18.643 structure and culture

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Thu, 17 Mar 2005 07:05:53 +0000

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 18, No. 643.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

         Date: Thu, 17 Mar 2005 06:54:53 +0000
         From: lachance_at_origin.chass.utoronto.ca (Francois Lachance)
         Subject: structure and culture: the uptake on technology in the


The provocative summary of John Unsworth's upcoming lecture at King's
reverberates with passages from Helen Burgess, Jeanne Hamming and Robert
Markley, "The Dialogics of New Media: Video, Visualization and Narrative
in _Red Planet: Scientific and Cultural Encounters with Mars_" in Eloquent
Images (2003) p 68

Treating _Red Planet_ as the equivalent of a book and, for the designers,
a creative work influenced our decision to seek an academic publisher
rather than a commercial purveyor of software or textbooks. In turn, the
dialogic form of multimedia redefined the ways in which we came to think
about "scholarship" and publication credit.

Earlier in their account (p. 67), the authors are reference the reward
system at play:

[...] the dominant models for hypertext educational materials were
commercial e-undertakings, we were faced with the question of whether a
scholarly DVD-ROM could appeal to audeinces beyond specialists in
planetary astronomy and critics of science fiction and still claim the
cultural capital of a refereed publication.

The combination of both structure and culture is striking. The article is
well worth reading. The authors go on to make some keen observations on
class configurations. They suggest that biases held by both humanists and
designers reinforce and reinscribe of divisions such as "form and content,
media and message, hired help and 'authors'". It is a lovely way to
preface a salutory recognition of the power of collaboration: "After much
discussion, we found that we had to adopt the semiotics of both print and
multimedia to accommodate the four primary and three secondary authors on
a colophon page, as well as a more detailed and elaborate credits page to
indicated the kinds of contributions made to content and information
architecture by the authors and other individuals." (p 69).

Fostering a culture of appreciation is a familar practice to those long
acquainted with the work of community development and peace movement
organising inspired by the Society of Friends. It is also a well
consecrated genre: the encomium. Of course, folly too can be praised.

For the sake of form, I just have to share my delight in the example I
found. "This colophon was written by Linley Dolby." -- final line of the
copious colophon to _SVG Essentials_ by J. David Eisenberg [2002]. I
wonder if there was "much discussion" in that commerical environment about
who gets recognized how.

I still get a kick out of the the names that appear when launching
Photoshop. If you own a licensed copy and have spent the time to view the
roll of the credits you might have been pleasantly surprised by the last
name that appears in the sequence as well as touched by the humour and
sensitivity of the company that name keeps. [Spoiler: The Adobe sequence
ends by thanking the licensed user by name. The user is in the good
company of the goddes of the tenth floor and the other goddess of the
tenth floor.]

I conclude these scattered observations with a note of thanks to Matt
Kirschenbaum, one of the contributors to Eloquent Images, who courageously
posted a blog entry about a less than flattering review of the book and
thus brought the book to my attention and now to yours.

Francois Lachance, Scholar-at-large
2005 Year of Comparative Connections. DIA: Comparative connections? LOGZ:
Connection, first. Comparison, next. DIA: Check. Comparable ways of
connecting. LOGZ: Selection outcomes, first. Comparative Connections,
Received on Thu Mar 17 2005 - 02:19:37 EST

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