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Advancing Digital Humanities moves beyond definition of this dynamic and fast growing field to show how its arguments, analyses, findings and theories are pioneering new directions in the humanities globally.



Collecting Ourselves

1. Collecting Ourselves

Digital humanities has become an influential and widely adopted term only in the past decade. Beyond the rapid multiplication of associations, centres, conferences, journals, projects, blogs, and tweets frequently used to signal this emergence, if anything characterizes the field during this time it is a concern with definition. This focus is acknowledged and reflected, for instance, in Matthew Gold’s 2012 edited collection, Debates in Digital Humanities. The debates surveyed are overwhelmingly definitional: ‘As digital humanities has received increasing attention and newfound cachet, its discourse has grown introspective and self-reflexive’ (x). Questions that Gold identifies as central to and expressive of the emerging field include: Does one need to build or make things to be part of the digital humanities? ‘Does DH need theory? Does it have a politics? Is it accessible to all members of the profession’, or only those working at elite, well-funded institutions? ‘Can it save the humanities? The university?’ (xi).
Katherine Bode, Paul Longley Arthur

Transforming Disciplines


2. Exercises in Battology

Digitizing Samuel Beckett’s Watt
Literary scholarship on the work of Samuel Beckett is cresting a wave brought about by the new availability of significant primary material—particularly the notebooks in which Beckett recorded his reading notes and early fragments of literary composition (Nixon and Van Hulle 2013; Nixon 2011; Feldman 2006b; Pilling 1992, 1999;Maxwell 2006;Bryden et al. 1998), as well as published volumes of letters (Beckett 2009, 2012). This heightened documentary awareness in Beckett studies has stimulated renewed attention to such hermeneutic matters as text structure, continuities of themes and tropes in Beckett’s reading and note-taking, and the varieties of citation and allusion in his texts. Analogous forms of literary scholarship and critical interpretation also flourish, including a series of monumental annotative studies of specific Beckett texts (Pilling 2004; Ackerley 1998, 2005; Ackerley and Gontarski 2004). Consequently this activity has provoked new insights into aspects of Beckett’s composition processes and the material state of his manuscripts and published works. Manuscript documents in particular provide a broader and richer framework within which to describe the Beckett ‘text’ as a literary event or process. Current efforts to digitize these documents and provide authoritative transcriptions of them compel acute reflections on the status of Beckett’s texts and the editorial methods adequate to the task of establishing and representing them in scholarly editions. The narrator of Samuel Beckett’s 1953 novel, Watt, neatly captures this tension between diachrony and formal repetition in narrative form and textual structure when he states: ‘Watt’s sense of chronology was strong, in a way, and his dislike for battology was very strong’ (Beckett 1959, 165).
Mark Byron

3. Stylometry of Dickens’s Language

An Experiment with Random Forests
Textual analysis often begins with identifying ‘key’ words of a text, on the assumption that keywords reflect what the text is really about—and likely the stylistic features of the text as well. In corpus linguistics, ‘key-words of a text, in the sense intended here, are words which can be shown to occur in the text with a frequency greater than the expected frequency (using some relevant measure), to an extent which is statistically significant’ (Wynne 2007, 730). A popular method to measure ‘keyness’ is to calculate a log-likelihood ratio (LLR) score to assess the significance of difference between the expected and observed frequency of a word in a text (Dunning 1993; Rayson and Garside 2000).1 However, one drawback of this approach emerges when we compare Dickens’s texts with, for example, a set of texts by his contemporary, Wilkie Collins.2 Table 3.1 lists 40 of the most significant keywords of Dickens as compared with Collins in descending order based on their LLR score. Words in boldface type appear only in one text, while words in italics are found in a very small number (two to four) of the texts in the corpus.
Tomoji Tabata

4. Patterns and Trends in Harlequin Category Romances

Romance fiction is dominated by a single publisher, Harlequin Mills and Boon, which publishes roughly half of all romantic fiction worldwide, selling over four books a second (Harlequin Public Relations Office 2012). The line-up is divided into different categories, sequentially numbered imprints that emphasize a different aspect or brand of romance, such as ‘Medical’ for romance in the health industry, ‘Intrigue’ for romance with an element of suspense, and ‘Nocturne’ for romance with a supernatural twist. Each category publishes anywhere from two to eight titles a month—thousands of novels a year in total (Harlequin Public Relations Office 2011). Harlequin has been in business for over 60 years, producing a monumental back-catalogue that cannot easily be characterized, so critical opinion has diverged, describing the company variously as a savvy mercantile player (Grescoe 1997), regressive manipulator of socio-sexual norms (Modleski 1982), or faithful reproducer of women’s desires (Krentz 1992). However, the size of its publication list—with over 110 titles every month worldwide—renders this body of work impervious to more traditional forms of literary analysis.
Jack Elliott

5. The Printers’ Web

New Tools to Crack Old Chestnuts
On Tuesday, 17 March 1868, the youthful Robert Coupland Harding set out from his father’s printing establishment on Hastings Street, Napier, to walk overland to his uncle John’s farm in Waipukurau, some 80 miles away. Apart from visiting relatives, the primary reason was to hand-deliver the weekly country edition of the daily newspaper, the Hawkes Bay Times, which had been overlooked in the scramble to bundle up the papers for the Cobb and Co. coach earlier that morning. As Harding’s diary records, the rhythms of walking provide a singular opportunity for observing in vivid and minute detail the world around him: from various signposts in the landscape, both familiar and foreign, to chance meetings with acquaintances; from getting lost and fording streams in the Big Bush to meeting a Maori woman who gives him a watermelon; from encountering three tramps sleeping rough who share a cup of strong coffee to bushwhacking through Scotch thistles. His jottings also include this wonderfully evocative description:
I left at 12:52, and the first thing I noticed on the road were the telegraphic wires,—the first time I had seen them. I soon became conscious of a most extraordinary humming which I heard at intervals, gradually rising, and then gradually dying away. It could not be the sea, and I was puzzled. Before I passed the houses, however, I found that it proceeded from the vibrations of the telegraphic wires, causing the posts to give forth a musical sound, and the ground to quake around them,—quite in the style of the Aeolian harp. Where the wires were at all loose there was an awful rattle. It struck me as being astonishing how tight the wires were drawn between the posts, being almost horizontal. I took notes of the milestones, and the time I reached them, as follows:—1. 1.3; 2, 1.18; 3, 1.32; 4, 1.50; 5, 2.6; 6, 2.21; 7, 2.37; 8, 2.55; 9, 3.12; 10, 3.30; 11, 3.47; 12, 4.5; 13, 4.20; 14, 4.40; 15; 4.59; 16, 5.15; 17, 5.34; 18, 5.53.
Sydney J. Shep

6. Biographical Dictionaries in the Digital Era

By any measure biography is popular today. With films, dedicated television channels, books, magazines, and multiple forms of social media disseminating biographical information online at an unprecedented rate and feeding an ever-escalating interest in the lives of real people, intense public engagement with biography may be considered a defining feature of the early-twenty-first-century cultural landscape. Not coincidentally, interest in biography has soared from the mid-1990s alongside the phenomenon of mass public access to the World Wide Web, and especially since the emergence of Web 2.0 and social media in the past decade.1
Paul Longley Arthur

Media Methods


7. Digital Methods in New Cinema History

During the last decade a new direction has emerged in international research into cinema history, shifting focus away from analysing the content of films to considering their circulation and consumption, and examining the cinema as a site of social and cultural exchange. This body of work distinguishes itself from previous models of film history that have been predominantly constructed as histories of production, producers, authorship, and individual films most commonly understood as texts. This approach has now achieved critical mass and methodological maturity, and has developed a distinct identity as the ‘New Cinema History’.1 In this chapter we describe the emergence and concerns of New Cinema History and its relationship with digital methods and technologies through a discussion of several case studies and projects, focusing particularly on the ‘Mapping the Movies project, which has developed a geodatabase of Australian cinemas, covering the period from 1948 to 1971. The project’s data is used to examine the effects of the introduction of television on the Australian cinema industry, while its structure raises questions about the relationship between the microhistories of particular venues and the individuals attached to them, and larger-scale social or cultural history represented by the cinema industry’s globally organized supply chain.
Richard Maltby, Dylan Walker, Mike Walsh

8. A ‘Big Data’ Approach to Mapping the Australian Twittersphere

The widespread adoption of leading social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter in much of the developed world has also led to a rise in research projects across the humanities and social sciences that seek to investigate and analyse the emerging uses of these platforms. A substantial number of such research projects have applied existing communication and cultural research methodologies to this task, including qualitative approaches (for example, the close reading of textual and communicative artefacts sourced from these platforms, or the ethnographic study of specific users and user communities) and quantitative methods (such as surveys of users to examine their attitudes and activities, in order to explore larger behavioural patterns).
Axel Bruns, Jean Burgess, Tim Highfield

9. iResearch

What Do Smartphones Tell Us about the Digital Human?
When Google CEO Eric Schmidt reflected on the explosion of big data and its far-reaching implications, humanity was collectively generating about 6.8 exabytes of data (6.8 quintillion bytes) every two days. Only eight years before, it took more than one year for that much data to be produced—five exabytes in all of 2002. This big-data explosion continues apace; through to 2020, the International Data Corporation predicts a 50-fold increase in data generation, reaching 40 zettabytes (40,000 exabytes) annually, or five terabytes for each person on the planet (Gantz and Reinsel 2011).
Mark Coté

10. Screenshots as Virtual Photography

Cybernetics, Remediation, and Affect
Screenshots are a ubiquitous form of visual communication online and off. They are common across the Web, in print and televisual media, where such images are required to provide evidence of screen activity. Critical analysis of screenshots as digital tools and media objects has rarely been attempted in media studies and the digital humanities, but these disciplines offer powerful and complimentary means for examining the assumptions embedded in their form and function. In this chapter I couple the investigation of screenshots as a convergence of old and new media technologies with the emerging processes for data analysis and network visualization. I seek to augment the hermeneutic and phenomenological interpretation of screenshots by drawing on the new tools for gathering quantitative information and mapping patterns of their circulation online. I take digital game screenshots as the primary subject of inquiry and consider them as a form of virtual photography, examining the role of cybernetics, remediation, and affect in their production and distribution. This study employs the open source network visualization tool NodeXL to expand the theoretical and qualitative investigation by graphing the deployment of game screenshots across two social media sites, Twitter and Flickr. The results presented here demonstrate details of Flickr screenshot tagging practices and the use of screenshots in Twitter profile images as two examples of participation in networked digital game cultures and the individual expression of online persona.
Christopher Moore

Critical Curation


11. Rethinking Collections

For humanists working in the digital research environment, digital collections are a common and familiar formation. In important ways they shape the conditions of our work just as physical collections—libraries, archives, museums—have created and shaped the conditions of knowledge work over the past few centuries. Because of their resemblance to (and in many cases their basis in) physical collections, it may be difficult for us to recognize the novelty of digital collections and the distinctive epistemological conditions under which they present themselves to us. In this chapter I attempt to scrutinize those conditions and bring them to visibility.
Julia Flanders

12. Methods and Canons

An Interdisciplinary Excursion
A growing number of data-rich analyses of literature and literary culture— variously described as ‘distant reading’ (Moretti 2005), ‘algorithmic criticism’ (Ramsay 2008), ‘macroanalysis’ (Jockers 2013), and ‘new empiricism’ (Bode and Dixon 2009) —have in the last decade significantly transformed literary studies. This international trend is strongly reflected in Australian literary studies, where there have been multiple quantitative analyses of borrowing records (Dolin 2004, 2006;Lamond 2012;Lamond and Reid 2009), book sales (Davis 2007; Zwar 2012a, 2012b), newspaper reviews (Thomson and Dale 2009), and bibliographic data (Bode 2010, 2012a, 2012b;Carter 2007;Ensor 2008, 2009;Nile and Ensor 2009). As important as this work has been for reconceptualizing the object and scope of literary studies, its credibility and progress as a whole is inhibited by the fact that many of these authors provide little detailed discussion of the processes involved in creating, curating, and analysing their data sources. Even less rarely do they publish these sources. While there are exceptions,1 such lack of access to data is true of the most high-profile work in this field—including Jockers’s and Moretti’s influential monographs—and prevents other scholars from investigating, extending, and potentially challenging these authors’ findings and arguments.
Katherine Bode, Tara Murphy

13. Reading the Text, Walking the Terrain, Following the Map

Do We See the Same Landscape?
How do we know where we are? When I navigate my way through an unknown landscape with the help of a map, keeping the synchronization between me as a moving body in the landscape and the spot on the map representing my current position is of key importance. Sometimes I come to a sudden realization: I am not where I think I am. The route I have been following through the landscape has a different representation on the map from the one I thought it had. This could be expressed as, ‘I thought I knew where I was, but it turned out I was wrong’. And if I have no clue as to where the spot I am occupying is on the map—that is, what place on the map represents the place in the landscape where I am—I would say, ‘I am lost’.
Øyvind Eide

14. Doing the Sheep Good

Facilitating Engagement in Digital Humanities and Creative Arts Research
In the mid-1960s, with support from the National Science Foundation, Sol Worth (a communications scholar and documentary filmmaker) and John Adair (an anthropologist) took the unprecedented step of providing movie cameras to the Navajo community they were studying. This act is now regarded as one of the pivotal moments in the development of visual anthropology and more specifically the emergence of ‘participant visual media research’. Worth and Adair hoped to glean new insights into Navajo culture through formal and thematic analyses of the films produced by members of the Pine Springs Reservation community. From the specific representations made, they expected to deduce defining cultural differences between themselves and the community under scrutiny.
Deb Verhoeven

15. Materialities of Software

Logistics, Labour, Infrastructure
In this chapter I bring digital humanities research into the domain of logistical industries. The primary task of the global logistics industry is to manage the movement of people and things in the interests of communication, transport, and economic efficiencies. The software applications special to logistics visualize and organize these mobilities, producing knowledge about the world in transit. Yet for the most part the enterprise resource planning (ERP) software remains a black box for those not directly using these systems as a matter of routine in their daily work across a range of industries, which include but are not limited to logistical industries. The health care, medical insurance, education, mining, and energy industries, along with retail and service sectors, also adopt ERP systems to manage organizational activities. One key reason for the scarce critical attention to ERP systems is related to the prohibitive price of obtaining proprietary software, which often costs millions of dollars for companies to implement. The aesthetics of ERP software are also notoriously unattractive, and the design is frequently not conducive to ease or pleasure of use.
Ned Rossiter

Research Futures


16. Digital Humanities

Is Bigger, Better?
The history of what we now call ‘digital humanities’ is brief. The term itself is little over a decade old, replacing the earlier ‘humanities computing’, only in currency from the 1960s.1 The novelty of the concept is such that the scope of the term ‘digital humanities’ is very much the subject of debate. Is it a discipline? Or is it a collection of people who consider themselves part of a community—and how is that community defined? But we can agree on this: digital humanities, whatever it is, is much bigger than it was some 30 years ago, and there are many more digital humanists (whatever they are) than there were 30 years ago. Key to the growth of the digital humanities in the last two decades has been the flourishing and well-funded existence of digital humanities centres, predominantly in North America and Europe. Yet, it did not, and does not, have to be that way. I argue in this chapter that this foundation of the growth in the digital humanities in comparatively few centres was the product of a set of circumstances specific to the needs and possibilities of the time. I argue further that, two decades on, the landscape has altered so radically that we now face a different set of imperatives and possibilities. The model of digital humanities centres nourished by substantial funding has served us well, but (at the least) requires radical adaptation to meet the challenges now pressing on us.
Peter Robinson

17. Margins, Mainstreams and the Mission of Digital Humanities

I must confess that I am sometimes of two minds about digital humanities. The scholarly and public benefits of humanists using computational and information technologies are obvious. But so, too, is the continuing marginal status of digital work in the mainstream of humanities disciplines. In this chapter I offer some reflections on the predicament of those of us making substantial use of digital technologies in research and communicating its outcomes, in the course of which I also share some thoughts about what the future might hold.
Paul Turnbull

18. The Big Bang of Online Reading

The epigraph for this chapter is taken from the original funding proposal for the Transliteracies Project, a University of California multicampus research group under my direction that ran from 2005 to 2010 with the assistance of research faculty, graduate students, and guest industry researchers from many institutions. Transliteracies explored the technological, social, and cultural practices of online reading. Its working groups on the history of reading, new reading interfaces, and social computing began by conducting an extensive survey of the topic, resulting in a large number of research reports and papers now available through the project’s online Research Clearinghouse. Ultimately, Transliteracies focused on one research area especially ripe for innovation: the use of social computing to augment traditional scholarly reading methods with Web 2.0 reading practices. For example, the project created an experimental system called RoSE: Research-oriented Social Environment (subsequently further developed to beta state on a NEH Digital Humanities Start-up grant) that fashions bibliographies into interactive social networks of authors and documents.
Alan Liu

19. Getting There from Here

Remembering the Future of Digital Humanities Roberto Busa Award lecture 2013
The text which follows was written as a lecture for a specific audience on a unique occasion, in a social setting that is now irretrievably gone. This setting allowed freedoms that are apt to seem out of place in the present context. But I exercised them for a reason which survives: in the spirit of Bruno Latour’s advice in ‘The Politics of Explanation’, to foreground the struggle of making an argument rather than to give an impression of having captured some truth or other (1988: 162–3). On behalf of digital humanities I wanted to foreground the poverty of language (some would say of theory, others of criticism) that for most if not all of its history has made this struggle so difficult. As Clifford Geertz said on behalf of anthropology, ‘We are reduced to insinuating theories because we lack the power to state them’ (1973: 24). Whether my suggestion of a language gains purchase among those for whom the lecture was written remains to be seen. I do not insist on it as the sole possibility or even the best. But I do insist that this poverty of language should rank first among items on the agenda to be addressed and that its solution is to be found by putting the field into its historical context.
Willard McCarty


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