I have never heard of the digital humanities before the Literary Kinds course and I soon discovered the transformative nature of digital writing and its evolution across media. I have taken for granted the opportunities for self-learning from the infinite sources of information that are available through the Internet. The Digital Humanities Manifesto was empowering as it pushed me to take advantage of the open-source culture that is available in this time and age and to get my hands dirty as I partake in the “democratization of culture and scholarship”. For my first web paper, I explored science writing by examining how it transforms across platforms: from laboratory journal to popular science magazine to headline news. I looked into several pieces of writing in each stage but did not seek to examine the interface between the audience/readers and the scientists. I remained at the surface. It is a gift economy, where knowledge is readily accessible to all of us at no cost, but I had to make the connections inside the network in order to extract the most out of it. I had to give back, provide my perspective to hear the echo of others. In examining the Ten Principles for the Future of Learning Institutions in this digital age presented by Davidson and Goldberg, it was clear that I have not yet reached out “horizontally”. I did not consider approaching neither peers nor bloggers who explored the topic to better understand the changes in science writing.
I unfortunately was not able to make it to last Tuesday’s rich discussion but would like to share my thoughts on Cassie Kosarek’s work. I thought that she created an interesting space on her “English thesis wanderings” blog where she presents her thesis preparation and which will culminate into her final thesis. It seems as if the burden behind thesis work and preparation is slightly lightened by the blog; it seems to be a more enjoyable journey into her final thesis presentation. Not all blog posts are cut from the English-thesis-proposal expectations or so I believe, but Cassie’s one post “So, Margaret Price and Judith Butler Walk into a Bar”, which is a virtual dialogue between the two theorists, was an original way to have her thesis work become a creative experiment.
I thought that this interestingly tied to what Kathleen Fitzpatrick describes to be the “remix” culture that is created from digital networks. Scholarly remixing allow for works to come together and form new interrelationships.
“Today, in the current system of print-based scholarship, this work takes the form of reviews, essays, articles, editions; tomorrow, as new mechanisms allow, these texts might be multimodal remixes, mashing up theories and texts to produce compelling new ideas.”-Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Planned Obsolescence, from originality to remix
One morning in September 2011, I was in awe when my eye caught the following Al Jazeera news headline: “Scientists claim to break the speed of light”. It was a break from Einstein’s theory of special relativity that establishes the photonas the fastest particle and a break from the core laws of physics that govern the world around us. Little did I take notice of the science news article as a break in the science writing genre.
In the Digital Humanities Manifesto 2.0, the word “manifesto” from manus or hand helped me relate the mass 2011 protests, such as those in the Arab Spring and Occupy, to the digital humanities. As fists reaching out for freedom and equality against corruption and unemployment in a mass protest, a similar hand reaches out for the freedom of the spoken word and the common share of ideas in the digital humanities. In a protest, a hand is not to be distinguished from the others around it as each one joins the others in a wave of fists for a common cause. Similarly, one person’s words and ideas in the digital platform matter, but how they connect to others' and their derived linkages create the multimedia network of “innovative thinking” that makes up the digital humanities. The emphasis of the ant colony instead of the Ivory Tower in the digital humanities reminded me of a book on complexity science (more about it here) that demonstrates the intelligence of crowds and how ant colony and swarm behavior can be used to determine the logic behind networks.
Although writing in a natural or physical science discipline can be easily distinguished from a literary text by the subject topic, different genres of writing branch out of science as well. As a physics major and a student in other science courses, I have had a range of experience in different types of science writing. Presenting my laboratory work for an experimental physics course, an individual research project on the chaos in heart rate for classical mechanics, or a popular science report on human evolution for biology, I must say that each writing experience was unique regardless of the topic in question. The writing assignments are framed in a specific context, either by the professor or the course itself, that allow for a genre of writing. As mentioned by Debbie in class on Thursday, the different genres of writing appear as a result of the context of each sample. A sample from a magazine such as Harper’s or an academic literary essay from the PMLA fall under different genres as each addresses a different audience with different backgrounds on the topic. Other writing samples cannot be understood out of a historical or political context at which they were originally written. Whether a science paper is to be published in Scientific American or the Physical Review Letters does create separate genres in scientific writing as a result of the expected audience and their varying technical and science background.