Vectors Review (Week 2 assignment)

This week Tyler and I are asking our Intro to DH Freshman Seminar students to review an article or project from Vectors with the concept of design in mind. We are doing the same.

Being the archival obsessive I am, I decided to look at Vector’s first edition from 2005, one focused around the concept of evidence (a core archival principle). I visited the table of contents and picked a project/article randomly: Virtual Vaudeville, by David Saltz. The editors’ introduction drew me in, so I clicked “Launch Project.” What I received was…

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“Technological obsolescence and other factors” are enemies of the archive, and negate any ability for design (good or bad) to be realized. My work as an archivist is focussed on opposing the inevitable onslaught of technological obsolescence. Progress is slow, at times glacial. In a kind of oxymoronic loop, we attempt to combat technological obsolescence with other technologies that inevitably fall prey to their own set off preservation ills (DAT tapes and bit rot) or access impediments (looked for 3/4″ Umatic player lately, or how about a player for your Moving Image JPEG 2000 files?). And what of these “other factors” mentioned in the above error message? Are these rights and ownership related factors? If so, those challenges can kill any project, no matter how technologically sound.

While I’m  disappointed by Virtual Vaudeville‘s totalizing virtuality, I feel some solace knowing that archival struggles permeate all realms, even (especially?) the cutting edge.  I’m empathetic with what I’m sure are the creator’s and editors’ frustrations, and will use this as an example of challenges when I meet again with fellow members SCALAR’s Archive and Preservation Working Group.

What the World really needs…

is another blog. So, here I go. 

I’m inspired by this post in which David Weinberger harkens way back to 1999 and offers reflections on what blogging once was. You can read the post for yourself, but I do want to highlight a few points he makes about why blogging mattered more back in those glory days: 

  1. Personal and Dynamic Presence on the Web. Weinberger recalls having a blog was a way to make ones Web-based existence tangible. “When blogs came along, they became the way we could have a Web presence that enabled us to react, respond, and provoke. A home page was a painting, a statue. My blog was me. My blog was the Web equivalent of my body.” Today, in my opinion, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, and  other social media platforms have taken this desire to embody the Web and injected it with capitali$t growth hormones. These for-profits have effectively exploited that desire to carve out a personalized “Web presence that enabled us to react, respond, and provoke,” not by blogging but by providing consumers with seemingly convenient tools to personalize and post to customized networks of friends and acquaintances.  
  2. Sense of Community. Weinberger argues that, back in the day, the “Web was more a social space than a publishing, informational or commercial space.” Since then an array of commercialized social media sites have exploded on the Web. Some may have withered (MySpace) or died (Friendster), but many more live one. No wonder blogging suffered. As Weinberger notes,  “Blogrolls were an early social network,” but they took time and creative effort to cultivate. 
  3. Disruptive Intent. Lastly, Weinberger writes that in blogging days of yore, he and his blogging comrades saw themselves as upsetting “many assumptions about who gets to speak, how we speak, and who is an authority.” They saw themselves as “participating in a revolution,” one that shifted the balance of power away from corporate and governmental control and towards  freedom of expression, open access, net neutrality, and anonymity. Where do we find ourselves today?Friendster

Intro DH | Welcome UW Students!

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Hello and welcome to our seminar, Intro to Digital Humanities! As Tyler Fox and I mentioned at our first meeting, this course is exploratory. We–definitely me–will be using it as an opportunity to find out what, why, and how Digital Humanities (DH) is what it is or, perhaps more accurately, is in relation to what others claim on its behalf. From mapping Ireland’s literary history to re-contextualizing discourse in the midst of combat, much digital output falls under the DH umbrella.  We will be exploring the diverse nature of what the term covers, but we’ll also be checking out the umbrella itself, investigating and dissecting what it’s made of and what assumptions we may be making on its behalf. I look forward to working with and learning alongside all of you this quarter.