13.0146 new media

Humanist Discussion Group (humanist@kcl.ac.uk)
Fri, 20 Aug 1999 19:54:24 +0100 (BST)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 13, No. 146.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

[1] From: Wendell Piez <wapiez@mulberrytech.com> (39)
Subject: Re: 13.0143 new media

[2] From: Matt Kirschenbaum (56)
Subject: Re: 13.0143 new media

Date: Fri, 20 Aug 1999 19:49:41 +0100
From: Wendell Piez <wapiez@mulberrytech.com>
Subject: Re: 13.0143 new media

Willard and HUMANISTS:

One thing about a good conference is that it leaves you both excited and
frustrated. Excited because of the stimulus of all that good thinking,
grist for the mill. Frustrated because who is able to sort it all out,
process, interact, participate except in the most fleeting and cursory way?
The best result, I guess, is to take the good bits home with you and get
back to work.

Apologies to those who were not at the ACH/ALLC conference sessions to
which you have referred. Maybe Matt Kirschenbaum could be convinced to post
us with a brief precis of his excellent remarks in the session on
Humanities Computing vs./and New Media. What I took away from it was, that
although these two fields may be, in many ways, institutionally and
culturally distinct, it should be evident to all of us (notwithstanding the
misgivings of each about the other) that we need each other. This is
because the one treats the technologies instrumentally, while the other
treats them aesthetically. The Computing Humanist asks "How can I put the
machine to work for noble purposes beyond the machine itself [studying the
Humanities]?" The student of New Media asks, "What are these machines, and
what is the world being created in and by them?" Either question without
the other has its own kind of blindness and paralysis.

Which is partly why, notwithstanding being impressed by the polish of a
good "multimedia" work, I am still left "underwhelmed" (as a professor of
Ancient Greek once of my acquaintance used to say). But unless I can look
into the wings and get a sense of what the man behind the curtain is doing,
and how he's doing it and why, it amounts to just another sensation.
Rhetorical effects are all very nice, but I need to have a sense of means,
motive and a sympathetic purpose before I can be happily drawn in. Maybe
this is to be jaded; I'd like to think of it as healthy skepticism coupled
with a need for focus, balancing the commitment to open-mindedness.

Best regards,

Wendell Piez mailto:wapiez@mulberrytech.com
Mulberry Technologies, Inc. http://www.mulberrytech.com
17 West Jefferson Street Direct Phone: 301/315-9635
Suite 207 Phone: 301/315-9631
Rockville, MD 20850 Fax: 301/315-8285
Mulberry Technologies: A Consultancy Specializing in SGML and XML

Date: Fri, 20 Aug 1999 19:49:54 +0100
From: Matt Kirschenbaum <mgk3k@jefferson.village.virginia.edu>
Subject: Re: 13.0143 new media

One way to approah Willard's questions is to look closely at some venues
for new media studies. Below are URLs for three conferences (one recent,
two upcoming), and the CFP, programs, and schedules of papers offer a
reasonable indication of current interests and priorities in the field:

Digital Arts and Culture (November 1998, University of Bergen):

Media in Transition (Octover 1999, MIT):

Digital Arts and Culture II (October 1999, Georgia Tech):

(Full programs the MIT and Georgia Tech conferences should be available

If there is a schism between humanities computing and new media studies,
that schism may be relatively recent, and may be partly of our own
making. A 1991 anthology of George Landow's, for example, includes
papers from Steve DeRose, Elli Mylonas and Gregory Crane, Andries van
Dam, and others. There are also people who are working to bridge what
professional and institutional gaps do exist. Geoffrey Rockwell and his
colleagues at McMaster, for example, are in the process of building a
program that combines the concerns of traditional humanities computing
(text analysis, document encoding) with multimedia and design.

It's true, as Willard says, that the so-called "new" media are not
actually very new. But it's also important to say that before there was
new media studies there was an academic field called simply "media
studies" -- and thus it's possible to read the "new" not as a modifer of
the media, but rather as a way of differentiating a comparatively recent
intellectual agenda from a previously existing one.

Incidentally, as a footnote, I might dissent from the characterization
of the ACH/ALLC session I recently chaired as "new media studies." The
focus of the panel was on digital images and their role in electronic
editions, archives, and libraries. It included presentations that were
both technical (Viscomi, Kirschenbaum) as well as speculative (Drucker,
McGann, Martin). Using John Unsworth's shorthand definition of
humanities computing from the session Allen Renear chaired --
"Humanities computing, I submit, inverts the method/object relation that
characterizes (New) Media Studies, and uses new media--meaning computers
and the methods they require--to study traditional humanities content"
-- it seems to me that my image session was firmly oriented around
humanities computing thus defined, and not new media studies. If the
session seemed daring or "new" in the context of the ACH/ALLC program,
that is, perhaps, an indicator of how much our conferences have
historically emphasized text-based and linguistic approaches, and how
rare it is has been to have, say, a practicing art historian in the
room. By the same token, I think that the digital images session would
have been out of place at the new media studies venues listed above.

: : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : :

Matthew G. Kirschenbaum
Assistant Professor, Department of English
Research in Computing for Humanities Group
University of Kentucky

Technical Editor, The William Blake Archive


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