Technoscience / Ecomateriality / Literature
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Digital Humanities Critique by Cathy & Norma

September 22nd, 2014 | Posted by Norma De Jesus in Uncategorized

As the project that we are critiquing, the infographic “Every Scene in Great Gatsby”, is not technically a digital humanities project, we will focus on comparing it to other projects, why it is not acknowledged as a digital humanities project, and how to make it into an actual one.

First of all, the creator of the infographic has done a good job representing the series of events graphically. On the top of the picture, a map shows the protagonists’ geographic changes in the novel, particularly focusing on Gatsby’s death. The body of the picture is separated based on the chapters of the novel, and the characters, represented as circles with the initial letter of their names, participate in each chapter in a linear temporal order so as to provide the reader with the information of how the characters interact with one another throughout the novel.

Google the title of the infographic, and not many articles regarding its merit appear. In fact, many articles state that the producers of this project are Pop Chart Labs, an infographic poster who specializes in making popular culture items visual. In a sense, it loses some merit given that it was not created for the sole purpose of advancing scholarship. Nevertheless, many who stumble upon this Great Gatsby infographic find it useful. This project is described as “a stylish, elegant and beautifully designed graphic – another classic” (infographick.com). Although not necessarily a classic per se, it does provide its audience a mode of understanding the book better. There is some dialogue prevalent to the project. It appears in social media such as Pinterest and Twitter, basically portraying how the general public does find it useful enough to share amongst others. Fastcodedesign.com even has an article depicting the breakdown of the project along with comments about how it helps the reader.

In retrospect, it is clear that not enough dialogue about this projects is present throughout the internet, at least not enough to portray biases of the project. Also, although it is a platform that presents media objects, it doesn’t necessarily provide an argument. A useful digital project is created on the basis of whether it could be argumentative or responded to. This infographic lacks enough elements to even be labeled as such. There isn’t sufficient links or annotation, but it does do justice to the initial literary work even if it is a simple derivative to The Great Gatsby.

The novel representation and the simplistic drawing does offer the reader a clearer outline of the novel. However, surely one can remake the infographics on a piece of paper so this project can hardly be called a digital humanities project. Nevertheless, one should never give up on a brilliant idea such as this but to turn it into something more modern, useful, technologically advanced.

Shannon Mattern, in her paper Evaluating Multimodal Work, Revisited emphasized the importance of “a strong thesis or argument at the core of the work”, which obviously is lacked from this infographics. Transforming a dull poster that merely serves to retell a story into a vivid digital humanities project requires a strong motivation to make a point. In this case, the revisor should reevaluate the essential ideas that Fitzgerald tried to convey such as Daisy’s vanity and Gatsby’s unconditional affection. What the revisor, as a reader, thinks of these (are they in vain? valorous? pathetic?) should be incorporated in the project and the details of the novel that embody the point should become the main theme of the project. The revisor’s motivation plays a crucial part of the project because it ensures that what technical effort should be made and why it should be made to finish the project; it differentiates a thoughtful project from a directionless “cool-data-set” that cannot be interpreted.

There are many ways to transform this simplistic infographic into something with more digital mediums. Images are mostly the only types of mediums the creator uses to make this project work. But audio, code, and other types of technologies could’ve helped make this infographic livelier. After the revisor settles on what his/her point of making the project, the structure and technical details need to be filled.

Here, one must first decide what affordances will be utilized – whether it is going to be a visual computer interface that asks the reader to click on or an immersive environment that activates the reader’s other senses like auditory, olfactory, tactile, etc. Of course, the technic availability limits what a project can do; since the design and technique is concept/content driven as aforementioned, the revisor must consider whether switching from one affordance to another will affect the reader’s understanding of the gist and motivation of the project. For example, an easy revision of the project, can be a programmed interface wherein the main body of the infographics remains the same but extra function buttons are added. The reader can click on different scenarios throughout the novel and then a clip of the movie will be replayed or a segment of the novel will be reread for them. It can also be made interactive as the reader can ask the characters questions about the novel and the character will respond according to the content of the story. Or, the book could have simply been brought to life through the infographic itself. The creator could keep the temporal and spacial elements he incorporated and added more movement through programming and audio.

More types of data could’ve been extracted from other sources in order to create a more credible project, and more technology and design would’ve most definitely helped the infographic fit into Dr. Mattern’s criteria of a multimodal project. By tweaking this infographic with more data and research along with various mediums, a multidimensional project like this would provide an immersive environment between the audience, granting them a more interactive experience. In essence, both scholarship and multimedia should be synthesized to perfection in order for the audience to reap more benefits from the medium. By keeping the audience in mind and providing them with a digital resource that could help them better understand The Great Gatsby, the creator would’ve invented a whole new, innovative way to make literary media more digital.

Work Cited:
Mattern, Shannon. “Evaluating Multimodal Work, Revisited.” » Journal of Digital Humanities. Journal of Digital Humanities, Fall 2012. Web. 22 Sept. 2014.
Wilson, Mark. (2013, July 25). Infographic: “Every Scene in the Great Gatsby”
“The Great Gatsby Chart Infographic.” Infographickcom. N.p., 20 July 2013. Web. 22 Sept.
2014.

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