SPECIAL SESSION PROPOSAL: Digital Humanities and Internet Research
PhD Student in Rhetoric & Writing
Department of Writing, Rhetoric, & American Cultures
269 Ernst Bessey Hall
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824-1033
Robin Anne Reid
Professor, Literature and Languages
Texas A&M University-Commerce
Commerce, TX 75429
co-author: Dr. Lucy Pickering (not attending/presenting)
Visiting Assistant Professor
Emerging Media and Communication
The University of Texas at Dallas
800 West Campbell Road
Mail Stop JO31
AV NEEDS: Projector, screen
Part 1: Scholars' Info
Robin Anne Reid, Ph.D.(panelist), is a professor in Literature and Languages department. Her specializations include creative writing, new media, critical theory, and fantastic literatures. She is currently working with computer science faculty and linguists on a conceptual search engine and multimodal corpus project. Her primary internet scholarship involves corpus and sociolinguistic work on debates about racism in online media fandom, and she is the co-editor of a special Race, Ethnicity, and Fandom edition of an online peer-reviewed journal of fan studies, Transformative Works and Culture. She has published poetry, critical books on Arthur C. Clarke and Ray Bradbury, and edited the first encyclopedia on women in science fiction and fantasy (Greenwood 2008). Her fan studies work includes publications on fan archives, selected fan fictions, debates about types of fan fiction (female/female slash, real people slash), and racism debates in fandom.
John Jones, Ph.D. (presider and panelist), is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Emerging Media and Communication Program at the University of Texas at Dallas and will join the Professional Writing and Editing program at West Virginia University in the fall as an Assistant Professor. Jones recently received his Ph.D. in English with concentrations in Digital Literacies & Literatures and Rhetoric from the University of Texas at Austin. His dissertation, _Embodied Rhetoric: Memory and Delivery in Networked Writing_ examines three case studies of networked writing on Twitter, examining thousands of Twitter messages. Jones has previously published on the ways that wiki software influences the revision practices of Wikipedia editors and the influence of network structures on rhetorical practice.
Jennifer Sano-Franchini is a third-year PhD student in Rhetoric & Writing at Michigan State University. She also teaches first-year writing in the Department of Writing, Rhetoric, & American Cultures, and she is a graduate fellow with the Cultural Heritage Informatics Initiative. Her research interests include rhetorics of time, Asian American rhetoric, digital humanities, and the intersection of cultural and digital rhetorics.
Part 2: Detailed Description of Session
Humanities has been slow to recognize the potential of text produced by users on the internet perhaps because of the vast amount of data that is not easily accessed using traditional humanities methodologies. New work in digital humanities allows the chance for scholars in humanities and digital specializations to create interdisciplinary relationships to shape new tools and methodologies specific to the needs of humanities scholars (Hoffman, 2007). THe new tools and methodologies must also deal with new types of problems presented by the combination of permanence and loss that accompany most digital research.
Technological changes like the development of the internet and Web 2.0 have led to ongoing debates in the humanities with regards to changing models of knowledge production (Ball;
Unsworth, et al.; Johnson, et al.). More traditional models of knowledge production, generally consisting of single-authors doing research individually, using alphabetic text in print journals or books with slow turnover, contrast markedly from more recent developments in the humanities including online, open-access journals, unconferences, and collaborative research, which are characterized by use of a range of digital media, widespread collaboration, greater access, and rapid circulation of knowledge. In this and other ways, technological development has required that we reassess the way we understand how we do research and how we teach it to our students. This disciplinary panel discusses specific methods of dealing with problems in digital humanities research and the implications for how we teach research to our students.
Robin Anne Reid discusses an innovative collaborative project between computer scientists working in data retrieval and humanities scholars working in linguistics and rhetoric which will focus on sharing expertise in interdisciplinary methodologies of analyzing data between on-site computer science and humanities scholars and developing an initial prototype of a conceptual search engine and a multimodal corpus of texts from online communities which will illustrate how methods of data retrieval in computer science can be applied to the specific concerns of humanities scholars. This project addresses existing probolems in corpus linguistics and corpus stylistics that utilize and prioritize language analysis based on databases of collected samples of language created in natural language situations. These databases, or corpora, can be based on transcriptions of spoken language, or scans of printed or published works. However, corpora have not typically included language directly culled from postings by internet users; neither has corpus linguistics conceptualized the internet as a pre-existing immense corpus in its own right comprising textual, graphic and audio files existing on multiple social networks and blogs. This is in large part because, given the scope and complexity of the internet, it cannot yet be searched and analyzed in the same way that a controlled corpus text database can be using available tools.
John Jones draws on his work in Twitter research that he has conducted over the past two years to explain techniques and tools for collecting information from Twitter and other social networking sites—Twitter search, Twitter API, TwapperKeeper—while pointing out the ephemeral nature of many of these techniques. For example, changes in the Twitter API and terms of service have lead to the Twitter archive TwapperKeeper being shut down, while other limitations make it largely impossible to access Twitter data that is more than three months old. He points out the difficulties in archiving and sharing collected data in such a way that makes it accessible to reviewers and other researchers and ends by looking at how collecting data and reassembling it for research purposes fundamentally changes the data itself. While historians and ethnographic researchers have always had to deal with the fact that they have a view of their research that isn't accessible to the subjects they are studying, digital research often deals fundamentally with the representation of texts and other artifacts in different media environments. Representing data in new ways gives researchers unique insights into that data, but fundamentally changes it from the artifacts that would be familiar to its original readers. Jones concludes by arguing that digital technologies present researchers with powerful new tools for studying culture and literature, but also present significant new challenges to that research.
Jennifer Sano-Franchini looks ahead, discussing a web-based project that utilizes open source content management systems to develop a resource for college-level writing students and instructors usingcontent management systems like Drupal and Wordpress which offer a way for scholars in the digital humanities to organize the vast amounts of information available on the web for research purposes. The rationales for this project are twofold: 1) that shifts in the broader Academy about how we understand research should come with reconsiderations about what we teach students about research; and 2) that huge changes in information accessibility warrant changes in the way we teach students to do research. Scholarship on how digital technology and the internet impact the way students think and process information on fundamental levels (DeVoss & Porter; Johnson-Eilola; Prensky; Selfe & Hawisher; Selfe & Selfe; Slatin) has created a major point of discussion in education onw how students today “pay attention” differently from students of the past. This project exhibits a way to facilitate student research differently amidst these changing realities and with a mind open to the possible advantages of using digital technology to do so Furthermore, while the primary goal of the project is to facilitate student research and writing instruction, its larger purpose is to facilitate more collaborative understandings of writing, research, and knowledge-production. This project does this through an interface that enables user-contributed links and user participation across institutional and geographical boundaries. Through this project, users will be encouraged to freely draw from others’ work (while, of course, citing their sources), work together to build bodies of knowledge, and add to larger conversations by discussing issues pertinent to those bodies of knowledge.
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