Conference Agenda

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Session Overview
#SD4: Digital Textuality Paper Session 1
Wednesday, 24/Jul/2019:
4:45pm - 6:15pm

Session Chair: Alexander Gil
Location: Marquis B, Marriott City Center
capacity 42

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Deploying a Digital Edition Using Minimal Computing Principles

Avery Jacob Wiscomb, Steven Gotzler, Daniel Evans

Carnegie Mellon University, United States of America

This talk presents a new online digital edition of Karl Marx’s Capital Vol. 1 built using the lightweight markup language Markdown and “Ed,” a Jekyll theme developed by Alex Gil and others. Called MARXdown, our edition of the text incorporates group annotations using, which fosters community building by enabling sentence-level note-taking and discussions layered on top of an easy-to-read interface. Specifically, MARXdown supports asynchronous group readings and crowdsources contributions from students and faculty at other institutions. Beautifully rendered, the edition brings together the original English translation of Marx’s text from 1887 with extant scholarly sources and external media to create a multi-layered annotated edition of the text.

We will demo the edition, discuss implementation and workflow, and offer suggestions for ways to build similar “Ed.”-style projects in the classroom or with the public. We argue that the use of lightweight digital technologies to write, publish, and review scholarship, especially when based on minimal computing principles, empowers oftentimes marginalized voices to contribute to scholarly or reading editions of texts meant to last. We suggest that others deploy critical open-source editions to the public, especially for key texts in decolonial, indigenous, Black studies, cultural and critical ethnic studies, and intersectional feminist interventions.

Lightning Talk: Using Smartphone Architecture as Narrative Structure. Franz Friedrich's "Zeitreiseführer"

Katharina Tiwald

University of Applied Arts, Vienna, Austria

In 2015, the renowned German publishing house Fischer made an app available on its website: "25052015. Der letzte Montag im Mai. Ein Zeitreiseführer" by Franz Friedrich ("The last Monday in May. A Time Travel Guide"). Friedrich's app is a novel and still just that: an app. No hard copy edition of it is scheduled to appear. Friedrich's novel makes unique use of smartphone architecture as a backbone for the story line, thereby marrying form and content: the app, following a first-person narrator walking through Berlin on a spring day in 2015, is targeted at a tourist arriving from the future.

In this lightning talk, I will highlight in what way "novels-as-apps" differ from hyperfiction and more or less collaborative forms of writing connected to the digital age, such as chat fiction apps and "facebook novels" like "Zwirbler", initiated, coordinated and lastly published as a book by Vienna-based author Gergely Teglasy. Authorial control and reader guidance through narrative sequencing are key concepts in defining that difference, further leading to considerations regarding editorial processes and placement on the literary market (implying economic considerations).

I hope to be able to look into Friedrich's creative and practical path towards publishing this work (an interview with him and his editors is scheduled for early 2019) and outline further narrative possibilities in novels-as-apps. In European literary tradition, novels are regarded as the single most open genre for experiment. Smartphone architecture with its rhizomic structure should provide an excellent playground for just such experiments.

Since this project is a dissertation at a University of Applied Arts, if time allows I will present plans for a novel-as-app in progress that will take a different approach towards using app structure as background to its story line. I chose a historical personality as my main character to demonstrate how a new medium can illustrate a future-oriented mindset without the main character necessarily hailing from the future (or even the present). This character's approach towards political and literary innovation will allow me to make use of narrative (and maybe cross-genre) possibilities as outlined in the first section of my talk - again, if time allows.

SF Nexus: A Comprehensive Corpus of Speculative Fiction for Non-Consumptive Research

Rikk Mulligan1, Alex Wermer-Colan2

1Carnegie Mellon University, United States of America; 2Temple University, United States of America

Literary studies uses canon to limits a corpus. The SF Nexus seeks to be as inclusive as possible in curating speculative fiction to include a range of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and related subgenres. Although critics and fans dispute the historical or literary merit of specific works, in general scholarship continues to skew Anglocentric, white, male, and heteronormative. Paul Kinkaid’s “On the Origins of Genre” (2003) disrupts more traditional definitions of genre and canon, particularly those that align SF with the works of the Golden Age era as white, male, college-educated and, by implication, straight. John Reider’s “On Defining SF, Or Not: Genre Theory, SF, and History” (2013) and Gary K. Wolfe’s Evaporating Genres (2011) further question both canon and genre as a tool for reading rather than an absolute. These critics emphasize that SF has never been easily defined and has always had writers who were not white men.

Performing genre analysis at scale using quantitative methods enhanced with computational tools for textual and cultural analytics offers a more inclusive approach. However, those who apply digital methods to contemporary literature are confronted with two further obstacles: 1) copyright restrictions, and 2) what Margaret Cohen called “the great unread” (a term borrowed by Franco Moretti). These challenges limit access to copyrighted works, especially out-of-print, mass-market materials, even in Hathitrust's corpus. While the Google Books project has created an extensive digital research corpora, Ted Underwood and others warn it is missing a lot, limiting research.To study SF as a genre requires quantitative methods as the number of published works increased exponentially after the mid-twentieth century. Enlarging the available SF corpus will help bring into relief works and authors that were underappreciated when first released and create a more robust field for scholars.

The two authors of this paper propose a twenty-minute presentation to explain our development of a comprehensive corpus of copyrighted SF for non-consumptive research using online tools for data analysis. The first stage of this project involved creating a reproducible workflow within a university library to grow a long-term digitization project of over 1000 duplicate copies of special collection materials. We are working to expand the project by building a network to digitize special collections containing pulp genre fiction. Texts will be added by web-scraping the Internet Archive, Project Gutenberg, and We will discuss our efforts to create standard practices and policies for the exchange of copyrighted materials between researchers for various purposes of disaggregated data analysis and exhibition.

Currently available digital resources for science fiction trend towards online exhibits for genre analysis. We seek to link siloed projects together to comprehensively supplement such databases as the Corpus of Historical American English. While our materials will be ingested into Hathitrust, we are also curating datasets for computational generation of textual qualities as metadata, from n-grams to word embeddings. By bringing together a diverse, under-explored SF corpus, applying tools for genre analysis and creating interactive points of engagement, we provide new ways for a users to discover this material.

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