Remix The Mixer – Hamlet and his Ghost

How can a work be “worked”? Have you ever seen how one can use a text, or an image, to “make” it into something else? It is constantly done – for a larger issue or “message”.

The problem comes when you deal with copyright law – how can you make that “thing” to be viewed for public consumption, to be re-mixed further to create new dialogue and spaces?

We can use Shakespeare – fortunately copyright law in the USA does not yet extend several hundred years, so You Tube hasn’t pulled it down yet –

and by melding a visual still photo retelling of Hamlet – “I saw a ghost” – with a mod-tech music backdrop (actually the music may be able to be pulled down), we are left with a new interpretation in terms of a “feel” of a literary work, by tapping into our own sensibilities to create new meaning. And as time moves on we receive other creations of Hamlet’s ghost.

such as a modern dance of Hamlet’s ghost:

or a cartoon/sketching version of Hamlet’s ghost:

The point is that writing, speaking, reading, hearing – it all involves a movement of the cultural and life variables.

Open access can accomplish this, but it almost always comes up against access for money in our society, which values money as a means of commerce and survival.

Lessig notes that the mix is essential to understanding, and everyone has essentially borrowed from everyone else in some fashion.

But what happens when copyrights are extended so far that to comment and remix on great works to make them palatable in new DH forms on mass websites for future generations is shunned? Is something lost? Or does that work become a ghost, simply static in a book or older medium to be viewed and reviewed to the public in a similar fashion – even if the medium becomes the past?

The Weekly Create for 10/23/14 – Ernest Hemingway via Google Maps

I am a not an expert in Hemingway,  but as someone who has read a good number of his works, I try to view generic and fluid assignments through different lenses.

When this weeks assignment was to play around with Google Maps,  I thought of Hemingway and how I could “map his travels” – and what I could theorize based upon what I found

Hemingway was born Oak Park, Illinois and grew up there.

He took a job at a Kansas City newspaper at 18.

He volunteers as a driver with the Red Cross Ambulance Corps, and is injured in Italy.

He returns to the US after meeting a woman while recuperating in Italy, and they promise to make plans. She writes him that she has fallen in love with someone else.

He moves to Toronto to write for a newspaper, and continues writing for the paper later in the year when moving back to Illinois (Chicago).

He moves to Paris with his first wife at 22 and settles there.

He moves to Key West, Florida several years later with his second wife at 39 and does most of his writing there for the remainder of his life.

He goes to Spain to research a non-fiction book in 1932.

He goes to Kenya in 1933 on a safari and it inspires his writing

He goes to Spain to report on the Spanish American War in 1937.

With a new wife, he settles in Cuba in 1940.

He goes to Europe as a war correspondent in 1944.

He leaves Cuba forever in 1959.

He dies in Ketchum, Idaho in 1961.

What does all this mean? Well, for starters on Google Maps he traveled over long distances early in his life, and settled in a location (Paris) that may have shaped his writing in terms of content and scope.

On going to Florida, that could provide a backdrop for the tone or voice (or again content) of his writing.

On going to Cuba, which was close to Florida, he may have kept with similar themes in his writing.

His final resting place in Idaho was miles away, and having a differen landscape than Florida, Paris, or Cuba. Was this the locale where he felt he could end his life?

These are just early musings with Google Maps. Interesting.

The Weekly Create – A Tool of My Choice – Typewrite

The Weekly Create – DH
A Tool of My Choice – Typewrite

A wise professor recently told my class that for people within the humanities, especially those with an English Literature or Composition bent, that writing, whether for publication or degree requirements, is seen by many as a solitary endeavor without input from others; you rise and fall based on what you and only you do alone, without collaboration. Kind of similar to the Barnes and Noble bag with the fellow toiling away under a candle.

Even in this century, within the humanities, the single solitary writer is seen as the norm in still many academic circles. But with the process (and art) of writing flipped by the latest technologies, how can a dialogue that has been taking place for several years about collaborating on documents become widely accepted within universities?
Fitzpatrick notes that, at the outset, writing by its very act can be viewed as scholarly communication irrespective of the venue – a blog, a tweet, a post, a caption – for the greater purpose of getting the idea out there to a wider audience. This goes to a larger issue of writing in a vacuum – for many academics, does the act of writing lose its passion, vision, and focus if it is only published in journals for academics without a wider chance of a general audience seeing it? Does it become reflexive, done only for a promotion and higher pay? It becomes, in some sense, a black hole of writing.
It does not have to be; as Earhart notes, digital archives are open to the public to mine data and lend a voice to contribute to a conversation.;rgn=div1;view=fulltext;xc=1#3.2 As long as it does not become grunt work with academics using the general public to do the heavy lifting (such as transcribing documents), more than a solitary academic can help create the conversation. Of course, money is needed to create a vibrant conversation – but the sciences tend to win that battle since, in competing for shrinking funding dollars, the bureaucracy sees the “need” more for science with its tropes of teamwork and group think, more so than the still lingering trope of the humanities writer alone in a room.
Steps are taken at the ground level in university classes; part of Davidson’s class manifesto states “We believe that the Internet and technology are changing how individuals and communities understand themselves and the world around them, and that this connected age offers a tremendous opportunity to make teaching, learning, and knowledge more accessible, more affordable, and more meaningful for everyone involved”. But it still not at the level of acceptance – more than a few people (and their teachers) who use the internet would not think of a detailed level of digital collaboration for school papers. That’s cheating, isn’t it? And many scholars would not view a crowdsourced document with validity. That’s not a scholarly endeavor, is it?
My foray into this is using Typewrite
A simple, no frills document creator that lets others view and edit what you type. You type, save, share with someone who has an e-mail address, and they provide comments and/or edit your document. It is not as intricate as Zotero or other high-end research tools, but it does provide a simple way to share what you have to say with others. It is not for everyone – and by that I mean that not everyone on Typewrite can see what you wrote. You have to invite the person. But, once others chime in (and even if they don’t), you can see detailed revision of every version/draft of your document, with highlights focused on what was written in that version. There are symbols to type bold letters, quotes, italics, and web addresses (very archaic in presentation and functionality), and you can sync your writing with a Dropbox account, but the real get here are the snapshots of your document that you or others edit. I utilized it for a short writing passage; it is a great way to see how the writing “moves” when one or others give it some form of communal life and relevance.

Kobe Bryant and the Digital Humanities

Yeah, he’s old, broken down, and a diva on a team that is now a shadow of its former self, but if you ever thought of a connection between Kobe the Great and the DH, here is something:

Kobe Bryant and the Digital Humanities

What does one of the most successful and polarizing basketball players in history have to do with the digital humanities?

For those that don’t follow the NBA, Kobe Bryant is famous for a host of accomplishments: winning five championships, league MVP honors, and an Olympic gold medal, leading the league in scoring twice, winning the All-Star dunk contest, and scoring the second most points in a single game in history. He has also been accused over the years of placing personal success ahead of the team, undermining teammates and coaches, and most notoriously, of sexual assault in 2003. From a basketball standpoint, however, one of the most enduring aspects of Bryant’s career has been an overwhelming consensus of his ability as a “clutch” player. There exists a widespread perception that no other basketball player on earth is better at the end of close games. Both NBA players and general managers have repeatedly and overwhelmingly voted Bryant as the player they would want taking a shot with the game on the line. Bryant’s name and legacy have become entwined with the word “clutch.”

Unfortunately, this is a flawed narrative. Henry Abbott recently wrote a blistering (and persuasive) analysis of Bryant’s abilities as a “clutch” player. Abbott concludes that, by nearly every statistical measure he examined, Bryant is not the best in the world at scoring points at the end of close games. Depending on the metric, Bryant is somewhere between decent and very good, but nowhere close to the best. Perhaps most damningly, the effectiveness of his team’s offense (the best in the league during Bryant’s tenure) plummets at the end of games.

So the question remains: what does Kobe Bryant have to do with the digital humanities?

The fault line in the basketball world over Kobe Bryant’s “clutchness” largely falls between those that evaluate Bryant’s ability by what they see and those that evaluate his ability by what they measure. For someone watching Bryant, no other player has as many breathtaking, memorable game-winning shots and no other player looks as graceful and impressive while doing it. I draw a parallel between this qualitative analysis with more traditional humanistic research: we read our sources and look for meaningful or interesting patterns that jump out at us. On the other side of the basketball fault-line stands a young but growing movement that advocates for more rigorous statistical analysis of basketball, in the same vein as the sabermetric “Moneyball” movement in baseball. For these stat-heads, the seductive aesthetic appeal of Bryant’s game-winning shots hides the less glamorous reality: that Bryant misses those game-winning shot attempts at an extremely high rate. And this is the side of the debate that I would compare to the digital humanities.

The analogy isn’t perfect. Much of the work being done in the digital humanities field is not, in fact, quantitative (and making the comparison brings to mind the less-successful turn towards quantitative history in the 1960s and 1970s). But the analogy does have some useful parallels. Like the stats movement in the basketball world, digital humanities has a lengthy history but has only recently begun to gain traction across the wider academy. Like the stats movement in the basketball world, digital humanities is occasionally seen as threatening or, at the very least, promising too much. Like the stats movement in the basketball world, there are those in digital humanities that revel in revisionism and using new techniques to challenge conventional narratives. And like the stats movement in the basketball world, there are divisions within the digital humanities over method, approach, and emphasis.

One of the most important parallels to be drawn is how the digital humanities are increasingly being used to strengthen (rather than replace) traditional humanistic study, just as advanced statistics are being used in the NBA to strengthen analysis. In the past, a basketball player would be evaluated by a handful of traditional statistics, perhaps most importantly: how many points do they score? Today, teams and scouts are looking at more advanced metrics: for instance, how efficiently do they score those points? In the same vein, traditional literary history might look at a handful of canonical works in order to draw broad conclusions about, say, early-19th century British fiction. Today, advocates of distant reading are measuring trends across hundreds or thousands of early-19th century British novels beyond the canonical authors. Most of these digital researchers would continue to acknowledge the literary importance of Charles Dickens over a barely-published contemporary novelist, just as most stat-heads would acknowledge the importance of a player that scores a moderately-efficient 30 points per game over a player that scores a hyper-efficient 5 points per game.

Comparing the two also highlights their limitations. Some aspects of basketball can’t be measured, such as whether or not a player is a good teammate or how likely they are to stay motivated after receiving a contract or whether they’re likely to end up injured. Similarly, human experience can be an elusive target to study with technology. Charting the prevalence of certain phrases across time using Google NGrams offers, at best, a largely superficial indicator that requires careful and more extensive investigation, while cataloging every slave ship voyage might serve to mute and depersonalize the particularities of individual slaves.

In both the statistical movement in basketball and the digital turn in the humanities, new approaches allow for new questions. Henry Abbott and others have not “proven” that Kobe Bryant shouldn’t take the last shot of a game, but they have raised important questions: would Bryant’s team be better served by using him as a decoy? More broadly, is the long-standing convention of putting the ball into the hands of your best player in an isolation situation at the end of the game even a good idea? Using digital methodologies in the humanities can also serve to pose new kinds of questions, but I think the field should model itself more explicitly after the statistical basketball community in having specific questions drive those methodologies. There is a tendency to build tools and ask research questions later. This is useful, but I’d also like to see more focused questions along the lines of “Is Kobe Bryant a clutch player?” Those of us who advocate for the use of digital tools and techniques in the humanities could benefit from taking a break from the library and turning towards the basketball court.

Weekly Create: Evaluate a DH Database

Weekly Create: Evaluate a DH Database
Digital Humanities
October 2014

Attempting to find an online scholarly journal with some sort of digital archives for academic research is akin to finding a proverbial gigabyte needle in a terabyte haystack. Good luck with that search.

Such was the case when I ventured out to look for one – I thought a simple Google phrase and viola! Not was the case: the examples noted by our professor on Dickinson ( and Uncle Tom’s Cabin ( did not leave much in the way of content, analysis, and utilizing the tools of the internet to manipulate and “change” the text; I attempted an authorial search with such luminaries and Fitzgerald ( and Woolf (, and the pickings were scant and slim at best, with more information on joining their societies and conferences than tangible information about who these crafters were, and how they continue to be interpreted today (I wanted to stay away from Shakespeare, since he is one literary populist giant who I know has legions of digital denizens who have probably coded his blood type and created an online (and print, of course) journal based on it: The Blood of the Bard) – although I ran across a cool article If Shakespeare wrote in JavaScript, here’s what it would look like (

So, I then turned to something drier – composition studies – and despite finding the Conference on College Composition and Communication’s (CCCC) website (, it wasn’t much on content for academics. So then the obvious came to me – how about something related to computers and composition?

Sure enough, I quickly found Computers and Composition Online (

Yeah, the mastiff is pretty much no-frills, as is the layout of the site. But the nuggets are in the thing, which provides some good information.

By providing serious, academic discussions of issues related to computers and compositions ( a snapshot of the Spring 2014 edition under the heading Theory Into Practice provides articles such as From Screen to Text: Video Composing in the Writing Classroom, Three Frameworks and a Pedagogical Approach: Teaching Video Arguments in First-Year Composition, and Digital Architectonics: A Case Study of Educator Designed Multimodal Texts ) the site contributes to topical issues around computers and composition today.

The online version of this journal has a few advantages over its print counterpart – a blog that announces conferences and “keeps people in the know”, and posts the latest online issues for free, which keeps the conversation current (although I did not see much in the way in terms of videos or other modalities).

It clearly states it’s goal: “Our goal is to be a significant online resource for scholar-teachers interested in the impact of new and emerging media upon the teaching of language and literacy in both virtual and face-to-face forums. As part of this goal, we wish to foster a sense of community and collegial sharing of ideas by providing an online space where select features, announcements, and community resources work together to promote a virtual exchange for the latest and best work in the field.”, and the sharing of ideas part is quite clear, with separate navigational links for theory, virtual classrooms, and professional development.

This makes it a good source for advanced research; for those of us with a techno-rhetorical bend, web articles such as Confessions of a Technorhetorician provide good fodder to see what scholars are writing about digital composition. The site is not hard on the eyes – sections are laid out clearly, although the search function is non-existent.

Since this is a establishment site sponsored by Elsevier, Kristine Blair as Editor-in-Chief, Lanette Cadle and Joe Erickson as Senior Editors, and Megan Adams as Design Editor oversee the site; it is fair to say that it is collaborative – there are probably unnamed employees of Elsevier who do some of the grunt work in formatting the articles.

This is fine with the people who venture to the site – it is geared for academics (and budding academics) without showy or simplified content, providing detailed and sourced analysis. Overall it provides access to academic conversations about this thing called computer composition, although making it less traditional-text heavy in utilizing different modalities would provide alternative ways of “seeing” some content in action.

The Weekly Create – September 18, 2014 – How to Read the Human Brain (Kinda, Sorta, Not Reeealllyyy…)

How to Read the Human Brain (Kinda, Sorta, Not Reeealllyyy…)

Humans have an uncanny ability to take stuff from their brains and transcribe it into a different modality – text is the “old school” version of this, and those who were the most gifted made their words sing on the printed page, with other humans reading this brain output with awe and wonderment (and in the case of some singers, like James Joyce and later Virginia Woolf, frustration – if we even don’t give up midway through the novel).

The “newer school” version for us mere mortals of interpreting what the great writers of the past wrote is by using digital software that can “map” the words, rhythms, styles, cadences, and “grooves” of the writer. Using such tools can create a “magnifying glass which can draw the text out of its shy place to look at the layout of a page, and enlarging and making comprehensible some chosen bit”. The technology can help readers see the forest through the trees – but for formulating nuance in your thesis or hypothesis, that still requires the brainpower of current humans to think.

Clement discusses differential reading, in which we look at a writing through different academic lenses – we see the art, cultural production, practical criticism (not getting too hung up on the particulars of the text) and philosophy of a text – and meld it together to fit our own computer mind (in a sense). The software allows for a structure of archivization (as Derrida would say), but the software is still dependent on the humans in the more-structured states of how we use this information within text analysis, data mining, and visualization methodologies.

The technology, such as StageGraph, can map a Shakspearean plays “look” such as the length of acts, or Voyant to see word frequencies in novels and provide insight into what the writer may have been intending when placing a particular word or group of words in particular places within the text. But to always keep in mind that even with using the clean and seemingly infallible computer technologies, like all literature it comprises the “situated knowledges” – we are looking at representations of representations of representations.

Such tools as Vocabulary Management Profiles can interpret patterns we see in texts and how others have read texts, even regarding narrative style, but o keep in mind that these technologies can perhaps be most beneficial in large scale text collections in seeing that an author’s randomness in words or phrases may be actually deliberate, something that “old school” scholars would have a hard time picking up.

The lone, solitary scholar does not easily situate herself or himself in creating meaning and new conversations within digital humanities – collaboration by invisible hands is key. This collaboration is always in tune with the realization that distant reading (for example, data mining) must always be entwined with the thoughts of the person (close reading) to think outside the box. Can the language be code? What are the multiple, meaning-making properties of a literary text? Is there a common, agreed upon meaning of the words in a literary text? Even if you think that by using “non-judgmental” tools that you may believe are inherent in internet software, which you believe may be created by robots, the messiness and doubt that humans have had to confront in writing about complex concepts such as race, gender, class, and culture still has to be questioned, since these new technologies still have their own messiness. Alas, human brain power is still needed to give this internet thing the dynamism to grow and move forward.

Even by using Google’s nGram to track the etymology of a word through a defined period of time, it must be viewed with a grain of salt – I am looking at the word primarily in the abstract – I was not present when word and meaning were constructed, and I am looking at it through a digital lens, which can obfuscate the messiness and fuzziness that actually is at the heart of language production and meaning. To put it another way: What is pornography? I’ll know it when I see it.

I attempted to “see” what pornography was, in a textual sense, by using nGram, in the 1950’s. A book from 1958, Pornography and obscenity: handbook for censors, by David Herbert Lawrence and Henry Miller, apparently challenges the negative connotation of pornography, and the effect of the individual in its “secrecy”. Venus in Boston: And Other Tales of Nineteenth-century City Life by George Thompson, from 1950, looked at pornography in a historical sense in the 1800’s. The text The Pornography of Violence in Literature: And a Check List of Titles with a High Content Level of Violence by Robert T. Jordan in 1956 using the negativity of the term to connote it with another negative term – violence. What can I surmise about the use of this word? Well, it can be bad or shameful. What else? I have to use my mind to think about it.

The Weekly Create – October 2, 2014 – Unknown and unfamiliar – but OK

The Weekly Create

October 2, 2014

Unknown and unfamiliar – but OK

This week’s weekly create is less about what I know and all about what I don’t know. I was given the assignment of interacting with two voices.
The firs voice I interacted with was Zotero. From the initial download, which was puzzling because I wasn’t aware which browser I should use, to what exactly I should look at – or query – it seemed a bit foreign. Doesn’t’ Google tell us all we need to know? I was also unsure about the fact that it can track my searches – do I really want another entity making meaning out of my internet activities? Hopefully the lesson with Prof. Travis and Prof. Fuchs will allay my fears.
As for Twitter, I’m not much of a tweet – I tend to do my tweeting in private, as what’s said in public can be useless unless you exactly know what to say – which usually (at least for English people) is more than 140 characters. I set up my account, noted there were no tweets from my fellow DH’ers, and went back to my more predictable internet activities. Hopefully I can weave tweeting into my syllabus and make it a clearinghouse for new ideas. But I’m still a tweeter without much of a beak or wings. To be continued…

Weekly Create – Initial Comments – 9-11-14

The Weekly Create
DH – Prof. Travis
September 11, 2014

A journey through interactive cyberspace

I have never used before, and realized that it is something that is so fundamental to the digital humanities – ease of creation, sharing, and responding.
The fundamental-ness can be shown in the sparse, late 90’s graphic interface, but it does make for ease of use.
By attaching a document – an ancient grammar/composition book – and posting it several seconds later, it acknowledges the discussions by McGann, Kirschenbaum, and the Humanities to Digital Humanities reading – that this is a fluid medium that has yet to reach its full potential.
By digitizing the past – this book is over 100 years old – and hopefully being able to access sites that show the breadth of composition and rhetorical practice over the centuries – it provides for new ways of looking at the big picture, being able to analyze a landscape than have to rely on more speculative theory to provide conclusions.
I haven’t even yet begun to remix my content – by placing this book in a different context, interpreting it through multiple forms of media – music, video, pictures, or the like – but the possibilities for discussion, refinement, and an audience are endless.
Understandably, this doesn’t sit well with the old guard, especially for those concerned about publishing and employment – peer review, as the Literary Studies in the Digital Age article noted – is still seen as unsettling by the establishment when put into a digital realm, but that will eventually change.
I couldn’t find a link for the Weekly Create – I googled for a Weekly Create site but could not find one, and of course if it isn’t on Google, it doesn’t exist (which can be one of the pitfalls of Digital Humanities, but that’s a different argument for a different time…).