Yesterday’s visit by NYPL Labs was inspiring. What we discussed today was mostly discussed before in the semester, but it was refreshing to hear it from non-academics, DH practitioners who carried a passionate and playful tone (though still obviously knowledgeable) that wasn’t over-analyzing/intellectualizing/rehearsed (that’s not to say that our previous guests were). Josh (?) was almost poetic in describing how they aimed to “breathe life into the collection” and save it from being “frozen in amber.”
As I mentioned in class, I’m proposing a project of digitizing an series of installations curated by the APA Institute at NYU. I’ve been tackling some methodological and theoretical issues that we luckily addressed, mostly on the original consumption of the archive, observer’s experience of serendipity, and how to address what is not represented.
- What was the original intended consumption of the archived object and how do we translate it something that is native to digital? Johanna Drucker addressed this in her critique of eBooks, which “often mimics the most kitsch elements of book iconography” and in doing so we only stimulate “the way a book looks” (Drucker, 2008, 216-217) and not thinking about how it is used and how we can extend that type of thinking to the digital environment. The NYPL Labs had a creative take to this question with their 3D images site, http://stereo.nypl.org/.
- How do we recreate the experience of accidental discovery/serendipity in the digital space? During Kathleen Fitzpatrick’s visit, she spoke about the technicality of this, by collecting metadata and tagging. In Planned Obsolescence, she delves a more into looking at the structure of the original material and the digital environment, going beyond the ink to pixel conversion. The NYPL Labs guys echoed the same notion about structure, that a serendipitous discovery is surprising but not random because the data belongs in a structure and it is transparent how you arrived at your discovery. But they also questioned if this recreation of serendipity is in the power of the creator.
- Stating your limitations of your project. Like scientists, we should the boundaries of our experiments, noting what was specifically included and excluded so it is not assumed that the results reflect all data (whatever that means). In the world of google and wikipedia, we need to be mindful of the constant creation and revision of knowledge. Even with tools for data scraping, we still need to question what is being left out and why.
They shared some great links. Here are some that I noted in case you wanted to revisit:
Drucker, Johanna. 2008. “The Virtual Codex from Page Space to E-space.” In A Companion to Digital Literary Studies, ed. Susan Schreibman and Ray Siemens, 216-32. Oxford: Blackwell.