Last week we took a trip!
We stayed at a very nice hotel. They have a real live cat that lives right in the lobby and big, cushy bathrobes. Everyone was so friendly! Especially when they gave us the bill!
We went to a Museum and a Library and a Chelsea warehouse. K did some very important research at the Museum. We both looked at some very interesting (but strange) books they had on display at the Library. Then, in the warehouse, we got to ride a funny bike that was hooked up to some computer-type thingy that made it look like you were in virtual reality or something in a city all made out of letters. Cool!
Next we saw a show. It was big and loud and dumb and great. (Thanks Mom and Dad!)
And now we’re back!
I’m going to be traveling and largely offline for the next week or so. May not see email until I get back. Details when I return . . .
Here’s something one of my grad students wrote over on the class blog:
I hope that the rest of my time as a student is as enriching as the last 2 semesters have been. I attribute the high quality of my experience to both the new material (new to me at least) that brings me to a new view of the world, and to the diversity of the students in the classroom. When we take a course on Shakespeare, the student group is genereally pretty homogenous. But this material, so relevant to various fields of study, is a great place to experience this wonderful cross-pollination (or maybe it is cross-contamination!) of ideas. Not only that, on some level, or in some area, we were all newbies. So there was less need to be the expert. We all had something to learn from each other.
It’s not every day I get that kind of feedback, and I’m grateful.
Work yourself up and sharpen you wings to conquer and circulate lower and upper case As, Bs & Cs, sign, shout, swear, organise prose into a form that is absolutely and irrefutably obvious, prove its ne plus ultra and maintain that novelty resembles life in the same way as the latest apparition of a harlot proves the essence of God. His existence had already been proved by the accordion, the landscape and soft words. * To impose one’s A.B.C. is only natural - and therefore regrettable. Everyone does it in the form of a crystalbluff-madonna, or a monetary system, or pharmaceutical preparations, a naked leg being the invitation to an ardent and sterile Spring. The love of novelty is a pleasant sort of cross, it’s evidence of a naive don’t-give-a-damn attitude, a passing, positive, sign without rhyme or reason. But this need is out of date, too. By giving art the impetus of supreme simplicity - novelty - we are being human and true in relation to innocent pleasures; impulsive and vibrant n order to crucify boredom. At the lighted crossroads, alert, attentive, lying in wait for years, in the forest.
The old default styles for MT < 3.0 (“Stormy,” “Gettysburg,” “Trendy,” etc.) are now nowhere to be found on movabletype.org. Or at least I didn’t find them after some dedicated looking.
The new styles don’t work with 2.6x templates. And the new templates (provided) don’t work with 2.6x period.
So already we see the erosion of the platitude, “if you’re happy with what you have there’s no need to switch or pay anything.”
Update: MovableStyle.com’s also moving.
A sampling of work produced by students who opted for a digital project instead of the traditional term paper in my undergraduate Computer and Text course this spring. In no particular order:
Anybody want to try to guess what’s distinctive about that phrase?
Applegeeks is a cool anime-style Web comic written and edited by two of my current students, Ananth and Emily.
I don’t have anything substantive to add the hue and cry over MT’s new licensing policies, but I read the original announcement (in something called “Mena’s Corner”) three times through now and I still can’t make much sense of it, couched as it is in mushy gushy neo-corporate newspeak.
WTF? Talk to us like we’re adults, huh? We can take it.
Just found out about this symposium, which has, like, a total rock-star line-up of speakers. There’s a link to papers buried below the fold, but before you get too excited it requires an institutional or indidividual subscription to Critical Inquiry. And I don’t know what that entails (in fact, it’s news to me that CI had an electronic component).
ARTS OF TRANSMISSION
A Discussion Conference
May 21-22, 2004
This event calls together experts from a range of disciplines—literature, sociology, anthropology, science studies, filmmaking, and more—to examine relationships among ideas and cultures of communication past and present. Today, authorship, reading, the concepts of information and communication themselves—the basic terms in which we think about creative work are changing beyond recognition. This conference will bring together new perspectives able to perceive common issues extending across otherwise deep historical, theoretical, and disciplinary rifts.
The University of Chicago
Swift Hall, 3rd Floor auditorium, 1025 East 58th Street, Chicago, IL
Please register if you would like lunch: firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information, please call the Franke Institute for the Humanities at 773-702-8274
FRIDAY, MAY 21
9am - 12pm
I. Forms and Media
Elena Esposito, Sociology, University of Urbino
“The Arts of Contingency”
Gregory Nagy, Classics, Harvard University
“Transmission of Archaic Greek Sympotic Songs from Lesbos to Alexandria”
Alan Liu, English, University of Santa Barbara
“Transcendental Data: Toward a Cultural History and Aesthetics of the New
1:30pm - 3:00pm
II. Writing and Memory
Ann Blair, History, Harvard University
“Note Taking as an Art of Transmission”
John Guillory, English, New York University
“The Memo and Modernity”
3:30pm - 5:00pm
III. Universal Languages
Roger Chartier Director of Studies, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences
“Languages, Books, and Reading from the Printed Word to the Digital Text”
Lorraine Daston, Max Plank Institute, Berlin
“Type Specimens and Scientific Memory”
SATURDAY, MAY 22
8:45am - 10:15am
Institutions and Impediments I
Mary Poovey, English, New York University
“The Limits of the University Knowledge Project: British India and the East
Janice Radway, Literature, Duke University
“Research Universities, Periodical Publication, and the Circulation of
Professional Expertise: On the Significance of Middlebrow Authority”
10:30 - 12:00
Institutions and Impediments II
Peter Galison, History of Science, Physics, Harvard University
Friedrich Kittler, Media History and Aesthetics, Humboldt University, Berlin
“Universities: Wet, Hard, Soft, Harder”
1:30pm - 4:30pm (Note change in location)
Film Studies Center, Cobb 306, 5811 S. Ellis Avenue Chicago, IL
The Arts of Transmitting Transmission Arts
David and Judith MacDougall, Filmmakers, Australian National University,
Introduction to their film Photo Wallahs
Film Screening and Discussion
Panels at the conference will address papers to be published inCritical
Inquiry (Autumn 2004). Since these papers will not be read at the
conference, you can consult them in advance at:
Conference Respondents include:
Danielle Allen, Classics, Committee on Social Thought, Political Science,
University of Chicago
Bill Brown, English, University of Chicago
James Chandler, English, Cinema and Media Studies, University of Chicago
Dipesh Chakrabarty, South Asian Languages & Civilizations, History,
University of Chicago
Frances Ferguson, English, Johns Hopkins University
Tom Gunning, Cinema and Media Studies, Art History, University of Chicago
Mark Hansen, English, Princeton University
Adrian Johns, History, University of Chicago
Sudipta Kaviraj, Political Studies, School of African and Oriental Studies,
University of London.
Mashall Sahlins, Anthropology, University of Chicago
Joel Snyder, Art History, University of Chicago
Candace Vogler, Philosophy, University of Chicago
David Wellbery, Germanic Studies, Comparative Literature, University of
The conference organizers are James Chandler, Barbara E. and Richard J.
Franke Professor of English and director of the Franke Institute, Arnold
Davidson, professor of philosophy, and Adrian Johns, professor of history,
all at the University of Chicago.
In the course of his novel The Mezzanine, which I mentioned a few posts back, Nicholson Baker details the eight great advances of his (or at least his protagonist Howie’s) life. To wit: number four, brushing the tongue as well as the teeth. Or number seven, “ordering a rubber stamp with my address on it to make bill-paying more efficient” (perhaps soon to be outmoded in this age of electronic banking).
Were I to make such a list I know one item that would definitely be on it: put the milk in first. If you put the milk (or the cream) in first when pouring a cup of coffee it saves you the extra step of stirring it with a spoon, and the subsequent step of rinsing the spoon. Try it, you’ll see: the milk quickly and evenly blends with the coffee. I don’t know why this works—probably the question could be answered with some recourse to the modelling of complex fluid dyanmics, and in fact such questions are just Baker’s cup of tea (as it were). Anyway, work it does. And it’s a little something that helps me out each day.
N.B.: Sugar is an unknown variable in all this. I don’t take sugar in my coffee.
Anything that would be on your great advances list that you’d care to share?
UCLA’s Bernard Frischer has been appointed the next director of the University of Virginia’s Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities (IATH):
“It is an honor and challenge to be chosen to succeed John Unsworth, the first Director of IATH,” says Frischer. “Under John’s leadership, IATH established itself as the premier research center in the United States for digital humanities. It is my hope to build on the achievements of the past by helping to make digital humanities a sustainable and integral approach to humanistic research both at Virginia and at other major universities around the world.” (Press release here.)
Good luck to Professor Frischer as he assumes this key role in the international humanities computing community.
Robert K. Englund has won the prestigious Lyman Award for scholarship in the digital humanities. Englund is Principal Investigator of the Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative, and Professor in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at UCLA. Full press release here.
The Lyman Award, together perhaps with the ACH/ALLC’s Roberto Busa Award, is the most prestigious honor of its kind. I know several other deserving people who were in the running this year, and so the competition was especially stiff—surely a sign of the overall health and vitality of the field. Congratulations to Professor Englund. Past winners of the Lyman include Jerome McGann and Roy Rosenzweig; past winners of the Busa include John Burrows.
As reported in the NY Times, researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Physics Division are using technology originally designed to image sub-atomic particles to capture 3-D representations of the inscriptions etched on the surface of wax cylinders and shellac phonograph records; the researchers then model a virtual stylus as it travels through the grooves and are thus able to produce a digital proxy for the original sound recording. The results are remarkable, as the sample .wav files on the project’s home page attest. (Not incidentally, the resulting digital files are edited to eliminate scratches and noise: “’We thought these methods, which demand pattern recognition and noise suppression, could also analyze the grooved shapes in mechanical recordings,’ says [Carl] Haber.”) See also this press release.
Pretty amazing stuff that dovetails nicely with my own fixation on forms of digital inscription. Moreover, one of Kari’s students just recently built a freakin’ phonograph from scratch as a class project! And see also the Digital Needle for a homebrew effort along the same lines.
All of which reminds me of one of my favorite Nicholson Baker passages, from The Mezzanine:
If you made a negative of that image of my skate blade’s gorge, you would arrive at the magnified record groove—a hushed black river valley of asphaltic ripples soft enough to be impressed with the treads of your Vibram soles; an image cast from a master mold that was the result of a stylus forced to plow through wax as it negotiated complex mechanical compromises between all the various conceptually independent oscillations that stereophony demanded of it; ripples so interfingered and confused that only after a day with surveying equipment, pacing off distances and making calculations (your feet sparking static with each step) are you able to spray-paint “Bass Clarinet” with some confidence in orange on an intermittent flume of vinyl, as workers in Scotchgard vests spray-paint the road to indicate utility lines beneath. Cobblestone-sized particles of airborne dust, unlucky spores with rinds like coconuts, and big obsidian chunks of cigarette smoke are lodged here and there in the oddly echoless surface, and once in a while, a precious boulder of diamond, shorn somehow from the stylus by this softer surface, shines out from the slope, where it has been pounded deep into the material by later playings, sworn at by the listener as if it too were common dust. That was needle wear.
Back to the Lawrence Berkeley Labs project, the digital images themselves compell me too, for many of the same reasons I’ve writtten about here before. They’re just as arresting as we’ve come to expect from such visualizations—how I would love to here an art historian discuss the visual aesthetics of CGI!—but they also testify to the manner in which the epistemological divide between inference and direct observation grows always more porous by machines speaking to machines in tongues we can see but not hear.
Oh—anyone think they know where my title for this entry comes from?
As the interminable debate over slots in Maryland drags on, MITH follows the logic to its obvious conclusion.
Nice intro site by Greg Lastowka (who I could swear I’ve run across before), and which I found by way of this swell entry (on what might have been the first formal game design course) on Greg Costikyan’s blog.
“Nomic is . . . a game in which changing the rules is a move. The Initial Set of rules does little more than regulate the rule-changing process.”
Wally H. comments: “Nomic would be the perfect tool . . . for teaching computer programming, i.e. for teaching algorithm design, data structures, resource management, analytic problem-solving methodology, &c.”
Note to self: check these out for summer reading.
In 1948 Norbert Wiener wrote that a computing machine should contain “an apparatus for the storage of data which should record them quickly, hold them firmly until erasure, read them quickly, erase them quickly, and then be immediately available for the storage of new material” (Cybernetics 4).
No small amount of the early history of computing was devoted to the search for a stable but also variable storage medium, which eventually arrived in the form of magnetic disk storage. The magnetic disk, which persists today as the device we call the hard drive, was also (unlike magnetic tape) random access. Increasingly, however, there’s evidence that the paradigm is shifting. As Mark Bernstein notes, the shrinking cost of memory means that throwing stuff out is no longer necessary. Google’s new email service, which attracted a lot of attention from privacy activists, has received less attention for the fact that all the mail is automatically archived and saved in perpetuity. And why not? Users get a gig of dedicated space, and it would take aeons to fill that up with plain text.
Next on the horizon may be holograpgic storage. A story in the May issue of the MIT Technology Review claims that one-terabyte disks are expected to hit the market next year. Holographic storage device can’t as yet be rewritten, however. But do they really need to be? A terabyte, after all, is enough to hold “a million novels, 250,000 MP3 song files, or hundreds of full-length movies.”
One wonders how soon CTRL-S will be an anachronism. The deliberate decision to save something will be a thing of the past. That’s the future we see in Gordon Bell’s MyLifeBits project—Bell has captured “a lifetime’s worth of articles, books, cards, CDs, letters, memos, papers, photos, pictures, presentations, home movies, videotaped lectures, and voice recordings and stored them digitally. He is now paperless, and is beginning to capture phone calls, IM transcripts, television, and radio.”
Look for indexing and visualization technologies to play ever larger roles in mining these massive veins of data. And for encryption to play an ever larger role in managing access to the digital residue of our individual experience.
Anyone interested in a glimpse into the current state of the art for strategy/historical simulation board games should check out the 2004 nominations for the International Gamers Awards.
Personally I can’t abide card driven games—maybe because they seem too “gamey.” Give me my hexes and dice . . .