Hello, Day of DH!

The day has begun! With the California sun streaming through the window (and spring allergies attacking my sinuses), I sit here thinking about and looking forward to what I will blog about in the next 24 hours or so… But first, an introduction

Starting the Day

After coffee and breakfast, a typical day starts with opening the blinds to let some light in, then sitting at my desk at home to check e-mails, Twitter and Facebook updates, as well as news websites. I usually will have music streaming from the Internet as well (currently listening to Fleet Foxes). I *try* to keep my desk fairly free from too much clutter (though what you don’t see here is, next to the desk, a pile of books I have to refer to while working on my thesis) so that I can focus on writing a thesis chapter.

And yes, I had to duct-tape my laptop as it was starting to break.

I also have my mobile phone handy and will check for messages from friends and family overseas, so that I will not miss any urgent updates or news from home (being thousands of miles away, connectivity is very important to my family).

Today, my day will revolve around books and writing: I’m off to the makeshift library on campus (the SFSU library is currently closed for a major renovation) to pick up Derrida’s Paper Machine and Kittler’s Gramophone, Film, Typewriter (Writing Science), and also to drop off a copy of Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking to a friend of mine. One of the goals I have for today is finishing the foundational chapter of my thesis, which focuses on introducing multiliteracies and why it is essential for literary and textual studies, and at the same time expanding on, refining, and adding to existing notions of the term.

More to come… I’ve got a digital camera in hand, so I hope to post some photos along with written text throughout the day and week…

In, Out, and Beyond: Physical and Virtual Worlds

I did not realize what a gorgeous day it was until I stepped outside.

SFSU Quad, March 18th 2010.

I had planned on just picking up a couple of books from the makeshift library…

Library under renovation.

…and going back home to write, but the grass and the sun beckoned me to spend some time outside instead of going back indoors to write on the computer. The campus was teeming with life: students loafing on the campus quad reading books, eating bacon-wrapped hot dogs, chatting with friends, enjoying the sun; and, live music and the weekly Thursday Farmers Market.

SFSU Quad, March 18th 2010.

Live music on campus, March 18th 2010.

I opened my laptop to blog for the Day of DH, but as Amanda Gailey so aptly describes in her Day of DH blog, “digital humanities is not an outdoor sport.” :) She is right. Two minutes later, under the hot California sun (it is March, and it already feels like summer in San Francisco), I realized I could not see a thing on the computer screen, so I gave up and read Derrida’s Paper Machine instead. Who knew that the day of digital humanities would also include spending an hour loafing on the grass, reading under the sun? Maybe I should have looked for a comfortable spot in a shaded area and worked on my computer outside, in order to connect the virtual and physical worlds more closely that way (or is it a no-no to be plugged in when one is outdoors?). Nevertheless, it was an hour well spent, and which brings me to this point: what I often find valuable, in my work as an aspiring digital humanist, are the interactions and balances between online and offline worlds. This interest in the negotiation between these two intersecting spaces is, perhaps, what fascinates me about textual materialism and what Matthew Kirschenbaum calls the “forensic imagination” when it comes to digital textualities.

Had I not stepped outside, I might not have felt the gorgeousness of March 18th, the Day of Digital Humanities.

Orchids at the SFSU Thursday Farmers Market

And the journey continues…


Alas, thesis writing has taken over the bulk of my day… 2 hours left before tomorrow hits. I am strangely finding myself going back to the old-fashioned way of taking notes and jotting down ideas for my thesis: using the pen and paper. It’s a good way (for me, at least) to slow down and allow myself to connect to the words and ideas without getting distracted (which I am prone to) by Internet browsers and tabs, and also to let my brain think at its own pace. I’m not saying that either one is better than the other, but they are definitely different ways of thinking, writing, and editing.

Today, I have been thinking about N. Katherine Hayles’ call for textual practices that display a heightened awareness of “the interrelations of linguistic, bibliographic, and digital codes [to] grasp the full implications of the transformations books undergo when they are translated into a digital medium” (from My Mother Was a Computer, 97). I’m wondering if we can move towards a a multi-dimensional view of textuality in the digital age, one that takes into account:

1) the interrelatedness of the different forms of codes that Hayles specifies above (a marriage of ideas from theorists/scholars such as Jerome McGann, Shillingsburg, Gunder, Kirschenbaum, etc.), and

2) the multiliteracies approach (the New London Group’s multiliteracies approach emphasizes the multiplicity of meaning-making depending on social, cultural, and historical contexts, as well as the multimodal ways in which we produce content and knowledge in today’s age of new media; Selber’s approach calls for a renewed attention to the multiple levels of literacy beyond merely technical literacy; other scholars of multiliteracies focus on the social aspects).

Can we take these two (or three, or four) ideas — from literary, digital, textual, rhetoric, and composition theories — and use them together toward a reformulation of current ideas about textuality in the digital age? Will our readings and criticisms of texts be fuller and more resplendent with multiple meanings, interpretations, and significations if we bring together these theories from different fields in the humanities? Could seeing the text as a process, rather than an object, be also an indication or reflection of the various materialities of the text?

The following quotes will hopefully illuminate some of the connections that I am trying to make. With regard to a text’s dependence on data, codes, hardware and software configurations, etc., Hayles writes, “As processes, [electronic texts] exhibit sensitive dependence on temporal and spatial contexts,” which thus gives textuality “an array of infinite difference.” Now, consider the following quote from the New London Group (also concerned with difference) and compare with Hayles’ quote: “…to extend the idea and scope of literacy pedagogy to account for the context of our culturally and linguistically diverse and increasingly globalized societies, for the multifarious cultures that interrelate and the plurality of texts that circulate [... multiliteracies] must account for the burgeoning variety of text forms associated with information and multimedia technologies.”

More on this tomorrow. Thanks for listening as I work out some of my thoughts!

Okay, it’s time to go to bed… I wish I had more skills and knowledge in digital codes and electronic textual editing so I’d have more of a say about the importance of digital codes in relation to the study of texts (and, thus, transcription, translation, and preservation) — glad I’ll be taking the intro to TEI course at DHSI in the summer!

Sneaking one last Day of DH post…

Thought I’d sneak one last Day of DH post… I spent part of my morning “attending” my very first virtual conference, HASTAC 2010: Grand Challenges and Global Innovations (and #HASTAC10 on Twitter). Despite a bit of a Google Wave boo-boo (live discussions with presenters and other participants were held on Wave and Second Life during the time that a session is designated at), it was an exciting and interesting experience, and I really enjoyed this distributed, free (as long as one has access to Internet connection), and open form of conference and discussions. It’s wonderful being able to be part of the conversations, even when I’m hundreds of miles away from the presenters and participants. One participant also tweeted that the HASTAC 2010 Conference is “like TIVO for academics” — it is a virtual conference that crosses boundaries of time, space, and place, as well as extends the conversations to anyone interested in joining in the dialogue.

One of the sessions I attended today was by HASTAC’s Cathy Davidson and David Theo Goldberg, who spoke about “The Future of Thinking: Learning Institutions in a Digital Age.” Here is something I posted this morning, summarizing Davidson and Goldberg’s talk, with a few early questions I had formed in my mind when I listened to their discussion: http://www.hastac.org/blogs/violalasmana/future-thinking-cathy-davidson-and-david-theo-goldberg-learning-digital-age

Alas, as much as I wish I could have spent today’s day of DH “attending” the entirety of the virtual conference, I had to step out and do something quite un-DH (or is it?): I paid a visit to the Rare Book Room at the University of San Francisco to look at some early editions of Whitman’s Leaves of Grass as part of the research I’m doing for my thesis chapter on the Whitman archive (both digital and physical) — a chapter that is, really, inspired by this little seed of a blog post I posted last year: “Whitman Archive, the Forensic Imagination, and Making Meaning.”

These two activities are typical of my days of DH — days that are amalgams of working with both digital tools (the computer/laptop, websites, e-archives and journals, networks, etc.) and more traditional, “physical” tools (such as the book or the manuscript), as well as spending time in the virtual world of the Interwebs interacting with online communities and people I have met online, while at the same time always trying to balance that by spending as much time as I can out in the “real” world.

Hope everyone continues to have exciting, fun, and productive days of DH!