Response from Peter Kuling

My reading for our workshop included all of the following:

Best, Michael. “The Internet Shakespeare Editions: Scholarly Shakespeare on the Web” Shakespeare 4.3 (Sept 2008): 221-233.

Flanders, Julia. “The Productive Unease of 21st-Centruy Digital Scholarship” Digital Humanities Quarterly 3.3 (Summer 2009).

Galey, Alan and Ray Siemens. “Introduction: Reinventing Shakespeare in the Digital Humanities” Shakespeare 4.3 (Sept 2008): 201-207.

Hirsch, Brett. “The Kingdom has been Digitized: Electronic Editions of Renaissance Drama and the Long Shadows of Shakespeare and Print” Literature Compass 8/9 (2011): 568-591.

Introduction

What struck me in these readings was the consistent return to specific editorial terminology as well as assertions of Shakespearean value. All these readings discuss some innate or inherent value in Shakespearean drama resulting from its prominence as a subject for digitization and educational use. Hirsch’s article did a great job of showcasing how assumed value limits the dissemination of other texts and authors by camouflaging their existence due to Shakespeare’s dominating presence.

Julia Flanders and Brett Hirsch used several words that I believe are key to our group discussion: model, medium, expansion, value.

First off, Julia Flanders mentioned the idea of “Models” and “Modeling”, which keys into ideas of texts still taking shape for us to use. It got me thinking about the impossibility of preserving textual experience and virtual learning in a specific digital form. Perhaps digital pedagogy is an avenue for constant modeling through its inability to find a final and/or fixed form.

Hirsch abstract contained a key issue for our seminar: “electronic editions will play a far greater role in expanding the canon of Renaissance drama as taught, studied, and performed that their print counterparts” (568). This statement asks us to consider the new and unprecedented resulting from digital Shakespeare on radically different technology users. People can interact with Shakespeare via YouTube, Twitter, Wikipedia, iBooks, etc and therefore we must move beyond exploring just the critical framework of the digitized material.

After thinking about these articles I began to recall discussions of similar situations in literary adaptation theory. Adaptation theorist Linda Hutcheon characterizes all works undergoing some form of adaptation as part of a process aimed to deliver known ideas via a new product or model. Our seminar discussion may be best divided amongst a similar two-sided line, exploring both the role we as scholars play in the digitizing “process” but also the importance of new users interacting with our final published “products”.

Flanders, Julia. The Productive Unease of 21st-Centruy Digital Scholarship

This article really spoke to me through its efforts to make the “unease” of digital scholarship forefront. Julia Flanders emphasized “potential” breaks in communication between codes and coders, between images and texts.

Are there ways of reinventing the models of communication and transmission of texts to readers? For example, several mobile apps in Canada are now powered by SPREED, a technology that quickly displays one word at a time for rapid single word reading. The most interesting example of this rests with the iPhone app for the Canadian Globe and Mail Newspaper. Articles can be read in traditional webpage format, or powered by SPREED. SPREED offer a new way to digest journalism through an alternative means of reading the hypertext of the same webpage articles.

Flanders article really got me thinking about a more widespread acceptance of constant anachronism in digital humanities. If we spend too much time preparing texts for future and unknown technology, we perhaps lose our chance to work to better ends with present technology. Like Shakespeare’s plays, which were products of their own unique historical time periods, digital humanities scholars need to accept our work as rooted in specific times and places, which I do not believe the digital features of our editing work can avoid. I recognize that Renaissance scholars would like to have their editorial work remain relevant, but if we do accept new editions of printed text, why are we so concerned with updating digital ones? Is the speed of updates a logical reason to keep this feature in our editorial rationale? Perhaps automatically updatable texts have imposed more limits upon us than we realize.

Flanders quotes Jerome McGann to bring up his interest in maintaining awareness of successes and failures in modern textual editing. I think embracing these two concepts and not assuming we can always create successes would be helpful for us. Flanders also brings up the idea of the medium to illustrate that digital technology largely functions as a transmission tool.

The idea of representation also seemed like a key concept in Flanders article. Representation speaks to the fact that digital texts, like their print counterparts, stand in for the original plays and theatrical experiences, but they never fully replace their sources. While a critical edition tries to provide the most accepted and known play text, as it is at its core a representation, perhaps it should be allowed to have all inaccuracies and problems present at the same time. Christie Carson’s idea of finder texts is useful to think about here. The ultimate finder text may be one containing all variants so that readers can decide what part they want to accept and interact with. I contend that maybe its not about disposing of other texts but rather layering them into an edition so readers who want to use them can access them.

Hirsch, Brett. The Kingdom has been Digitized: Electronic Editions of Renaissance Drama and the Long Shadows of Shakespeare and Print

This article really spoke to me about the semantic problems in the arena of digital Shakespeare studies. Hirsch identifies the word “expansion” as a means to inquire about the boundaries confining digital, critical, and scholarly editions of Renaissance drama.

Talking about concepts of simulacra and simulation, Jean Baudrillard asks us if the map engenders the nation or if the nation creates the map. With the example of Middleton’s co-authorial contribution to Timon of Athens, Hirsch identifies how maps for interacting with digital renaissance texts have been somewhat engendered by Shakespeare’s presence and dominance over the genre.

One key element that I think merits some discussion in our seminar is the idea of isolated editing of digital editions. Hirsch talks about the Online Cambridge Ben Jonson edited solely by David Gants, which has been delayed about 5 years or so from publication date. Is there something about the solitary genius ideas of Shakespeare that corrupt scholars abilities to share credit when creating online digital editions? Is it helpful to let people create digital work in isolation? Or is collaboration a better model?

I may be belabouring this point, but contemporary video game producers work with an extensive team of designers, artists, writers, and programmers to create digital content. Also, they deliver it on time (for the most part) and they make it relevant to the technology of the specific year they are working in. The same collaborative process applies to film and television production, where a director guides a team of creative people to make a movie. In the humanities scholars are keen to push for credit for their editorial and content choices, but are we perhaps pursuing this the wrong way? Would design, programming, and testing support teams help academics work as directors of digital editions?

Is there any way to produce an Apple Genius style program that can refer Renaissance scholars to other authors and texts from the period that key into similar interests? If someone wants to read Titus Andronicus should a program or system refer them to also read Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy or Ford’s ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore. I recognize this would be based on an algorithmic model of Google referral, but at least it would encourage reading beyond the limiting scope of simply Shakespeare.

Hirsch makes mention of the concern regarding copyright of materials in creating digital editions, so perhaps there are ways to look at earlier content or original content in relationship to these images. I’m not sure why we get hung up on making contemporary productions part of current editions, especially when we have tons of unused content from history to place into digital form and not breach copyright.

It sounds ridiculous, but I’d love to see a Google Earth style image of Southwark and London showing playhouses and street names, encouraging me to see relationships between the guilds, population and printers in early modern England. Could elements like this push the boundaries of copyright that limit these editions by focusing on the content of today?

Galey, Alan and Ray Siemens. Introduction: Reinventing Shakespeare in the Digital Humanities

What I loved about Galey and Siemens introduction to digital Shakespeare was their discussion of Orson Welles and his use of new media (radio, phonograph) for reinventing performance. I do believe that media in its infant stage, for lack of a better term, presents new avenues for transmission and reception of content. In considering the pedagogical implications of digital Shakespeare, Galey and Siemens remind us to focus on the many possible outcomes (like performance differences) for the new media user. Shakespearean drama, as they point out, has only begun to show us its digital potential. Like Welles in the 1930s, there may be some instances of digital content drastically changing the future digitization of humanities texts.

Galey and Siemens also introduced a lot of the words I thought best described the focus of our seminar group, words like content, medium, record, encounters. I think the word “medium” might be useful for discussion of digital Shakespeare. Something held within a medium exists in a form of status until its withdrawn from the medium in question. While we could focus on this word detailing how Shakespeare is placed into the digital medium, perhaps we best think about all the possible ways his plays can also be withdrawn through digital media. This idea builds upon the adaptation theory elements I introduced earlier in my summary.

Galey and Siemens make a good point about reminding us that transmission of content does not occur in uniformly straight lines. It would appear their issue on digital Shakespeare focuses on the “modeling” of digital texts by editors and scholars. I read this introduction to setup the second article I read from the same journal, namely Michael Best’s editorial rationale for the University of Victoria Internet Shakespeare Editions.

Best, Michael. The Internet Shakespeare Editions: Scholarly Shakespeare on the Web.

This article by Michael Best does a great job of setting up the rationale for online scholarly editions of Shakespeare. My first question is, “Why do we need online scholarly editions? Why are we limiting our concept of digital editions to scholarly ones?” As Brett Hirsch points out, scholarly editions are still the primary focus of Shakespearean print editions. Digital editions don’t have to follow the same outline as print editions, so perhaps we need to abandon this premise at the outset. In terms of Shakespeare, access isn’t as much a concern as innovation. The Internet hasn’t expanded the “access” per se, as Shakespearean texts still exist in huge numbers globally. Do people using new media Shakespeare really need scholarly editions to create new encounters with these digital texts? Or should we refocus on the results of their new virtual interactions with the bard occurring because of digital media?

Most of Best’s article functions as an overview of the editorial structure in place with the University of Victoria project, but even this outline varies little from editorial structure in place in Oxford UP editions of Shakespearean works. There is an extensive discussion of textual sources, foul vs fair papers, quartos and folios, as well as images of notable performances and popularity history. Similar to another Canadian project housed at the University of Guelph (CASP – Canadian Adaptations of Shakespeare Project), these online editions and databases are only as strong as the writers and organizers of the information. Digital search algorithms further limit the potential of these projects. CASP does a great job of detailing complete adaptations, but what about plays with a few lines, an important scene, or a Shakespearean character adapted differently from an entire play text? These kinds of partial adaptations are unsearchable in this database.

Best describes the success of his project in terms of its site hits as a means of outlining web hits. What about offline usage? Is there a way to convert his work into an iBook or an app that offers a similar text experience? Is online access a key component of this project?

I’m often more interested in negative encounters with technology that illustrate the limits of the digital world. For example, I recently tried out Apple’s new Siri digital assistant program for the iPhone and iPad. I asked Siri for directions in Toronto. Siri replied that she wasn’t able to provide directions and maps in Canada. This could mean an entire national user group could be turned off by the Siri’s inability to interact with them as they’ve requested.

The same rationale can apply to Best’s work with the Internet Shakespeare Editions. While he seems to have done away with the page format of printed works, allowing for information from wikis and other sources to gloss entries, but the site still represents its information in a manner valued by academics. It may not attract the average user, which thereby limits its digital relevance to future readers and new media markets.

This article brought me back o a premise I’ve read about in communication studies theory, namely that we might have just moved past the Gutenberg Parenthesis (a theory by Danish Professor L. O. Sauerberg). This idea of a parenthesis implies that stable texts really only exist from the date Gutenberg established the printing press up until the date we started publishing texts in digital formats. Sauerberg implies that scholarly editions and trustworthy sources remain social focuses within these parenthetical years (roughly 1445 – 1975ish). He advocates that we should avoid focusing on creating scholarly edition in favour of creating various and different digital models of content, which together are capable of achieving socio-cultural results for both readers and producers.

The idea that XML provides an updatable language for markup and texts with more digital options than HTML is a key element of Best’s rationale. However, without a consistent use of XML language, users (and new editors) might be unable to work with codes established by editions and editors. I have experience working in XML working with David Gants on the Cambridge Online Jonson, and while it does provide more adaptable options with style sheets, we did encounter problems communicating our specific use of XML to new editors and people joining or contributing to the Jonson project. Best’s article left me wondering about what the Internet Shakespeare Editions were doing to encourage readers beyond the academic world to use them; my conclusion was very little.

Conclusion

My reading summary doesn’t fully cover all the exciting ideas these texts have caused me to think about. I’ve done my best with this summary to key into ideas that will give rise to larger questions for our seminar discussion. I look forward to reading all your summaries and coming up with engaging discussion questions to talk about in Boston.

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One Response to Response from Peter Kuling

  1. Peter Kuling says:

    My response appears to have been lost in the digital ether… Therefore I’ve placed it here as a comment on my original posting.

    ————–
    My reading for our workshop included all of the following:

    Best, Michael. “The Internet Shakespeare Editions: Scholarly Shakespeare on the Web” Shakespeare 4.3 (Sept 2008): 221-233.

    Flanders, Julia. “The Productive Unease of 21st-Centruy Digital Scholarship” Digital Humanities Quarterly 3.3 (Summer 2009).

    Galey, Alan and Ray Siemens. “Introduction: Reinventing Shakespeare in the Digital Humanities” Shakespeare 4.3 (Sept 2008): 201-207.

    Hirsch, Brett. “The Kingdom has been Digitized: Electronic Editions of Renaissance Drama and the Long Shadows of Shakespeare and Print” Literature Compass 8/9 (2011): 568-591.

    Introduction

    What struck me in these readings was the consistent return to specific editorial terminology as well as assertions of Shakespearean value. All these readings discuss some innate or inherent value in Shakespearean drama resulting from its prominence as a subject for digitization and educational use. Hirsch’s article did a great job of showcasing how assumed value limits the dissemination of other texts and authors by camouflaging their existence due to Shakespeare’s dominating presence.

    Julia Flanders and Brett Hirsch used several words that I believe are key to our group discussion: model, medium, expansion, value.

    First off, Julia Flanders mentioned the idea of “Models” and “Modeling”, which keys into ideas of texts still taking shape for us to use. It got me thinking about the impossibility of preserving textual experience and virtual learning in a specific digital form. Perhaps digital pedagogy is an avenue for constant modeling through its inability to find a final and/or fixed form.

    Hirsch abstract contained a key issue for our seminar: “electronic editions will play a far greater role in expanding the canon of Renaissance drama as taught, studied, and performed that their print counterparts” (568). This statement asks us to consider the new and unprecedented resulting from digital Shakespeare on radically different technology users. People can interact with Shakespeare via YouTube, Twitter, Wikipedia, iBooks, etc and therefore we must move beyond exploring just the critical framework of the digitized material.

    After thinking about these articles I began to recall discussions of similar situations in literary adaptation theory. Adaptation theorist Linda Hutcheon characterizes all works undergoing some form of adaptation as part of a process aimed to deliver known ideas via a new product or model. Our seminar discussion may be best divided amongst a similar two-sided line, exploring both the role we as scholars play in the digitizing “process” but also the importance of new users interacting with our final published “products”.

    Flanders, Julia. The Productive Unease of 21st-Centruy Digital Scholarship

    This article really spoke to me through its efforts to make the “unease” of digital scholarship forefront. Julia Flanders emphasized “potential” breaks in communication between codes and coders, between images and texts.

    Are there ways of reinventing the models of communication and transmission of texts to readers? For example, several mobile apps in Canada are now powered by SPREED, a technology that quickly displays one word at a time for rapid single word reading. The most interesting example of this rests with the iPhone app for the Canadian Globe and Mail Newspaper. Articles can be read in traditional webpage format, or powered by SPREED. SPREED offer a new way to digest journalism through an alternative means of reading the hypertext of the same webpage articles.

    Flanders article really got me thinking about a more widespread acceptance of constant anachronism in digital humanities. If we spend too much time preparing texts for future and unknown technology, we perhaps lose our chance to work to better ends with present technology. Like Shakespeare’s plays, which were products of their own unique historical time periods, digital humanities scholars need to accept our work as rooted in specific times and places, which I do not believe the digital features of our editing work can avoid. I recognize that Renaissance scholars would like to have their editorial work remain relevant, but if we do accept new editions of printed text, why are we so concerned with updating digital ones? Is the speed of updates a logical reason to keep this feature in our editorial rationale? Perhaps automatically updatable texts have imposed more limits upon us than we realize.

    Flanders quotes Jerome McGann to bring up his interest in maintaining awareness of successes and failures in modern textual editing. I think embracing these two concepts and not assuming we can always create successes would be helpful for us. Flanders also brings up the idea of the medium to illustrate that digital technology largely functions as a transmission tool.

    The idea of representation also seemed like a key concept in Flanders article. Representation speaks to the fact that digital texts, like their print counterparts, stand in for the original plays and theatrical experiences, but they never fully replace their sources. While a critical edition tries to provide the most accepted and known play text, as it is at its core a representation, perhaps it should be allowed to have all inaccuracies and problems present at the same time. Christie Carson’s idea of finder texts is useful to think about here. The ultimate finder text may be one containing all variants so that readers can decide what part they want to accept and interact with. I contend that maybe its not about disposing of other texts but rather layering them into an edition so readers who want to use them can access them.

    Hirsch, Brett. The Kingdom has been Digitized: Electronic Editions of Renaissance Drama and the Long Shadows of Shakespeare and Print

    This article really spoke to me about the semantic problems in the arena of digital Shakespeare studies. Hirsch identifies the word “expansion” as a means to inquire about the boundaries confining digital, critical, and scholarly editions of Renaissance drama.

    Talking about concepts of simulacra and simulation, Jean Baudrillard asks us if the map engenders the nation or if the nation creates the map. With the example of Middleton’s co-authorial contribution to Timon of Athens, Hirsch identifies how maps for interacting with digital renaissance texts have been somewhat engendered by Shakespeare’s presence and dominance over the genre.

    One key element that I think merits some discussion in our seminar is the idea of isolated editing of digital editions. Hirsch talks about the Online Cambridge Ben Jonson edited solely by David Gants, which has been delayed about 5 years or so from publication date. Is there something about the solitary genius ideas of Shakespeare that corrupt scholars abilities to share credit when creating online digital editions? Is it helpful to let people create digital work in isolation? Or is collaboration a better model?

    I may be belabouring this point, but contemporary video game producers work with an extensive team of designers, artists, writers, and programmers to create digital content. Also, they deliver it on time (for the most part) and they make it relevant to the technology of the specific year they are working in. The same collaborative process applies to film and television production, where a director guides a team of creative people to make a movie. In the humanities scholars are keen to push for credit for their editorial and content choices, but are we perhaps pursuing this the wrong way? Would design, programming, and testing support teams help academics work as directors of digital editions?

    Is there any way to produce an Apple Genius style program that can refer Renaissance scholars to other authors and texts from the period that key into similar interests? If someone wants to read Titus Andronicus should a program or system refer them to also read Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy or Ford’s ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore. I recognize this would be based on an algorithmic model of Google referral, but at least it would encourage reading beyond the limiting scope of simply Shakespeare.

    Hirsch makes mention of the concern regarding copyright of materials in creating digital editions, so perhaps there are ways to look at earlier content or original content in relationship to these images. I’m not sure why we get hung up on making contemporary productions part of current editions, especially when we have tons of unused content from history to place into digital form and not breach copyright.

    It sounds ridiculous, but I’d love to see a Google Earth style image of Southwark and London showing playhouses and street names, encouraging me to see relationships between the guilds, population and printers in early modern England. Could elements like this push the boundaries of copyright that limit these editions by focusing on the content of today?

    Galey, Alan and Ray Siemens. Introduction: Reinventing Shakespeare in the Digital Humanities

    What I loved about Galey and Siemens introduction to digital Shakespeare was their discussion of Orson Welles and his use of new media (radio, phonograph) for reinventing performance. I do believe that media in its infant stage, for lack of a better term, presents new avenues for transmission and reception of content. In considering the pedagogical implications of digital Shakespeare, Galey and Siemens remind us to focus on the many possible outcomes (like performance differences) for the new media user. Shakespearean drama, as they point out, has only begun to show us its digital potential. Like Welles in the 1930s, there may be some instances of digital content drastically changing the future digitization of humanities texts.

    Galey and Siemens also introduced a lot of the words I thought best described the focus of our seminar group, words like content, medium, record, encounters. I think the word “medium” might be useful for discussion of digital Shakespeare. Something held within a medium exists in a form of status until its withdrawn from the medium in question. While we could focus on this word detailing how Shakespeare is placed into the digital medium, perhaps we best think about all the possible ways his plays can also be withdrawn through digital media. This idea builds upon the adaptation theory elements I introduced earlier in my summary.

    Galey and Siemens make a good point about reminding us that transmission of content does not occur in uniformly straight lines. It would appear their issue on digital Shakespeare focuses on the “modeling” of digital texts by editors and scholars. I read this introduction to setup the second article I read from the same journal, namely Michael Best’s editorial rationale for the University of Victoria Internet Shakespeare Editions.

    Best, Michael. The Internet Shakespeare Editions: Scholarly Shakespeare on the Web.

    This article by Michael Best does a great job of setting up the rationale for online scholarly editions of Shakespeare. My first question is, “Why do we need online scholarly editions? Why are we limiting our concept of digital editions to scholarly ones?” As Brett Hirsch points out, scholarly editions are still the primary focus of Shakespearean print editions. Digital editions don’t have to follow the same outline as print editions, so perhaps we need to abandon this premise at the outset. In terms of Shakespeare, access isn’t as much a concern as innovation. The Internet hasn’t expanded the “access” per se, as Shakespearean texts still exist in huge numbers globally. Do people using new media Shakespeare really need scholarly editions to create new encounters with these digital texts? Or should we refocus on the results of their new virtual interactions with the bard occurring because of digital media?

    Most of Best’s article functions as an overview of the editorial structure in place with the University of Victoria project, but even this outline varies little from editorial structure in place in Oxford UP editions of Shakespearean works. There is an extensive discussion of textual sources, foul vs fair papers, quartos and folios, as well as images of notable performances and popularity history. Similar to another Canadian project housed at the University of Guelph (CASP – Canadian Adaptations of Shakespeare Project), these online editions and databases are only as strong as the writers and organizers of the information. Digital search algorithms further limit the potential of these projects. CASP does a great job of detailing complete adaptations, but what about plays with a few lines, an important scene, or a Shakespearean character adapted differently from an entire play text? These kinds of partial adaptations are unsearchable in this database.

    Best describes the success of his project in terms of its site hits as a means of outlining web hits. What about offline usage? Is there a way to convert his work into an iBook or an app that offers a similar text experience? Is online access a key component of this project?

    I’m often more interested in negative encounters with technology that illustrate the limits of the digital world. For example, I recently tried out Apple’s new Siri digital assistant program for the iPhone and iPad. I asked Siri for directions in Toronto. Siri replied that she wasn’t able to provide directions and maps in Canada. This could mean an entire national user group could be turned off by the Siri’s inability to interact with them as they’ve requested.

    The same rationale can apply to Best’s work with the Internet Shakespeare Editions. While he seems to have done away with the page format of printed works, allowing for information from wikis and other sources to gloss entries, but the site still represents its information in a manner valued by academics. It may not attract the average user, which thereby limits its digital relevance to future readers and new media markets.

    This article brought me back o a premise I’ve read about in communication studies theory, namely that we might have just moved past the Gutenberg Parenthesis (a theory by Danish Professor L. O. Sauerberg). This idea of a parenthesis implies that stable texts really only exist from the date Gutenberg established the printing press up until the date we started publishing texts in digital formats. Sauerberg implies that scholarly editions and trustworthy sources remain social focuses within these parenthetical years (roughly 1445 – 1975ish). He advocates that we should avoid focusing on creating scholarly edition in favour of creating various and different digital models of content, which together are capable of achieving socio-cultural results for both readers and producers.

    The idea that XML provides an updatable language for markup and texts with more digital options than HTML is a key element of Best’s rationale. However, without a consistent use of XML language, users (and new editors) might be unable to work with codes established by editions and editors. I have experience working in XML working with David Gants on the Cambridge Online Jonson, and while it does provide more adaptable options with style sheets, we did encounter problems communicating our specific use of XML to new editors and people joining or contributing to the Jonson project. Best’s article left me wondering about what the Internet Shakespeare Editions were doing to encourage readers beyond the academic world to use them; my conclusion was very little.

    Conclusion

    My reading summary doesn’t fully cover all the exciting ideas these texts have caused me to think about. I’ve done my best with this summary to key into ideas that will give rise to larger questions for our seminar discussion. I look forward to reading all your summaries and coming up with engaging discussion questions to talk about in Boston.

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