Tag Archives: archive

Turning Over a New Leaf

Link: Turning the Digital Page: An Exploration of Remediation and Online Archives

YB cover photo

Overview: In my digital essay, I aim to analyze the (method)ologies of online resources which compile and remediate archival texts, using The Yellow Nineties Online as a case study to examine the ways in which digitizing encodes form and content, and therefore changes the audience interaction. As per the site’s “Welcome” page, it logically centers itself not only around the study of decade of the 1890s, more specifically around the periodicals of that decade, and more specifically still about the particular periodical that gave the decade its “yellow” moniker–The (infamous) Yellow Book. My digital essay discusses these digitally re-born texts and deals with issues such as form, adaptation/homage, simulation/skeuomorph, and materiality.

Process: This project began its life as a traditional 20-page seminar paper I had done for a class in Fall 2012 so I’d already done a lot of research, writing, and thinking about digital archives in general and The Yellow Nineties Online in particular by the time I decided to revisit the topic this semester. The main challenge for me was taking that first incarnation and looking at it from a completely different angle–not that of “genres” of digital archive (my initial argument, tailored to said class), but rather looking at the ways in which the site frames content, form, and user engagement. These three themes are the one that I have tried to thread throughout each of my posts and which tie the digital essay together as a whole.

Affordances: This project works so much better as a digital essay than a paper that I’m profoundly glad I had the opportunity to transform it! Because I am working to analyze an online resource, it was helpful to work in the same medium–particularly as it is one that facilitates greater use of images (something I’m always looking to do since I work so heavily in visual culture) and enables the use of hyperlinks– these two affordances (or rather, the lack thereof) were the main constraints in writing this up as an seminar paper in the first place.

Looking back at my original paper, I also noticed that it formed less of a coherent argument than a series of observations about the site and its methodological moves. The project worked well enough as a traditional paper, but splitting it into sections in my digital essay not only helped me to re-think the different topics I was actually considering, but also allowed me to make those points much more succinctly without worrying over-much about whether I was presenting a unified whole–it was unified by virtue of admitting its nature as a looser collection of interrelated facets.

This project is something I hope to tinker further with and link to my as-of-now under-development professional WordPress site. I also plan to send the link to the creators of The Yellow Nineties Online (which I am simultaneously excited and terrified to do).

Constraints: The infelicities of my chosen Wordpress theme (including but not limited to problems with font size/color, spacing, linking, arrangement and display of pictures, etc.) did take some amount of time and troubleshooting to wrestle into submission (I won’t say all of that wrestling was particularly good-humored).

Besides technical difficulties, the second challenge (mentioned above) was how to “digitize” my original essay, particularly in terms of organization. I cannot even guess how many different subheadings I created and discarded, split, and combined as I tried to organize my themes as clearly as possible without feeling like I was spending too much time on one and giving short shrift to others. These many changes to page themes (and therefore titles) unfortunately also had the unintended effect that most of my body pages still bear now-defunct titles in their web address. This annoys me somewhat, but I don’t think there’s anything I can do about it now.

Overall, however, I’m really pleased with how the essay turned out, aesthetically and organizationally.

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Turning the Page on Re-mediated Texts: Archives and Digitizing Nostalgia

For my digital essay, I’d like to build off of some of the ideas raised in my X1 blog post for this class, which in turn derived partially from a project begun in Heidi Kaufman’s Fall 2012 “Archival In(ter)ventions” course.  In that course, my seminar paper was titled “(Re)born Digital: The Yellow Book and Adaptations of the ‘Archive’,” and it used the digital archive The Yellow Nineties Online as a case study by which to examine the online re-mediation/adaptation of a particular Victorian periodical, as well as the functions of the archives and online research environments in which such texts are stored. My argument for that paper was most interested in how the ways in which archival texts are made digital force us to reevaluate the role of an “archive” as well as the act of archiving itself. I have been itching to work further on this project with other affordances, so this digital essay project seemed like a golden opportunity to do so.

As I think I admitted in my very first entry on the course blog, much of my scholarly work deals with aesthetics and the ways in which the presentation/juxtaposition of various texts within a larger (con)text (like a periodical) shifts the ways in which the former text is read and interpreted. For this digital essay project, I plan to look more closely at the ways in which the re-mediation of such archival texts (which mimic the original layout but present the information in a new format and/or simulate a book-based reading experience by aesthetic and faux-tactile means) play into our sense of nostalgia for the print-based (an idea that was raised initially in our discussions of Dennis Baron).

For a paper of this length, I will naturally only be able to scrape the surface of digital aesthetics, but I hope that by limiting my focus to a particular digital archive that deals in historical documents (rather than looking at website or digital book design more broadly), I will be able to draw some reasonable conclusions. I’d like to once again use The Yellow Nineties Online as my primary text to focus on, but I will likely also refer to other archives that deal in Victorian materials (such as The Rossetti Archive) as well as broader repositories that function in similar ways, such as Internet Archive.

Of course, the irony is not lost on me that in working with a continually-updated online repository like The Yellow Nineties Online, many of my initial points are already defunct in the face of the intervening one-and-a-half years’ worth of changes. So, while I am admittedly returning to a project that I have already spent some amount of time on, I will in many senses be starting from scratch: I will not only need to (perhaps completely) reevaluate my former claims, but I will also be expanding on just one branch of the larger issues I had tried to tackle in my paper for Heidi’s class.

To sum up:

  • My primary texts/materials will be the online archive(s) I engage in, but I also anticipate drawing from Denis Baron’s A Better Pencil, Jerome McGann’s Radiant Textuality: Literature after the World Wide Web, and Jean Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulation.
  • Some additional questions/problems are: How are texts whose original conception was already highly invested in the aesthetics of the page re-presented and re-mediated in digital environments? What is gained (or lost) by reproducing/simulating these original formats as closely as possible? How do these concerns play into larger ideas of nostalgia for old forms and formats, now incongruously simulated in the digital?
  • Ironically in a project invested in aesthetics, the aesthetics of my own work is what is giving me the most trouble. So, I am as yet uncertain as to what format would be best for this project: at the most basic level, I’d be happy to use a format like WordPress that easily allows for the incorporation the images, hyperlinks, etc., while on the more sophisticated, I’d be interested in trying my hand at creating my content in a simulated book form, like the Cooking School essay that we had initially looked at as a model (though I have, at this point, no idea how to do that).
  • My remaining questions for all of you: Any ideas or advice in regards to format for this project? How is the scope of this project looking so far (is it too broad, or by contrast, not broad enough)? Relatedly, would it be useful to widen my scope somewhat to talk more generally about the simulation of print-based reading experiences, outside of the archive as well as in? Are there any other online archives with interesting formatting or presentation of materials that you could point me towards?