at the Intersection of Humanities and Computing with LADL

Representing Knowledge in the Digital Humanities (Saturday, September 24, 2011)
Conference Schedule

Aist, Gregory. Assistant Professor, Communication Studies Program, Iowa State University (KR conference presentation)

Title: Exploring Issues at the Intersection of Humanities and Computing with LADL.

Abstract: This presentation focuses on a key aspect of intellectual engagement in the humanities: encountering, examining, and learning from multiple texts, both traditional written texts and multimedia. LADL, the Learning Activity Description Language, provides a way to consistently describe both the information structure and the interaction structure of an interactive experience, and allows for automatically constructing a single interactive Web page that allows for viewing and comparing of multiple source documents together with online tools and custom–‐written components as well. For example, an interactive exploration of historical and cultural material from Roman Britain that involves the examination of several different online artifacts –‐ such as a virtual tour of part of Hadrian’s Wall (1), an online edition of writing tables from a Roman fort in northern England (2), and a classical biography of Hadrian (3) –‐ might be designed and built in LADL. Written reflections that a reader produces when encountering a text are carried forward in the experience, through Javascript code that LADL produces automatically from the interaction structure. LADL is designed to support a variety of scholarly and pedagogical purposes in the humanities.

This presentation focuses on an area where issues in the humanities such as ethics and culture come in contact with information and computing technologies: the use of the computational support provided by LADL and the theoretical framework of culturally relevant pedagogy to design exercises that explore how ethical and cultural issues of interest to girls of color – young women of Black, Hispanic, or Native origin – relate to computer science topics. The fourteen exercises present a sample of topics from each of fourteen areas identified in a recent curriculum outline by the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and the IEEE Computer Society, two leading computing societies. The issues linked to the topics by the exercises include ethical issues such as racial profiling, language issues such as representing names with accent marks in computer systems, issues of place and space such as challenges to Internet access in poor or rural areas, and cultural issues such as what kinds of relationships between simulated characters are supported by computer games. The exercises include custom–‐written explanations of concepts as well as the examination of video and written texts from online sources that are germane to the matter at hand.

In terms of knowledge representation and the humanities, LADL addresses several of the issues raised by the workshop. First, LADL is designed to support scholarly integrity (and respect of copyright) by providing views of online documents through inline frames and linked windows; LADL neither captures nor rehosts content. Second, the underlying LADL elements that display of existing online texts also allow for (simple) annotation of their sources and a minimal form of digital curation to keep links alive and sources consistent. Finally, activities written in the LADL language are themselves a form of knowledge representation in that they describe both the information structure of a document – how the parts are logically related – and the interaction structure – ways in which the reader may experience the document.

1 Housesteads Forts,

2 Vindolanda Tablets Online,

3 Life of Hadrian,

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