Technoscience / Ecomateriality / Literature

DN Digital Humanities Blog Post

September 15th, 2014 | Posted by Diego Nogales in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

After reading this week’s texts, I can see the augmentation potential in Digital Humanities. I envision a two-step revolution. The first stage was the gathering of text from these millions of traditionally printed works. A perfect example of this was Larry Page’s project to digitalize books and use a “crowd-sourced textual correction… program called reCAPTCHA” (Marche). This revolutionary step definitely attracted criticism and as a relatively new concept, the direction of digital humanities and language-analyzing algorithms was uncertain. A major part of this active debate is whether literature is data. Some critics suggest, “Literature is the opposite of data. The first problem is that literature is terminally incomplete” (Marche). Another perfectly acceptable argument is that, “the [text] data are exactly identical; their meanings are completely separate” (Marche). I can agree with these criticisms regarding the limitations of the digitalization of text. However, I also think that these arguments will become absolute within the next decade, if not sooner.

Looking at developing projects based on coding algorithms to analyze text, the augmentation of analysis is present. Through the digital humanities, one is able to grasp patterns in millions of words or “data”, and learn something from it. One example is the interactive visual representation of the most used words in the State of Union address for each year, starting from George Washington to Barack Obama. This effective augmentation of scholarship is not only exposed to academic community, but to the entire general population in the United States. The ability to analysis hundreds of speeches at a macro-level within a few minutes simply could not have been done without the digitalization of text. This tool is just the tip of the iceberg, as the second step to Digital Humanities is just beginning.

This second step will close the gap between raw data and literature with meaning. The use of deep learning techniques through the use of coding algorithms is the direction in which digital humanities is going. Google is spearheading a “deep-learning software designed to understand the relationships between words with no human guidance” (Harris). This open sourced tool called word2vec is a movement that will push the analysis of text through computers to new levels. This future movement refers back to Hayles’, How We Think, because it will only be a matter of time before the distinctions between “machine reading” and human interpretation will be unnoticeable (Hayles 29).



Gibson, William. Neuromancer. New York: Ace, 1984. Print.

Harris, Derrick. “We’re on the Cusp of Deep Learning for the Masses. You Can Thank Google Later.” Gigaom. Gigaom, Inc., 16 Aug. 2014. Web. 12 Sept. 2014. <>.

Hayles, Katherine. How We Think: Digital Media and Contemporary Technogenesis. Chicago: U of Chicago, 2012. Print.

Hom, Daniel. “State of the Union, in Words.” Business Intelligence and Analytics. Tableau, 12 Feb. 2013. Web. 12 Sept. 2014. <>.

Marche, Stephen. “Literature Is Not Data: Against Digital Humanities – The Los…” The Los Angeles Review of Books. N.p., 28 Oct. 2012. Web. 15 Sept. 2014. <>.

Reading response

September 12th, 2014 | Posted by Cathy Li in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

The readings this week are all very interesting. The article “How a Prototype Argues” presents an optimistic perspective of utilizing digital humanities; “Literature Is Not Data” (“interesting” in its particular way) and two brilliantly written objections both have very clear and distinct standpoints; the deep learning article pertains my research interest (Yay); the TED talk introduces us to how the Google searches our words in its ginormous data bases of digital texts.

The particularly interesting article, as mentioned above, Marche’s “Literature is not Data”, as a whole emphasizes the negative sides of exploiting the digital technology. Practices such as distant reading or converting the literature to data, whatever that means, inherently jeopardize our ability to understand literature and distinguish the bad from the good or the worse. This point can be easily dismissed by the lack of evidence and contradicted by the fact that my favorite “Virginia Woolf is no danger on this count” (Selisker). As Syme mentioned, Marche’s negative language also does not offer an objective description of what Google is doing and how people perceive Google Books. Just as a personal experience, none of my professors have stopped me from using online textbooks. In fact, lots of very well written books and manuals have already been put online for free by their authors, such as this and this and countless others. The author of the former also humorously linked to the “dead-tree version” of his book on Amazon. I guess Marche has not realized some erroneous assumptions he has made about the scholars nowadays. Most academic scholars are not like money grabbers like John Green who lives on publishing books; they write books outside of their academic practices, in their leisure hours, so it does not matter to these authors what form their books are published in. Not to mention lots of ebook selling websites use DRM to make sure that the readers have paid for what they read so that no copyright infringement or monetary loss will be caused. While academic journal is another story, well written papers such as “Emergence of Limit-periodic Order in Tiling Models” (by my phy TA) and “Where am I” (by Daniel Dennet) will surely be circulated in its academic pool. The assertion that being published online either undermines the judgment of its potential readership or is to be buried under millions of rubbish is simply not true.

Another personal experience of mine with digitizing the learning experience comes from this website the Mathigon. It’s a website full of AWESOMENESS that made me weep the fact that I had not been born some time later to enjoy leaning math through this interface.

Our future generation is going to be so much smarter.

Blog 2: Digital Humanities

September 12th, 2014 | Posted by Norma De Jesus in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

From bringing a book to life to utilizing graphs to map out human nature, it is clear that technology can play an essential role to subjects within the humanities. The project of mapping out the character relationships and storyline of The Great Gatsby through the use of a computer portrays the way digital technology is augmenting scholarship by providing yet another spectrum through which the story can be retold. In other words, by incorporating digital media, the novel begins to evolve into other forms of useful mediums thus giving the audience another way to look at and understand the plot. Reality is being augmented in this project due to the utilization of computation in an effort to bring this story to life. Another story being brought to life through the means of augmenting the way we perceive reality is human emotion. In the article “Temporal Patterns of Happiness and Information in a Global Social Network: Hedonometrics and Twitter,” the author informs the audience through data and graphs about the way a study of human happiness was conducted through the use of social media, another form of technology that plays a role in amplifying the human experience. By digitally bringing an identity of humanity to life, it provides us insight into contextual information through other mediums. In retrospect, this right here is the value digitalism places on the humanities. All in all, Hayles’, “How We Think” prepared me to understand how digital technology plays a vital role in these articles. Had I not been informed on Hayes’ perspective, I wouldn’t have understood that digitalizing the humanities could provide other means of understanding a novel, human emotion, and other man-made subject. Through many different apparatuses, digital humanities are advancing the way we perceive the world around us. Take Neuromancer for example. Gibson’s use of cyberspace provides a distorted reality where digital influences prevail throughout the novel. If we were to achieve such a world where we allow technology to garble with our comfortable reality, perhaps a dystopia would arise similar to the one found in Neuromancer. But for now, we must appreciate how technology has provided us with ways to digitally alter our perception of subject matter within the humanities.

Dodds PS, Harris KD, Kloumann IM, Bliss CA, Danforth CM (2011) Temporal Patterns of Happiness and Information in a Global Social Network: Hedonometrics and Twitter. PLoS ONE 6(12): e26752. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0026752

Gibson, William. Neuromancer. New York: Ace, 1984. Print.

Hayles, Katherine. How We Think: Digital Media and Contemporary Technogenesis. Chicago: U of Chicago, 2012. Print.

Wilson, Mark. (2013, July 25). Infographic: “Every Scene in the Great Gatsby”

Blog 2: DH vs H

September 12th, 2014 | Posted by Pooja Mehta in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

From my perception of the Hayles reading, I would say that digital humanities differ from simple humanities by the fact that digital humanities really do allow for you to interact with the text and encourage different paths to the main purpose of the text. These projects that we were presented with are prime examples of digital humanities, with each one going through and presenting new ways to interact with the media, and giving us information beyond what the media itself affords. For example, the video that presented how brushstrokes can help us identify authentic Van Gogh paintings from copies. With just the physical painting, we can see—well, the painting. But by digitizing it, converting it to a black and white image and using computer algorithms to analyze the brush stroke patterns, we gather two pieces of information that the physical painting could have never told us—what exactly is Van Goh’s distinctive brush style, and if the painting is, based on its brush style compared to Van Gogh’s, an genuine painting or a worthless copy.

Digitizing texts gives it dozens of affordances that a hard copy simply cannot do. For example, in this TED talk, we see analysts show us historical trends and social culture through the word count of texts that were written in the past. This is simply not possible with hard copies of books, because the time and effort it would take to do a manual word count on enough literature to gather any sorts of conclusions would vastly outweigh the benefits of discovering that information. By adding the ‘digital’ to humanities, we now get the opportunity to look through hundreds of thousands of pieces of information and extract what we need from it in a matter of minutes. This incredible benefit is, in fact, the foundation for Google’s project to digitize all of the literature available to us, a benefit that Marche argues “is a story of several, related intellectual failures.” Marche argues that digitizing the humanties removes the “humanity” from the work all together, but I disagree. I, like many others who have written in response to him, would like to believe that by giving us this ease in analyzing texts, we are now more likely to look at a piece of literature because we can go directly to the part that we want, rather than having to pore through the entire book and sift through endless pages of information that is not useful for the task we are trying to achieve.

Aiden, E. and Michel, J. (2011, September 20). What we learn from 5 million books? Video.

Hayles, Katherine. How We Think: Digital Media and Contemporary Technogenesis. Chicago: U of Chicago, 2012. Print.

Eck, Allison. “How Forensic Linguistics Revealed J. K. Rowling’s Secret.” PBS. PBS, 19 July 2013. Web. 12 Sept. 2014. Online.

Blog 2: DH Projects

September 12th, 2014 | Posted by Greg Lyons in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

New Digital Humanities projects are constantly serving to augment scholarship in new ways.  Most DH projects share a common thread of extracting and amassing data from collections of texts (literary works, scholarly works, web data, etc.), however the true augmenting lies in the wide range of research that is done after the data is collected.  This data can provide a model for examining more nebulous phenomena, such as emotion.  In a study titled “Temporal Patterns of Happiness and Information in a Global Social Network: Hedonometrics and Twitter,” Sheridan Dodds and other researchers studied individual tweets based on frequency and significance of certain words to gain insight on hedonism and emotion.  The study operates under the principle that “the raw word content of tweets does appear to reflect people’s current circumstances” (Dodds).  In this sense, Twitter and other forms of social media serve as additional embodied human communication tools – rather than being separate entities from the humans who use them, these Twitter accounts are an auxiliary part of the human himself.  With progress being made in DH, it is possible for humans to be identified by analysis of their auxiliary communication tools.  In her article for National Geographic, Virginia Hughes describes how scholars were able to examine literary data to determine that the real identity of pseudonymous writer Robert Galbraith was in fact famed author J.K. Rowling.  The idea that simply examining words and word patterns could point to a conclusion of “very characteristically Rowling” (Hughes) certainly finds itself somewhere on the “awesome-creepy” scale.

In her book How We Think, Hayles examines what can make this sort of literary data-extraction unsettling.  She discusses the differences between human interpretation of literary material and “machine reading”, and notes that human egocentricity may lead to the principle that “human interpretation should be primary in analyzing how events originate and develop” (Hayles 29).  Traditional humanities scholars often rush to discredit the digital humanities and techniques of machine reading or “distant reading,” but they often lose sight of the fact that DH seeks to augment existing scholarship rather than replace it.  These sorts of scholars remind me of some of the “console cowboys” from Neuromancer, who see simstim as an inferior tool compared to jacking-in to cyberspace.  Eventually, Case sees that simstim can be an extremely powerful tool to serve different purposes (Gibson).  DH represents a model of scholarship that uses as many tools as possible to explore academic inquiries.



Dodds PS, Harris KD, Kloumann IM, Bliss CA, Danforth CM (2011) Temporal Patterns of Happiness and Information in a Global Social Network: Hedonometrics and Twitter. PLoS ONE 6(12): e26752. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0026752

Gibson, William. Neuromancer. New York: Ace, 1984. Print.

Hayles, Katherine. How We Think: Digital Media and Contemporary Technogenesis. Chicago: U of Chicago, 2012. Print.

Hughes, Virginia. “How Forensic Linguistics Outed J.K. Rowling (Not to Mention James Madison, Barack Obama, and the Rest of Us).” Phenomena. National Geographic, 19 July 2013. Web. 11 Sept. 2014.

The reason why adding the ‘digital’ to the ‘humanities’ is vital is that utilizing digital tools and digital media gives us a number of unique affordances in our approach to any problem or issue we want to explore. One positive affect is succinctly described in the first line of “The Expression of Emotions in 20th Century Books”, which reads, “studies of cultural change and evolution have been transformed recently by a new level of accessibility and volume of electronic data concerning human behavior” (Acerbi 1). In addition, they couldn’t have been transformed in any other way – the amount of time it would take for a human to sift through the amount of data used in Acerbi’s article without technology is so large as to be practically infinite. Another affordance given to us by the digital is displayed in the info-graphic about the Great Gatsby which Mark Wilson wrote about. As displayed in the “What we learn from 5 million books?” video we watched, this is yet another example where a digital picture is worth much more than a thousand words. One infographic is a map of all the locations where the book took place, and the other is a nine-chapter timeline. These infographics are bound to make any reader of Great Gatsby increase their understanding of the novel and appreciate how motion and setting integrate with the interpersonal narrative. Investigating these examples of pieces in the digital humanities after reading Hayles’ work only verified Hayles’ claims by providing some concrete examples of some of her remarks. One example is her very first claim, “How do we think? This book explores the proposition that we think through, with, and alongside media” (Hayles, 1) The above two case studies of the digital humanities illustrate examples where there is an unbroken link between our thinking and digital tools and media. So, we know the digital humanities do augment scholarship. Does it augment reality? It certainly does augment our understanding of reality, and on one reading it even augments reality itself. A reality with digital technology, especially when the techology gets to be as pervasive as it is in Neuromancer, is very different than one without it.

Works Cited

Acerbi A, Lampos V, Garnett P, Bentley RA (2013) The Expression of Emotions in 20th Century Books. PLoS ONE 8(3): e59030. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0059030

Aiden, E. and Michel, J. (2011, September 20). What we learn from 5 million books? Video.

Hayles, Katherine. How We Think: Digital Media and Contemporary Technogenesis. Chicago: U of Chicago, 2012. Print.

Wilson, Mark. (2013, July 25). Infographic: “Every Scene in the Great Gatsby”

Novel Blog Post DN

September 8th, 2014 | Posted by Diego Nogales in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

This past week our class went to the DiVE (Duke’s Interactive Virtual Environment), a cube with projected walls creating a 3-D interactive atmosphere, and we tested various different simulations within this environment. Looking back at this experience, after having read Neuromancer by William Gibson, I am fascinated and at the same time scared by how quickly technology can, and is, evolving human life. In my mind, the perspective of the DiVE and the perspective of Neuromancer on the subject of technology’s future uses were opposites.

The DiVE team has many developing projects focused on training simulations that can prepare someone for a real life situation, removing the real risk of a dangerous situation, while still mentally and tactically schooling an individual. One example the DiVE crew gave us was the cave military training that can be implemented to mentally prepare soldiers before they would actually have to perform the mission. These potential projects demonstrated the usefulness and positive outlook that technology can have to enhance our real (non-virtual) lives.

In contrast, the Neuromancer reading takes an approach where a dystopian futuristic society rises through the evolution of technology. To me, Case was an example of how technology had, in a sense, overpowered and belittled a life without the matrix. In a setting where there are holograms and where characters all had some level of technological or physical modification, technology was intertwined to the point of blurring the distinction between technology and the natural. Case explains the view of the sky as, “the color of television, tuned to a dead channel” (Gibson 1) due to this technology-driven culture.  Furthermore, Case represents the dependency that continues to grow for technology, after the “adrenaline high… jacked into a custom cyberspace deck that projected his disembodied consciousness into the con sensual hallucination that was the matrix” (Gibson 8), he prefers the virtual life of a hacker in the matrix than the real in his life. His disregard for the real in his life is perfectly depicted by his sense of confinement within his own body, a “relaxed contempt for the flesh. The body was meat. Case fell into the prison of his own flesh” (Gibson 8).

This perspective on a technology-dependent future is a scary thought, and it is dangerous to think about how just as technology can prove to be so beneficial to society, society can also become an “unsupervised playground for technology itself” (Gibson 11). Technology is already creating dependencies in our lives, but looking as to how fast technological advancements are occurring, I wonder how is it that we can “supervise” ourselves from reaching a point such as this Neuromancer society.


Gibson, William. Neuromancer. New York: Ace, 1984. Print.

Novel reponse – Neuromancer

September 8th, 2014 | Posted by Greg Lyons in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

The futuristic setting is of Neuromancer is obviously a different world than the one we inhabit, yet for me, the more interesting aspects lie in smaller details rather than the big picture disparities.  I am fascinated by the intersection between aspects of modern culture that already exist and Gibson’s speculations about what will be commonplace in the future.  Right from the start of the novel, we see several different types of weapons mentioned, ranging from knives and shurikens to modern and futuristic firearms.  Knives and shurikens are old, rudimentary weapons, yet in Gibson’s world they still co-exist with weapons such as the “Smith & Wesson riot gun,” a firearm that uses “subsonic sandbag jellies” as ammunition.  At one point, Case borrows a “fifty-year-old Vietnamese imitation of a South American copy of a Walther PPK”.  Gibson’s choice to include older weapons alongside his new, speculative gun and other futuristic technologies helps characterize the seedy underworld of the city that he creates.  The intersection between futuristic technology and crude urban crime sets the scene for the events of the cyberpunk novel.


Gibson treats drugs in a similar manner.  He mentions familiar methods of taking drugs (pills and needles), as well as familiar drugs (speed).  However, Gibson also mentions other unfamiliar drugs (“pituitaries” and others).  In fact, the whole process of jacking-in to the matrix is essentially a drug in its own right.  The DiVE experience was along those same lines, although to a lesser extent.  When I was in the DiVE, I was always fully aware of my body and did not feel like it was affecting my brain state as much as a drug might (although it certainly interacted with my brain in interesting ways!).  Within the novel, the presence of today’s street drugs along with other new drugs further adds to the atmosphere that Gibson creates.  Gibson isn’t out to create a chrome utopia where society has solved all problems – he aims to create a believably grim haven for illicit activities of the future.  The presence of crude weapons and current street drugs alongside new technologies of the future sets the tone right off the bat for the world in which Neuromancer’s events take place.

Citations from web version of Neuromancer:

Gibson, William. Neuromancer. 1984. Web.

Reading Response

September 8th, 2014 | Posted by Norma De Jesus in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Despite the DIVE being a little bit less than what I expected, I gained more appreciation for virtual reality, programming, and how the human brain works to deceive our perception. The six-screened cube provided us an immersive experience that engaged the senses of sight and sound. Had the DIVE engaged additional senses such as touch and smell, the experience, apart from being completely different, would’ve made us feel 100% part of the cybernetic experience. Perhaps in the near future, technology will develop a virtual reality so immersive it will be difficult to distinguish fact from fiction. These types of overarching themes are portrayed in William Gibson’s novel Neuromancer. The setting of the story gives us context of the type of virtual atmosphere Gibson wanted to convey. “Synonymous with implants, nerve-splicing, and micro bionics, Chiba was a magnet for the Sprawl’s techno-criminal subcultures” (Gibson, pg.3) The book portrays proper various examples of virtual reality. From Molly being swiped free of her memory in an attempt to forget her past, to Case attempting to utilize technology to fix his damaged nervous system, the type of ways the author involves technology shows us that this novel offers a different type of reality than the one we are used to. A story about a computer hacker who loses his job for stealing from his employer, Neuromancer develops the ideas of augmented realities and alongside, coins the term “cyberspace.” This word in particular takes us back to how the brain and cybernetics combine forces to offer humans a false sense of reality. “Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts . . . A graphic representation of data abstracted from the banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the non-space of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding….” (Gibson, pg. 38). These words that are mentioned in a “kid’s show” when Case and Molly are flipping through the channels show us what Gibson thought of the idea of this new term. This notion can bring us to question whether our own reality could possibly be cyberspace itself. Perhaps, we could be mere computation data, working together to create the reality we live in. Or perhaps our origins are deeply rooted in a software program being infinitely developed in the vast darkness of outer space.

Work Cited:
Gibson, William. Neuromancer. New York: Ace, 1984. Print.

Reading response – 08/09/14

September 8th, 2014 | Posted by Cathy Li in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

I will update this after finishing Neuromancer (over the fall break).


Neuromancer is the very first sci-fi I have ever read, honestly. So far, NOT so good, and here is why. According to my friend, this work started the generation of “cyberpunk“, which is “subgenre of science fiction in a near-future setting”(Wikipedia). Naturally, Gibson invented his unique language such as “matrix” “crack an AI” and “jack into the cyberspace”, regardless what they actually mean. Also, Gibson is such a name-dropper that he incorperated lots of multi-cultural themes throughout the novel, things like, “a pack of Yeheyuan” (Gibson 108) which is a cigarette that no one smokes anymore, or the “Kandinsky table” or the “Neo-Aztec bookcases” (Gibson 108). I appreciate the effort of his research but he also made this novel so hard for me.

Meanwhile, under current artificial intelligence technology, the novel at the same time raised more questions than it could answer about the nature of cyberspace and human activities about it. In the novel, the cyberspace can be hacked in by one’s mental abilities, shown by Case’s brain damage also damaged his capability of hacking. In Neuromancer, Gibson indirectly showed us what one can do in the cyberspace by giving out very extreme examples such as merging Wintermute and Neuromancer. However, the cyberspace also in a sense resembles the DiVE “physically” because we were physically invited into the DiVE and it is perfectly possible that one lives in DiVE. Same with the Cyberspace: the Neuromancer invited Case to stay in the cyberspace with his dead girlfriend Linda Lee. For all we know, Case is a physical person (he was in Chiba, Japan) and were Neuromancer’s world completely mental, there would be no way for Case to actually “live” there. So the cyberspace becomes this intriguing place that seems to wander at the edge of the physical and the mental.

We also discussed the ethics surrounding artificial intelligence and the advancement of other technologies. Related topics have become the themes of lots of popular animes/mangas in Japan because Japan is extremely advanced in this field. This is also the reason why Gibson set the first scene of Neuromancer in Chiba prefecture in Japan. Related anime (that I’ve watched) include: Mirai Nikki, Steins;Gate, Ivu no Jikan (short, highly recommended). The first two concern time-travelling. The first one is also closely related to the game space concept that we talked about. The last one is related to the ethics of artificial intelligence and it made me emotional in the end.



“Cyberpunk.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 09 June 2014. Web. 08 Sept. 2014.

Gibson, William. Neuromancer. New York: Ace, 1984. Print.