Yesterday I attended The Limits of the Archive: Classification, Management, Digitization, an IRC-funded workshop hosted by Dr Carrie Griffin and Dr Mary O’Connell at University College Cork. The purpose of the workshop was to lay the foundation for digital research into 19th Century antiquarian book-collector and amateur printer, Charles Clark. The programme included respected scholars and practitioners from a variety of relevant fields, each of whom participated in numerous discussions in relation to digital projects of this nature. Continue reading →
I recently saw a tweet from blogging guru, Geoff Talbot, that read: “Never tell an artist to get a real job”. It led to an interesting discussion with Kelli Russell Agodon, a brilliant individual with every right to the mantle of “artist” (and the person who brought the tweet to my attention in the first place). Kelli, a writer, poet, editor and publisher, made the point that it annoys her when people classify her art, in this case literature, as a “hobby”. As a recipient of multiple prestigious awards, grants and residencies, one can safely describe Kelli as an artist by profession. However, while there are undoubtedly many professional artists like Kelli whose work and social contribution is trivialised, it is arguably more common to find individuals who seem to think that intent is equivalent to accomplishment. Indeed, many people have failed to comprehend the crucial difference between art as profession, and art as pastime. Continue reading →
Presenting at last year’s DHSI Colloquium, I introduced an application that I designed for the iPad, intended to allow users to add annotations to the Cantwell Collection, a collection of W. B. Yeats first editions held in the Boole Library at UCC. The application, I argued, was based on a need to, as reflected in the title of the paper, “annotate the bibliographic code”. In essence, my suggestion was that, by availing of digital tools and resources, scholars could annotate images of any visual or material elements related to their research. In other words, digital imagery allows us to annotate high-quality replications of rare books covers and paintings, etc. While this is anything but a novel idea, there is a lack of relevant tools available for scholars (though the wonderfully feature rich imageMAT is nearing completion), and thus, my application focusing on the Cantwell Collection was born.
I presented the tool to the DHSI community, which allowed users to add annotations to digitised copies of the Cantwell Collection, and was immediately shown the error of my ways when the first question was asked: “Can I load my own images into this, or is it just for scholars looking at Yeats?” Foolishly, I’d not considered the wider community, and had instead narrowed my focus to one of the champions of material modernism. Yeatsians would undoubtedly have found the application useful, but we’re not all Yeatsians (I’m not even a Yeatsian myself, beyond having used his collections as examples in my work on paratextuality and bibliographic coding). Thus, following the DHSI Colloquium, I ventured back to the drawing board, and devised an application that allows scholars to annotate their own images, whatever they might be.
As a cinematic examination of postcolonial Britain, Stephen Frears’ My Beautiful Laundrette, written by Hanif Kureishi, is highly effective in its purpose. Here, I will discuss the ways in which the film explores postcolonial identity, particularly in relation to the politics of gender, questions of sexuality and the family unit, as well as the cultural connotations that are inherent across each of these. Continue reading →
Experimental texts pose something of a quandary to electronic textual analysis in that they tend to abandon those typical statistical trends required to form an authorial signature. Computational stylistics, for all its analytic diversity, is utterly dependent on the integrity of its authorial signature if it is to be used as an approach to analysis. If you want to see why computational stylistics is the realm of digital humanists and not purebred statisticians or computer scientists, run Finnegans Wake through R. Of course, the nature of experimental texts, while problematic in relation to any analysis based on computational linguistics, also presents the opportunity for textual explorations of a refreshingly unpredictable fashion – it is in experimental works that the digital humanist can hope to produce results that are truly unexpected, even if the unexpected is precisely that which is expected. Enter Dave Lordan, and the wonderfully crafted First Book of Frags, his recent collection of experimental short stories. At first I had intended to offer a traditional review of the text, but these will undoubtedly be in plentiful supply, and with time against me and my curiosity piqued at the prospect of running a brand new experimental text through the digital gauntlet, I couldn’t resist but take a computational approach. This decision was of course influenced by the fact that this is a collection of experimental short stories – 16 unique segments – mouth-watering to a cluster fiend such as myself.
Amongst his many other accomplishments, Ian Fellows will long be remembered as the scholar who gave us empirical word clouds. Using his innovative R package, I generated such a visualization of the top 50 most frequently used words in Lordan’s collection, excluding those that would be considered common. Common words only have significance in the development of an authorial signature, and thus would have served little purpose to this particular aspect of the analysis.
50 most frequent uncommon words in Dave Lordan’s First Book of Frags
Scholars are curious creatures. You would think them more open to divergent strands of thought than most, but academia isn’t just made up of academic disciplines; it’s comprised of academic camps. And you need to know what camp you’re in, it seems. Most of these camps were established in an age beyond the memory of those who reside within them, though it is the work of many inhabitants to trace such origins, to pinpoint any expansions and contractions so that we might better understand why any camp is indeed a camp and why it is precisely the type of camp that its residents believe it to be.
Digital Humanities is not as new as people might think, it’s just that the boundaries are only now being defined. Continue reading →
SimpleTCT is an open source simplified management environment designed to assist in textual comparison and thematic analysis. Users can display the contents of .rtf files, define themes, highlight passages and add personal notes as required. A document may then be exported containing all of the selected passages, organised thematically, situated alongside the relevant notes. Compatible with Windows, Mac and Linux.
While not quite a neologism at this point, the term “digital humanities” for some still bears a significant measure of ambiguity. What separates digital humanities from the humanities? Throughout this article, I will attempt to offer some clarity on this separation, outlining what it is that makes digital humanities, digital.
The field of scholarship now recognised as the digital humanities has not always held this particular mantle. Initially, this emerging discipline was referred to as “humanities computing”, a term that gathered momentum as early as the late ‘70s, the evidence for which can be found in a quick n-gram of Google Books. N-grams offer an approach to probabilistic language modelling that can be used for a variety of purposes, in this case, to identify the frequency of a sequence of words in a set of texts.
Figure 1: Digital Humanities vs. Humanities Computing
“Genius requires privilege and opportunity.” Apt words from John Richetti. Of all our social inequalities, education is at the fore. Education is vital yet expensive, prohibitively so, and the further you progress, the more expensive it becomes. A senior academic once raised their eyebrows in surprise when I told them in conversation that I had completed all of my third-level studies at local institutions here in Cork. Why had I not set my sights on more prestigious arenas? It was partly owing to a lack of intelligence, but it was primarily down to a lack of cash. I studied somewhere close to home, or I didn’t study at all. Of course, there are people in far worse positions – I appreciate that I’ve been lucky – people who’d give anything to study anything, anywhere. As Richetti said, it’s about privilege and opportunity.