Author Archives: erinaalexandria

CRITICAL MAKING: WE’RE GOING BACK TO KANE

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a pixelated garment made with vegetable tanned leather by  Whitney Bai:   http://whitneyyubai.com/

When I was reading Matt Ratto this week I couldn’t shake the feeling that I knew the name from somewhere. Was it some reading we had done earlier, a name mentioned in passing perhaps? No. I had come across the name while I was researching Brian Kane a few weeks ago before his guest lecture.

In my research I came across his and Catherine Andreozzi project where students made wearable technology with “an emotional appeal.” Maybe I’m just not getting the project, but I didn’t feel anything from the photos. The photos themselves lent themselves more to a high art crowd that it is completely devoid of human interaction or appeal–– it is intentionally trying to make itself sterile. For something that is supposed to connect both technology and humans, I found it to be a less than successful attempt, though the concept was an intriguing one.

More than that, Kane was in a publication created by Garnet Hertz all about Critical Making (with a sticker contribution in the back). However, this piece seems to be much more about Critical Design in the form it is presented to us than Making in that the purpose seems to be more about the creation of a narrative between critics than it is about bringing about change. I liked this definition by Tony Dunne:

Critical design is related to haute couture, concept cars, design propaganda, and visions of the future, but its purpose is not to present the dreams of industry, attract new business, anticipate new trends or test the market. Its purpose is to stimulate discussion and debate amongst designers, industry and the public about the aesthetic quality of our electronically mediated existence.”

The artist is the Maker, of course, but when all we get is this photo presentation on a website, all I can think is that the ultimate goal was CD and not CM, because there is no discussion of the making, all we get is the finished product.

 

Work Cited

Dunne, A, & Raby, F. “Design Noir: The Secret Life of Electronic Objects.” Birkhäuser Basel, 2001.

Armstrong, Week 9: Haraway, Habermas & Benthall: Don’t Forget Us Guys, Lady–– Also, Some Doing for Me

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So I’ve been sitting with Haraway the past week and trying to grasp it more, but I was startled (though not really, and isn’t that just sad?) when I read a “polite” scathing critique of it by Sebastian Benthall. Benthall keeps reiterating that Haraway is a talented writer, which I’m sure her response would be a very dry, “Thanks.” It’s basically the equivalent of a throwaway “No offense, buuuuuut…” before saying some incredibly insensitive BS.

That’s exactly what he did.

Starting off by bringing in Jurgen Habermas, he is saying that Haraway is “mostly right” but not so right as Habermas.

“In 1981, Habermas published his Theory of Communicative Action in German. This work incorporates some of the feminist critiques of his earlier work on the formation of the bourgeois public sphere. Habermas reaches more or less the same conclusion as Haraway: there is no trancendent subject or god’s point of view to ground science; rather, science must be grounded in the interaction of perspectives through communicative action aimed at consensus.

Despite their similarities, there are some significant differences between these points of view. Importantly, Haraway’s feminist science has no white men in it. It’s not clear if it has any Asian, Indian, Black, or Latino men in it either, though she frequently mentions race as an important dimension of subjugation. It’s an appropriation and erasure of non-white masculinity. Does it include working class white men? Or men with disabilities of any kind? Apparently not. Since I’m a man and many of my scientist friends are men (of various races), I find this objectionable.”

Gotta love that italic feminist right? Haraway doesn’t include men… I don’t even… Oh, my sweet summer child.

This makes me think of Haraway’s passage on 580, “Science has been about a search for translation, convertibility, mobility of meanings, and universality–– which I call reductionism only when one language (guess whose?) must be enforced as the standard for all the translations and conversions.”

He even mentions Wikipedia definitions of bias, which Adeline Koh discusses in her “Introducing Digital Humanities Work to Undergraduates: An Overview.” In this, Koh talks about Wikipedia’s “verifiability, not truth” and the fact that the majority of its editors are white, around 30, middle-class, college educated, and English speakers.

Benthall is doing exactly what Haraway talks about in her essay: “romanticizing and/or appropriating the vision of the less powerful while claiming to see from their positions.”

This all culminates in his most misogynist claim, “So I have to conclude that teaching people Haraway as an epistemology is really bad for science, because it’s bad for diversity in science. That’s a little sad because obviously Haraway had the best of intentions and she is a really interesting writer. It’s also sad because a lot of STS people who base their work off of Haraway really think they are supporting diversity in science. I’ve argued: Nope. Maybe they should be reading Habermas instead.”

He literally is advocating to completely ignore Haraway and read this white man instead. Diversity my foot, Benthall.

OFF TOPIC DOING

I was also thinking this week, thanks to Adeline Koh, about incoorperating Digital Humanities into my own classroom. Next semester I’ll be teaching ENGL 2051 (introductory Fiction) and I want to do something other than have them make a traditional chapbook, not that there is anything wrong with that.

The course description, roughly, will be Mapping Your Histories through Flash and Short Stories.

So I’ve been thinking, and if anyone has any good resources then I would be so grateful, that I want them (for their final project) have an interactive map of their hometown, where they feel like they’ve grown the most, what Place means to them, etc. which will have a corresponding story attached. People, or themselves, from their hometown could add pictures of that place, music from local artists, that sort of thing.


Benthall, Sebastian. “Comments on Haraway: Situated Knowledge, Bias, and Code.” Digifesto. Web.

Haraway, Donna. “Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective.” Feminist Studies, Vol. 14, No. 3 (Autumn, 1988). 575-599. Web.

Armstrong, Week 9: The God Trick and Knowledge

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“Feminists don’t need a doctrine of objectivity that promises transcendence, a story that loses track of its mediations just where someone might be held responsible for something, and unlimited instrumental power. We don’t want a theory of innocent powers to represent the world, where language and bodies both fall into the bliss of organic symbiosis. We also don’t want to theorize the world, much less act within it, in terms of Global Systems, but we do need an earthwide network of connections, including the ability partially to translate knowledges among very different–– and power-differentiated-communities. We need the power of modern critical theories of how meanings and bodies get made, not in order to deny meanings and bodies, but in order to build meanings and bodies that have a chance for life. (579-80).

Reading the Haraway reading this week I was interested in her ideas of situated knowledge and her arguments against objectivism, as they are currently understood. In the article, if I’m understanding it correctly (and let’s be real, I highly doubt I am), Haraway seems to be saying that objectivity, as understood that it is possible to separate the self from the object, isn’t possible. She’s also saying that subjective knowledge–– to an extent–– is the answer to this.

The god trick then is this belief in objectivity as a “view of infinite vision” (582). Haraway calls Feminist objectivity “quite simply situated knowledges” (581). This seems to mean that the self, experience, etc. cannot be taken away, and informs objectivity. It forces some responsibility to what we are claiming.

I don’t know enough about objectivity to discuss it in length, but I think what Haraway is trying to say here is that it absolutely is not possible, or responsible, to have some kind disembodied knowledge. It is always embodied, it just takes from a select group. In one of her footnotes, she mentions that “objectivity is about crafting comparative knowledge: How may a community name things to be stable and to be like each other” resulting from the culture (597).

So, this makes my brain hurt (and I’m not sure if it’s in a good way yet) but if I’m understanding the article then I am on board. I do wonder what kind of feminism she is addressing here though, her intended audience. Once again, this is stemming from my own lack, not necessarily the article’s. This is something I look forward to discussing, I’m sure y’all have some insight that might bring this all together.


Haraway, Donna. “Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective.” Feminist Studies, Vol. 14, No. 3 (Autumn, 1988). 575-599. Web.

Armstrong, Week 8: Bangarang & The Lost Boys

“Demo or Die” the call of BANGARANG! in 1987

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When I was reading “Demo or Die” this week by Stewart Brand I just kept thinking about Hook. If you don’t remember Hook I hope the gif is enough. If not, well I’ve got a picture coming… no worries. It seems ridiculous to have that pop up in my mind, or even some bastardization between Willy Wonka and older Peter Pan  (one step at a time), but it completely fits.

The way Brand writes about the MIT Media Laboratory, and Nicholas Negroponte, is both parts wonder and technicality.

Out in the Wiesner Building’s sunny atrium, seven-foot-long com­ puter-controlled helium blimps are cruising the five-story space learning how to be like fish— feeding, schooling, seeking comfortable temperature habitats.

On the third floor, body tracking is in progress, a figure in ultra­ punk black leather and studs twirling in sensitive space. The studs are position indicators (infrared-light-emitting diodes) being sensed and translated by a computer into an animated figure on the room-size screen dancing in perfect echo to the human. The computer is paying attention and remembering: this is how humans move.

On the fourth floor a violinist strokes once more into a difficult piece, trying it with a slower tempo. The piano accompanist adapts perfectly, even when the violinist changes tempo again in the middle of the piece. The uncomplaining piano player is an exceptionally musical computer.

imageNicholas Negroponte, a portrait.

Peter Banning is, during the course of the movie, either all business or all imagination. In the end, he realizes that he has to have both.

At the beginning of this article, Brand is showing the wonder of the space. Some of these seem humorous now, but they are something to be admired all the same. It doesn’t go beyond the “look at all of this” in the first few paragraphs. It is begging the reader to imagine, to just imagine.

This isn’t necessarily a good thing. Brand goes into the funding issues and how confused all of this can make people.

“Boggle. Too much coming too fast to sort out. Too many named new things. Too much that needs explanation to even understand what it is, much less what it’s for or what’s remarkable about it.”

This is where Negroponte comes in. Brand called him an Amphibian, but clearly he meant Peter Banning/Pan. “Negroponte found it easy to mix with the chairmen, directors, and chief executive officers of major corporations and government research offices. Months on the road every year, he’s acquired a business sense of the world. At the university he’s an exotic with the moves of a jet-set executive and a businessman’s get-on-with-it rigor. But in corporate boardrooms and on trade organization stages he’s the prestigious professor, representing the lofty intellectual perspective and long view of the uni­versity. Negroponte is an [Peter Banning], comfortable in both worlds” (6, my addition).

There is also the issue of doing too much at once, something Brand calls the dark side of demoing, starting with sensory overload. I can only imagine it would be like that scene in Hook, before Peter is hip to everything, when they’re all eating food and GOD he can smell it (and it smells great) but he can’t see it. That’s how I imagine this sensory overload, because they may be seeing this stuff, but they aren’t, not really. Because they don’t know what it means. Its meaning is still with those people who imagined it up.

It’s necessary to have that person who can go between both lines and do both things if the worlds are going to meet, and that’s Negroponte for Brand.

I just want to see the food too.


Brand, Stewart. “Demo or Die.” The Media Lab: Inventing the Future at M.I.T. New York: Viking Penguin Inc, 1987. Web.

Armstrong, Blog Post Week 6: Ramsay and #DHPOCO and eLit

“I want a break with the past. I want a new, revivified humanities that resists current attempts at its destruction. I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water, but I also don’t care if this new humanities looks like some kind of mashup between computer science and English. I don’t see why protecting the humanities means protecting the Department of French Literature as it has been since the Second World War. I don’t see why History must “remain a book-based discipline.” I don’t see why the classroom has to be what the German Pietists said it should be three hundred years ago. Big theory was a grenade (that completely altered my intellectual universe), but I want a new blast pattern. Theology (as Stanley Fish alleged)? Whatever.”

Ramsay’s article, “Why I’m In It” addresses a need in DH to avoid conforming to traditional power structures in the university system, and beyond that as individuals/groups identifying as Digital Humanists. “Gaps in the archive? Let’s fill them. Co-opted by Apple and Google? Let’s find ways to get out. Frustrated with business-as-usual in university press publishing? Let’s create new ways to do it. Big tent? Better be.” This opens up more discussion for the need of #DHPOCO and the necessity to do more than be self-aware and focuses on the importance of action.

He says in the comment section in reply to *Adeline Koh, “As a technologist yourself, you are undoubtedly aware of how hard it is to imagine things outside of what already exists. Once upon a time, though, *there was no such thing as a blog*. Once upon a time, *there was no such thing as Twitter*. Someone (more likely, a group of people) had to sit down and think that stuff up, in part, out of thin air. I don’t mean to suggest that either of these things were without precedent, but they represented *enormous* feats of invention and lateral thinking. We need to have those sessions, and we need to know how to put the results of those discussions into action. I think that’s ultimately what I mean by “learning to code.” I think it is only partly to do with “learning Ruby” or “learning Javascript” — neither of those things might be relevant at all. I think it just means being open to gaining whatever skills we need to turn our complaints and frustrations into (forgive me for using another industry buzzword) ‘solutions.’”

With this new definition of “learning to code” we can open more doorways for interesting and diversive forms of communication and scholarship. Ramsay is trying to promote more communication and interaction between DHers, “I suppose I’m challenging us (and myself) to create genuinely new forms of representation, communication, and affordance.”

eLit, something along the lines of Jennifer Egan’s Black Box, a book released on Twitter, or the poetry site, Cellpoems, which distributes poems via SMS text messaging and Twitter only, seems to be worlds ahead of more traditional DH practices which are still conforming to power structures. I think what Ramsay is trying to aim/call for here is something that eLit has been doing for a long time. In fact, Ramsay says, “I think we are way behind them [eLit] in doing the same thing for non-fiction genres. Can you imagine if the products of our work as scholars — the media we create to convey our messages and ideas, whether textual or not — were as varied and creative as what we see coming from the eLit folks? I think it would be a complete revolution” (my addition).

While I think that Ramsay is talking more about the technological possibilities for DH as discipline than he is speaking directly towards a necessity in the humanities to decolonize, it can’t be ignored that his ideas lend themselves to this.

In some ways, I wonder how far Ramsay’s action goes. Does he mean technologically only? He discusses the ideas of “access” but more along the lines of a need to break away from these ideas because of the lack of responsibilty to do anything other than talk. Right now, as much as it is a call to action, the article is still only talking without much doing. He said, “I don’t think I’ll ever live down “Who’s In and Who’s Out,” which now seems an utterly divisive and counterproductive thing to have said.” I’m not sure, but I think that his willingness to expand and reflect on his original ideas as probelematic is a good start, but I want to know what he plans to do.

*Adeline Koh runs Digitizing ‘Chinese Englishmen’, and speaks about the need to Decolonize the Archive


Ramsay, Stephen. “Why I’m In It.” Sitewide ATOM. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Sept. 2015.

Armstrong, Blog Post Week 3: Earhart and the Problem of the Object

DHPOCO

“For scholars interested in reinserting writers of color into critical discussions, the recovery efforts were a boon. We imagined that the free access to materials on the web would allow those previously cut off from intellectual capital to gain materials and knowledge that might be leveraged to change the social position of people of color. The new space of the Internet would allow those who had been silenced to have a voice.”

Amy E. Earhart touches on many crucial subjects in her article, “Can Information Be Unfettered? Race and the New Digital Humanities Canon”, not the least of which is the importance of the inclusion of race, gender, class, etc. factors in DH. I agree that DH needs to factor in these issues, but I think that Earhart is leaving something out.

The object.

When I say the object, I of course mean the actual computer, the vessel of the technology.

The inclusion of racial, gender, class, etc. factors (particularly class and space in rural areas) needs to factor in availability of access. In the article Earhart mentions, “Advocates of the free web were interested in three ideas: “1) Access to computers should be unlimited and total; 2) All information should be free; 3) Mistrust authority and promote decentralization,” all designed to allow “bubbles” of information to rise from the bottom, sowing “seeds of revolutionary change” (“Battle for the Soul of the Internet”).”

This first part is great in theory, but unfortunately it is only that right now.

The amount of people in rural regions of Appalachia and the South–– focusing here on a study of rural Appalachian Ohio as of 2011–– without access to the internet on a regular basis is “Approximately 124,000 adult Ohioans living in rural Appalachia” whom “cannot get broadband service, or they cannot get service that is fast enough to meet their needs.”

How can we discuss the importance of the inclusion of excluded groups without also speaking about who it is with the access to the information to begin with? Shouldn’t we also look into the object itself and what it is representing? How can we give those who were silenced a voice if they do not have access to the space?


Works Cited

Earhart, Amy E. “Can Information Be Unfettered? Race and the New Digital Humanities Canon.” Debates in the Digital Humanities. Web.

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Armstrong, Blog Post Week 2: Assigning Credit

“discussions have tended to focus primarily on establishing digital work as equivalent to print publications [in order] to make it count instead of considering how digital scholarship might transform knowledge-making practices” (Purdy and Walker 178).

“Fair evaluation of collaborative digital scholarship can only function within a complex network of responsibilities” (171).

I think this assertion was what I took away most from this Nowviskie article. In part because I was so intrigued by the Purdy and Walker quote above mentioned at the beginning of her article. As much as this was discussing the proper crediting of collaborators and the implications of that in DH, it was just as much, in my mind, about the crediting of DH to begin with. Not necessarily in the way that Purdy and Walker discussed in the first part of the quote, about some sort of equivocation to equal a standard accepted method, but in a more nuanced way.

This crediting came from the way that DH is being discussed in panels, from the way Nowviskie discusses it in her article, how seriously and complexly it has been looked at and ways in which there are already demands on departments (even if it is an abstract discussion for some) to take these issues seriously.

I’m interested in how this article both breaks and follows traditional academic power structures. While it is trying to expand the ways in which DH is accepted, it is still having to become accepted by those higher academic powers; it is having to legitimize itself before being accepted as legitimate. I think the thought and movement towards a responsibility within the community makes it legitimate already, and I wonder how this fits into the discussion within the community. How is this discussed within departments?


Works Cited

Nowviskie, Bethany. “Where Credit is Due: Preconditions for the Evaluation of Collaborative Digital Scholarship.” Profession 2011.1 (2011). Web.

Purdy, James P., and Joyce R. Walker. “Valuing Digital Scholarship: Exploring the Changing Realities of Intellectual Work.” Profession (2010): 177–95. Print.

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