The Author of History in the Age of Electronic Reproduction: Hypertext and the Historian

This is Ted Nelson demonstrating Project Xanadu. Nelson first coined the phrase 'hypertext' in this article: Nelson, Theodore.H. A File Structure for the Complex, the Changing and the Intermediate Proceedings, Association for Computing Machinery,1965.

This is my 1998 Masters thesis completed at the University of Melbourne in 1998.  This was my first serious inroads into the ‘digital humanities’ and some of the language within it now seems very dated (ie CD ROM). I was reflecting upon how I entered the digital humanities after being prompted in a stimulating article by Johanna Drucker in a book (Debates in the Digital Humanities) that I am reviewing. This was perhaps my most personally-extending work as many of the individuals in the bibliography I have since met and many have become colleagues and even friends.

I am not sure how mature my thinking was about the humanities and the digital was at the time; I was certainly a lot less mentally traveled. Still, I stand by its central concepts and I later went on to apply a prototype system to explicate the ‘history and hypertext’ thesis. And hypertext became normal to be usurped by data! I think I like hypertext better than data. I wish we has an Australian National Hypertext Service than a Australian national data service…

Abstract:
The objective of this thesis is to investigate critically some of the recent developments in information technology within the discipline of history. In particular, I will focus upon hypertext and how it is being used within the World Wide Web and CD-ROM (Compact Disk Read Only Memory) environments. By applying recent hypertext theory (that is both book and author centred) to the practical adaptations of historians, I hope to offer some insight on where these projects stand in relation to the book. The printed and published codex with its idea of the author has been the stalwart of humanist intellectual culture in the Western world for many centuries. Its understandings, both in a physical and intellectual sense, offer an excellent position to illuminate some of the central issues that hypertext raises for our discipline. The historical record makes clear that the most distinctive features of the printing revolution were to stabilise written culture into a canon of authored texts, to create the notion of the book as property, and to envision the author as creator. In a hypertext environment, the physical manifestation of the book and the institutions that support it do not exist; thus the framework of what we understand as an author is altered considerably. The questions that I wish to address in this thesis are: what is a hypertext history author in both the CD-ROM and World Wide Web environments or in place of the author what structure does one use to determine if hypertext can successfully communicate the knowledge of our craft? To explore these questions I have surveyed a number of web based and CD-ROM hypertext history projects that were mainly produced by professional academic historians within Australia. The development of hypertext, both technologically and as a means of communicating history, is decentralised and patchy. This is a reflection of the multiplicity of use of these new mediums, as opposed to the somewhat established authorial practices of the standardised modern book. This thesis seeks to define hypertext history authorship, discuss how this is different to a book, and hopefully in doing so, reveal some of the best practices. Will hypertext produce simplistic catalogues of empirical facts or uninterpreted primary sources, or will hypertext with its combination of image text and sound, offer the historian fresh scope for authorship? (link to .pdf)

Materials Library @ King’s

One of the more interesting research groups here at King’s. They do research into the materiality of flesh!

Materials Library is an interdisciplinary collaborative team that make objects, events and exhibitions that foreground materiality. We are also engaged in both scientific research and artistic practices that explore the senso-aesthetics of materials.

At the heart of all we do is the creation, curation and development of the physical space that is The Materials Library; a resource, laboratory, studio, workshop, and play pen for the material minded. A home to some of the most wondrous matter on earth, The Materials Library contains an ongoing collection of material-objects that foreground the materiality of stuff (link).

Winning Grants to support Postgraduate Study from the Voluntary Sector (by Luke Blaxill)

Our aim at Gradfunding is to help postgraduate students of any nationality, academic background, or subject area fund any aspect of their studies- be it living expenses, fees, or research, travel, and conference costs. We are an advisory agency which specialises in winning grants from the voluntary sector (e.g. charities, foundations, and trusts). The voluntary sector in the UK is large, and generous, and there are thousands of bodies with grant-making power totalling millions who are prepared to consider student applicants (thanks to Luke Blaxill for the link)

grad_funding

New Group: Social Software in the Digital Humanities

(This new group on Arts-humanities.net may be of interest to punters.  It is primarily focussed upon ‘social software’ theory, techniques, and applications within the Digital Humanities.  As it is a new group, we are more than open about its skippering within the choppy Web 2 sea).

The aim of this group is to critically discuss and share thoughts about the use of social software applications, techniques, and principles within the Digital Humanities. Join this group here http://www.arts-humanities.net/deliberative_humanism_social_…

For the purpose of this group, the Digital Humanities is defied as the application of computational methods and associated tools to address specific humanities research problems. Distinct from general computing approaches, the banner term ‘Digital Humanities’ is an ‘attitude towards computing’ that is embedded within the research concerns of the disciplines and sub-fields that make up the humanities. The methods employed in the field may be used to uncover new knowledge about corpora or to visualise research data in such a way as to uncover additional insights and meaning. Succinctly the Digital Humanities (or Humanities Computing) is about structuring, analysing and communicating humanistic knowledge in a critical way using computing technology.

And as in many fields, the social and participatory architectural frameworks associated with ‘social software’ is increasing a part of the Digital Humanities. Social software is usually web-based and is a way for researchers to share data and research-labour that comprises of a series of debates about tool, socio-technical design, and concept choice. Social software may be one way to open up new styles of collaboration in the Digital Humanities between software developers, humanists, and audiences. Join in the conversation!

*Suggested topics may include*:

*Collaborative labour arrangements for researchers (collaborative work functions)

*Maintaining on-line communities

*APIs, web services, and mash-ups

*Trends in the blogosphere

*New Social Software Applications

*Community annotation and tagging

*Computer mediated communication

*Service oriented architecture

*Governance (bottom-up or top Down)

*Work-flow analysis

*Designing Research Deliberation

mmb_matrix_socialsoftware_20061

(This images; utilising a matrix approach to critically understanding Web 2.0 design can be found at the medienpaedagogik blog at: http://medienpaedagogik.kaywa.com/social-software/index.html )

New Resource: British Literary Manuscripts Online c.1660-1900

wilde

(This new resource from the a private company Gale-Cengage Learning looks promising; at least according to the populist blurb in the Telegraph via the Melbourne Age.  Strange how the article fails to mention that it was a homophobic ‘scandal’  and fails to do justice to the true nature of Wild’s and Bosie’s relationship.  There is a self-reflective lenz that we probably need to reflect upon before we judge this tit-bit of history).

OSCAR Wilde’s clandestine relationship with the young Lord Alfred Douglas resulted in scandal and his eventual imprisonment. Now, the original letters laying bare the playwright’s love for the young “Bosie” are to be made available to the public for the first time.

The handwritten intimate correspondence is among 600,000 pages of British literary manuscripts and original documentation being put online — along with such items as early drafts of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, manuscripts by Robert Burns and Walter Scott and letters written by Charlotte Bronte.

In one letter to Bosie, dated 1894, Wilde writes: “My own dear boy — It’s really absurd — I can’t live without you … London is a desert without your dainty feet … but I have no words for how I love you — Oscar.” (link)

What is technological determinism?

determinsim

Technological determinism is circulated, maintained, and advanced within the pre-existing hierarchies in the world in which we live. Determinism has its own political agendas, its own rules, its own contexts and hierarchies and antagonisms to an imagined ‘other’. Determinism utilises a proprietary language and culture and although it cloaks itself in ideas of inter-disciplinary, deterministic discourse discourages intellectual critique, dissent, and justifies itself with the high ground of capitalist practicality. Deterministic rhetoric is only interested in other knowledge so that it can demonise it, remediate it, appropriate it, make it better, wrestle it out of the hands of the ‘elite’ and make it more ‘democratic’, more in touch with ‘the people’.

I wrote this some time ago (link).  A rather disturbing report I recently read on Web 2 and Education prompted me to re-visit this writing

Press Release: Fedora Commons and DSpace Foundation Join Together to Create DuraSpace™ Organization

(This is indeed excellent news for the Open Repositories movement in terms of creating such a large player in the field and in terms of pooling the expertise of both organisation to help foster an open research commons online).
fedora
(Fedora hats…much more interesting than Press Releases!)
Ithaca, NY, Boston, MA — Fedora Commons and the DSpace Foundation, two of the largest providers of open source software for managing and providing access to digital content, have announced today that they will join their organizations to pursue a common mission. Jointly, they will provide leadership and innovation in open source technologies for global communities who manage, preserve, and provide access to digital content.
The joined organization, named “DuraSpace,” will sustain and grow its flagship repository platforms – Fedora and DSpace. DuraSpace will also expand its portfolio by offering new technologies and services that respond to the dynamic environment of the Web and to new requirements from existing and future users. DuraSpace will focus on supporting existing communities and will also engage a larger and more diverse group of stakeholders in support of its not-for-profit mission. The organization will be led by an executive team consisting of Sandy Payette (Chief Executive Officer), Michele Kimpton (Chief Business Officer), and Brad McLean (Chief Technology Officer) and will operate out of offices in Ithaca, NY and Cambridge, MA.