Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

Week Six (Mon, 2/21): Taking Information Seriously

Map of the Internet, via Geeky Mom

"We live in the information age... it is time we...engaged with
it in serious, sustained, and systemic ways"
(Cathy Davidson).

I. (Anne) Coursekeeping

signing in

signing up for writing conferences

taking notes: lemirella and m.aghazarian

viewing for Wed: Conceiving Ada (85 minute film,
on reserve in Canaday; also available on streaming Netflix)

this is (in part) a response to Hayles' call for new, visual media (so come ready to talk/think together about how you would "handle" this material in a "digital humanities" mode);
and also (in part) preparation and
inspiration for next week's work-->

next Monday and Wednesday:
panel discussions ("from the inside")
about individual practices we have not yet explored together.

Come to class prepared to "speak as" an individual
whose life or work circumstances shaped, or were impacted by,
an interesting interaction of gender, information, science and/or technology. Or: we picked Ada Lovelace. Who do you pick?
Whose life would you like to know more about? 
(Who would you like to BE?)
Whose life would add an interesting dimension to the intersections we have already explored?
Whose life would add some interesting dimension to
our discussion that we have not yet explored?

When I did this course two years ago with Laura Blankenship,
the first panel was 13 historical figures
the second was 12 imaginative figures
and the third was 15 contemporary figures.

There are multiple other possibilities (for ex: go see "Coming in Hot: A One-Woman Show About Women in the Military" @ HC on Wednesday night).

So that we can plan the panels-- i.e., who goes Monday, who Wednesday-- you will need to post, this Friday, who you will "be."

All your reading, next week, will be in preparation for your
so you should plan to spend the usual (2? 4? 6? hours/whatever) amount of time you spend preparing for this class reading about the "subject" you are going to inhabit, and planning what she might say about her location in the nexus of GIST.

You should come to class prepared to say (for instance!)
* what role gender played in "your" life
* what role science and/or technology played
* how they intersected
* in what ways they “reciprocally shaped one another."

In "your" day, what language did you use
* to talk about “gender” and “technology”?
* did "you" use these words, or other ones?
* for example: how did "you" understand the
difference between “natural” and “artificial”?

How would you respond to some of our contemporary language for talking about the relations between G&T? (for example, in Haraway’s terms, how much of a breakdown was there in your life/age between the three “leaky distinctions” of human-animal, organism-machine, physical-non-physical? In Hayles' terms, how did you "read" information? How did you  "think" about-and-with it?

After break, we'll repeat this exercise, and you'll get to be on another panel. Then you'll represent a group, "from the outside," more like an anthropologist. This time, we want you to be "autobiographical," to speak "as."

One more note of importance: the work you do for this panel will also be preparatory for your next paper (due @ midnight on Fri, Mar. 4) in which we will ask you to "theorize" about the experiences you present on the panel (i.e. to re-think them through the framing lens of some of the other material we've been discussing).

II. (Liz)

Last week we began talking about information.
We said it is...

...defined it as ?? ...


"Information is organized data or/or signals that have the potential to be meaningful in an exchange."



Your afterthoughts, from the forum:


Information embedded in information--pattern within patterns--filters, codes etc.



I think the concept of cryptography in relation to information is interesting because it seems that for all the people we want to share information with, there are also people we want to hide that information from. If in our class we continue to try and define what information is, maybe we should not only focus on sharing data but also focus on the importance of hiding it.



...I think what we read and what we ignore is affected by what we are taught/trying to find...


Most folks do not think we are in crisis, rather the multiplicity of ways of reading seems appropriate to the different reasons we read---new technologies facilitate these different methods......However, if we neglect one we may loose that ability. It seems new technologies will allow us to practice them all....  Also highlights of the notion of reading as processing information....



I feel that it is natural for humans to be less invested in reading than they used to be before the development of computer technology. Forms of information have changed throughout the history and humans who have natural desires to collect and process information have also adjusted to the types of information they are accessible to.



I think that we are primed to hyper read, we are always in search for a "sign" to lead us to the right direction. Therefore, when we use hyper reading, we are in constant search for a key word to help us get to the main point we're looking for. From my personal experience, hyper reading has turned to something I automatically behave like, when looking through notes i took for a class, I always wish there was a way to type i the key word i'm looking for to make it easier and faster to find the information desired.




We have been reading the work of the early 20th century social psychologist Hebert Mead who posits “meaning arises and lies within the field of the relation between the gesture of a given human organism and the subsequent behavior of this organism as indicated to another human organism by that gesture.”


I find the idea that meaning is not inherent in any action or object or piece of information is an especially interesting idea to think about in relation to the reading about the different kinds of reading. Traditional close reading for me often implies that there is some inherent meaning in a text that we will uncover or unlock through close reading. If we apply Mead’s definition of meaning then we can change our relationship with literature and with reading. Meaning now comes from whatever sort of relationship we have with a text. We can determine meaning from our interaction, and close reading of a text isn’t necessarily the only path to generating meaning..



Our discussions and readings this week reminded me of a video that came up in another class and that I thought was relevant to our interests. It's "The Machine is Us/ing Us" by Michael Wesch to describe the concept of Web 2.0

 The Machine is Using/Us--see the video.

.... I don't think that the migration to the internet away from books and close reading has necessarily sacrificed understanding and innovation, it more so indicates a shift from learning by yourself, and learning together as a community and from others.

III. Let's have another experience....

What is there?

What do you see?

(from a session on "perceptual fluidity")

Does the experience you just had, of seeing lovers and/or dolphins, alter your understanding of "what information is"?

IV. Another fan on the forum....


A new book, “World Wide Mind,” by Mr. Chorost who sees as “the coming integration of humanity, machines, and the Internet.”

One term from the review resonated with me throughout our discussion of Katherine Hayles' text, How We Read. It is psychiatrist John Ratey's coined term, "acquired attention deficit disorder." I personally prefer to read on a computer screen .... I enjoy the ability to click around. Thinking about how many of my classmates were guilty of hyper-reading, I wondered if this is a national crisis if only because we are all moving towards this "acquired attention deficit disorder." ... if we don't exercise certain abilities, they may cease to function, and as an entire generation abandons books and libraries for the laptops, e-readers, and the internet,

Chorost's reply--

Gee, how nice of you to mention my book to your class. In fact I considered writing about Andy Clark's work, because his work on embodiment and distributed cognition has been so pathbreaking. If your class does choose to read the book, I would be happy to "visit" via Skype or even in person. Thanks so much and please feel free to contact me.
Mike Chorost.

V. (Anne) Today, more from Katherine Hayles, on
"How We Think: Transforming Power and Digital Technologies"

Last week, we heard Hayles argue for the
distinctive advantages of hyper reading:
useful for its flexibility in switching
between different information streams,
providing a quick grasp of the GIST of material,
an ability to move rapidly among/between different text
She gave us a way to think about the
interrelation of close/hyper/machine reading:
different distributions of pattern, meaning, context

< pattern, > context (classic "close reading");
< meaning, > pattern (classic "new historicism"/contextual work)

She invited us, in short, to re-think what reading is:
how we ourselves read, and how we might
teach our children to be "bi-/multi-textual."

Today she invites us to re-think how we think
So: how DO we think?
What's your mind like?

Write for a few minutes, introducing/describing your mind.
Tell your neighbor this story.
Tell her also how your mind responds to Hayles'
invitation to "engage seriously in the information age."

Introduce your neighbor's mind to the rest of us.

Did you recognize (y)our mind(s) -- how they work,
and what they might do -- in what Hayles wrote?

hybrid, multimodal, spatial, scaled, less filtered, less meaning-based, more "cartographic," visual, focused less on critiquing and more on producing knowledge, more open, less "violently" exclusive...

IV. Bringing this back to your web "projects":
how might "thinking differently" be
expressed differently on-line?

from Hayles: "central focus should be on
creating media appropriate for projects"

We are not all computer science majors;
Wed's exs (Calamity's spread sheet, riki's image, missarcher's youtubes/varied fonts, aybala's chat site, cara and kelliott's prezis, rubikcube's Netlogo model) covered a range of possibilities, from presenting information differently to actually exploring and gathering it in alternative modes--
we invite you to start where you are, with what you already know how to do, and go exploring!

Beyond all the examples Hayles cites,
more sources for further exploring:

A Digital Humanities Manifesto
The Digital Humanities Manifesto 2.0

NINES: Nineteenth-Century Scholarship On-Line

Dickinson Electronic Archives

Stanford Humanities Laboratory: CROWDS

Moore and Media

The Institute for the Future of the Book

Kathleen Fitzpatrick's site, Planned Obsolescence:
Publishing, Technology and The Future of the Academy
Beyond the Dissertation Monograph

Reading Notes from "How We Think"
Digital Humanities a new force "against" the "gold standard," "normative practice" of the print monograph
not support services, but a "genuinely intellectual endeavor,"
a "massive theoretical shift in textual studies," in which print is absorbed into new hybrid, multimodal communication practices; time-based forms (film, sound, animation), visual traditions (graphics, design), spatial practices (architecture, geography), curatorial practices (museums, galleries), etc.

first wave: quantitative
second wave: qualitative, interpretive, experiential, emotive, generative (still attending to the "core methodological strengths of the Humanities": complexity, medium specificity, historical context, analytical depth, critique and interpretation)
a paradigm shift: core mission springs from practices, qualities in any medium, reaching beyond print in modes of inquiry, research, publication, dissemination

single most important issue is matter of scale:
changes the amount of text, contexts, contents of questions;
distance becomes a condition of knowledge,
allows focus on units smaller (devices, themes, tropes)
or larger (genres, systems) than the text:
reading a synthetic activity,
taking the readings of others as raw material

algorithms "read" because they avoid the principal trap of conventional reading: assumptions filtering the material,
so that we only see what we expect to (i.e. human interpretation misleads); this allows new convergences to become visible

"machine reading": a first pass toward making visible patterns,
to be interpreted by human reading--"tools we think through"
posthuman mode of scholarship part of long history of human adapting to new technologies (cf. Andy Clark!)

algorithmic analysis and hermeneutic close reading
not opposed but in synergistic interaciton
"algorithmic criticism": a "rapid shuttling" between
quantitative information and traditional close reading,
recursive feedback loop between
Digital and Traditional Humanities

"the cartographic imagination": meaning built
not linearly but in connections of layered networks,
moving from temporal causality to spatialized grids:
multi-focal, multi-causal,
non-narrative modes of representation;
increasing reliance on visualization tools

"Forget meaning. Follow the data streams."
effect of database format: liberate contradictory, refractory threads in material from coherence of historically-based arguments; visual topics as potatoes in field, navigated by 'digging'
generate content that allows others to provide own representation
shift emphasis from argumentation to data embedded
in different forms, orderings, manipulatable by the user

Humanists' tout critique rather than contribution
(not producing new knowlege but questioning modes of production); time to critique the mantra of critique

coupling human and machine cognition: intuition and logic,
exteriorizing/translating "desire" into unforgiving code
digitla writing changes: smaller, re-arrangeable blocks of prose
major in Computational Media?
humanities scholars fluent in code,
who "can actually make things"?

re-think peer review: self-constituting/circular system of accrediting, credentialing; violence of exclusion; replication of existing paradigms

new collaborations between expert scholars and expert amateurs; emerging practices of open review, shifting to post-publication

two major strategies: assimilation (extend existing scholarship into digital realm) and distinction (new methodologies)


Course Notes:  lemirella and m.aghazarian