Digital humanities


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Digital humanities

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  3. 3. From Humanities computing there was a shift to new media and now New media has lost out on popularity among researchers; there were people who went to extremes in their objection to the term: in the early years of my PhD I would secretly start avoiding people who said they were working on new media. There were times when I even stopped playing videogames with them. Anyway, almost in response to this: Digital humanities is the now current term for digital mediations in the Humanities. I can’t say I like it very much but I’m being super-fussy. ------ 3
  4. 4. The borders of DH are at best still fuzzy. And for me, that’s a good thing. 4
  5. 5. The general perception might be different even negative (talk about the ‘Presidency videogame parlour’) but whatever it is , DH has attracted the attention of academia and the media. 5
  6. 6. The key question is ‘What is different with digital humanities?’. Why all the interest the world over? At a digital humanities session at the SHARP conference in Dublin this year, I was given this postcard by some digital humanists from the Bodleian. They sent out an unambiguous message and I haven’t forgotten it. The message is intriguing: old words, new tools. So are we then using digital media to do what we did before in Humanities without much changing the concepts? There is a proclivity amongst commentators to argue for a repetition of traditional tasks via the often much quicker and easier digital means. J-C Carriere talking to Umberto Eco sees nothing new in USB drives except the much larger space. Sawday and Rhodes are aware of the playful instability of the hypertext and are quick to distance this from the comparatively stable nature of print culture. Yet, they too join the old words new tools party – maybe hypertexts aren’t like print but they are certainly like medieval scrolls. I find this problematic. The postcard is now a treasured keepsake but I’ve modified it for myself, slightly: I’ve added a word - ‘really???’. 6
  7. 7. Old Words New Tools image. Is it really old words and new tools? The computer, through its possibilities for interactivity, ‘play’ and the creativity of hypertext, is now rapidly undoing that idealization of stability, and returning us to a kind of textuality which may have more in common with the pre-print era. Thus, Vincent Gillespie has argued that the contemporary user’s experience of hypertext ‘… seems to me to be similar to a medieval reader’s experience of illuminated, illustrated and glossed manuscripts containing different hierarchies of material that can be accessed in various ways’. Computer-generated texts, now, are beginning to exist as far more provisional entities than we have ever been used to since Gutenberg first printed books from moveable (that is, redistributable) type. ‘Ink and paper’ writes Leah S.Marcus ‘are relatively stable media by comparison with the computer screen’. This shift represents not so much the oft-proclaimed ‘Death of the author’ but, rather, the possibility of multi- authorship, where an individual’s contribution to a scholarly or scientific debate is just one voice amongst many which go to make up the totality of responses. (‘Imagining the Renaissance Computer’, p. 10 – 11) Also compare Jean-Claude Carriere : Then there are our USB sticks and other ways of storing and carrying information. These too are nothing new. At the end of the eighteenth century, the upper classes would pack a small library in trunks and take them on their travels […] these libraries, of course, were not measured in gigabytes but it was the same idea. (p.50) Discuss ‘remediation’ 6
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  9. 9. Mobled queen. Bichitra as one of the largest DH databases 8
  10. 10. I find something that Jacques Derrida says quite useful in this context: Derrida’s Archive Fever : This is another way of saying that the archive, as printing, as writing, prosthesis or hypomnestic technique in general is not only the stockroom and the conservatory for archivable contents of the past which would exist in any case, and just the same, without the archive. No, the technical structure of the archiving archive also determines the structure of the archivable contents even as it comes into existence and its relationship to the future. This means that in the past psychoanalysis would not have been what it was (no more so than many other things) if electronic mail, for example, had existed. And in the future it will no longer be what Freud and so many psychoanalysts have anticipated now that E mail, for example, has become possible. ----- So any move towards the digital archive effectively involves a thinking through of the ways in which such archives function – the querying of digital databases is not necessarily the same as it would be to search Diderot’s encyclopaedia. The creating of such databases might involve the creation of structures that can be accessed by the digital logic of systems like SQL etc. [??? Finish] 9
  11. 11. ------------- Anyway, for me digital humanities is not just about designing digital archives, creating electronic texts, coding concordances or the very textual uses to which computing in the humanities can be put. ------------ For me, there is a key element that is often left out of the consideration – culture. As Derrida clearly says, the technical aspect relates to its relationship with the future. There is a cultural shift that we cannot do without. [speak about originary technicity] There is no natural originary body: technology has not simply added itself, from the outside or after the fact, as a foreign body. Or at least this foreign or dangerous supplement is ‘originarily’ at work and in place in the supposedly ideal interiority of the ‘body and soul’. It is indeed at the heart of the heart (JD, Points) ------------------------ 9
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  13. 13. Locating the digital humanities – show wordle cloud Social media, virtual worlds, roleplay, story creation, data-mining, concordances, digital texts / hypertexts, videogames Further, is it ‘digital humanities’ or ‘the digital humanities’: is it singular or plural? 11
  14. 14. This was part of a project on the impact of web 2.0 on professionals in Leicester, UK. The case of Inspector Bill Knopp merits study in terms of digital culture. 12
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  16. 16. Game Studies as digital humanities Barry Atkins’s quote. One day, perhaps, the computer game will even produce its À la Recherche du Temps Perdu or its Ulysses, its Casablanca or its Citizen Kane. It is, as yet, early days, and this is a reading of those early days. MacTavish - To date, the most common debates have been between ludological approaches, which define digital games as primarily rule-based objects and activities, and a collection of other approaches rooted in the study of narrative, theater, and film. For many ludologists, remove the story-line and high-tech special effects and you still have a game based upon rules. While this may be true, the fact remains that many digital games include stories, performance, and audiovisual pleasures that are configurable by the player in some fashion. Remove them from the game and you might still have a game, but it won't be the same one you started with. It is safe to say that digital games are currently an important object of study for scholars of digital culture. If safety comes in numbers, then we need only to acknowledge the growing number of conferences, monographs, essay collections, 14
  17. 17. and university courses and programs treating digital games as cultural artifacts that express meaning and reflect and shape the world we live in.1 A far riskier claim would be that digital games studies is a definable discipline. While there may be abundant evidence that scholars are engaging with digital games, it's too early to see an established discipline with a set of matured methodologies and canonical texts or a broad base of institutional structures like departments and academic appointments. This does not mean that digital games scholars are not trying to establish a discipline. Indeed, an important component of academic discourse around digital games has been less on gaming artifacts and practices, and more on defining appropriate methodologies for analysis that are more or less unique to digital games. Many scholars want to treat digital games with the same analytic seriousness as they treat works of literature, theater, visual art, music, and film, but they are also concerned to understand what is distinctive about digital games. The burning question at hand is, should the study of digital games be guided by theories and methods unique to digital games, or can we apply theoretical models developed to explain other cultural forms such as narrative, theater, and film? On the one hand, this primarily political dimension of digital games studies draws attention away from games and gameplay; on the other hand, answering the question has very real and material effects on the generation and distribution of knowledge around digital games. There is nothing new in scholars debating approaches to their subject matter, especially when it comes to the study of new or updated forms and presentations of culture. This is normally a sign of a healthy and growing field. In the area of digital games studies, though, the stakes seem very high as participants bandy about the rhetoric of colonialism to protect their turf against invasion from opposing teams of scholars.2 One might imagine these debates in terms of team building in schoolyards where groups select the players they want on their team, leaving those outside the debate standing on the sidelines waiting to be picked or going off to play their own game away from the popular kids. The danger of such team building, of course, is that the popular kids would like to believe that they are the only game in town. In other words, as important as these debates have been to establishing digital games as legitimate objects of study, they have tended to divide scholars into camps, each with particular methodologies defined to some extent in opposition to other camps. Intentional or not, the result of such division can be an unfortunate blindness to the remarkable diversity of digital games and gameplay practices. To date, the most common debates have been between ludological approaches, which define digital games as primarily rule-based objects and activities, and a collection of other approaches rooted in the study of narrative, theater, and film. While most ludological commentators grant that digital games can include story, performance, and filmic convention, they often argue that these elements are secondary to a game's gameness. For many ludologists, remove the story-line and 14
  18. 18. high-tech special effects and you still have a game based upon rules. While this may be true, the fact remains that many digital games include stories, performance, and audiovisual pleasures that are configurable by the player in some fashion. Remove them from the game and you might still have a game, but it won't be the same one you started with. What most digital games scholars agree upon is that games require an active participant for the game to proceed. Players must effect change within the game for there to be a game. In this respect, game players are co-creators of the gaming experience. Similar claims have been made for the way we consume most forms of culture. The reader of a novel or the viewer of a film actively engages with the work by interpreting it. This psychological interaction with the work can discursively affect how others interpret it, but it does not change the work's fundamental structure or organization. When we watch a movie, we might interpret it differently than others, but we all experience the same sequence of images and sounds. While it is possible to skip or review sections of a movie or novel, these actions are not necessary to the realization of the work. Digital games, however, require that players physically interact with the work, whether it's to guide characters through the game space, modify the game world, or even to create new game elements. Espen Aarseth conceptualizes the participatory nature of digital gameplay in terms of ergodics. In ergodic works, "non-trivial effort is required to allow the reader to traverse the text," while in nonergodic works, "the work to traverse the text is trivial" (1997: 1). For Aarseth, who approaches digital games primarily from a ludological perspective, flipping pages and scanning images with our eyes is nonergodic because it does not require the user to cause the same kind or degree of physical change to the work. Janet Murray thinks about the participatory user in terms of agency, stating that "Agency is the satisfying power to take meaningful action and see the results of our decisions and choices" (Murray 1997: 126). Concerned mainly with the narrative potential of digital games, Murray adds that "we do not usually expect to experience agency within a narrative environment" (Murray 1997: 126). Even though Aarseth and Murray approach digital games from two different and sometimes opposing perspectives, they agree that the participatory nature of digital games distinguishes them from other textual and visual forms of culture. Regardless of perspective, the realization of a digital game requires participating players whose interactions with the game make them co-creators of work. As digital games research begins to move its focus away from the ludology vs. narratology debate and toward the kinds and qualities of participatory play, the creative element of digital gameplay is receiving much more critical attention. Rather than pronounce that gameplay is unproductive time, as influential play theorists Johann Huizinga and Roger Callois have argued, a growing community of games 14
  19. 19. scholars are arguing that digital gameplay is a creative activity saturated with various in-game and meta-game productive practices. Whether we conceive of creative game-play in terms of ergodics or agency, our analysis should be guided by questions around what kinds of creative practices are supported by digital games and how social, cultural, and economic factors shape these practices. 14
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  21. 21. Assassin’s Creed slide – storytelling in games, note how the player adds his own commentary about the gameplay. 16
  22. 22. Videogames influencing cinema – and game design. Just a creative intervention. 17
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  24. 24. Demo Zotero, or Prezi, or Polleverywhere 19
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  29. 29. Hayles MSA. If simulation is becoming increasingly pervasive and important, however, MATERIALITY is as vibrant as ever, for the computational engines and artificial intelligences that produce simulations require sophisticated bases in the real world. The engineers who design these machines, the factory workers who build them, the software designers who write programs for them, and the technicians who install and maintain them have no illusions that physical reality has faded away. If representation is an increasingly problematic concept, materiality offers a robust conceptual framework in which to talk about both representation and simulation as well as the constraints and enablings they entail. Although material criticism is highly developed in specialized fields such as bibliographic criticism and textual studies, I think its value is much more general and widespread. Accordingly, I want to call it media-specific analysis (MSA), as a way to invite theorists and critics to think more broadly about the connections between strands of criticism that have not yet made common cause with one another. (29) 24
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