Tag Archives: digital aesthetics

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the surface of digital aesthetics, but I hope that by limiting my focus to a particular digital archive that deals in historical documents (rather than looking at website or digital book design more broadly), I will be able to draw some reasonable conclusions.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?

Aethetics in Digital Writing

Once we were asked to bring ink brush and papers the classroom practicing calligraphy, not only as a form of artisitc recreation but to show students having well-trained, educated hands.

Now we are witnessing the emphasis on good handwriting dwindling on one side of the seesaw and the online technical writing growing on the other side. Never before have writers had at their finger tips the tools to almost seamlessly integrate text and graphics, savvy animation, audio, video and other elements and to dynamically publish and widely distribute the products to virtual spaces. Internet create a new kind of writing space and this space changes not only writing process but also communication dynamics between writers and readers. Authors in digital age are also attempting to reach new stylistics, binding parallex formats, font styles with customized images such as this love letter at the right corner.ee_valentinefonts

More than an aesthetic “use” of the written language, the aesthetics in digital writing is probably more of a material expression: expression of the text format and of the interactive medium between authors and audience.

In Defense of Verbosity

When thinking about the changes brought about by Web 2.0, the first thing that sprang to mind was identity, but a close second was aesthetics. Perhaps this is more reflective of my own personal priorities (and research interests) than anything more truly comprehensive, but I think that the two always go hand in hand in person so it follows that they do in our digital manifestations too. Carefully curated, these identities become abstract portraits of the people we imagine ourselves to be—or wish we were—partly through the faces (metaphorical and literal) we choose to present, and partly in the genre of writing that we choose to narrate ourselves. For instance, as anyone who interacts with my Facebook presence knows, I delight in posting extended reflections, excerpts from what I am reading, and entertaining anecdotes; for me, this type of longer writing feels natural and meets with my own standard of written aesthetics. And what is so wrong about meandering in text or occasionally deploying purple prose to make a tongue-in-cheek point?

Perhaps for these reasons, I have (so far) avoided more streamlined and pithy social media platforms. I appreciate that the greater concision demanded by Twitter is in part an exercise in precise writing, but I don’t like the constraint. I understand that the purpose of hashtags is to link conversations and weave connections between post(er)s, but too often they just seem banal. Can the aesthetics of digital writing encompass both short forms that reach out to other writers by means as simple as #sunnyday, as well as longer, less digitally-native genres that fail to link in the same way because they require a different approach? Can’t so many short snippets be just as visually (un)appealing as a block of text?