Disstraction?

I’ve refurbished the exam notes blog, Exam Sitting, and converted it to a
dissertation blog. I suppose I’ll use it to post notes and other gems of
speculation. I’ve never dissertated before, so it’s not entirely clear yet
just how useful such entries will be. All the same, I’m convinced of the
benefits that carried over from the exam note-keeping to the performance of the
exams themselves. And I appreciate that some processual transparency
allows others who might be interested in such a thing to see into what I’m
working on, what I’m thinking about. It also introduces a mild, supportive
form of accountability in that everything I do there is out in the open for my
committee to follow as they see fit.

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C’mon, Pokey

I finally got around to reading Lindsay Waters’ CHE diatribe against
Moretti’s work on abstract models and literary studies. I know, it took me
long enough. Collin
mentioned
the article, titled

"Time For Reading,"
almost two weeks ago, and The Valve‘s Bill Benzon
posted

his thoughts
on Waters last Tuesday. Rather than sum up the other
entries here, I’ll put the links in place and move along to a couple of my
reactions.

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An Account

Latour, in ch. 5 of Reassembling, writes this of "slowciological"
accounts:

What is an account? It is typically a text, a small ream of paper a few
millimeters thick that is darkened by a laser beam. It may contain 10,000
words and be read by very few people, often only a dozen or a few hundred if
we are really fortunate. A 50,000 word thesis might be read by a half a
dozen people (if you are lucky, even your PhD advisor would have read parts
of it!) and when I say ‘read’, it does not mean ‘understood’, ‘put to use’,
‘quoted’, ‘shelved somewhere in a pile’. At best we add an account to all
those which are simultaneously launched in the domain we have been studying.
Of course, this study is never complete. We start in the middle of things,
in medias res, pressed by our colleagues, pushed by fellowships,
starved for money, strangled by deadlines. And most of the things we have
been studying, we have ignored or misunderstood. (122)

Even if I don’t choose this as the epigraph to the preface to the rough draft
of my dissertation prospectus, I find it to be an encouraging and humorous
characterization of the phase that lies ahead. And this is to say nothing of
Reassembling
seeming one of the more important (read smart, even riveting)
books I’ve picked up in recent months. Well, right, I am being sort of pokey in
crawling through it, the way an aspiring slowciologist of associations should.

Text to Map

Two
recent


entries
drew my attention to the Gutenkarte
project
, a series of scripts and processes that renders place-names
appearing in a given text and locates them on
a map. The Gutenkarte site announces
future plans for the project, including a wiki-like annotation add-on that will
enable a group of users to collaborate in expanding the place-name information
and related contextual relevance (one day to include digital images and video?).
The project bears many similarities to Franco Moretti’s survey of the shifting
geographies of village life in the nineteenth century. Moretti’s analysis often
moves beyond standard place-names to include positions of and distances between
people and things known to be in particular places. These he distinguishes as
geometries; plotted, they are more like diagrams than maps, he tells us (54).
The Gutenkarte project is not yet as refined as Moretti’s work; mining a text
for toponyms depends on the database’s tolerance place-name ambiguity and
spelling variations (among other things I probably don’t understand). Still,
despite the obvious limitations, the motives underlying Gutenkarte present an
affirmative answer to one of Moretti’s guiding questions, "Do maps add anything,
to our knowledge of literature?" (35), even if it is being applied to literary
texts from the Gutenberg Project for now.

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As Graphs

In with the URL, out
with this: an
html-tags-as-graphs
approximation of this page.  Movable Type is
responsible for much of the structure. Still, there you have it–a good (and
mighty granular) example of computational methods and visualization combined to
offer up a projection of a localized complex. It looks to me like a dragon fly
(or maybe a cluster map of the dissertation I will one day write).


http://www.earthwidemoth.com/mt/

And. Also.

Methodography

I haven’t looked very far into this, but I wanted to register this first
entry under EWM’s newest category: Method.  Method: what a fine
category label, eh?  That’ll put a Full Nielson on Unsuspecting’s
attention, was my thought.  Beats Mothoi…Methodoosies…Meth(odd)inks….

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