Katie Beverly

  • Our readings this week focus on the database and how it conflicts with narrative, its “natural enemy” (Manovich). Both of the readings fascinated me, so I’m not exactly sure where to start. Perhaps the readings […]

    • This is a really interesting post. I was especially struck by your latching onto Manovich’s use of film editing as a metaphor for how we construct narratives out of data.

      Some of us may be reminded of Season 4 of Arrested Development, which, rather than unfolding in chronological order, was presented character by character. Not surprisingly, fans — and even, later, the director — went back and re-cut the series chronologically. Same bits and pieces of film (or rather, same digital video), different results based on organization.

      Those of us who are historian-types could also consider the archive as a form of database, from which many different narratives could be constructed.

      Something to think about: the organization of a database, as Manovich also points out, makes some narratives more likely or more possible than others. That can happen in a variety of ways. A lot depends upon the tables upon which the databases are constructed, with some kinds of metadata searchable (that for which there are tables). and other snot. For example, if we stay with Netflix, you can search by actor, director, genre. Try searching by length of movie. Or where it was shot. Or who wrote the music. Or ones in which the main character has a quirky friend from Des Moines. These are all ways of categorizing movies and TV shows, but they are simply not represented in the database.

      Those decisions of what is retained, what can be searched, and how all implicitly represent values.

      Can you think of other databases, how they work and how they don’t, and what values those decisions represent?

    • Thanks for this post, Katie! Your analogies, particularly the Whitman and film analogies, really helped me conceptualize the database differently. I have been struggling with this lately, and just this week I was talking with one of my friends/colleagues who teaches programming classes. I had a hard time making sense of what he was telling me (his analogy was “a bunch of Excel sheets”…just the word “Excel” hurts my brain), but your post helped me greatly.

      I like thinking about narrative and database more as a dialectic and exploring how they interact. This conversation reminds me of a book I very recently began to read. It is called Only Revolutions by Mark Danielewski, and it is basically a collection of historical events, dates, and data combined with the accounts of two different characters. I am still trying to get the hang of it, but so far it seems like the reader must make his/her own narrative out of all of the information provided. The resulting narrative, I would imagine, has a lot to do with the reader’s own biases, assumptions, and values. Interesting.

      (Here is a link to the novel’s website, which demonstrates the experimental nature of the text: http://www.onlyrevolutions.com/)

    • Great post! I particularly related to the film analogy, myself, having majored in electronic media and film studies as an undergrad. Having spent way too many hours in an editing bay with digital bins upon bins of movie clips, the database comparison makes perfect sense. I have also been on the other end of the process in which I served as production manager for a no-budget horror film, and part of my job was to make the shooting schedule. I can attest that the narrative did not drive the order of the shoot – rather it was availability of the locations and the actors. All of those takes have to be reorganized into something resembling the script when it’s over. I hadn’t thought about databases that way before, but now I can’t think of another analogy that would be more spot-on.

  • “if DH must be constantly defined and defended to prove its relevancy, it doesn’t seem like the field would be long lasting since the bulk of the intellectual power won’t be in developing new programs and ideas, but rather in the endless cycle of proving its worth.” I completely agree, Cassie. As I stated in another reply, I was annoyed that thi…[Read more]

  • Sara,

    I too found Parry’s article to be the most helpful of the readings this week. Although he does mention briefly the ‘what DH is/is not’ debate, he moved quickly through it and on to the crux of his argument. One idea from your post I thought was interesting was “To ignore recognizing Digital Humanities as its own entity is to ignore our…[Read more]

  • Like everyone else who has commented so far, I got the sense of deja vu as well. I was slightly annoyed by it though. It seems like most of the articles we read spend a few pages explaining what DH is and what it isn’t, and how nobody really knows for sure. I can understand why the authors do it, they need to put their argument in context, but at…[Read more]

  • I think DH will be beneficial once I get the hang of it and get a chance to use it. I actually had a little bit of HTML experience before taking this class, and it has proven helpful outside of this class. I can’t remember the specific, but I remember making a minor adjustment to something I was working on. I couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t…[Read more]

  • I really like your take on problems. I’ve been around people who have called problems “opportunities” before, and that had sort of seemed like just a nice way of saying “Your world is falling apart, so I’m going to spin this so you won’t freak out.” It makes sense, though, that discussing the problems with DH gives legitimacy to the field. People…[Read more]

  • Here’s the link to the clip Cassie is talking about:

  • That is a great question, Cassie, if I might chime in. At this point, I think access is considered more important. Sarah mentioned in her post about the lack of availability of many documents, especially the earlier ones. To keep these numbers from continuing to plummet, we must come up with a way to preserve them for future generations.…[Read more]

  • I like your telescope analogy. I think an important take-away from the book is there are just some things the human mind cannot handle. We can’t read every piece of literature written in the time period of our expertise, no matter how much we want to. Macroanalysis is a tool that can be used to help us see deeper and wider than we can physically…[Read more]

  • Wow, I had no idea stuff like this was out there. Then again, as tech-savvy as kids are becoming, I am not entirely surprised. The other day I watched my fifteen month old niece swipe her finger across her mom’s iphone so she could pick a video from Kidtube.

  • I am a crafting snob. There was a time in the not so distant past that I highly prized hand embroidery above all else. True, it took me several hours to complete even the smallest project, but I believed it was […]

    • I like the way you explain how microanalysis and close reading work together to formulate a “what” and “why.” It was really hard for me to remember how Jockers said macroanalysis isn’t the only step in the analysis of literature as I read throughout the book. You did a great job explaining how and why they must work in harmony.

    • I completely agree with how you describe the partnership between macroanalysis and close reading. In matters of literary theory (or really any kind of theory), it is easy to get carried away with all the analysis methods out there and start pitting them all against each other. But that’s isn’t necessarily the case – in fact, it probably never is. Each method uses different means to pursue somewhat different ends. Big data is great for identifying trends, while close reading is better for direct analysis of source material. Both are methods of analyzing text, but serve different purposes at the end of the day. We need to remember that as we continue analysis so we don’t accidentally disregard what could be interesting and useful information from a method we may or may not be a fan of.

    • I thought you did a great job of separating both macroanalysis and close reading. Both have their benefits when examining text. As Liz pointed out, dividing up the different analytical methods of any type of theory creates a divisiveness within the scholarly community. Your use of the “what” and “why” questions echoed what I had been thinking in my head: Microanalysis and close reading are not competing methods. Rather, they can be used to assist each other with macroanaylsis breaking down massive texts into manageable, bit-sized texts designed to benefit from close reading.

  • I’m with you, Sarah. I still feel like I don’t have a firm grasp on what DH is, especially since I got a cold this week and I’m not sure how much of the reading I was able to absorb. Having standards would be helpful, but I can also see where it might add to the confusion.

    I thought I understood HTML and CSS since I took a web design course in…[Read more]

  • You make a good point about standards being met with negative responses. I remember when the Common Core was instituted there was an uproar among many different groups. The good, and the bad, of creating standards is that they become “set in stone.” While they do give groups focus, they also, whether intentional or not, deem other topics not…[Read more]

  • I like your sandcastle analogy, Emily. I have been wrestling with the definition myself and found to be on shifting sand the further I got into the reading. It’s also been hard to explain the topic to my fiance when he asked about my classes this semester. I ended up giving up trying to explain it until I could get a better grasp on it myself. Good luck!

  • Kristen,

    It’s interesting that you mention plagiarism in your post. As a high school English teacher myself, plagiarism has always been kind of the elephant in the room. I haven’t been able to get my students to fully understand it, much less avoid it. I hadn’t really considered how DH would affect that idea. Would the lines start to get…[Read more]

  • I am here because this is my last semester of classes before my capstone project for my Master’s in English Teaching degree. Although I am an English geek through and through, I too have an interest in computers […]

  • Katie Beverly became a registered member 4 years, 9 months ago