Digital Humanities Forum 2014
Nodes & Networks in the Humanities:
Geometries, Relationships, Processes
September 12 & 13, 2014
Registration for the Workshops is now closed. Please feel free to attend the keynote talks and Saturday paper sessions.
Erin Bauer, Claremont Graduate University
The Digital Network as Modern Cultural Community: Electronic Modes of Personal Belonging for International Conjunto Musicians
From the initial influence of European salon music and introduction of the button accordion in the second half of the nineteenth century, conjunto music has developed in South Texas as a unique and popular form of regional dance music, historically forming a powerful symbol of cultural identity among the rural, working-class Texas-Mexican border community. Yet, in recent years, due in large part to the global, primarily digital distribution of indigenous recordings through electronic entertainment platforms such as YouTube, as well as increasingly effortless digital methods of communication through email and social media sites, what was traditionally a highly localized creative genre has been steadily adopted throughout the world, creating a newfound sense of personal belonging for international musicians and an “imagined” artistic community accessible only through electronic modes of cultural dissemination.
Most international conjunto artists have taught themselves by listening to regional, often digital recordings and watching videos through electronic platforms like YouTube. The Japanese conjunto musician Kenji Katsube also took advantage of modern technology to teach himself to play, explaining, “I got equipment that slowed the music down.” For more recent international musicians, such as Dwayne Verheyden of the Netherlands, the increasing ease of electronic access to the Texas-Mexican border community has further enhanced contemporary participation in the regional identity far beyond historic notions of ethnicity, language, and location. For Verheyden, the participation in the digital community has resulted in full acceptance within the physical, regional community. For example, when a legendary local artist revealed the end of his solo recording career in 2009, asked who could fill his shoes, he responded, “there are many imitators and sound-a-likes, but none can compare to Dwayne Verheyden; and he's from the Netherlands.” In addition, the contemporary careers of international artists are often built through the digital network, enabling performers from around the world to share their music with important regional audiences.
In an increasingly postnational world, historic constructions of indigenous identity become separated from individual race, class, language, and location. Instead, closely connected to the traditional conjunto community through unprecedented technological means, international musicians choose a corresponding cultural identity based on familiar socioeconomic, stylistic, and wistfully familial backgrounds, as well as purely aesthetic attractions, and often largely disconnected from more conventional geographic and hereditary considerations. This external participation in the regional tradition does not detract from local concepts of identity, or really even contribute to Texas-Mexican artistic practices in a noticeable way, but it does provide a sense of belonging for musicians caught outside of an appropriate creative community, demonstrating that, in the contemporary, highly interconnected digital world, common musical practices experienced through electronic modes of communication often have more influence over imagined identities than more traditional cultural considerations. In considering the contemporary destabilization of cultural identity in the wake of widespread modern globalization, digital networks can therefore serve to rearticulate a sense of belonging for musicians accessible only through new forms of electronic dissemination.
James Coltrain, University of Nebraska
Connecting Digital Humanities Data with the Scholarly 3D Toolkit
New advances in online game engines have made it possible to easily view 3D virtual environments from any web browser, but the full potential of 3D humanities research has gone unrealized because of the difficulty in connecting important 3D findings to the work of traditional scholars grounded in texts. This presentation will discuss the current development and show demonstrations of the Scholarly 3D Toolkit, (S3DT) a plug-in for the Unity game engine designed to help better interface 3D historical reconstructions with other data. The work of a team lead by James Coltrain, S3DT will provide simple interfaces that allow creators to link their 3D scenes to sources and documents, and to dynamically import and view traditionally indexed digital humanities data from databases, spreadsheets, or GIS programs. The result will allow users to view multiple layers of data plotted within a single online 3D environment, showing markers for events, personal connections, documents, images, and annotations from multiple users, all in time and space. S3TD will allow for greater and more sophisticated interdisciplinary analysis, helping scholars studying three dimensional spaces to contextualize models of architecture, urban structures, and natural topography using texts and other spatial data. By comparing existing digital humanities findings with 3D scenes that show scale, light, and texture, the platform will allow for more complex and nuanced investigations of past spaces. Along with a discussion of the project’s progress and the theoretical questions at play, this presentation will show early demos of a test case for the platform. These will include a richly annotated high quality 3D reconstruction of Fort Stanwix, an 18th-century historic site and National Monument, with an existing database constructed by Nebraska undergraduates of over 400 letters, maps, and plans.
Melanie Conroy, University of Memphis
Networks In Literary History: The Salons Project
So far the digital humanities that goes in literature departments has been primarily textual: text-mining, topic modeling, etc. Networks and network analysis have been used primarily in digital history. Yet networks have much to offer literary critics—both literary historians and critics who specialize in character and narrative structures (narratology). How can we use more rigorous concepts from network analysis to complement traditional literary studies approaches like the study of poetic circles, theater groups, and publishing collectives? This paper discusses some methods and tools that can be used from network analysis to do literary research. Drawing upon my experience as lead investigator for The Salons Project, a part of Stanford University’s Mapping the Republic of Letters (http://republicofletters.stanford.edu/casestudies/salons.html), I will discuss strategies for literary scholars and research collectives to make use of networks and linked data (also known as the semantic web). Working with an international team of scholars, mostly from North America and Europe, over long distances and timeframes, I am drawing a map of Europe’s salons over a 400-year period. Such a vast project would be impossible to complete without concepts from network theory or access to linked data resources.
I will speak briefly about The Salons Project as an example of a mid-scale digital humanities project in literature. What we seek to do is to chart the movements of individuals between literary salons (as well as works premiered and discussed in literary salons) will reveal underlying patterns in movement between salons and overlaps between salons that individual researchers are not able to perceive. The end goal is to redraw the map of European literary movements as dynamic social phenomena rather than the source of rigid, ideological identifiers like Romantic or Decadent by considering the social connections between authors, artists, and others, primarily through the salons but also through academies and clubs. I will then discuss linked data resources available (VIAF, ULAN) for humanities scholars to tap into already existing data sources. Finally, I will show how we use network visualization tools like Gephi and Palladio (http://palladio.designhumanities.org) to show the change in networks like salons over time and distances.
John Hott, University of Virginia
Evolving Social Structures: Networks with People as the Edges
Often social networks depict people as the nodes of the graph, with relationships among them as the edges. In this paper we will discuss networks in which social structures are represented as the nodes and the relationships, i.e., edges, between those structures are the individuals in the specific social context. Equally important is that we consider the social structures to be evolving structures, having implications on the characteristics of the overall network. Of course, the network as a whole also represents a social structure, but at a different level of granularity.
The characteristics of such networks only have humanistic salience in the context of specific human activities: only when applied in a human context. For this paper the primary motivating context will be the marriage structures in the early Mormon church. This dataset provides rich, evolutionary social structures: plural marriages, or marriage units, change over time as wives are married and divorced, children are born, and other members adopted.
While typical diagrams easily represent binary relationships, such as a marriage between individuals, linking children, adoptees, and other participants to marriages becomes difficult. Using hyperedges provides one solution to this problem: any number of nodes may be connected by one hyperedge relationship. However, these connections fail to fully express the intricacies of the social connection between those individuals. By capturing the social structures into evolving nodes, we can better examine those relationships on a micro level -- intra-marriage changes, as well as the macro level -- inter-marriage social interconnectedness of the community.
We use the term "evolving" to indicate that the node represents an identifiable social structure, e.g., a particular marriage, yet that structure is changing in non-trivial ways. Thus, there is an identity captured by the node that is maintained across various forms of human activity that affect important aspects of the represented structure. The resulting networks will have dynamic qualities that we anticipate to be representative of the progression of human activities in our motivating context.
We will present new visualizations of such networks of evolving socialstructures, by bringing together two concepts: chord (1) and Sankey (2) diagrams. Chord diagrams provide a detailed view of individual evolving structures, such as individual marriage units. Specifically, we can use this diagram to depict the state of a marriage at one particular point in time in a 2D representation that is then expanded to depict the evolving marriage structure from its conception to the death of all members. The Sankey diagram provides a method for joining the individual chord diagrams into a comprehensive social network: an identifiable marriage at each node with the edges between these nodes being the people that constitute the groups.
Individuals connect, in a directed flow, the marriage of their birth to their own marriage as an adult. We may therefore analyze this network for familial and ancestral structure in more intuitive ways. Patriarchal lineage can be followed as the flow from one patriarch through the marriage units by examining the male edges throughout the network.
Hannah Jacobs, King's College London
The New Woman Network: Visualizing the Discursive Development of a Feminist Ideal
“‘The woman’s movement of this age is the most momentous event that has ever disturbed the sleep of the conservative,’” The Woman’s Herald quotes of a Mr. Ham speaking at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, “‘Without warning woman suddenly appears on the scene of man’s activities, as a sort of new creation, and demands a share in the struggles, the responsibilities, and the honours of the world.’” (1893, pg. 410) This “New Woman,” as she came to be known first in Sarah Grand’s The Heavenly Twins (1893), became a hotly debated topic in 1890s periodicals. (Bland, 1995, p. 144, fn. 64) The New Woman’s rise to prominence among the various discussions regarding women at the fin de siècle can be attributed largely to articles such as that in The Woman’s Herald and essays appearing in contemporary magazines. It is in these articles and essays, published throughout the British Empire and across the United States, that definitions of the New Woman are most directly constructed and disputed.
Examination and comparison of these writings using digital methods grounded in traditional humanities scholarship reveals not only the term’s multiplicity of meanings but also the discursive network that can be traced through its various interpretations. Influenced by the periodicals in which the writings were published, the locations of those periodicals’ publications and audiences, the dates when the writings were published, and the writers who created them, this network is most manifest in the words used to define the New Woman. Indeed, the words themselves in their frequency or aberrance, their physical syntactical relationship to the term "New Woman", provide evidence both of the existence of such a network and of the network’s structure as characterized by the term’s change over time, across space, and between publications.
This project investigates the New Woman network using text analysis and offers strategies for studying such a discursive network through information visualizations. These conceptualizations facilitate analyses of the various New Woman definitions and their connections to one another by presenting a visual narrative of how this web of ideas formed and functioned. A variety of formats, including maps, timelines, and graphs, allows readers to see both the overall narrative arc and particular episodes that demonstrate the New Woman’s evolution through the words used to describe her and the contexts in which they appear.
The underlying question this project examines, “Who is the New Woman?”, is one of historical, sociological, and literary significance that has been studied by a number of late twentieth- and early twenty-first-century scholars. Yet this study sheds new light on the New Woman as debated in journalism by regarding it as a continually changing term whose variations are connected through a network that can be effectively discerned through visualizations.
This paper draws on this student’s research being conducted for her 2014 Master of Arts in Digital Humanities dissertation.
Anon (1893) Social Standing of the ‘New Woman’. The Woman’s Herald (26) p.410.
Bland, L. (1995) Banishing the Beast: English Feminism and Sexual Morality 1885-1914. London: Penguin Books.
Lauren Kersey, Saint Louis University
Less is More: The Pursuit of Gestalts in Minimalism and Knowledge Discovery in Databases
As cultural marketplaces become increasingly saturated and fragmented, new forms emerge to compress, sort, and efficiently deliver messages. Minimalism, from the visual arts, and Knowledge Discovery in Databases (KDD), from the computer sciences, developed in tandem in response to this common pressure. This paper links these two movements from their origins to the present day to show how KDD appropriates principles and design elements from minimalism for competing purposes.
Minimalism developed in the United States during the 1960s and 1970s. These works countered what they saw as consumerist impulses fueled by subjective forms of self-expression. Donald Judd’s arrays of freestanding boxes typify this movement. They reduce expression to essential conditions: the expressive object’s internal relationships involving basic materials, proportions, and the arrangement of simple geometric figures like lines and planes along with the object’s interactions with external elements like light and viewers’ positions within surrounding space.
Around the same time computer scientists invented integrated circuit-chips and microprocessors that facilitated networks of personal computers. This Web accelerated the output and the fragmentation of human expression to such a degree that traditional centers of control struggled to monitor and regulate increasingly niche sub-communities. Thus, marketing firms became early investors in KDD: the process of discovering and displaying useful knowledge from large volumes of data. Since then, humanists have adapted KDD to condense literary corpuses into essential patterns and models. Specifically, KDD applies frequency thresholds to identify a corpus’s essential lexical materials. Analysts then identify the unique proportions of these materials by comparing one corpus to another through classification or clustering algorithms. Finally, the interpretive stage represents these essential materials and proportions as simple geometric shapes.
Like minimalist art, KDD aims to be literal and holistic. Consider either Donald Judd’s boxes or a multidimensional, cube-shaped graph that reduces novels to data points. Its purpose is not to express the creator’s internal psychology or an external reality beyond the factual existence of the basic conditions for that aesthetic object itself. Both projects are holistic in that they suppress detail to pursue what Robert Morris called the gestalt: objects that “offer maximum resistance to perceptual separation” which force viewers to see the whole before or in synchrony with individual parts. In so doing, viewers account for individual relationships, later changes, and their own subjective roles in the object’s manifestation. Viewers who walk around Judd’s boxes are aware of their limited and shifting viewpoints because they have a preexisting image of the object in its abstract entirety. Analysts who condense literary history into gestalts are aware of their limited and shifting positions because they have a preexisting image of literary history in its abstract entirety.
By surveying Franco Moretti, Matthew Jockers, and Google’s Ngram Viewer, this paper explores how KDD’s capitalist and anti-capitalist heritage influences these projects. In particular, it asks whether their visuals allow viewers to interact and experiment with the complicated networks that make up literature and culture or whether they disempower communities by presenting these conditions as empirical, constant, and impermeable.
Rennie Mapp, University of Virginia
Documentary Social Networks and Narrative Structure in Enchanters of Men: Visualizing the Synchronic and Diachronic based on Alison Booth’s Collective Biographies of Women
In Ethel Colburne Mayne’s work of collective biography, Enchanters of Men (1909), she narrates the erotic adventures of twenty-three “worldly” women from five centuries of history. She tells their stories elliptically and out of chronological order, with many narratorial interventions that cast doubt on the verifiability of the historical record and the reliability of previous biographers. Mayne’s narrative disarray and self-subversion as historiographer have the effect of pinpointing specific yet unnarrated moments of female desire, by enveloping them in fully narrated passages of sexual conquest, notoriety, and humiliation.
This presentation will situate the subjects of Mayne’s erotic prosopography within what Alison Booth calls their “documentary social networks.” A documentary social network ist he constellation of biographical subjects—usually signified by proper names—that share space on a prosopography’s table of contents page and function as respective foci of its individual chapters. This constellation may also be conceived as the more extended network of documentary social connections seen when each biographical subject is linked in a network visualization to the other volumes of collective biography in which she appears. These second-order networks are revealing in ways significant to feminist historians, biographers, and narrative theorists, not least because, as Booth points out in her 2004 How to Make It as a Woman, collective biography is a historically significant but often unrecognized form of writing about women: “Catalogs of notable women have flourished in plain view for centuries, while generation after generation laments the absence of women of the past” (Booth 2004, 3).
The individual subjects of Enchanters of Men exist in a documentary social network of biographical subjects that are described as “adventuresses” in Booth’s online digital humanities project, Collective Biographies of Women (CBW), hosted by the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities at the University of Virginia, and for which I am the project manager. CBW comprises (1) an exhaustive bibliography of the more than 1200 collective biographies of women published in English, (2) a database of all these collective biographies, searchable to reveal documentary social networks (among other data), and (3) a sample set of archives of TEI texts of these collective biographies, marked up with Booth’s stand-aside XML narratological schema, known as BESS (Biographical Elements and Structure Schema). Thus CBW offers a unique opportunity to explore connections between feminist narrative theory and social networks as conceived in prosopographical form.
CBW is in part a work of feminist recuperation. I will suggest that Mayne’s convoluted biographical narratives reveal a recuperation project of her own, focused on historical women whose erotic exploits enabled ambition and dominance. Booth also argues that “group biohistoriography or prosopography has been instrumental in constructing modern subjectivities” (12), a claim that bears particular relevance for Mayne, whose editorial position at The Yellow Book and her position in a network of British Modernist intellectuals and artists suggests that her experimental, reader-resistant prose deserves reconsideration as a Modernist project of innovation in the representation of female subjectivity. For “Nodes & Networks in the Humanities: Geometries, Relationships, Processes,” I propose to present CBW-derived visualizations of subjectivity along synchronic and diachronic axes. Far from offering mere “fetish objects for the Digital Humanities,” I hope to show revolutionary ways of describing and analyzing the relation between between narrative process, genre, and networked subjectivities.
Kathryn Tomasek, Wheaton College
Applying Network Vizualization: Women and Socialism in the 1840s U.S.
This paper focuses on networks of women who advocated a popular movement for social and economic reform in the United States during the 1840s. Simple observation of the periodical press and letters exchanged amongst these women suggests that women’s participation in the movement for Fourierist Association overlapped significantly with that in other reform movements of the period. The paper present results from trials that apply the theories of Bruno Latour using R and Gephi. It concludes with some ideas about publication of scholarship that includes animation and interactive applications of visualizations. For historians and other humanists, it considers the question: How network visualization expand our understanding of Fourierist Association, antebellum reform, and the movement for women’s rights in the nineteenth-century United States?
Amy Ash and Callista Buchen, University of Kansas
Ode to the Node: Networks, Collaborative Authoring, and Contemporary Creative Writing
While collaborative writing has always existed in various forms, traditionally, writing has been seen as an isolated act by an individual author. Many contemporary writers are challenging this notion by composing collaboratively, often relying on networks to facilitate communication across space and time. This form of collaborative authoring engages in innovative developments in communication in a networked world and challenges the processes of identity in the networked environment by broadening often limited concepts of authorial identity and inviting readers to reimagine poems as networked spaces.
This poster will address how networks facilitate the composition of creative work through crowd-sourcing as a means to composition, for example, and how the realities of collaborative composition often necessitate the use of networks such as email, text messaging, and instant messaging. Beyond composition, the network is essential to the distribution, presentation and reception of a collaboratively authored work, with many internet-based, multi-media journals relying on submittable, email, facebook, twitter, and tumblr to create conversations and to broaden their reach.
Additionally, the panel will consider digital authorship and collaborative writing through which collaborators release and reconstruct identity, and the relationship of collaborative poems to nodes and networks.
Morgan Condello, Ross Harrison, Jennifer Isasi, Alex Kinnaman, Ashanka Kumari, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Literary Lab
A Methodology for Character Networks at the Macroanalytical Level
We present a methodology that combines different techniques borrowed from computer science and the humanities in order to analyze character networks in a corpus of 1,800 British and American novels dating from 1849-1899 from a statistical standpoint.1 This methodology consists of three stages: preprocessing, locating characters, and associating characters. Using this technique, interactive visualizations of character networks are also produced.
Franco Moretti, Alexander G. Sack, G. M. Park, and other humanists have presented different approaches to network analysis. While these studies increase our understanding of character networks, we noticed these analyses tend to focus on smaller corpora or individual novels. Using their studies as our starting point, we try to understand characters at a macroanalytical level.
After testing our data and drawing some conclusions regarding authors’ gender and authors’ nationalities at a broad level, we have created a reliable methodology that can produce character data and be applied to future in-depth studies of character networks.
Steven Duval, Rebecca Blocksome and Dana Atwood-Blaine, University of Kansas
'Performing History': a location-based, augmented reality game spanning space, time and disciplinary knowledge.
The Arts Research Collaboration initiative (ARC) at the Spencer Museum of Art aims to explore the implications of a world marked by rapidly evolving technologies that transform all aspects of our lives—cultural, biological, and psychological—and pose complex challenges requiring novel approaches across the arts, humanities, technology, and the sciences. ARC brings together researchers from the Spencer Museum, Biodiversity Institute, Information Technology & Telecommunications Center, and Visual Art Department at KU, as well as external scholars from across the United States and internationally, to develop shared research questions and build new networks for collaborative work.
In collaboration with Sarah Thiel, head of KU Libraries’ Center for Community/Affiliate Initiatives and Engagement, we are creating an exhibition about ARC that will be featured in the Watson Library gallery space during the fall 2014 semester. The exhibition will consist of five vitrines housing material related to projects that ARC is currently developing. For the Digital Humanities Forum, we are proposing a session similar to a poster session that would take place in the actual exhibition space at the Library, using the exhibition contents (posters, books, photographs, etc.) as our visual referents. Our presentation will tie in with the DH Forum theme “collaborative scholarly networks across space, time, and disciplinary knowledge”; it will focus on a location-based, augmented reality game for mobile devices called “Performing History.”
Performing History will guide users across the urban terrain of Lawrence and allow them to interact virtually with more than 150 years of the city’s social history. Users will choose a historically based identity to embody as they engage with environments in the present and in the past. We intend to build this game on the Augmented Reality and Interactive Storytelling (ARIS) platform developed by the University of Wisconsin at Madison. The ARIS platform allows us to weave together narratives from discrete points in the physical and temporal space of Lawrence. There will be four characters, each with her/his own narrative thread, for a given time period in Lawrence history. We anticipate developing narratives for four different time periods, with each narrative incorporating approximately 20 physical sites throughout the city. Some sites will be integrated into multiple narratives, giving players the opportunity to interact virtually with players exploring other time periods. In keeping with the ARC initiative’s aims, the game has been conceived to bring together a wide variety of disciplinary perspectives on the subject of Lawrence social history. For this project, in addition to members of the Spencer’s curatorial team, we are working with Kansas Collection Librarian Sherry Williams, architectural historian Dennis Domer, historians Bill Tuttle and Kim Warren, psychologist Paul Atchley, and educational technologist Dana Atwood-Blaine.
While most of our presentation at the DH forum will focus on the development of “Performing History” within the ARC scholarly network, we will also have another game built on the ARIS platform that is integrated into the Watson Library exhibition. Thus, session participants will have the opportunity to try out the networking potential of the platform for themselves.
Meaghan Kelly, University of Kansas
Online Readerly Networks and Literatures with Impact: Using Goodreads.com as a Microcosm for Investigating Current and Future Audience Trends
The highest aspirations we have for literature mimic those we have for the internet: that, within it, we can find a place of belonging, purpose, and positive self-identity. On a fundamental level, these forms of media are both reflective of and influential on the evolution of our societal values and collective experience. The most prominent usage of the internet to satiate these types of needs are social networks. Social networking platforms should be used as research tools within the discussion of literatures with impact, particularly those operating within a Human Rights framework that have the long-term goal of providing a basis of knowledge upon which a readership might act. This is because the trends theorized within the Human Rights discourse community, ones largely discussing the lack of action and reader engagement with the texts, can be traced in the interactions, or lack thereof, on social media networks dedicated to the user-reader, an internet user who self-identifies as a reader and whose online activity cultivates and expresses said identity. This presentation draws upon current theoretical discussions of the audiences for Human Rights literature (Akin Adesokan, Allison Mackey), particularly the reader responses to child-soldier narratives, and establishes what is thought to be the current trend of inaction and complacency on the part of the Western reader. I then turn to the social media network, Goodreads.com, and establish it as a microcosm for the current audience complacency seen within the theoretical discussions. I do so by employing a research methodology based in qualitative data analysis, specifically by coding the written reviews and discussions on Goodreads.com using the aforementioned theoretical framework and synthesizing the results with content analysis. I present this research using visuals to assist my discussion, such as word frequency graphs. By using an audience-focused lens through which to view the data (Sonia Livingstone, Henry Jenkins), it becomes clear that the audience-as-public model under which many literatures are written and discussed is complicated through the collapsed contexts of modern social media and reflective of the current reader stagnancy. However, it is important to maintain optimism in this context, and the Human Rights literary community’s end goal is grounded in pragmatic application. Therefore, its literatures must employ strategic means to reach readers in a position to act. From this presentation, I conclude that authors and theorists of Human Rights literatures should use these online reader networks like Goodreads.com as a tool to presently measure audience engagement with the texts and provide a foundation to influence future writing. If civically-minded authors and theorists want to prioritize the pragmatic aspirations of the literatures they write and study, it would be pertinent to use these networks as resources for understanding current and future impact.
Miriam Peña-Pimentel, National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM)
The Knowledge Network of XVIIth Century Mexico: the Astronomy-Astrology Discussion
This poster shows the results from an experiment in which we structure the information obtained from 8 documents from New Spain in the second half of the XVIIth Century. All the documents discuss the nature of the comets. The data extraction focused on the bibliographical information from the original texts, and the references and quotes in them. We apply a graph structure to the data to obtain the visualizations of the knowledge network in which the main discussion is based: the nature of the comets. We believe that the results allow us to evaluate Trabulse's and Gutierrez Salas' hypotheses about the existence of a scientific criteria in the new world. The use of graphs allowed us to pinpoint the actual discussion based on the lectures and the authors involved in it, not only to made the results visible, but also to obtained significant conclusions about the knowledge network that frames this whole discussion.
Alex Stinson, Elizabeth Hoyt, Steven Kelly, Kansas State University
Accessing Blake’s Legacy: Semantic Mediawiki, Structured Data, and the Adaptations of Blake’s “The Tyger”
Like other major authors, William Blake’s work has been adapted and appropriated extensively within both “high” literary and popular culture contexts. These adapted texts have generated a significant amount of literary scholarship that examines their relationship to and place within the canonical works produced by Blake. Currently the scholarship and awareness of the adaptations is dispersed throughout a wide array of sources, including books, indexes, encyclopedia articles, and websites. Such fragmentation makes it difficult for researchers to create bibliographies and understand the scope of the knowledge available about those adaptations.
In Spring 2014, we piloted with Blake’s work an “Adaptation and Appropriation Database” (http://aadb.referata.com/wiki/Main_Page) to captures bibliographic information about Blake’s original works, various adaptations of those works, and the available online resources that can help readers understand the adaptations in context. By utilizing a Semantic MediaWiki platform, which allows us to use semantic metadata to generate and understand the relationships among all the collected bibliographic metadata, our resource allows users to create bibliographic lists based on the needs of their specific projects. This allows greater understanding of the types of adaptations and relationships created by adaptation techniques, thematic concerns, and source texts.
I will present how our pilot capturing adaptations and scholarship about Blake’s “The Tyger” allowed us to demonstrate the viability of a resource which can classify adaptations within a structured hierarchy, ranging from full-text, high-fidelity adaptations to small-scale allusions. I will explore the design choices, including how to create an environment for collaboration from both experts and non-experts, and the future of the project.
While the project is still in an early phase, it has the potential to be expanded in several different ways. First, the project, though largely bibliographic in the first stage, has the potential to create additional encyclopedic or annotated discussions of both the adaptations and the scholarship treating the adaptations. MediaWiki offers a suitable environment for doing this because it allows users to add additional elements to pages dynamically. Second, scholarship about Blake adaptations is extensive and there are plenty of opportunities for researching and indexing those topical areas. Third, beyond adaptations of Blake, scholarship in adaptation generally isn’t readily available in a central structured environment. By creating a robust platform that is built for collaboration and handling several users in dispersed environments (which is the central advantage of MediaWiki as a content management system), scholars or students at multiple institutions can collaborate in finding scholarship about adaptation and reviewing it as part of the bibliography.