English 508 @UVic

Digital Studies | Prototyping Texts

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Questioning the face value of texts. Prototyping what else they could be.

Week 1 | 4 January | Interpretation through Alteration

Why interpret texts by altering them? What are some low-tech approaches to prototyping and interpreting texts in a whiz-bang world? How do we think about design and fiction together?

Background: Balsamo, "Design" | Barad, Meeting the Universe Halfway | Drucker and Nowviskie, "Speculative Computing" | Dunne and Raby, Speculative Everything | Guilford’s Alternative Uses Task | Jackson, "Rethinking Repair" | Kraus, "Conjectural Criticism" | Moten, In The Break | Rosner and Ames, "Designing for Repair" | Sample, "Closed Bots and Green Bots" | Sterling, "Design Fiction" (no need to read any of these in advance)

Week 2 | 11 January | Survey Some -Isms.

Between the 1870s and 1970s, what are some notable -isms operating across art, culture, and politics? How were these -isms designed?

Workshop: Sharing digital files for this seminar (FTP, GitHub, Drive, Tumblr)

Read: Caws, "The Poetics of the Manifesto" | Digital Manifesto Archive | Modernist Journals Project

Notebook: Take notes on your general impressions of at least five -isms. Please attend to the politics and aesthetics of each -ism, with notes on the historical particulars of when each occurred and why.

Lecture on campus this week: Andrew Stauffer (English, University of Virginia)

Week 3 | 18 January | Pick an -Ism.

What's your -ism?

Workshop: In-class presentations (five minutes each, plus Q&A)

Notebook: Select an -ism you wish to study throughout the term as well as a key text (poem, manifesto, fiction) representing that -ism. Ideally, this text will have significant or notable design elements. Thoroughly describe the aesthetic (style, composition, materials), political (ideologies, representations, biases), and cultural (community, modes of expression) contexts of your text.

Week 4 | 25 January | Image It.

When is text also image? When do images resist translation into text? How are screens and pages entangled in interpretation?

Workshop: Intro to metadata (including Dublin Core)

Read: Selections from Drucker, Figuring the Word | Mitchell, "What Do Pictures 'Really' Want?"

Notebook: Digitize or acquire your text as a series of page images (TIFF, JPG, PNG). Interpret the text as an image on a screen.

Week 5 | 1 February | Make It Metadata.

When is text merely description? What does text about text do? What does metadata do beyond keeping things found?

Workshop: On ASCII and plain text; also, composing with HTML5

Read: Schnapp, "Small Data: The Intimate Lives of Cultural Objects"

Notebook: Articulate ten metadata fields for your text and provide data for each field. Interpret the text as metadata.

Week 6 | 8 February | Holiday

No seminar. This is Family Day.

Week 7 | 15 February | Make It ASCII. Mark It Up.

What does plain text do? How is it processed?

Workshop: On typefaces and fonts

Read: Selections from Tenen, Plain Text

Notebook: Generate an ASCII (or plain text) version of your text, removing all formatting. Interpret the text as plain text. Then encode your text in HTML5. Interpret it as markup.

Week 8 | 22 February | Change the Typeface. Print + Assemble It.

What is the relation between print and digital typography? How do we think about them together? How does typography invite readers?

Workshop: Making forms

Read: Selections from Bringhurst, The Elements of Typographic Style | See also, Lupton, Thinking with Type

Notebook: Change the typeface of your text, print it, and assemble it as a booklet. Interpret the text as type.

Week 9 | 29 February | Make It a Form.

When and why do texts become documents? How do they gather and store information? How do they exhibit traces of use?

Read: Selections from Gitelman, "A Short History of _____"

Notebook: Convert your text into a fillable form. Have at least three other people complete it. Interpret the text as a document.

Week 10 | 7 March | Reverse It.

How are texts also performances? How is text welded to reading?

Workshop: On bots and databending

Read: Samuels and McGann, "Deformance and Interpretation"

Notebook: Reverse the order of your text. Read it backward. Interpret the text as a performance.

Week 11 | 14 March | Redact It. Glitch It.

How are texts what's missing? How might their materiality surprise us? What happens if we accelerate their aging or compression?

Workshop: Ways to repair texts

Read: Craze, "In the Dead Letter Office" | Menkman, "Vernacular of File Formats"

Notebook: Hide, mask, or erase aspects of your text. Interpret the text as a redacted text. Now repeatedly compress and bend your text. Interpret the text as a glitch. If you wish, then feel free to turn your text into a bot, too.

Lecture on campus this week: Daniela Rosner (Human Centered Design and Engineering, University of Washington)

Week 12 | 21 March | Repair It.

How do we conduct reparative readings of texts? To what effect on legacies of suspicion in critical practice?

Workshop: Presenting your work

Read: Sedgwick, "Paranoid Reading and Reparative Reading"

Notebook: Repair your redacted, glitched text. Interpret the text as a repaired object.

Week 13 | 28 March | Holiday

No seminar. This is Easter Monday.

Week 14 | 4 April | ______ It.

It's your turn. Looking forward to hearing your ideas and seeing your prototypes!

Workshop: In-class presentations

Notebook: Cook up your own exercise. Run an experiment. Interpret the results. Present them during seminar.

Week 15 | Portfolio

Please compile all of your digital and tactile materials into a portfolio using an approach of your choice. With the portfolio, include a brief cover letter describing the effects of your various alterations. Please note: a cover letter is not a seminar paper or journal article. For the purposes of this seminar, it should describe, reflect, and project, not analyze, deconstruct, or interrogate.