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Digital Humanities

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This book takes a single line of code--the extremely concise BASIC program for the Commodore 64 inscribed in the title--and uses it as a lens through which to consider the phenomenon of creative computing and the way computer programs exist in culture. The authors of this collaboratively written book treat code not as merely functional but as a text--in the case of 10 PRINT, a text that appeared in many different printed sources--that yields a story about its making, its purpose, its assumptions, and more. They consider randomness and regularity in computing and art, the maze in culture, the popular BASIC programming language, and the highly influential Commodore 64 computer.

In this book, Astrid Ensslin examines literary videogames—hybrid digital artifacts that have elements of both games and literature, combining the ludic and the literary. These works can be considered verbal art in the broadest sense (in that language plays a significant part in their aesthetic appeal); they draw on game mechanics; and they are digital-born, dependent on a digital medium (unlike, for example, conventional books read on e-readers). They employ narrative, dramatic, and poetic techniques in order to explore the affordances and limitations of ludic structures and processes, and they are designed to make players reflect on conventional game characteristics. Ensslin approaches these hybrid works as a new form of experimental literary art that requires novel ways of playing and reading. She proposes a systematic method for analyzing literary-ludic (L-L) texts that takes into account the analytic concerns of both literary stylistics and ludology.

After establishing the theoretical underpinnings of her proposal, Ensslin introduces the L-L spectrum as an analytical framework for literary games. Based on the phenomenological distinction between deep and hyper attention, the L-L spectrum charts a work’s relative emphases on reading and gameplay. Ensslin applies this analytical toolkit to close readings of selected works, moving from the predominantly literary to the primarily ludic, from online hypermedia fiction to Flash fiction to interactive fiction to poetry games to a highly designed literary “auteur” game. Finally, she considers her innovative analytical methodology in the context of contemporary ludology, media studies, and literary discourse analysis.

Software and Everyday Life

After little more than half a century since its initial development, computer code is extensively and intimately woven into the fabric of our everyday lives. From the digital alarm clock that wakes us to the air traffic control system that guides our plane in for a landing, software is shaping our world: it creates new ways of undertaking tasks, speeds up and automates existing practices, transforms social and economic relations, and offers new forms of cultural activity, personal empowerment, and modes of play. In Code/Space, Rob Kitchin and Martin Dodge examine software from a spatial perspective, analyzing the dyadic relationship of software and space. The production of space, they argue, is increasingly dependent on code, and code is written to produce space. Examples of code/space include airport check-in areas, networked offices, and cafés that are transformed into workspaces by laptops and wireless access. Kitchin and Dodge argue that software, through its ability to do work in the world, transduces space. Then Kitchiun and Dodge develop a set of conceptual tools for identifying and understanding the interrelationship of software, space, and everyday life, and illustrate their arguments with rich empirical material. And, finally, they issue a manifesto, calling for critical scholarship into the production and workings of code rather than simply the technologies it enables--a new kind of social science focused on explaining the social, economic, and spatial contours of software.

The Codex and the Computer as Self-Reflexive Machines

In Scripting Reading Motions, Manuel Portela explores the expressive use of book forms and programmable media in experimental works of both print and electronic literature and finds a self-conscious play with the dynamics of reading and writing. Portela examines a series of print and digital works by Johanna Drucker, Mark Z. Danielewski, Rui Torres, Jim Andrews, and others, for the insights they yield about the semiotic and interpretive actions through which readers produce meaning when interacting with codes. Analyzing these works as embodiments and simulations of the motions of reading, Portela pays particular attention to the ways in which awareness of eye movements and haptic interactions in both print and electronic media feeds back onto the material and semantic layers of the works. These feedbacks, he argues, sustain self-reflexive loops that link the body of the reader to the embodied work. Readers’ haptic actions and eye movements coinstantiate the object that they are reading.

Portela discusses typographic and graphic marks as choreographic notations for reading movements; examines digital recreations of experimental print literary artifacts; considers reading motions in kinetic and generated texts; analyzes the relationship of bibliographic, linguistic, and narrative coding in Danielewski’s novel-poem, Only Revolutions; and describes emergent meanings in interactive textual instruments. The expressive use of print and programmable media, Portela shows, offers a powerful model of the semiotic, interpretive, and affective operations embodied in reading processes.

Media Archaeology of the Moving Panorama and Related Spectacles

Beginning in the late eighteenth century, huge circular panoramas presented their audiences with resplendent representations that ranged from historic battles to exotic locations. Such panoramas were immersive but static. There were other panoramas that moved--hundreds, and probably thousands of them. Their history has been largely forgotten. In Illusions in Motion, Erkki Huhtamo excavates this neglected early manifestation of media culture in the making. The moving panorama was a long painting that unscrolled behind a “window” by means of a mechanical cranking system, accompanied by a lecture, music, and sometimes sound and light effects. Showmen exhibited such panoramas in venues that ranged from opera houses to church halls, creating a market for mediated realities in both city and country.

In the first history of this phenomenon, Huhtamo analyzes the moving panorama in all its complexity, investigating its relationship to other media and its role in the culture of its time. In his telling, the panorama becomes a window for observing media in operation. Huhtamo explores such topics as cultural forms that anticipated the moving panorama; theatrical panoramas; the diorama; the "panoramania" of the 1850s and the career of Albert Smith, the most successful showman of that era; competition with magic lantern shows; the final flowering of the panorama in the late nineteenth century; and the panorama's afterlife as a topos, traced through its evocation in literature, journalism, science, philosophy, and propaganda."Beneath the Surface" with Jon Wiener

Software and Memory

New media thrives on cycles of obsolescence and renewal: from celebrations of cyber-everything to Y2K, from the dot-com bust to the next big things—mobile mobs, Web 3.0, cloud computing. In Programmed Visions, Wendy Hui Kyong Chun argues that these cycles result in part from the ways in which new media encapsulates a logic of programmability. New media proliferates “programmed visions,” which seek to shape and predict—even embody—a future based on past data. These programmed visions have also made computers, based on metaphor, metaphors for metaphor itself, for a general logic of substitutability.

Chun argues that the clarity offered by software as metaphor should make us pause, because software also engenders a profound sense of ignorance: who knows what lurks behind our smiling interfaces, behind the objects we click and manipulate? The combination of what can be seen and not seen, known (knowable) and not known—its separation of interface from algorithm and software from hardware—makes it a powerful metaphor for everything we believe is invisible yet generates visible, logical effects, from genetics to the invisible hand of the market, from ideology to culture.

Digital_Humanities is a compact, game-changing report on the state of contemporary knowledge production. Answering the question, “What is digital humanities?,” it provides an in-depth examination of an emerging field. This collaboratively authored and visually compelling volume explores methodologies and techniques unfamiliar to traditional modes of humanistic inquiry--including geospatial analysis, data mining, corpus linguistics, visualization, and simulation--to show their relevance for contemporary culture.

Included are chapters on the basics, on emerging methods and genres, and on the social life of the digital humanities, along with “case studies,” “provocations,” and “advisories.” These persuasively crafted interventions offer a descriptive toolkit for anyone involved in the design, production, oversight, and review of digital projects. The authors argue that the digital humanities offers a revitalization of the liberal arts tradition in the electronically inflected, design-driven, multimedia language of the twenty-first century.
Written by five leading practitioner-theorists whose varied backgrounds embody the intellectual and creative diversity of the field, Digital_Humanities is a vision statement for the future, an invitation to engage, and a critical tool for understanding the shape of new scholarship.

Coding as Aesthetic and Political Expression

Speaking Code begins by invoking the “Hello World” convention used by programmers when learning a new language, helping to establish the interplay of text and code that runs through the book. Interweaving the voice of critical writing from the humanities with the tradition of computing and software development, in Speaking Code Geoff Cox formulates an argument that aims to undermine the distinctions between criticism and practice and to emphasize the aesthetic and political implications of software studies.

Not reducible to its functional aspects, program code mirrors the instability inherent in the relationship of speech to language; it is only interpretable in the context of its distribution and network of operations. Code is understood as both script and performance, Cox argues, and is in this sense like spoken language--always ready for action.

Speaking Code examines the expressive and performative aspects of programming; alternatives to mainstream development, from performances of the live-coding scene to the organizational forms of peer production; the democratic promise of social media and their actual role in suppressing political expression; and the market’s emptying out of possibilities for free expression in the public realm. Cox defends language against its invasion by economics, arguing that speech continues to underscore the human condition, however paradoxical this may seem in an era of pervasive computing.

Evil Media develops a philosophy of media power that extends the concept of media beyond its tried and trusted use in the games of meaning, symbolism, and truth. It addresses the gray zones in which media exist as corporate work systems, algorithms and data structures, twenty-first century self-improvement manuals, and pharmaceutical techniques. Evil Media invites the reader to explore and understand the abstract infrastructure of the present day. From search engines to flirting strategies, from the value of institutional stupidity to the malicious minutiae of databases, this book shows how the devil is in the details.

The title takes the imperative “Don’t be evil” and asks, what would be done any differently in contemporary computational and networked media were that maxim reversed.

Media here are about much more and much less than symbols, stories, information, or communication: media do things. They incite and provoke, twist and bend, leak and manage. In a series of provocative stratagems designed to be used, Evil Media sets its reader an ethical challenge: either remain a transparent intermediary in the networks and chains of communicative power or become oneself an active, transformative medium.

Free Play in the Age of Electracy

In today’s complex digital world, we must understand new media expressions and digital experiences not simply as more technologically advanced forms of “writing” that can be understood and analyzed as “texts” but as artifacts in their own right that require a unique skill set. Just as agents seeking to express themselves in alphabetic writing need to be literate, “egents” who seek to express themselves in digital media need to be--to use a term coined by cybertheorist Gregory Ulmer--electrate. In Inter/vention, Jan Holmevik helps to invent electracy. He does so by tracing its path across the digital and rhetorical landscape--informatics, hacker heuretics, ethics, pedagogy, virtual space, and monumentality--and by introducing play as a new genre of electracy. Play, he argues, is the electrate ludic transversal. Holmevik contributes to the repertoire of electrate practices in order to understand and demonstrate how play invents electracy.

Holmevik’s argument straddles two divergences: in rhetoric, between how we study rhetoric as play and how we play rhetorically; and in game studies, between ludology and narratology. Games studies has forged ludology practice by distinguishing it from literate practice (and often allying itself with the scientific tradition). Holmevik is able to link ludology and rhetoric through electracy.

Play can and does facilitate invention: play invented the field of ludology. Holmevik proposes a new heuretic in which play acts as a conductor for the invention of electracy. Play is a meta behavior that touches on every aspect of Ulmer’s concept of electracy.

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