Month: April 2013

HoL Piece

There is a limit to what I want to divulge about my “House of Leaves” inspired poem because, like HoL, I think it should remain open to interpretation. For that reason I have also left the poem without a title so that the reader is left without any hints of authorial intent. As we have discussed before in our chats, I didn’t feel as though I wrote this poem as much as I created, or perhaps constructed, it.

Going into this piece one thing I knew for sure was that I wanted to imply the same type of reading challenges HoL presents me with. Therefore, I built it in a way that every reader must decide for themselves how to read it, and where to start. To start I did a lot of research on palindromes (words or sentences that read the same forward and backward) so that the bright red section would actually read exactly the same from left to right and right to left. I scrolled through the lists I found and noted any phrases or words that were relevant and that I felt drawn toward; then started constructing. The following is a result of those efforts:

0.2

deiFied

Won’t I panic in A pit now?

Won’t lovers revolt now?

Draw, O coward

deLeveled

L _ _ _   evItative

Gag

Although experimenting with blank space is one of the tools HoL utilizes, I didn’t feel satisfied with leaving it at just that. Thus, I looked back through the text noting anything that stood out and I came across the letters from Johnny’s mother. The repeating jumbled words really struck a chord with me because when you read them they start to really infect your psyche. What I thought to do differently, however, was to de-emphasize my chosen phrase (“this is madness”) in order to differentiate the phrases from the palindromes. The poem is also multiple poems together to create another greater piece to mirror the layering of stories in “House of Leaves.”

The last step was to decide on a shape for the piece. While I got the shaping of the poem to display correctly on my laptop, it actually is distorted when I view it on my Ipad. At first I was discouraged by this, but then I realized that the distorted image is almost better. After all part of what makes HoL so frightening is mostly in our own minds. With a distorted shape my goal of open interpretation is better accomplished because the reader then also must decide what they are looking at as well.

My final step was to hyperlink my palindromes to various other media. This was probably the most difficult part because I didn’t want to tie the reader down to only what thoughts the words or phrases invoked in me.

I really enjoyed this assignment, and I am looking forward to doing more. Analyzing HoL pushed me out of my box and forced me to take a second look at how I approach reading and writing. Through this I have discovered that literature has many faces… all of which are beautiful.

I have to admit that I wasn’t sure what to expect from this class, but so far I love it. Being allowed such creative freedom has been very rewarding for me, and I am discovering that I creativity is an important part of my definition of Digital Humanities.

        

              This is madness.0.2.

          Is this madness? Madness this is.

      His tis madness.deiFied. Tis his ma

    dness? This is madness.wont i panic in

  A pit now?Is this madness? Madness this is.

 His tis madness.                Tis his madness?

This endorphins?                         won’t Lovers

revolt now?                          phenylethylamine

Madness this is.                          His tis  madness.

Norepinephrine.                           This is  madness

ThisDraw, O               coward. Is this madness?

Madness this is.                      His tis madness. Tis h

is this madness?                      deLeveled. 

OxytocinL_ _ _                    testosterone

evItativemad                                   ne

Is this madNess? 

Tis his madness?

DA Gag: 1,2

.

.

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How dOes that make you feeL?

house_of_leaves_by_mybodyisacageReading “House of Leaves” has been both a challenging and rewarding experience for me thus far.  I feel as if we have a love hate relationship. There are aspects of the book (if you could call it that) that I really love and find utterly enthralling, and other portions that completely drive me insane.

One of the interesting things about HoL is that it becomes more interesting and easier to understand the more I discuss it. Because the piece is so dense, and open to hundreds of interpretations, there is a lot to talk/argue about. Yet, that density is also part of what can sometimes make the reading challenging. There are so many different stories/footnotes/lists that I often skip parts for fear I will never reach the last page (we all know by now you can never really finish).  Rather than starting from the beginning and ending at the end of one story, HoL doesn’t necessarily start or end any place. The entire piece is reminiscent of the five minute hallway in that it is never ending, there are new doors constantly being opened, and there is no way back the way one came; not to mention the fact that I’m left in a grey area when it comes to many details of the plot/plots.

The most obvious difficulty with how to approach reading HoL, is the Format. At first I would become frustrated because just as I would get into what Johnny was saying, or what was being explained about the Navidson Record, the book would switch. Then there are the still more puzzling portions where both stories are being written concurrently. While I have heard from others that its best to read one section at a time (for example Johnny’s story and then the Navidson sections) I don’t agree. Even though it greatly slows your pace I find it important to read both simultaneously because they are pieces of each other. How the reader experiences one story affects how they interpret the former. This piece completely breaks the mold of how we have come to read because it doesn’t allow the reader to get comfortable. “House of Leaves” is not a book you take to bed to rock you to sleep. Where other stories the building of the plot starts from the bottom up, HoL begins in the middle jumping from side to side, up and down, and from the inside out. Reading becomes frightening because we apply the stories to ourselves fearing, and almost knowing that we too are capable of sinking to Johnny, or Zampano’s level. In this the story becomes physically upsetting, as the story begins to cause mental upset. What makes the piece so horrifying is that it is written in non-fiction form, thus frightening the reader into considering that the events could possibly be factual.

Something great that Sean Michael Morris said in our twitter chat was “It’s interesting to me that we’re talking about HoL in ways we talk about other fiction. It doesn’t feel like other fiction to me.” This really stuck with me because I see his point. I have come to the conclusion that HoL is the love child of fiction and non-fiction writing. While some parts are assumed fiction much of the book is stood by as truth by many of its followers. In this sense I am reminded to any autobiography. When someone tells their life story they are telling things they believe to be true, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are accurate; a bystander may tell the same story a much different way. For a piece to be considered non-fiction does it really need to be truthful, or does the author/reader just need to think its true?

Digital What??…

images

What exactly the field so named “Digital Humanities” entails and how it is defined, seems to be a topic with varying conclusions. All the pieces we read for this week seemed to have a similar idea of it involving humanities being represented in some sort of technological space, but vary on its specific purposes and properties.  One definition I agreed with the most was included in “Debates in the Digital Humanities” that read:

The digital humanities, also known as humanities computing, is a field of study, research, teaching, and invention concerned with the intersection of computing and the disciplines of the humanities. It is methodological by nature and interdisciplinary in scope. It involves investigation, analysis, synthesis and presentation of information in electronic form. It studies how these media affect the disciplines in which they are used, and what these disciplines have to contribute to our knowledge of computing.

While there’s a lot that I agree with in that statement, there’s also a lot that I don’t like. Starting with the first sentence, right off I want to throw out the term “Humanities Computing” because I don’t find it relevant to our time period. I love, however, the sections describing it as “investigation, analysis, synthesis and presentation of information.” I may steal that later. There’s also one other thing left out of this, and that’s collaboration. One of the biggest parts of Digital Humanities is its communicative qualities and the ability to learn from and teach people all around the world with the touch of a button.

In my personal quest for what “Digital Humanities” means to me, I broke the phrase apart to think about each word. When I sought out the definition of “Digital” I ran into a rather annoying problem. It seems that no one wants to define solely the word “Digital” but rather all sorts of different phrases containing the word (i.e digital divide, digital switch, digits etc.). There were also several that rather than defining just the word, they described what it was related to; which was commonly computers. Yet, as was discussed in our meeting we have all sorts of digital devices these days that I wouldn’t call a computer; like our phones, or tablet devices. Finally, a Miss Margaret Rouse gave me the answer I was looking for in this excerpt: “Digital describes electronic technology that generates, stores, and processes data in terms of two states: positive and non-positive.” Thus, “Digital” means technology that uses data to do something.

My quest for a definition of the word “Humanities” didn’t prove too simple either. There were many that I was thoroughly disappointed in, like this one from WordNet that described it as “studies intended to provide general knowledge and intellectual skills rather than occupational or professional skills.” I’d like to know exactly how effective communication and writing is not a professional skill. I actually ended up being most agreeable with the Dictionary.com’s definition of Humanity as “the quality or condition of being human.” There’s something lovely about how simple that is.

In my opinion, Digital humanities cannot be defined so specifically. I enjoy the idea of the term being so broad it can include almost anyone, if they wanted it too. With this idea in mind, if I combined the two ideas from the information I found I came up with this:

Digital Humanities is the utilization of electronic technology (that is ever evolving) for human expression and collaboration in order to investigate, analyze, synthesize and present information in a form that is easily accessible.

….or to paraphrase: Human expression in an electronic space.

Student Machines

teach-student-search-internet-800x800“A Vision of Students Today” and “The Machine is Us/ing Us” were gripping and also incredibly made. The raw way in which they were shot gave them a unique image that I admired. They seemed to cut out all the fancy junk that doesn’t really mean anything, in order to get right to the point of what matters. The two videos really hit home for me, as someone who hopes to be either a librarian or a teacher.  I think it’s important for me to listen closely to the message these videos send.

The world of education is changing because students don’t learn the way used to. We live in a world where everything is at our finger tips with a touch of a button. This immediate access has made our attention spans shrink to a ridiculous size. Yet, in many institutions the way that teaching is approached is unchanged.  “A Vision of Students Today” makes the bold statement that the things that are being taught in the classroom, or perhaps the methods in which information is being taught, are not preparing students for the real world problems they will face. I think the reality is that the classroom pales in comparison to the virtual world in which students are immersed in. When you have the option to browse Facebook or Twitter or listen to a lecture with 150 other people the selection is easy. This is exactly why I think a class like this is really on to something because we are learning in a format that keeps us listening. It faces the truth that young people would most likely rather be on programs like Twitter instead of listening to a lecture and concludes: “then we will bring the learning to you!” The phrase “if you can’t beat em, join em” comes to mind.

I liked what “The Machine is Us/ing Us” said about the machine (i.e the web) being us. The entirety of the virtual world is made up of man-made creations. Much like any other situation, you get what you put in.  Because of its collaborative and informational qualities, the Internet has the potential to be world changing…or destroying. If we continue to bombard the web with false information, frivolous pictures and videos, or as a tool for the destruction of others, then it will become exactly what we have taught it to; a weapon.

What this means for students today is that a change is vital. If education doesn’t evolve with us, its effectiveness is going to get worse and worse. In “A Vision of Students Today” they say “some say technology is the answer” to this problem and I would have to agree. If it is approached correctly, the Internet can serve to save quality education by teaching students in a way that they will actually be learning; through things like video, images, collaborating, and blogging. These are the venues in which most of the population today is used to communicating, and also where we are spending most of our time. A new idea of “hands on learning” is emerging that I like to think of as “hands on the keyboard” learning.

Breaking it Down

I thoroughly enjoy the idea of breaking apart pieces of literature to create something new, because its like recycling someone else’s creation. It’s interesting how words work in a way that can be rearranged into endless meanings. Using the words available to me in this poem by Emily Dickinson, I chose to create a Haiku. Because of the recent change in weather, I found it rather fitting.

Winter Oppresses
Shadows the landscape like death
Tis heavenly when it goes