21 December 2008

links on archives, early modern paleography, libraries, + narratology

After spending yesterday in bed watching Gone with the Wind while eating microwaved mac-n-cheese with vanilla soy ice cream (and no, I am not embarrassed to admit that -- there's half a foot of snow outside, that's what I'm supposed to be doing), I've ventured back online today to catch up on my reading. I've got some goodies to share.

// An issue of Image and Narrative on Digital Archives. Many of the essays tackle the same issue I've been thinking a lot about recently through the lens of moving parts in books -- namely, the relationship between digital humanities and the archive. "Digitising Cultural Heritage: The Role of Interpretation in Cultural Preservation," by Jan Baetens and Jan Van Looy, includes this gem:
A first observation deals with the fantasy of the Internet as a universal library, a receptacle of all past, present and future texts. Technically, this project appears realizable. In practice, however, we note that those texts which are in the spotlight are often simplified texts. It is not uncommon in fact that these texts are even censored, reduced to a sort of reader's digest or otherwise mutilated, for example by being available only in English while they were originally written in a different language. Moreover, what poses an even greater problem is the separation of the 'character' from the text and from its different forms of publication from the past: publishing a text on the Internet often comes down to amputating it from its perigraphical or paratextual apparatus on the one hand, and of its original typographical form on the other. What is lost in this way is the historicity of the text which survives only as a dematerialised sign. Even more specifically, what happens is a separation of the text as a 'collection of words', which allows for example for indexing and searching by search engines, and the text as 'reading object', that is to say, for interpreting, the text as a hermeneutic object.
There it is -- the problem with text mining! (By the way, I love that this article is a perfect case study. Try to tag it -- every essay on Image and Narrative has the utterly non-descriptive title 'Image and Narrative - Article'. It has, indeed, been amputated from its paratextual apparatus.)

There's also an interesting article on "Digital Heritage and Performance," by Karel Vanhaesebrouk, which talks about how to archive performances, how cassette tapes changes our relationship to performance, and how mediated experiences have increasingly become part of performance:
However, digitization has added a new reason for archiving performances, because mediation has become an integral part of contemporary performance: what was once a problem now seems to have become an integral part of the medium, as the problematic ontological status of performance is increasingly thematised in contemporary practice and theory. The clash between the actual performance and its archived version has become narrower as digital technology has become part of both. Digitization is thus a knife that cuts on two sides, it simultaneously reduces and enlarges the gap between performance and its archive, just as the distinction between tangible and intangible heritage has blurred over the years.
This has me thinking about the Comédie-Française Registers project (CFRP) I've worked on at HyperStudio. While CFRP doesn't attempt to archive material related to the actual performance, it does use the theatre troupe's own registers -- that is, its own record, its own archive -- as a framework for better understanding eighteenth-century French culture. It would be interesting to use this project to more deeply interrogate the relationship between performance, performed text, audience and archive.

// The Beinecke Library is on Flickr! With a wonderful collection of handwritten documents from the early modern period, dubbed the Paleographical Commons.

// This is a neat project: Libraries of Early America. It's collaboratively documenting the libraries of many early Americans (including Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson), thereby adding their books to LibraryThing, to then be added to your own personal bookshelf. I recently pointed out a Mercurius Politicus post on bookshelves as early modern information technologies; what about a personal library? One's personal collection? This intersects with the stuff on archives in ways too knotted to untangle now. But I serve it up for your thinking pleasure.

// Brian Kim Stefans posted notes from a talk he gave at UCLA in February, which leads to this related blog on "Language as Gameplay: From the Oulipo to 'The Jew's Daughter'."
Works of electronic literature are progressing toward a more invasive conception of the "ludic" — of the spirit of play inhabiting not just the spirit of writing, and not just the spirit of the algorithm and interface, but both in an elaborate combination. ... The good news is that it appears that the range of interests for electronic writers — as distinct from new media artists — can now largely be triangulated between three conceptual nodes: algorithm (over author), screen space (over page space), and the most recent entrant, gameplay (over the more modest "interactivity"). However, the language for describing these works has had to move further from even advanced literary critical vocabularies, especially since video games — long form narrative constructs premised on the interplay of data and algorithm – did not exist in the Modernist era.
Neat. As with the archives, I'm thinking about how this applies to the algorithmic procedures of those damn text-generating volvelles that I can't get out of my head.

Okay, that's enough for now. After all...

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