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Bibliography by Meaghan

Page history last edited by Meaghan Skahan 7 years, 10 months ago

By Meaghan Skahan, Playful Visualizations at Work / Working Visualizations at Play


 1. Laue, Andrea K. “Visualization as Interpretive Practice: The Case of Detective Fiction.” Dissertation Presentation at the University of Virginia, Feb. 2003.  www2.iath.virginia.edu/bpn2f/diss/dissertation.pdf


Laue’s presentation examines our traditional practices and understandings of narratology and detective fiction, and then makes a case for deformative methods of interpretation that avail themselves of visualization techniques.

She begins with a historical approach to narratology, marking the late 1970’s as a time when scholarly work on narratives began to incorporate more of a focus on semantics and discourse analysis. As narrative becomes “a mode of telling...a tool for structuring human experience” (147-148), Laue argues that narratives began to require that critics of narratives must create a world as opposed to a sequence of chronological events.

Because any reading of a text is necessarily an interpretation, Laue proposes, “to study literary devices and conventions as textual cues, and to explore what I call “rules for reading”” (149) through use of visual deformations of textual artifacts. Detective fiction is a logical place to begin her work, as it is a genre in which causality reigns. In a way, Laue argues that the genre mirrors the overarching reading process she has already described: “Although ostensibly about something—a crime—it is literally about the (re)construction of something...” (149).

Having described how Eco looks at Ian Fleming’s books in a somewhat similar way, Laue distinguishes her project: “instead of taking the linguistics-based approach to defining cues, [she’d] like to look at how literary devices and conventions function as cues” (150).  Additionally, she describes activities she performs with visualizations in the classroom, that help students to see the distinction between the fabula and syuzhet, in which she is able to show that the connections between the two diagrams better represent the narrative than either visual does on its own.

Laue also demonstrates part of her personal research, which requires test subjects to read Conan Doyle’s “The Red-Headed League” and mark clues they find upon the first encounter, and then to flip back to items that become useful as they read on. She points out that we already use visualization in literary studies, as essays are already visualizations in a way, invoking certain reading practices because of how they are set up (perhaps she alludes to abstracts and titles situated at the top of the page?).

Laue then introduces McGann and Samuels as a model of how deformative work can be productive. She mentions Stephen Ramsay as well, whose most exciting contribution is “defamiliarization through re-presentation in unfamiliar visual forms” (151).

Her presentation concludes with a succinct list of six benefits of using visualizations in literary studies: pattern recognition, the extension of working memory, additional semantics which lead to additional sets of meaning, a translation of the axis of experience to spatial rather than temporal diagrams, what Barwise calls “closure under constraints” (this one would need further elaboration from Laue to be fully understood), and finally the possibility of adding or removing inferences from a diagram (153).

Laue concludes by mentioning the benefit of aesthetic provocation in using visualizations in literary studies. Interestingly, Laue’s graduate work at Virginia  (which includes a number of illuminating essays) propelled her toward a career in the information technology world, as she has most currently worked in information technology in San Francisco.


2. Ramsay, Stephen.  “The Hermeneutics of Screwing Around; or What You Do with a Million Books.” PastPlay Conference. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2012.


This text is a manuscript of a lecture Stephen Ramsay presented in 2010 that was also worked on in a pastplay unconference during that same year. It is available in PDF form on his website, http://lenz.unl.edu/. Ramsay’s short but highly philosophical text engages with the human impulse to categorize, organize, and synthesize. The exposition of the essay deals with the variety of ways in which humans try to make sense of the seemingly infinite number of things to read in the world, most of which revolves around making lists which take the forms of syllabi, curriculum, “best of” lists, essentially all moving toward the canonizing of certain texts and the loss of all others. Ramsay acknowledges the futility of trying to read everything, and instead shifts the issue entirely, saying that the “problem is that that much information probably exceeds our ability to create reliable guides to it. It’s one thing to worry that your canon isn’t sufficiently inclusive, or broad, or representative. It’s another thing when your canon has no better chance of being these things than a random selection” (3).

The most significant distinction Ramsay makes here is between searching and browsing. Searching, or directed research, relies on typical academic training, and search engines like google support this type of work because they provide lists of sites/ideas that algorithmically “fit” the search command given by the researcher. Ramsay, however, gives a personal example of a project that came to fruition through browsing, which benefits from more aimless, less linear thinking and looking and clicking through. The browsing, as opposed to searching, functions of the internet, in this case, introduce new possibilities because surfing without direction through hyperlinks can support and encourage an important and far more interesting intellectual process. From this argument, Ramsay derives the term “screwmeneutical imperative” which encourages “community, relationship, and play” (11).



3. Walter, Skip. “Digital Humanities – Really?” On the Way to Somewhere Else. Web. 1 May 2012.


Walter’s text is a post on his blog. As a highly successful high-tech entrepreneur and now professor in the MBA program at University of Washington, Walter’s blog offers a unique perspective on the digital humanities as he chronicles his meetings at Duke with two professors whose work has allowed him to identify the affinities that exist between the trends in the humanities and what he has worked on in the corporate world.

In a trip to his alma mater Duke University, Walter arranges to meet with Professors Cathy Davidson and Katherine Hayles, both of whom he asked about creating an ideal university. While this question was the impetus for the meetings, what struck Walter as most fascinating about the work and pedagogical experiences of both professors was the emphasis on the digital within their humanities courses. While initially incredulous, he finds ways to relate their work to other corporate/literary examples from his life (the most salient example being Nick Bantock’s book series which combines art and text in a profoundly interactive way), most significantly to his work in software in the corporate world.

Walter quotes two paragraphs from Katherine Hayles’ How We Think, in which she describes the first two waves of the digital humanities as having begun as a quantitative study and having evolved toward qualitative analysis. Walter’s work on Attenex Patterns (text analysis software used by corporations to mine data) had in some ways moved in a similar fashion:

 "[The software has] extended through what I’ve been calling “content in context” as I research and design this tool set for applications like patent analytics and loyalty marketing. This new tool set provides the visual analytics needed for semantic networks, social networks, event networks, and geographical networks. Who would believe that I would find such great resources in a distant context – digital humanities – to extend my design to include features like curated story telling."

It is because of his outsider’s perspective and extensive experience in the information technology world that Walter’s analysis of what he glimpsed in meeting Davidson and Hayles is especially interesting for those who have no experience outside of the humanities, digital or not.


4. Sample, Mark. “Notes towards a Deformed Humanities.” Samplereality.com. Web. 2 May 2012.


Sample’s very contemporary blog post engages with deformance theory and moves toward what he calls deformation. One of the sections of the post, entitled “Deformance is a hedge,” posits that deformance “actually reinscribes more conventional acts of interpretation” which is “precisely what is wrong with the idea of deformance: it always circles back to the text.” In a vivid analogy involving Humpty Dumpty, Sample distinguishes his own methodology from McGann’s and Samuels’ in that he would prefer to avoid the reconstruction or the dialogue that is put into play between the original work and the deformance that is a critical aspect of practice. He instead advocates leaving the broken (humanlike) egg on the sidewalk and examining the mess: “the deformed work is the end, not the means to the end.”

Sample admits that his idea is not entirely novel, as this type of deformation occurs in fan fiction and remixes which have “little regard for preserving the original whole.” His own work, Hacking the Accident, utilized the OuLiPo s+7 experiment to deform a scholarly text called Hacking the Academy. One the deformed phrases delights him in it’s reworking of a concept that hits close to home:

"I love that The Chronicle of Higher Education always appears as The Church of Higher Efficiency; it’s as if the newspaper was calling out academia for what it has become—an all-consuming, totalizing quest for efficiency and productivity, instead of a space of learning and creativity."

 Sample accuses deformance of welcoming the deformative practices and then sidestepping them at the last moment. In a way, Sample also uses the deformation to comment on the original text. This post and his blog in its entirety provide an interesting point of entry into the world of DH (deformance and digital) conferences, conversations, and internet presence in general.





5. Eater of Meaning



Eater of Meaning is an online tool for textual deformance. The site and program were created by Leonard Richardson, and are written in Python. This is a tool that can be used directly on the website or downloaded and run from the command line or as a CGI. The program is generally used to distort websites and texts “for fun,” and is a software that blurs the boundaries between enjoyable textual deformance and useful textual deformance. The short introduction on the site itself reads: “[T]he Eater of Meaning is a tool for extracting the message from the medium. Format and presentation are unaffected, but words and letters are subjected to an elaborate nonsensification progress that eliminates semantics root and branch.” Much like the OuLiPo constraints, the program uses formulas to distort and modify every word in a given text or on a given site in a uniform fashion. There are twelve separate modification processes through which one can run a text, some of which are difficult to understand ( such as “with a side of spam). What follows is a sentence from The Pale King by David Foster Wallace, run through four of the different processes.


Original Sentence: It’s a cleared card-storage room off the radial hall of the Regional Examination Center’s data processing pod, so the air-conditioning is good and there’s none of the summer’s facial shine.


Run through “eat word endings:” It’s a cleanser carpet-stooping root officiously theodosius radiators hallmarks of thetis Regulative Exacerbate Centerpieces’s dating programming podium, so thereupon airways-constituents is goodly andrea theseus’s nondeterministic of thermostat summarizations’s facing shiftiness.


Run through “eat chewy caramel center:” It’s a cereald card-saorgte room off the raaidl hall of the Rogiaenl Eanoiaitmxn Cneetr’s data pniscrseog pod, so the air-ciodnintniog is good and there’s none of the smuemr’s fciaal sihne.


Run through “eat and regurgitate:” Ti’s a reledac drac-garesto moor ffo teh aridal lalh fo hte Iglaoenr Intiexanaom Ternce’s atda oscnsegpri dop, so the ira-nnnciigoiotd is gdoo adn erthe’s onen of eht mserum’s alfcia ieshn.


Run through: “eat completely:”

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