Technoscience / Ecomateriality / Literature

Tag: Hayles

E-lit critique (general)

We create literature and we flourish in it. In literature, our language never sets boundary for our imagination or limit for the superfluity of emotions. The power of logical and empathizing language in literature has connected each one of us closer than ever in novels, biographies, and scientific literatures. The electronic literature (e-lit), blooming since the end of last century due to the maturity of information technology, however, has opened another door to the verbal and other forms of expression of human thoughts and emotions. The emergence of such form of literature has pushed the boundary of what we would call “literature”, and it has brought us numerous benefits of reading that traditional literature cannot offer.

In contrasts to what people commonly think of e-lit as a digitized version of literature printed out on the paper, e-lit exists in its own inclusive form. Katherine Hayles commented that e-lit must be “‘digital born’, a first-generation digital object created on a computer and (usually) meant to be read on a computer” (3). So if the piece of literature on your computer can be printed out without losing any feature of the original piece, it cannot be called e-lit. Hayles, in the same passage, quoted the Electronic Literature Organization’s formulation: “work with an important literary aspect that takes advantage of the capabilities and contexts provided by the stand-along or networked computer.” (3) This explanation is particularly interesting because it not only points out that the media that present e-lit must be computer instead of papers, but the fact that the definition of e-lit cannot be pinned down metaphysically or timelessly, because it depends on the computer in our discussion. The update of information technology, which includes the hardware that produce, process and present the information, is in fact exponential. With each update of the information technology, the technological media seep into e-lit and change it. From the traditional and stick-to-the-paper-style Portable Document Format (PDF) that can be opened by Adobe Reader, to Electronic Publication (EPUB) that allows the reader to keep track of the reading speed, and from simple structured website City Stories by J. R. Carpenter, to the comprehensive interactive math learning website Mathigon, our digital reading experience has updated from both the increasing complexity of writers’ intention and the exponential tech-boosting from the technicians’ innovation.

The sudden injection of e-lite questions the never-changed definition of the word “literature”, and how e-lit sits with the traditional form of literature that we have been used to for hundreds of years. For example, think about what newspaper can do when it present news of massive deaths from a natural disaster or a war. The editor might deliberately insert words such as “heart-breaking”, “catastrophic”, “grievous” etc.; or at most a poet might write lines and lines to condole with the deaths and try to make the readers sympathetic. However, Death Moves It Forward, a website created by Jody Zellen, combines the written/pictorial representation and the vocal representation of the death news during the war (i.e. from the newspapers and the radio) with a simple Flash in which everything moves in a quick and erratic fashion. The combination of visual and auditory description impacts the reader as multiple sources of information to evoke the reader’s past experience and create a sense of chaos, which is what we usually feel when we hear death news of someone close to us. This piece of literature shakes the reader in a way that words on paper can never do, simply because it stimulates multiple senses we possess. It seems like e-lit embarks on an approach, which the traditional literature cannot substitute, to express authors’ intentionality and emotions.

Nevertheless, scholars have attempted to give out the characteristics e-lit, from which, I think, hints us in how to decide whether a piece of work is e-lit or not. Noah Wardrip-Fruin, an associated professor in the computer science department of University of California, Santa Cruz, says that “data, process, interactions, surface, and context” (Gould) are the paradigms of e-lit reading. All these paradigms of the e-lit requires the development of computer science, wherein it is the computer scientists who contribute, rather than the traditional writer. Wardrip alleged “Writers innovate on the surface level, on the reading words level – while computer scientists innovate at the process level, the algorithm level, perhaps without words at all.” (Simanowski 36) Here, the difference of e-lit and traditional literature resides not in how it affects us emotionally but the underlying creation processes. Hayles also argues that in e-lit, “human-only language and machine-readable code are performed as interpenetrating linguistic realms, thus making visible on the screenic surface a condition intrinsic to all electronic textuality, namely the intermediating dynamics between human-only languages and machine-readable code.” (21) This might hard to understand at the beginning but easy from the view point of a computer scientist. Four of the five elements, if not all of them, must be created by computer programs: data – possibly generated by the user but read and processed by codes, process – what codes do to transform input to output, interactions – how programs receive information from the reader and respond correspondingly, surface – mostly contributed from the writer but the digital representation still requiring technical support, and context – an immersive environment of reading created by “WIMP (Windows, Icons, Menus and Pointers)” (Simanowski 43) which necessarily implies the presence of the computer. Particularly, the context computer programs provide are most well utilized paradigm and differentiates the traditional literature and e-lit, as it evokes multiple senses of the reader or different functions of the same sense. For example, in City Stories, Carpenter embedded the poem describing the living environment of a “Wohngemeinschaft”1 in a drawn flat with multiple windows that the reader can click on (i.e. interaction as well) to display a particular section of the poem. This helps the reader to actually visualize the quarreling couple upstairs and the view of all the linens hung-up… The unique features of clicking everywhere to get contextualized gives the reader the opportunity to explore the literature rather than passively receive all the information from the author.

Then what this particular experience – e-lit provides us with something that traditional literature does not – tell us, is captivating. The lengthy history of literature, associated mostly, if not only, with human language, modestly salutes the incredible capacity of human language that captures our imagination and emotion; but it has finally reached its limitation, or even its impossibility, achievable by electronic literature. The fact that e-lit echoes more emotions in the reader by evoking their other senses implies the imperfection of our language because there is a part of us that it cannot reach, but a song or an image or a video or a particular smell can easily capture. True that e-lit is created by machine language and simplistic axioms, but its effects, somehow possibly, recalls a part of us that cannot be reduced to language or, what really is humanity.



1. Wohngemeinschaft: apartment-sharing-community


Work cited:

Gould, Amanda. “A Bibliographic Overview of Electronic Literature.” Electronic Literature Directory. Web. 28 Oct. 2014.

Hayles, Katherine. Electronic Literature: New Horizons for the Literary. Notre Dame, Ind.: U of Notre Dame, 2008. Print.

Simanowski, Roberto and Jörgen Schäfer. Reading Moving Letters: Digital Literature in Research and Teaching : A Handbook. Ed. Peter Genddlla. Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag ;, 2010. Print.


E-Lit Critique: Firefly by Larsen

Deena Larsen’s Firefly is a fascinating electronic literature piece that enriches and adds valuable depth (quite literally) to a traditional structure of written poetry to augment the reader’s experience. Although Firefly may at first appear to be a normal poem, Larsen challenges typical linear narrative structure and utilizes Flash hypertext to add interactive layers to the piece. The digital poem consists of six stanzas, each “five lines ‘long’ and six lines ‘deep’” (Larsen). The “depth” derives from the hypertext – each line of the stanza is clickable and rotates between six possible strings of text for that line. Larsen uses this affordance to take Firefly beyond the bounds of linearity and provide self-described “multi-dimensional spaces for meaning, subtext, and context” (Larsen).

Creating a meaningful reader experience is critical for crafting a successful electronic literature project, and Firefly puts the reader experience first and foremost on its list of priorities. Larsen strikes an effective balance between authorial intent and open interpretation by providing a malleable, responsive work that still manages to fit within the atmosphere she desires. The content itself of Firefly exists within a certain haunting, mysterious aesthetic. Larsen uses a dark, murky color scheme of greens and browns for the background, with eerie brick structures reminiscent of a graveyard. The poem itself describes a narrator’s fleeting nighttime encounter with a firefly, and the narrator heavily romanticizes the firefly while giving vivid descriptions of its movements. There is a certain level of anthropomorphizing, and the narrator appears to view himself and the firefly as equals. On the surface it appears to be an insignificant encounter, yet the narrator’s heartfelt musings show that it is clearly a powerful moment for him. In one possible reading of the poem, the narrator recounts, “I pour a life’s memories out before him like spilled wine to break the silence” (Larsen, Stanza 5). Larsen evokes sympathy from the reader, as she describes the narrator’s struggle to communicate with the firefly. The final stanza is arguably the strongest of the poem, with one possible reading being “The moment breaks as if nothing had existed…leaving nothing inside to remember what lies afterwards” (Larsen, Stanza 6). A chance encounter that appears trivial ends up leaving a gaping emptiness for the narrator, and it is difficult not to empathize with his sadness. It is true that Larsen leaves it up to the reader to change the lines to create powerful emotional messages (the two quotations referenced above are manipulated stanzas rather than the default configurations). However, these possibilities are specifically designed to remain in line with the gloomy ambience that Larsen seeks to establish. In her book Electronic Literature: New Horizons for the Literary, N. Katherine Hayles describes the challenges that E-Lit writers face in trying to incorporate “conventional narrative devices such as rising tension, conflict, and denouement in interactive forms where the user determines sequence” (Hayles 16). Larsen takes these challenges head-on, and provides an interactive experience that is constructed to maintain its poignancy regardless of the user’s choices.

The power of Firefly is in its unique combination of surface simplicity and depth of meaning. The interchangeable lines are masterfully crafted and arranged such that any permutation provides a reasonably readable stanza. Larsen is successful in staying well-grounded and not trying to do too much with the project. That is not to say that her work lacks effort – at a UND Writer’s Conference in 2010, Larsen admitted to spending six months on Firefly, explaining that “getting everything to fit together takes a long time because you actually do have to sit there and think about these things” (Larsen 2010). By pouring so much effort into a small, focused work, Larsen creates a clean and rich final product. The depth of the project and the countless possible arrangements for the poem make it an E-Lit piece that is worth re-visiting many times, as each read will surely be a different experience.

Firefly certainly qualifies as electronic literature, and its literary merit is evident, though its technology and interface are not particularly ambitious or avant-garde within the realm of modern E-Lit pieces. Indeed, the project has an extra dimension that adds depth beyond the scope of traditional poetry, but at heart it is still simply a collection of words. The project could reasonably be re-created in a physical representation, but it would be more cumbersome to navigate. It is also important to bear in mind that Firefly was created in 2002, and making hypertext with flash is quite passé now while it might have been fairly innovative for a project at the time. It was likely for the better that Larsen was not overly ambitious in writing Firefly, and perhaps the project medium and structure itself can even be seen as a metaphor for the story it contains. The project’s presentation is simple on the exterior, yet it provides additional layers that add significant meaning and emotional depth. Similarly, the narrator’s encounter with the firefly could have easily been a bland moment in passing, but it turns out to be a beautifully melancholy interaction with unexpected vividness. While some E-Lit focuses heavily on interesting technology and exciting user experiences and perhaps lacks in literary merit, Firefly is towards the opposite end of the spectrum. Larsen’s technology is not flashy in any way, but she utilizes its affordances to their full extent in designing an enhanced poem.

Firefly serves as a valuable example that electronic literature can exist in an augmented digital medium without sacrificing contextual and sub-textual literary meaning. In The Language of New Media, Lev Manovich appears to disparage the merit of electronic literature, claiming that “all new media objects, whether created from scratch on computer or converted from analog media sources, are composed of digital code; they are numerical representations” (Manovich 27). Gould examines Manovich’s position in A Bibliographic Overview of Electronic Literature, arguing that his statements seem to “sever the literary from the work by effectively mathematimacizing e-poetries and e-literatures” (Gould). Gould is correct that Manovich is “rather harsh” (Gould) in his opinions, and indeed his blanket statements are disrespectful to electronic literature writers. The fact that digital literature works are stored as numerical data at the lowest level has hardly any impact on the majority of reader experiences with said works. E-Lit writers design their projects using words just like any other writer, and they choose to take advantage of (and be influenced by) certain technological media. At heart, an e-lit project is still a literary work, and does not deserve to be discredited based on its mathematical representation at the lowest level. Electronic literature works like Firefly should be praised, despite imperfections, for their efforts to push boundaries of scholarly tradition and provide an augmented experience that enables readers to think and feel in new ways.


Works Cited:

Gould, Amanda. “A Bibliographic Overview of Electronic Literature.” Electronic Literature Directory. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Oct. 2014.

Hayles, Katherine. Electronic Literature: New Horizons for the Literary. Notre Dame, IN: U of Notre Dame, 2008. Print.

Larsen, Deena. Firefly. 2002. Web.

Larsen, Deena. “Reading: Deena Larsen”. UND Writers Conference. 23 March 2010.

Manovich, L. (2001). The language of new media. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.


Electronic Literature Connecting the Reader to the Writer DN

There is currently a movement that is shifting the medium in which we read literature, from printed text to computer enabled literature. Electronic literature is relatively new and is still in the process of defining itself. The broader definition of electronic literature is currently, “work with an important literary aspect that takes advantage of the capabilities and contexts provided by the stand-alone or networked computer” (Electronic Literature Directory). In my opinion, this definition creates ambiguity as to what projects actually deserve or do not deserve literary merit for their work. The literary aspect is defined by Katerine Hayles in New Horizons for the Literary as “creative artworks that interrogate the histories, contexts, and productions of literature” (Hayles 4). The possible range in the scope of the literary within electronic literature is what makes this movement exciting. It gives writers and creators the flexibility to experiment and develop literary-focused projects that may fail to distinguish themselves as a electronic literature pieces, or may become projects that push perfectly far enough that they can essential redefine the classification boundaries of electronic literature. The extent to which the digital component can enhance the literary is limitless, and as there is further experimentation in this field, electronic literature will model itself under projects that are successful in intertwining the two aspects.

Not all projects are successful in aligning themselves under electronic literature, but one project that I enjoyed and molded under the electronic literature definition was Sydney’s Siberia. Jason Nelson produced this project while he was doing an arts residency in Newcastle. He took 121 different pictures throughout the city and created a poem. He used the use of infinite loops and zooming qualities that computers have, and created an infinite mosaic of the poem. Therefore, when you start the project on the internet, you have a small portion of the poem with a picture in the background and then you can zoom into the picture and find that the primary picture is actually comprised of tiny bits from a library of 121 pictures used in the poem and manipulated by variation of color to replicate just one of the pictures. You can zoom in forever, and you continue to discover all the 121 tiles within the poem.

Screenshot 2014-10-26 19.14.40Screenshot 2014-10-26 19.14.22

This certainly fits into the definition of electronic literature, because the focus of the project is the literary aspect and the meaning behind the poem. However, the poem is complemented by the interactive design generated by the infinitely coded mosaic as the reader is also in control of determining which picture (with part of the poem) to view next. I liked some of the verses within the poem, but what I found most enjoyable about the electronic literature piece was the power I had in controlling the direction I took in reading the poem. This piece reminded me of Daytripper by Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon, and it was all due to the use of computer coding in presenting the poem. The Daytripper chapters were not presented in chronological order, and I feel that this made the graphical novel more powerful and thought provoking.

In the same light, Sydney’s Siberia poem is not presented in order, and this creates a user-defined order (with repetitions or not). This allows for a unique experience for each individual user and for each individual occasion. Since this project was one of my to study, I must have started Sydney’s Siberia at least 20 plus times. Each time, I took a unique route and by doing so, I had a different interpretation in attempting to make a connection between picture and picture. This sort of project not only had the typical challenge for a reader to try and decipher the literary meaning behind the poem, but it also had the dynamic challenge to try and link the fragmented stanzas. This makes each interaction with the project an engaging academic challenge. Another task for the reader that I noticed was simply trying to determine where the poem might start and where the poem might end. Without the use of the computer capabilities to simulate fragmented and basically randomized poem stanzas, the poem would not be as engaging or powerful. Projects like Sydney’s Siberia use this trans-medial approach with the goal of developing these “simulative, emergent, and participatory models” (Hayles 17).

Critics may argue that these computer-generated features within the project do not align with the literary aspect behind the poem, or that these simulating features might distract or disrupt the literary. In response, I say that these features can develop in sync with the literary meaning behind the poem and its production. In Sydney’s Siberia, my belief behind the digital mosaic was that the creator wanted to demonstrate the thought process that goes behind making poems based on ordinary objects. Making a poem is not necessarily a completely linear development and a big challenge in formulating a poem comes from being able to organize your thoughts in a sequential order. I think the infinite mosaic reaches a deeper level, connecting the reader to the poet’s writing and thought process in developing such a poem. I think the idea is that any poet can have great thoughts and lines but that the figuring out how to link and make a successful poem has its own merit to it. This is reinforced by Janet Murray’s comments about the advantages to process transparency, “calling attention to the process of creation can also enhance the narrative involvement by inviting readers/viewers to imagine themselves in the place of the creator” (Hayles 16). Murray is actually discussing the transparency in the creation of the digital aspect of the projects but this relates to my point that maybe Nelson created this digital support to allow for transparency behind in the production of literary aspect itself.

This does not mean that all the digital aspects in projects related to electronic literature align themselves with enhancing the literary, or even that my interpretation of the digital aspect in Sydney’s Siberia was the actual purpose, but it speaks about the potential embedded in the digital aspects of these new projects. It also reinforces that electronic literature can produce powerful material that may reach higher levels of connection between the reader and writer that no printed based literature will ever be able to reproduce. Electronic literature is headed in the right direction, and it will be through more years of experimentation in this field that great projects, such as Sydney’s Siberia, will emerge.


Gould, Amanda S. “A Bibliographic Overview of Electronic Literature.” Http:// N.p., 20 Apr. 2012. Web. 24 Oct. 2014. <>.

Hayles, Katherine. “Electronic Literature: What Is It?” Electronic Literature: New Horizons for the Literary. Notre Dame, IN: U of Notre Dame, 2008.

#Augrealities @Personas tweet!

DH Critique: Diego Nogales and Greg Lyons

Stephan Thiel’s “Understanding Shakespeare” project succeeds as a digital design project, but it falls slightly short when viewed as a digital humanities project (which, in our opinion, requires effective analysis and original conclusions). Thiel aims to present a “new form of reading drama” (Thiel) to add new insights to Shakespeare’s works through information visualization. The project is broken into five separate approaches, each of which turns the words and events of Shakespearean drama into data and then presents said data in an informative visual display. While Thiel’s intentions (the “new form” stated above) constitute a worthy design goal, they do not serve as a strong thesis to guide the literary implications of his project (or lack thereof – literary conclusions are mostly absent). The separate approaches are not linked to support a core argument.

Each approach display has a small, concise description of its purpose, and presents data in a visual form that is easy for any average reader to navigate and explore. In viewing Shakespeare’s words as information to be processed (by methods described further on), Thiel goes against the opinions of Stephen Marche and others who argue that “literature is not data” (Marche). Marche fears the advent of the digital humanities and criticizes the field for being “nothing more than being vaguely in touch with technological reality” (Marche). He goes on to describe the sorts of algorithms that Thiel uses as “inherently fascistic” (Marche). Most digital humanities scholars will dismiss Marche’s fears of algorithms as irrational and exaggerated. However, there is a danger to the scholarly pursuit of literary analysis when projects claim to serve a literary purpose but instead do relatively little literary research. Although Thiel’s project is primarily a design project, his own self-written goals are a little too ambitious and reflect literary intentions that he does not satisfy. For example, his “Shakespeare Summarized” approach uses a word frequency algorithm to condense speeches from a play into one “most representative sentence” each, which he claims will create a “surprisingly insightful way to ‘read’ a play in less than a minute” (Thiel). This is a far-fetched claim, as the “Shakespeare Summarized” charts each turn out to be more of a disjointed collection of hit-or-miss quotes rather than a coherent narrative. The charts give no detail with regards to plot events or characters, and viewing this data cannot be compared to the experience of reading Shakespeare’s full prose. The data presented is of little value to someone who has not previously read the associated work. Therefore, Thiel falls short in re-purposing the data to create an analytic digital humanities project – instead, he simply gathers the data and presents it visually.

Another of the approaches, “Me, You and Them” (Thiel), serves to identify each character’s role by compiling statements that begin with personal pronouns. Thiel claims that this approach “reveals the goals and thoughts of each character” (Thiel), though the project itself does no analysis of the data. Scholars who are familiar with the work may be able to examine Thiel’s compiled data and draw conclusions from it, but there are no conclusions put forth as part of the project.

Looking at the overall project’s design and technique criteria, it is clear that this digital humanities project really did form in sync with the concept and tool application. Thiel is well aware of the affordances of his tools (the capabilities of each algorithm for useful visualization), and he is effective in organizing the data in a readable manner. The approach titled “Visualizing the Dramatic Structure” introduces Shakespeare’s plays through a fragmented lens. Each lens signifies a major character within the entire play, or simply a character important within one scene. To produce this, while still maintaining an authentic feel to reading a play, this approach has a very inventive page structure. The structure follows that of a novel, however the story is divided by vertical lines that create horizontal portions for each scene/character that summarize their most important lines. This format reveals how this approach properly demonstrates the affordances of the overall project through this particular fragmented, yet organized, display. Thiel focuses on using technology that affords him the ability to examine the scope of an entire story by highlighting smaller, important details. The only major concern or flaw in the design of the media was that the visuals were presented through Flickr. This made it somewhat difficult to zoom in far enough and more so to navigate the vertical Flickr photo. A higher resolution and different media type for the visuals would have pushed the design to a higher level of sophistication.


(Hamlet, Prince of Denmark – Understanding Shakespeare Project)

It is not sufficient to only view the final presentation of a digital humanities project. Examining the development of any project is imperative to fully appreciating the level of work and rigor involved within a project’s creation. Studying the design process also can reveal biases or assumptions inherent in the project. The “Understanding Shakespeare” project was successful in recording and documenting the entire process, from the digitalization of the plays, to the coding manipulation of the data, to its fruition. The process is presented through a series of Youtube videos fast-forwarding through the various mini-projects. This is a great tool to observe and, to an extent, understand the coding algorithms that were used to organize the words or lines of the play by frequency. The major dilemma with this entire process, however, is that without a Computer Science major, it may be impossible to understand the process of the coding by looking at the video. What is missing in this page is verbal dialogue, walking someone through the process as the video is playing. Therefore, even though the documentation is there, the transparency of the project’s development isn’t present.

This Shakespeare project not only documents the entire process to the final product, but it also thoroughly credits the different platforms and software used within the project. In the “About” tab, all the acknowledgements are made. It certifies that the data being used was based from the WordHoard Project and Northwestern University. In addition, it reveals that the software processors called “Toxicilbs” and “Classifer4J”, were the ones used to manipulate the data into an interesting visual arrangement based on frequency. In terms of project visibility, the open web accessibility of this project allows for any academic scholars to examine Thiel’s charts. Furthermore, it is also open and simple enough that it accommodates for the layman who may only be attracted to the visuals of one play that he or she may have read. It is worth noting, however, that Thiel does not make the raw data available to the public – he only displays the data visualizations.

To sum up “Understanding Shakespeare” as a digital humanities project, it helps to look through the lens of a prominent digital humanities scholar like Katherine Hayles. In her book “How We Think”, Hayles describes how “machine reading” processes like Thiel’s algorithms could supplement traditional reading experiences by providing a “first pass towards making visible patterns that human reading could then interpret” (Hayles 29).  However, this relationship implies that machine reading could inform readers who have not yet read the work traditionally, and in the case of “Understanding Shakespeare”, the data is not of much use without previous familiarity with the drama. As of yet, no scholars have taken advantage of Thiel’s project to make literary arguments, and thus it still sits idly as what Mattern would describe as a “cool data set” (Mattern). Standing alone as data, the project leaves lingering questions: Could these techniques be applied effectively to the works of other authors, and more importantly, what are the literary implications of this type of data?



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

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. <>.

Mattern, Shannon. “Evaluating Multimodal Work, Revisited.” » Journal of Digital Humanities. Journal of Digital Humanities, Fall 2012. Web. 22 Sept. 2014.

Thiel, Stephan. “Understanding Shakespeare.” Understanding Shakespeare. 2010. Web. <>.

DN Digital Humanities Blog Post

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. <>.

Blog 2: Digital Humanities

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”

Weekly Blog #2: Digital Humanities Projects

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”

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