Today I am blogging from the University of Edinburgh Digital Scholarship Day of Ideas 2, a day long look at research in the digital humanities and social sciences. You can find out more on the event on the Digital HSS website. As usual these are live blog posts so apologies for any spelling errors, typos, etc. And please do leave your comments and corrections here.
Professor Dorothy Miell, head of college of Huminities and Social Sciences is introducing the day. Last year we shaped the day around external speakers but we are well aware that there is such a wealth of work taking place here in Edinburgh so this year we have reshaped the event to include more input from researchers here in Edinburgh, with break out sessions and discussion time. The event is part of a programme of events in the Digital HSS thread, led by Sian Bayne. The programme includes workshops and a range of other events. Just yesterday a group of us were discussing how to take forward this work, how to help groups gather around applications for grants etc, developing fora for post graduates etc. If you have any ideas please do contact Sian and let her know.
Our first speaker is Tara McPherson who is based in the School of Cinematic Arts at USC in Los Angeles. She is a researcher on cinema and gender. Her new media research concentrates on computation, gender and race as well as new paradigms of publishing and authorship.
Scholarship across scales: humanities research in a networked world – Dr Tara McPherson, School of Cinematic Arts, University Southern California
We are often told we are living in an era of big data, of large digital data sets and the speed of their expansion. And so much of this work is created by citizens, “vernacular archives” such as Flickr and YouTube. And those spaces are the data for emerging scholars. And we are already further along in how big data and linked data can support scholarship. There is a project called DataONE – Data Observation Network for Earth – is a grant project for scientists, the grand archive of knowledge. This is the sort of data aggregation Foucault warned us about! But it’s not just in the scientists. In the humanities we also have huge data sets, the Holocaust Testimony video collection is an example of that – we can use that as visual evidence in a way that was previously unavailable to us. Study of expression, of memory, of visual aspects can be explored alongside more traditional ways of exploring those testimonies. And we can begin to ask ourselves about what happens when we begin to visualise big data in new ways. If communication is increasingly in forms like video what are the opportunities for scholarship to take advantage of that new material, the vernaculars, and what does it mean that we can now have interpretation presented in parallel to evidence. Whilst many humanities scholars have been sceptical about the combination of human and machine interpretations there are rich possibilities for thinking about these not as alternative forms but as a contiunuum. And we will see shifts in how we collaborate, in sharing the outcomes of our knowledge. Rather than thinking of our outputs as texts, as publications, we also need to think about data sets, as software. Stuff that exists at multiple levels from bite size records – metadata that records our work for instance, to book size, to bigger. And we need to think about how we credit work, how we recognise effort, how we assess that work. How do we reward and assess innovation – how do we do that for research that may not lead to immediate articles but be much longer, much bigger scale.
Going back to DataONE there is a sub project called eBird, a tool to allow birdwatchers to gather data on birds. They are somewhat ahead of the game in thinking about crowdsourced science. Colleagues at Dartmouth are starting to look at crowdsourcing data. My son plays a game that lets you fold proteins that contributes to scientific research. There are examples from Wikipedia, to protein folding to metadata games, etc. which also challenge traditional publishing. The Shakespeare Quarterly challenges peer review with an open process – an often challenging form of peer review. Gary Hall and colleagues at Goldsmiths are also innovating with open journals. But we also see a change from academic knowledge as something which should be locked away, a move away from the book as fetish object etc. In the UK we saw JISC fund livingbooksaboutlife.org – from open access science but curated by humanists and scientists.
And we see information that can be discovered and represented in many ways. We can get hung up on Google or library catalogue search dynamics but actually searches can be quite different. So for something like Textmap we get an idea of different modes of discovering and browsing and searching the archive, opportunities for academics to reinterpret and reuse data. The opportunity to manipulate and reuse data gives our archive much more fludity. We can engage on many different registers. You can imagine the Shoah Foundation archive which I showed earlier having a K12 interface, as well as interfaces for researchers, for publishers etc. Some may be functional interfaces but some may be much more playful, more experimental.
Humanities scholars and artists are helping to design some of these spaces. The tools will not take the form that we need them to as particular humanities scholars unless we are part of that process. We often don’t think of ourselves as having that role but we have to shape those ways to communicate our data, to visualising it etc. Humanities scholars have spent years interpreting text, visual aspects, emotion, embodiment, we are extremely well placed to contribute, to help us build better tools, better visualisations etc. There is no logical fit between the design of the database and the type of fit with the work of humanities researcher. Data can have inconsistencies, nuances, multiple interpretations, they don’t easily fit into a database but databases can be designed to do that. Mukurtu (www.mukurtu.org) is an ethnographic database and exploration space, the researcher has worked with the world intellectual property association and indiginous groups to record and access data according to their knowledge protocol, that reflect kinship relations, codings of trust. We also have much to learn from experimental interactive design. The Open Ended Group (openendedgroup.com) do large scale digitisation. They have digisted a huge closed detroit factory, and used 3D visualisation. It’s for an experimental art space not a science museum. It’s a powerful piece to experience and inhabit and explores the grammers of visuality. It’s not about literal reinterpretation but creative and immersive explorations.
Another example: Sharon Daniel – database driven documentary from IV drug users in a needle exchange programme in San Francisco. 100 hours of audio to be explored through the interface, work in Vectors. Vectors is a journal I edit, an experiment on the boundary of humanities research, visual interpretation and screen culture. Can you play an argument like a video game? Can you be emersed in an argument like a film? Another example here is an audio exploration of the largest womens prisons in California. Curated to make an arguement about our complicity in the rhetoric of imprisonment by the state. The piece has a tree based structure which allows exploration based on where you have been. You can navigate the piece through a variety of themes. You can follow one woman’s story through the archive in a variety of ways, and incarceration and the paradigms on which it depends. The piece is quite different to a typical journal article – it will be different every time. Which raises interesting questions for the assessment of scholarship. It’s fairly typical of what else is in the archive. We pair scholars with minimal or no programming experience with staff in design and programming staff in the lab. A fantastic co-creative process but not scalable, especially as many of these pieces are in Flash. But we have identified many research questions and areas for exploration here.
I work in a cinema schools, looking at visual cultures. We found we needed tools, we didn’t want to build tools but the scholarly interpretation needed by our scholars does not fit into existing rigid strcutures. Since we began to work in this area we’ve moved to thinking about potential around vernacular knowledge, collaboration with the Shoah Foundation, temporal and geographical maps from Hypercities that let you explore materials in space and time. And from those partnership we have formed a group, the Alliance for Networking Visual Culture (scalar.usc.edu/anvc) funded by Carnegie Mellon(?) with partners from the Internet Archive, with the SHoah Foundation, with traditional humanities research centres, with design partners, 8 university presses to explore none traditional scholarly publications and those presses have committed to publishing these born digital scholarly materials. And you can begin to think about scholarship across scales, with new combinations, ways to draw in the archives. Traditionally humanities scholars have a vampiric relationships with the archive! We can imagine in the world of Linked Data that the round tripping of our scholarly knowledge back to the archive might become quicker and more effective. So we’ve been building a prototype… this is a born digital book about YouTube by a media scholar, which takes the form of YouTube. It’s an open access book but peer reviewed in the same way as any other. So we have built a platform called “Scalar”, a publishing platforum for scholars who use visual materials. Anyone can log in, to play with the software, to try to create and engage with the software. It’s connected to archives – partners, YouTube, Vimeo, etc. and particularly to Critical Commons – an archive that includes some commercial materials (under US copyright law) and also links to the metadata around that material. And it lets you create different structures that allow you to take multiple paths through materials, through data, more like a scholarly form but not neccassarily in linear routes. So, for example, “We are all children of Algeria” by Nicolas Mirzoeff. He had a book coming out in print but when submitted the Arab Spring took place and was very relevant to the book so he created a companion piece. As you built the piece on Scalar a number of visualisations are generated on the fly to show you data on the content of the book, visual Table of Contents, metadata, the paths, etc. Another recent project, “The Nicest Kids in Town” – on American Bandstand that includes video that couldn’t be in the book. Also Diana Taylor and the Hermispheric Institute
Henry Jenkins and colleagues interactive book on digital cultures. Third World Majority an activist archive and scholarly expert pathways through that archive. Blurring the boundary between edited collection and archival collection. And the Knotted Line blurs public humanities and public curation. It explores incarceration in the US and this is based on the Scalar API with their own interface which is quite tactile.
These tools allow us to explore the outputs of scholarly research in different ways, the relationship to evidence, but also to think about teaching differently. See programme in the humanities and media studies, at intersection of theory and practice, where students must “make” a dissertation rather than write a dissertation. See also Rethinking Learning – a series of cards and materials from which students could create peer to peer learning. It is also a dissertation. The author Jeff Watson will be in a tenureship track role in Canada in the fall. Susana Ruiz has created a dissertation prototype which is a model of learning around games and video archives. But both of these projects look at new possibilities for teaching and learning.
We are building tools here for humanities scolars not “digital” humanities scholars. We build upon rich traditions of scholarly citation and annotation. Our evidence can live side by side by the analysis which increases the potential rigour of scholarship, the reader has far more opportunity to question or asses those arguemens. And the user/reader has an opportunity to remix. This isn’t about watering down our scholarship or making it ritzy, rather it is about making our scholarship flexible to an ever changing world and accessible in new ways.
Q1 – Richard Coyne, Architecture & ECA) You raised the question of citation and academic and scholarly practices. Visual materials can be difficult to that
A) We tried stuff out here. A flash project is really hard to quote, accessing a specific audio file in Sharon Daniels work is really challenging. But in scalar each object has a unique identifier and URI, and you can export as XML and PDF, and you can use the API. It’s a traditional relational database with quite an idiosyncratic semantic layer on top. So you can build interesting stuff because of that combination.
Q2) You talked about emotion. There can be excitement around this sort of material but for some there is a sense of fear around knowing how to engage, particularly when incorporating into our own curricula and research. We can be quite traditional when we return to our desks. Any simple start up ramps to get through the fear barrier?
A2) It’s been a slog, even at USC. Dealing with visual rhetorics and argument. We have an institute in visual literacy for practice based PhD and interactive undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. We have guidelines and rubrics developed there for multimedia work and assessment and those have been useful rubrics for other schools in the university. At university level for tenures and promotion committee we have created criteria for assessing digital scholarship, the different ways to evaluate that work. The issue is less the form of the work but actually assessing the contribution of such a wide range of collaborators with very different skills. We have borrowed from the sciences but that’s not a simple mapping, there are issues. We have had only four digital media PhDs completed so far but all have gone on to good things. Visual temporality have traditions that it can draw upon… it will be an unevenly distributed move for next 10 years or so at least.
Q3 – Clara O’Shea, School of Education) the engagement with living archive, and the role of the scholar in that – what are the ethical implications? And what ways are your work changing the way scholars assess their own work?
A3) I’m just starting to look at assessing the role of the digital archive and the radical shift in purpose than the traditional archive. The library is about access, the archive to preserve. Digitally that split isn’t as relevant. Ethically it is very tricky though. The Shoah Foundation recorded materials long before the web, this was set up by Stephen Spielberg. Now they did sign away their rights to materials but we have been working with the board of the Shoah Foundation around what is and is not appropriate to do with the materials. There are projects for kids to remix video – so we have developed an ethical editing guideline for those students. At Dartmouth with that metadata game there has been a need to really think about the ethical and quality implications – exploring by layer, the difference of “expert” and crowdsourced, is a way that has been handled. In terms of scholars it changes the relationship to evidence and to scholars own work. So back to the Shoah material they have a policy of not providing transcripts as they want researchers to actually watch the video, to understand hesitancy and emotion. They have had scholars who have gotten students to make transcripts for them, analysed that and the Shoah foundation queries the analysis and whether scholars had seen the films. When those scholars actually watched the films their experience and analysis was quite different.
I was trained as a feminist film scholar when it was hard to find the film. I had read about the films before seeing them, often long before, and you could be left wondering if the scholar you had read was based on the same thing. Having the evidence there changes that, gives you a more direct relationship. Also writing small sections of arguments, writing more modually, that is what you start to do rather than long form structures we are used to, and that can be really appropriate for humanities scholars in some areas.
Copyright, authorship and ownership in digital co-creative practices – Dr Smita Kheria
My work arose from Penny’s previous project. Some of the participants will be common to Penny’s presentation just now. My research interest is in exploring the norms of collaborative practices so far as copyright and ownership are concerned. I am a copyright lawyer and I am interest in how authors relate to copyright law in their practices. Copyright law poses 2 problems. Firstly how it conceives authorship and how that author is credited; and the second problem is how collaborative authors are perceived and how that works in practice, and particularly in emerging collaborative processes online.
So, just to ensure we are all in the same place. Copyright protects the work, it must be an original work. There must be some originality, some effort, skill and judgement. Usually the first author is the first owner, they are the copyright holder and has the economic rights. In collaborative work there are particular assumptions. In co-authorship – for example distinct book chapters in a book – each author has the rights for their contribution. When a joint authoer is perceived, a collaborative authorship, then all contributions have rights. But there is no distinctions within the concept of a joint author. And that has implications for the perception of authorship.
Last year Penny and I worked on a six month AHRC project looking at creation and publication of the “Digital Manual” and looking at authority, authorship and voice. Explored through interviews and focus groups. Participants were working with open source mechanisms. We asked participants – and creators – what the role and meaning of collaborative authorship was for them. What they felt about this, rules of attribution etc. And we found no set rules here, some ideas of how they should perceive authorship. Some commonalities across all four communities – which included MakeShift (from UpStage) and Art is Open Source. What they created was built in real time, changing regularly, grounded heavily in collaboration. The first case study on Art is Open Source we saw a very hands off approach to authorship and ownership. They are a network, they provide open source platforms and software, and also a fake competition in the project we were looking at. They were clear about the ownership of the platform and the software – open source and GPL licensed. But in terms of authors they wanted to disappear, they don’t want control, do not mind what others do with the material they have created. So for instance a book which came out of the project was discussed, they felt forced to be on the cover by publishers. They did take responsibility for the process but didn’t want to engage in what was made with what they made available. They felt attribution was important, generally important but they were not concerned about attribution of their own work.
This was very different to Sauti ya Wakulima. This is a collaborative knowledge base project set up by a set of farmers in Tanzania who share materials gathered via smartphone. There is an ongoing community around farming practices, climate change, etc. The person who set up this project took a very active role in terms of the content created and in the platform etc. They spoke to farmers about the licensing of content etc. This was made available under Creative Commons. His own perception of authorship was different. He did see himself as the author of the software, although he talks about using others materials and code. He was the author but no “not everything came from my own mind”.
Looking at UpStage from make-shift. The platform is totally open. But what about the performances? Well they left that to performers. There was no licence fee payment option within platform for instance. Performance organisers used the term “brokers” of collaborative performances in the space but, when asked about the performance, capture of the performance for instance, they conceived themselves as authors. They wanted to disassociated themselves from notions of authorships but that was very much their own perceptions. And there was ambiguity about contributed images around performances as well.
And the final case study was FLOSS Manuals – collection of manuals on free and open source software. It is entirely open and editable. A collaborative publishing platform. A lot of manuals there. When editing videos we had taken in this work I actually used one of their manuals for my own work. The platform is open but what about the content? The platform takes a very active role in the content. They have clear licensing, using GPL. Anyone can publish, sell, reuse content. Within the community creating the manuals there was no consensus, it was imposed by the platform owners. And the creative community here radically expanded attribution – anyone who had done anything at all (a single letter, a font face, etc) was credited. Some uncertainty when we spoke to them as the community was unsure about attribution and licensing.
This was a small study but it is clear that collaboration and co-creating has huge implications for perceptions of authorship and huge relevance for copyright law.
Q1 – Ewan Klein, Informatics) A comment more than a question: GPL does not let you do what you like. But do you think that Creative Commons would have provided a trail of attribution in the right way?
A1) Yes Creative Commons would allow that but not all of those we spoke to had the same feeling about attribution, about how work should be attributed and whether there is to be attributed. And under the law some may not be a copyright work (e.g. 1 line in a manual). Here attribution and copright ownership would be split. Do you attribute the collective or the individuals? The farmers went for collaborative attribution… that solves the problem but not the issue of who should be attributed.
Q2 – Chris Speed) something here to do with reciprocity. In terms of commons, in commons land… implicit models of not taking all your sheep… could that translate to copyright
A2) Reciprocity did come up as a suggestion on the basis of which attribution could be made. But how do you assess reciprocity? This comes back to Robin’s question of funding. All of these projects were started by grants, thereafter funded by second jobs, projects, PhDs, voluntary contributors. So if coming in voluntarily is attribution the least you can do (e.g. FLOSS), but maybe if getting a performance that is reciprocity enough? Now these were very different projects and that does need bearing in mind, but those differences were interesting.
Simon: There is a model in Open Source Software of attribution. In open source films we see this work at first but it falls apart when it gets to being an interface from enthusasim and creation and the longer term sustainability.
Penny: FLOSS is an interesting one. This is sort of a benevolent dictator model. He was reluctant to be involved. They do not have money, looking in different directions… This open source, almost utopian community have realised that they need funding to continue.
Smita: and they had an issue. They could publish those manuals but so could anyone else. It would be good to go back in a year’s time to see what had happened.
— And a break whilst I spoke at the Scottish Crucible —
“It’s a computer m’lord”: law and regulation for the digital economy – Prof Burkhard Schafer
I have come in a little late here but Burkhard is talking about new forms of data, such as monitoring data on older people, for the monitoring of their health but potentially ethical and legal concerns. What if you use technology to help people with their memory – what if it has legal issues? What if it leads to a criminal investigation? New forms of data collection invalidate traditional metaphors, traditional divisions of law.
I am based at the law school, notoriously the scene of a crime – the body snatchers of Edinburgh. The law tried to manage supply side, that led
Regulation through Architecture (Larry Lessig) – they restricted access, they build fencing around graves, they patented thick metal coffins that allowed you to view the decomposition before burying, to avoid body snatchers. I call this DRM (Death Risk Management!). But this does relate to the loss of things that are precious. There was a case of a father who gave his daughter, who was dying of cancer, a phone with unlimited voice mail box. But the phone was in her name and when she died the messages were deleted. He took legal action but this is not an easy case.
Whose assets are they, whose privacy is at stake? What happens to the digital artefacts after death? This is complex. This work is part of a multidisciplinary research project, not just informatics and lawyers but across anthropologists, sociologists etc. We came up with radical suggestions far from that of these judges. For instance the “Dead Man’s Switch” – a way to wipe your hard drive and remove embarrassing stuff on your death. There were joke companies promising to look after pets in the case of the rapture to ensure your pets were taken care of by good aethists. But there are serious questions about a service here… about legal liability when taking action on behalf of a dead person.
What about disintermediation? The body snatchers were banned so they cut out the middle man, killing for bodies rather than digging them up again. But could it happen again? Well child trafficking and sex abuse sits in some of the same places of preying on the nieve. We work on this area, looking at ways to understand the role of social workers, teachers, police so that they can extract information they need to evidence a case without breaching data protection law or compromising privacy. This is one of our more technical projects around encryption. And this includes consideration of risk to informants, what can be shared and how, to make sure that there is sharing of neccassary data without exposing others in responsible roles’ as informers on their clients or communities.
Robots bring deep seated problems. They will be something more than machines. They change how we think or interact with technology. To give examples is it appropriate legally, ethically… to give someone suffering with althzeimers a robot that speaks like her husband even if it comforts here? It may be justifiable emotionally but it is a massive deception. Similarly is it ethical to have robots looking like people, should that be another law of robotics.
Meanwhile we have Sensecam devices that automatically take images of their day. Althzeimers patients have been given these to go through their day and work through them with their support worker – to go through their day, remember what they have done, this seems to have benefits for retrieval. They use these devices on dogs too (for more fun purposes). Legally… well in galleries, theatres, movies… photography is banned but should there be an overriding right to take pictures. In Germany public buildings are copyrighted and images cannot be taken. We let guide dogs go where other dogs cannot, maybe this is a similar justification.
And a final example: David Valentine records his performances: “Duellists” and “The Commercial” in public space – demands made on council for CCTV films of his performance for his performers rights. Legally in the UK this is complex!
Q1 – Jen Ross, School of Education) In recent release of Google Glass some restaurants and business banned Google Glass and I’m wondering about the social response and impact of these technologies.
A) Google “St Patricks Day Google Glass” for amusing example. One of the concerns I have… these are being designed in health settings and medical settings but are being designed for live blogging. This is sort of a trojan horse for changing privacy laws and expectation. Private time has origins in latin for robbing time from others, we expect to be alone. It’s fine if we are OK to have images taken etc. But without ability to be alone, if privacy is a public good not a private good then we may not want people to give it up so easily. It becomes very complicated. Lots of frivolous uses trying to get public use on the back of essentially medical technologies.
Q2) I worked on a project with Charles Wab on data sharing. A thing I found in that context is that once you’ve released data into that space… you’ve talked about advocacy role of the social worker… but once released how do you retrench into your social role?
A2) It’s not surprising that in case of child abuse evidence was there but have not been shared. Rules have been changed but it still doesn’t work. People find a way around that. If I don’t trust the recording mechanism I don’t share the data. If I’m concerned about use of my data then I don’t write them down any longer. I don’t think all the evidence we’ve found from the social scientists, the political scientists is that technology doesn’t change that. People respond to requests in our approach, not dumping all their data as they just won’t comply in any manner of creative ways. And it’s a distributed system, rather than centralised for the same reason.
Letting your digits do the walking: on the road with Ben Jonson, 1618 & 2013 – Prof James Loxley and
Dr Anna Groundwater
We are at the beginning of our digital journey in comparison to others who have been talking today. I will tell you a bit about the manuscript we are looking us, it’s significance and the journey we think it could take us on. In 1618 Ben Jonson walked from London to Edinburgh on foot – an extended walk with no evidence until James Loxley came across an account by a walking companion, a treasure trove of primary evidence for researchers, and a window into life along the Great North Road. So I will talk a bit about how we can recreat that world, to understand that using primary and digital resources.
My experience of digital online resources as a user was as a beginner. I physically dug around in regional and national archives along the Great North Road. Digital catalogues have really helped me to do this, it has allowed me to achieve much more and in a much more cost effective manner. Tools like EEBO have helped me speed up the collation of materials online, to gather biographical information alongside literary texts. Most apposite here is EDINA’s Digimap, I’ve been using it on a daily basis, a way to reinterpret and consider networks, social spaces in early modern britain.
And the literature allows us to understand social spaces, social practices. We can look at practices of hospitality at that time, the experience Jonson was having. Welbeck Abbey for instance is discussed in the manuscript, with specific descriptions of taking over the house from Sir William. Also mention of Mr Bonner the Sherief in Newcastle. Some of this text we have been able to verify. We have been able to use OED to understand some of the terminology e.g. hullock, a wine for very important people.
The texts also provide a history of cultural interests, antiquarianism of tourism and travel.Of the places visited, of the castles, buildings and grand houses along the way. And the route taken there. From Belvoir Castle through to Pettifour Well in Kinghorn. So Edinburgh castle, for instance, was one of his stops. We can use art and images of that era to recreate that voyage. We can physically make these journals, but we can make these journals digitally too. The digital journey remaking the mental and physical connections of that historical journey.
Over to James: I will touch on the dimensions of the project which have emerged as we have been going along. Dimensions of which we have become aware. This was a digital project right from the start, since we have been talking about the project and the manuscript, many have asked about how the manuscript came to light and why this has happened now. The story is a disappointing one. In fact it involved me sitting down to consider the potential for a set of digitised set of catalogues, done by the National Archives, which are catalogues of archives around the UK in a project called Access to Archive. This allowed discovery of collection and structure of collections. I was looking through materials and how they worked, I was able to find literary manuscripts and where it sat in the collection… seemed to refer to Ben Jonson but the spelling was such that no one searching would have found it. There was no rummaging in archive attics. But we have been further exploring digital dimensions.
Because we have a journey here, because it is not like Boswell’s account of Samual Johnson but is instead a list of people, places, food, etc. We can see dimensions that are not classically those that a literary scholar are looking for, what we see as a quantifiable text I suppose. For instance an account talks of the time a journey began, the time of arrival, the locations. And can work out the distance of 9.5 miles, a time of 3 hours, what the walking pace was. Jonson seems to be at about 3.17 mph (modern human average 3.3 mph). An interesting one since Jonson in his own notes says he is around 20 stone. maybe something is not quite right there?
We don’t know who wrote the account, we have candidates but the companion is still anonimous. We can work out the height of the companion using surviving architectural drawings of a venue visited. We can work out that he is 5’5!
We are inevitably working with small data here. We have places, times, distances, speed etc. allows us to visualise the journey in ways we maybe would not have been able to do before, a manifestation beyond the annotated text. We’ve initially been exploring that in terms of a map. (see blogs.hss.ed.ac.uk/ben-jonsons-walk) This inital map on our website gives a sense of places visited (via map pins) and on those pins we include the time they were there and notes which is growing as metadata (excellent sweet water at York!). This is a starting point to begin to map out the data the walk has presented us with. This is really at “rehearsal” stage. There is a performative aspect to this walk – Jonson is greeted by crowds, by property owners, etc. markers etc. People have told us that we must reenact the walk! So we are doing a virtual walk, on 8th July he will tweet in real time on Twitter, that will be linked into the map and the information on the blog site, an interaction between those channels. Hopefully Ben will get into conversations as he is on his way, that’s part of what we’d like to do!
We are already thinking about the possibilities of expanding this for future projects. There is an example called Mapping the Lakes, a team at University of Lancaster made this tracking Thomas Grey and Coleridge journeys around the lakes, created with a GIS to visualise the walks. They have mapped obvious markers but have also tried to map more subjective things such as mood of the walk. You can look at them separately or together. That seems a way of thinking about the literary journey that we would like to develop for ourselves. We would like to think beyond the map we are “performing” this summer… There is clearly an interplay between sites and routes… some are easier to map and work out than others. In some places there was a guide to take them on their way – very hard to find the obvious route. Thinking also about how the mapping of the journey could bring in different possibilities, views, prospects, meaning of sites, etc. We haven’t represented those on the map but we would love to, particularly to compare their walk to modern walks. How do different models of the walk undertaken “for the sake of it” compare? And how can we take that walk, preserve that experience, feed in other materials etc. We hope to be able to approach the AHRC for follow on funding and we would love to talk to anyone interested in the spatiality of walking who might be interested in engaging.
Q1) A connection: Joseph Burlaff, an artist in the US, recreated Gandhi’s walk using a treadmill and hooked up to Second Life avatar and reproduced that there… possible digital precursor
A1) Interesting possibility. Could get gradients in perhaps. There are analogues or comparitives out there to explore. There is a deepening tension and intensifying interest in the process and practice of walking. And how that carries with it expectations and kinds of appropriate representational modelling, do some justice to spatiality but not assuming a single model is all that we need.. need to weave different senses of the spatial within literary walk.
Q2 – Rocio) Comment on idea of the walk: making a collective walk, ask people in surrounding areas to do a bit of it, make it interactive and add their part of the journey… If you can’t do it yourself.
A) Exactly what we hope to do. Want to bring in local history societies and walking groups etc. on the old roads and feed that in.
Old light on new media: medieval practices in the digital age – Dr Eyal Poleg
We are working on a project called Manuscript Studies in an Interoperable Digital Environment funded by the Mellon Foundation. We have found interesting parallels between the reading of medieval manuscripts and medieval practices. Perhaps we can learn from Medieval practices to think about developing digital practices. In many ways printed books are an interim step here between practices we see across old and new media.
Lets start with hypertext. Hypertext is very common in medieval manuscripts, particularly in the Bible. The problem with the New Testament is the Gospels, how do you jump from one to another. You can explore a version at University of Toronto for instance. But in the manuscript era we get the usepian cannons, in the margins of each episode the usepian cannons and use the tables to jump from one to another, very similar to click on a link. This starts something new in exploring the text.
In the 12th Century there is a beautiful text in France. It is a working manuscripts. It has physical cut and paste. It shows the authors wrestling with technology, with experiments in navigating the text. Inventing references. And they tie that to the “late medieval bible” – Gutenberg bible is a replication of one of these bibles. The innovation of these bibles is evident in the chapter division, previously no divisions in the text. From 1230 onwards, with help of Stephen Langton the Archbishop of Canterbury, we have the chapter divisions. And we begin to get Book and Chapter divisions. This fits into mindset of Christian Exegetists at the time of the linkages within the bible. But this linking etc. took off like wildfile – the most efficient way to link and navigate. When we think about hypertext in the Medieval we have to also think of the web of illusions that people also had. So when reading a text, for example a psalter, there is an interaction of text, image and sound. For monks reading the text created a world of illusion. So we can, using digital technology, replicate that to an extent. By adding musical strata of the text, intricate links that evoke the memory of the men and women who would read these texts.
The wiki is a structure we also see in medieval texts. Even now the interaction one has with a printed book is limited. In Middle ages books were different, they were communal objects even for the monks. Annotations were seen to add value to the text, a communal project to read the text. You can read generations of commentators through the margins of the text. The way it took place.. and this is worth considering… is by giving amply space to interact, to comment on the text. Space deliberately left, intermedial and marginal glosses, spaces for comments and annotation. You can see the different hands, texts, monks reflected in the communal commenting on the text. And you see some commentators responding to each other. In one manuscript in Glasgow an O character has been vandalised, a later reader finds this offensive, erases for future readers… so how much can readers interact, erase, changes to the text do we allow? That would have been a nice image…
There is also a sort of Open Code emerging in manuscripts. a Printed book is not that open. But looking across the same manuscripts we see differences – some are errors or changes by the scribe. In the medieval ages the scribe assumes the text could have been faulty, they try to correct them, the text was in flux. Scholars use this to reproduce the text and we can also explore connections between one manuscripts and another. But of course what is a text? What is a changed text? What is a fixed text?
And finally we have non linear texts here, this can be created now in digital environments. Not necessarily beginning, middle and end. Navigation can be very different. For instance a medieval teaching manual uses images and associated ideas to explore but these are non linear, the image point us in directions within the text. And this ties into a late medieval aesthetic vision of ellisons. The idea of a network of ellisions.
Q1) This is a fascinating talk, there are several very orchestrated ways to explore medieval manuscripts that this relates to. You touch on websites reflecting print books, not neccasarily taking advantage of the multimodal opportunities of the web.
A1) That was the starting point to the project. Mellon saw medievel manuscripts increasingly being digitised but that people were using them as printed texts and it wanted to look at new ways of working. So for instance you can see the Summarium, a prototype that uses TEI annotating a non-linear version of the texts, in a communal way.
Q2) Is there a connection between the idea of hypertext in medieval texts and the role of the church as an information system. There have been times where the physical church acted as an information system for state information etc. I’m not sure if that is true of the medieval era.
A2) In the middle ages, unlike the reformation, this is less about inforcement and more about the reality of texts. You live the texts. Monks especially live and breath the text and information. You wake and pray 7 times a day, you are surrounded by images, you are embedded within the textuality.
Q3) Do you find any dilution of the text transferring them to digital technologies? I am sure that institutions are very careful about this
A3) This is not an issue for us. The texts are not of interest to religious institutions today. Very early or very later texts might be an issue but these are not an issue
Q4) Have you ever come across work on roman law reception in the middle ages in codex, I think he came to similar conclusions analysing legal texts as hypertext and wikis. He has a secular models of the same phenomenon
A4) Yes I wasn’t aware of that but I will be interested to have the references. The manuscript texts were a little behind legal texts but it would be very interesting to compare.
And now onto the closing from Sian Bayne saying that it really has been a day of new ideas, very inspiring. And thank yous to the audience and the organisers and of course to all of our speakers.