The Presence of Digital Process

The following was my contribution to the MLA16 panel, “Digital Scholarship in Action: Research”, January 10th, 2016. The panel was convened and presided over by Patricia Hswe. Contributions by my fellow panellists can be viewed as follows: Diane Jakacki (@dianejakacki), Laura C. Mandell (@mandellc), Paige C Morgan (@paigecmorgan), and  Katherine Rawson (@katie_rawson).

Computational methods are an essential part of the Digital Humanities, in that they are central to a range of disciplinary processes. By “process”, I refer to the digital means by which we produce new knowledge and meaning of significance to Humanities scholarship. While process—the application of the computer-assisted methods we develop, manipulate, and adopt—can be an act of interpretation in itself, I would argue, and I am sure that few would disagree, that this act is always in the service of the product, the new insights, be that into the literary or otherwise, offered by our fields’ many esoteric approaches. Herein lies part of the value of the Digital Humanities: the way we approach research allows for new questions to be asked and existing debates to be revived. While it is now comprised of a great many, and often dissonant, scholarly, and indeed creative, activities, our community first emerged out of a fascination with the potential for the computer to be utilised as an instrument for scholarly enquiry. The very essence of the Humanities is criticism, and so if the methodological foundations of the Digital Humanities are to continue to mature, then we must continue to be critical of this essential element—repeatedly, we must ask of our machines, how and why. Continue reading

The Cork Film Festival should never be about red carpets

I was first introduced to the Cork Film Festival as a Transition Year student; a review that I wrote was considered sufficient for a place on what was then known as the “Junior Jury”, a panel of second-level students tasked with participating in the selection of various prizewinners. My contribution to the event was the first time that I had engaged in any real cultural criticism–what one learns in the classroom differs greatly from the skills that one acquires in the attic of the Triskel, packed within a tight circle, trashing out the merits of the day’s screenings. The Cork Film Festival exposed me to a world of critical and creative practices which would greatly influence my future–I am now an academic, and publisher, who specialises in digital modes of expression. Much of my work, and by extension, what I teach, is centred around the affordances of screen media. Since that first introduction, I have attended the festival each year without fail (last year being the exception, as I was working at Penn State, and airfare isn’t cheap). It has become an annual ritual; each year I take a day and go see a mixture of the Irish and international shorts, filling the gaps between sessions in some of my favourite Cork eateries and watering holes. I have long seen the day as something of an homage to my nativity, as well as a personal celebration of the escapism that creativity can afford–great food, and great film; this is what it means to be a Corkonian. Let the Riviera have Cannes, we have this! Reminiscing aside, I am very disappointed, indeed angry, to learn that the festival is nearing financial ruin, and that the current board have approached Cork City Council’s Arts Committee for an emergency bailout. I’m disappointed, because, as someone who has spent much of their life in Cork, the film festival is ingrained in our cultural heritage, and it is something which I never thought would be at risk. I’m angry, because, yet again, commerce has been privileged over culture. Continue reading

Inaugural podcasts on Cultural Mechanics

I recently started a new podcast, Cultural Mechanics, which emerges out of my research and interest in a variety of topics relating to digital culture, electronic art, critical media, creative technologies, and the Digital Humanities. The two first podcasts are concerned with Irish e-lit authors, Michael J. Maguire and Graham Allen.

The magic that is literature

This morning, I was proofreading an introduction that I recently finished, and wanted to share the following passage with the community:

“An analogy which jumps readily to mind can be traced back to a particular exchange at one of the community’s largest annual gatherings, the Digital Humanities Summer Institute, hosted by the University of Victoria, British Columbia. Each year, DHSI instructors welcome participants with an outline of what materials they will be covering throughout the Institute. Typically collegial and informal, this particular welcome session took on a Harry Potter theme, with the majority of instructors promising to teach students new bouts of computational wizardry. When the turn of David Hoover came, there was a change in the theme. Professor Hoover, an eminent figure in the field of computational stylistics, was quick to point out that his participants would not be doing anything magical with computers, but rather, using computers to assist their understanding of the magic that is literature.”

It’s a sentiment which I believe we would all do well to remember as we go about our work as digital humanists.

A brief chat with digital artist, Jacob Garbe

In 2014, while in Chicago attending the annual MLA Convention, I visited the “Pathfinders Exhibit” curated by Dene Grigar and Stuart Moulthrop. I was introduced to a number of works, including Jacob Garbe’s Closed Rooms, Soft Whispers. During the exhibit, I spoke with the work’s creator, which prompted some further correspondence, a portion of which I present in this post.

Closed Rooms, Soft Whispers, by Jacob Garbe

Closed Rooms, Soft Whispers, by Jacob Garbe. From “Pathfinders Exhibit”, MLA Convention, Chicago, Jan 2014.

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