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intellectual property & where do we go from here - 2/25 class summary

jrf's picture

We began with some questions that were posted online for Nicole and Jen:
Did either of them feel any worry about posting their work on the internet, where future employers could find it?
Nicole didn't feel much concern but wondered if she should, mentioning her middle-school Myspace that's still online; Jen plans to work in the digital humanities, and so feels it's great for her to have an online presence. Nicole adds that most people's names are all over the Internet in places they didn't put it on purpose (Bi-Co articles, etc.).

Had the Internet helped Jen or Nicole with their English major, and how did they feel about defining themselves as English majors?
Nicole, as a cities & english double major, claims she often forgets she's anything but an English major. Jen feels like more of an English major now that she's done some work online.

Jen's presentation begins:
We compared the 1.0 and 2.0 versions of the Digital Humanities Manifesto. 1.0 was written at a conference, and then 2.0 was revised in response to the comments made on the online version of 1.0.
The class seemed to like 2.0 better-- it seemed more manifesto-y, more fun to read. Is its manifestoiness a parody of manifestos? Is it ever kidding? Is it mocking the genre of manifestos, embracing it, or both?

Jen asks: would we feel comfortable writing something like this for a class? The less formal style means probably not. Some of us didn't think our professors and/or paper assignments would allow for this kind of writing.
Is this an academic treatise? It claims that "this is a genre in a hurry"-- academia usually isn't. Or at least the humanities aren't; the sciences might move much faster, or at least in a different manner.
Would we characterize 2.0 as a piece of academic writing without knowledge of its context? Yes, because of all the defining it does. The tone seems student-ish, or at least not like a professor. We're not sure what to make of the disclaimer-- Why is UCLA so excited about not being associated with the DHM? It's generally assumed that any given student or professor's writings don't represent the opinions of the school they're associated with.
How is our understanding changed by the knowledge that two tenured professors wrote the DHM? Some see no change-- we like grad students too. Others are more likely to take it seriously.

We focus on the paragraph on "who is reaching out"-- it seems to name the commenters as authors. The comments on 1.0 are interesting: some of them apparently tell the original authors that their tone is too flippant, too nonacademic-- and of course 2.0 is even more so.
We revisit the question of the DHM's impact on our own writing. Does this manifesto mean we can approach academic writing in a different way? Is it possible to incorporate this kind of writing into standard papers, with their very limited audiences? Some professors specifically ask for greater formaility in students' writing. Scientific papers have gotten more formal and structured over the history of their writing, perhaps moving in the opposite direction to the (digital) humanities. Tim Burke and Kate Thomas come up: they keep their blogs separate from their academic writing. Should we move more towards a voice like the DHM's in "real" academic writing?
Many found the tone of 2.0 to be non-alienating, unlike the traditional academic tone.
Are 1.0 and 2.0 aimed at/do they have different audiences? Is 1.0's audience academia only, while 2.0 is for everyone? The nonacademic style of DHM 2.0 is less exclusive, more accessible; however, it's still "academic" in that it's very high-level thinking. It's much more provocative and activist than academia usually is-- it calls for change, for piracy.

Jen saw one of the DHM's authors speak at Haverford, in part regarding his students curating various CROWDS archives. Jen characterized this as turning a library into a lab, adding a lab component to the humanities, with the idea of an end product that's more than just a paper.
Jen's take on this is her thesis project, an online archive of the early works of Marianne Moore, a modernist poet and BMC alum. Jen is working on an archive argument that Moore's early poems (such as those she published in the school literary magazine) are necessary for complete study/understanding of her work.

We discuss possible doubts as to putting oneself online/the legitimacy of turning in a website as one's thesis. It has a (sort of) unlimited audience, and is accessible to all who are interested, very unlike a thesis paper. The blog is currently linked from the Bryn Mawr Library's Special Collections page, but will it be permanently archived?

Nicole takes over leadership of the discussion and points us at some Elvis-related images, asking us what they are. We get onto the difference between parody and reference (or copy)-- which of those do these images represent?

What is the difference between copy and parody? Parody makes changes that defy the original.
What does parody achieve? It gives your creation a deeper meaning through connection to something that has come before. It draws attention to you through connection to something better-known. Elvis's music's deep connection to (copying/parody of?) African-American music of the same period is mentioned, but not discussed.

Nicole points at the novel Graceland, by Chris Abani, as an example of how Elvis has been appropriated by artistry, and also of how Internet-related copyright disputes make visible processes that were already going on-- Abani's novel was opposed by both the Nigerian government (who objected to its political content) and the inheritors of Elvis's copyright (who objected to the use of Elvis's name and image). This raises many questions we've touched on previously about intellectual property: can it be good to privatize knowledge? The possibility is raised that in some contexts (especially some non-Western contexts) intellectual property may be the only property an individual can lay claim to-- does this make it okay to limit the free exchange of knowledge? The free-knowledge arguments we've been discussing make a very large claim that there are things we cannot own (i.e. knowledge/information/ideas); how is this claim impacted by the idea that intellectual property could be a much-needed source of power for disadvantaged individuals, rather than just a tool for corporations?

Jen discussed her experience at an academic conference on genre that was mostly disappointing. Wai Chee Dimock was a high point, discussing how science fiction makes it possible to migrate across genres; only one presenter ventured out of the West.

We moved on to talking about designing the 2nd half of this course-- we need to pick a second (and maybe third) genre to explore. Possibilities:
something old (Moby Dick, etc.), looking at older works that challenged categories
something newer, looking at generic evolution
    - video games filling storytelling roles novels once filled
    - graphic novels merging pictures, story, etc.
    - fanfiction
current electronic versions of older things
the writings of a single author
We went over the procedure we'll be going through over the next week to plan the rest of the course.
Where do we want to go with this conversation? Based on what we've done, what makes sense?


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