Monday, March 27, 2017

Multiplying Knowledge

Now that THATcamp has passed, it's time to get back to my articles!
If you click this link to my syllabus, you'll see that I'm reaching the end of the track I laid out at the beginning of the semester. As I thought might happen, this independent study has taken me far beyond where I expected, and introduced me to people and resources I didn't know about at the start of the semester. At THATcampDC I learned about several resources that I may spend the end of the semester exploring. I think it would be very interesting to end this semester by exploring some of the tools and methodologies I've learned about. If you're reading this and have any ideas for readings that would be beneficial for me to check out, please drop me a line in the comments!

This week, my reading selection is "'Knowledge Will Be Multiplied': Digital Literary Studies and Early Modern Literature" by Matthew Steggle.

In his chapter, Steggle defends the interpretation of data gathered though the use of DH methodologies. As I've summarized in previous posts, many scholars are wary of using digital tools in the English classroom, and this should not be the case. At one point, it may have been argued that the task of obtaining electronic copies of literature was hard and inaccessible, but at this given point in time, websites such as Project Gutenberg exist and allow scholars to access a huge amount of texts online. With some of the challenge gone, isn't it worth looking into the knowledge that could be mined through a new methodology?

DH could also bring a new kind of student into the English department. He cites a quote from Risa Bear, "I became interested in producing texts for internet distribution as an alternative to writing term papers." If we can keep students interested in literature and allow them to venture into new disciplines within the field, the study of English literature will only grow in strength.

It's also worth nothing that DH is a community effort. In the case of electronic literature, scholars depend on one another to type up and format entire books, so that they can input the typed file into a program for their own purposes. Steggle notes the Bear's transcription of The Faerie Queen, completed in 1995, as being one of many huge additions to the transcribed canon. Much of the academic world appears to be "every man for himself," and perhaps things don't have to be reduced to that. Perhaps, DH can unify people and help us to work together to meet our goals. I think it's worth a shot.

The Internet Shakespeare Experiment (ISE) is a prime example of the good intentions that can lead to books being made available online. Leader Michael Best defined the goal of the creation as follows:
to create a website with the aim of making scholarly, fully annotated texts of Shake-speare's plays freely available in a form native to the medium of the internet. A further mission was to make educational materials on Shakespeare available to teachers and students: using the global reach of the internet, I wanted to make every attempt to make my passion for Shakespeare contagious.
Another example of the good that can arise from this movement is the Interactive Shakespeare Experiment, which contains hotlinked annotations which appear in another screen. The reader has the choice to click on these links as they appear, in order to read notes of criticism on the text.

The people who work on DH projects, especially transcribing texts and composing lists, work a selfless and labor-intensive job which deserves to be recognized and hailed for the treasure that it is. In ensuing that documents are available online to the average scholar, they have opened up the academic world.

Toward the end of his article, Steggle speculates that blogs may be the next jump in the academic community. Perhaps this is a bit meta of me, but I think he may be onto something. Looking at the unexpected trajectory that academia has fallen into, perhaps it's true that blogs may one day be used as tools, or mined to tell the future about the past. After the developments we've seen in academia since the dawn of DH, I wouldn't be surprised. All in all, the title of this chapter is perfect- "Knowledge Will Be Multiplied." It certainly appears that this is the case!

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