In Sessions on September 9, 2015 at 7:54 pm



  • Review of theory readings
  • Text visualization examples
  • Assignments for next week

Text Visualization Examples:

Readings for Next Week:

Assignments for Next Week:

  • Corey: create a lesson plan/assignment involving word clouds to demonstrate next week
  • Joe: create a lesson plan/assignment involving sentence trees to demonstrate next week
  • Sarah: create a lesson plan/assignment involving VocabGrabber
  • Ruth, Dustin, Sean, Val, & Chris: generate a question to ask Jason Palmeri
  • Nathaniel, Jon, Deanna, Tori, Adina, : write a 300-500 word response to the above readings and bring  a hard copy with you to class
  1. I very much appreciated Ramsey and Rockwell’s piece “Developing Things” and their ultimate claim that “if the quality of interventions that occur as a result of building are as interesting as those that are typically established through writing, then that activity is, for all intents and purposes, scholarship” (83) As I read their piece, though, many of their points reminded me not of the things I do in my electronic-digital life, but what I do in my analog-digital life: the things I build that are material and performative. There are many ways of communicating that are traditionally classed as outside of/not worthy of scholarly attention or pedagogical application. I think that in the process of advocating for newer ways of building communicative things, Ramsey and Rockwell leave openings for exploring these less-flashy communication modes. To demonstrate this, I want to offer some thoughts in response to a couple sentences from the close of their argument.

    Them: “To ask whether coding is a scholarly act is like asking whether writing is a scholarly act. Writing is the technology–or better, the methodology–that lies between model and result in humanistic discourse.” (82)

    Me: This call to recognize and reward new forms of building can also be applied to older communicative forms. Writing’s omnipresence in society and academia has led to the deprivileging of any number of modes of communication; in this regard, coding is no more unique than quilting (which is also a digital technology, just not electronic!). When we turn our attention to communication moments beyond alphabetic text, we can highlight a diverse set of rhetors and rhetorical situations in a way that dominant discourses have not…or at least, have not yet. The privileged place of writing in human communication is unarguable. But its place of prominence is not unassailable, and it’s important that we continue to besiege it. While we are working in the present and future to have our contemporary and emerging forms of building recognized and rewarded, how can we also work backwards or historically to reclaim prior forms of communication that were thought to be outmoded (in the sense of unfashionable)?

    Them: “We assign students writing not merely to provide us with evidence that they have thought about something but rather to have that thinking occur in the first place.” (82)

    Me: The folks who are into learning styles pedagogy would point out that appealing to only one area of sensory input/output limits the kind of work that a student’s brain will do. Designing lessons to appeal to multiple learning styles is not just good for the aural/kinesthetic/etc. learner, it is good for all learners. Ramsey and Rockwell don’t elucidate this claim, but it would be an interesting one for writing studies to take up. How are we limiting our students by continuing to allow our inherited collective obsession with alphabetic text to continue defining their education and communication?

  2. It seems as though the emergence of Digital Humanities as a field of study is based on the corporatization of education and its subsequent impact on the value we place on knowledge. Whereas Humanities was created within a cultural atmosphere that once valued learning as a tool for self-improvement, an ideology that seemed to crest in the 1970s, today we tend to view education only in terms of how much money the corresponding degree will ultimately generate; this was touched on briefly in Matthew Kirschenbaum’s essay “What Is Digital Humanities and What’s It Doing in English Departments?” but explored more in depth in Jeffery Di Leo’s “This Humanities Which Is Not One.” Di Leo delves into what he defines as an emerging crisis within the field of Humanities, most notably citing Toby Miller’s testimony of a dichotomy within the field, which he labels as “Humanities One” (a more traditional pedagogical adherence to the intellectual value of humanities) and “Humanities Two” (a more commoditized outlook that Miller argues has contributed to the increased focus in business and communication classes over traditional humanities courses).

    The consequence of this commodification is that we are trying to convert a field born out of the study of human social interaction into something that specifically pertains to the individual. (Bianco also echoes this in his essay “This Digital Humanities Which Is Not One” when he states “I feel deep political, intellectual, and pedagogical concern. . . around the need to establish identity in order to blueprint the future of the digital humanities.”) This creates a conflict within the field as it tries to navigate its way through an increasingly individualistic society. The irony is that the more technology is used to link us together, the more we attempt to establish ourselves as individuals within an increasingly volatile sea of data. Facebook and Twitter, for example, are merely digital monuments to one’s own identity and ultimately contribute very little to anything collaborative. Resolving this crisis (what Miller argues as creating “Humanities Three”) requires solving the challenge of creating and utilizing technology that is dependent on interaction (such as Kirschenbaum’s documented use of XML in his classroom), not to simply digitize the concept of humanities.

    QUESTION: Drucker presents the problematic notion that increased reliance on the visual over the literal assumes that “that objects of knowledge can be understood as self-identical, self-evident, ahistorical, and autonomous.” We accept that literary interpretation is amorphous, but we do not for images, which exist in the same form for everyone who views them. Consequently, how do we maintain the relevance of humanities (or what Toby Miller refers to as “Humanities One”) in an age that assigns more value to visual imagery over the written word? Is there even a way to embrace digital media without an inherent predisposition towards the visual?

  3. Tori Reeder

    I am interested in digital rhetoric as a new type of literacy. I agree with Welch’s approach in “Electric Rhetoric” Classical Rhetoric, Oralism and a new Literacy” of using classical rhetoric as a base, while focusing more on developing a theory. As for sophistic rhetoric, I love the focus on literacy and orality. A significant component here is digital literacy being situated in the epicenter of technological literacy, cognitive literacy, and socio-emotional literacy. That said, I really connected with Eyman’s text, “Digital Rhetoric: Theory, Method, and Practice”, my attention was called to several parts in the text. First, my attention was pulled to the section where he calls for coherent digital rhetoric theory. Even after reading this I still feel like there is a need for full hybrid eloquence. I also was interested by the idea that “like visual rhetoric, digital rhetoric should be viewed as a field that engages multiple theories and methods rather than as a singular theory framework” ( Eyman 2015). Another idea that I found interesting was the extension of digital rhetoric which weighs both approaches equally: application of theories of classical and contemporary rhetoric to digital text, and the possibility of new rhetorical theory all together. This brings me to the question raises at the end of the text “Humanistic Theory and Digital Scholarship”, “does digital humanities need theory? And How will digital scholarship be humanistic without it?”, while addressing the humanities broadly, specifically I would wonder if the same question could be addressed to digital rhetoric (Drucker 2012). In the section digitizing classical rhetoric, Eyman , I found Collin Brook’s approach of “reconfiguring” the canons interesting in that he frames it a , “as an ecology of practice, the canons supply a framework for approaching new media that focuses on the strategies and practices that occur at the level of interface”. Also, I found that framing the revitalization of rhetoric as recovery work is, in my opinion, a great way to look at sophist rhetoric because it embodies this scaffolding process. Moving on to this sort of reciprocal determinism between rhetoric and technology, the text points out that both rhetoric and technology seem to inform each other. After reading Eyman I have to wonder a few things: (1) is it more productive to assess and change rhetoric or rhetorical theory through viewing its constituents through reimaging, reframing, revitalizing, or is this accomplishing the same tasks? (2) Is an entirely new rhetorical theory truly necessary, and if so is it actually going to be an entirely new rhetorical theory or is it going to err more on the side of revitalized, remixed, or reframed? How are digital rhetoric scholars going to try to manufacture full hybrid eloquence within this new rhetorical theory? Lastly, considering the reciprocal nature between rhetoric and technology, is there a new emerging trend that will inform the new rhetorical theory?

  4. Inspired by the “technology literacy narrative,” with which Douglas Eyman begins Digital Rhetoric, I would like to begin this class by reflecting on my own experience with digital technology as a scholar in the humanities. My attitude toward computers, both as a student and as a teacher, has been to regard them merely as tools for word processors. It is what I use them for, primarily, and it is what I expect my students to use them for. This opinion, of course, not only betrays a very narrow understanding on my part of what computers are, but it also privileges traditional print media over other, equally important, forms of digital media. My own privileging of print media, I believe, stems from my background in literary studies. There has, of course, been a movement in literary studies toward the digital humanities in recent years. Nevertheless, like many people, I became and English major because I like books, and computers, obviously, are not books.

    But my preference for print media over digital media is not just a result of the fact that I am the product of English departments full of luddites like myself. After reading Conatser’s article, I am convinced that another reason why I privilege print media over digital media is because digital media (word processing software, at least) itself privileges print media. As Conatser writes, “In spite of the proliferation of software programs, the word processor with its digital representation of an 8.5-inch by 11-inch sheet of white paper overwhelmingly remains the preferred medium and default user interface for composition.” My preference for print media certainly stems from my own fetishization of print objects (books, newspapers, etc.), but it is reinforced by the way computers, and word processors specifically, are designed. A question I would like to explore more in depth is how digital technologies privilege print media. What choices do software designers make that attempt to recreate print media? Why do these designers make these choices?

  5. In Johanna Drucker’s chapter on humanistic theory in the DH, I’m drawn to the following passage: “As it is, humanities scholars attach their analysis to the armature of preexisting graphical conventions. The primary strategy for undoing the force of reification is to introduce parallax and difference, thus taking apart any possible claim to the self-evident or self-identical presentation of knowledge and replacing this with a recognition of the made-ness and constructedness that inhere in any representation of knowledge.”

    I want to take the simple example of a bar graph as an example in the context of a disciplinography. Say I’m interested in tracking word counts in a nascent journal as part of a larger project. I want to see if the number of words stays the same in a journal, or if they go up or down over time—basically, I’m looking for patterns (spoiler alert: the numbers go up). Say I want to show, with a bar graph, how the number of words go up or down over the course of a five- or ten-year period. A bar graph is a good tool to use for such a task. But what else could I use, or how might I recognize “its made-ness and constructedness”? Just showing the graph in a different scale (i.e., changing the x and y intervals) seems a little weak, like the “baby pool” of quantitative analyses as Drucker says. I think such an example is worth considering as Drucker’s caution against minimalizing complexity and “cartoonish special effects are well taken. But I’m interested in thinking through and discussing how any given project can introduce situatedness, enunciation, or flexible metrics while it employs methods that are “necessarily probabilistic rather than deterministic, performative rather than declarative.” Bibliometrics seems to tend toward declarative analyses. Citation and content analyses have both been helpful in terms of mapping or delineating disciplines through time, and though controversial in some respects, citation analyses have provided at least some insight into scholarly patterns and intellectual lineage. But it seems as if those kinds of studies are staged in the realm of declarative analyses, of counting and sorting rather than probability and performance.

    It seems I could take Drucker in two different directions here. In one, I could focus on situatedness and enunciation as focal points for a study. With any kind of visualization I produce or gesture toward, it seems as if Drucker is saying one component must always be to point to its “made-ness” to show self reflection in one circumstance or to offer critique in another. It seems as if an alternative kind of study would be one of moving analyses beyond the declarative or taxonomic and toward a quantitative analysis that is probabalistic in nature. Ultimately I’m not quite sure what the function of probabilistic studies would be. It does not seem as if such studies would function as theory in any way. So my provocation: How seriously ought we take the mathematical mechanics of statistical analyses, especially as it pertains to probability studies? In other words, of what value would it be to the discipline, to pedagogy, or to theory that we conduct rigorous, statistically valid probability studies of any given object of study? Alternatively, how else could we think through and perform analyses that approach the goals of statistical probability, i.e., analyses that expand the trajectory of inquiry forward in time rather than solely backward in a manner that isn’t solely “theoretical”?

  6. Di Lio joins numerous other writers, academic and otherwise, who are activating the tornado sirens so as to warn everybody about the crisis in the humanities. Like many such articles, I am left with a “now what?” feeling. Di Lio tells us what we need to do is “to help [our] students understand how the university and the humanities work.” When do I do that? How do I do that with my students in 1010 at Wayne State? Joe Pinsker’s article, “Rich Kids Study English,” published in The Atlantic, says that data shows that first-generation college students, which many at Wayne State are, far more often major in subjects that are tied directly to a vocation, like engineering or nursing, and that the humanities majors, like English, are the domain of “rich kids.” I do not fault my students for majoring in “useful” subjects because so many of them are at the margins, going into loads of debt, and don’t have the luxury of “discovering themselves” as a poetry major before settling down in a marketing firm or wherever it is that rich kids find jobs with their English degrees. If anybody knows, tell me because I want to be a rich kid too someday. So, my students want a specific job that they know will give them a specific salary that will have specific responsibilities and that’s okay. Part of the problem is that so many of these doom-and-gloom articles, though the doom-and-gloom is warranted, are not written with students like my own in mind or even with academics like me in mind. I have very little hope that I will, and most of the time little desire to, get an R1 tenure-track position. Why do I need to raise the banners and march to war to defend those jobs when I will never see the fruits of such positions? Is the argument that by championing those positions, my position will be better? Is this trickle-down academics? What a neoliberal concept.
    Perhaps I gravitated to the Di Lio piece because it wasn’t about the digital humanities, a topic that I’m rather insecure about my lack of knowledge on, which is part of the reason I took this course, so perhaps I need to get over that insecurity and engage. But I digress. My familiarity with digital humanities before starting graduate school was my intro to Shakespeare professor, whose focus was on gender and sexuality in and around early modern theater, telling the class about research she did where she plotted the area where arrests of prostitutes occurred in early modern London, showing that many of them were arrested near theaters. This seemed fascinating to me, but I had a question, which I admittedly should have asked her: Aren’t we in the humanities skeptical of quantification? Doesn’t this sort of work run the risk of over-rationalizing humanity? Is our scholarship eventually going to be indiscernible from the scientists who are reading data sheets and nodding in Dolph Lundgren’s training montage in Rocky III? Okay, three questions, but I still wonder. I had actually done a project at my community college that seems like it might have been digital humanities, though I had never heard the term at the time.
    For a sociology class I took, my final project consisted of me watching three action films and three “chick flicks” and timing the male and female dialogue in each film. I kept two timers, one for male dialogue and one for female. After the movie, I would enter in the running time of the film and the amount of total time that men talked and total time that women talked. What I found wasn’t terribly shocking: there was more talking in movies marketed to women than there was in movies marketed to men and the ratio of male to female talk in action movies was greater than the ratio of female to male talk in “chick flicks.” In fact, one movie, Waiting to Exhale, despite being ostensibly about four women and their bonds to each other and struggles in life, was almost 50/50 male female dialogue. While I enjoyed this project immensely, and even saw how it could be expanded and reveal some really useful data about film and gender, I never imagined proposing such a project in my English major because I was under the impression that this was not what we did. But now it seems that it can be what we do, though I share some of Bianco’s worry that by using these tools, that we might actually just be leaning into the neoliberal quantification of the human subject that we are all so afraid the academy is pushing us to do. Navigating my interest in such projects with my abhorrence of “tech-bros” (which Bianco simply refers to as “white libertarian men,” probably because they are just that) will be a challenge going forward and exploring this week’s readings further (I think giving Rice another swing will clear up some of the confusion I had the first go-around) probably won’t give me one absolute answer, but help me gesture in the direction of something that I might call my own ethical framework around digital humanities.

  7. The “old” humanities are gone, or they are at least slowly fading away. Critique has run out of steam. The number of college students enrolling in the humanities is dropping. So where does this leave us, the children of the digital age who have vested their lives in the teaching and learning of the humanities? We must use the new advancements in technology to revitalize (digitize) our field of study.
    Large projects are under way to take the antiquated print texts and translate them into the coded word so that they can be uploaded into computer programs that can scan, find patterns and interpret these pieces of literature. But why stop there? If these computers can scan and find obscure patterns and give us statistics about word usage, frequency of used words, and other stylistic conventions, then why must we even interpret or critique anymore?
    The code isn’t perfect. Things are lost and the code can only be as good as those that make the code. Humanities is “what if”, but once the content is codified it becomes “what is”. Imagination is no longer part of the process. Humanities used to be about caring and the humanistic qualities of life. Now it is about the bottom line and the top dollar.
    This new digital humanities of ours stretches beyond the realm of the written word though. It has reached into the health field, engineering, and even politics. In the Rice article it becomes evident that images are used for propaganda purposes. An image taken at an opportune moment can cause more damage to an already hostile topic (like race, rioting, police violence). Images may tell a thousand words, but they don’t tell precipitating events or the events following the image. They merely give the reader a slight nudge one way or another and suggests to the reader what they should be thinking. In essence the marriage of the humanities and technology is an innovation, but is it taking away the basic critical thinking skills needed to survive as a member of this global society?

  8. What I found to be most jarring—and at the same time the most mundane—was the population that represents the digital humanities. As Bianco states, “the digital humanities often echoes the affective techno-euphoria of the libertarian (white, masculinist, meritocratic) tech boom in the 1990s” (3). If over twenty five years have passed since the roar of digital euphoria, why are we still living in the white man’s desktop—especially if no one owns digital media? I was enticed by the complications of politics in the digital humanities because I teach a diverse group of students how to use a variety of digital interfaces. When I reflect on teaching my students how to use a blogging website to gain power over their lives, I wonder if I am fighting a losing battle. With this in mind, I feel it is even more imperative to subvert traditional forms of communication—such as the sentence—to instill power and change to the current users of the digital atmosphere. Admittedly, I do have difficulty finding resources to demonstrate how students can effectively subvert the homogeneity of the digital world. And, unfortunately, I find students try to adapt or perform to the atmosphere available at their fingertips.
    I do observe students’ “impulse[s] to become inventive, creational, and social” (Bianco 13), and this does fight against many traditional practices, one being the classical essay. Given that my students take an Advanced Placement test for college credit, which assigns weight to classic modes of writing, it is hard to justify the inclusion of digital rhetoric. What is the value of the invented, especially if it limits who has power over these forms? Furthermore, if students’ impulses are to be creative how do the traditional essay and previous conceptions about rhetoric block invention? Can classical conceptions of rhetoric and creational aspects of the digital world be taught together with equity, social justice, and still separate with ease?

  9. Current disheartening realizations in the university demonstrate that our educational institutions are morphing from the educational model to a business model. Not only in terms of the foci of the resources of the university in increasing enrollment to specific disciplines—those that are more popular and provide employable skills—but also with respect to how the university “measures” enrollment (consider the histories of “pantometric culture,” “prognometrics,” and “parametrics”) (Pruchnic). In this new milieu, more enrollment in a particular field automatically means more resources (e.g. the business model), there is no questioning, no criticism, and no critiquing. Aims that were once at the heart of the university, namely The Humanities. The Humanities is not restrictively an “interpretation based” discipline, as Rice “suggests”. It is a discipline of questioning of the mechanisms and machinations, both old and new, that surround us and in which we interact, as suggested by Drucker. Therein is the value of a Humanities education.

    Albert Einstein said, “The value of a college education is not the learning of facts but the training of the mind to think.” Drucker sets this up nicely:

    Only a naive viewer, unskilled and untrained in matters of statistics or critical thought, would accept an information visualization at face value. But most humanists share with their social and natural science colleagues a willingness to accept the use of standard metrics and conventions without question in the production of these graphs. (10-11)

    Our value and our freedom, especially in the digital representation and interaction with information, is the ability to question, analyze, interpret, and suggest in, through, and with all ecologies and ecosystems (Eyman 33-42). It should also be the value we instill into students, not to blithely accept a digital representation as gospel, just because it is packaged in a pretty graphical design.

    So, then, do we need to change in order to survive and to get our message across? Does or own ecosystem need an overhaul? Or do we need a theory ala Drucker (23)? While Miller’s, and thusly Di Leo’s, “Humanities Three” may sound good initially, and I agree with much of the issues concerning the need to increase enrollment and awareness, but is a name change and restructuring the answer? Di Leo seems to lament the difficulty of shutting down what I would consider to be vital areas of study: philosophy and English (no, not because I am a part of it, but because of their inherent value of questioning and analysis). Should we not, then, begin/continue “building” our own theories through the use of “standard metrics and conventions” to begin the work of producing emancipatory critical theory (making the explicit implicit in our interactions with the digital world)? Can we set about to quantify a critical digital theory? Might this, then, become our work?

    Also, how might we incorporate “standard metrics,” or any of the other metrics, and other digital methodologies in the service of quantifying our unquantifiable value, while remaining “culturally” relevant?

  10. I’m linking my reading response here so that the images will stay with the text. If the link doesn’t work, please let me know 🙂 –Sarah

  11. I came to this class knowing a little bit about the Digital Humanities, but it seems that I was previously unaware of the theoretical foundation of the subject, and the debate surrounding it. When I use digital modes to teach, I employ them in a way that allows for students to see digital representations as another mode of composition. Di Leo, when quoting Berry, elaborates this idea by showing that the digital humanities “allows for the possibility for the many computational forms that mediate out experience of contemporary culture and society.” This speaks to Di Leo’s later argument that the Digital Humanities should move away from the idea of unveiling because everything is already unveiled, but in a different way. Utilizing technology allows for us to see the different ways that an object or artifact already exists in the world. Moreover, the Digital Humanities allow us to create representations of objects and artifacts that are in line with Di Leo’s multimodally layered worlds. Drucker discusses how using technology to do this leads to different ways of thinking because things are constructed as an effect, rather than a basis of experience. The way that technology creates effects was also an interesting aspect of this week’s readings. I was especially interested in how users of digital mediums dictate the experience they have by how they navigate the digital space. This is especially important in creating a multifaceted experience. Moreover, flexible spaces accommodate different types of learning. Additionally, Drucker asserts that technology allows us to see the differences in the world, and that the world is a series of representations, instead of taking everything at face value. This week’s readings elaborated on the idea that Digital Humanities allow the world to be seen in different ways. The world, as it exists, is multifaceted, and we need to collaborate to create a multifaceted experience for our students. It is strange to me that there is even a debate about this because teacher preparation courses have been focused on learning experiences that meet the needs of different types of learners for years. It only seems natural that college humanities departments would take up the same idea—even if it is years later.

  12. The convenience of technology and how ingrained it has become in our daily lives encourages us to use it in more interactive and necessary/inseparable ways. In Di Leo’s article, he discusses Miller’s categorization of Humanities Two students as those pursuing it with the intention of learning job skills and future financial security. These students are also enrolling more in communication and media studies than in literature or philosophy. Considering that these skills and knowledge of digital media are indeed in demand in today’s job market, they are being quite practical.

    On the flip side, the excessive use of technology in the humanities classrooms might also be forcing students to become more and more adept at using digital media. Students are not only asked to bring a hard copy of an assignment to class (preferably and most expectedly to be typed and printed), but to also post a soft copy on a class blog. The primary purpose is to have students engage with the texts and then simply demonstrate that engagement/their interpretation through a written assignment. However, the ways in which they are asked to show that engagement are no longer separate from the digital media. Class discussions too can be relatively dependent on the questions/responses posted about the texts, and through the use of digital media, can instantaneously and equally be viewed by all participants, for the sake of enhancing engagement.

    Di Leo references the Creative Class being encouraged by Creative-Industries. Are universities reacting to this trend by their increasing inclusion of technologies in the classroom and encouraging engagement with it, or are universities themselves promoting it? Most educators and classrooms would have difficulty eliminating digital media from their teaching/environment. However, should they even try? Regardless of these random questions about technology and teaching that popped into my head, the Digital Humanities seem more concerned with how best to use digital media (in the classroom, for research/analysis, etc.) and how to make this work also be viewed as scholarly work. Even so, while reading I was most interested in whether the digital humanities also favored print media over digital media, or if it was making an argument for preferring digital media, or if it was simply sitting back and reacting to how this new media is being used and continually changing in the ways we use it and thus changes the way we see the world around us. However, several of our readings also discuss how the digital humanities, and those producing digital works, should be more active in their production, and that their work should be regarded as scholarly as written articles. I still have a lot of questions about what the digital humanities are really all about, but I think I’m starting to gain a clearer understanding of it…I think.

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