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 | 5 January | What's a Prototype? What's Text?

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 text together?

Read: Kraus, "Finding Faultlines: An Approach to Speculative Design" and "Family of Subjunctive Practices" | Samuels and McGann, "Deformance and Interpretation" | McGann, "Texts in N-Dimensions and Interpretation in a New Key"

Background (no need to read any of these): Balsamo, "Design" | Barad, Meeting the Universe Halfway | Barthes, "From Work to Text" | Bolter and Grusin, Remediation | Bowker and Star, Sorting Things Out | Drucker and Nowviskie, "Speculative Computing" | Dunne and Raby, Speculative Everything | Guilford’s Alternative Uses Task | Jackson, "Rethinking Repair" | Kraus, "Conjectural Criticism" | Mitchell, "Addressing Media" | Moten, In The Break | Rosner and Ames, "Designing for Repair" | Sample, "Closed Bots and Green Bots" | Sayers, "Prototyping the Past" | Sedgwick, Touching Feeling | Sterling, "Design Fiction"

Week 2 | 12 January | Survey Some -Isms.

Between the 1870s and 1970s, what are some notable -isms operating across art, culture, and textual production? How were these -isms designed? How do their aesthetics and politics intertwine?

Read: Caws, "The Poetics of the Manifesto" | Chan, "Act Natural" | Matheson, "Ouliprototype" | Murphy, "Prototyping Personism" | 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.

Workshop (for Weeks 3-16): Sharing digital files for this seminar (FTP, GitHub, Drive, and Tumblr)

Week 3 | 19 January | Pick an -Ism.

What's your -ism?

We'll conduct presentations (five minutes each, plus Q&A) during this seminar meeting.

Notebook: Select an -ism you wish to study throughout the term as well as a key text (poem, manifesto, fiction) enacting that -ism. Ideally, this text will have charged design elements. Thoroughly describe the aesthetic (style, composition, materials), political (ideologies, representations, biases), and cultural (community, modes of expression) contexts of your text. Prepare a seminar presentation about your -ism. During the presentation, feel free to use the data projector, if you wish. You may wish to bring tactile materials for circulation, too. Include all relevant notes and materials for your presentation in your notebook.

Week 4 | 26 January | Make It an Image.

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

Read: Drucker, selections from Figuring the Word | Paglen, "Invisible Images (Your Pictures Are Looking at You)" | Internet Archive | Public Figures Face Database

Notebook: Digitize or acquire your text as a series of page images (TIFF, JPG, PNG). Put it in a context of use. Interpret it as an image.

Workshop (for next week): Intro to metadata (including Dublin Core)

Week 5 | 2 February | Make It Metadata.

When is text merely description? Or text about text? When is it infrastructure? What does metadata do aside from keeping things found?

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

Notebook: Articulate ten metadata fields for your text and provide data for each field. Put it in a context of use. Interpret the text as metadata.

Workshop (for next week): Converting text to ASCII and composing with HTML5

Week 6 | 9 February | Make It ASCII. Make It Markup.

What does plain text do? How is it processed? When and how does it get hyper?

Read: Nelson, Computer Lib / Dream Machines | Danet, "ASCII Art and Its Antecedents" | Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Art | Voyant

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

Workshop (for Week 8): Interpreting typefaces and fonts

Week 7 | 16 February | Make Nothing.

No seminar. Take a break. Refuse productivity.

Week 8 | 23 February | Make It a Booklet.

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

Read: Bringhurst, selections from The Elements of Typographic Style | Lupton, Thinking with Type

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

Workshop (for next week): Making forms

Week 9 | 2 March | 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: Gitelman, "A Short History of _____" | Library and Archives Canada: Politics and Government

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

Workshop (for next week): Bots and databending

Week 10 | 9 March | Make It Indeterminate.

How are texts what's missing? When and how do they break? How might their materiality surprise us? What happens if we accelerate their aging or compression?

Read: Craze, "In the Dead Letter Office" | Menkman, "Vernacular of File Formats" | Belojevic, "Circuit Bending" | Pipkin and Schmidt, withering.systems | Parrish, The Ephemerides | Kazemi, Corpora | Parrish, PyCorpora | Compton, Tracery

Notebook: Hide, mask, or erase aspects of your text. Put it in a context of use. Interpret it as a redaction. Now repeatedly compress and bend your text. Put it in another context of use. Interpret it as a glitch. If you wish, then feel free to turn your text into a bot, too.

Workshop (for next week): Recording sound and sonifying texts

Week 11 | 16 March | Make It Sound.

How are texts heard? Performed? How do they speak? Through which formats?

Read: Rodgers, "Approaching Sound" | Sterne, "The Meaning of a Format" | PennSound | UCSB Cylinder Audio Archive | Graham, "The Sound of Data"

Notebook: Convert your text into audio. Read it aloud and record the performance, sonify it, or cut it up. Put it in a context of use. Interpret it as sound.

Workshop (for next week): Presenting your work

Week 12 | 23 March | Make It ______.

We'll workshop your exercises and prototypes during this seminar meeting.

Notebook: It's your turn. Cook up your own exercise. Run an experiment for a new text. Put it in a context of use. Interpret the effects. Present them and your exercise during seminar. Include all relevant notes and materials for your presentation in your notebook.

Week 13 | 30 March | Make It a Presentation.

We'll conduct public presentations (five minutes each) during this seminar meeting.

Notebook: Present your prototyping work to UVic faculty, staff, and students. Include all relevant notes and materials for your presentation in your notebook.

Weeks 14-16 | 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 statement describing the effects of your various alterations. Please note: a cover statement is not a seminar paper or journal article. For the purposes of this seminar, it should describe, reflect, share, and project, not analyze, deconstruct, or interrogate.

Your portfolio is due by 20 April 2016.