19.512 critical editing and critical reading

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Fri, 16 Dec 2005 08:57:43 +0000

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 19, No. 512.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

         Date: Fri, 16 Dec 2005 08:30:46 +0000
         From: lachance_at_origin.chass.utoronto.ca (Francois Lachance)
         Subject: puppets, scholars and the immersed

John and Willard and company,

I want to introduce into the critical edition and reading thread, a gaming
perspective by quoting from what a commentator recently wrote for a thread
on Jason Rhody's blog _Miscellany is The Largest Category_ "Intentionality
as much as material matters."


I am willing to wager that experiences of presence or of distance produced
by certain acts of reading are not determined by the material conditions
of that reading but by the history of approaching and appropriating those
conditions to produce a cognitive construct. Reading builds a world.

Whether the report back from the reading (or gaming experience) is one of
an immersive bathing rite or one of a shamanistic urge towards
interactivity, there is in the discourse, as I read it, an assumption
that the reading (play) is repeatable, that is that the buidling of
the world given by a certain act of reading is complete (that is not to
say that the world is complete just that the activity of building ceases
and does not continue).

Digital artefacts test this assumption of stable creations, cognitive
constructs lifted out of temporality, both by the nature of the material
conditions of reading and gaming (the oft remarked fungibility of
electronic texts) and by the emerging intentionality that focuses on
playing and reading as acts involved in a series not of repetition but of
variation with a differance. Furthermore such experiences of
it-could-be-otherwise spill over into the world surrounding the screen or
output device. The charcol marks on a sheet of paper are observed not only
for what they are but also for what they could be. The serial is implied
in the single.

It is a way of looking that predates the age of the work of art in its
mechanical reproducibility but the ubiquity of such a way of looking comes
with the waves of power induced by the of deployment post-industrial image
reduplication and replication services. It is very difficult to approach
artefacts as unique in an environment saturated by countinon in terms of
the one-of. To announce something as the "only" soon leads to a more
modest claim of the "first" and even that centre cannot hold for long as
interest may shift to antecedents (co-cedants?).

Critical editions confront the question of the multiple serial. How does a
variant in one particular spot connect with other variants, which belongs
with which series? Counting becomes seriously emmeshed in graphs.

Again, I turn to Manfred Thaler's proposition about the nature of the
objects handled by humanists: "[...] the co-existence of _n_ conceptual
hierarchies in any non trivial description of a text is indeed a
fundamental property of all text as handled in the humanities."

In the realm of the concurrent, the universality of approaches is
impossible. No one drowns by immersion; in interactivy, no one
marrionettes ad infinitum.

Francois Lachance, Scholar-at-large
~~~ to be surprised by machines: wistly and sometimes wistfully
Received on Fri Dec 16 2005 - 04:13:10 EST

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