Enter the Medium

In this blog piece, Joachim Buur, who has just completed his MA in English Literature at Cardiff University discusses his work on Andrew Hussie’s webcomic Homestuck and the implications it has for fans in the digital world. 

I’m honoured to be here as a rookie scholar and a fan to tell you a bit about the paper I gave at the Word. Image. Digital. Symposium, whose full title is ‘The Symbionic Cybertext Machine: Andrew Hussie’s Homestuck and its Fans as a Cyborg Collective’. Unfortunately I don’t have nearly enough room here to make the title make sense, so instead I hope to give you some idea of the general thrust of my paper. Shortly put, it’s about the webcomic Homestuck and the ways in which its author Andrew Hussie and his fans have gone through a co-evolution process, together working to create a narrative experience which could only have arisen (and only makes sense) in an online social context.
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Rough Magic

The Royal Shakespeare Company have been working with Intel and Imaginarium Studios on a new production of The Tempest that uses technology to blur the line between reality and the digital. This piece briefly explores why The Tempest has been so attractive to film-makers over the past century.

On 28th December 1895 Georges Méliès, a Parisian magician, sat in amazement at what he was witnessing.[1] He was attending a demonstration of the Lumière brother’s new invention: the cinématographe. It was a machine that allowed both the recording and the projection of moving images. In a darkened room at the Salon des Indien, the audience were transfixed, especially Méliès, who instantly saw the potential of this new machine: ‘We were positively stupefied. I immediately said “That’s the thing for me…an extraordinary trick!”’ The films that were projected onto a makeshift screen can only be described as short documentaries – workers leaving a factory, a locomotive arriving at a station – but Méliès recognised the creative and imaginative potential of this new medium.[2] He would eventually go on to use cinema he said ‘not for the servile reproduction of nature, but for its spectacular expression of artistic and creative ideas of all kinds.’[3] Soon after, Méliès built his own camera and the world’s first film studio and set about making his own idiosyncratic films which would incorporate special effects with traditional theatre techniques that evoked a ‘dreamlike atmosphere’[4] and an ‘unreal world wholly obedient to the whims of the imagination’.[5] Through cinema Méliès had, like Shakespeare’s Prospero three hundred years earlier, created and discovered his own ‘rough magic’.[6]

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The Poetry Storehouse: An Experiment in Collaboration and Ekphrasis

As part of our recent Word. Image. Digital. Symposium, Othniel Smith presented a brilliant paper on The Poetry Storehouse. You can read the full paper here and watch the videos.

The Poetry Storehouse opened its metaphorical doors in October 2013.

A website put together by a panel of poets and literary academics, mostly in the US, its twin aims were (a) to utilise online technology to attempt to find a wider audience for contemporary poetry which might otherwise remain restricted to small-press print editions and (b) to stimulate creativity in other artists – whether they be actors, photographers, painters, filmmakers or composers – who might feel inspired to respond ekphrastically to the poems which were showcased.

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Are Tweets a New Form of Poetry?

In this fascinating post, Jannat Ahmed, an MA student in English Literature at Cardiff University, asks us to think about a new kind of poetry… 

In our digital age, are tweets a new form of poetry? This is a question I have asked myself after seeing how people engage with specific types of posts on Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook. While tweets themselves have their own restrictions (their 140 characters, interestingly, can remind us of the restrictive 14 lines in a sonnet, for example), it is not the straightforward 140 character restriction of a tweet that I correspond with an idea of poetry, but another kind of post prevalent on social platforms that offers poetic engagement: Having gathered force for several years as MSN Messenger statuses, the phenomena of inspirational quotes and narrative posts has found its way onto all kinds of social media channels.

From stories about real people on the “Humans of New York” page on Facebook to @PoemsPorn on Twitter, today the poetry and stories consumed by the world are comprised of short quotations and screenshots that evidently speak to, and resonate with, people. Comparing the personal impact and function of modern day quotation/narrative posts with the social importance and function of poetry from poets like Pope, Montagu and Shelley, I ask whether it is possible to start thinking seriously about these new genres of writing (or rewriting?) produced through the new medium of the digital.
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Word, Image, Digital: Registration Now Open

Registration is now open for our Word, Image, Digital, Symposium on November 1st. You can register here: https://word-image-digital.eventbrite.co.uk

And click on the following link to download the programme for the day:word-image-digital-1

 

Play for Today: Digital Archive as Theatre

In her book, Computers as Theatre, Brenda Laurel attempts, though a ‘poetics of human-computer activity’, to provide designers of websites (and other interactive media), with ‘a conceptual framework and a vocabulary that are strongly focused on human experience.’[1] According to Laurel:

Buried within us in our deepest playful instincts, and surrounding us in the cultural conventions of theatre, film and narrative are the most profound and intimate sources of knowledge about interactive representations. A central task is to bring those resources to the fore and to begin to use them in the design of interactive systems.[2]

In her focus on human experience in relation to digital design, Laurel echoes Jaron Lanier when he writes about the importance of the human-centred approach to computer science. Laurel’s central thesis is that computers and interactive design are, fundamentally, theatrical, performative and the latest instance of a medium where audiences can engage meaningfully with representations. Just as, for example, the theatre of Shakespeare (which allowed far more interaction between actors and audience members in the Early Modern period than it does today), provides us with characters and a space (a playhouse) for thinking through complex ideas, so computers, in the twenty-first century, are providing us with that space for thought.[3]

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CFP: Gender and Digital Cultures

Cardiff University’s Gender and Sexuality in Policy and Practice (GASP) research group and Digital Cultures Network, with the support of the Doctoral Academy, invites abstracts to a one-day postgraduate conference on ‘Gender and digital cultures’.

Thursday 17th November, 9.30am – 4pm, Cardiff University

How do digital technologies shape, and become shaped by, the production of gender? How do we use digital technologies in our gendered self-expression and identity negotiation? The answers to these questions become increasingly complex as the role of digital technologies grows in our lives. Digital technologies including the internet, mobile communication devices and social media are gaining increasing attention from academics, policy-makers, practitioners and the media.

This one-day conference on ‘gender and digital cultures’ is an opportunity for postgraduate students from all institutions to explore the intersections of gender(s) and digital cultures with workshops, talks and poster presentations; to build interdisciplinary peer networks; and to make contact with researchers from other departments and institutions.

Abstracts are invited for workshops (30 mins), presentations (15 mins) and posters. We welcome sessions exploring empirical, theoretical or methodological aspects of digital gender(s). Topics could include:

  • Gender, sexualities and gaming
  • Social media and sexism
  • Feminist activism online
  • Gender based violence and cyberbullying
  • Gender based violence and hate crime
  • Streaming platforms and representation
  • Gender equality and the digital industries
  • Digital and networked identity performance
  • Digital research methodologies, methods and ethics

We welcome presentations of alternative/innovative formats such as pecha kucha and performance. Abstracts may be written (<300 words), audio or video.

Please email all submissions to TurneyC@cardiff.ac.uk by Friday 30th September, including the following: name(s) of presenter(s), title, type of session, institutional affiliation, and contact email. We will respond to all submissions by 14th October.

Registration for the conference will open in October. Attendance is free and open to all postgraduate students, and includes lunch and light refreshments. A small fund is available to support travel costs for students who would not otherwise be able to attend the conference. To apply for one of these, please email TurneyC@cardiff.ac.uk by 30th September, specifying:

1) where and to you are travelling from

2) a quote for the cost of your travel

3) a few lines about how the event is relevant to your work/research

4) why the bursary is necessary.

We look forward to hearing from you!

CFP: Word, Image, Digital

A one-day symposium, Cardiff University
Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Keynote Speaker: Michaela Mahlberg (University of Birmingham)

Download the PDF Here: cfp-wordimagedigital

Cardiff University’s Digital Cultures Network is delighted to announce its first Symposium on Word, Image and the Digital. Word and image, and the interplay between them, remain under explored and under-theorised in the digital humanities, despite the creation of pioneering digital archives including The William Blake Archive, the Rossetti Archive and The Illustration Archive. There is a sense, however, in which the digital is not only ‘graphical’ (as Johanna Drucker reminds us), but also a space where the visual and textual are in constant dialogue.

We invite proposals of up to 300 words for 20-minute papers that explore any aspect of the dynamic between word, image and the digital, including demonstrations of current projects. The deadline for submission of abstracts is Monday, 3 October 2016. Please send proposals or enquiries to Michael Goodman (GoodmanMJ@cardiff.ac.uk). Attendance at the Symposium is free and limited to no more than 30 delegates. While non-speaking delegates are welcome, priority will be given to speakers.

Formed in December 2015, and funded by Cardiff University’s College of Arts, Humanities and Social Science, the Cardiff Digital Cultures Network is an interdisciplinary grouping that aims to bring together researchers, creative practitioners and library/museum professionals involved with digital work to share expertise and best practice. As part of our programme of activities, over the course of the next nine months we will be hosting four Symposia on various aspects of digital culture, focusing on: Word, Image, Digital (November 2016); Curating the Digital Archive (January 2017); Remediation and Adaptation (March 2017); and Big Data (May 2017). More information about the Network and its events can be found on our website (cardiffdigitalnetwork.org) and by following us on Twitter (@CUdigitalnet).

Symposium organisers: Dawn Knight, Anthony Mandal, Julia Thomas

 

 

Ways of Seeing

Last week we launched the Victorian Illustrated Shakespeare Archive. Since then the archive has had a very positive response, with the popular educational website Open Culture writing a very engaging article that has currently received over 11,500 shares on social media and the Shakespeare Blog also writing another flattering piece. The past few days have been a real insight into the way social media works from the ‘other side’ – as a creator rather than passive participant – and I will be writing more about this in the future. For now, however, I would like to suggest that what accounts for this reaction is not just the content of the archive (although, certainly, Shakespeare illustration was always going to gain some attention), but rather it is the way the archive has been curated and designed to provide users with new ways of experiencing historical artefacts.

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