textual implications

This week, I began thinking about the order in which we read and understand material.  If I had began with project archives and then moved to articles, would my understanding of the information be different?  This question connects to one of the central themes of our readings for this week: the process through which we process and understand information.  I think it is interesting how Aarseth makes his point about the possibilities of different mediums.  I have to say, I might be one of those people who doesn’t understand the different ways in which hypertexts and adventure games can be similar to other literary texts.  For example, I have a number of friends that have fascinations with realistic video games. I understand that the experience is necessary to understanding the medium, but I guess I need to still take the plunge and experience these games in order to think about them as text.  The differences and overlaps between games and more traditional literary texts strike me here, and I’m curious to know more about these connections.  One thing I’m interested in is different ways of reading materials.  Has it been agreed upon as to who defines the terms for reading and analyzing new types of media?  Who gets to say what is correct?  (Or is that just the point of academia anyway, arguing over ideas?)  Aarseth’s engagement with the question “What is text?” also resonates, and I’m curious to see more recent arguments about the definitions of text..  How have definitions of “text” changed over time, and how do they remain the same?

In Academic History Writing and Its Disconnects, Hitchcock argues, “Modern humanities scholarship is a direct engagement with a deracinated, Google-ised, Wikipedia-ised, electronic text.”  I wonder how much modern history writing is impacted by digitalization.  I found parts this article is a little depressing.  Books are dead?  Maybe it’s just me, but I have difficulty reading online.  There is something about a tangible book, something about containment of ideas in this medium that makes it…I’m not sure what word I’m looking for here, but important, and perhaps less scary that the infinite quality of the internet.  I’m also someone who is interested in the possibilities of form within a book.  For example, nontraditional, nonlinear techniques of narrative that can give the reader a different experience of historical events.  While I agree that digital humanities can also do this in certain ways, I also think that the book, the good old hard copy of it, can also provide us with infinite possibilities.  I wonder what authors like Toni Morrison think about different mediums of historical representation.

How do we balance traditional forms of scholarship with new ones?  Wouldn’t the solution be to be both able to permeate the boundaries between old and new scholarship?  How often is Hitchock correct when he cites the mistakes and downfalls of OCR (“This is roulette dressed up as scholarship.”)?  I guess one of his other questions seems to be that since this force of information cannot necessarily be fought by old-school academia, how can digital scholarship adhere to principles of reliability and rigor?  (On another note, I think Hitchcock’s choice to explain his tone and content during the “A Post-ednum” section was an interesting one. )

I’ve often experienced the same process through which David Bell has gone through in terms of his research and reading.  While it is much easier to locate information online, for me, it is incredibly hard to focus on reading electronically, and I often forget what I’ve read if I don’t take notes.  Perhaps that’s why I have yet to purchase an e-reader, and why my bookshelves continue to fill up with cheaper and cheaper copies of books from amazon.

One question I have is about translation of texts via internet.  What might it mean to be able to search and use records with translated text?  Is the result that more and more quotes are read out of context?  What might the implications be for this kind of research?  Perhaps some of you who work with texts in translation could shed some light on these questions.  Because there is another layer of interpretation through the process of translation, how might that have an impact on how we understand material we find and try to make meaning of?

In terms of the projects posted, the archives that I checked out were AWESOME, and really showed me some of the possibilities of digitalizing archives.  Many of these archives were very comprehensive.   UCLA’s “Archive of Popular American Music” had many different elements.  The site digitalized sheet music from American popular music including, covers, title, alternate titles, creators, publishers, date, tempo, etc.  These kinds of sources would be incredibly difficult to locate if it were not for an archive such as this one.  The archive does not contextualize the sheet music a great deal, but allows for the music to stand alone for the most part, providing the researcher with opportunities to connect the music with his or her own research.  “The Red Hot Jazz Archive,” ( while not so easy on the eyes in terms of its layout, has a large amount of resources related to my research, including compiled essays, films, bands, and other information related to the development of jazz music up until 1930.  After beginning a project last semester that came from the inspiration of Angela Davis’ Blues Legacies and Black Feminism, I was happy to see an archive so relevant to my research.  There is information on artists, recordings, and music that can be difficult to find from this time period.  Although the site’s home page is very male-centered in terms of the musicians it focuses on, it also acknowledges that it is a work in progress.

[The stakes of digitalization: A note on obstacles in pedagogy]

In my own teaching I’ve found recent obstacles in tools and texts that have had a complicated impact on teaching, and I think negative result.  When I taught middle school, my school had received a great deal of funding for purposes of technology.  With that money, the school purchased ipads. This school had no money to order hard copies of books.  I had to get a project independently funded in order to get one class set of 30 books for 120+ students.  When I asked the administration if I could use the ipads to get ebooks, they said no: they did not have money to purchase ebooks.  They only had money for technology.  So basically, it was no books allowed in English class.  It was a dream come true for most of my 8th graders.  I couldn’t assign them reading homework.  All reading needed to be completed in class.  When students get stuck in this kind of digital divide, it can have a negative impact on them.  In classes now with college students, I wonder how much information they retain from e-books.  Their quizzes haven’t been looking so good lately…

I’m still working on streamlining my blog posts, and yet, at the same time I find myself resisting to do so.  Isn’t this what happens when there are so many possibilities everywhere on the internet?


About jeanettethall

graduate student in American Studies View all posts by jeanettethall

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