A proposal for a Digital Humanities Project

This is an assignment for one of my classes, a proposal (or at least what could be one) for a digital humanities project. I am excited about this idea, I believe it could be useful to both researchers and gamers.

If someone is interested to apply for a grant for a Digital humanities projects you need to look at the National Endowment for the Humanities and their Grant for the Advancement of the Digital Humanities ( www.neh.gov )

 

Gamer’s Memory Vault

 

The digital realm, taking a step

Looking back to when I started this course, I was expecting an info dump about methods and a lot of reading on the subject. I was pleasantly surprised and a bit unprepared by the sheer amount of hands-on activities and actual pieces of digital humanities works that we ended up receiving. I believe this course has been a great way for me to learn about how knowledge can be organized, presented and disseminated and I think that is something any scholar, independent of discipline or methodology, can appreciate, and even more, can integrate to their own scholarship. As long as they are willing and able to produce and update content, they can make use of all the tools we have used during this time in class.

And sometimes this willingness can come from several places: Past experiences, generational differences or personal values. There is a inherit stigma towards what the recent generations do that might seem mundane and uncouth, but in the end these are mediums that are in vogue and that when used correctly can be a tool for great good.

And there is when we have to do our biggest push: Willingness. It would be very easy for all academics to stay the course and stick to what “Works” and to simply not care about the elements that a discipline like Digital humanities can give. I firmly believe that in order to innovate we need to take some risks. Some moderation and caution might be good, but in the end,  we need to take a step forward and try to innovate how we do things, lest we are left behind in the dust of relevance.

I would like to field a few points that I believe can help express my sentiments towards Digital humanities, and that I hope will also help others entertain and eventually take a step to experiment with hem themselves.

Organizing Knowledge.

One of the first things we can do with what we learned during this course is how to organize our information. Sometimes, especially when doing qualitative analysis, we end up with tons of information. Sometimes we can simply do a scrap and have copious information of data that sometimes we don’t even know what o do with. Well, with some of the tools we used during this course ( think thigs like https://voyant-tools.org/  and https://senderle.github.io/topic-modeling-tool/documentation/2017/01/06/quickstart.html) we can analyze and extract information with ease, but most importantly we can organize it.

Yes, there is software that might be able to help us to do this, but sometimes we need to have additional help and these tools are made specifically  for the use in the humanities without having to deal with extra things that we might not need and to a degree, all of these are open access, free to use for anyone willing to give them a go, this is something I would like to talk about a bit later. But for now we can know that digital humanities gives us a sandbox to play with, something to organize and compare our information in novel ways, enough so we can use our imagination and scholar ingenuity to see things form different perspectives to get to the conclusions we seek, whether we like them or not.

Presenting Knowledge.

Nowadays the name of the game can be reduced to presentation. How do we make of our work something that both colleagues and general audience would want to consume? Sure, one method would be publishing in high visibility journals, but as I will point out moving forward, I don’t think that is the only way. In fact, I think that method of presenting ourselves is starting to show grey around the temples and to become more and more sluggish. While some pieces of information might be perfectly fine being presented in a sheet of paper, sometimes we need a little more to be understood

However with the help of what we can learn from digital humanities we have a space where we can present our work unbound of the traditional formats and methods.  Knowing how to present information is itself a task that needs to be considered in each case. Mapping a narrative, presenting thought bubbles, creating hypertext experiences, all of those are ways that only in digital humanities we can hope to show. And with how technology moves and develops we can expect to see more and more innovation.

And this innovation is not limited to the aesthetics of the production, but to how we can understand it. Just as it is with the way knowledge is organized, so as well our presentation can evolve to illustrate new things in a different way. Instead of merely transcribing words from a source we can have them presented with their own voice (Both metaphorically and literally). The limit to the way we present the knowledge we are collecting, analyzing and transforming is only limited to how far we are willing to go.

Will we use podcasts or video casts? Would we prepare presentations or moving maps, providing layered maps or manipulate word clouds that move as the reader observes. It is all a matter of perspective and ingenuity.

Disseminating knowledge.

This is perhaps one of the strongest characteristics of digital humanities. Perhaps up to this moment as scholar might not be convinced by new ways to organize and analyze or novel ways to present. But if anything, digital humanities have the knowledge and know how to disseminate and put new knowledge out there.

Now, this might seem like the most elemental of characteristics, and many would argue that they already know how to get their work noticed, but in truth we are usually just referring to get our work presented to peers, but very seldom to multidisciplinary initiative or well informed general public. It is true that sometimes the work we do is aimed at a certain audience, but who is to know that what we do in Communications can’t be helpful to those in History and vice versa? With he help of the digital frontier we can access intricate networks of scholars and interested individuals that are looking for relatable content and ideas.

And these networks are what we need in order to kickstart collaboration and cross experiences. It is unwise to close oneself to the possibility of other perspectives and ideas. In fact, sometimes when our work is seen from those other perspectives is when we get the criticism and commentary that we truly need to make a break trough.  Even daring to use different platforms that those usually used to disseminate knowledge can lead to unsuspected outcomes.

 

Using open access, publishing in podcast sites or simply updating blogs can lead to discussions with peers and private individuals that can help us get that fresh view on things that we need and above all, we can make our voices heard. If we believe a podcast is only made by discussing mundane topics, we are missing on the opportunity to have a rich debate with others. By thinking that having no presence online at all can lead to anonymity. I believe we need to take steps to see beyond the traditional and take that gamble. Some might pay out, but some might lead to a mayor breakthrough, or at least that will be the case until this ideal is wide spread, and then, if we did not hone our skills and considered our own scholarship that includes the digital era and all it can offer it will be us who will need to update and reconsider our ways.

Revisiting A work of pioneering new media.

On this revision:

In the early posts of this blog I reviewed a piece of E-Lit called “Pangram” Now, after a few month I am to revise it and I think about it in a new light. While I stand with all my arguments, I did on the past I find it necessary to add a few paragraphs to denote some things that I find interesting.

For one I think “Pangram”, is a good prototype of mapping ideas. The way it is shown resonates with tools like StoryMap JS, having an overwolrd that can be navigated to find the vignettes with the information we seek.

Second, I believe it is an excellent educational too, not only to illustrate works of creative writing, but to illustrate ways of arranging thoughts and making the dynamic.

 

 

Poetry in hypertext: Narratives in motion.

“The Quick Brown Fox Jumps over the Lazy dog” Such phrase is pretty familiar amongst English speakers with the grasp of what a pangram is. In short; a pangram is a phrase that makes use of all the letters of the alphabet, a composed sentence used to exemplify the use of the written language. Pangrams exist in most written languages, used to illustrate fonts and typeset or merely as cognitive exercises.

But in the case of Alan Bigelow’s “Pangram” it is a means to express a sense of orientation, a remix of meanings and experiences. Produced in 2011, “Pangram” is a creative and novel way to put a traditional kind of product in a novel way to experience a piece of literature and to give the user multiple options to go through content that put on paper might seem like a drop of water in an ocean of literary products.

 

https://webyarns.com/pangram.html

The idea behind “Pangram” is to present a poem in such a way that the reader has multiple possibilities to experience it. From the beginning, the name of the piece is an indication of what to expect of the literary work. Bigelow devices a clever way to deliver his poem, taking his writing and tossing it into a hypertext that not only conveys the work in a traditional matter, it also allows the reader to play with it and experience it at its own pace.

As for the means of how “Pangram” is presented it is formatted in Adobe Flash. Now, Flash nowadays might seem like a phasing medium, but it does allow for a dynamic environment to put sound and imagery together with a dash of animation to create the desired effect.

~*Revision Insert*~

It is reminiscent to how we can use mapping presentations, having a general approach and then using that interface to navigate the content related. In this case the whole pangram is the overworld map, and each letter is a location. The way we can swop in and retreat freely makes for an interesting experience.

~*~

Sadly, unlike using Java or HTML it is impossible to peer into the source code to appreciate more technical detail without using specialty programs. As a side note, I make note of this because in some cases, especially in e-lit (electronic Literature) authors hide notes and comments in the code, as well as those with savvy knowledge about programming can appreciate some of the effort put into it.

Continuing with the delivery aspect of this work, “Pangram” is first presented with advice “Is your computer’s sounds on?”.

“Pangram” is a multimedia experience, combining text, animation, colors and yes, sound. The sound has a baseline that puts the user into a sense of attention, once this threshold is passed, the poem literally gets moving, starting with a teaser of the phrase “The Quick brown fox…” before affirming that this is a pangram. Afterwards the animation gives way to interactivity, the user will be presented with the baseline music and the whole pangram, there are no instructions to follow, but curiosity and a bit of intuitive navigation will lead the user to hover their pointer over the letters. Every time a letter is hover on top of, the screen changes to a line of the poem, each starting with one of the alphabet letters. Every selection is also accompanied by a tone, that might sound familiar to keen eared users, but that at the moment is jumbled, much like the poem itself.

However as the user explores the poem and lights up the pangram in colors, the narrative seems to be jumbled and at the same time somewhat understandable, and once the user light up everything and gets to that final period, animation once more takes over and rearranges the letters into alphabetical order and color coded.

By doing this the user unlocks the “traditional” structure of the poem and can read the piece in order, but keen eyes will notice that while the tones are now in a logical order, the alphabet loses its color and once they do, the alphabet scrambles and reforms the pangram. And a loop is created, and now equipped with self-efficacy the user can start exploring the poem in different ways, having a basic understanding, appreciating the animation and imagery provided.

The experience a user might undertake is that of initial hesitation followed by understanding and ultimately curiosity. The cues that the poem employs are multi-somatic, appealing to different senses at the same time.  It is necessary to the user to dive into the piece with the intention to interact and discover as I believe that making the interactivity too explicit takes away from the whole experience.

It is also notable that the poem has that moment where it switches for the pangram to the orderly alphabet. This moment of rearranging gives the user a sense of what they are looking for, but since the full experience in each case is changed after every time it is fully highlighted or deprived of colors, it is interesting to see how different users interact with it and to know if they got the gist of the poem or if it is more about the interactivity and little audible cues.

By the end of “Pangram” hopefully the user would have experienced a poem in a different way, nowadays a perhaps dated work, primitive and rustic, but in my opinion, still relevant and innovative.  “Pangram” I believe succeeds in peeking the user’s curiosity to see in how many ways can they interact with the narrative of the poem, to see if each color of the letters is related to their respective vignettes, if they can observe and rearrange in different ways to get different meaning out of the narratives.

The possibilities of presenting literature allow for those cases when the author would rather let users come to their own conclusions and interpretations rather than imposing their own. Yes, a base meaning might exist, but the ultimate understanding and experience is taken by a case by case basis.

Hypertext does represent a way to create these experiences, where little details can be included with the objective of alluring, provoking and mobilizing the user to want to see more and hopefully consider that poetry can be fluid and ever changing, that the order can change meaning while maintaining the elements there. A reshuffle of the elements giving a different narrative.

~*Revision Insert*~

A piece like this can be used to illustrate many things, despite of its age and relatively dated format. For one it can be an example for teaching literary creativity in the new media. It helps visualize how breaking the mold of conventions and expectations. I believe by seeing and appreciating while experiencing this kind of content creators can get an idea of what you can do in an environment as dynamic as the internet. As part of a syllabus it can be right up there with works that illustrate the rise of Digital Humanities, as a pioneering piece of interactive media that makes use of gamification and cognitive exercising.

 

Potentially, it can also be used to incite new work., and that is not limited to creative work. The way the arrangement, reconstruction and deconstruction of the lines of the poems can be seen as away to arrange and reconstruct arguments, showing how the elements of a thesis can be put in one way to denote one meaning, but rearranged show a similar or totally different tone.

~*~

Alan Bigelow in the credits, accessible at the beginning of the work, denotes his role a “Spun by” not “written” or “coded” by, meaning that he knows this will be remixed and reconstructed, torn to pieces and then reassembled. All in a convenient format, online and ever dynamic environment.

 

My place on Digital Humanities Spaces.

I believe my place in the digital humanities lies in the administration and creation of repositories and community driven contents. I personally lack some of the finer skills to make creative work, not as I am now, though these skills are something that I wish to refine and practice. I think digital humanities is a wonderful medium to create and present knowledge in new ways, but it is also a wonderful way to obtain data and get in touch with those who are pivotal to our disciplines. Whether it is communicating with people involved in the phenomena we study or getting in contact with experts and colleagues and share our information and progress, Digital Humanities can offer a medium to communicate our thoughts and idea like never before.

 

I know other can base their scholarship in digital humanities and I believe their projects are potentially game changing and innovative. Me, I believe I can use these resources to establish human communication and improve the way we work, mitigating to some extent the limitans of spatial location. Everything in such a presentation that can be accessible for those we think need to have access.

 

In the end I take away that the resources and value of our online and digital presentation also have value that I had not considered before and I intend to maintain and improve my online presence while making use of all the tools I have available. From ways of analyzing data, editing videos or mapping ideas and concepts, I think I come out with better skills than when I came in.

Open Access

Open access, sounds like an off-brand product that is the equivalent of some other more popular products, aimed at those struggling with their capital. And why not see it like that? Open access when it comes to journals and academic research sounds pretty much like some lesser channel, aimed to young scholars that are unable to publish on the big journals.

Well, I believe we have to demystify the image of “Name Brand” journals and to realize that the grand objective of academia is to produce and develop new knowledge, to encourage new ways of thinking and to improve our understanding of the world in its many, wonderful facets. And Open Accesses is a medium that is ideal for any scholar eager to get heir work seen and recognized. I is imperative that we observe and consider open access not as a last ditch effort to publish an article, but as the go-to medium for theory building that requires as many eyes on the subject as possible.

After all, the more eyes you have on a subject the more opinions you can get about it or the more people you can reach so they too can benefit form findings and development, instead of keeping knowledge sequestered to the higher echelons of either paid walled or esoteric journals that only a few have access to.

The Audio logs of the lost

Podcasting is one of those ways to express ideas that is somewhat archaic but at the same time so novel. I can imagine the years of the radio, listening to shows talk about politics and arts, all with that certain grain in the voices that we can hear. But there is some power to listening to someone speak about something, finding a bit of the voice of a person not next to you. I can relate this to video games and the usual mechanics of finding “Audio Lags” to convey a story. I think this is extremely familiar, these after all are audio logs that convey a story about a certain theme, we found them and it is up to us to piece together the narrative.

And of course, unlike broadcast an podcast is freely available for anyone to create and disseminate, but that is where the devil in the detail land. How many hoax-y podcasts there could be in a sea of information? How much can we trust someone who publishes audio and we are supposed to take as valid? Curation is the name of the game, and even when we have experts curating content how much of it is their biases? IT is hard to tell, but in the end we have to trust our own compasses and believe that we can do our best with what we have and to absorb what can help us by discarding the negative.

Teaching video games

If I want to demonstrate to a class a way to think about video game’s various effects, I need to have them experience them first hand. Inherently, video games are a medium that Is better experienced rather than merely lectured or talked about.

 

Let’s talk for example one of my favorite themes in video games: Decision making. Decision making is one of those things that video games companies are starting to bank, and I do not mean the decision between using a sword or an axe, I mean about moral choices and story driven decision that can potentially change the outcome of the game narrative. Usually this can be explained to a student by showing them the branching paths that a game takes when these decisions have on the overall game.

 

However, I believe there are better ways. I could enroll the help of friends to script a scene in the Unity Engine, this would basically allow me to create a very quick narrative with some key elements that I can use to illustrate my point, and this mini game  can be imported to many platforms, so the students will be able to play it regardless of their chosen platform.

 

The exercise would be simple, have themselves recorded as they play the game. The game would be in the same venue as Telltale’s the walking dead, where decisions need o be made in a very constrained time, and not taking an action counts like an action. The mini game would have a few outcomes, and the idea is to see and discuss what they think about gameplay that incorporates these elements and above all, how that made them feel.

Humanities education in a digital era

Teaching and Learning digital humanities is no easy feat. TO begin with when we talk about humanities some people just don’t get our meaning or what we are talking about. One way I like to explain humanities is to say it is it is a way to explain either philosophy, art or history in function of the other two.  So, if we are going to apply that to a Digital format and make use of a concept like this, the basics need to be covered first. But let’s assume we already have the basics covered, and that we are ready to mov eon to the Digital aspect. In this case what we want is to find the correct ways to apply our knowledge.

We need to find the best possible ways to share our ideas in a platform that allows for so much more than plain text, we can allow ourselves to be as creative as possible with as many ideas as possible. We cans till think about the way we do things traditionally at its core, but the important part is to teach and learn bout the new possibilities and perhaps forget a bit about the rigor of the social sciences in favor of more creative presentation nd assimilation of new ideas.

Proposal Abstract: A Memory of gamers.

Trough my studies in interactive media and communities around it I have come across many stereotypes coming form the general public: Gamers are all slob, unmotivated individuals that have no interest in furthering their personal development. The word “losers” or “lazy” comes up very often and with that a stigma is raised. However, as time goes by and the scene of e-sports becomes more and more prevalent in society, different perspectives are risen. There is not only people who plays the games, but there are commentators, analysts, those who help new players get into the game and casters that stream both their own games and other’s.

Who form the e-sports community, where do they come from and how do they prepare? In this paper I want to create an archive of e-sports players, enthusiasts and community leaders. And I want to do it not only in function of their expertise on their respective game but also their way to be where they are now. This would be a way not only to learn about the demographics of these players, but also a way to see the patterns they follow, from their origins to motivations, to their outlook on life and their part in their society and families.