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Bibliography by Thomas Doran

Page history last edited by Alan Liu 12 years, 2 months ago

Annotated Bibliography Assignment


By Thomas Doran, Animation and Audio Poetics as Deformative Process in Wordworth's 1798, 1800, and 1815 "Animal Tranquility and Decay"


 1. Audiotool

Audiotool is a free, web-based application for electronic music production. It is a user-friendly, flash-based interface that is meant to serve as a fully functioning virtual studio. Users simply drop and drag synthesizers, drum machines, sequencers, filters, samples, and note sequences into the workspace from a toolbar. In fact, each tool is tabbed with a link to its respective page on the Audiotool wiki, where users can learn precisely how it functions in the system.

From here the virtual workspace is as manipulable as the real thing. Users can click and drag to adjust knobs, push buttons, switch the wiring and sequencing of instruments, or simply move things around. In addition, scrolling allows users to zoom in on or expand their workspace.

The application also includes a fully-functioning multitrack recorder (though not as user-friendly as the free software program Audacity) where users can record, edit, save, and export their sound experiments. Audiotool is especially effective for looping and sequencing sound, so it is a productive medium for even the least experienced musician. (Just start pushing buttons, and you will be making music in no time!) The major drawback of Audiotool is that while it has a variety of options to choose from for sound creation, more sophisticated users (or those who play an actual instrument) will either need to import music recorded elsewhere (e.g., a guitar or vocal track) or export what they create in Audiotool in order to complete a project, and since Audiotool is a web-based application designed to function as a stand-alone virtual studio, the functionality of both importing and exporting is less than ideal.


2. Bernstein, Charles. "Making Audio Visible: The Lessons of Visual Language from the Textualization of Sound." Text 16 (2006): 277-289. Web. 2 May 2012.


Bernstein is interested in the way audio recordings of poetry function not as sound but as invisible visual texts. Beginning with a brief history of recording technologies, Bernstein notes the consistent relationship between these technologies and their ability to capture language, specifically poetry. (He positions himself as willfully ignorant and unconcerned with the incidental use of these technologies to record what we call music.) Bernstein is especially interested in the visual/verbal paradox embedded in terms like the phonograph or in images of dogs looking into them, hearing a speaking voice but being unable to locate the speaker. Recorded sound, he suggests, is a form of textuality with serious potential for opening up the way we read and interpret poetry.

From here Bernstein focuses on two matters. 1) PennSound, a project devoted to the digital archiving of audio recordings of poetry, past and present. 2) The ways in which the widespread availability of audio recordings of poetry has the potential to revive public interest in poetry and expand our critical and pedagogical practices. For example, having students read a poem aloud is effective, but “the textualization of the sound as an object of study radically changes this dynamic” (283). Bernstein believes the audio text will not only increase the production of poetry but change the process of poetic production itself to include oral dictation and the careful manipulation of sound files. In turn, critics will be forced to engage with the digital text in a more meaningful way and may even find it opens up the potential of certain critical methods, such as deformance and Bernstein’s own “close listening.” Fundamentally, Bernstein believes that the audio recording of poetry will radically alter our understanding of alternate versions by providing a new medium for nuanced textual analysis of poetry.


3. Drucker, Johanna. "Speculative Computing." Speclab: Digital Aesthetics and Projects in Speculative Computing. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2009. 1-30. Print.


Drucker’s book serves as a suitable companion to McGann’s Radiant Textuality. In the first section, “From Digital Humanities to Speculative Computing,” Drucker critiques the objective strain of the digital humanities as its goals and methods contrast with the projects at the University of Virginia’s Speclab. Drucker explains how the early “period of infatuation with the power of digital technology and the mythic ideal of mathesis it seemed to embody” (4) has resulted in the strange assumptions among digital humanists that the mysteries of imaginative texts might release their secrets when subjected to the tremendous powers of computation. By focusing on the instability and inconsistency of metadata, Drucker dismantles some of the assumptions of objectivity in distant reading: 1) “The formal constraints of XML simply do not match the linguistic complexity of aesthetic artifacts” (13-14). 2) “Any … system of classifying and categorizing information … exercise[s] rhetorical and ideological force” (14). In contrast, Drucker describes speculative computing as “a set of principles through which to push back on the cultural authority by which computational methods instrumentalize their effects across many disciplines” (5). The alternative she offers to the objective-mechanistic is the subjective-probabilistic. In this sense, Speclab functions as a response to the threat posed by those in the digital humanities who seek to conveniently forget poststructural critiques of the grand narrative of objectivity. Here, the goal is to show, through critical practice and actual production, the ways in which the text is not a static object and interpretation is performance.


In the second part of this chapter, “Speculative Computing: Basic Principles and Essential Distinctions,” Drucker explains Speclab’s goal of creating “aesthetic provocations … that were surprising and unpredictable” (19). She briefly explains the concept of probabilistic-subjectivity as a sort of analogous extension of quantum mechanics and then sets about distinguishing between the digital humanities and speculative computing by examining the flaws in some key terms: 1) Calculation is limited to numerical data, 2) computation is limited by the constraints of formal logic, 3) digital processing simply enacts that logic, 4) classification “reinforces the disposition to imagine that all code-based objects are self-evident, explicit, and unambiguous” (23), and 4) electronic communication is based on a mechanistic conception of communication where information is “encoded, stored, and then output” (24). After noting a key distinction between the two fields, essentially that the digital humanities makes “digital tools in humanities contexts” while speculative computing makes humanities tools in digital contexts,” Drucker offers a succinct table of the key distinctions (25):



1. Information technology / formal logic     1. ‘Pataphysics / the science of exceptions

2. Quantitative methods                             2. Quantum interventions

(Problem-solving approaches)                        (Imagining what you do not know)

(practical solutions)                                        (imaginary/imaginative solutions)

3. Self-identical objects/entities                   3. Autopoeisis / constitutive or configured identity

(Subject/object dichotomy)                             (Co-dependent emergence)

4. Induction / deduction                              4. Abduction

5. Discrete representations                          5. Heteroglossic processes

(Static artifacts)                                              (Intersubjective exchange / discourse fields)

6. Analysis / observation                              6. Subjective deformance / intervention

(Mechanistic)                                                  (Probabilistic)



4. Praat


Developed and maintained by Paul Boersma and David Weenink at the University of Amsterdam, Praat is a free software package for phonetic analysis. Praat’s complexity and less than user-friendly environment largely stems from the fact that it is meant to support the sophisticated and rigorous analysis of phoneticians and linguists. Any user would benefit from a basic understanding of linguistics, but much can be learned along the way by playing with the software’s basic tools and functions. Starting from a sound file, which users can upload or record, Praat can generate sophisticated phonetic data and visualizations for users to analyze, manipulate, and export.


In Praat’s main editor window, users can view and edit both waveform and spectrogram visualizations of audio files as well as other data when available (e.g., pitch, intensity, formants, frequency, duration, vowels, noise, etc.). The potential for generating deeper linguistic analyses seems limited only by one’s understanding of linguistic prosody and phonetics. For example, Praat can measure and locate creakiness, breathiness, nasality, jitter, shimmer, voice breaks, or the spectral center of gravity (i.e., the frequency and distribution of different sounds) of a sound recording. In addition, Praat also has a drawing window for creating and annotating sophisticated graphs and a fully functioning statistical analysis engine. All work in Praat is fully exportable, the software is universally compatible, and savvy users may even circumvent the GUI with Praat scripting.


5. Rothenberg, Jerome. "Total Translation: An Experiment in the Presentation of American Indian Poetry." Pre-Faces and Other Writings. New York: New Directions, 1981. 76-92. Print.


Rothenberg deprioritizes meaning and knowledge of the source language in his practice of “total translation.” Translating Navajo and Seneca songs and not knowing the languages himself, Rothenberg collaborates with bilingual Seneca and Navajo in an attempt to translate the music “at some distance from the song itself: to reflect the song without the danger of presenting any part of it (the melody, say) exactly as given” (85). His attempt to translate smaller units, moves beyond the assumption that sound, for example, is universally captured, perceived, and processed. Indeed, for Rothenberg total translation is not about faithfully representing the original so much as it is about creating something so different that the original remains undisturbed. Although couched in problematic assumptions of indigenous cultural preservation, there is some accuracy in Rothenberg’s expectations for the translatability of cultural forms when compared to “faithful” translations of indigenous cultures that attempt to adopt a cohesive system for the lacunae that are to some degree solidified as an essentialized form of nativization of these cultures, a simplified understanding of what Navajo or Chinese cultures care about or sound like “to us.” Rothenberg is an almost unwitting opponent of this system of translation. He seeks to utterly, not simply, translate sound itself in his projects: “Navajo … twists words into new shapes or fills up spaces between words by insertion of a wide range of ‘meaningless’ vocables, making it misleading to translate primarily for meaning or, finally, to think of total translation in any terms but those of sound” (85). Indeed, in “both Navajo and Seneca … many songs consisted of nothing but those ‘meaningless’ vocables” (77). Rothenberg’s practice dismantles the fundamental assumption that translation’s already tenuous relationship to meaning can be somehow resolved at a more universal level; instead, he works by “contributing & then obliterating [his] own level of meaning, while in another sense … recapitulating the history of the vocables themselves” (88). His methods are strange, multimedia (unavoidably analog), and constantly adapting to the needs of the individual text. In their complexity they offer an alternative to faithful translation that seems to anticipate deformance and speculative computing (without the computers).


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