Extra credit assignment

For extra credit: Attend up to two* sessions of the Future Digital Studies conference, the program for which can be found here. Write a 100-300 word comment in response to this post. In the comment, explain what you learned from attending the session and how it relates to the issues we’ve been discussing in this class. For example, if you attended a panel, then briefly summarize what the speakers (or one particular speaker) said, and how their remarks are relevant to the topics we’ve discussed this semester.

You may do this twice. Obviously, you are encouraged to attend more than two sessions, but you will only get extra credit for writing two comments to this blog post.

Published in: on February 25, 2010 at 10:26 am  Comments (5)  

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  1. In the first conference session I attended, the speakers were James J. Brown Jr., Fox Harrell, and John Johnston. Of the three, Fox Harrell’s portion, entitled “Phantasmal Media Technologies: Mental Imagery and Ideology in Code,” applies best to the topics discussed in class. His work explicitly deals with the idea of agency within interactive media and social networking (agency, in this case, meaning capacity of personal maneuverability and available actions). Various examples he used were the character limitations when posting on Twitter, or the path in which you kill innocent creatures in Shadows of Colossus. His discussion was split into three sections, dealing with subjective, cultural, and critical computing. He gave an example of a project for each type of computing, of which I thought that the first and third applied directly to this course. In the section on subjective computing, his example was dynamic, visual poetry entitled “Loss, Undersea.” The poem allowed users to influence the outcome with choices onscreen, as well as algorithms working beneath the surface. As a result, the text and background images would shift in response (very much like the poetry by John Cayley). The example for critical computing was a game titled Chimelona (please forgive the spelling). The game operates by altering the character’s appearance dynamically, not through item acquisition or choices, but rather through the ideological decisions made by the user. Another likeness Harrell’s work had to the work of this class was the idea of an AI based on subjective expression and not objective reality, which ties directly to the discussion of expressive qualities within a work of art to differently encourage emotional response.

  2. In the second session I attended, the speakers were Terry Harpold and Aden Evens. During Harpold’s portion, entitled “The Underside of Digital Studies,” he discussed the nature of language specifically pertaining to the digital field. He used an equation as a metaphor for the relationship between four terms. The terms (and symbols) were as follows: the master signifier representing key terms (S1), field of knowledge by signifiers or vocabulary (S2), the divided subject (S), and that which is unknown or excluded (a). The terms were moved about the equation to produce four algorithms representing ideals of the university, the master, the hysteric, and the analytic. In his opinion it seemed as if the discourse of the hysteric produced the most useful results. It only slightly touched on the topics of our class, as it may deal with our familiarity with the terms and ways in which we examine readings. During Aden Evens’ portion, entitled “Web 2.0 and the Ontology of the Digital,” he discussed the limits produced as a result of the framework of computer code based in binary. His work also made a clear statement on the nature of hyperlinks within digital culture and the shift of values from content and authorship to transmission and collection. In a way, this relates to the issues covered in class because it points out the materiality of digital media, especially in the way that its limitations undermine its transparency.

  3. This first post is about a lecture given by J. Hillis Miller Jr. He argued that the humanities were always in crisis, at a turning point, because the study is always changing so rapidly that it seems like it’s always going to die. Miller said the present crisis was a particularly acute turning point. One of the primary causes of the particular changes the field of the humanities and the study of English is going through is because the digital revolution is already 20 years in the making. He said at this point technology is not political, that it limits but does not determine speech. He continued that because of the digital revolution, writing and revising had become much easier, and serious research has become democratized. Derrida argued that the University demands and aught to be given the right to profess the Truth, and therefore, needed to be free from the corporation and state and should put everything into question. Miller said that there was going to arise a “New Humanities” that would be more relevant, but faithful to tradition. He said this “New Humanities” would cover first. the history of man; second, the relationships of democracy; third the history of professing; fourth the history of literature and the concept of literature; fifth the history of the working profession; sixth the history of the “as if”, the performative. In the past, english department’s focus was on truth of history through the English language and also instilling the proper American Ethos by teaching the British tradition. Miller suggested that the search for truth and national ethos isn’t propper any more. The new humanities should instead focus on what human good can advance combined with the freedom to give courses on what’s of interest of the scholars. Miller argued that one of the most important emergent fields is essentially what we’re studying in this class, the digital humanities. This covers studying the digitizing of older print materials, and also studying the new forms created only through digital means. Miller went on to give examples of combining more digital humanities with cultural studies to produce a broader picture of new cultural phenomena. He was particularly enthused by the idea of a study on collective narratives in the World of Warcraft.

  4. The first seminar in the Future Digital Studies conference I attended was called student work seminars, The Auteurs the artists In “The Internalized Past: Gipi’s AutobioGraphic Novels”, Laura Perna of NYU argued that Italian cartoonist Gipi’s primary success in his two autobiographical comics, S and La mia vita disegnata male, is the articulation of time and narrative structure. Gipi uses a non-chronological narrative structure, sometimes repeating the telling of a tale two or three times. Perna argued that the comic form was particularly effective for conveying memory. In class we discussed how there’s an implied transfer of time between panels. In S, Gipi did not edit or revise after he first wrote, so the paneling depicts the journey of memory he went through as he was recollecting stories, such as one his parents told about a 1943 bombing in WWII, or one about his father’s death. LMVD, had a more narrative focus but was also nonchronological. This story is highly personal. In class we talked about tenor en trace, the ability to see the artist’s hand in, for example, the lettering of the comic. Perna discussed how personal the commentary of key figures in each story becomes in Gipi’s reflection page. Although these mysterious figures usually insult Gipi, their trace was similar to key players on some of the stories in LMVD, which could lead the reader on a journey exploring the way Gipi perceives how others think of him.

  5. The next seminar in the Future of Digital Studies conference I attended was the keynote by Professor David Kunzle entitled “Töpffer’s Cryptogame and the French Occupation of Algeria”. This seminar was excellent to give me a better picture of some of the works we studied in class because according to Kunzle, Töpffer was the inventor of the comic strip and graphic novel. Essentially these works were highly literary; Kunzle calls them “investigative politics” that mock paranoia, condemn massacres, and discredit a contemporary revolution. Aside from teaching me that comics had an established literary tradition, one of the most interesting points Kunzle made was on the idea of auteurship. Töpffer had an assistant named Sham who converted his drawings to drawing on the woodblocks. Although, the “trace” was not physically Töpffer, he’s still considered the artist as he drew the originals and made sure to look over many of the final copies. This reminded of Promethea which was created by Allan Moore, but drawn by J.H. Williams III. Although William’s strokes are the one on the page, Moore is considered the auteur because he formulated the original plot for the series.

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