19.520 VR scholarly editions

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Wed, 21 Dec 2005 10:54:38 +0000

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 19, No. 520.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

         Date: Wed, 21 Dec 2005 10:50:09 +0000
         From: lachance_at_origin.chass.utoronto.ca (Francois Lachance)
         Subject: Re: 19.516 VR scholarly editions

Dear Herbert and Wendell and Willard,

The citation of a posting by Wendell

> In the thread "VR scholarly editions?" wrote Wendell Piez (05.11.05):
> >Even codices (or perhaps especially codices, given a nice armchair)
> >can support such an immersion, if the narrative is fluent and the
> >argument clear. The modality disappears; we no longer see "the text"
> >for "the text". Then the medium comes into its own. At that point, we
> >no longer need to represent an old familiar medium in the new one: we
> >represent directly whatever we want to represent. And this is, in
> >fact, the trend we see in electronic editions.

And the reading of that citation in the context of the quality and
accessbiilty of editions:

> Yes, a cheap copy of a bad Mark Twain edition surely can give a poor
> boy much more pleasure than a scholarly edition to a student, poor or
> rich. But where does this argument lead? To teaching kids how to
> read? To convincing students that they should read some popular
> edition before consulting a scholarly edition? We must distinguish
> between the reading experience as such and scholarly efforts to
> clarify a text's history. (Isn't that what we expect from an
> 'scholarly' edition, namely: an edition for use in the academic context?)

made me want to reread Wendell's message partly because I did not recall
any mentionof Mark Twain but mostly because I did read that message as
leading elsewhere.

In Humanist 19.402, Wendell quotes the description of the thought
experiment proposed by Willard. He goes on to ask about a movie. He
concludes that a series of frame displacements through a particular
reading route [or even a set of reading routes] is not enough to qualify
an artefact as an "edition". The modality of communication and interaction
with an edition it is argued has to be close to that of a book. The
modality of communication and interactivity of a book is one of
transparency: the modality disappears, the medium appears invisible. As
Wendell states, the criterion for success is that "it be well enough
constructed and well enough suited to the work of representation that we
put it to, that we are able to suspend our consciousness of it while using

There is here a conjunction of material conditions (the constructedness of
the artefact) and intentionality (the work of representation that we put
it to). If I understand correctly, Wendell is arguing that good design
serves us well if it draws little attention to itself. (I hope this
restatement does not do injustices to the wonderfully allusive "suspend
our consicousness" which is not to suuspend our disbelief.)

Wendell identifies a trend in electronic editions: "we represent directly
whatever we want to represent". Herbert would have us believe that such
representation can be accomplished soley with verbal means. I offer one
small use case that supports an interpretationof Wendells fine phrase, a
use case that play on the line between representation and description.

In James Joyce's _Finnegans Wake_ one comes across the neologism
"fadograph". Transcribable with the letters of the English alphabet. Even
without the International Phonetic Alphabet one could markup a feature
system to capture the different possible pronounciations and at a
stretch the suggested semantic roots in Gaelic, Portuguese or English. A
sufficiently rich mark up scheme could indicate phenomena of
linguistic interference (e.g. English as a second language of a Portuguese
"voice" in the text). A designer might be found who might be able to find
ways to minimize the intrusiveness of such an apparatus. Still, these are
indirect representations (and at some points descriptions). To directly
represent whatever we want to represent, we could include an audio file.

English accented by Portuguese (FADO as a genre akin to the Blues)?
English as inflected by an advertizing jingle (FADE-O-GRAPH)?

Interesting how phonetic noise is brought into an attempt to grapple with
phonological distinctions when an audio track is introduced.

An other example:

Ever follow along listening to the Caedmon recording of T.S. Eliot
reading from _The Wasteland_ with a copy of the written text in front of
you? Does Eliot's reading of his own poem count as a variant where the
recording and the printed exemplar diverge?

We could, following Willard's thought experiment, consider a given object
in a given medium as an edition if as an edition it introduces noise. We
could further consider this noise making as being zoned -- not equally
distributed throughout the space of the edition, if we follow Wendell's
suggestion that for successful representation of that which we wish to
represent depends upon a certain suspension of consciousness (an
intention) which in turn depends upon a social and material construction
designed to serve those ends.

I repeat the contention that a suspension of consciousness is not a
suspension of disbelief. The former is a bodily reaction in which
activation is suspended, held in abeyance. The latter is a cognitive
decision about the status of entities, a decision to play along.

A thought experiment that asks the thinker to imagine a state where a
virtual similation is accepted as actual is very taxing because the
actuality of the virtual similation itself impinges on the imagination and
by the rules of the thought experiment must be suspended. A recursive loop
is built in: suspend the suspension and suspend the supension of the
supension. As Wendell reads Willard and I with him, "the book could be
represented in such a way as to make it seem not like a movie, not even
like a VR, but like a book. Go ahead, turn the pages. An edition!"

But as Wendell pointed out there is more to an edition than turning pages.
And as Herbert suggests, depending upon the audience, there may be more to
the play with the parameters of simulation, play with any edition, than
the example proposed by Willard "to put our imagined editor's
instantiated views of the scene to the test". Reading Willard carefully
through the rereading of Wendell prompted by the reading of Herbert,
leads one to consdier other examples of other purposes. Is it always to
test that I read an edition?

Francois Lachance, Scholar-at-large

~~~ to be surprised by machines: wistly and sometimes wistfully
Received on Wed Dec 21 2005 - 06:19:43 EST

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.2.0 : Wed Dec 21 2005 - 06:19:44 EST