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[…] been perusing an issue of Shakespeare Quarterly (SQ) called “Shakespeare and New Media.” In her introduction, the guest editor (Katherine Rowe) references Katherine Hayle’s comment regarding new media’s […]
[…]   Hope, Jonathan, and Michael Witmore. “The Hundredth Psalm to the Tune of ‘Green Sleeves’: Digital Approaches to Shakespeare’s Language of Genre.” Shakespeare Quarterly 61.3 (2010). Also available online. […]
[…] Hope and I participated in. We received some terrific feedback, mostly from Shakespeareans, on the article that was posted to Media Commons–feedback that helped us rewrite the essay for the print […]
[…] Dean of the Faculty of Information). I hoped to have time today to read Alan Galey’s essay “Networks of Deep Impression: Shakespeare and the History of Information,” a forthcoming special issue of the Shakespeare Quarterly, “Shakespeare and New Media,” […]
[…] 2010 the journal Shakespeare Quarterly devoted a whole issue to Shakespeare and New Media in which Whitney Anne Trettien, in her article Disciplining Digital Humanities, examined a series of current projects, such as The British Library’s Shakespeare Quartos […]
[…] for general comment and critique prior to final editorial evaluation. Please visit the essay here and make your views known. The abstract and title are as […]
[…] to Shakespeare’s Language of Genre.” Shakespeare Quarterly 61.3 (2010). Also available online. Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like […]
[…] by Laura Stevens as Editor of the Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature. Stevens weighs the crowd-sourcing experiment of Shakespeare Quarterly against maintaining a double-blind review process, and wonders whether it is even possible for […]
[…] experimental peer review fits nicely into broader efforts to change the peer review process (see this chart of other peer review approaches prepared by MediaCommons) and scholarly publishing in general. Groups like MediaCommons see […]
[…] the site, but I have written a long comment to the 25th paragraph of Andrew Murphy’s article, ‘Shakespeare goes digital’, outlining the advantages of our social media approach to Shakespeare in relation to the other […]
[…] Here, for those interested, is my response to Professor Andrew Murphy’s article in the Shakespeare Quarterly: […]
[…] that are, in a sense, built into the physical system of writing? I think people who are doing iterative criticism need to have an intelligent answer to this question and analysis of its underlying analogy. My […]
[…] mcpress.media-commons.org/ShakespeareQuarterly_NewMedia/hope-witmore-the-hundredth-ps… […]
[…] In this case, we learn that Docuscope is sensitive to human editorial intervention in texts. So sensitive, in fact, that it produced an almost complete clustering of Shakespeare’s plays in the larger group of 320 that we profiled in the online draft of our “Hundredth Psalm” article. […]
[…] Trettien, Disciplining Digital Humanities […]
[…] reviewers, whose labor is hidden in a closed review system. In a comment on the project as a whole, Linda Charnes proposes that the final edition of this issue could reflect the multiple forms that these […]
[…] an analysis of YouTube performances of Othello by Asian American students, Thompson decides not to release URLs or any other information that could be used to link the videos she describes to the students who […]
[…] criticism of Early Modern Drama and its Genres in the current Shakespeare Quarterly (available HERE for open review through MediaCommons). Their closing “provocation” includes a pretty […]
[…] a content platform, but also as an expressive medium in itself, as Whitney Trettien suggests in a 2010 article. What bothers a Romanian teacher and researcher, however, is the inaccessibility of the new digital […]
[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Trevor Munoz. Trevor Munoz said: Food for thought in points @whitneytrettien makes about DH in the comments at http://bit.ly/bzgRhP and http://bit.ly/dnplOX […]
[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Wynken de Worde. Wynken de Worde said: @colinclout12 Btw, if you want to read abt online Shk, good article by Andrew Murphy for SQ in draft at http://bit.ly/aXOKYc […]
[…] Witmore’s similar clustering studies using Docuscope. See also this draft version of Witmore and Hope’s forthcoming piece in Shakespeare […]
I think there is a missing reference for “this ‘high tragedy'”(presumably to Othello) in the first sentence of this paragraph.
Another little typo: a “to” is missing after “safe” and before “assume” in first sentence.
Thanks, Andy — I had missed the Smith piece, but will be sure to respond to it in my revisions. Agreed about the wartime context!
My intent here was to clarify Shannon’s terms since they’ve changed somewhat in their reception: signal and message aren’t the same thing in their theory, and the distinction was important to them. However, I’m not sure the point does much to help the reader here, and as you point out its oddness may be distracting.
Thanks, Martin — I like this even better than the Twain example.
Thanks for this thought-provoking comment, Jason, which is very much to the point. There’s been some interesting research on programming languages and human languages, especially in places like Russia and Brazil where there are lots of programmers. Of course, the value of programming languages and markup schemes, like any formalism, is the interplay between affordance and constraint. That’s why encoding assignments in classrooms can work well as intellectual exercises. It gets tricky, though, when one has to face the fact that there’s little point in encoding if you can’t share the results with others, which is where standards come in. It’s the classic DH trade-off.
Thanks, Andy — that’s a great question, and one to think about during revisions, to be sure.
One answer that comes to mind is that the idea of the single, definitive digital resource should be as untenable as the definitive Shakespeare edition. The ideal situation–at least for scholars, if not for publishers–will be a field where more than one digital project attacks the same problem from different angles. In other words, I’d like to see more digital projects that functioned like essays, and could readily be created and received as such. However, that would call for smaller projects and more focused collaborations–or more eclectic individual projects–which seems the opposite of where the field is going right now. Most of the discussion, in North America at least, seems focused on scaling the digital humanities up, not down.
Another answer might be that digital editions should start looking more like experiments again, as we imagined they would back in the nineties. Once we started actually building them, I think some of the adventurous spirit got lost along the way as best practices and funding models came into the picture. It’s strange to think that the printed Oxford Middleton is more experimental than many of the digital editions coming out at the same time.
Maybe the simplest answer is that if we recognize computing essentialism for what it is, then it’s not so much the how that would change in digital editing as the who. I like the idea that Shakespeareans interested in starting digital projects could undertake a lot of the code-level work themselves, rather than hiring information professionals to support them (and applying for the funding to do so, and restructuring their project to get the funding, and so on…). For this to be worth their time, however, the field has to recognize code work as valuable intellectual labour, and in turn the work has to be done in a way that actually provokes new knowledge of some kind. Matt Kirschenbaum had a good piece along these lines in the Chronicle a while back.
Thanks again for this comment. I’ll be thinking more about it in the coming weeks.
Thanks, Jonathan — these are very helpful references, and lead into the fascinating territory that Renaissance Computer helped open up. Wilkins is especially interesting. If I can find any room to expand, I’ll try to address this thread.
Martin, thanks for these very thoughtful comments. I take your first point about “non-overlapping magesteria” and agree that the kind of hybrid–or, if you prefer, continuum-based–approach makes more sense than radical distinctions between humanistic and scientific ways of thinking. Repeating C.P. Snow is not my intent. It may be that I need to clarify my Indean/Judean example, or at least its purpose. I was trying to get at a way of thinking about variants in which our first response isn’t to resolve the ambiguity–to remove noise from signal–but rather to let the ambiguity stand if the evidence warrants it. For the present context, it’s the difference between thinking of computing as primarily a problem-solving or problem-expanding activity.
I understand and appreciate your second point, about allographic texts, but can’t entirely agree with you. Your thought experiment is a good one, but I’d answer with one of my own. Imagine if our example wasn’t Sophocles or Milton or Beethoven, but a Raymond Chandler detective story published in a cheap pulp magazine in the 1930s, surrounded by ads and other lurid paratexts. Then imagine the same Chandler story gets canonized and reprinted in a Norton anthology, on high-quality paper (well, imagine a Norton with high-quality paper…) and without ads or the lurid pulp-fiction cover. The sequence of letters might be exactly the same in both versions, but I think they would be different texts because I take “text” to mean more than the letters and language. That doesn’t mean one can’t reprint the Chandler story in a Norton anthology, but it does require us to be alive to what’s lost and gained in transmission.
I think we’re just reasoning from differing premises here. For my part, I’m working from the direction of media-specific analysis like Katherine Hayles’s, and from D.F. McKenzie before that. (McKenzie’s answer to W.W. Greg in the former’s Panizzi lecture is relevant here.) I don’t mean to dismiss the idea of allographic works of art, only to resist the idea that all texts are essentially that way–or, more to the point, that we have to accept a specific set of premises about language in order to be digital humanists. There are some theoretical questions worth keeping open, and the relation of language to inscription is one of them.
It may be that I need to respond to your comments more fully in the article, and I think you’ve pointed to a way the conclusion could be better. Thanks again for your comments, which I’ve enjoyed thinking about.
I quite like the use of the history of Shakespeare publishing here to contextualize the present. It’s a healthy counter-balance to the pervasive notion that the most important things about digital resources are their exceptional qualities, as the Landow school of hypertext theory tended to emphasize at the expense of the continuities. There’s much to learn from Shakespeare publishing in the machine-press era, in particular. (Steam-punk Shakespeare, if you will).
I share your reservations, Andrew, about the OSS’s treatment of the text, but for what it’s worth the site looks great on an iPad. Rapid-response design makes a difference these days, and I give Eric Johnson credit for that. On that note, one aspect of these three projects worth comparing is their degree of progress relative to the resources available to them. Textual problems aside, the OSS is all the more impressive when we consider it began life as a Master’s thesis. It goes to show that large-scale, lavishly funded projects aren’t the only way to get things done.
Andrew and Jonathan, your comments here represent the crux of what I think is a huge question for digital humanities generally, not just Shakespeareans: can we take texts and corpora that are just “good enough” and call them our data set? Lots of data-mining projects in the humanities are doing exactly that, and have been for decades. I come in on the “no” side — certainly in the case of the Moby — but what’s more interesting about the question is that both sides of the argument make points that can’t be ignored. Martin’s insightful comments on my piece are a good example. He and I begin from differing premises, and neither is likely to persuade the other — I’d be kind of disappointed if we did — but what matters is having the debate rather than avoiding these kinds of thorny questions. For example, Jonathan’s question is a good one: given that editors do tend to wrangle about splitting the ninth part of a hair, have we fetishized textual change? His word “fetish” is apt, since it points to substitution: are we avoiding something when we focus on the instability of texts?
On the other hand, to say it doesn’t matter which text we use (Martin’s “Nameless Shakespeare” argument) also strikes me as the fetishizing of simplicity — using the term “data” to paint over the aspects of texts that aren’t computationally tractable, so that we can promote the complexity of our computational methods instead. (David Golumbia’s got a fascinating new book on what he calls “computationalism” — written by a programmer, too.)
To say that the choice of texts doesn’t matter also risks the fallacy of reasoning from conclusions, in that if the texts did matter, it would mean text analysis scholars have a lot more work ahead of them than they might like. Not everyone working in that field commits this fallacy, but I think it motivates a lot of their resistance to the materialist argument. The materialists probably fall into their own version of this fallacy in some ways, too — it’s a very human response.
As you point out, Andrew, evidence works differently in the humanities than in the quantitative social and natural sciences. The idea of statistical significance is valid in the sciences because one carbon atom is essentially the same as another; it’s usually context that makes the difference. By contrast, literary texts, metaphors, narratives, genre markers, etc. may have family resemblances (as Michael and Jonathan’s article elegantly demonstrates) but we tend to value them for their particularity. It’s not so much a sonnet as this sonnet. (One might invoke the type/token distinction from linguistics in opposition here, but I’ve read too many Random Cloud articles to be able to think of texts as tokens which matter only in their connection to abstract types.) As Anthony Appiah once said, for the humanities the universal is in the service of the particular. Whatever some may claim for Shakespeare’s universality, the act of choosing to analyze Shakespeare or any other canonical author is deeply particular. I think that’s why the choice of texts matters, and why your fatality argument about the Moby is valid.
But dismissing statistical approaches isn’t valid, either, and we need ways forward. Jonathan and Michael’s article offers one very promising avenue, in that they use statistical methods not as ways of answering questions or verifying qualitative hypotheses — which would get us nowhere — but rather to ask questions and improve them. I see their approach as embracing hermeneutics rather than trying to replace it, as many older approaches in stylistics have done.
Another way forward is to reframe the debate slightly, so that we’re not simply wrangling about which edited text is the most suitable for statistical analyses. Like Martin, I don’t see that debate leading anywhere useful, at least framed in those terms. Rather, the point of facing up to the Moby’s shortcomings is to bridge between formalist and historicist approaches (as others have been doing under the banner of historical formalism). Traditional textual critics would examine variants for the purpose of establishing what Shakespeare actually wrote. Fair enough, but I think Shakespeare’s mind is an unreachable destination. A better reason to talk about the histories of texts is McKenzie’s idea notion of sociology. Many agents, not just the author, are embedded in their histories, and it goes beyond which words editors have changed. It’s not a question of which text is the most authoritative, but whether or not computational approaches close the door on history. If the computationally tractable aspects of texts become the only kind of evidence that matters, we stand to lose a great deal. (There I go arguing from consequences… 😉
On that note, another way forward would then be a hybrid approach that enabled distant readings in combination with historical particularity. Michael and Jonathan’s paper hints at what this kind of hybrid approach looks like. I like Martin’s term “scalable reading” in his comments to their paper — it suggests an interpretive method that doesn’t require me to stop being “textually-minded” (as Andrew puts it) in order to use digital tools. Those of us on the Electronic New Variorum Shakespeare have been working toward such an approach in our visualizations, in which it’s the affordance of zooming in and out from the particular to the general that matters, not staying at one level exclusively (close or distant reading). There’s a lot more work to do, but it’s good that these questions be debated in the open, not swept aside as they’ve been so often in the past.
I wonder if your opening point might be made clearer by changing “Shakespeare scholars and librarians have shown” to “Shakespeare scholars, whether faculty members or librarians, have shown” — the point being to clarify that many librarians are scholars who publish original research as part of their roles, especially in rare book libraries.
This is a provocative and thoughtful review, and I appreciate its pointed yet constructive critiques and sense of a big picture, established in the opening. The point about the expressiveness of digital media is really vital, and reminded me of McKenzie’s phrase “expressive form,” which he used to make much the same point about books (see his chapter on “The Book as Expressive Form” in Bibliography and the Sociology of Texts). Makes me think of Hayles’s readings of born-digital literature and its signifying strategies, too. That final sentence in your second paragraph persuasively lays out one of the biggest challenges for digital humanities in the next few years.
I wonder, though, how that challenge — i.e. moving beyond content-delivery — relates to the preceding assertion that DH is by now unquestionably a discipline. I don’t mean to suggest that it isn’t, but would suggest that there’s value in leaving the question somewhat open, and not taking disciplinary status for granted. For example, is there value in thinking instead of DH as an intellectual tendency within the mainstream humanities (like critical theory, or the historical or linguistic turns)? Or could we think of DH as an historical period of change through which we’re passing, like the institutionalizing of literary scholarship in the late-19th/early-20th centuries? Is “discipline” perhaps a better word for describing more specific practices, combining technique with creative insight, like text encoding or programming (or knitting, or playing contrapuntal music)?.
Or, to take a different approach, should we necessarily count discipline-status as success, if disciplinizing leads to departmentalizing? In this sense a discipline, like a university department, becomes something that one is either part of or isn’t: like Protestant theology after they jettisoned the idea of purgatory, you’re in or you’re out. (Same logic applies for paying SAA membership dues…) Disciplines as institutional categories can reify into professional best practices — such as delivering content as neutrally as possible — but “discipline” can also mean a frame of mind that privileges critical thought and questioning above all other concerns. In some ways, the one meaning of “discipline” pulls in the opposite direction from the other. In that sense, your initial question about what kind of discipline DH should be is right on the mark.
These questions probably go beyond the scope of your review, but it might be worth taking a step back from the initial assertion about discipline status to consider whether DH, and other things like it, might actually be better than disciplines. (If there’s a list of things-like-disciplines-but-actually-better, I’d include book history, critical theory, and Shakespeare studies itself, for what it’s worth.) Maybe this could be something to consider in the conclusion. In any case it wouldn’t undermine the important argument about moving beyond content-delivery, which is developed very nicely throughout this review. It’s great to see project discussions being put in the bigger critical context you’ve given them here.
On the terminology question, I tend to prefer Steve Ramsay’s “algorithmic criticism” to “iterative criticism” since the more general term “algorithmic” can refer to processes more complex than iteration. The approach you’re describing in this essay deserves the more flexible term. “Iteration” doesn’t quite do it justice. (While we’re adapting the vocabulary of programming, I wonder what “recursive criticism” might look like. You’d need bigger screenshots…)
“Consistently subjective” is a wonderful phrase, and this paragraph nicely keeps your argument out of the blind alley of objectivity. I wonder if the argument offered at the end of this paragraph doesn’t deserve a more prominent place in your article.
These sorts of meta-methodological reflections are very helpful. In describing how literary critics might value outliers differently than statisticians, perhaps it’s worth reclaiming the old programming term “interestingness” from Flickr (who are patenting it with a different meaning): http://www.jargon.net/jargonfile/i/interesting.html
Not that you’re short of references on this topic, but another worth looking at might be Ed Pechter’s book Othello and Interpretive Traditions (Iowa, 1999). It might be a useful reference for your project generally, since he shares your interest in the power of language that flies below the radar of cognition (or at least of recognition).
Thanks, Mike and Jonathan, for a fascinating and thought-provoking article. What I like most about your approach is that it emphasizes discovering over verifying. In other words it recognizes that objective–or at least quantified–testing of subjective arguments probably isn’t why most humanists would find iterative/algorithmic criticism valuable. What’s more valuable is finding methods that help us nuance our subjectivity, whether by finding unexpected patterns that require interpretation or by extending an inference on a scale that reading alone doesn’t permit. Your methodological comments got me thinking about John Unsworth’s scholarly primitives, and the ones I see at work in your approach aren’t “testing” and “verifying” so much as “sampling,” “comparing,” and “discovering” — the last being the most important, imho.
However, I would suggest that the questionable status of the Moby text needs to be reckoned with, especially in light of Andy’s article, and his comments in the conversation that happened in the margins to his piece. What would iterative criticism look like if the digital tools supporting it could also account for the complexity of textual transmission? That’s an exciting thing to contemplate, and I’d like to think it’s possible.
On the Folio’s 3-part genre division, it might be worth mentioning bibliographical research by Hinman, Blayney and others on how the book(s) actually came together, and what categories its designers were willing to fudge. (For example, see the placement of Troilus and Cressida and the tangled history of its just-in-time printing in the Folio.) If a genre is more like a negotiation between writer and audience rather than an essential quality — as you put it at one point — then stationers and players may be influential agents in that negotiation as well.
I like Linda’s suggestion here. I’m not sure that the idea of specifically 3 comments would necessarily work quite so well for the pieces in the reviews section, but i think something like an agreed edited version of my exchange with Jonathan Hope would be a useful thing to include, perhaps cross-referenced to Jonathan’s article.
One of the nice things about this whole process (for me, at any rate) is that we have the freedom to be both scholarly and informal, particularly in those cases where we already know the person whose work we are commenting on. I imagine we will need to cut some of the more ‘conversational’ aspects of our exchanges if we include them in print.
All in all, it’s a fascinating experiment.
Just a quick general comment. Email alerts seem only to be sent out specifically to authors, when someone writes a comment on their article/review. You don’t get an email alert when someone comments on something that you have commented on. It would be helpful if, for the future, this could be changed, making it more like the Facebook model where, when you comment on someone’s status, you receive an alert when anyone else also comments on that status item. It would help in maintaining the immediacy of the dialogue.
That’s great, Kathleen — it gets hard to keep track of all the threads that you’ve contributed to & so is easy to miss a reply to something you’ve written. if you can get the plug in to work, it’ll be a good addition to the system.
One final comment before we shut up shop here. I just wanted to say again how very much I’ve enjoyed participating in this trial. It’s been fascinating really for two reasons: firstly, I’ve enjoyed the exchanges I’ve had on here with various other people, both in relation to my own review and to some of the articles. Secondly, it’s really got me thinking about how we have traditionally approached the business of scholarship and how this really is now changing. Part of what the trial demonstrates is the fact we might, in the future, think of research as including conversations, feedback, the modifications of one’s views, instead of simply consisting of the bald presentation of findings.
So: a very big thank you to Kathy and to everyone at SQ and Mediacommons who have made this fascinating experiment possible.
I know it’s more than 20 years earlier, but is it worth thinking a little too about Greg’s Calculus of Variants: An Essay on Textual Criticism (Oxford: Clarendon, 1927)? McKerrow wrote to Alice Walker of the book: ‘I hope that you have tackled Greg’s “Calculus” with success and enlightenment. I think the real trouble is that it looks as if it were intended to prove something (and the pseudo-mathematical notation is extraordinarily misleading!) where it is really meant only as a way of classifying the relationship of texts. But Greg seems to think that, if he says in an introduction that he is going to use + in the sense of minus and – in the sense of divided by, a reader will understand that 10+4-2=3 — which he won’t — or at least I won’t. One simply cannot dissociate oneself from the ordinary interpretation of well known symbols!’
I put in the comment below before reading section 2 where you do, of course, precisely come on to this. You might still find the Smith reference useful, so I’ll leave the comment rather than deleting it.
Isn’t the war context crucial, Alan? Hinman and Bowers were both ex-military intelligence & it was, of course, analysing aerial photographs that brought Hinman to developing his collator. There’s a very useful article on this by Steven Smith in Studies in Bibliography 53.
Bill Sherman has some fantastic material on the anti-Stratfordians — including some who developed machines for analysing the plays.
That’s a lovely point about the commonality of the relationship between human and machine.
I very much enjoyed reading this, Alan — provocative and very interesting. I’d never really thought before about the coincidence of the rise of information theory/computing and the post-war ascendancy of the New Bibliography (though, of course, those on the British side did quite a lot of their work before the war).
Can I ask you a question that, I realise might be opening things up too much and that might not square with the remit you’ve set out for yourself here? If we take on board what you have to say about essentialism, etc, here, how do you think the way we go about producing and presenting electronic editions would change? I guess I’m asking a version of the question that was often put to McGann about his social theory of texts: that’s all fine and dandy, but what practical difference does it make? I’ll understand, though, if you feel that’s too big a question to ask in the context of the exercise we’re engaged in here.
Let me stress, though, that I really enjoyed reading this.
The issue of access is quite interesting politically. During the last period of Conservative government, a good number of museums and galleries began charging entrance fees to generate revenue — I remember a particularly aggressive ‘voluntary’ donation policy at the V&A. The present govt encouraged institutions to return to free access by allowing them to retain the money they were paying in sales tax on gift shop purchases, etc. It’s interesting that we are now moving beyond access to participation.
Kate — I very much enjoyed reading this. What I kept being reminded of (and this is, I know, something of a parochial point) is something that you bring up in passing at the very end: the ‘impact’ agenda. There’s a common thread here, I think, in that the thinking of the current UK government is precisely to ‘monetise’ culture — they only really seem to be able to conceive of culture in terms of the hard cash contribution it can make to the UK economy. So: drawing a common line between Stratford and Alton Towers would certainly appeal to, eg, Peter Mandelson! The ‘Impact’ agenda works in essentially the same way and, to some extent, it feels like it is pushing scholarship down the same kinds of roads that you present these institutions as travelling. Anyway: that’s a slightly rambling and rather peripheral observation.
Incidentally: though it’s a little old now, you might find the following a useful and interesting read: Robert Hewison, Culture and Consensus: England, Arts and Politics since 1940 (Methuen, 1995).
Hi Kate. Not wishing to stray too far away from the core arguments of your excellent paper but, just briefly, on Impact: I agree with you entirely that it is wrong to set up an opposition between impact and the intrinsic value of research. But I think the UK funding body is making a mistake in seeking to define impact as narrowly as it has done. In particular, I think excluding teaching from impact is a big mistake, though I understand that the impact of our research within our teaching is hard to measure. But that, of course, brings us to the fundamental question: governments like measuring things (echoes of the C19th ‘assessment by results’) and, in the arts, impact is actually quite difficult to measure. In fact, I do think the work you’re doing here points the way forward to new ways of thinking about all of this — in a more subtle manner than how UK politicians and funders are currently conceiving things! Andy
I think this comment relates to Whitney’s review, not mine. Andy
James: thanks very much for this thoughtful and very interesting response to the review. I’ve had a quick look at your site and think it’s very interesting. It seems to me that you really are pushing forward with a Web 2.0 approach to things, making your site a good deal more interactive than the three I review here.
I like the idea of building up a ‘database’ of annotations — and you’re right, of course: textual annotation might be a way round the problems of having to use an outdated source text. I still tend to worry about Wikipedia as a model, however. I always like to tell my students stories of humourous examples of deliberate tampering with Wikipedia, as a way of warning them off using it in their research (perhaps you may know what happened to Thierry Henry’s page, after France put Ireland out of the World Cup?).
Will OSP be entirely ‘user governed’, or will you have some sort of ‘top down’ quality control mechanisms?
I agree that it was a really good package, though the pricing structure was just daft. I reviewed it at the time and I remember their insisting that I return the review copy — as if they would lose a sale by allowing me to keep it! As you say, I wonder what’s happened to it since.
That’s interesting, Jonathan. I think the useability of the text in a way depends on the device. I have a cheap Samsung phone and it was readable on it, but not for long stretches, I wouldn’t think. I’m sure something like an iPhone or iPod Touch would work much better. And a great convenience, as you say, to be able to access the text so easily.
That’s a fascinating comment, Jonathan and it has really set me thinking. You make a great point here about what is statistically, rather than textually, significant. We might think of, say, the Wells & Taylor Oxford as being, textually, very radical, but the logic of your position is that, if we fed it through a process of statistical analysis, we might find that the difference between it and, say, the Globe, is actually quite small. And, of course, someone like yourself, who can do Proper Big Sums, might be able to demonstrate that the difference is so small as to lack significance, statistically.
Let me take up your point about ‘150 years of improvement’ or ‘150 years of difference’. I think there are a few points to be made here:
1. To what extent do the rules of ‘statistical insignificance’ really apply in this area? Let’s say, for argument sake, that we discovered . . . I don’t know, that half of Ophelia’s speeches should actually be assigned to Gertrude. Statistically, that would be a very small change in the text as a whole, but it might radically alter the way in which we read the text, no? Statistical norms work convincingly in broadly scientific research (or in things, topically, like opinion polls), but they probably work less well in literary work.
2. Yes: we’ve had 150 years of difference, and some of the differences haven’t endured. So, for example, McKerrow and the New Bibliographers had a high degree of faith in their ability to tell the difference between ‘foul papers’ and ‘prompt books’ and a lot of changes have been introduced into the text on that basis. But Werstine and Long have called those very categories into question. The same, of course, is true of Memorial Reconstruction, Hand D and various other discoveries of the New Bibliographers.
However, there have been discoveries that are incontrovertible and that have stood the test of time. The example that I give in the review is a good one I think: the Pavier quartos were all published in 1619, and not on the various false dates given on some of their title pages. And this makes a difference.
It doesn’t help your work of course, given the kind of information processing that you are doing, but you may have seen that I’ve suggested to James Harriman-Smith of Open Shakespeare that one solution to the Globe problem might be effectively to crowd source textual annotations which would provide a sense of how the Globe would look now, in the wake of the textual discoveries that have been made since Clark and Wright’s day. I suspect that textually-minded scholars would be happier with a text of that kind, rather than a straight offering of the Globe.
What I really like about your comment, though, is that it prompts us to think about what we mean by ‘difference’. As you say: an editor might trumpet the fact that his/her edition offers the latest, greatest, most up-to-date text, but, unless we are talking about something like revisionism, how much difference are we seeing, in real, measurable terms? And also, of course, headline-grabbing changes like revisionism, new Shakespeare poems, etc., tend not to stand the test of time anyway.
Yes: I do agree with you, Alan, that OSS *is* impressive — I hope I’ve managed to convey a sense of what’s positive about it, even though I also criticise it, from a textual point of view. Interesting what you say about using the text on an iPad. This is something for which the iPad *does* make sense.
Yes: it is interesting to see how versions of the same issues emerge in both the print and the digital worlds. The cost of Shakespeare editions (and, indeed, other books) was kept artificially high into the early decades of the C19th, in part because that was the model that publishers chose to follow: high profit margins & small sales (not unlike university presses today, of course). Industrialisation and expanding literacy prompted publishers to think of switching over to a different model: small profit margins & large sales. It seems to me that the Arden CD (and other early digital projects) were, essentially, following the old publishing model: let’s price this extravagantly high and reap our profits from a small number of institutions, rather than from individuals. In a way, of course, their thinking was understandable: you can go on selling a book for decades, but computer technology changes so rapidly than anything you put on the market today is likely to look and feel out of date in 5 years’ time (if not sooner). I noticed last night that my cheap mobile ‘phone has about 10 times the memory of my first computer . . .
Thanks so much for that very thoughtful and interesting set of observations, Alan. I’m really still thinking through some of the points you’ve made here.
It’s very interesting to get your thoughts as someone who is involved in the electronic Variorum. I’d be keen to know, at some stage, how you feel the project might change the way in which we look at all of these issues.
There are several problems. Scholars like Jonathan, of course, need some kind of stable, acceptable dataset that they can work from. Editors once believed that it would be possible to provide something like this. But, of course, it is an illusion: editions simply beget editions, and the beat goes on. Quite apart from the — absolutely spot on, in my view — point that you make about Shakespeare’s mind simply being an unreachable destination, there is also the problem that scholarship moves forward and today’s textual conclusions will fall out of favour tomorrow. Wells & Taylor’s Oxford edition was wonderfully provocative and sparked a great number of valuable and interesting debates, but many of its key textual propositions have not entirely stood the test of time.
What electronic textuality should give us is the possibility of presenting texts that are productively flexible and texts that are adaptable to different kinds of work. This is, really, where we should ideally be headed with digital Shakespeare 2.0.
Anyway: many thanks again, Alan.
I agree with you entirely on this. I remember coming across Hylton’s text years ago and finding it valuable at the time but, of course, things have moved on very considerably since then. It’s really a piece of Internet history now — and good that it’s still around *as* a historical document. Most people should, I think, understand that what you’re all doing at MIT these days is light years away from such outmoded projects (granted that they were pathbreaking in their time).
We’ve had some good exchanges on here about editorial changes and the nature of the text as evidence (and how we might use it).
I’ll be interested to see what new things you’re cooking up at MIT these days!
I was confused by the opening sentence here. Should it begin ‘Though I do . . . ‘, instead of ‘Because I do . . . ‘. Sorry: not meaning to be pedantic!
I understand the ethical issues here, certainly, and this does seem like a bit of a minefield, but it seems strange to me that you are not providing URLs. I was, in fact, expecting the videos to be embedded in the article and had been thinking how good a use of the site that would be — and feeling that the print version of this issue of SQ would be a poor substitute, as a result.
But isn’t there a scholarly problem with your decision, in that what you’re proposing (unless I’m misunderstanding) feels like the equivalent of quoting from a primary or a critical text without providing the publishing details? We can’t look at the YouTube clips ourselves and so must take what you say or leave it, without having the opportunity to come to our own conclusions.
It’s an interesting methodological conundrum, at any rate!
Ah, okay, golden rule: read on before you start typing. But I do still feel uneasy about the idea of not being given access to the primary materials — for precisely the reasons you identify.
It’s interesting that, in a way, the choice of the Fishburne mask effectively means that Aaron is being read here as Othello — as if Othello is the standard (or only) imagined trope for Shakespearean blackness.
I guess I do see your point, in the end, though I’d still prefer to have seen the videos for myself, just because it’s a bit hard to engage with an analysis when you don’t have immediate experience of what’s being analysed.
I thought this was a fascinating piece, Ayanna. I’d never really thought of YouTube as a research resource in quite this way before and you’ve used it in a really interesting way. Coming at the issue of race in this slightly oblique way — Asian American performances of blackess, is really intriguing.
I guess my one reservation would be whether the individual performances quite bear the weight of your analysis. I suppose this raises the tricky question of intentionality or agency. For example, you read the intervention of the ‘Cypriots’ in a particular way and see it as a challenging of the original text, where they are, effectively, silenced, but I wonder whether the kids involved in the video would see it that way. This may not matter, of course, but is there a danger of leaning too heavily, interpretatively, on these materials?
That’s not really a criticism — just a genuine question.
The essay has really got me thinking about what sort of things I might do with my own students. I don’t do performance stuff myself, but you’ve got me thinking about how students might use resources such as YouTube.
This sounds like a really fascinating production, Christian. I wondered whether you might say just a little bit more about the language issue. Do you think the audience’s experience would have been different if this had been in English? Presumably most of the people at the Barbican would not have been Dutch speakers, which means that they would have had to rely on the subtitles for the text, so that they would really have had no option but to look at the screens rather than the live action — have I got that right? Do you think the audience might have interacted with the technology somewhat differently if there hadn’t been this language barrier? Andy
Just on using Opensource as your text — I make some comments on it in my ‘Shakespeare Goes Digital’ review in this issue. Andy
Yes: of course, as you note, speech prefixes can have their own particular meanings within the text. Randy McLeod has famously written about how Lady Capulet cycles through ‘Wife’, ‘Mother’, ‘Old Lady’ etc. There are various other examples which make it clear that prefixes are not wholly separable from the text. None of this would, of course, show up in any modern text (taking ‘modern’ to mean, in this context, I suppose, from Rowe onwards! Barbara Mowat has written very interestingly about how ‘Puck’, as a character name, is effectively a creation of Rowe’s).
This is a potentially fascinating diagram, I think, but I find it a little hard to get my head round the information being displayed. It also just doesn’t reproduce terribly well on my computer — it’s either too small to read or too big to see the connections. I popped it out onto the desktop, but the text is illegible in Preview. Is there some other way it could be reproduced?
That’s a fascinating set of observations, Whitney, though it also, in a way, frightens the life out of me. By an odd coincidence, I’ve ended up simultaneously: participating in this experiment; joining Facebook (initially to gain access to an academic fanpage, but then taking some tentative steps into Facebook as the world knows it); engaging in an extended series of long emails with an independent scholar about the meaning and purpose of literary criticism. All of these things have given me a feel for the amazing potential of digital humanities. I love the idea you offer here of research as an ongoing conversation which might reach a number of ‘way points’ rather than arriving in the terminal station of print in one great puff of smoke and steam.
But, as a busy middle-aged academic, I’m also wary of the time demands of learning various new platforms and of potentially having precious time leach away meeting new demands that I interact with students in these various new ways.
Part of the problem, I think, is that systems of professional reward — at least in the UK — are still heavily structured around producing monographs and other printed forms of scholarship. The model you map out is very exciting and is clearly a vision of the future, but I think we are surely in for an extended period of transition, whatever this Dave Parry bloke may say (but I will go and read his piece).
Thanks, Laurie. I am particularly bad at titles so I am open to any and all suggestions!
Thanks, Tom. I am starting to think that I should either edit out the pedagogy section or make it one that is woven throughout the essay. Of course, I cannot answer the questions you raise about the specifics of the pedagogical practices involved in these particular videos (which Laurie Osborn also raises as a concern later in the essay) because I am not conducting participatory research: this gets to the ethical implications of this non-participatory methodology (see my comment to Timothy Francisco and Laurie Osborn later in the essay).
In my zeal to portray the complex nexus of issues raised by these YouTube videos, I have as you say “cast out too many lines.” I think I will pull some of those lines in for the revised version so that the essay has a clearer focus.
Yes, in the back of my mind was exactly the fraught cultural history you describe between African Americans and Asian Americans, but I wanted to move beyond a simplistic description of cultural appropriation as desire or antagonism. I think the YouTube videos of Othello reveal the complex negotiations between cultural parody and cultural production for those who are marked outside of “the cool.” That said, I should add a sentence or two here about the fraught cultural history between the groups (or at least a citation for work that addresses this cultural history thoroughly).
The videos that I go on to analyze were all produced by high school students, but I am attempting to make an argument that bridges performance-based pedagogy in high schools and colleges. The pedagogical angle, however, may not survive in the revised version. As many have noted, I may be attempting to address too much here!
Thanks, Barbara. In the revised version I will have to define “interactivity” (which Timothy Francisco picks up as a problem later in the essay) and also “identity tourism” (which you comment on later) much earlier in the essay. Without these definitions up front, the essay lacks some key building blocks.
Barbara, you are so right to put pressure on my use of “Asian American.” This is another instance in which the methodology creates an ethical tension. I *think* the groups are comprised primarily of Chinese-American and Korean-American students, but I cannot be certain without conducting participatory research. I can make a somewhat informed decision based on the students’ names and the cultural markers present in the homes, but it will never be more than an assumption unless I contact the students. Because I intentionally chose NOT to do participatory research (see my comment to Timothy Francisco and Laurie Osborn later in the essay), I employ the generic moniker with the knowledge that it is completely fraught. In the revised version of the essay I will make this explicit (as another example of the strange ethical implications of a humanistic approach).
Oops, yes, it should be:
“Because I do not have an account with YouTube…”
Sorry for the typo!
Yes, I am intentionally creating a methodological conundrum. I am attempting to see if we can apply social science methods (protecting the identities of minors) within a traditional humanistic methodology (reading/analyzing a primary source). The moments of tension and friction, in which expectations are disrupted and thwarted, are precisely what interest me. For me, these tensions are productive because they reveal precisely how difficult it is to disentangle an ethical stance (not wanting to provide/be a hyperlink to videos created by minors; not wanting to create the hyperlink that may enable the video to go viral) from our methodological ones (how we evaluate the validity of research when the texts are inaccessible). Of course, I know that diligent readers and YouTube users will be able to find these videos on their own (my graduate students found them within minutes!), and I do not object to that independent searching. I just don’t want to be the hyperlink (a la Michael Wesch’s work on how videos become viral).
Andy and Kathy, while I agree that there are two pulls presented by this essay, I think they are actually two methodological pulls instead of ethical ones. The methodological pulls are between social science research methods which advocate for protecting, shielding, and disguising the identities of minors, and the humanities research methods which advocate for revealing, citing, and documenting every source. While ethical debates are frequent within discussions about social science methodologies, they are not prevalent within discussions about humanities methodologies. I want to force a discussion about the ethics of methodology in our field. What does it mean that we expect immediate access to sources, especially online ones? While we acknowledge that online sources are ephemeral, what happens when those sources are gone (when those URLs are no longer available)? Does that change in availability alter the ways we assess the validity of the argument/reading?
Thanks Timothy and Laurie! I think your posts really get at the methodological issues that this essay is attempting to raise. Is lurking an ethical methodological stance in and of itself or should participatory research take its place? And how comfortable would Shakespeareans be with this move?
On a personal level, I am not sure I am ready yet to conduct participatory research (with IRB approval, etc). And yet, this is the direction my graduate students are moving (with my awe and respect!). So the upcoming generation of Shakespeareans may move us in methodological territory that is currently located in the social sciences instead of the humanities.
These researchers always conceal URLs and usernames. So basically that is methodological stance I took as well.
Absolutely, I will move this definition earlier. Thanks for noting this!
Thanks for noting this. I guess I was collapsing the popular notion of “interactivity” as any form of active participation (from chatting to uploading videos) with a more sophisticated sense of technological interactivity. I will clarify this in the places you indicate.
Yes, precisely! Othello = universal blackness. A very disturbing collapse!
Yes, I know that diligent readers and YouTube users will be able to find these videos on their own (my graduate students found them within minutes!), and I do not object to that independent searching. I just don’t want to be the hyperlink (a la Michael Wesch’s work on how videos become viral).
Your point about how the videos alter when YouTube intervenes (for copyright issues, etc) is especially fascinating. While I have saved a version of the video with the sound, that is now gone for the current YouTube user. So she will necessarily have a completely different viewing, analyzing, and/or researching experience. You are right that this is something I have not theorized yet. I welcome any help that may be out there though!
Carol, I think you are absolutely right to point out that Tarantino seems to authorize—through his white-boy lens—the commodification of blackness as a cool cultural production. Thus, it is important to note that these students consistently refer back to Tarantino’s visual and aural markers of black cultural commidification. As you suggest, I should make this explicit.
Thanks, Laurie. This is a really helpful suggestion that I will incorporate into the revised version.
Yes, I think the use of the mask is “quoting blackness,” but unlike blackface it does not collapse into a minstrel performance: the mask is static and not exaggerated. Nonetheless, I think you are right, Barbara, to point out that this begs the question: what cultural/racial signifiers are available to the students. I also think this ties in with Laurie’s earlier suggestion that a larger project might consider single-race performances of Othello in general. Some of the issues may be work across races, but probably not all.
Wow, Carol, this is a great question. You are absolutely right to argue that the young Asian-American Desdemona is unmoored from any personal identity in the overtly sexualized comments posted. And yet, I don’t think it is the role of Desdemona, or even the beating she receives, that invites that. I am tempted to say that it is performance itself—a making public of one’s body—that enables these offensive moves. But this is just a guess. You have given me a lot to think about. Again, I welcome any suggestions out there!
Great point! In the revised version I will signal more explicitly how representative these issues are, and point to the pedagogical implications (to be discussed later in the essay perhaps).
Wow, Laurie, that is the perfect example of the complexities involved in this methodology. If the students were to post the video to YouTube (which you seem to indicate they will not), then how would one know that it was not a school assignment without this insider knowledge? How could someone viewing the video (without contacting the students) interpret the students’ relationship to authority (either Shakespeare’s authority or the pedagogical authority)?
What a great point! Yes, I definitely imagine showing the YouTube videos and comments in the classroom setting as an important pedagogical intervention. I guess I see a crucial difference between showing the videos in the classroom and concealing the URLs in publication. In fact, I think the teacher can show the videos without providing the URLs. Of course, I hope she would frame the viewing in ethical terms, explaining why she isn’t providing the URLs to the students. So perhaps the methodology is not that far apart?
Andy, I think you are absolutely right to assert that the students do not intend the readings I make for these videos. But that is one of the points of this essay. These videos are not exceptional in their form, content, or style (there are lots of other videos that do very similar things); instead, this set of videos reveal the complex negotiations that occur for Asian Americans around performances of race, Shakespeare, and contemporary popular culture. That is why I think these videos can bear the weight of my analysis; they are representative of what is going on as a whole.
I truly appreciate that this essay has encouraged you to reflect upon your own teaching practices. As that is one of the goals for this essay, I am encouraged! Thank you.
I agree with Laurie. More on ‘un-moor’ later as well.
What classroom? High school? University? Both? Perhaps a bit of analysis about the distinction you draw here: that students don’t want to read out in the classroom but are happy to post? One technology is ‘old’, the other ‘new’–just for starters. I’m vaguely troubled by a binary which can be read as putting students down.
The first sentence suggests that these are separate ‘performances’ and appropriations, yet your subject is performances of race:revise sentence to reflect that? What do you mean by ‘appropriations of interactivity’? 8 to 18 year-olds? HIgh school? University? What do you mean by ‘in dynamic ways’? How is the ephemeral nature of internet postings (performances?) linked to encouraging dialogues within the academy and the classroom about ethics? Here and elsewhere, you might be more precise about what you mean by ‘interactivity’.
Asian-American students: Japanese? Chinese? Korean? and so on. It seems to me that it matters–ethically, to pick up your term. What do you mean by ‘American blackness’? What distinction, if any, might you draw between ‘black-American culture’ and ‘African-American culture’?
No punning at all on ‘unmoor’? As Laurie said earlier, the word is over-used. Are you implying that an ‘appropriate’ performance of Othello ‘should’ employ a black Othello or use blackface?
Perhaps more broadly, the prevalence of gangsta rap within the culture might be cited. Do you have evidence of widespread use of the Othello-rap in high school and university classrooms?
Finally, if the class is made up solely of ‘Asian-American’ students, how would you expect them to portray a black Othello?
Perhaps this needs qualifying? You seem to be talking about theatre companies in the USA. Japanese and Chinese Shakespeare theatrical and cinematic performances abound these days.
I agree with Eric:the histories involved here are extremely complex. You say that these students are accessing popular American culture through Shakespeare; but isn’t it the other way round, that they are accessing Shakespeare through popular (or mass) culture?
Might it be useful to define identity tourism briefly? If not here, then perhaps earlier?
I’m noting repetition in the final phrases of this paragraph.
Incorporating your response to Andy might clarify the issue of not wanting to be the hyperlink.
You make a brief reference to identity tourism earlier: these paragraphs explore the issues neatly. Perhaps consider placing them earlier?
Removing sound track, as noted, is a copyright issue; I don’t have statistics on how often YouTube videos get ‘checked’; one made by one of my students survived intact for nearly 3 years. What’s intriguing is that actors’ voices are not copyrighted, though music tracks are.
I’m noting a number of repetitions here: the first sentence; the last several sentences.
You say that your students conflate Moors with African Americans: can’t this be easily addressed by explaining these historical differences?
Yes, indeed: what about Lavinia? One rather obvious effect of the doubling is to collapse two subject positions, arguably two ‘others’, but I think it’s more complex than that. And after all, the students might have been thinking of paying homage to early modern casting.
What you suggest, Andy, is one possibility, of course. But the use of the mask is smart, in a sense, for it works as a way to make the Aaron actor a person of colour–a colour other than that of the Japanese-, Chinese-, Korean-Asian actor. Let’s suppose, for a moment, that a Japanese-American student actor turns Aaron into a Chinese-American figure: what sorts of racial dynamics would be at play there?
How is using the mask avoiding blackface when it seems to be quoting blackness?
I’d also like some further exploration of what ‘regressive’ means in this essay. What cultural signifiers are available to these students and how are they deployed? What amalgams of signifiers?
I’d also like to see ‘stabilize’ and ‘destabilize’ made more specific; at present, they seem somewhat free-floating.
Presumably what you say in the first sentence applies to this performance, not to any performance. And, again, is Shakespeare’s play the vehicle through which students explore cultural performances or is it the other way around?
A similar argument could be made about asking students to play (supposedly) abject women’s roles.
Before evoking Olivier as a model, please do look at what he himself says about putting on make-up to turn himself into Othello–he goes on to say that he owns Othello. In On Acting.
Many thanks for this piece, Christian. I don’t want to call it a ‘review’ because it’s much more than that: it’s filled with rich ‘thick descriptions’ of what you saw and heard and, at times, the piece reflects / offers ‘evidence’ about direct (and directed) perceptions of live and mediated performance(s). And about who watches what.
The value of such a piece is that it stands as an archival record of what one (informed) spectator saw and heard. Finding such accounts is extremely rare these days, especially as mainstream publications restrict the amount of space allotted for reviews of performances.
I’d welcome even more analysis combined with your descriptions. I’m especially intrigued by how spectators are not just part of the scenography but also, in a sense, are surrogates for the ‘masses’ or voiceless classes Van Hove left out of the performances–those left out of the loop of power politics. The only voice they have occurs after the performance event–invited, to be sure, by the questions posed on the screen. Those questions seem more than a bit naive: what others might be raised?
I’m reading this essay paragraph by paragraph, so my comments may address matters that are taken up in more detail later on. What an exciting prospect this abstract opens up. I did find myself pausing over the phrase “iterative criticism.” “Iterative” seems, on the face of it, too broad to cover the quite specific features that Docuscope is tracking–but I’m not sure what to propose in its place. As for “criticism,” are we dealing here with a critical methodology, or a particular technique being deployed as part of a larger critical methodology?
Pursuant to my earlier query about “iterative” and “criticism”: I now see the appropriateness of the term “iterative.” I’m still wondering about “criticism.” What distinguishes this project from structuralism, which seeks to uncover patterns across many separate instances or utterances?
Of course I’m excited by the phenomenological twist to proceedings that were, a generation ago, conceived as highly objective techniques–e.g., the use of computers to solve authorship questions in the work of Ward Elliott and others. Something about phenomenology in the abstract would be helpful in alerting readers to this genuinely new take on computer analysis.
The visual rhetoric of Quentin Terentino’s construction of “gangster” surfaces more than once in your discussion of Asian American appropriations of a simplified, as you rightly claim “regressive,” idea of American blackness. Is it significant that this iconic performance of blackness was through a white director? Your discussion of the rap music certainly taps into the “symbol of rebellion” these Asian Americans are appropriating in performing blackness, but the music and the movements—if we consider their discrete moments of production prior to this appropriation (a black rap artist/a white director)—remain at odds even as they are deployed to amalgamate (or approximate) an outsider’s conception of blackness. This is not a critique so much as a question of what “regressive” ultimately means for this essay. Interrogating Terentino’s contribution to the specter of blackness seems one way to tackle the question.
I cannot be the only one struck by the clustering of sexual content in the responses to the young woman playing Desdemona. It is very disturbing and strongly makes your point about what it means to have these classroom productions available beyond the classroom. The ethical problem of subjecting a minor to external sexual solicitation is disconcerting indeed. But your analysis here, and your call to awareness, invites one to theorize on that sexual solicitation and what it means for an Asian American woman performing Desdemona.
It struck me that the actor is not just unmoored from a Shakespearean character (and the aegis of any cultural capital that might suggest), she is likewise unmoored from any personal identity—she is merely a “mouth,” a “pussy”. At least her companions are imagined “fresh off the boat” intact. Can this perhaps be theorized further? Is it by playing Desdemona that makes her sexualization available? I am tempted to say no because you have already commented on how little attention was generated by the revisions to Shakespeare. Is it therefore her performance of race as an Asian American woman (the performance of subjection in the beating, for instance) that complicates sexuality, race, and gender in the moments of interactivity captured by the responses you’ve quoted?
This is not to say that your essay requires a reading of this figure to make your stated point. If anything, I wish I could answer these questions for myself. Once again methodology comes to the fore: such a provocative topic and innovative methodology invite further inquiry while withholding (for good reasons, of course), the objects of that desired inquiry.
Your excellent essay offers significant and culturally relevant theories on race performance, American identity theory, and Shakespeare pedagogy. In this instance, the use of Olivier to show on the one hand, the historical complexities of marking race in Shakespeare performance, and on the other, the persistent afterlife of performance choices promises to be very effective. I see this as immediately applicable in my own classroom practices.
Martin’s comments open up a host of concerns that Alan would clearly do well to address. I, for one, found the essay wonderfully informative and illuminating, and, what’s more, perfectly tuned to the level of address needed for this kind of exercise.
Your essay offers many thoughtful strategies teachers could employ in advising students who are embarked on turning the semi-public work of the classroom into a product that has global broadcasting potential. But its last section on pedagogy does not speak specifically enough to the conditions of production of the YouTube takes on Titus and Othello you discuss in its first thirty pages. Though you return in your last pages to focus on the race-displacements of the three videos in question, you tend to address the ethical imperative for prior classroom discussion of subjects like nontraditional casting in a manner that could pertain to any form of performance assignment.
Part of the problem for me here is that you may have cast out a few too many lines in an essay which, given the parameters of the special SQ issue, should probably be more narrowly focused. Another is the problem of identifying the extent to which the videos you examine, as well as the many more you do not, remain “moored” to their assumed origin as classroom assignment. The indefinite afterlife these videos enjoy on the internet make me wonder about the comparative status of their more limited careers as classroom projects, and also about the nature of the instruction students received before they set about making their films. Towards the end of the essay, you offer many thoughtful reflections on the kind of advice students should be given with respect to casting practices and race-based exploration. But given your somewhat more casual approach in the essay’s first section with respect to “harvesting” the videos in question—why you choose these three videos in particular, why you think they are representative–we are supplied with no specific record of how, say, a single video develops from it origin in an assignment to its process of execution to its (assumed) classroom screening and to its (further assumed) classroom discussion.
This lack of documentation makes me feel when reading the essay that the videos’ status as “homework” or “term project” may be a less instructive way of defining them than, say, afterschool group recreation. My point here is that if pedagogy is to remain a vital part of this project, it would certainly help to know more about the circumstances in which the videos discussed were produced. I would, in any event, very much like to see a more tightly-focused, better documented version of this essay published in the special SQ volume, and look forward to reading it. That said, I should also say how much I enjoyed and profited from your close readings/analyses of the three videos themselves, especially the last one.
I have a hard time unpacking the logic of what follows “emerged through process”. Video’s introduction in “just the second week” seems to imply something happening very early in “the process,” but does this unerringly lead to Van H’s ability to select “the most powerful uses of its capabllities” (a pretty overloaded phrase, no?)? And what underwrites your closing equation of the “very human” with the “more theatrical”? Does this mean that at our deepest, humans are deeply theatrical? If so, on what basis do you make this claim? How DOES one use “cinematic and televisual technigues” in a HUMAN way to begin with? And aren’t there differences that need to be flagged between/among the media of cinema, television, and theater? Also a problem here with your uncritical affirmations of Van H’s claims. One can describe without impliciltly endorsing, or at least be more selective and/or skeptical, esp. with respect to Van H’s very suspect and arguably naive ideas about power’s lack of relation to the public. This MAY be true in contemporary Europe and America, but it’s clearly NOT true in Coriolanus.
Re comment: “How passively too we accept and inculcate, etc.” Very quick, unmediated move from image that tracks the pathology of the exceptional and ultraviolent Coriolanus back to early childhood to this piece of too easily generalized popular wisdom. In play there is no one else as quickly or chronically violent Coriolanus. And though several Western societies have in the last 2000 years sponsored violent warrior societies, many others have not, and most (with the crucial exception of the postwar United States) no longer do. You know better than I can what Van Hove’s representation seems designed to suggest, but I’d be careful about proferring (or endorsing) such glib statements.
Brilliant paragraph. You demonstrate exactly the kind of technical knowledge, and skill in describing it to your readers, that’s needed to address this densely mediated production.
Another very strong passage of writing and description. But when you say “There was no escaping the version of events that the technicians stage right […] wanted audience members to see,” I wonder what POV you’re ascribing to them. That is, do they want audience to be critical of or collaborative with “those in power constantly” interrupting? Or simply to be intimidated into inaction and passivity by the repeated demonstrations by the powerful of their power?
Even better–you’re really rolling!
Thanks for your deeply illuminating response. I’d very much like to see you have the opportunity to enlarge on your thoughts about the production in exactly this way, outside the parameters/convention of the review. Perhaps we can towards finding such a space or opportunity.
What seemed to be the point of deploying a “female Octavius,” which is rather more than having a fairly obvious female performing the role of a male, and then having Octavia and Octavius engage each other sexually, particularly given how “sex-neutral” both characters are portrayed in Shakespeare? Did the move/effect seem arbitrary or purposive, and, if the latter, what purpose did it seem to have?
Above question answered, though your explanation here makes what you earlier call O & O’s “intimate action” more troubling. It’s one thing to draw on examples like Merkel, Hillary Clinton, and, for that matter, Thatcher as “ball-breaking super-bitches” to bring the play into our world. But I wonder what motivates Van H to have them engage in what could equally be called incestuous or same-sex (lesbian) lovemaking, especially by contrast with the high heterosexual romance of Antony & Cleopatra. I’ve seen something like this before in Alexander Fodor’s recent Hamlet film, which transforms Polonius into a ball-breaking older sister, whose lesbianism has an added manipulative S&M bias.
typo on second line: “though” should be “through,” no?
I fully concur with Barbara and Sarah’s sense of this piece as contributing to a kind of archive, what’s more as one that more critically-inflected writing can engage in dialogue with and/or build on. One part of that archive that I’d particularly hate to do without involves your illustrations, which presumably will not carry over into the print edition of SQ (certainly not at the same level of quality) in which this review will no doubt appear. One would hope that the illustrations could continue to appear in the version of the volume we can tap into on Project Muse. A wonderfully rich review in any event for which I am very grateful (as I too slog off to Montreal to see the production for myself).
Thanks for your review, Christian. It’s a rich evocation of Van Hove’s Roman Tragedies which reminded me of many aspects of the production (and discussed parts that I missed, such is the model of ‘distracted spectatorship’ that the production seemed to invite).
I’m curious as to where the quotations and paraphrases of Van Hove’s ideas are from (programme, workshop, interviews?). Like Cartelli, I think it would be worth putting Van Hove’s comments under more pressure, in relation both to contemporary cultures and the cultures imagined by the plays.
You identified the ways in which spectators became part of what you described as ‘living scenography’ (a term I really like) as they were permitted to sit on the stage, move around, buy and consume snacks and drinks, read magazines and newspapers and use the internet. The production seemed to invite spectatorial agency but I was struck by the way in which this agency was carefully managed and controlled and it might be worth commenting on this. For instance, spectators were, on occasions (as I was) asked to move around the stage; spectators also regulated the behaviour of other spectators, as you mentioned in your review. After hours of apparent ‘free play’, the decision to empty the stage of spectators for the final section was telling. Here spectators were returned to the auditorium and, for the first time (I think), the auditorium doors were closed. Conventional spectator/performer relations were re-established and this partly disabled some of the earlier, more provocative, work that the production had attempted with respect to this relationship.
I think some of these comments might be developed further. In particular, I’d like to hear more about what you mean by ‘Van Hove used cinematic and televisual techniques in in a very human, and thereby more theatrical, way’. What do you mean by ‘very human’ and what’s its relationship to the theatrical/theatricality?
It might be worth thinking more about the ‘struggle’ to watch the ‘live’ performers in relation to the screens, even as this might not have been a struggle for all! To go back to Katherine Rowe’s point about the relationship between reviewing and critical discourse, this is a place where you could develop your comments in relation to debates about liveness and mediatization/mediation, or would that fall outside the scope of the review?
Thanks for your question. The issue is complex, I think. Whilst there is, obviously, an issue with the number of audience members who understand the Dutch language (which I agree would have been very few), there is also the issue of how one attends to theatrical performance in general. Is the verbal discourse element of theatrical production always the most interesting and important thing to consider? I do not think so. The problem is compounded in the case of Shakespeare, of course, by the incessant textual focus put upon this writer by so many critics and commentators (even in accounts of and responses to theatrical productions). Speaking personally, I greatly enjoy watching (not listening to) foreign language Shakespeare precisely because it frees me up from obsessive aural attention to the spoken (canonical) text. This accordingly enables me to watch a theatrical spectacle unfolding, or to listen to the many OTHER noises produced as a play unfolds.
The Roman Tragedies was scenographically very rich, not just in terms of its use of video, but also in its positioning and blocking of actors, its general environment, its use of diagetic and non-diagetic sound… Many of the ‘professional’ theatregoers present (by which I mean performance studies scholars and theatre critics, known by me to spend a lot of time watching drama) were seen (by me) attempting to watch the live actors as much as possible, not the screens, and I am pretty sure that a large number of these spectators are not fluent in Dutch, yet were getting a lot from the production without recourse to the subtitles.
To ‘read’ this performance one had neither to be fluent in Dutch, nor to make use of someone’s on screen verbal translation of what was happening. This was particularly the case because with this particular material (again inflected as a result of the Shakespearean subject matter and source texts) because: I know a fair amount about the two periods of Roman history covered in these plays, I know how Shakespeare used his sources to create the three plays used, I can also call to mind a fair number of the speeches in each of the Shakespearean texts. So once I knew who was playing Aufidius, Volumnia or Enobarbus, I knew what they were saying — even without knowing Dutch.
I think the screen watching was more connected to audience passivity and a cultural predilection for flat screen tube gazing, rather than a pressing need for comprehension.
I don’t think the image was a reference to the pathology of Coriolanus. I didn’t read the boy as Coriolanus, but as a modern every-boy, playing with his toy sword.
The image of the boy holding the plastic sword happened at, or around, 1.3.37-40 (i.e. at ‘The breasts of Hecuba When she did suckle Hector looked not lovelier Than Hector’s forehead when it spit forth blood At Grecian sword, contemning…). In any case, I took the image to be a playful allusion to these lines (which I would have to read a translation of the Dutch script to quote to you as they appeared in the production; it could also be that the image REPLACED the lines in some way).
In any case, the effect of the image was certainly stronger in my own mind when set against this Shakespearean conflation of a small child and his eventual death, as an adult, in battle (as either Hector or Coriolanus, or Everyman). The point, as I see it, is that Shakespeare falls back on imagined Ilium, bringing into play extensive inter-textual imagery concerning the warrior’s mutilated body (in the Iliad and elsewhere) in order to juxtapose this adult carnage against an infant’s pre-nurtured state of innocence. One of the questions thereby asked (very powerfully) by *Coriolanus* (the play) concerns the cost (personal and social) of creating a society in which individuals like Coriolanus are trained up and needed by that society (when they are directed outwards towards a collectively accepted enemy), but are then rejected, or found very difficult to assimilate, once war is over. Most modern countries still train a percentage of their population as professional killing machines who are prepared to slaughter in similar ways to Coriolanus during wars. They also have difficulty re-assimilating them into civil society once the war in question has finished (see: Shay, Jonathan, Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character (New York: Maxwell Macmillan International, 1994) and by the same author: Odysseus in America: Combat Trauma and the Trials of Homecoming (New York and London: Scribner, 2002).
To me, the young boy with a plastic sword seemed to make reference to our willingness to buy children toys that make allusion to a Classical past, but only in relation to its violence, which is then left very largely un-interrogated. My six year old son has numerous Greek and Roman weapons, but the framed poster I have of Ajax impaling himself on his sword (from a 1935 production of Sophocles’ play, in Syracuse) is thought too disturbing (by my wife) to have in the house at present. It is now relegated to my office at work. I’d rather (and do) have serious conversations with my son about Sophocles’ play, Homer’s Iliad and the nature of human sacrifice in warfare than simply buy him a sword ‘because that’s what small boys want’. The former is better in the long term, to my mind at least, than just letting him run around bashing his friends with his weapons (which I also let him do).
To talk seriously with my son about warfare, in a Greek, or Roman, or modern contexts, I make recourse to precisely the kinds of texts that Shakespeare alludes to in 1.3.37-40.
All of that was going on in my mind as I saw the image and recalled the Shakespearean text in a highly mediated form of mental collage. But I’m not sure that I would want to foreground much of this in a theatre review. It’s too much about me, my son, my research interests in classical warfare and its representation in ancient play-texts. So I think the thing to do is to flag up the presence of the image and indicate that it was heavily overdetermined.
Yes. Thanks. It is now corrected.
The shift from Shakespeare’s “texts” to “works” makes me only slightly uneasy, as the performative dimension disappears…the problem with Shakespeare 2.0…and with the continuing distance (despite years of discussion) between textual and performance studies, at least in some familiar formulations that are accepted, usually, without comment. Hence mine.
Because of the years under discussion, the first use of “virtual” that came to mind was that of Susanne Langer, whom I seldom find cited explicitly these days despite her influential writings on aesthetics. (This may be my own narrowness of reading, of course!) I can’t recall whether she used the virtual as a major category prior to “Feeling and Form” in 1953, but it might be worth looking back at that (and “Philosophy in a New Key,” if it’s there–since that’s early 1940s).
Exactly–and I appreciate the incorporation of Worthen’s objections, and would only say that performance history might provide more than a caveat to acknowledge but rather a useful parallel realm, one which is perhaps less easily essentialized than text, seemingly, yet often still is (as when a particular night’s performance is generalized to stand for an entire performance run, for instance). THinking, as ever, about “the” computer and remediation…
This is all fascinating material and I’m inclined just to accept what is written, except that I got tripped up by what strikes me as a logical leap in the final clause here: does it really follow (in Shannon and Weaver or elsewhere) that equal ease of encoding reduces all to variants of ‘the same phenomenon’? Only to the extent that they are capable of being encoded, I would say, and would be surprised to see these MIT guys reversing the syllogism so blithely. Am I wrong?
Much virtue in “only” (last sentence): I’m unsure whether this is meant to be a critique of the theory or just a recognition that of course noise is a function of the problem posed, the solution being sought. For a scientist who is not claiming to describe all of reality but just the domain under scrutiny, or the engineer trying to design a system rather than the world, is this a ‘complexity’ or just a condition of possibility?
Again, fascinating analysis, and I’m only unsure about the conclusion, which again hinges on how one initially defines the terms: if the “message” isn’t the authorial text but rather the word originally spoken on stage, then the “materials themselves” in this example are the signal, and typeface or handwriting ambiguity would indeed be noise (as I read it, at least). I wait to stand corrected.
I do think there’s something a little odd, after such nuanced discussion of Shakespearean material texts, and desire for more such nuance in computer form, to refer to “science” as if it were such a unitary or simplified field. This links with the comment about coding, and the absence of discussion of multi-variant computer texts (I know Bernice Kliman was working on this with the Hamlet online variorum, among others). Computers are already allowing all sorts of fun combinations of data that complicate our reception of “Shakespeare,” so I find this paragraph–unlike most of this excellent article–feels a bit dated, as if speaking to the last generation rather than this moment in time. It may have to do with the essay’s combination of a carefully situated historical analysis and then present-tense advice without much attention to subsequent scientific theorizing, and I certainly understand why you wouldn’t want to (and don’t need to) go there. And then back to Auden–the temporal fine distinctions don’t seem to be applied here and following to the responses among humanists or those who have multiple interests in science/engineering/math/computers as well as Shakespeare. So I’d agree that is an area to think about a bit more in the final version. Having said that, a very enjoyable, thoughtful, and rich essay-thanks!
I’m really glad to see this discussion of the Moby source text, as I spend lots of time trying to clarify what is “cutting edge” about MIT Shakespeare projects–and what is (these days) not: people often confuse the Moby text site (understandably) with our current MIT digital projects. It’s a great example of two very different ways of being valuable in the digital realm, and while I’ll always be glad and grateful for Jeremy Hylton’s work–true to the Open Source movement and broad populism here–I spend lots of time trying to explain to students why a newer scholarly edition sometimes is very important to consult!
Here is one of the opportunities and challenges of this format for doing ‘manuscript’ review: knowing Whitney as an MIT Comparative Media Studies alum, I recognize the assumptions and values that inform this piece, and thus should acknowledge that (and my own participation in CMS as a participating faculty member) as also shaping my response. The question of disciplinarity is indeed a complex one, and goes beyond having a field of inquiry or even dominant methods or priorities. I do think it’s an open question whether DH is or should be a discipline, or whether interdisciplinarity and creativity are precisely the strength here. It is also true that traditions and disciplines allow certain figurations of knowledge, as well as constraining others. Still more important, however, is that we be open and articulate about our own assumptions and criteria for “success” and not generalize them to everyone involved in the area prematurely. I think an even more direct and theorized articulation here, early on, of your own (valid) goals would help both in directing your reader to interpret what follows, and in allowing space for alternative conceptions of ‘success’ that are also valuable. The assumption that guidelines and academia per se “rigidifies” (rather than, for example, enables and materially sponsors) DH is one ripe area for debate. As several of the respondents note, resources and multi-year funding are a crucial part of developing the more ambitious functionalities desired here, and a survey or critique of such sites and projects would be even more valuable if it made those conditions visible as well. Similarly, reaching a wider public and allowing more individualized routes and play is one strong goal and value–but again, not necessarily the dominant or appropriate goal in all instances, if we are to maintain a wide field of knowledge production; that may sound paradoxical but of course there’s plenty of discussion of specialized uses, subcultures and more to ground it (were I writing such a review myself, which I’m not!). Good to get your take on these sites, and a great prompt for further conversation: thanks.
I’d also add some kind of citation to support the claim based on US theater companies, since it isn’t self-evident nationally (though it surely true in many areas) that there are fewer Asian Americans in Shakespeare cos. than, say Hispanic Americans among others; also important to clarify whether this categorization is based on US govt. categories (which don’t attend to South Asians, reducing all “Asia” to East Asia at a time when the different regions obviously need better representation in a variety of ways). Lisa N’s work is very much digitally focused, whereas here I’d say you’re trying to explore a different, and important area of intersection between old and new media, the way in which ‘traditional’ theatrical practices are being translated (or not) to the digital realm. This is, in fact, more interesting conceptually than the framing here makes evident.
Clearly this section has prompted a lively discussion which cries out for a much fuller analysis in another place: for the purposes of this article, I think the most important issue is that your method matches your claims, and that it allows your audience the tools to judge the accuracy of your presentation of evidence and the persuasiveness of your argumentation. If we are really raising questions of social science research, the issue of 3 examples standing for a field as normative is problematic without a lot more apparatus (maybe closer to the practices of linguistics and some forms of anthropology, but the way the evidence is used still differs: I still think we’re solidly in humanities-land here, so this analogy may be a bit of a red herring). I agree with Kathy that, regarding publication and creative ‘control,’ it was ever thus, and that the ethical (as distinct from formal) issues are not entirely new –but if your goal is to remind us of these complexities, that’s great. Clearly the age of the participants is a crucial point, and also a topic that might fruitfully recall for us the participation (exploitation, use, talents) of the youthful ‘boy actors’ for whom SHakespeare wrote. Finally, ephemerality is what theatrical performance history has always had to grapple with–here the difference seems that we are in the murky arena of semi-ephemerality, akin to the tapes of performances kept in theater archives, but not quite; the t.v. shows sometimes preserved and sometimes not, from the live era; home videos sent to t.v. shows; and yet not…lots of formal and phenomenological nuances to be explored over time, I suspect. All of which to say: more issues raised here than one essay needs to take on, and I look forward to hearing which ones you wish to target and which to leave for others in the future, with a bit more pointed specificity on your own match of method to the substance of your pending argument.
Several rich issues here too: as condensed here, the Turkle v. Nakamura reading seems to hinge upon the utopian fluid self effacing race (as I read your final paragraph, which sees discourse involving race as providing counterevidence to Turkle), but I’m not sure that follows or is implicit in Turkle’s vision of utopia. Also, the invisibility that complicates Lisa N’s reading of the internet (with which I agree) seems resonant nowadays less at the level of the user being visibly or just verbally present–given that we are past the ‘first phase’ of MOOs, etc. as you note– and more importantly reminds us of the webs, coders, ‘controls’ that shape our interaction with any site, verbal or visual: certainly her work now on the Chinese workers involved in financial trading in virtual worlds, while almost literally chained to their desks in small cubbyholes for 18+ hours a day, enlarges our gaze and calls attention to the wider community under discussion; here, the analogy might be to consider the racial construction of the schools where or for whom these videos were performed, the access of these and not other students to the machines, the way in which families or the schools provided exceptional access, etc. I’m unsure whether thinking about this is helpful or not, given my earlier comments about honing in on the article’s focal argument, but it does seem part of the debate being referenced here.
So you might integrate this with the Nakamura discussion earlier? As you note, it is perilous to speculate based on limited knowledge but certainly wouldn’t surprise us to find that most of those doing DIY videos are at least middle class. What is added by noting this, in terms of your argument about race? I guess I am saying that if you are going to include this, and my own disposition is to consider complicating social identities as much as possible when discussing race, then perhaps need to do more than just note it here.
Could it be that this is precisely what it is to be marked as Asian American rather than Asian? My experience of generational difference between immigrants and their children made me surprised only by the repeated “Despite the fact” introduction, which implies that somehow these students SHOULD be more Asian than they are:is that begging the question, or reenacting the kind of identity politics that has prompted so many younger Americans to call themselves post-racial? What would the absent “Asian American” cultural marker look like, as distinct from an Asian one or the sights and sounds we actually witness?
Buildiing on Barbara’s comment: might these students recognize the iconic status of Fishburne, yes as Othello but moreso from The Matrix? Doesn’t the linkage with Othello ‘fit’ in the sequence of Shakespeare studies in a more interesting way, in that it takes Aaron away from the Barabas-like hypervillain to a vexed other/not-otherness, and recognizes the constructedness of that image? Okay, you see what I’m doing and certainly don’t need to posit these students are all thinking this way, but can we presume they are NOT, or are not “implicitly [inviting] the audience to interrogate the play’s racial politics and the politics of contemporary American cultural production,” as you say they are only w/ TItus, below? Nobody I have met feels entirely alienated and distanced from Fishburne, btw.
Although I know what you mean, your posited attention to the ‘practical’ and performative would still be ‘anecdotal’ in the parlance being used (ironically, scientific, and now by extension social scientific), which posits quantitative evidence in contradistinction to ‘anecdotal’ evidence (embracing all forms of qualitative evidence). Because you invoked social science earlier, this stands out, and needs at least a caveat in the footnote clarifying that you know what she means in using this word.
This is indeed an important point, and I wish I found it entirely strange: the reason I don’t (and it is a point worth making) is that our discipline like all others in higher education (outside ed schools) privileges research over pedagogy, and thus publishes work even on pedagogy that aspires in the direction of revealing the authors’ knowledge, not their classroom experience. Most of those teaching in K-12 don’t have the opportunity, time, or incentive (or, sometimes, desire) to write for Shakespeare publication, and so it is indeed important that we in universities and colleges find multiple ways of reaching across these divides and both representing what goes on, as you do in this essay, and sharing what we learn from one another & getting it–I won’t say in print here, but at least in wider circulation! My sincere hope is that, while not much yet has made its way into public writing, many of us are indeed raising the important questions you pose and are considering race, gender and ethnicity (the visible indicators–class and other identity attributes are trickier) when we do performance work in the classroom. My experience in performance studies leads me to posit that there may be more material about non-traditional casting and the falseness of ‘blind’ casting in theatrical pedagogy texts, v. specifically Shakespeare-focused texts. This may be in great part because performance remains primarily an adjunct rather than the focus of most Shakespeare teaching beyond elementary school, and the increasing pressure for and reliance on testing nationally is pushing us further away from this domain. Nevertheless, the importance of discussing social realities in and via performance (including performance of Shakespeare) is absolutely crucial. The resistance is strong in some quarters–in talkbacks at professional productions I find it even stronger, and coming from actors as well as audiences–but the work and discussion remain deeply important. Thanks, Ayanna, for advancing this conversation!
I think that this is an excellent idea. It does all the things that Linda, Andy and Kathy indicate in their comments, and it usefully follows up on SQ’s new “Positions” essays, which have comments by readers printed below them.
We would need to think carefully about the format this would take. I take Andy’s point that rather than three comments, it may be a better idea to include an edited version of an exchange. We don’t need to insist on the same thing fro everyone. I’d welcome further suggestions.
I wonder if you should say more here not just about the relationship between Asian-American culture and digital media or between Asian-Americans and Shakespeare, but between Asian-Americans and African-American (especially urban) cultures.
There is, of course, the obvious matter of violent antagonism, both real and imagined. Do the Right Thing comes to mind when thinking about Asian-black relations in New York; in L.A., the Soon Ja Du/Latasha Harlins shooting.
But black-Asian relations aren’t limited to the bodega. There seems to be a lot of fraught crossover between Asian-American and hip-hop cultures (the [parodic?] orientalist fascination with kung fu movies [Wu Tang Clan] or with Asian women). Perhaps relevant to the subject of the (parodic?) identification of Asian-American youths with hip-hop culture is both the success and the failure of the Asian rapper Jin.
I’m rambling, but only because I sense the ways in which the complexities of black-Asian relations in urban America matter throughout this paper. And I wonder if setting up some of this more explicitly at the outset would be useful.
Whitney Trettien’s notice of our UCB website about Shakespeare Staging in “Disciplining Digital Humanities” is accurate and balanced, with valid praise and criticism. We have indeed stressed content and clarity above all, as the materials presented are mostly inaccessible and buried in unshaped, un-annotated collections requiring months of research and selection to secure. We have attempted to identify all images and sources, but further annotation continues. Our principles of organization are deliberately familiar: historical categories with alphabetical content by play-title. The site has been praised by users for its simple and traditional structure; other, more sophisticated sites in our field are often hard to master and adapt.
Advanced and elegant technology cannot be readily afforded and only low-resolution images are usually permitted for open access. So our technical repertoire has to be very modest, based on a budget of under $15,000 over five years for establishing and developing the site, and $100 per month to maintain it currently. This cost was largely covered by royalties from our video documentaries that also provide our site’s video clips, funding which is insufficient to establish a modern video collection involving complex questions of selection, access, and copy-right. It was startling for our director to be asked to review a proposal for an analogous site with a budget of one and a half million dollars.
The Trettien review is indeed written with high technological expectations rather than with a sense of the limited options, needs, and resources available to the creators and users of data about Shakespeare performance. We are not aware that elaborate educational programming is required by our users: comment from students, teachers , and scholars suggests that their own applications are already quite effective and diversified. Since we are now reaching a total of one million page visits, our procedures do seem justified.
Hugh Macrae Richmond, Director, Shakespeare Program, U.C. Berkeley
I have a small point that piggybacks on that of leosborn, and that is that a) the theater has always been interactive; and b) the model of “interactivity” promulgated in the discourses you focus on is of a particular stripe. (Not that either of these ideas is news to you!) Given this, I wonder if it would be worth specifying more precisely what interactivity looks like under this rubric while at the same time gesturing toward the forms of interactivity devalued in the name of “creativity,” “experience,” and so forth.
Regarding ” reaching a “wider public” means an amplification of the social good they are assumed to do (rather than a fragmentation of their work in a new age of many-to-many broadcast)” — I’m glad you made this point, since its worth contesting the claims of general “access” in this way. (A current U.S. AT&T ad has it that general access to the internet will make everyone smarter, as registered in the ability to spell.)
“Might” is an interesting word here. You seem to be ventriloquizing the “experience,” “creativity” discourse, which as I understand it implies that this _is_ the way “cultural value occurs in a theater” (and, the discourse says, that’s a problem, a top-down and non-interactive form of experience). But “might” opens up other possibilities, and also leaves me wanting you to push back against the logic of the theater as definitionally non-interactive, at least to some small degree. I know that’s not your primary job here, but you have an elegant sentence earlier about the fantasmatic nature of claims re: what electronic access will produce that could serve as a model. (Or, you could cut “might” and make plain that the model of theatrical value you discuss is one posited by the discourses you’ve been examining — though, unsurprisingly, I’m less enamored of that idea!).
A comment sprung by the final sentence of this paragraph: In the context of your larger argument, an institutional maneuver such as this one (the recourse to auratic value) reads as a semi-desperate attempt on the part of an institution to accrue cultural value to itself. But I wonder if you overstate the extent to which specific institutions’ actions are determined in response to the broader cultural valorization of “experience” (and to UK cultural policy). In many cultural arenas, and in the case of Shakespeare, the appeal to intrinsic value hasn’t really stopped being made, has it? The point is that to describe a “recours[ing]” to a language of instrinsic value (or a “resort[ing]” to it, as in your abstract) is, I think, to overstate the extent to which the turn to “creativity” and relativity has carried the day, at least at the expense of intrinsic value and at least within all cultural institutions.
A related point: to me, a number of your examples show that, in an effort to accrue value to themselves, the Shakespeare institutions have worked to represent “creativity” and “experience” as operations not of the “I” alone, but of the “I in engagement with the institution.” In other words, the institutions have sought to stress that creativity doesn’t happen in a vacuum; it happens most powerfully through engagement with great works of art, which are posited as having intrinsic value. Facilitating such engagement might involve lifting the veil – the backstage blogging of the RSC actor – but that doesn’t mean the intrinsic value of Shakespeare doesn’t remain a given, or that it has been somehow ceded to the individual. (The process of “making Shakespeare accessible” doesn’t necessitate a loss of intrinsic value.) Viewed this way, the institutional assertion of intrinsic value isn’t a reaction to the waxing authority of the individual; it is instead something that the institution stages as part of the engagement of work and individual. And this view is, I think, compatible with the stated missions of these institutions (the universality of Shakespeare, and so on).
Put differently: while you have convinced me entirely that UK cultural policy promotes participation over access, and thus relocates value from object to visitor, I think you could do more to acknowledge the relative autonomy of specific institutions vis a vis that policy. We might see them as negotiating between that policy and their own institutional imperatives and belief systems – or even affirming that policy insofar as it enables them to make claims about Shakespeare’s intrinsic worth. While it makes good sense to stress institutional loss – i.e., the institutions are no longer gatekeepers – I wonder if that view hasn’t made it harder to spot moments where alternatives to that narrative present themselves.
Thanks for a fascinating paper; I really enjoyed it. Apologies for the untidiness of my comments — something bizarre happened when I pasted them in from a Word document. I think all the content is there, though, after the random ampersands and percent signs.
I am a member of the Open Shakespeare Project (www.openshakespeare.org – not to be confused with Open Source Shakespeare) and found this article extremely interesting. I feel that your conclusion points towards many of the approaches to Shakespeare that our project incorporates, and that are part of a more ‘social’ approach to Shakespeare.
It occurs to me that as well as spreading Shakespeare to a far larger audience, cheap editions of Shakespeare are also a godsend for students, who may write their thoughts all over their pages without fear of ruining something expensive. If all these scribbles were collected, a formidable body of knowledge of Shakespeare would be available, as would an evolving record of responses to this writer.
Our site has recently acquired the ability for anyone to annotate Shakespeare’s works, and soon will add the capacity to attribute, tag, sort, and hide the annotations made. With this we hope to create an ‘open’ edition of Shakespeare’s plays that would grow along similar lines to Wikipedia, harnessing the power of the internet to bring many minds to bear upon a single subject.
Such problems as found with the OSS still pose difficulties for us: we have to use Moby as a source text since all others, including (lamentably) the wordhoard text, are under copyrights that conflict with our Open license. Nevertheless, just as textual problems are flagged up in a critical edition with a footnote, so too could such problems be drawn to the reader’s attention through annotation. As Whitney Trettien’s article points out, the web comes into its own when it is an ‘expressive medium’ itself, and not one which, like the OSS, unthinkingly delivers content.
Essentially, ISE already has this kind of thinking process, displaying an editor’s annotation on each text right down to the textual variants. It even has the ability to sort such annotations. However, the problems you identify – different kinds of editing, slow progress, uneven quality – all inevitably result, I feel, from the fact that each text only has a single editor. More editors would speed progress but it is not, of course, a given that more editors would improve quality. Wikipedia is still notorious for its occasional inaccuracies.
Nevertheless, such inaccuracies can be resolved by the same process that generates them. If anyone can annotate, so anyone can also review annotation and improve it. I realise that this is a rather utopian position and that people can as easily vandalise as beautify, but I feel it to be a more tenable one than that held by the websites here. The internet allows for unprecedented levels of input as well as appreciation, and such potential is not exploited by the sites reviewed in this article.
Talking of input and appreciation brings me to one further aspect of these sites that interests me, namely how easily one can print from them. The OSS shines in this respect, but attempting to print an ISE fascimile is rather more difficult. I must also admit that printing from an annotated text at The Open Shakespeare Project is currently impossible: the tool only went live fairly recently, and the site is still very much under construction. One day we hope to harness the accumulated and peer-reviewed annotations of many to produce a printed text, and thus complete a cycle between internet and ‘real world’ Shakespeare.
Such a cycle is ignored at the peril of digital scholarship, for it is the mix of real events and online responses to them that makes Facebook so addictive. Other addictive qualities, such as the relatively small time commitment and the chance to interact with other users could be profitably replicated by internet Shakespeare projects. After all, anything capable of sustaining those involved in the long task of making productive use of Shakespeare is always welcome and need not be to the detriment academic rigour.
It would also help if humanists could be brought to understand that encoding and coding — markup systems and programming languages — are not fixed and immutable, but highly manipulable and extendable. An encoding standard does not have to be slavishly used as if it were akin to the laws of physics — there is nothing preventing, for example, a Shakespearean scholar from modifying or creating a markup scheme for encoding a Shakespeare play designed to fulfill a specific interpretative aim. Similarly, an examination of a programming language and its ‘dialect’ descendants reveals that codes can become, as you say of computers in the previous paragraph, “whatever [one] can make of them.”
I think the argument of the paper as a whole is really stimulating (and perhaps I can return it with other comments) but here can I nit-pick about the blog that I authored and that is referenced in note 25? My company Illuminations produced the RSC/BBC film, and we created and hosted the blog, and while the line might not be very strong, there is an institutional distinction to be made between our activity and that of the RSC’s. The “unserious, online access” in this case is not (directly) to the RSC. Not that this invalidates the force of your conclusions.
I’ve posted a response to your welcome and provocative comments in a new post here on the Illuminations blog. I’m delighted by your response, even if I think you’ve conflated what I saw as two separate projects. And you’ve introduced the idea of a third — a crowd-sourced CW — that I find extremely intriguing, and that I’d love to discuss further.
You mention in para 2 that you’ll return to the opportunities of crowd-sourcing in Shakespeare studies, and I really look forward to your further thoughts.
Like Andrew I enjoyed reading this – I wondered if your historical contextualisation could be extended back even further. I think that historians of binary code regard work by Francis Bacon (and John Wilkins) and then (separately) Liebnitz as foundational (though I’m no expert and could be misreading it) – see: Volker Aschoff, 1983, ‘The early history of binary code’, IEEE Communications Magazine, 21.1, pp. 4-10 (Institute of Electrical Engineers); and
F.G. Heath, 1972, ‘Origins of the binary code’, Scientific American, 227, pp. 76-83
also possibly of interest:
H. Neville Davies, 1967a, ‘The history of a cipher, 1602-1772’, Music and Letters, 48.4, pp. 325-9
Hi Andrew – thanks for your comments on our essay. I think you raise a lot of important questions about texts and availability in this piece, and I’l make some other comments later on. As you note – we have been using a version of the OpenSource/Moby text (with some adaptation) – and there are all kinds of issues associated with that (for example, the version I have on my iPhone spells ‘judgment’ like that in most of the plays, but in Ed3 it is ‘judgement’ – so a simple search on ‘judgment’ would suggest that the word isn’t in Ed3). There are also sometimes problems with line-breaks/punctuation marks stopping the search tool ‘finding’ a word.
I thought I’d pick up on your comment about reading the Henry6 plays at the end of this paragraph – since I recently found myself on the Tokyo underground, fresh out of a 9.5 hour version of all three plays in Japanese, looking up the final act of 3H6 on my phone. It was very good to be able to do that…
I wonder about this claim of fatality – yes there are problems with the Globe/OS text (see my previous comment) – but how much do they affect study of the plays? We’ve been through an exhilarating few decades of detailed textual study, which has foregrounded close attention to small changes which can be claimed to alter our views of texts – but certainly for iterative criticism the differences between the Globe and a modern text are likely to be very small. As we say in our paper, one big difference between iterative work, and traditional criticism, is getting used to the notion that the evidence used is highly frequent – and therefore pretty robust.
It sounds scandalous (and it goes against all my training, which was in the white-heat of the Shakespeare-as-reviser days) but I suspect it really doesn’t matter too much which text you use if you are counting large numbers of frequently occurring items.
It is a bit of a tangent to the discussion here, but I think it is arguable that modern editing has fetishised small changes (and working with editors on linguistic issues as I do, I know there is an attraction for modern editors in coming up with ‘new’ readings that differentiate their texts from those of their predecessors) at the expense of paraphrase and explanation (which is arguably what readers actually need).
You say that the data set (the Moby text) is 150 years out of date – but that’s implying that we’ve had 150 years of texts getting better since it was published. We’ve had 150 years of texts getting different – but I’m not sure the differences are (a) necessarily improvements; or (b) statistically significant.
It would be an interesting side-project for someone to compare ‘different’ texts of Shakespeare, since we could come up with a mathematical measure of exactly how ‘different’ various texts were (I can see publishers vying with each other to have the texts with the greatest index of difference…)
I was lucky enough to be given access to the Arden CD-Rom when I was writing my Shakespeare’s Grammar, and it is a great resource. It’s a shame Arden’s pricing policy was so daft. The search function is of its time, as it has a list of stop words which can’t be searched for as they are too frequent, but I assume this could easily be changed. i don’t know who has the copyright to this now after Arden’s journeys through capitalism, but it still offers the easiest way to compare edited, Q and F texts simultaneously on a single screen.
Thanks for this Christian – I saw this production too, and like you was very profoundly impressed by it. I’d say it was the best theatrical Shakespeare experience I’ve had. I missed a sense of just how good this production was in your review until this last paragraph – it’s a long review, and it would be good to have some indication of the quality and interest of the production (especially as it will be going to the USA later this year). And like you, I’ve come to prefer Shakespeare performed in languages other than English. I wonder what that says about the quality of Anglophone Shakespeare?
I think that’s a good question – maybe ‘portrait’ isn’t the best word for what we are producing here. Though one advantage of it is that it allows the reader to think that other, very different, portraits could be produced, without necessarily having less validity. ‘Model’ suggests (to me anyway) a more explanatory procedure where we implicitly claim to be setting up a testable model of how something does what it does (like producing a model of the structure of DNA for example). Maybe that is what we are doing in relation to Shakespearean genre, though I’m not sure either of us would be fully happy in claiming that… yet.
thanks Andy – I’ve made some potentially scandalous remarks back in your piece!
I like the “iterative” idea in this essay, since drama is itself an iterative art. I think the authors are appropriately enthusiastic about their methods while retaining a sense of humanistic purpose (evinced, for example, in the idea that the point is to return to the text as readers refreshed by our digital excurses). An impressive achievement.
Why a “portrait?” I mean I like the word and all but given the mode of analysis is a different metaphor perhaps desirable…thinkable even? As a reader one of the things that interest me about what you call “iterative criticism” is the relation that comes to exist between your discourse and the textual “corpus” as you model it–would “model” be preferable then to “portrait.” More anon–I believe I have to wait to have this comment moderated before it is posted…
Yeah you see my ruse–a poor one–any word you choose to self-describe will be problematic here in terms of the knowledge claim that will get attributed to the essay. I like Jonathan’s defense of portrait (and the indefinite article) and I take the point, Mike, that the description (rendering???) of the genre “encompasses all visual patterning” and that you’d prefer to understand the method asa re-description rather than a genetic analysis that tests the modeling of genres. That said, when you metaphorize the product of the re-description “stuff” happens.
I really like the essay and am having fun slow commenting / thinking about it–coming off a reading of Benjamin on translation alongside Latour on translation…so that’s my point of arrival.
I think a footnote to something like Francis Teague’s Speaking Properties might be useful for readers of SQ here–in that one of the things I got from that book was the way an attention to the stage “life” of props in that book produces differing senses of how the object worlds of comedies, tragedies, etc are configured. While not the equivalent of “iterative criticism” as you term it, her analysis works by counting and sorting the repeated appearance of banquets / tables, for example, as indexed to certain kinds of events and then reading their different timings within plays as significant.
What’s the force of the word prosthesis for the two of you? Is there any remnant of replacement / resistance in your use? Am I correct in reading point 3–there must always be “a critic or group of critics to introduce a salient distinction for any repetitive technique to produce results” as the way in which you box up counting / pattern transcription to prevent its equation with reading? By asserting a distinction (a logical distinction?) between counting (automatic??) and reading (phenomenological–linear?) are you purifying prosthesis or allowing it to shed its opacities (ghosts, the unconscious etc)? I’m asking because I’m deeply sympathetic but worried about where resistance goes…
Your use of Merry Wives is wonderful! (I’ll confess to having wanted to write this part of the essay myself). You invite us all to read you (and ourselves) as Mistress Page and Ford and enter the world of iterative criticism–what strikes me though is that you deploy this scene but then don’t allow the diegesis play out.
If I follow you, iterative criticism (for which you and Jonathan and readers of SQ are wetware–as it’s the product of a network–is that fair?) resemble Mistresses Ford and Page only up to the moment of heir “capture and comparison” (to use your terms) of Falstaff’s voice. What happens next is uncharted terrain for the two of you–for them it’s a series of questions: first of seriality (which letter will “inherit first”; second to the supposition of the letter as printed facsimiles, or succession of pages (automaticity); third to the two critics “drawing a blank” or introducing the figure of a blank into the letters that obliterates or razes their proper names (one of which is motivated–“page” the other not); and fourth the arrival of “press” as double-entendre. In tracing out the way the repetition alters the supposed singularity of the letters, Mistress Ford and Page essentially work through the implications of one falstaff, two letters, and arrive at themselves, two women, deprived of their proper names that might be “pressed”–posthuman or what?
So, here’s what I’m wondering: Can one (you, me, anyone) actually prorogue the inevitability of your point 3 re critics and salient differences below? Is the decision to count and capture not already a salient difference? Do Mistresses Ford and Page actually resemble iterative critics all the way–and if so what are you blanking on?
Since this technology permits one to reply to oneself–totally weird–I just realized that my comment is haunted by the fact that Mike emailed me today and hence my comment singularizes a plural “you” in lines 1-2 as if it addresses him and not you both. Apologies!
I think you mean plum not plumb in this paragraph–otherwise this might become a potentially lethal pudding…at least pretty gritty.
I’m a fan of pudding analogies generally–but the way you yoke iterative criticism to conventional (linear?) reading here feels a bit like lowered expectations…or a taming of your beast.
I have two questions:
1) Isn’t there always a relation between the “gloop” and the fruit in what you call “human-based reading”–thresholds of significance move / are semi-conscious and linearity is always infused with and itself in cahoots with the pluridimensionality of other orders of experience than those of the ratio of the line.
if I confess the pudding analogy works perhaps best for the routinized teaching of a play or a reduced theatrical version–where certain passages are “must read” text…and other scenes end up in the “had we but world enough and time” bin of deferred reading…
2) Do you have a stronger / wilder version of the relation of iterative criticism to linearized reading?
Perhaps the printed essays could be followed by a brief, 1- or 2- paragraph ‘reflection’ by the author, and indeed by the editors, on how the review process informed the final version of the essay. Alongside the selected key comments/conversations, this reflection would enable the author to acknowledge more general trends in the responses, and also to allude to any brief or tangential individual comments, perhaps not reprinted, that nonetheless encouraged them to make their point slightly differently… For readers of the printed version, this might provide another interesting insight into the online process.
Does this raise the question of which comes first, the behaviour or the media? Is Web 2.0 technology supposed to enable or stimulate such behaviour?
You draw attention here and in several of your later comments to a point that’s absolutely central to the essay, so thank you for the opportunity to foreground it here.
My ultimate point is precisely that, as you say, ‘Shakespeare and Shakespearean performance are only imperfectly confined as just objects’, and that nostalgia for the stable intrinsic value of art is problematic. I set out not to deplore the loss of a once-stable intrinsic value but to track institutional behaviour as discourses of cultural value change, and, by doing so, to show how problematic institutional claims to the value of Shakespeare have always been.
Specifically, the ‘older language of value’ refers here to the originary claims of many of these institutions to preserve, promote, and even embody Shakespeare (and thanks to your helpful comments I’ll be including more details of these in the final version of the essay). Their intrinsic-sounding assertions of value were connected to the challenge of yoking ‘Shakespeare’ (text? performance? individual?) to a building-based institution in a particular physical space.
Digital technology, enlisted to promote the building-based work of these organisations, reinvigorates the ongoing challenge of, as Diana Owen, Director of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust put it, ‘getting your arms round Shakespeare’. The renewed emphasis I later observe in these institutions on Shakespeare-related objects can be read as an attempt to anchor a nebulous ‘Shakespeare’ in the seemingly stable value of the artefact.
It’s this fluidity of value, the basis of ‘intrinsic’ or other kinds of value in linguistic acts of evaluation, that makes literary scholars well placed to perform this kind of analytical work — not only for external institutions, but for themselves, as the terms in which the value of research and teaching are articulated continue to shift.
An excellent suggestion to leave out ‘live’ in ‘live work’ until I’ve introduced Auslander’s point. That is done only briefly in the next paragraph in the interests of moving fairly swiftly through the stages of the introduction, but I’d be pleased to provide more detail if it would be helpful for readers at this point.
Global promise vs global use is another important point, and it’s one on which I’ve touched in my later discussion of how little an online presence changes the profile of an audience. I’d be keen to elicit the institutions’ own sense of who visits their pages globally: some are now starting to work with technology like Google Analytics that might provide data to that effect. I link back to the idea of the global at the end of the essay with the reminder of the local forces that shape these apparently global online spaces.
You’re right that institutional websites are frequently refreshed, and we might track a more general shift from ‘access’ (the very existence of such a website) to ‘participation’ and ‘creativity’ as the profferred interactivity of the site is increased. For example, Arts Council England’s site, overhauled in November 2009, both adds the key term ‘experience’ to its strapline (as discussed below) and aims to create a more interactive space for visitors.
As for the ‘traditional relationship of a cultural organisation to its own cultural value’, we can look to founding phrases, mission statements and early histories of the organisations for the language of preservation, promotion and even access; the essay does this in its first main section, but might do so at greater length in order to balance out, as you observe, the attention it devotes to the newer language of value. The fact that these founding statements persist in their organisations speaks to your final point about how older discourses are reshaped, as the organisation navigates between fulfilling its original, overarching goals and meeting present-day priorities.
Thanks for this. With ‘depend’ and ‘derive’ you’ve drawn attention to the fuzziest part of the rhetoric of ‘creativity’: does it really seek to hand over responsibility – or, indeed, the creative reins of an institution – to the public? The tension between the rhetoric of public value, and the responsibility for the running of the institution, is a major part of the institutional challenge this discourse presents.
The quotations I’ve given at the end of the paragraph aren’t intended to be scare quotes, representing a threat to traditional ideas of value, but phrases observed in an evolving discourse…
Thanks very much, both. For institutional assertions of intrinsic value, I refer back to my response to the first, overview comment on the essay. The relative interactivity of theatre, as compared to the museum or gallery, is an extremely useful point. I’ll talk more in the final version about how the theatre takes on a symbolic role in this new discourse of interactivity and creativity; and also how these institutions (such as the RSC on its thrust stage ‘transformation’) cast their previous incarnations (and even each other) as somehow less interactive, in order to emphasise the new kind of visitor experience they offer.
Thanks, Katherine – yes, I’m really interested in this emerging discussion of the special role of theatre in the discourse of interactivity. You’re right about its resemblance to the OP discourse, which is itself being rearticulated in the RSC’s ‘transformation’ to a thrust stage design that declaredly brings actor and audience into a closer relationship.
Thanks for your comment, John – I’m very glad you flagged this up as I certainly don’t want to conflate the activity of your two organisations. It’s interesting, isn’t it, though, that an online presence can contribute to the blurring of institutional boundaries. I’d be delighted to hear more from you about the nature of the relationship between the RSC and Illuminations Media. Are there any points of comparison with the new connection between the Globe and Opus Arte, discussed below?
The author concurs with the comment; thanks, both!
Thanks for spotting this repetition; I’ll be pleased to adjust it in a later version.
Thanks, Laurie – you’re right that, while ‘public subsidy’ in its most exact sense refers to the contributions made indirectly by UK taxpayers, it also encompasses the support given directly to the institutions by friends and donors around the world (perhaps most symbolically in the Globe’s ‘supporting wall’). The extent to which a web presence changes this kind of global support is debatable. I’ll try to add in brief clarification about the implications of the respective tax situations of UK and US organisations here.
A fascinating point that I’ll reflect on in the final version: there’s a growing network of collaborations with design and advertising and software to be explored. For now, though, it’s intriguing to consider the extent to which these Shakespeare DO create their own web presence, by appointing and growing in-house teams responsible for digital media as well as marketing. These kind of ‘creative industries’ activities are co-opted to become part of the institution’s core work.
Yes, and I’ve hinted in an earlier response about the way that the relative interactivity of theatre, and of the Shakespearean text, becomes of symbolic importance in the new discourse. At the same time, that discourse plays off the supposed seriousness and inaccessibility of high culture, as if it is being newly overcome by new media. So Shakespeare has at least two important symbolic roles to play here.
Thanks for this – yes, I agree that it’s important to question the easy equation of access and social good/ self-improvement that, as you say, is so readily deployed by organisations.
Thanks very much for this. As you’ll have seen from my response to your opening comment, I think we’re in agreement about the nostalgic nature of claims to intrinsic value! Once again, it’s not that intrinsic value is being eroded by a new, technologically-inflected language, but that both ideas of value are part of an evolving discourse.
I’ll refer in the essay to the historical construction of ‘Shakespeare’ himself, and, variously, of text and performance, as the location of Shakespeare’s value more specifically; and how that value is co-opted in the founding of institutions.
Thanks, Sharon: perhaps the answer to this question depends on where you think marketing stops and the core work of an institution begins. While I introduce the websites as promoting/ supplementary to the live work of the organisations (at least at present – a phrase to which you rightly draw attention later), there is an important sense in which their ‘online self-presentation’ stands in for the organisations, and thus the ‘qualities of immediacy, connectivity and relevance…’ are deliberately conferred on their core work by this use of new technology.
I agree with you that ‘currently’ and ‘at present’ are doing a lot of work here, but the point of the case study is to isolate the significant effects of this discourse on the idea of cultural value … before institutions take further action to defend themselves against future challenges to their ability to monetize their work. It’s intriguing, for example, that (as in the quotation from the RSC’s Michael Boyd at the end of the essay) they reassert the value of visiting the physical space of the theatre in internet-informed terms of interactivity and participation, and recast the internet as isolating, atomizing and fragmentary.
Good point: it’ll be important to distinguish the kind of audiences that this digital material attracts to the buildings themselves (something tracked by the RSC, for example) from the global audiences who might use it in a more independent way.
That is the question…
You’re right, it is very interesting politically. Tony Blair claimed in 2007 that free entry to museums and galleries was one of the Labour initiatives that had made the last ten years a ‘golden age’ in culture. He stated that charging entry fees ‘reduced the audience to the middle class’, though questions have been raised about whether free entry brings in new audiences or simply encourages the same people to visit more often. There was a media fuss later in 2007 when the Conservative Shadow Culture Secretary suggested that institutions might be allowed to restore entry fees; and it will be very interesting to see how the policy fares post-2010 general election. As for the shift from access to participation, yes, it is intriguing to see the speed of this language shift even over the last decade. It’s linked to the growing prominence of ‘creativity’ and the creative economy that I discuss later on. Thanks for your comment.
Good point. I wonder, though, what might be the effect of the internet rhetoric of consumers-as-producers on the category of ‘amateur’. Do ‘talent’ and ‘creativity’ in this document help to sidestep the notion of expertise?
I’ll certainly cite these renewed claims to Shakespeare’s economic usefulness, not least because they often re-embody the playwright as a savvy entrepreneur himself…
Very true – and competition between institutions is an important aspect of these claims for Shakespearean value.
I think the point is that it was never securely possessed… It will be important to make this even clearer in the final version.
Great points: thank you both. ‘Might characterize’ here was shorthand for another critical discourse: the existing literature on ‘value chains’ produced by researchers in arts management and the cultural industries. Some have gone further than others to incorporate the audience into that process of production, but most still describe a linear process.
It’s perhaps most accurate to say that the current discourse of participation and creativity ostensibly disrupts another, slightly older way of explaining how value is produced in the theatre.
Of course, there’s also a profitable iconoclasm in this reverse nostalgia, with institutions emphasising the newness of the interactivity on offer by downplaying the audience’s former role in the theatre.
Do you think ‘disrupts the imagined chain’, or, ‘the chain of creative production and consumption previously described by some critics’ would go some way towards explaining this?
You’re right, value doesn’t emanate from an originary place, but the claim that it does is an important, if implicit, part of these institutions’ very real competition with one another to attract visitors to engage with their building-based work. The RSC, SBT and Globe all make claims for the primacy of their location (Shakespeare’s actual place of birth; place of origin; place of work) that seem to entwine authenticity with value, and, above all, assert that their building is the best place to encounter Shakespeare. The Globe’s accessible London location has raised the stakes of this competition.
To refer back to your earlier point, where does PR stop and core work begin? ‘Partnership’ is the most positive way of presenting a potentially unequal relationship in which both theatre company and film company could be seen to be appropriating the most appealing aspects of another medium (liveness and reach respectively) for their own advantage.
The RSC’s blogs are certainly part of a central mission, pursued here by the marketing department, to engage and attract young audiences (along with other initiatives like £5 or free tickets on certain nights). How successful they are in attracting them is another question, but the RSC’s role as a major, publicly-funded organisation makes this kind of demographic reach an essential part of their core work. As a commercial organisation, attracting the 16-25s makes good sense, too…
This is where virtual walls – and the terminology of the facebook wall lends itself to their work here – stand in for institutional walls. The final section goes on to look at the larger-scale, physical changes to the institutions that this seemingly free-floating discourse has engendered.
Thanks for spotting this, Sharon: ‘new platform’ was Labour’s term for the methods of public consultation they planned to put in place around culture and public services – see, for example, the ‘deliberative democracy’ debates the Arts Council staged between artists and audiences.
Yes, I think that’s implicit in the way this visitor story is presented; it extends the idea of ‘ensemble’ theatre to the audience.
Thanks for this: I’ll be sure to make this point about ‘creativity’ earlier in the final version. As for the ‘consequences for the circulation and understanding of Shakespeare’s plays’, there’s one sense in which that is outside the remit of the essay, which is concerned with where value is perceived to lie in the larger Shakespeare industry. However, I’d like to gesture in the essay at ways in which this might change how Shakespearean texts are encountered and understood: the range of plays invoked in these digital exercises, for example (R&J is the subject of the RSC’s new Twitter experiment and of Stratford tourist board Shakespeare Country’s viral promotion game), or, as you suggest below, new public perceptions of dramatic collaboration that they might encourage.
Thanks, Laurie – it’s been really helpful to hear your sense of US equivalences and contrasts with this current UK discourse of value.
Once again, the ‘original cultural value’ – or, rather, the earlier claims of these institutions to a value of Shakespeare that was apparently grounded in access to their buildings – is itself part of a longer-term, changing language of value. This also suggests the impermanence of the dominance of the latest terms for valuing culture.
Thanks for this. I’m inclined to think that metaphorical and real acts of remediation aren’t necessarily entirely distinguishable…
Thanks very much! You’re absolutely right that the BL quartos make the material texts at once more and less accessible, fulfilling the dual aims of public engagement and long-term preservation (and at once effacing and asserting institutional walls). Does this idea of digital substitution work across the other cultural organisations discussed here? Does ‘Such Tweet Sorrow’ work entirely as a marketing exercise for the RSC, or might it be a way of expanding the idea of an RSC audience to more people than could currently fit into the Courtyard’s 1000 seats?
Very many thanks for this comment. You’re right that all of the institutions have a slightly different relationship to the prevalent discourse of cultural value, according to their respective relationships to government and the market. In that respect, ‘creativity’ might not be a blanket term for how value is construed by organisations.
The argument for their ‘recoursing’ to the auratic, intrinsic value of the object in the face of creativity comes out of the example of the SBT. This organisation goes a long way, in its new exhibition, to embrace the discourse of immersive experience, but ultimately places the material object – the Folio – at its centre. I found this example a useful starting point because the SBT is not supported by public subsidy, and the adoption of the new discourse was not necessarily a condition of funding.
As you rightly point out, this is not to say that any of the institutions dropped the idea of the intrinsic value of Shakespeare. What I’ve tried to do in the essay is to take the new discourse of value at its word: that is, to consider what happens if one accepted the idea, as promoted by proponents of ‘public value’, that intrinsic value is created on contact with the public. What happens if they are looking the other way at the time, etc…?
Perhaps ‘reassertion’, if not ‘recourse’, captures this sense of the renewed vigour with which intrinsic value claims are being made. There is a sense in which these are revised claims for the value of the co-operation of the public and already-valuable ‘object’. Shakespeare at once symbolises that relationship (as in the theatre) and challenges it (by resisting categorisation as object).
I’d hoped in my final version to make even more nuanced distinctions between the respective imperatives of these institutions. Thanks for suggesting how this might be done very effectively.
Thanks very much for your response, Andy. Absolutely – the ‘impact’ question is hugely relevant to the topic under discussion, and I gave it more space when presenting earlier versions of this essay to UK audiences in late 2009. I briefly suggest here that there are dangers, though, in seeing ‘impact’ in entirely oppositional terms to the ‘intrinsic’ value of research (like other paired opposites of intrinsic/instrumental, culture/commerce), lest it polarise policy and the academy when they most need to be in conversation. What do you think? Thanks for the reminder to revisit Hewison, whose more recent think-tank work was very much on my mind while writing this. Kate
Thanks for the opportunity to express my concluding points more forcefully. On the contrary, Shakespeare scholars, or rather the institutions within which they work, are increasingly being addressed by these documents. UK universities are now beginning to be asked to deal in precisely the terms that organisations in the wider cultural sector have been working with for the last decade. The word ‘creativity’ features prominently on a growing number of university homepages, where it is supposed to incorporate the activities of a range of academic disciplines, from English to science and technology. It would seem, therefore, increasingly important for academics to know from whence this discourse comes, and, I would argue, to play a role in the analysis, and even the shaping, of the operational language that their institutions adopt. I’m suggesting that literary scholars are unusually well placed to perform this kind of analysis.
Thank you very much for your rich and helpful comment.
You’re right that “what’s aught but as ’tis valued” resonates with the essay’s question of when value is supposed to happen. Other scholars have used the phrase as a jumping off point for considerations of, for example, the economic, or of scepticism, in Shakespeare’s plays themselves, and it might be a useful point of reference here, too (with due caution about invoking Shakespeare as a prescient authority figure on the matter – itself an intriguing value construction…).
On your question about value being recognized or created, and particularly the chicken and egg problem of poems being made through the process of approval, Bourdieu’s idea of the ‘field of cultural production’, and the work of more recent critics of cultural industries on the conditions that shape the inception of a work, are relevant here. Cultural value might be seen to shape a work, as much as to be recognised in it, or to be produced on subsequent contact with it. That ‘field’ is of course different for a Shakespeare and a Chopin.
Which links crucially to your next point: thanks for spotting that ‘inflected’ and ‘not merely’ are pulling in the same direction. I hesitated to say ‘produced’ instead of ‘inflected’, because, of course, all twenty-first century institutions are dealing, if not with the originary value of a fixed object called ‘Shakespeare’, then with the myriad prior interpretations, performances, and valuations of Shakespeare that precede their present-day work. I’ll be pleased to make this point in a later version.
As for the zeitgeist of democracy and participation: yes, I think you’re right. As I hope I’ve made clear in the essay, digital technology is not itself responsible for the changes in the way these institutions operate (not least because, as I pointed out, technology doesn’t remediate – people do). More pervasive is the discourse that attends that technology – a discourse that seems to hold out the promise of a participatory culture. The larger question of whether that promise, is, or was ever, more than a utopian ideal, remains to be discussed. Thanks again for your comments.
Thanks, Matt – I too was slightly uncomfortable about describing this as ‘failure’ so appreciate your suggestion of ‘problems’ as an alternative that leaves room for different kinds of success.
Thanks, both: I hope my response to Michael Dobson’s comment, below, goes some way to showing how, and with whom, scholars might discuss the language in which they are asked to articulate the value of their work.
In addition, it’s one of the general concerns of my essay that the tendency of studies of Shakespeare and new media can sometimes be to analyse what Shakespeare ‘means’ in a new arena, rather than to assess what kind of values are at stake. I’ll be pleased to foreground this, and explain further what an evaluative role might mean, in the final version of the conclusion.
Thanks very much, Matt. Your comment will help me, in the final version, to foreground the the significance of the essay’s particular framework of inquiry – Shakespeare and cultural value – as a specific, partly politically-driven issue that came to prominence in the UK in the early twenty-first century. By showing how specific it is to a certain UK political and cultural moment, it will hopefully (if ironically) make its findings all the more widely applicable.
Thanks, Mark, for the excellent suggestion to flag up in the essay how representative (or otherwise) these institutions are of the ‘mixed cultural ecology’ of the UK, and of Shakespeare organisations around the world. And I’m particularly grateful for your suggestion to bring into the essay those terms I’d kept at the margins in order to avoid limiting the scope to UK readers (but that might, in fact, as I responded to Matt, above, help to show the essay’s wider applicability). I’ll therefore be sure to address directly ‘impact’, the REF, and the political and cultural moment that prompted the funding of an AHRC project on ‘Shakespeare and cultural value’ (beginning 2006), in the final version. Many thanks!
That is new to me — and I assume to many reading on this site. Thanks for the reference.
Can you say more about what seems compelling or engaging about this use of Facebook?
Comments on this experiment — or the Special Issue as a whole — may be posted here.
There are several things that are exciting to me about this idea.
— it imagined a way for the print version of the journal to reflect its passage through this different medium.
— it directly addresses one of the central opportunities of online scholarly exchange, the opportunity to find new ways to credit the labor of reviewing. That labor is essential to the quality of scholarly discourse; in conventional peer review it is invisible labor. As Kathleen Fitzpatrick observes, open review processes offer a way to rethink how institutions and disciplines acknowledge the crucial role of reviewing — a rethinking the field badly needs precisely because we currently have no way to “credit” the very labor-intensive work of reviewing (see “Credintialing” paragraph 5: http://mcpress.media-commons.org/plannedobsolescence/one/credentialing/).
— Linda has homed in with characteristic clarity on the (potentially) democratic nature of open review, where the authority of a review is established in its cogency, thoughtfulness, erudition, and insight, rather than the credentialed status of the reviewer. A key question for this process is what incentive there is for reviewers to take a risk and post genuinely critical comments. For a reviewer, the less institutional status and protection she has, the more risky the act of posting may feel. Here Linda is imagining a potential for reward that might serve to balance the risk.
Those principles seem sound to me. They also have the virtue of not forcing premature assessment into a process that may take more months to unfold, as we see the full trajectory of an issue that passes through this dialogic medium on its way to a more fixed format.
The dissatisfaction with not being able to edit ones own comments is shared by many participants. As you say, it goes to how deeply embedded scholars are in specific visions of our words in print.
The emerging protocol for sites like this seems to be to record all changes; nothing is altered without that alteration being shown. That said, I’m happy to invisibly fix typos for anyone who asks. This seems to me one of the moments where the discursive demands of a field require flexibility in the decorum of a medium, rather than vice versa.
Presumably the performance context (commentary on scholarly journal submissions) intensifies our desire for precision in our own language. One of the hallmarks of SQ as a journal is the care it takes with all aspects of printing. The pages are combed and re-combed, for clarity and elegance of style, to ensure the print version accurately reflects the MS, to eliminate typographical and image layout errors.
In this process I have come to value that editorial care and precision much more than I did before. I think that’s because it makes for an “unimpeded” reading environment, where the only things that catch me up and make me work as a reader are substantive, not mechanical.
Some authors are wishing for a way to print out the essays with comments. Kathleen, is that possible here? I’m assuming not but thought I would register the question here, as one mode of use that this platform solicits but does not (appear to) accommodate.
I’m working through all the comments and emails aside to me to list the various functions authors and reviewers wish they had in this platform. I’ll post a comprehensive list here.
This comment is from Adele Seeff, Director of the Center for Renaissance & Baroque Studies, University of Maryland
I tried to post to the blog and kept getting an error message but I
wanted to get my observations to you and perhaps they could be posted to
I know that emailing you defeats the real purpose here but I wanted to
applaud SQ for the experiment, which, in my view, demands courage
because the reviewers are in turn being reviewed by readers, authors,
and other reviewers. This egalitarian process thus flattens out the
usual hierarchic process of peer review followed by rejection or
acceptance to an academic print journal, and mirrors the creative
anarchy of the web. As the Fitzpatrick piece points out, the nature of
authority is shifting (has shifted?) but the nature of ownership is also
shifting, and we could argue that we, the online collectivity of
readers/reviewers, jointly own these essays with their authors.
A final more personal comment: I have always preferred the delivery of a
paper that is a work-in-progress because it is open, unfinished, and in
process of becoming to the finished paper in print because it is closed.
This online review reminds our students that writing is revising.
This is what a comment on a whole page would look like. Note that comments can be toggled open/closed by clicking on the header just above this comment. That allows a reviewer to read without knowing how others have responded to the essay, if she or he so chooses.
Note to first-time commenters: your first posting will not appear immediately. It will be moderated to ensure that you are a real person, not a spambot. Once that has been established your posts will be visible immediately.
Done — thanks for the suggestions.
This comment is from Mark Burnett, who couldn’t get the comment function working:
“This is a highly stimulating and exciting essay: I particularly like the ways in which we need to attend to the encoding process in digital humanities as a route back to the materials themselves.
The essay could benefit from some more finessing. For example, in the reflection on information theory, are we also talking about new kinds of collective memory practices that reveal themselves in processes of reproduction? Similarly, what exactly are the new media? The phrase is used frequently, but this essay, and others, never quite gets down to questions of definition. It occurs to me that the concern with numbers could be traced back further – specifically, to the so-called scientific revolution of the seventeenth century. In other words, why go back only to 1949? What happened in between? I’m echoing here Jonathan Hope’s call for a longer historical timeframe but offering an alternative context. Gestures of this kind might be useful in view of the author’s observation that ‘Cultural investments … bestow value’. Value, of course, has its own history of interpretation.”
Really interesting thread developing in these reviewer responses, around the received value discourse of theater as it gets remediated online. As you say, Kate, it could help explain the particular leverage Shakespearean institutions have in an environment newly dedicated to interactive experience as its once and future value. I’m struck by the way some of what you describe echoes the OP discourse at the New Globe, with its emphasis on playgoers as collaborators (see the illuminating Mark Rylance interview in the wonderful collection of essays on the Shakespeare’s Globe project, ed. Carson and Karim-Cooper.).
My bad! Or more formally: this copyediting error is easily corrected should the Author concur with this comment.
Garrett, I think that happens when you cut/paste from a word-processor that has a lot of formatting. I took the liberty of eliminating the glitches.
This comment is from Mark Burnett, who couldn’t get the comments function working.
“I like this essay too and was wondering about, even if in passing, extending the sample/purview. This might take, first, a national dimension. Kate Rumbold centres on four well-known British Shakespeare institutions, but do others, perhaps less well-known and more haphazardly funded, exhibit the same tendencies? In other words, are we talking only about Shakespeare institutions in Britain that, although differently supported, represent complementary versions of the workings of global capital? I also wondered about an international dimension that would push further Laurie Osborne’s points about US counterparts. To put the point more broadly, when we bear in mind a transnational sense of Shakespeare’s usages, and languages other than English, are the paradigms discussed here reproduced? This might be important because UK institutions obviously trade on the significance of Shakespeare as a global icon and presumably are symptomatic of larger global practices. In the final sections on ‘wider significance’, it might be helpful, as has been suggested by Andy Murphy, to flag up ‘impact’ and indeed ‘REF’ more as these as the current watchwords and, whether we like it or not, guiding principles of UK government-driven education (sometimes termed ‘delivery’). And education as product is very much on the agenda of the three political parties in Britain as they currently fight it out. There is scope for Kate to be more up front – and critically self-conscious – about her own position in relation to this as part of an AHRC-funded project on ‘value’ (that is, the material in note 35 could be brought into the text in a wonderfully semi-autobiographical way).”
Fascinating thread, Whitney. Would you be interested in saying more about “some of the recent debates” that you see mapping onto this division? And/or post a blog entry that pursues this, if that seems a better place to do it? What I’m sensing here is a point of intersection between larger digital humanities practices/concerns and Shakespearean practices/concerns. The heading might be “how are Shakespeareans just like everyone else on the web.” I’ll post the header over on the blog so the conversation doesn’t get buried behind too many clicks.
What Diana says:
“Lisa N’s work is very much digitally focused, whereas here I’d say you’re trying to explore a different, and important area of intersection between old and new media, the way in which ‘traditional’ theatrical practices are being translated (or not) to the digital realm. This is, in fact, more interesting conceptually than the framing here makes evident.”
I want to echo Andy’s reactions — I had/have very similar ones. There are two ethical pulls here, as I see it, not just one. The first is the core issue about what Michael Wesch’s group calls “context collapse”: these students put their videos out — they know they are publishing. But they have little sense of the diverse uses to which those works might be put. Here, where uses involve critical analysis of racial dynamics, this may feel (outside of our context) as if deep structures of ethnic identification and representation were being “called out” — made visible and denigrated — in ways that harm the students. Have I put this correctly? This ethical call is to understand the different status of the interpretive object, and protect its creators in a way that the platform itself does not?
One might counter that this has always been true of publication — context collapse is present in any medium and more intense at periods of media revolution (advent of cheap print?) where the discursive community that once was small and known (or imagined to be) becomes larger and less known. Yet in this new medium, we combine extension and archiving in ways that intensify this effect. (Imaginary evil scenario: someone tracks down this analysis 30 years from now and uses it in an attack video against one of the students, who is running for Congress).
Here’s the second ethical pull. One quotes not simply to present evidence but to make that evidence available for the reader’s examination and potential dissent (as opposed to assent) to ones argument.
That’s a helpful clarification for me, Ayanna. What I’m hearing from several commenters (Laurie, Diana) as well a you, is that this essay is an attempt to test out a mixed methodology suited to a mixed publishing platform (YouTube is performance platform and publishing platform and text archive). I.e., this is a close-reading essay (lit methodology). But it has chosen examplary cases (lit methodology behind which lies something more like the beginnings of social science aggregation of instances, but as both Tim and Diana point out, this isn’t where you are yet prepared to go). So your governing question is something like: “when we take as our texts the dynamic works posted on YouTube, do we have an obligation to borrow some constraints from social sciences? If we borrow those constraints, can we do our basic (lit / close-reading) work?”
In some ways, the question of pedagogy then serves as background and context, rather than primary concern. That is to say, this essay is really testing out a hybrid methodology (asking what’s new/what’s not new about our encounter with this mode of student publishing). It’s not so much invested in making recommendations about pedagogy. Nor is it really invested in an ethical intervention (it takes as given that there are ethical concerns here, rather than investigating them). Am I right? If so, might the conclusion go in a very different direction: reflecting on the strengths and limitations of this hybrid method (as experienced both by an author/scholar/researcher and by scholar/readers in this forum)?
I wish we had some undergraduates posting replies. I’d be hugely interested in their readings of the ethical issues you touch on. I’ve tried to enlist some, but with no take-up.
“After watching around 100 videos, I noticed certain trends emerging” —
Perhaps (?) a methodological FN here that at present this is the only way to analyze such video texts, “by hand”, as it were. We do not yet have automated search functions for video that allow us to aggregate or show patterning in vast amounts of text that has not already been tagged — as Hope and Witmore can, for example, using Docuscope (see their essay elsewhere on this site). The MIT XMAS platform allows this automated searching of Shakespeare videos for repeated patterns, but only because its discrete sets of video texts are already tagged in a finely-grained way. At present, automated video searching is the holy grail of many new media development quests.
Maybe this is obvious, though, and doesn’t need any glossing.
“should also create a space for us to discuss the complex dimensions of the internet’s public nature and the complex dimensions of interactivity” …
I heartily agree. And / but, presumably this would involve watching some of these videos with students (or others like them) and looking at the critiques left by those who watched, drawing the students into exactly the kind of interpretation you are doing here. Can you explain the difference, in ethical terms, between that process and what you do here?
This comment is from Mark Burnett, who couldn’t get the comments function working:
“Most impressive. Again, I wondered about different languages: is the English language always the master tongue in popular reproductions of Shakespeare? And does that language bestow a kind of representational justification for reinvention via its deployment? Is there any way of pinning down what parts of the US the high schools are from? Inner-city/non-inner-city? States? Do such distinctions matter? The point about the Reduced Shakespeare Company is well taken; however, as Ayanna Thompson also points out, Fishburne’s Othello is in here too as a point of comparison or yardstick: high school productions, it seems, are purposefully hybridized and point up the fact of their indebtedness and cross-pollination. I wondered about other influences: Jet Li as a Shakespearean spin-off character in Romeo Must Die and recent video nasty versions of Titus Andronicus . Finally, a canonical or genre-based question: why Titus Andronicus and Othello and what is it about these plays in particular that appeals to the appropriation impulse?”
One of the things I find really interesting in this review is the way it foregrounds dynamics of professional audition. This effect raises an issue for me that, as a scholar who does not specialize in performance studies, I’ve wondered about for a while. (Not specific to Christian’s review, just prompted by it.)
My question: What’s the logic behind the apparent consensus among performance scholars that reviews don’t use/engage critical theory?
Not sure if this is the place to begin this discussion but if anyone wants to pursue it, I’d welcome that.
Here’s what prompted the question: Christian writes in a reply to Andrew:
“Many of the ‘professional’ theatregoers present (by which I mean performance studies scholars and theatre critics, known by me to spend a lot of time watching drama) were seen (by me) attempting to watch the live actors as much as possible, not the screens”
And in the review itself he notes:
“Even the most experienced professional theatergoers (many Professors of Drama at top UK Universities) were struggling consistently to watch the actors in person. Which was, I think, precisely the point.”
Later, he thoughtfully describes the way the production invokes cultural narratives that attach to specific media (screens are an arena of deception, false consciousness; but this production can re-purpose them for theatrical alienation, as masks, with radicalizing effect). The production, Christian’s perceptions and the reactions of trained auditors that he records, are all clearly shaped by critical conversations circulating about theater and other media as social modes. Critical concepts, biases, and even the essay one happens to be wrestling with in preparation for class shape habits of audition and incidental perceptions. But we’re not supposed to name the critics or conversations or use the vocabulary they put in play. Why?
As I said above, these thoughts are really skew to the review itself. It’s the nature of a meta-mediated performance to invite metacritical questions.
Very compelling additional thoughts here, Christian.
On the “everyboy” topos: is there a thread of dramaturgical history to respond to here or am I imagining it? This seems to have become a staple of productions since Jane Howell’s 1985 BBC Titus Andronicus. Taymor reworks it in terms not dissimilar to those you describe above, but doesn’t invent it. That history might suggest your response has a specific Shxn performance context as well as a larger cultural one.
“Again, most interesting. The theoretical template might be discussed rather differently: ‘iterative’, to me, is reminiscent of Derrida and, in particular, his notion of a distinction between normal and parasitic speech acts which involve an element of alterity. Could the genesis of the term be flagged more? If ‘iterative’ is being used in its deconstructive senses, a nice irony relating to the current project of reconstruction through linguistic analysis could be pursued. I enjoyed the discussion of the prosthesis. As David Wills points out in Prothesis (Stanford UP, 1995), a prothesis is above all a supplement (the links with deconstruction again suggest themselves here). Genres themselves are often supplements to a text – and there is a history of such generic supplements, as the authors recognize.”
Yup. Just needs to go through the first approval so the system can be sure you are not spam.
Thanks for the comments. I know others share your concerns about the potential costs of open / open as opposed to blind-all-around. On the issues you raise, you might find Kathleen Fitzpatrick’s discussion of the history and future of peer review stimulating:
Chapter one (which I link above) is what the editors of SQ read as we considered this experiment. From the beginning, we have thought of this as an investigation (in keeping with the topic of this issue) of the costs and benefits of this mode of scholarly exchange for our field. So it is as helpful to have a list of potential costs to account for as it is to have kudos.
One point you raise — the potential differences in the kind of commentary that could occur here — seems worth expanding on. I think the only persons positioned to weigh in on this are the editorial team who regularly read SQ reader reports. Having read all of the comments on all of the essays posted here carefully, I observe the same range of responses I would include in my own reviews for SQ: some comments are incidental, slight; some comments are deeply analytical and engaged; some are at a middle level of depth somewhere in between.
I must say that were I an author, I would find the tasks set by the many reviewers here daunting. It’s not that there’s too little to respond to, but that there’s so much, and authors will need to choose a path through the comments as they consider how to revise. On the other hand, this version of the process formally creates the space for every author to pursue such revision, which the traditional process does not. In this case, the same phenomenon is both a cost and a benefit, depending on how you look at it.
Alas, this is one of the costs of CommentPress being built on top of WordPress — it brings some of the biases of blogging along with it. One of those biases is immediacy — there’s no way to draft and revise comments in sequence, really. At best it could be done one at a time with a preview function, but that comment would still have to be published before the next one could be drafted. It’s not ideal — it would be nice for readers to be able to make private comments on the way to making those comments public, but without a pretty significant overhaul of the blog-based platform, there’s not any way for us to do that. But I’ll keep it in mind for future development!
I completely agree, Andy, but unfortunately this is a limitation of WordPress as it’s installed here. It’s possible that there’s a plugin out there that will provide that functionality, which is a core function of several other blogging engines, but I’ll have to check and see. It would, as you point out, certainly help keep dialogue going!
(Okay, that was quick: I found one. I’ll have to experiment with it on our development server and be sure it works, but this could be a very nice addition!)
Hi, Kathy. Alas, no; I’ve tried and the template simply does not print out well AT ALL. This is another shortcoming that we’re going to have to look into at some length, I’m afraid.
Hi, Peter. As the front page of this project indicates, comments on the individual essays have been closed for a while. You can leave that comment here, if you like.
I’d like to be able to save my comments as drafts, as I read through the piece, then return to consolidate, polish, reconsider before posting. This is communsurable with how I’d handle a print doc, where I take notes as I read, then can synthesize or find the best location for a reaction once I’ve finished. Here, I fear losing my jottings if I don’t “submit,” but reconsidering my views after reading further if I don’t.
This move sponsors an angle of analysis (one that could perhaps be further highlighted?), and whose potential problems are interesting enough to draw out: quantitative analysis sponsors consideration of *intersections* of genres, modes, discourses, and indeed media, that many other approaches have difficulty incorporating into the same frame. What’s the ontology of character? How do afterlives of characters inflect theatrical revisitings, receptions, of characters scripted in a different interpretive horizon? I find myself troubled by the autonomy your example grants to Falstaff — I spend so much time teaching against student desires to impute psychology to dramatic characters — but I’m interested by my anxieties. Berger’s “What did the King know. . .” and Sinfield’s essay on character would be models I would be interested in seeing fence with the consequences of your work, in a footnote.
ETS has found that scores on AP exam essays graded by machine correlate with the scoring by experienced teachers: searching for strings can apparently find evidence of readings, if not readings.
I find this remark on strategic re-disposition (and indeed the whole essay that it encapsulates) quite wonderful. Linking it to the observations at the close of the first section suggests ways that the arguably non-anthropocentric energies of quantititative analysis might trouble not only the agency of critical regimes (what is made visible when the “powerful directionality of human attention” is set in motion), but possible the distribution of agency between, say, genres and persons.
I have a suggestion for the format of the hard copy published version
of this issue. I suggest that each author choose the three most helpful
editorial comments, the ones that substantively changed or advanced the final version of the essay, for inclusion in the print version. These comments should appear in a “Coda” following each essay, so that the authors of the comments/suggestions can have their names appear in print as a public acknowledgement of their labor.
Such a provision would have several benefits: it would encourage contributors to produce well-written, detailed and substantive comments for authors; it would permit authors some agency in highlighting which responses they found most useful; it would give graduate students or other scholars the chance to have their input showcased in print.
I agree with Andrew that 3 representative comments are not necessary, although it could be up to the author. Certainly including the most intellectually useful, substantive critical exchange in abbreviated form would be good. Apropos of Kate’s thoughtful comment, I would warn against complicating the process too much however. We would want to avoid excessive “metacommentary,” as it is already a lot of work for authors to respond to comments for revision, and open reviewers to post comments. On one hand, to require addition “reflection on process” could be a straw that breaks backs. On the other hand, David, I see no reason why you would have to impose strict “rules.” The idea would be for a Coda to follow each printed essay. The authors/editor/commentators could decide in concert what to include, whether simply a few of the useful posted comments; or a reflection on process, or an abbreviated critical exchange. Each would be limited by space and word count, but the form would be left to the contributors. Linda
Following up on my previous point, since this particular issue is an experiment, if I were Editor (imagination rampant!) I would want to keep things as simple and straightforward as possible. For this first e-issue, SHOW the process, rather than “reflect” too much on it up front. I think that people may become excessively self-conscious and fail to respond productively if asked to formulate potential revisions for their own critical commentary! Keep it simple, since it’s already a radical departure from the ‘norm.’
This inquiry seems to me completely central to understanding where Shakespeare and his works fits into new media. Too frequently humanists merely accept the essential nature of computer operations as an inevitable result of developments in engineering and mathematics beyond the ken of literary scholars—data differs from information which has form and structure, both of which respond to historical developments that are as much human and technical. I found that I needed more connections to this idea and the implications of the non-neutral history in later sections of the essay. I found the history here fascinating — I am a serious fan of this kind of analysis. At some later points in the paper, however, I found myself wanting more detail about how this history influences current humanities computing. Also I worry about wandering essentialism because it sometimes seems to that we go to great lengths to locate such neglected underpinnings historically only to fall into essentializing other factors.
This analysis usefully extrapolates from the shortcomings that we (now) perceive in these earlier editorial practices. Of course, I would like more of the implications in terms of the actual new meanings generated by digitization, etc. These insights into textual sciences and their relationship to computing practices are themselves useful, and more of the consequences may surface later in the paper. I guess I want to get at what those new meanings might be.
I suffer the same bemusement as Diana and await illumination.
My larger question about this argument has to do with the intrinsic value of Shakespeare as “an object at the center of an institution” when Shakespeare and Shakespearean performance are only imperfectly confined as just objects. Moreover, the nostalgia for the stable intrinsic value of art seems to me just as problematic as new value created during or after a visitor encounter. How old is the “older language of value” as it pertains to Shakespeare? The new value seems to me much easier to identify and delimit (those sections of this paper are fascinating!). At the same time, neither old nor new “value” seems that stable to me, particularly given the unclear status of Shakespeare as a stable object. Consider also that the U.K. rhetoric of determined creativity validates that term over the “outcomes and assessments” language that now pervades the U.S. institutions of learning and culture. However, I am intrigued by the “newly evaluative role” that the essay will propose–identifying the scholar or academic as the arbiter/analyst of value could certainly appeal, but I will need a clear sense of what authorizes that kind of evaluative role over any others.
I would leave out “live” in “live work” in this parargaph because you have not yet explained Auslander (next paragraph?) and the terminology is pretty specific. In fact, the next paragraph could be more detailed in its articulation of Auslander’s point.
Another issue you could raise here is that the global availability of the Internet does not actually translate inevitably to global USE. To what extent do these sites genuinely serve a global audience? What languages do they support? Do they track who links in? Do they promote their internet presence to educational institutions throughout the world? In other words to whom are these institutions really offering a global promise?
The complexity of Auslander’s arguments about the persistence of older media and their function could be more broadly relevant and may deserve more attention. The key point about the implications of narrative of value is, I think, very important.
However, aren’t these articulations also subject to revision? What kinds of web-design (or marketing tools) did these most recent incarnations replace? Institutional websites seem to command periodic renewal and refashioning to keep the site looking current and appealing among changing standards of interactivity and video inclusion, so it might be worth exploring how the changes in visual interfaces map against the narrative of value.
In addition, how do we get at an institution’s “traditional relationship to its own cultural value”? This essay sets its argument up in the contrast between earlier, “traditional” articulations of value and the new ones, treating the nuances of current invocations of creativity and value in considerably more detail than the earlier ones. Following Auslander’s arguments about new media forms and their appropriations of prior models, could we imagine that the discourse of value itself is being pulled forward and redeployed? Or is the value discourse purely an effect of current political and economic stresses?
I am having trouble with this sentence:
“The value of culture is not only increasingly about you, but about what you do with it, and the Web 2.0 rhetoric of interactive, user-generated creativity has both fuelled and sustained this narrative shift.”
I think that the phrasing is throwing me off. Culture can be about you and what you do, but doesn’t the value of culture now increasingly depend on you and on what you do with it? Or derive from you and what you do? And what does this shift in responsibility for value-creation mean about who needs to be active?
I also wonder about all the scare quotation marks toward the end of this paragraph. What traditional/earlier resources identify access as key?
The significant question for me is what Shakespeare is “intrinsically valuable cultural goods.” The issue for me throughout this argument is, in some ways, where the earlier idea of “intrinsic value” comes from where Shakespeare’s works are concerned. With artworks that are themselves physical objects rather than constantly refashioned, this new investment in interactivity seems to me a larger step. For Shakespeare’s playtexts, however, the claim on interactivity is longstanding, is it not? And where does the “older language of intrinsic value” appear in the centuries of reproducing Shakespeare in a variety of forms? I think that, throughout this argument, the assertion of earlier “intrinsic value” needs support and clarification.
Is the “public subsidy” component of this funding limited to the U.K.? In other words, do these institutions acquire support from other countries as a result of their web presence and their self-representation? How does non-U.K. support (if there is some) fit with the interactive model?
Also, some further insight into how the U.S. philanthropic model actually works in the U.K. might be relevant. In the U.S., non-profit institutions have entirely different tax and legal presence that for-profit businesses; for one thing, these “businesses” are not allowed to show a profit which sometimes creates a delicate balancing act (well, it did before the economic downturn). Moreover, in the U.S. the contributions to such institutions are charitable donations and get the donor a tax credit, which puts interacting with such institutions on a slightly different footing in terms of market success. My question here has to do with the status of “commercial remits” a couple of paragraphs down.
Here is the point where the issues I raised above become pertinent (I think). What exactly do the institutions you study here have in common with these thoroughly public sector businesses? Has using their design expertise, perhaps hiring their software designers, and recognizing their economic potential pushed the “creativity” model of interactivity that you are exploring here? Are there specific connections between these public sector companies with the ones you examine? After all, these Shakespeare organizations are NOT creating their own websites, etc. so the public sector computing economy has been brought into their organizations. Perhaps the interactions of these institutions are also relevant to this “new model of value.”
Galleries and museums require participants to enter them “seriously” in part because of the artifact component of their guardianship, right?
The fan may send virtual “hugs” to the actors but the actors are recreating/creating the Shakespearean play in performance, theatrical or filmed, which is itself an interaction with Shakespeare. The fact that the fan’s level of interaction is at another remove does not necessarily change the fact that the performance itself represents an creative interaction with a play that itself has multiple early texts and a myriad of varied performances.
I guess what I am asking is whether the long history of creative interaction with Shakespeare’s plays might not suggest that creative interaction as a new media representation of value continues or elaborates an earlier, though perhaps implicit, model of Shakespearean value rather than a sharp break with earlier modes.
What information do we have beyond the Art Council’s research? When they suggest that patrons are unlikely to be drawn to these sites as first time visitors, have they taken into account the ways that education institutions in the U.K. and particularly OUTSIDE the U.K. might use these sites to inspire interest in young students and potential future visitors? After all, using Twitter and keeping up with the virtual Joneses in online trends seem specifically designed to draw the younger audiences, perhaps with little experience with these institutions. Certainly the students in my Shakespeare class have run across these sites and brought them into our discussions, even though they have not as yet visited them in person.
This point seems to me a very important and very strong element in this argument.
At the same time, as you can already tell, I have a different reading of the situation you describe here:
“The increasing tendency to locate value in the experience of the user means that, rather than being an intrinsic property of an object or event, it is supposedly created afresh in every cultural encounter, or even after the event, in what audiences or visitors go on to do with that experience.”
The insistence on value being located NOW in user experience raises for me the issue of where value, specifically Shakespearean value, was previously located. Auslander suggests that we only now talk of “live performance” because we now reproduce performance in different ways; “live performance” becomes in effect a retrospective and nostalgic creation of a category of performance. In effect, to talk about earlier “live performance” is a nostalgic projection. Similarly, the move to this “new” user-based value makes me wonder whether these claims are creating a nostalgic idea of “intrinsic value” that only exists now because we have a different model for creative/interactive value.
This section does a great job delineating the rhetoric of access and creativity that pervades these sites, though you might watch out for overuse of terms.
This point seems key to me, but it has taken a while to get to it. Also, in addition to the “effects on the funded arts organisations that adopt this discourse and recast their role as providing raw material for future creativity,” I would be interested in the consequences for the circulation and understanding of Shakespeare’s plays.
Competition among art organization for shrinking donors and participants is also a significant factor. If one Shakespeare-oriented institution has YouTube links or whatever, the others may also feel the need to adopt comparable new technologies. In addition to the drive to distinguish your “cultural product” from the rest, you would also want to make sure that your web interface does not lag behind!
Great example, powerful reading.
Clearly “creativity” is the equivalent to “goals and assessments” U.S. jargon-production. Does this new language imply that the previous model was passive worship of excellent creations?
I am wondering whether U.K./U.S. cultural differences figure into the kinds of critique I have offered here. I will continue, but I do realize that my questions may NOT be relevant. Identification of the specifically British prior view/value attached to Shakespeare and his works might limit this kind of response.
The digital content you describe here does also foreground the collaborative and interactive work of theatrical production; the participants presumably discover both the different ways of participating in the creation of Shakespearean/theatrical art and the complexity that underlies the final event/product.
What kind of competition? Here is the “nebulous Shakespearean value” that I have invoked in previous comments as different from the artifacts in museums, but why does it necessarily emanate from an originary place? Are these institutions reflecting the U.K. claim of place identity with Shakespeare?
Brilliant and fascinating details here. All this talk of value is beginning to make me wonder whether the added value attributed to creativity functions a national fantasy of adding value with getting taxed on it (forgive me, we have just survived tax day over here).
This paragraph opens with a very important point, though by the end of the paragraph the insistence that these institutions want “to reinscribe [their walls] with value” brings me back to my question about how they possessed value to begin with–how EXACTLY did they achieve it before?
” But the scale of their responsiveness to the shifting, protean narratives of cultural value is perhaps not yet realized.”
??? The only problem with “the shifting, protean narratives of cultural value” is that this argument often assumes change without defining the original cultural value as fully as the changes. And the account of the current shift does not seem protean, in the sense of ever-changing. Or perhaps I am just missing the point.
I am afraid that I found this conclusion a bit too nebulous in terms of what evaluative work literary scholars are supposed to be doing here. The delineation of the potential usefulness of your analysis is very strong; however, I am not sure where we are supposed to create “the more nuanced, balanced language for articulating the value of Shakespeare, and culture, in future.” Of course, there is also the question of who decides what is balanced!
I am strongly in favor of thoughtful articles about pedagogy getting wider readership and having more influence. To that end, I worry about titles like this one. It gives a thorough sense of what the essay is about, but it does not really draw the reader in as well as it might—and it is a mouthful! What about picking up on the pun/phrase that you use a lot within the paper—“Unmooring Othello: Researching and Teaching (with?) YouTube Videos”? (In my opinion this paper overuses “unmoor” at one point and potentially undermines the pun and idea, but I will comment on that moment at that point in the paper)
The essay’s methodological frame here and Barbara’s question both lead me to wonder about what insights we might glean from examining an array of Othello videos that all involve different groups of same-race students (as opposed to videos that involve students of several races). Also, since “asian americans” covers different groups (as Barbara notes above) I wonder about nuances that viewers could easily miss
Also, this particular paragraph overuses “unmoor”/”moor” — four instances!
Have matters progressed since 2008 and how do we keep up with the guidelines through the process of review and publication? Actually, YouTube has been thinking about these issues and identifies conditions of us in ways that do not directly take into account academic research: http://www.youtube.com/t/terms. One question worth asking is whether you need permission from them and/or the responders that you identify from YouTube or the YouTube participants. This essay itself could prove a very useful test case for determining what constitutes fair use of this website. Looking through the YouTube guidelines and such raised for me the question of whether YouTube researchers should be “lurkers” as opposed to participants in the site. Is research on this kind of site a form of fieldwork? Perhaps we should confer with our colleagues in Anthropology and Sociology!
This part of the paper makes the claim that these examples represent an important norm in YouTube Shakespearean performance, and I would like to see this claim carried through more concretely when the essay reaches those examples.
The analysis later in the paper addresses those videos very specifically — and in very intriguing and valuable ways — but the overarching argument may benefit from more connection to the 100+ videos, i.e., body of work that makes up the normative trends the paper engages. This seems to me particularly important since this section identifies their representative status as part of the logic for using them as well as a key feature that renders unnecessary direct references to these particular performances. Given that readers will (presumably and paradoxically) have less access to these online primary materials, I think that even general references to this array would be useful as the argument unfolds. I will try to note places in those sections where connections to “the norm” uncovered in this research might elaborate the insight into the archive. In general I think this essay does a fine job relating the readings to the larger theoretical and pedagogical concerns.
Given the previous section on methodology, I am just curious here about what strategies these researchers used to preserve anonymity for their “subjects.” The videos are obviously more problematic since the students are visible rather than chatting, but presumably the same ethical research concerns apply.
I found the Titus video very, very easily, so I am not sure how much anonymity has been preserved here. Seeing the video also raised some questions for me.
On a general note, I also discovered that YouTube removed the audio track because of copyright violations, so the performance is now wholly visual. The use of strong musical coding – one of the very interesting features of your readings in this section – seem to be a frequent feature in student performance videos and clearly pose some problems. I was intrigued by the fact that YouTube left the video but removed the audio component. The musical features mark some of the underlying conflicts in student performance depend on cultural recognition for their effect. At the same time, responses to copyright claims could easily lead to a new kind of silent film or the removal of student videos entirely. These videos clearly operate at the crux of a lot of different interests; you make a strong case for the importance of the academic interests.
The xeroxed image of Fishburne looks pale to me in the video, perhaps in the context of the darkened background in that section of the video. Perhaps this intervention works on several levels, particularly if the miniaturization later on factors into its effects.
What about the casting of Lavinia? I found this video and noticed that, in addition to the marking of difference in the representation of Aaron, the students also cast Lavina with a male actor. Both choices seem to me significant, though not perhaps for your argument here. On the other hand, does that casting shift affect the characterization of Aaron’s incitement to violence? Seems to me cross-gender casting might also influence the effect of the gangsta rap.
Here is another point where you make the argument that these videos are representative and therefore a kind of norm, but that point would (I think) work better in the midst of your analysis.
Here is a moment where you could easily point out the representative quality of this evidence by reference to the ways that student videos typically use popular music in interventionist and representative ways. Perhaps some reference to the overall percentage of student Othello videos that deploy popular music, and its connotations of youth ownership, to interact with the Shakespearean text. I do think you need to tie back to that component of your argument in your analysis of each of these videos more explicitly than the essay currently does.
I think some elaboration here about the representative quality of this particular video, with the responses that it elicits, would be useful. Do many of the Asian American Othello videos prompt these kinds of responses? Only the ones where young recent immigrants are involved? What about Othello videos created by other student groups? The responders’ awareness of the video as a school project also seems to me worth a little more attention here as partof the norm that this video illuminates–presumably most or all of these video productions of Othello (or Titus) are mandated and possibly also cast by the teachers. In a sense, coercive surveillance marks both the initiation and the completion of the project. I realize that my comment anticipates the very interesting and important arguments about pedagogy that come up in section 7, but the essay could prepare for that section by engaging those issues in an ongoing way. Just a thought.
I am not following the point in the middle of this paragraph:
And it is this ambiguity that provides the potential to re-imagine Shakespeare’s role in performances of cultural and racial identities.
For whom does the ambiguity provide potential? Why does the ambiguity of partial representation create potential? Who can reimagine here? Is there a twist on the methodological strategy being offered?
My sense is that this paragraph gestures towards the broader significance of this particular video, but I am having trouble following the idea. I also am interested that you bring in the possible distinctions between Othello, the Venetians, and the Cypriots that have been rendered invisible by the “gansta” world because potential distinctions among Asian-Americans (noted by Barbara earlier) also can become invisible in that category.
How characteristic is critique through intertextual cinematic reference is in student videos, according to your research? If Shakespeare is “too small” for the racial and cultural performances that these students want to create, where do they go to achieve these desires for representation? For example, do these groups or individuals within them post other video productions that might compensate for or supplement the inadequacy of Shakespearean performance? Also, along the same lines, are these students ONLY speaking back to Shakespeare or do they also challenge the pedagogical authority that constrains them to use Shakespeare?
This question is particularly interesting to me at the moment because a group of students in my Shakespeare in Popular Culture class have produced a full video adaptation of Romeo and Juliet–on their own time and NOT for an assignment. These students have very cleverly lampooned the play, now set on our campus, in large part in response to our class analysis of how pervasively R&J and its representation of true love inspires both anti-romantic and romantic adaptations in popular music, film. television, YA novels, etc. The driving force behind the video is a student who offered a particularly vocal and persuasive challenge to the absurdity of the “true love” ideal as represented in R&J. The satiric/humorous representations of their video not only underscore the several absurdities in the plot of the play but also underscore the self-destructiveness of on-campus drinking and hook-up culture.
At the same time, the video also specifically challenges me, as the pedagogical authority who insisted that they study this play and its popular culture afterlives. I was cast, in absentia, as the drug dealer/apothecary (the door of my office stood in for me personally) and our hero, Laxbro, died cursing my name for my quick drugs. Clearly students CAN use video to respond to several layers of authority that constrain them, including Shakespeare, college policy, and their professors.
Of course, they also obviously knew that I would thoroughly appreciate their self-generated project and take the challenge well.
By the way, it is a brilliant piece of work, but it will NOT appear on YouTube. And I plan to be very, very careful and respectful about where and when I use it.
This interrogation of pedagogy that uses performance is very thought-provoking and, I think, extremely valuable. At the same time, the insights here are a bit too isolated in their own section from my point of view. Just as the paper has a number of points where the analysis of these particular readings as useful normative or representative artworks could be brought into the foreground, so, too, a stronger analytical through line that builds to these pedagogical concerns would make for a more powerful closing argument.
What is the alternative goal here? Is the preferable strategy to make students self-aware and deliberate in their video productions and performance choices? Such awareness will change YouTube productions as a research and teaching archive, or it should.
I have tried to get to the FAQ, but I am getting an error message. I am probably doing something wrong somewhere along the line. At the moment I have posted a couple of comments though they have not shown up yet. And I am assuming that they WILL show up after a while and/or after someone (Katherine?) reviews them?
Thank you, first of all, for the generous and interesting things said about BardBox. It is right that we must use the tools that now make up common web literacy to identify, categorise and distribute knowledge. That said, there is an irony in that the other resources in this essay that you criticise for being too centralised and insufficiently open nevertheless attract a great deal of scholarly engagement through their institutional basis, while BardBox is – to be frank – a marginal activity. Rich pedagogical tools require students, otherwise they are just collections. And that is what BardBox is – a curated collection of videos that remain, for the time being, outside the scholarly corpus. I collect them and describe them because no one else is doing so. Once they do become part of the mainstream, another platform will be required that serves a community. That said, anyone who would like to add a comment to or two to the blog, or just to subscribe to the RSS feed, would be ever so welcome.
I like that ‘defiantly minimalist’. I’ve been involved in cataloguing and metadata contruction too long to get bogged down in meta-minutiae. Keep it simple.
The cost element is important. We’re investing so much effort in to establishing centralised resources that are simply insupportable in the long-run. When platforms such as YouTube, Flickr exist which we must assume will last a little while yet, it makes so much more sense to use these platforms, their tools and their mass audience to build the resources we need while seeing them integrated into a wider body of content and a wider knowledge base.
If I were building the BUFVC’s International Database of Shakespeare on Film, Radio and Television again (www.bufvc.ac.uk/shakespeare) I think I’d build it out of the IMDb, flagging relevant films, adding new titles where needed, adding background information by some form of tagging (which IMDb doesn’t have, but could have one day). And I guess I’d get a community of researchers involved, though it would be hard not be agonise all the time about having to police them. I remain sceptical about the value of collaborative content curation – I’ve tried it, and the burden always ends up on the shoulders of one person, if you’ve trying to build up something of serious value.
I wonder if you’ve seen this great project of having students build Facebook pages for the characters in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” — quite ingenious!
Some impressions about using the site. It look pretty and is well designed, but I was surprised to discover that I didn’t like reading stuff on it. It is much easier for me to read pdfs with clear page turns. I found scrolling through long sections distracting, and it’s harder, at least for me, to go back and find something.
Apparently, you can’t edit your comments. That’s bad for me because I’m a poor typist and always need to go over something and fix the worst errors.
Also, the built-in editor behaves weirdly when you try to scroll to the bottom of a longish comment. It doesn’t hold its position at the bottom.
And I find lining up the paragraphs with the comments difficult.
All this is really trivial stuff, but it also shows how deeply embedded our reading and writing habits are.
The last sentence is odd. Sure, what matters is the distinction between ‘message’ and ‘noise’. But isn’t that what is captured in the ‘signal to noise’ ratio? Noise is always part of the signal, but it is the inescapably part, and if the noise ratio rises above a certain level the message itself is threatened. It is a natural and in my view accurate reading to take the signal as the intended message.
This lovely Twain example reminds me of the messenger speech in the Winter’s Tale, where the illiterate clown is faced with the difficult expository task of coordinating two concurrent events in one narrative frame. He can’t do it, fails miserably, and the account is dominated by the roaring of the sea and the roaring of the bear as the common elements that hold the strands together.
This is a very thoughtful piece with a lot of interesting ideas, but I’m not sure I buy into its main ideas. The chronological parallels between bibliography and information theory are persuasive. But I could imagine a humanistically inflected reading of information theory that would accommodate concerns of humanities scholars, rather than setting up a counter paradigm.
Take the Indian/Judaean crux. If you are empirically or probabilistically oriented you might say something like this:
The palaeographical evidence is inconclusive. You cannot argue from it to a clear choice
Both readings make sense
It is unlikely that they are authorial variants
As for the first, the palaeographical evidence is very often decisive in the sense that you can establish with absolute certainty or very high probability that there is an original reading X. But it is also common for palaeographic evidence to be inconclusive. Evidence is often fragmentary, and where evidence is fragmentary, conclusions are hard
As for the second, it is not uncommon for different readings to make good sense or sense enough so that you cannot rule out one meaning from context.
Finally, it seems to me highly unlikely that an author who either intended Judaean or Indian would have the other reading as a variant. This is different from, say, the two reactions of Brutus to the death of Portia. These could be called a hard Stoic reading (Brutus has no feelings) or a soft Stoic reading (Brutus seeks to controls his feelings). Both are plausible. A reading that seeks to incorporate both of them is highly implausible, but it is quite plausible that a playwright would have these alternate versions and might never decide between them.
In other words, you can accommodate a great deal of ambiguity, polysemy, and what have you within a framework of information theory without having to invoke some completely other paradigm or arguing that the humanities and the sciences inhabit ‘non-overlapping magisteria’, to use a term from Catholic doctrine. That doesn’t mean humanists should be like scientists. It does mean that arguing in the sciences and arguing in the humanities can and should be accommodated within one broad framework and conditions of proof or validation that run across a spectrum rather than involve existential gaps.
My other disagreement involves the idea that writing is essentially bound to some material form. Nelson Goodman argued many years ago that some works of art are “allographic”: a sonnet or a piece of music can be encoded in an infinite variety of ways without loss of information. That is just a fancy way of the common sense idea that when you write down a text there are some differences that make no difference and other differences that change the text. Some fairly strong commitment to that view seems to underlie the whole business of writing. There are practical modifications of that view. You might argue that you always learn something from the typography and layout of a first edition, just as you might learn something from a score. But neither Milton’s sonnet nor Beethoven’s Für Elise is tied to some union of form and content, if by form you mean the details of notation. These are fundamentally arbitrary and could be different than they are without changing the meaning of the text.
Here is a thought experiment: if tomorrow we discovered a papyrus of a Sophoclean play written in the Old Attic alphabet, it would be a terrific boon to scholarship. We would discover all manner of things and would be extrapolate from the differences in that play to others. But we would also be able to mark with precision where the readings in our notation differ from the readings in the papyrus, where they do not differ, or where differences result from ambiguities in Old Attic orthography. But all these analyses rest on the fundamental fact that the text under discussion is an allographic object.
“This essay (traces|focuses)” virtually identical paragraph beginnings too close together
Isn’t there a story by Henry James about the birthplace of a famous poet turned into a shrine? That would be cultural hagiography in the early twentieth century.
How much has changed if you look through the surface of fashion and focus on the question “who admires whom?” in such institutionalized ancestor worship.
There is an anecdote about Euripides. One of his competitors is supposed to have said “my plays will be remembered when yours are forgotten.” Euripides answered “yes, but not until then.”
Where does value come from? “What’s aught as ’tis valued?” Troilus asks, and it might have been a good idea for this essay to cite this passage somewhere. Is value recognized or created by others? A poet is a maker, but poets make it by being made through the approval given by others to the poems they have made. There may be chicken and egg problems here that are impossible to figure out. I have some trouble with the idea that “Shakespeare’s value is not merely a pre-eixsting quality conveyed by Shakespeare organization, but something fluid that is endless inflected by the value narratives of institutions, policy, markets, and technologies.” Substitute Chopin or Schumann for Shakespeare as composers with very distinct voices. If there is no pre-existing could the different value narratives lead us to confuse one with the other? Or are there bundles of properties in those compositions that put a limit on those inflections. Of course, “not merely” and “inflected” are big wiggle words here. You cannot inflect what is not there in the first place, and “not merely” goes in the same direction.
How important is the digital in all this? There has been a big change in my life in the relations between cultural icons and their audience. In the old days (in the room the women come and go talking of Michelangelo) you enhance your value by admiring or pretending to admire works of high culture. The One is admired by the Many and sits in some timeless space. Moving away from that model was a big part of the sixties and seventies. In the rhetoric of empowerment and democratic equality there is no room for Great Men –witness the iconic everyman super achievers that Ronald Reagan liked to salute in his State of the Union addresses. Did digital technology create a participatory and interactive climate or did it just buy into the Zeitgeist? I think the second is more plausible.
I like the concept of iterative criticism, but above all I like the way in which the ‘prosthetic’ techniques of digitally assisted reading extend old ways of reading. There is an irony in ‘prosthetic’ device. You need it because you can’t do it with what you have, and the prosthetic device is typically a poor second for the real hand, arm, or leg. The digital prosthesis is actually faster or more accurate than the human organs. But if you think of the monks’ concordances as the original text analysis prostheses, they are memory aids to simulate the divine memory. So the prosthesis is imperfect relative to an idealized human faculty.
Readers might say that they’ve always know that the histories and comedies are different. So perhaps the real claim is the demonstration that traditionally perceived differences can be accounted for through measurable differences in the behaviour of common and low-level linguistic phenomena.
It might help to stress the computer’s power in drawing our attention to what is not there. Our sense of pattern is shaped subtly by what is there and what is not there. It may not be so hard to recognize complete absence, but “a good deall less” is harder to sense, but that is where algorithms shine.
This is a deeply interesting essay, both from a substantive and methodological perspective. Hope and Witmore know how to tell a story with numbers, and have produced a wonderful example of what John Tukey called “exploratory data analysis,” not the application of statistical techniques to end in a resounding QED, but the iterative use of various analytical techniques to track patterns and reflect on them. This is a very different engagement with either data or statistical techniques than you typically find in Literary and Literary Computing, and it is much more likely to find a interested readership among literary critics.
There is a way of stating the bottom line in a quite uninteresting way: the history plays are different from the comedies, and the distance between those two genres is greater than any other genre distance. ‘as for the first, one might say with Horatio, “There needs to ghost, come from the grave to tell us this.” But that is is not the point. Rather, we learn that differences that we respond to in our readerly moments are anchored in quite firm statistical patterns a low levels of verbal behaviour. And we also learn how to pick up some quantitative thread and run with it in speculative and critical ways. Not all of those runs are touchdowns, but together they add up to a winning game. Moretti coined the phrase ‘distant reading’, but the term has its own way of being misleading. The distant view lets you focus on micro-phenomena that are dispersed across texts. I prefer the term ‘scalable reading’ to emphasize that the real power of digitally assisted analyses consists in the ability to zoom in and out. The pursuit of outliers and the analyses of some exemplary passages are a good example of the virtues of this iterable and scalable philology.
Since I heard a talk by David Kaufer about Docuscope, I found the argument easy to follow. If you are new to Docuscope, I suspect that it would be helpful to say a little bit more about it, even if some of the Shakespeare detail would need to be cut. It is relevant to the findings of this article that Docuscope was not developed at all for literary analysis and that its lexicon is taken from modern English. Docuscope originated in the world of teaching composition and is a tool for analysing writing in terms of microrhetorical acts. It is a little like Roget’s Thesaurus except that it focuses on rhetorical stances rather than concepts. The authors take Kaufer’s categories for granted. A little more framing might be helpful
Given the history of this tool, one might be surprised how well it works with early modern drama. One might also ask whether it would work even better if the lexicon were adapted to early modern usage. Or does the evident success of the experiment show that at the low semantic and syntactic level of Docuscope, English has been more stable across centuries than we might think?
At the end of their paper, Hope and Witmore make very interesting use of data from a corpus of 280 non-Shakespearean plays that I provided them with. There is a research agenda that may support several dissertations. From this essay and from the authors’ earlier work on the classification of Shakespeare’s late plays we have learned a lot about the importance of variance by genre within an author’s work. There has been very little work on systematic comparisons of Shakespeare’s plays with those of his contemporaries, largely because we do not have the textual data in sufficiently interoperable form The dendrogram of some 300 early modern plays, including Shakespeare, suggests that ‘author’ trumps ‘genre’. But a lot of useful work remains to be done.
Some impressions about using the site. It look pretty and is well designed, but I was surprised to discover that I didn’t like reading stuff on it. It is much easier for me to read pdfs with clear page turns. I found scrolling through long sections distracting, and it’s harder, at least for me, to go back and find something.
Apparently, you can’t edit your comments. That’s bad for me because I’m a poor typist and always need to go over something and fix the worst errors.
Also, the built-in editor behaves weirdly when you try to scroll to the bottom of a longish comment. It doesn’t hold its position at the bottom.
I am no fee’d post, lady; keep your purse: My master, not myself, lacks recompense.
This is another example of how to comment on a paragraph on the MediaCommons site.
I think I’d have liked a concrete example by now — the prose of this essay is in danger of resembling that of the government reports and policy documents which it cites.
‘Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre’, surely? I know Sh Q is North American, but when ‘Theatre’ is part of an institution’s name you surely have to take the institution’s word for how to spell it.
Worth pointing out the paradox here of attempting to co-opt the arts into economic productivity by making *amateur* participation compulsory?
It might be worth citing here the parallel free-market co-opting of Shakespeare for economic usefulness carried out by sonnet-workshops-for-executives etc (Peter Holland has published on this), and the writings of poetry-for-senior-management gurus like David Whyte.
I seem to remember Shakespeare taking up the question of value himself, in Troilus and Cressida — might be worth mentioning..
I’ve enjoyed this essay very much but find this ending a bit tame; it’s as though the whole essay finally just wants these institutions to phrase their press handouts a bit more judiciously. Surely it isn’t Shakespearean scholars who are either addressed or fooled by the sort of documents you’ve been reading?
I agree with Jonathan here: since we assume that genre is itself a matter of family resemblance — as Fowler or Wittgenstein understood this term — rather than genetic essence, portrait seems more accurate. Also, while the loadings on principal components do look somewhat formulaic, one has to bear in mind that there are many more components than genres in the analysis. This means that any given component that distinguishes a genre is part of a much larger description of variation in the corpus (the sum of all components): this description is not itself keyed to human genre distinctions, but encompasses all “visible” patterning. I think we would prefer to think of our work, at this point, as an exercise in quantitative linguistic redescription of genres rather than genetic analysis. Maybe it would be better to think of the “model” in this situation as the initial genre groupings themselves, since this is the most ideal element of the analysis.
I think I have managed to resize this diagram after some adjustments. It may be more viewable on my blog, where I’ve posted a copy of it as well. The post containing the diagram can be found here:
Many thanks for this, and the comment below. We have corrected the text.
“the subsequent failure of their superior claim” … could it be said that failure here is an academic pronouncement whose truth value might be limited to academic readers? If the claim turns out to be commercially viable–and even apart from objective measurement, the claim’s very status as a marketing gesture suggests that it is–then talking instead about the *problems* with such a claim would make more sense, given the care the essay takes elsewhere not to overrule non-academic ways of talking about Shx.
I, too, initially felt this paragraph might do more. Whether it really can do more is a tough question, though, because the bulk of the essay is devoted to establishing a frame of inquiry for the broader topic– Shakespeare and cultural value (?)–and that frame of inquiry is one of the essay’s most important accomplishments. That is, the terms, questions, institutional specifics, etc. that you deal with here are more immediate and more practical than those that tend (in N. America, anyway) to structure similar discussions, and so simply to move the discussion off-campus, if you will, into the cultural marketplace of SBT, RSC, Globe and the BL, is a big task. Doesn’t leave much room for a fuller discussion of other material. And this paragraph actually works nicely as a concluding gesture (the what-can-we-do-moving-forward paragraph is of course a kind of academic topos in its own right). Still, the sign-posting (which the essay does nicely–almost too nicely, to echo Michael Dobson in Intro, paragraph 7) does suggest that a fuller discussion will happen here, and so perhaps a few very minor adjustments would lower the demand the essay places on itself.
This is excellent material! To pick up on my previous comment, I think this essay valuably reframes a discussion about Shakespeare and cultural value that’s begun to spin its wheels elsewhere (in appropriation / pop-culture venues, in performance studies, with its various versions of the academic-vs-practitioner divide, in pedagogy arguments, etc.). It returns a sense of urgency to the notion that professional scholars have a role, and perhaps even an obligation, to exercise their considerable institutional credibility in contributions to more practical, more public discussions about the production and consumption of Shakespeare. it’s a great piece, and I’m eager to see what comes in its wake!
I am trying to leave a comment on paragraph 20 of Whitney Trettien’s essay … but there seems no way to do this. HELP!!!
“I <3 this essay” [sorry: it seems worrying appropriate!] and have enjoyed reading it very much. In some ways, does this comment regarding the primacy of the material object and the way new media is appropriated as a way to celebrate the book emphasise a paradoxical fluidity and rigidity regarding how material space and cyber space is considered? Since the BL have digitised the quartos, the images of the text have been more readily available to a wider public. However, this very availability has meant that the material text is less accessible in the library. I recall one of the librarians saying that the digitisation project will help preserve the text for future generations as, unless scholars are doing detailed research into the material book, there is no need to consult it. Whether or not this (or eebo and other forms of digital archive, or even this kind of open review) have affected scholarship, this seems to highlight an anxiety about wanting to make Shakespeare accessible to the masses yet also wanting to secure the artefacts from the perils of mass-exposure. In some respects, the notion of these institutes as being gatekeepers of culture has been [oddly] reasserted by their very interaction with new media and the desire to make Shakespeare more accessible. On a different, but related point, I’m interested in your thoughts about how this might evolve. With regards to how the development of the internet has affected interaction, not just with Shakespeare, but also with protectors of Shakespeare’s cultural pre-eminence, what are your views on the RSC’s “Romeo and Juliet” Twitter experiment?
Putting aside, for a moment, the specifics of this production, I’m struck by the tensions that show up in the comments about what falls within the parameter of a review. A review is certainly different from a sustained article about a production, but while length is part of that (as Barbara notes, reviews are rarely allotted the sort of space that allows their authors to dwell on a production), it also centers on what the aim of the piece is. I like Barbara’s description of this being an archival record of one informed spectator’s experience. And I think that is what this achieves. There is some room to bring in some more analysis–for example, putting a bit more pressure on Van Hove’s terms when he is talking about the production, or elucidating the tensions between liveness and mediatization that shape your and other responses to watching screens or the stage. And highlighting some of that urgency at the start of the review, rather than providing a more neutral description of Van Hove’s techniques, might be a way of suggesting from the outset what you find compelling about this piece (especially given the special issue context!).
I’ve just bought tickets to schlep up to Montreal to see this, thanks in large part to your compelling account of it!
alan, thanks for this informative and engaging essay. i’d like to know more about why and how “the message that computing brings an inevitable turn toward…quantitative research” is the result of “a disciplinary sleight-of-hand by which poststructuralist and materialist influences are displaced by an empiricism more amenable to the cyberinfrastructure model of big science and an administered world.” no doubt this is true! but who is doing the displacing in the academy or in the digital humanities? are there structural arrangements that might be disrupted (or alternatively instituted) to achieve the goal you suggest in the previous paragraph, i.e., “digital Shakespeare researchers should not feel constrained by the idea that digital technologies are somehow inherently scientific instruments…”
i am always wary of arguments that say or conclude “you should.” people should do lots of things but they don’t. sometimes people need incentives or nudges. sometimes they need institutional or structural change.
arguably, the incentives and the structures currently lead toward “the embrace of an empiricism more amenable to the cyberinfrastructure model of big science and an administered world.”
just curious: why the reference to this essay rather than the book?
hey….do the organizations efface or don’t they efface??
kate, in later grafs, you refer to this reverse process as a form of remediation. don’t you? (maybe i’m misremembering; i read this the other day and now i’m moving through this linearly….if i am, just ignore this!)
but if i am remembering correctly, my question is whether marketing is remediation? as you point out here, isn’t it a use of technology or new media as a marketing tool? isn’t marketing different from remediation? or to put it differently, is your use of remediation in this context metaphorical?
as a coda to the comment above, i understand that you are offering a case study of this situation NOW. but it seems to me that “currently” and “at present” are doing a lot of work here, dismissing or minimizing what some might construe as a serious threat to the ability of theater to monetize itself?
kate, are you dismissing the threat of “free content” by “recalling a recurring modernist anxiety about the deleterious effects of new technologies of reproduction on cutlure”? or by suggesting that free content “also invokes a larger moral panic about the anti-social, alienating nature of digital culture”?
kate, is it the case that you can assert the first sentence because you dismiss the threat of “free content”? is this going always to be the case?
more later, i hope! great stuff!
“Of course this is a politicized vision”: thank you for not elaborating. this is my job!
“The role of public organisations is to create a sense of value for the taxpayers that fund them – not by leaving their influence to the democratic process, but by giving them a new platform for decision-making.” I assume the antecedent of “their” is taxpayers. What do you mean by suggesting that they “have a new platform for decision-making”?
“The role of public organisations is to create a sense of value for the taxpayers that fund them – not by leaving their influence to the democratic process, but by giving them a new platform for decision-making.” I assume the antecedent of “their” is taxpayers. What do you mean by suggesting that they “have a new platform for decision-making”?
the above comment was supposed to be above in another paragraph sorry. my comment for this graf is to offer another anecdote. last summer, one of my colleagues took her young daughter to the RSC. the child was 6 years old, perhaps? the play, i think, JC. apparently the child was scared to death by the noise, multi-media, and so on. apparently she refuses to ENTER a THEATER now. HA! do the web-sites feature images like this??
and of course the disruption is phony.
“The Globe’s sense of “partnership” with Opus Arte directly contradicts Philip Auslander’s observation that ‘theater (and live performance generally) and the mass media are rivals, not partners’.”
But is The Globe’s “sense” accurate? or just PR?
The well-presented, aspirational prose of this “lad from Essex” turned “RSC actor no less” is part of an inclusive mission to “Proactively identify opportunities for digital developments to reach new audiences – especially 16-25 year olds, those new to theater and people from more diverse backgrounds”.
is this successful or again just PR or wishful thinking? i just saw my first NT live HD presentation (though it wasn’t live); terrific stuff, but the audience was just like a live theater audience: OLD!
also be read as an attempt to reassert, in virtual form, their institutional walls, and to reinscribe them with value.
previously (and, i believe, in the next section, maybe next graf) you speak of reasserting their actual institutional walls. why the virtual walls here?
remediate here is in quotes. cf my earlier comment, is this metaphorical? if so, i would urge you to reconsider this usage.
I agree with leosborn’s comment above: the conclusion weakly defines the role of literary scholars here: “With new awareness of the multiple, complex influences on their narratives of cultural value, Shakespeare scholars, and literary critics more generally, are well placed to decode the discourses in which they are asked to show the importance the value of what they, and other Shakespeare-based organisations, do; and to see what is at stake in their use.”
one might wonder why our judgments should be valued any more than that of the 15 years old kid who turned dr. who into an admirer. this links to mueller’s comment, too, about democratization.
hey….just a couple of comments. first, i agree with martin that not being able to edit is unfortunate. second, i guess i’m rather amused by the irony that our peer review here isn’t blind or anonymous, which is usually one of the benefits trumpeted by promoters of digital democracy: one gets to comment and voice one’s opinions anonymously. i’m aware of fish’s arguments about why peer review shouldn’t be blind, and while i have some sympathy toward some of them–particularly the notion that blind peer review facilitates a false notion of merit and fairness–i’m not yet convinced that open review is preferable overall. further, in this instance, where reviewers can read other reviewers’ posts and even the responses to those posts by the authors, i wonder if a kind or peer pressure doesn’t emerge, or might not emerge? further still: it seems to me that the analytic depth of the responses here is shallower here than in a typical peer reviewed letter from SQ.
all that said, i enjoyed reading the essays and commenting on them.
Great point Ayanna,
The issue of the ephemeral nature of the sources came up in the Shakespeare 2.0 seminar, and one of the helpful conclusions the group arrived at was that we could think abut this the way that treat performances.
The other point here, which is more thorny and therefore more interesting, is the one you raise about methodologies, which also came up in both the 2.0 seminar and the “new media” sessions. I think attention to the different ethical dimensions between the two methodologies (particularly when perhaps the most exciting element of Shakespeare 2.0 is the opportunity for immediacy and access to live subjects) is really useful. In this, your post here is incredibly important and begs some larger questions, which of course would be impossible to address in one essay– how do we integrate, or, for some, do we want to integrate “real” social science methods (instrument design, data collection, protocol, etc.) into Shakespeare studies and what are our motivations and limitations in so doing? And, just a thought, is it ironic that when studying the technologies of immediacy we should not (for some good reasons you cite) insist on access and immediacy?
Is it necessary to define how you are using the term “interactivity” here and earlier in the essay, or to at least make the distinction between interactivity as it is commonly perceived, ( i.e., chat is an interactive feature) and how you are using it here, i.e. technological interactivity?
Is it helpful to more clearly define “interactivity” as it is used here and earlier in the essay? For example, a “chat” feature is interactive, but I think technological interactivity as you are using here implies a broader understanding of the term.
I hope it helps. Maybe I’m being picky, but this seems important given that in the final section of this fine essay you discuss a fascinating pedagogy that includes interactivity without requiring or indeed allowing your students to attempt to “interact” with the producers of the YouTube videos because of the ethical concerns you so thoughtfully delineate (and also perhaps because some of the videos are “old” in digital age and the producers may no longer be paying attention to them or the responses).
I like the link to your blog here. One problem I had with it is that I had to hunt through a reread of the entire three introductory pages to relocate the hyperlink. Perhaps there is some way to make this hyperlink a little more visible here (more words in the link? longer title to the blog?) and perhaps create another hyperlink elsewhere (maybe in the introductory page under a heading of hyperlinks?).
And thank you for your helpful feedback!
Reading this over again, there’s a point I’d like to clarify, or at least underscore more strongly for potential future reviewers: namely, that while I recognize the irony of pitting Bardbox against something like quartos.org, I think its “marginality” — its minimalism, its existence outside institutional structures and willingness to engage with videos outside the scholarly corpus — is precisely its value in this grouping. Put another way, it represents a model of DH scholarship that, without devaluing the *extremely important work* being done by larger database projects, exploits the power of the web as communicative medium, rather than simply another platform for us to keep doing the same kind of work (a little faster, maybe, a little more open — but entrenched in the same humanities paradigms whose death knell never seems to stop ringing..). I might even go so far as to say it marks a new kind of individualistic, active, curatorial scholarship in tension with old DH models that propose self-contained pedagogical tools — which is to say: if pedagogy is our focus, we should perhaps spend less time making expensive, all-inclusive platforms for students to *use*, and more time teaching/encouraging them to use WordPress, or make videos, *themselves*.
More generally, some of the recent debates on blogs, twitter, etc. over the “future of Digital Humanities” might be mapped onto the kind of tensions inherent in comparing BardBox to quartos.org. I recognize that’s a potentially controversial statement, and of course welcome criticism.
This is a great question, one that Digital Humanities seems to be asking itself right now. A few months ago Dave Parry’s widely-circulated blog post, tauntingly titled “Be Online or Be Irrelevant” — written shortly after the MLA, and arguing that scholars not on Twitter or using blogs were marginalizing themselves — sparked a lot of debate about what it “means” to call oneself a Digital Humanist: do you have to be involved in a lab or one of the big projects? are humanities bloggers/twitters part of the DH community? how do we (or do we not) want to delimit our own community?
For me (and this is what I tried to get across toward the end of the SQ review), DH shouldn’t be marked a discipline but a *methodology*. This is a move toward curation over publication, toward research as in-process instead of end-product, and toward constant (rather than intermittent, at conferences etc.) community. The digital humanist — at least what I’d like to call a digital humanist — wakes up every day and (setting aside the marketing implications of the term) networks with like-minded folks, both within and outside the academy. In short, it’s about using media to share ideas.
The large-scale platform projects are wonderful and necessary for us to do our work; but 1) I’m less enthusiastic now about giving these projects precedence within DH, for all the reasons outlined in the review, and 2) I’m starting to think they might be better situated institutionally within libraries and museums. Librarians are better equipped to deal with the sticky wickets of information management and retrieval; and while humanities scholars may be able to help them think through use-case scenarios, etc., I’m increasingly disinclined to see that role as central.
As I mentioned in an earlier comment, this description might resonate with a lot of Shakespeareans, who have always been involved with their primary texts at multiple levels: as/with fans, scholars, performers, set/costume designers, rare book enthusiasts, historians, and so on. It’s less interesting, to me, to think about large-scale pedagogical initiatives than the ways in which individuals across all these roles are using new media — even in the smallest, mundane ways — to connect and collaborate with other Shakespeareans.
12 March 2014 at 8.56 am
See in context
12 March 2014 at 8.32 am