Familiar Methods

A friend and colleague wrote about depression and anxiety. About a fraught desperation that arises from being overworked and under-rested and overwhelmed. About a primal desire for respite from anywhere it might be found, in the car for ten minutes, in memories of college, or further back in a tree-lined, childhood neighborhood. In a nondescript coffeehouse for an hour during the day before everyone is home at this time on the weekend. In fantasy so appealing it must be shared with a child. Or perhaps the fantasy is a prescription for her own respite and, provecho, as a way to begin teaching a four-year old that, this, this fantasy of a quiet garden is one way you might find respite for your psyche when you need it. Sometimes it’s the only way if a real garden is more than ten minutes away.

I’m touched by the writing because I sometimes feel a conflicted desperation for respite, a condition fueled through competing needs. The need to withdraw and the need to remain. My circumstances are different, but I’m touched because those methods for respite are familiar. And as that familiarity washes over me I feel a sense of solidarity, as if I’ve been offered an open hand, an invitation to walk, and nothing else. For me, that solidarity makes the desperation for respite a little less fraught. Thank you.

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Cat Adjectives

Does it work to call a cat nice? Is that a little too anthropomorphic? Even if it is, does it still work if we agree to wink? And does it work in practice, or are we suggesting it’s possible theoretically and hey maybe everyone will catch on?

Or are we more comfortable with plain old good. Works for dogs.

Lucy. Allegedly not a nice cat.
Lucy. Allegedly not a nice cat.

* Write

Finalizing plans for the semester. A bit dissatisfied with my over reliance on “Fast Writes” for classroom exercises. Why so fast? Why so fast all the time? I’ve not framed them any different in the past, as I recall. Except for “Free Writes,” perhaps. A list is necessary. Other kinds of writing must be possible. My guess is that the reason fast writes have always been at hand for me is because I’ve (and others who use them) are used to careening through life with the care of a breakneck.  I’ll begin with the first alt-write (let’s make that a thing, yeah? Dank Sirc memes and all) that occurred to me and drive down a list until I can’t:

Focused Write

Fun Write

Angry Write

Careful Write

Fuckin’ A Write

Slow Breath Write

No Write

Yes Write

Feeling Write

Night Write

Shitty Write

Nervous Write

Sweaty Write

Hot Write

Future (Past, Present) Write

Death Write

Sick Write

Slick Write

Summer (Fall, Spring, Winter) Write

Fly Write

Speed Write

Walk through the Neighborhood Write

Walk on the Beach Write

Walk at Night Write

3:45 a.m. Write

Bliss Write

Pun Write

Eat Write

Think Write

Laugh Write

Cry Write

Jagoda — Netwrok Ambivalence

“Ambivalence, then, is a process of slowing down and learning to inhabit a compromised environment with the discomfort, contradiction, and misalignment it entails” (114).

“Instead of an ‘either-or,’ network aesthetics more often yield a ‘both-and’ and a ‘what else?'” (114).

“[N]etwork aesthetics multiply the possible forms that thought itself might take. Thought need not be put in the service of perpetuating progress through innovation or yielding negation through critique. It can also be a state of experiencing, negotiating, affecting, inhabiting, and playing with the mixed feelings inherent in ambivalence” (116.)

Jagoda first works through the near ubiquity of networks as an analytic in present moment (“a dominant episteme and ubiquitous form of our time” (109). Jagoda moves quickly to Galloway who suggests that to explore beyond network models one might take an avant-garde approach or a “whatever” approach (in the simplest sense, opting-out). Jagoda argues for a third way through the framework of ambivalence.

I’m drawn to the moments in Jagoda’s excerpt that are captured in the epigraphic quotes above, and I’ll return to those in a moment. But first, I was drawn to re-reading this article because it implied a problem I had not considered: what happens when all we see is networks? I could list a series of questions here, but all evoke the commonplace sense of “when [x] is everything, [x] is nothing.” It looses meaning or force in it’s overuse or over-application.

The move toward ambivalence, then, is quite appealing to me intellectually and pedagogically. It does not seem to want to explain networks or argue for networks in what I think could be considered epistemological moves. Rather, a stance of ambivalence seems to me to seek a more ontological orientation, a stance Jagoda seems to capture by way of dwelling, but dwelling in networked spaces that are simultaneously in flux. I’ve been considering what it might mean to be rhetorically ambivalent, or put another way to dwell ambivalently in a rhetorical theory, moment, or space.

Pedagogically, I’m drawn to ambivalence as well. I begin to wonder at how a project or curriculum might be shaped through an attention to a stance of ambivalence. What kinds of activities might emerge from a pedagogical attention to ambivalence? How would a pedagogy shaped through ambivalence treat arguments and thesis statements? How could a stance of ambivalence contribute to writing processes, research writing, or to reflection? I sense those areas as most ripe for an attention to a stance of ambivalence.

Jagoda, Patrick. “Network Ambivalence.” Contemporaneity. 4.1 (2015): 108-118.

Keywords

Networks, ambivalence, aesthetics

Tracing/Wandering

Artists: Sharon Molloy, Emma McNally, Tomás Saraceno, Chiharu Shiota

Lauren Berlant, “Thinking About Feeling Historical,” Emotion, Space and Society (2008)

Lutz P. Koepnick, On Slowness: Toward an Aesthetic of the Contemporary (2014)

Ramsay & Rockwell: “Developing Things: Notes toward an Epistemology of Building in the Digital Humanities.”

Ramsay, Stephen and Geoffrey Rockwell. “Developing Things: Notes toward an Epistemology of Building in the Digital Humanities.” Debates in the Digital Humanities. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012. Web.

Key Words
Making
Building
Scholarship
Theory
Prototypes

Summary
Ramsay and Rockwell examine what counts as scholarship in the realm of the digital. They briefly survey attempts to capture, define, and evaluate digital projects in the humanities. Ramsay and Rockwell further discuss whether or not a digital artifact needs written discourse to count as scholarship. They discuss the making/building of tools as forms of scholarship, along with the complications such projects would entail. They distinguish between textual accounts of how tools act as theory and the unaccompanied tool itself an argument and manifestation of theory. Prototypes, in particular, hold significant promise as potential thing theories; built things that function, in and of themselves, to make a theoretical argument. Prototypes become more appealing than tools-in-use for such tools work best when their theoretical underpinnings are (usefully) opaque to users, whereas prototypes, with their bugginess, uniqueness, and idiosyncrasies, surface their theoretical potential in a more transparent way. All this is to discuss how scholars should get credit for the work they do building the digital humanities.

Key Quotes
“If [Davis] Baird is right, then ‘building’ may represent an opportunity to correct the discursive and linguistic bias of the humanities. According to this view, we should be open to communicating scholarship through artifacts, whether digital or not. It implies that print is, indeed, ill equipped to deal with entire classes of knowledge that are presumably germane to humanistic inquiry.”

“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.”

“If highly theorized and self-reflective visions of tools as theories fail to be sufficiently tool-like, one might say that so-called thing theories of the instrumental sort outlined here err in the opposite direction by being insufficiently open about their theoretical underpinnings. A well-tuned instrument might be used to understand something, but that doesn’t mean that you, as the user, understand how the tool works.”

“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. … We do not mean to propose that the act of putting words on a page is scholarship. We seek, instead, to capture metonymically the quality of the intervention that has occurred as a result of the writing. Scholars conceive the world and represent it in some altered form. That writing stands as the technical method by which this transformation is made is almost beside the point.”

“If the quality of the 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.”

Further Reading
Baird, Davis. Thing Knowledge: A Philosophy of Scientific Instruments. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004.

Galey, Alan, Stan Ruecker, and the INKE team. “How a Prototype Argues.” Literary and Linguistic Computing 25, no. 4 (2010): 405–24.

Turing, Alan. “Computing Machinery and Intelligence.” Mind: A Quarterly Review of Psychology and Philosophy 59, no. 236 (1950): 433–60.

Drucker: “Humanistic Theory and Digital Scholarship.”

Drucker, Johanna. “Humanistic Theory and Digital Scholarship.” Debates in the Digital Humanities. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012. Web.

Key Words
Data visualization
Humanities
Situatedness
Enunciation

Summary
The tools from which the Digital Humanities draw inspiration, methodology, and scholarship are produced by fields which are still moored in positivistic, mechanistic, quantitative, and reductionist frameworks. Drucker asks if humanists can “design … digital environments that embody specific theoretical principles drawn from the humanities, [and] not merely work within platforms and protocols created by disciplines whose methodological premises are often at odds with—even hostile to—humanistic values and thought?” Drucker sees the tools and processes of data visualization to be hostile to the values and goals of the humanities.

Drucker calls for a DH shift away from reading technology and toward making technology. The DH should emphasize readings as interpretive in nature, readings as constructing their own discourse [cf. Barthes S/Z]. Drucker sees the work of data visualization as in its infancy in the humanities, revolving around the processes of quantifying and sorting at present (dealing with what is already known), as opposed to the more complex processes of statistical analyses performed in other disciplines and fields (“Statisticians are concerned with probabilities, not certainties.”). Drucker looks at mapping in particular, and the representational complexities associated with any projection of geography, including (especially) the photographic images presented by such entities as Google Maps. Drucker posits situatednes (primarily framed through individual experience) and enunciation (primarily framed through cultural systems that assemble social selves) as principles which would help shape the DH into a true humanistic enterprise.

Key Quotes
“While it may seem like an extreme statement, I think the ideology of almost all current information visualization is anathema to humanistic thought, antipathetic to its aims and values. The persuasive and seductive rhetorical force of visualization performs such a powerful reification of information that graphics such as Google Maps are taken to be simply a presentation of ‘what is,’ as if all critical thought had been precipitously and completely jettisoned. Therefore, this is a critical moment to identify core theoretical issues in the humanities and develop digital platforms that arise from these principles.”

“I think we can fairly say that the intellectual traditions of aesthetics, hermeneutics, and interpretative practices (critical editing, textual studies, historical research) are core to the humanities.”

“The challenge is to shift humanistic study from attention to the effects of technology (from readings of social media, games, narrative, personae, digital texts, images, environments), to a humanistically informed theory of the making of technology (a humanistic computing at the level of design, modeling of information architecture, data types, interface, and protocols).”

“Statisticians are concerned with probabilities, not certainties. They do not count things; they model conditions and possible outcomes. Data mining in the humanities has largely depended on counting, sorting, ordering techniques—in essence, some automated calculations. Statistical modeling has factored less, at least to date, in the analytic tool kit of critical digital work with texts. Stylometrics, attribution studies, natural language processing, and other higher level analyses have long made use of these sophisticated modeling techniques, but graphing ambiguous and partial knowledge is still in its early stages.”

“The theoretical underpinnings of humanistic interpretation are fundamentally at odds with the empirical approaches on which certain conventions of temporal and spatial modeling are based. All maps are constructions, and the history of cartography, like the histories of other graphical forms of knowledge, is filled with productive debates about the ideological and rhetorical force of mapping techniques.”

“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.”

“Humanistic conventions for the graphical production of spatial knowledge and interpretation would spring from the premises of situatedness and enunciation. “

“The question is not, Does digital humanities need theory? but rather, How will digital scholarship be humanistic without it?”

Further Reading

Moretti, Franco. “Conjectures on World Literature.” 2000.

Kirschenbaum, Matthew. Mechanisms: New Media and the Forensic Imagination. 2008.

McGann, Jerome J. Radiant Textuality. 2001.

Bianco: “This Digital Humanities Which Is Not One.”

Bianco, Jamie “Skye.” “This Digital Humanities Which Is Not One.” Debates in the Digital Humanities. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012. Web.

Key Words
Critique
Creative construction
Ethics
Methods

Summary
Bianco troubles the notion of the Digital Humanities as methodological in nature. The DH tendency away from critical discourse leads to a dearth within which a conspicuous lack of gaze is settled upon the social, political, or cultural. While sympathetic to the Latourian notion that critique has run out of steam, Bianco nonetheless calls for an ethical turn in the DH explicitly, and a critical turn less explicitly, especially insofar as a critical turn would focus on the politics of methodology, digital tools, code and other DH phenomena as “socially neutral or benevolent, and theoretically and politically transparent.” Bianco is wary of a return to kind of retro-humanism that preceded the critical, ethical, and methodical diversity and expansion ushered in by cultural studies and critical theory. Bianco turns to Latour and Sedgwick to build a case for creative construction and turn away from creative destruction as practiced by critical theory. In particular, Bianco examines the difference between frameworks of veils/veiling/unveiling and frameworks of digital/codified/networked layers that may be more pressing as objects of study in a world in which “we live exposed.” Bianco finishes with a call to move away from “the practices and logic of unifying standards and instrumentality, as well as rationalizing and consolidating genres—for genres, like academic disciplines, are not immanent.”

Key Quotes
“Does the digital humanities need an ethology or an ethical turn? Simply put, yes.”

“It’s been a long time since I’ve quoted a feminist like a sledgehammer, but something about the new, posttheoretical humanities, the digital humanities, smells a bit like its self- (and other-) enlightened, progress-driven, classifying, rationalizing, and disciplining (grand)father.”

“New methods, tools, technics, and approaches—Moretti’s “distant reading,” for example—have been welcome evolutions with provocative expository and critical value, but these additions to the humanities need not mean distant ethics and a severing off of critique and cultural studies. … This is not a moment to abdicate the political, social, cultural, and philosophical, but rather one for an open discussion of their inclusion in the ethology and methods of the digital humanities.”

“We live exposed. Might we begin to experiment with ways to shift or move out of the utopian ideal of unveiling the already unveiled, executed through acts of destructive creation, to take up the troubling of affective disjuncture between what is felt and what is real and to move from interrogative readings to interactive, critical ‘reuse’ compositions through what Latour terms a ‘progressivism’ that is predicated on immanence and upon what I would argue are nontrivially changed material conditions?”

Further Reading
Latour, “An Attempt at a ‘Compositionist Manifesto.’” 2010
Sedgwick, Touching Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity. 2002
Ranciere, The Politics of Aesthetics. 2004