All posts by Caitlin Larracey

Shakespr: (Re)creationally Writing Hamlet Online

shakespr

 

 

Shakespr

Overview:

My project argues, through a case study on Hamlet, that tumblr users in the Shakespeare fandom have constructed their own Shakespeare that reflects both the demystification of the exception Author and the deconstruction of a monolithic, culture-controlling Academy. While tumblr users genuinely seem to enjoy Shakespeare’s work and value the texts immensely, they do not bring a sense of reverence to Shakespeare as typically presented in high school and college classrooms. They engage in the queer readings some academics pursue but that never reach a first-time reader of Hamlet. They place Hamlet next to Ke$ha without batting an eye. And they turn Hamlet‘s narrative into a series of emojiis. (Among other things). Often through collaborative writing , tumblr re-presents, remixes, and remediates Shakespeare. Along the way, the site recreates Shakespeare’s body of work as fun and flexible, and Shakespeare becomes Shakespr.

Process:

I suppose I can say that I started this essay (without really knowing it) before I started this course. I have been on tumblr for several years now, and I have been pursuing Renaissance literature (particularly Shakespeare) for about the same amount of time. So, before the course began, I had already had on my blog several posts from other users about Shakespeare. Posts I found fascinating to view.

When I began this course, I knew early on that I wanted to work with tumblr. As I’ll talk more about below, I think that tumblr’s interface – though it might take a bit getting used to – allows for variation in digital composition.

In looking at the Shakespeare posts, I first continued my collection work. I followed as many Shakespeare blogs I could find, reblogged a bunch of posts about Hamlet, used my tumblr at first to curate.

I then went through these posts to categorize the different modes users employed in discussing Shakespeare. It was at this point that I made the divisions: re-present, remix, and remediate. I organized the blog by dramatic vocabulary: preface, dramatis personae, three acts, an epilogue, and source materials. I then got a lot of excellent feedback from my group on how to guide my audience across these divisions.

Affordances:

For me, the main appeal of tumblr is the way in which posts are divided. A post can be text, photo, video, a chat, a link, a quotation, or any variation/combination thereof. Tumblr can be extremely visually appealing as it integrates all of these sources.

But, I would say even more than that, tumblr is immediately public in a way other blogging sites are not. If I tag a post “Shakespeare” the post immediately moves into the website tags, where anyone who is scrolling through or tracking the tag can see it. Users on tumblr also, then, read differently. They usually read in their dashboard – looking at tracked tags or what the people they follow reblog. Generally speaking, they do not encounter a blog by going to the blog home page, but by seeing one post by that user and then looking for more. The interaction this enables made me view my writing as much more public than I otherwise would (especially when I was writing my commentary directly on the posts of other users).

Constraints:

Tumblr is not designed for a linear essay. One of the constraints I dealt with was how to link clearly and easily across all of my posts so that users both familiar and unfamiliar with the site could navigate my essay. The other main constraint is in the writing process on tumblr; when things are posted, they are (generally) complete posts. So I did have to respond to one confused (and slightly aggressive) anonymous message about how my blog was working.

Overall, I have absolutely enjoyed this writing process and project, and might have already started a more long-term blog about being a graduate student more broadly…(plug).

I look forward to talking about my work and hearing about everyone else’s!

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Collecting an Argument on Tumblr

A content warning for the digital text below – while not graphically, it deals with violence against women, rape culture, misogyny, and references to self-harm/suicide. Not to bring anybody down or  anything…

A Woman’s Worst Nightmare

This particular post, written by several tumblr users over months and with nearly 70,000 notes (of both likes and reblogs), represents one way in which tumblr collaboratively composes.

The post’s origin was in January 2011 with alullaby posting the quotation from Mary Dickson’s 1996 article hosted on PBS, “A Woman’s Worst Nightmare.” The piece as it currently stands exists primarily in this form, although there will be small variations across blogs as the person reblogging may add to the written material. It is not a static piece of writing, and, at first, I was hesitant to put it forward as a digital “essay” – as I do think of essays as writing with a clear start and end date and that will appear the same no matter who posts/reblogs it. But it is certainly a digital text.

Further, the piece represents one significant mode of writing on tumblr: collection. The collection could be the most ridiculous posts surrounding the government shutdown, the strangest high school sex miseducation moments, or a more serious post such as this, where women (and a couple men) voice their understanding of women’s worst nightmare. This one in particular is a collection because it has been curated in a certain way. Normally, when a post is just reblogged again and again and added to, the final product on your dashboard looks like this:

x11 1

Courtneystoker reblogged the original post from radiantbutterfly and clicking on either url will bring you to the post on those users’ blogs.

This text, however, looks like this on the dash (I’m only showing a section because it is far too large to screenshot and insert the whole thing):

x11 2

Here, the relationship between each comment is unclear; while it’s possible kaitg reblogged and then added to kittencoaster’s comment, it’s impossible to tell, especially as the urls lead only to the users’ homepages and not their reblogged version of the post. This suggests, then, that this is a collection of posts – though the collector seems to be anonymous. (At least at this point, there may be a way to find out the exact history of the post, but it would involve going through its tens of thousands of notes.)

Collections seem to work uncreatively as Kenneth Goldsmith imagines the mode. If we think back to his presentation on the Brooklyn Bridge – he selects various pieces about it to make a clear, but implicit, argument. While the majority of my own tumblr essay differs from the collection as it has one author, a linear structure, and close reading, some of the work outside of the essay’s main body is in the collection of posts around Hamlet and Shakespeare original to the site.

As a collection, this text works similarly to what Goldsmith describes in that there are a large variety of users putting vastly different thoughts on the table, from “Wow” (kittencoaster) and “men, read all of this please. including the commentary. esp if you consider yourself a Nice Guy” (static-nonsense) to the longer narrative posts (someauthorgirl) and references to outside writers (becomingchichi). The comment that indicates how the piece has grown through the various commentary also stays in the most popular version of it (everythingbutharleyquinn).

The collaborative process embraces different writing styles. Some users don’t use capitalization/proper grammar and spelling, some write extremely informally and casually use obscenity, and some take a more academic, critical tone while still describing intensely personal experiences.

And, the writers recognize the writing that they are collecting as unique. Gtfothinspo writes, “I referenced this quote in a discussion I was having with a teacher a few weeks ago. He shifted uncomfortably and didn’t say anything for a few minutes, then told me ‘I couldn’t write like that in an essay.’ The truth hurts, huh.”

Collectively, the post embodies several elements of digital writing: an element of anonymity, a vast range in styles, collaboration, and a self-awareness of its own project.

Shakespr: (Re)creationally Writing Hamlet Online Draft 1

Hello there!

Link to digital essay: Shakespr: (Re)creationally Writing Hamlet Online

Summary of Project:

The prologue of my piece covers this in a bit more detail, but to summarize, I’m interested in how tumblr represents, remixes, remediates, and recreates Shakespeare. In doing so, I’m looking specifically at Hamlet on tumblr and how users read and rewrite the text.

Gaps:

So far, I have a lot done in notes (whether my annotated bibliography or handwritten notes on the primary sources) and a lot done with the digital essay format itself. While I love tumblr, it is not always the easiest to work with when you’re trying to do something it wasn’t exactly designed for: structure an argument. What that boils down to is that I’ve spent significant time at the start wading through primary sources to find the specific ones I want to talk about directly, and many many more hours constructing the anchor posts themselves, and inserting the infrastructure of links, tags, metadiscourse, etc. Basically, this means that I still have substantial work to do in more of the writing itself. That being said, with what I have so far, I have gotten a lot of the more gritty, time-consuming work completed.

Feedback:

At this point, feedback in three main areas would be of superb help.

1)      The format: Like it? Does the first post sufficiently explain how to move through the essay? Did you get lost at any point in terms of where to go next? Also – I’m thinking of adding a page – perhaps in my about page – for tags. I’m hesitant to do that at this point because it’s a lot of post editing across the entire blog, but I will happily do so if you think that will help the piece as a whole (including the pieces that are not discussed within the main body of the essay). I’m also thinking about whether to include a “random” page that will take readers to a random post on the blog.

2)      Sources: I’m not really working from any particular scholar (which is why the dramatis personae is under construction), but I do think I may include some of the larger ideas about fandom – such as Henry Jenkins’s “acafan” (academic fan) or some of Lessig’s work with remixing. Would the work benefit from these larger theoretical ideas?

3)      In terms of my argument, I am positioning this not as a strict closed-form piece that starts with the thesis. Instead, I’m starting with my questions and moving toward my overall argument. For this format, do you think this structure will work for you as readers?

Remixing E110

I’ve found, reading through the posts before I post my own piece to make sure I’m not repeating what’s been said, that for UD I have a stunningly diverse classroom, whereas the class generally looks like this:

http://www.tubechop.com/watch/2542308 (Vine by Eric Dunn).

By diverse, I mean I have four students of color (an African American woman, Asian man, Middle Eastern man, and Hispanic man) and one young woman who (while white) doesn’t match up to the average UD student in that both her parents are Polish immigrants and she herself is fully bilingual. That’s about 20%!

We have not discussed race as a class, although I have brought in questions of intersectionality when students conference research topics with me. The one moment where race came up slightly was in our discussion of Anne Curzan’s piece, Says Who? Teaching and Questioning the Rules of Grammar,” in which she discusses Standard English vs home languages. Still, I am invested in diverse conversations happening in my course as I gain more experience as an instructor. 

I am, however, highly cognizant of Heather’s point about the danger in assigning students the role as “Ambassador to the Other. Carol Powell’s recent campaign at Harvard, “I, Too, Am Harvard” offers one important visual here (of many key images):

http://itooamharvard.tumblr.com/
http://itooamharvard.tumblr.com/

I am especially wary of this given my own position at home as explainer and defender of all things bisexual. It’s an exhausting position to be put in and certainly not one I want to place upon any student in my course.

I don’t think Adam Banks, in Digital Griots, gives an explicit answer on how to incorporate black voices in a (nearly completely) white classroom. I do think, however, that digital media offers a way into this conversation for students. We have a multitude of voices immediately available to us. Instead of having students read three essays from the Arak about television, food, and art, an assignment can ask students to respond to “I, Too, Am Harvard.” The accessibility (though I recognize there are absolutely limits to access for many students) of digital writing means that white students (myself included) should no longer have the privilege of being nearly completely uninformed about other races and cultures in the US. The fact that I have the internet means that I can’t claim ignorance simply because the town I grew up in is 96% white (and that is the statistic).

I have a similar responsibility in regards to what I teach. Banks writes, “Every course we teach is a mixtape, a compilation of others’ texts and ideas compiled, arranged, and combined with our own in various critical gestures we hope will inform and challenge our students” (138). I feel as though, currently, my course is a monocultural mixtape (or, perhaps, just a tape in a cultural sense). I ask (require) my students to investigate their own writing processes, their writing itself, their modes of argumentation, and the argumentative and stylistic modes of others. I should be willing to challenge their cultural assumptions as well, at least in the context of language and writing (online or off). When I discuss digital writing as a remix, we can talk about “remix” as a term and its historical/cultural significance. When I talk about academic style (which isn’t too too often), I can talk about the problems with Standard English.

Banks, at the core of the book, argues not only that black culture must have a place in the classroom, but that composition courses should enable “intersectional analysis, intergenerational inquiry, intercultural connection” (33) and do so through the idea of the digital griot – the idea of remix. In talking about the issues Banks has raised and I’ve echoed here, for the UD classroom, the focus does not have to be on only race, which may consistently alienate one student. By building intersectionality into the course, I think that we can have productive conversations about the ways in which we write, argue, question, and think online and off.

 

(Re)creational Writing: Tumblr Rewrites Shakespeare

Texts: Blogs dedicated to Shakespeare (or that frequently write around/rewrite Shakespeare) in various ways (text, video, fan fiction, tags, captioned gifsets, art…). I’m interested in looking at rewritten Shakespearean texts, but also at how “Shakespeare” as a cultural icon is rewritten on the site. My title is coming from a comment Baron makes about how the Internet has led to a surge in recreational reading and writing, and I thought there was a pun there to make especially suited for an essay involving Shakespeare.

Question/Problem: At the most basic level, I’m asking: how is Shakespeare’s work (and “Shakespeare”) rewritten on Tumblr? In doing so, I’m looking not only at content – how do Tumblr users put pressure on Shakespeare in various ways (in terms of gender, sexuality, race, etc.) – but also at methodology – how do they do this? Tumblr has its own brand of literary criticism, and its own brand of creative fiction, that enable unique readings and rewritings of Shakespeare. Also, Tumblr’s interface allows for easy multimodal composition – some of the most interesting commentaries on Shakespeare (especially film adaptations in this case) are gifsets captioned in Comic Sans employing the “badness” in writing that Michael has posted about.

Format: Tumblr! Where I can interact directly with the source.

Model Texts: Tumblr pages aren’t necessarily the most visually appealing or intuitively navigable, and so I will be playing around a bit with how I want material organized. The blog will likely take one of two forms – vertical infinite scrolling or the other one here that I haven’t yet come up with a label for: http://loveyourchaos.tumblr.com/ and http://monk3y.tumblr.com/.

Questions:

Things I’m wondering about right now surround the blog format. Tumblrs are, like most blogs, set up in reverse chronology (unless I play around with the other form). I’m trying to think of ways that I can organize my posts so that I create a coherent structure. I’m also playing around with the idea of organizing my material so that the blog can be read either way – one which leads to some sort of “answer” and one that opens up to a lot of questions. I don’t know if I will be able to pull that off, though.

My other question is around the writing process itself. Blog posts aren’t really meant to be revised as we think of revising in a Word document. Also, my composing process would be public. Kiley and I were chatting about this, and she suggested having essentially a “beta” digital essay, where all the work is done, and then revising as I see fit for a final product. I’m wondering what other’s thoughts are on that as well as I am still questioning what I want to do. Tumblr users are an especially responsive bunch, and so I am still somewhat invested in having that public, relatively immediate interaction as a significant part of the digital essay.

Reading and Writing and Everything…Complicated in a Digital Environment

In our first discussion of Kathleen Fitzgerald’s Planned Obsolescence, Janel and I chatted briefly about its length – with me remarking that it’s just under two hundred pages, and Janel lamenting that her Kindle version gives her no page numbers. Also having the Kindle text, I was surprised (and relieved) that the version I had on my PC did indeed have page numbers – “Hallelujah” just might have rung out in my mind. Funnily enough, Kindle’s “locations” do little to locate me in a text. Even with the percentages and progress bars, clicking the next page icon (as indebted to codex construction as it is) is just not the same as the physical feel of a book when you reach the halfway point and when there are more pages in your left hand than right.

That being said, most of my reading is digital. I’m either scrolling or, if I’m on my Tumblr dash, hitting “J” to move down my infinite scrolling dash post by post. Some posts are simply too long to scroll all the way through – and I can always hit “K” if I want to move up to the start of a post that I decide I do want to read after all.

In the same fashion, as I compose this post (in Word), I have changed the font to Times New Roman and the font size to 12, even though I know this will change the instant I move the writing to WordPress. I am simultaneously both mentally chained to more traditional understandings of text and all too willing to abandon them once I open a browser. I’m also desperately trying to figure out how to work this into the zombie metaphor and struggling. (…Something about how each survivor base tries desperately to recreate pre-zombie life within those walls, only to instantly adapt to new realities when unlocking a chained up fence and blasting a way through a zombie horde…like you do).

Fitzgerald writes, “Developers of new textual technologies and publishing systems must recognize that, on the one hand, simply publishing texts online, finding ways to reproduce the structures of the book in digital form, is insufficient, because the network cannot, and should not, replicate the codex; and that on the other hand, simply moving toward a more internally networked form of publishing will likewise not revolutionize the circulation of texts, as the emphasis remains on the individual text, the individual author, the individual mind” (107).

Quick aside here, I cannot begin to express my frustration that I can’t copy/paste from a Kindle text and instead had to handwrite this quotation (it’s just one sentence that’s length only makes itself truly known when writing down each word), and then retype it into Word. I feel like technology has failed me.

Talk about older writing technologies...
Talk about older writing technologies…

But to return to the quotation. The questions of how the digital context could, and should, change the construction of reading and writing (and publishing) are of interest to me mainly as I continue to consider how I will compose a digital essay on Tumblr. It’s a public site, and I will reblog from other users invested (hopefully) in what I have to say. There will be some element of response in the piece (but I wonder how soon I will start posting what I already will, to a certain extent, have planned and written in Word). It’s a blog, so it has a reverse chronology. To what extent will I move around posts before the final deadline? And, as a blog, it is unfinished to the vast majority of my audience (again, presuming the audience ends up extending beyond everyone here – not to say you all aren’t the best audience a gal could wish for). There is some level of obligation (real or imagined) an author has to a blog’s readership that is unlike a printed text, or even an online text like Prezi, where the product is what appears.

Yet, when looking at all of these questions, even if I’m moving beyond a piece limited to codex form, I am still tethered to individualism. Everything is hooked to what “I” want to do, or what I think is best to do, in the context of this course and my scholarly project. I (there it is again) am unsure at this point to what degree I should move beyond this, admittedly imagined, construction of individual authorship, and experiment more broadly with Tumblr‘s system of reblogging, submission, and general intertextuality across mediums. But who knows – perhaps I say this safely from my base camp, and once I’m loose among the hordes on Tumblr I will fully embrace this collaborative digital environment.*

 

*I don’t think bloggers are zombies…but I had to call back the metaphor. Zombies are cool. The asterisk and italics on Janel’s post are also cool. 

“Sorry About That”

I watch a lot of fanvids. Videos Lawrence Lessig would categorize as “remixes” – similar to AMVs (76). In preparation for this response post, then, I went to my favorites playlist on YouTube to find a couple videos to draw our attention to. Going through my list, every 10 or so videos (…let that say what it will about how many videos I’ve favorited) there would be a “Deleted video.” I’ve made a screenshot collage of the main reason offered:

CR1

Copyright claims and infringement.

The two claims on the right were (from top to bottom) a section of the BBC Proms and an artist’s work named Kim Beom where the art was him screaming as he painted with yellow paint. The reason I watched both of these pieces on YouTube was that it was the only site where I could access them – access being a key issue Lessig drives home in his work (46).

The other two videos, however, were fanvids. I couldn’t reliably say what the work on top was, but I do remember the bottom. To summarize it briefly, a youtube user set audio from the film Step Brothers to visuals from Thor – turning the destructive and violent relationship between Thor and Loki into something funny, remixing the two works. It did not replace either film, but brought forward an amusing connection between the work. As Lessig writes of similar videos, “Their meaning comes not from the content of what they say; it comes from the reference, which is expressible only if it is the original that is used” (74). Only actual audio and visuals from both films would create the effect; furthermore, it is an original effect coming from recycled materials.

I thought it would be fun for this post to look at two fanvids about the current television show Hannibal. The first is just two minutes long (and of a serious tone) and I’ve edited the second down to approximately thirty seconds (and it is ridiculous).  I imagine that there those who don’t watch the show will view the videos differently from those that do, as a common, shared knowledge is part of the game with these videos, but for background’s sake, Will Graham (played by Hugh Dancy) is the good guy and Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) is not so good – as I’m sure you know.

And, as I talked about netiquette last week, a content warning here – Hannibal is a very graphically violent show (really gruesome murders and whatnot & all the food is people), so consider yourself warned.

Hannibal – Disney Crack Edition

I thought I would add these videos to our discussion because they serve as illustrations of youtuber’s editing and remixing capabilities. The first, a (I think) beautifully edited and mixed video, draws on the initial statement from FBI profiler Will Graham, “Don’t psychoanalyze me; you wouldn’t like me when I’m psychoanalyzed,” and basically does just that. It explores the darker elements of this character’s mind as he recreates/lives other murderers’ crimes. The song brings forward the seemingly futile effort Will makes to bury this darkness in his desire to save lives and build relationships and friendships (but he is relying on Hannibal as a friend – not the best idea).

The section from the second video flips this serious investigation of Will and the dynamic between Will and Hannibal on its head. Its darkly funny in putting together Hannibal with The Little Mermaid and it relies on viewer knowledge of both to make its point. The production value is lower and the purpose is humor. At the same time, it does have a point, which is that in the show Hannibal does put forth this sincere attitude that he is helping, in his unique way, Will Graham to become his true self. Unfortunately for Will Graham, Hannibal’s version of him is a brutal and vicious killer…

I have absolutely seen videos like these two pulled down after copyright claims have been made. So, while I think that there are certainly limitations to Lessig’s work (for example, his alarmed rhetoric around the moral ramifications of branding a generation as pirates), I think that a focused look at some of the work that people do on YouTube supports his more basic point about copyright in the digital age.