Class 5 (English 238 – Fall 2020)

Class Business

  • Your ideas for starter kits, blog posts, and research essays
    • Let Alan know when and where your blog posts are up (for Student Work page on the course site)
  • Class 6: Interim Reports on “Starter Kits” and Other Assignments
    • The reports are interim.
    • Aim for 7 minutes (followed by about no more than 2 minutes of discussion).
    • Prepare materials as needed (e.g., slides, a doc, links,  bibliography, etc.) The time limit means this is approximately a 2-3 slide presentation.

Plan for class:  Discussion of “cyberinfrastructure” Arrow right  Discussion of underlying archival and data structures

Epigraph for Class

Luciana Duranti

The place of deposit of the archival documents was in the most remote part of the archival building, completely isolated from the areas of work and from any possible source of contamination or corruption, and the documents entering this restricted zone would live forever in their own time of creation, in their own context, as stable and immutable entities, untouchable by political or social events, interests, trends, or influences. Just like the Eastern archival basements of four millennia ago, accessible only from a hole in the ceiling, and the Western stacks of our times, carefully segregated from any space open to the public, the inner place where the deeds were kept, by its physical inaccessibility, transformed them in the most authoritative and powerful testimony of actions.

Testimony for whom? (244)

DH Infrastructure (Tools & Systems for “Cyberinfrastructure”)

Sheila Anderson

The first, and workshop defining, controversy debated the question ‘Do the Digital Humanities have an intellectual agenda or do they constitute an infrastructure?’ (6)

Both reports adopted the same definition of cyberinfrastructure ‘cyberinfrastructure is meant to denote the layer of information, expertise, standards, policies, tools, and services that are shared broadly across communities of inquiry but developed for specific scholarly purposes. . . . . . It is also the more intangible layer of expertise and the best practices, standards, tools, collections and collaborative environments that can be broadly shared across communities of inquiry’. (8)

* 2003 Report to the National Science Foundation ‘Revolutionizing Science and Engineering through Cyberinfrastructure’ (‘Atkins Report’)

* 2006 American Council of Learned Societies Report, ‘Our Cultural Commonwealth’, ed. John Unsworth


Despite the references to people and organisations, there remains within all the three examples an idea of infrastructure as a thing with a subtle and underlying discourse of the material nature of infrastructures; infrastructure is built, it is the tools, the digital libraries, the data, it is a software component or an application…. (9)

“German” School

  •  Friedrich A. Kittler, Discourse Networks, 1800/1900 (1990) (originally published in German in 1985 as Aufscreibesysteme)
  •  _____________, Gramophone, Film, Typewriter (1999) (originally published in German in 1986 as Gramophon Film Typewriter)
  • Wolf Kittler,  “Schreibmaschinen, Sprech-maschinen: Effekte technischer Medien im Werk Franz Kafkas.” In Franz Kafka: Schriftverkehr, 75-163 (1990)
  • Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht and K. Ludwig Pfeiffer, ed. Materialities of Communication (1994)
  • Wolfgang Ernst, Digital Memory and the Archive. Ed. Jussi Parikka (2012)
  • Cornelia Vismann, Files: Law and Media Technology (2008)
  • Jussi Parikka, What is Media Archaeology? (2012)
  • ____________, Insect Media: An Archaeology of Animals and Technology (2010)
  • ____________, A Geology of Media (2015)

North American (and/or Science Technology Studies [STS] or Digital Humanities [DH] flavored)

  • Lisa Gitelman, Always Already New: Media, History, and the Data of Culture (2006)
  • ____________, Paper Knowledge: Toward a Media History of Documents (2014)
  • ____________, ed. “Raw Data” Is an Oxymoron (2013)
  • Matthew G. Kirschenbaum, Mechanisms: New Media and the Forensic Imagination (2008)
  • ____________,  Track Changes: A Literary History of Word Processing (2016)
  • Amodern 2: Network Archaeology. Special issue of Amodern (2013)

Examples

Examples

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James Smithies

Part of the reason humanities cyberinfrastructure has remained hidden from view until now is that no attempt has been made to produce a systems-based view of the whole as a preliminary step to understanding the wider problem domain. (117)

Figure 5.3 from James Smithies, The Digital Humanities and the Digital Modern (2017), p. 132
Figure 5.3 from James Smithies, The Digital Humanities and the Digital Modern (2017), p. 132 [see also .pptx]

DH Infrastructure (Archives and Data)

Luciana Duranti, “Archives as a Place” (1996)

We can still today look at the Roman Tabularium and understand its function from its structure. Corridors and enclosed stairs connect the building to the public offices of Republican Rome, so that the documents can securely and safely flow from the place of creation to that of preservation. However, this flow is not a simple transition from one place to another. It is the locus of recognition and empowerment. Somewhere between the outside and the inside of the archival building, the documents must unfold into evidence and memory, prior to being ensconced within the building as testimony of past actions. There must be a space, an in-between space, where this happens, a space bound by two limits, one bordering the documents and the other bordering the evidence: the archii limes or ‘archival threshold’. The archival threshold is the space where the officer of the public authority takes charge of the documents, identifies them by their provenance and class, associates them intellectually with those that belong in the same aggregation, and forwards them to the inside space. At the archival threshold, and beyond it, the authenticating function took place.

A German jurist, Ahasver Fritsch, in 1664, commented that archival documents did not acquire authenticity by the simple fact of crossing the archival threshold, but by the fact that (i) the place to which they were destined belonged to a public sovereign authority, as opposed to its agents or delegates, that (ii) the officer forwarding them to such a place was a public officer, that (iii) the documents were placed both physically (i.e. by location) and intellectually (i.e. by description) among authentic documents, and that (iv) this association was not meant to be broken. ‘From this moment on the archival documents and their network of relationships were immutable, as not even the loss or destruction of some of them could change the relations that their previous existence had determined among the remaining ones….

The place of deposit of the archival documents was in the most remote part of the archival building, completely isolated from the areas of work and from any possible source of contamination or corruption, and the documents entering this restricted zone would live forever in their own time of creation, in their own context, as stable and immutable entities, untouchable by political or social events, interests, trends, or influences. Just like the Eastern archival basements of four millennia ago, accessible only from a hole in the ceiling, and the Western stacks of our times, carefully segregated from any space open to the public, the inner place where the deeds were kept, by its physical inaccessibility, transformed them in the most authoritative and powerful testimony of actions.

Testimony for whom? (243-244)

Kate Theimer, “Archives in Context and as Context”

. . . we need to discuss the first definition of “archives” endorsed by the Society of American Archivists:

Materials created or received by a person, family, or organization, public or private, in the conduct of their affairs and preserved because of the enduring value contained in the information they contain or as evidence of the functions and responsibilities of their creator, especially those materials maintained using the principles of provenance, original order, and collective control.

There is nothing in this meaning of “archives” that references a selection activity on the part of the archivist.

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Jefferson Bailey, Disrespect des Fonds

For Duchein, within fonds there can be all sorts of nebulous, arbitrary, and forgotten methods of classification “from which all imaginable disorders flow.”

Chris Hurley explored an idea similar to parallelismus membrorum in his delineation of “parallel provenance” a concept built around “composing different things from the same particles— combining things in different ways to produce a variety of views of what they look like in the aggregate … not so much about identifying a different creator as recognizing manifold context.”

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Kim Gallon, “Making a Case for the Black Digital Humanities” (2016)

It may then be of little surprise that scholars of the black literary tradition, as a whole, have yet to embrace text mining and other quantitative digital approaches in the same numbers as other groups of literary scholars. Scholars of African American literature may view text mining as counterposed to recovery (Rambsy, “African American Literature and Digital Humanities”). The relatively small number of text mining projects among scholars of black literature is concerning, however, at a time when digital humanities work has shifted its focus to quantitative and computational approaches. But the black digital humanities can highlight the value of specific computational methods.

Rather than moving forward with digitizing, text mining, topic modeling, and the like, the black digital humanities would have us seriously consider the political relations and “assemblages” that have racialized the literary, philosophy, and historical texts that we study (Weheliye, 3). Digital tools and platforms should be mobilized to interrogate and disclose how the humanities are developed out of systems of power. The black digital humanities reveals how methodological approaches for studying and thinking about the category of blackness may come to bear on and transform the digital processes and tools used to study humanity…. However the black digital humanities forces us to move backward before moving forward in thinking about tools, to first consider how the very foundation of the humanities are racialized through the privileging of Western cultural traditions. It then asks us to assess whether those tools would still be used in the same manner had they been developed to explore the texts that were and are marginalized through the racialization of the humanities.

Following Weheliye, I would argue that any connection between humanity and the digital therefore requires an investigation into how computational processes might reinforce the notion of a humanity developed out of racializing systems, even as they foster efforts to assemble or otherwise build alternative human modalities. This tension is enacted through what I call a “technology of recovery,” characterized by efforts to bring forth the full humanity of marginalized peoples through the use of digital platforms and tools.

1-px transparent spacerRecovery rests at the heart of Black studies, as a scholarly tradition that seeks to restore the humanity of black people lost and stolen through systemic global racialization. It follows, then, that the project of recovering lost historical and literary texts should be foundational to the black digital humanities. It is a deeply political enterprise that seeks not simply to transform literary canons and historiography by incorporating black voices and centering an African American and African diasporic experience, though it certainly does that; black digital humanities troubles the very core of what we have come to know as the humanities by recovering alternate constructions of humanity that have been historically excluded from that concept.

  • Selected quotations from Alexander G. Weheliye, Habeas Viscus: Racializing Assemblages, Biopolitics, and Black Feminist Theories of the Human (2014) [Downloadable as PDF from here]
  • See also Prompts & Resources for the UCSB Transcriptions Center’s discussion event on Oct. 29, 2020 for its event series on “Challenging the Assumptions of the ‘Big Tent’: Toward Antiracist Research and Practice in Digital Humanities and New Media.”

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Jessica Marie Johnson, “Markup Bodies: Black [Life] Studies and Slavery [Death] Studies at the Digital Crossroads” (2016)

Data, defined here as an objective and independent unit of knowledge, has been central to the architecture of both slavery studies and digital humanistic study. However, in this article I question the stability of what has been or can be categorized as data, the uses the idea of data has been put to, and the stakes underlying data’s implicit claim to stability or objectivity. This article uses the term data transhistorically to gesture to the rise of the independent and objective statistical fact as an explanatory ideal party to the devastating thingification of black women, children, and men. (58)

Over four decades later, scholars struggle to translate “the world the slaves made” into code and express it in technical language. From blogs and journals built on fourth-generation hypertext markup language (HTML) guided by cascading style sheets (CSS) to databases using extensible markup language (XML) and standard query language (SQL), scholars using digital tools mark up the bodies and requantify the lives of people of African descent. These pursuits have not and do not exist in isolation from tensions inherent to constructing histories of bondage. Databases, for example, reinscribe enslaved Africans’ biometrics as users transfer the racial nomenclature of the time period (négre, moreno, quadroon) into the present and encode skin color, hair texture, height, weight, age, and gender in new digital forms, replicating the surveilling actions of slave owners and slave traders. There is nothing neutral, even in a digital environment, about doing histories of slavery, and technology has not made the realities of bondage any more palatable or easier to discuss across audiences or platforms. Exploring these anxieties in analog and digital form exposes an unsettled relationship among data, slavery’s archive, and the impulse to commodify black life. (59-60)

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A. Liu, “Toward a Diversity Stack”

  • DH & Identity
  • The DH Chronotope
  • Representative DH Corpora
  • Multilingual & Multimedia DH
  • [Space / Time / Boundaries / Neural-network recognized “Features”]
  • [Similarity & Difference in high-dimensions]