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  • <strong class="batch-2013">2013</strong> Alan Liu, “From Reading to Social Computing” (23 comments)

    • […] Paragraph 26 of “From Reading to Social Computing,” Alan Liu addresses “why literary scholarship should take an interest in social […]

      Comment by David Berry on February 11, 2013

      Although an excellent paper, I think that one of the issues with this formulation is that it is not clear about the kinds of scale the author is suggesting in relation to these “research portfolios”. That is, is “expressive sociality”, bounded in some sense by a limit. If not, it seems to me that the research programme would become rapidly impossible to manage. I wondered whether three analytical versions of this might help in relation to the textual “seed” for the research:

      1. Short-form: where the size of the text(s) under computational study is relatively short and localized. This could be a short book(s), blog-post(s) and so forth.

      2. Long-form: A larger entity such as a monograph(s), blog (including a number of blogs), or so on. See http://stunlaw.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/the-author-signal-nietzsches-typewriter.html

      3. Big Data: Where it is a larger collection of textual entities or “chunks” of text.

      Additionally, some sense of the “proper” or “correct” level of network analysis would also help to both scope the network analysis (e.g. three degrees, six degrees?), and also give an insight into the kind of complexity that you envision as a research project under this programme.

      An exploratory example of these thoughts can be found here,


      where we document an attempt to use similar techniques to map the digital humanities. This was a “short-form” datasprint, which limited our source to books, but also the depth or degree of the searches. It was also in as much as we formulated the notion of “seed” books that started the search for the “expressive sociality” we wanted to map, and which was limited algorithmically to a certain number of degrees (and which were later cropped/filtered in Gephi).



      Comment by Paul Schacht on February 14, 2013

      “Where does the knowledge and experience of literature occur? It occurs distributed through combinations of authors, documents, readers, and scholar-critics—that is, in the social networks of all the above.” In Out of Our Heads, Alva Noë asks much the same question – and reaches much the same conclusion – about consciousness. He refutes the proposition that consciousness is located in the brain, contending that it lies, instead, at the interface, and in the interactions, between the whole organism and its environment. If we think that thinking takes place inside the brain, we miss the social and relational dimensions of not only consciousness but selfhood. Much speculation about “meaning” in literature makes the same mistake. We conceive it as “in” the head of the author (in the form of an “intention”) or “in” the head of the reader (in the form of a “construction”); or we suppose it to reside in both places independently, and worry about how to determine whether the two meanings, “author’s” and “reader’s”, are aligned; or (with more nuance, but still missing the point) we conceive it as occupying some mysterious space between author and reader, or as a kind of dance between the two. However, social computing points us towards a way of understanding  meaning that gets us out of our heads and away from mysterious, ethereal interstices; it leads us to think of meaning as an effect of networked bodies and as embodied in the multidimensional relations among people, documents, and conversations.

      […] anthology project, Literary Studies in the Digital Age (another good place to start exploring), “From Reading to Social Computing.” This conceptual model gave me the handle I needed to grasp social computing from a critical […]

      Comment by Dicko on March 27, 2013

      When it comes to reading and writing in the contemporary times, the social network is having greater influence when it comes to the way people read and the way they write (especially their spelling) and also the way they speak! I believe that it is the job of the social linguists to study this and I am aware that the University of Nigeria Nsukka http://arts.unn.edu.ng has scholars devoted to this.

      […] ¶ 2Leave a comment on paragraph 20Of course, the sociality of literature has recently been an important theme in a variety of literary-critical approaches—including new historicism, cultural criticism, multiculturalism, the new textual editing, the history of the book, and others I will later mention. But the concept, tools, and—not to be underestimated—growing audience of social computing make it tempting to think that such sociality might now also be implemented in new practices, and not just in themes, of literary scholarship. […]

      Comment by Natori Moore on November 23, 2014

      Wonderful as these collective foci of Web 2.0 sound in theory, they may be why those who always enjoyed reading as a solitary activity, or a Socratic dialogue with a worthy teacher, and only occasionally a group discussion endeavor, have had a hard time adapting to the recommended speculative journey into technology and digital humanities as literature’s next best thing, or phase of development. No Luddite here, doing my best to adapt, but still grieving paper and pencil.

      Comment by Amy on March 18, 2015

      Perhaps more substantive reasons to address the ‘why’? Perhaps a further expansion on the suspicion of digital technologies?

      Comment by Amy on March 18, 2015

      What are the present ethical standings on social computing in this context where PieSky is just another spy tool?

      Comment by Taryn on March 18, 2015

      This makes sense to me… Web 1.0 was structured in the traditional sense of publishing. Just like ebooks are structured in the traditional sense of a book.

      Comment by Taryn on March 18, 2015

      Web 2.0 aka the web as its known to digital natives.

      Comment by Laura Dunlop on March 18, 2015

      I find the connection made to Barthe’s types of literary text particularly interesting, though I’m not sure if I agree with the comparison being made between the rendering of HTML across hardware in a Web 1.0 paradigm and writerly texts. Perhaps it is only because I grew up predominantly understanding the web as the Web 2.0, but I would offer a different comparison, where texts presented in a Web 1.0 paradigm would be “readerly” and those in a Web 2.0 paradigm as “writerly”.

      Comment by Joanna on October 30, 2015

      It is not obvious at all that writing online is more honest, given that the author knows he has an audience. Added to that is the problem that anonymous tends to be cruel, which suggests that what appears online is not really what is TRUE but what can be GOTTEN AWAY WITH.

      Comment by Jeff Allred on January 20, 2016

      [new practices, and not just in themes, of literary scholarship]

      For someone who went to college in the early 90s, this emphasis on themes passing over into practices resonates with the first wave of hypertext narratives, which seemed to embody so much of what deconstruction had been saying about textuality in more abstract ways.

      Comment by Humanity Harrell on January 20, 2016

      Liu seems to be making the argument that commercialization of the internet has motivated this shift in the Web 1.5 paradigm and Figure 4. suggests that the ability to comment changed the static relationship of delineated roles by allowing users to become authors.

      I have to disagree with Liu here. The ability to comment does not produce co-authorship, because the role is still established. The authority of the author is still regarded above the interactive reader/user even within the website formatting. Web 2.0 just allowed a forum for discussion and increased interactivity but did not usurp the authorship role completely as he seems to suggest.

      A wiki however, is closer to true co-authorship because users are indistinguishable from authors from a Web-page presentation (authorship can still be traced based on account and IP address) and because in more recent wikis, privileged users can actually edit website code itself. MLA commons, like a blog, attempts a similar process by incorporating comments into the readers experience of a text but only increases interactivity while maintaining Web 2.0’s roles. Therefore, I would distinguish Web 2.0 as the blogs or interactive sites and I would regard wiki-based platforms as the new paradigm or Web 3.0 because it allows users access to truer co-authorship by making these binary roles indistinguishable.

      Comment by Humanity Harrell on January 20, 2016

      Social computing belongs to Web 2.0 and can be distinguished from previous iterations because of the bidirectional network and the unified community that has transcended the commercial relationship of user/buyer and website/seller of the Web 1.5 that Liu distinguished as commercially initiated and the Web 1.0 that was privately partitioned (isolated).

      Comment by Eric Harrell on January 20, 2016

      My understanding here is that Liu wants us not to conceive of the literary act of reading, termed the transmission, but the medium in which we process reading, the book, or the electronic ballad, or even the oral culture.

      Perhaps Liu is displacing the emphasis on reading as a textual process and hoping to reduce the connotations of reading with paper text. Thereby, broadening reading to other mediums, specifically digital text.

      Comment by Eric Harrell on January 20, 2016

      Reading and writing communities have been established long ago, as Liu relinquishes but could you not go back even further than the 18th and 10th century and regard the Greek Symposium as an example where works were read in communal fashion, responded to immediately at times and even changed as a result of its reception?

      Comment by Eric Harrell on January 20, 2016

      You can see this need for contemporary Literature to adopt the “cool” or “passionate” ethos in the mountainous terrain of internet “clickbait” and literary adverting that has dominated online publication.

      It is an unfortunate fact that this “cool” factor adopts more of an audience than the well researched and more “honest” post. Stranger still is that this drawn audience will evoke the “wisdom of crowds” where bigger viewcounts/followers will be mistakenly translated to more authority and truth.

      Comment by Eric Harrell on January 20, 2016

      While Liu sees the possibility of synthesis between literary scholarship and social computing, he also reiterates that one cannot be simply adopted but rather, the literary scholar has to undergo the process of learning – to not just assimilate digital text into their work but legitimately learn a new area of study.

      Comment by Eric Harrell on January 20, 2016

      Such a digital rendering has usurped the author’s authority over the work by allowing readers to elaborate upon characters. While such a rendering is to be applauded for its experimental qualities and what must be some comedic dialogue. There is also a danger inherent here to authorship itself, that writing (even digital text) can be manipulated in ways unintended. Whether this is a danger we need to be apprehensive or a progression we should be aware us, is up for debate.

      Comment by Jeff Allred on January 28, 2016

      Fascinating reading of the ambivalent role of “writerly” reader on dynamic pages, especially via provocative example of shopping!

      Comment by Shadikar on February 5, 2016

      The controversial thing that comes because of web 2.0 is the blurred line between author and user. It is beneficial in the way that it web 2.0 gets everyone involved in a text, but detrimental in the way that with several authors and multiple intentions the original author may get lost in the text.

  • <strong class="batch-2013">2013</strong> Stéfan Sinclair, Stan Ruecker, and Milena Radzikowska, “Information Visualization for Humanities Scholars” (17 comments)

  • <strong class="batch-2013">2013</strong> Tanya Clement, “Text Analysis, Data Mining, and Visualizations in Literary Scholarship” (11 comments)

  • Kenneth M. Price and Ray Siemens, Introduction (9 comments)

  • <strong class="batch-2013">2013</strong> Susan Schreibman, “Digital Scholarly Editing” (6 comments)

  • <strong class="batch-2013">2013</strong> David L. Hoover, “Textual Analysis” (4 comments)

  • <strong class="batch-2013">2013</strong> William A. Kretzschmar, Jr., “GIS for Language and Literary Study” (4 comments)

    • Comment by Phil on March 3, 2015

      Kansas City Literary Map is a dead link

      […] to create by digitally mapping Medieval places. This type of map is discussed in more detail in “GIS for Language and Literary Study,” which details other maps that allow for manipulation by users depending on their needs. The […]

      Comment by Gerald Egan on May 9, 2015

      The Salem Witch Trials link is not working.

      Comment by Clarissa Clò on March 28, 2016

      I wish this paragraph had been the starting point of the discussion. The article was informative with great links (those that worked) to inspiring projects and a somewhat technical discussion, but what I really would have wanted to read about is the idea of “spatial thinking” and why it matters to the humanities, not only from a philosophical perspective but also a cognitive one. I should disclose that I teach Italian Studies and I am interested in both literary and linguistic aspects of this question. Thank you.

  • <strong class="batch-2013">2013</strong> Julia Flanders, “The Literary, the Humanistic, the Digital: Toward a Research Agenda for Digital Literary Studies” (3 comments)

    • […] some imaginative and thoughtful attempts to negotiate such an approach, by such scholars as Liu, Julia Flanders, and others. (I’ve listed just a few in “References,” below.) This post, and a […]

      Comment by Katherine Bode on April 24, 2014

      An evocative phrase in Jerome McGann’s new book, A New Republic of Letters, regarding the ‘fractal archive’, perhaps provides something like this ‘geometry in which the instance and aggregation both appear’.

      In his final chapter, McGann represents the title page of a particular edition of The Pioneers as ‘a compressed and encrypted file’ that requires ‘unzipping’ through detailed book historical analysis. The collection of ‘all these files’ – the unzipped title page of every edition of The Pioneers, or even of every existing copy of the book – that is, ‘the entire production and reception history’ of the book, would comprise a ‘fractal archive’ (173).

      McGann does not elaborate on this evocative term, but it clearly references the mathematical concept of fractal dimensions: a ratio wherein the detail and complexity of an object or pattern – or even the distance between point A and point B – changes depending on the scale at which it is measured. The archetypal example of this ratio is the measurement of the coastline of a country, which changes depending on the length of the measuring stick used. While a kilometre long stick will produce a different measurement to one that is a centimetre long, or shorter, no single measurement is the correct one: rather the different measurements are an index of the level of detail, the scale, at which the measurement is taken.

      Understood in this way, the notion of a fractal archive resonates with McGann’s broader argument: that we can never know the meaning of a document or tell the truth about an archive because we can never know the entire network – including the current moment of interpretation – that the document or archive connects to. As McGann writes, the ‘radical uncertainties’ of the textual condition (160) call for a ‘scholarship of indeterminacy’ (158) wherein our task is not to know, but to thicken our knowledge of, the dynamic network that constitutes print culture in any time or place.

      Comment by Nicky Agate on January 22, 2015

      See Catherine Tumber’s article “Bulldozing the Humanities,” published in The Baffler on August 1, 2014, in which she takes on this anthology in general, and specifically Julia Flanders’ take on “DH’s inherent shift in humanistic consciousness.” http://www.thebaffler.com/blog/bulldozing-the-humanities/

  • Welcome (3 comments)

    • Comment by Totosy de Zepetnek, Steven on February 22, 2013

      my comment — that is, question — is whether the editors would be interested in an article about digital humanities, the study of literature AND the publishing of scholarship online, an area that — if discussed at all — does not happen in digital humanities

      i am looking forward to receiving your reply, thanks and best,

      Comment by Ray Siemens on March 18, 2013

      Hi Steven — Thanks for your comment / question!

      As we note in our introduction, we are pleased to consider building on this foundation of articles over time, adding to its breadth and depth of address in response to our field’s engagement with the digital.

      Please join the group DLS Anthology, upload your draft, and invite the community to comment. The draft will become part of the collection’s expanding archive. Essays deemed to be of especially high quality and of interest to a sufficient number of people will be chosen for inclusion in subsequent evolutions of Literary Studies in the Digital Age: with the author’s permission, a selected essay will be copyedited and added to the collection. (Authors are free to submit their essays elsewhere for publication at any time, but please be advised that the draft uploaded to MLA Commons will remain part of the collection’s public archive.)

      All best


      Comment by Ramona on June 10, 2014

      I am working on cultural studies approach to science fiction film which creates a theory of narrative especially for film. I riff off of both Donna Haraway and Bakhtin. Does something like this fit into your rubric? I only see more technical subjects whereas I am addressing how the visual narratives we have are changing narrative itself. Also, we lack good terminology as the distinction between film, television, online videos with or without music tracks makes discussing these various types of input into our senses problematic.

      Also, will we get notifications that our comments have been answered because remembering to check back and then finding an answer is difficult.

      I notice a lot of comments are awaiting moderation, something else that makes it difficult to keep up.

      Streamline the process. We are all responsible intellectuals here. This is not a board where we would find the kind of verbal violence we might elsewhere on the innertoobs or maybe I am wrong to assume that?

  • <strong class="batch-2013">2013</strong> Charles Cooney, Glenn Roe, and Mark Olsen, “The Notion of the Textbase: Design and Use of Textbases in the Humanities” (3 comments)

  • <strong class="under-review">Under Review</strong> Jojo Karlin, “Our Digital Literary Legacy: Producing and Preserving Digital Dissertations in English” (2 comments)

    • Comment by Cameron Blevins on November 14, 2017

      Point of clarification: my dissertation was at Stanford, not Rutgers.

      Comment by Peter Suber on November 14, 2017

      The first quotation is slightly inaccurate: “amplify their ideas” should be “amplify their impact”.

  • <strong class="batch-2013">2013</strong> Daniel Powell, with Constance Crompton and Ray Siemens, “Glossary of Terms, Tools, and Methods” (1 comment)

  • <strong class="batch-2018">2018</strong> Davin Heckman and James O’Sullivan, “Electronic Literature: Contexts and Poetics” (1 comment)

    • Comment by Liliana Vasques on January 27, 2018

      [Digital literature uses the affordances of the computer to dynamically render the story.]

      Reading this quote made me think that we should complete “the affordances” of the computer with ‘the affordances of digital culture’ in order to reflect those works that make use of things such as web data, big data, themes and objects that exist due to the development of a digital society and culture.

Source: https://hcommons.org/all-comments/