The Nebula of Gephi

I have, unfortunately, been unable to use Gephi. I've uninstalled and reinstalled various versions of the beta - 7 and 8 - and it refuses to work. I hate to blame technology for something I could fix myself if I were more tech-savvy, but I'm pretty sure it keeps messing up because my computer runs on Vista.

That being said, I would like to discuss the idea of Gephi.

Gephi takes the vast world of literary analysis and compacts it into a tiny little nebula of information. Trends are turned into tiny planets and stars in the nebula that Gephi creates from each piece of work it reads. It takes information and data that would otherwise take hours to accrue, and consolidates them into easily-viewed "nodes" on its web graph. Looking at the graph itself is... different.

Personally, I have never studied literature in such a mathematical fashion, and, I'm going to be frank, it's weird to me. However, I do think it's necessary with the endlessly expanding universe of literature and knowledge. Without programs like Gephi, knowledge and information disappear into the abyss. As humbling a realization this is, it is impossible for humans to capture, analyze, and use every bit of knowledge we come across. As The Library of Babel and the literary philosophy of Derrida's Mal d'Archive posit, an archive has a "death drive". Constantly expanding to the point of disappearing into the margins, the vast and expanding oeuvre of mankind does not want to be known.

While I generally roll my eyes at people who think machines will supersede mankind, it is when I see programs like Gephi that I can sympathize a little with that paranoia. Humans just aren't good enough anymore. We create at a faster rate than we can analyze and archive, and efforts to become more efficient are made in vain. Gephi can gather up and read information, then preserve it in cryogenic stasis for man to further explore.

At the Aquarium

As I was filtering through various additions of The Masses, my eyes were drawn to a poem entitled "The Aquarium" by Max Eastman. It's funny that in the midst of a page of 20 thumbnails, the layout of this particular page caught my attention. The poem is paired with another poem in two identically sized columns at the bottom of the page. The poems are framed by an art deco mural, under the title "LYRICS." The page is quite beautiful.

The themes of the poem have an interesting relationship as well. The other poem is entitled "The Poetry of the Earth." It describes a woman from, as the title suggests, the perspective of the earth (nature). On the other hand, "At the Aquarium" is a man reflecting upon nature (the fish). Those ideas complement each other nicely.

It's really interesting how the entire page can be studied as a single unit and at the same time be studied as the combination of multipe elements. I would never have thought of considering the mural's relationship with the text outside of the concept of bibliographic coding.

Le Petit Journal des Refusees

Le Petit Journal des Refusées only published one issue in 1896. Published in an age of anxiety and discontent, Le Petit Journal presents a prototype of the modernist visual and literary art of the World War I era, which would start less than twenty years after the magazine's publicaton. The description of Le Petit Journal in the Modernist Journals archive describes the magazine as giving "hints of Dada and Surrealism before these modes of modernism actually developed" -- a similar sentiment ties Le Petit Journal and post-WWI movements, such as Dadaism, together. The publication, it seems, would appeal to a very niche group - as evidenced by the fact the magazine never published more than one issue.

Page sixteen of Le Petit Journal des Refusées displays an advertisement advertising the engraving services of Union Photo Eng. Co. in San Francisco. It is on a leftside page, across from The Ghost of A Flea. This doesn't seem to hold any significance in and of itself, however these are the last two pages of this particular copy of the magazine. Nowhere else in the magazine is there an advertisement, and the address of the company advertised is the same as the publication's. While this is clearly a modern publication, the existence and placement of this advertisement displays an obvious self-awareness which matches up with a post-modern ethos. The entire magazine seems to be self-aware, and clearly pokes at contemporary publications by including the name of the magazine by which each piece was refused. The ad, in that case, seems to poke fun at advertisements of the time.

Evolution in the Archive

As I navigated the Stolen Time archive, I was reminded of projects and websites my AP English Language teacher had us look at during my junior year in high school. In preparing us for college and higher education, my teacher promoted not only analysis of modern and post-modern works, but also that of non-academic works -- video games, comic books, TV commercials, blogs, et cetera. Both Platform Studies and the Stolen Time article similarly take the mundane and seemingly meaningless and bring them up into the light of academic analysis or, if not that, academic consideration at the least. And isn't that important? Where do we draw the line separating those worthy of remembrance and consideration, and those unworthy?

The Stolen Time archive is quite possibly the most comprehensive archive I have ever laid eyes on. The reader becomes a part of the archive as they are interacting with it. While it may not act as an efficient and easily navigable archive, Stolen Time embodies the idea of the archive itself. It takes in anything and everything pertaining to its topic - photos, copies of articles, original articles; and most interestingly the movements, actions, and stories of its readers. Foucault argues that the "archive" is forever evolving and never complete; a concept which is proven in Stolen Time as it evolves with every new reader. It, in some way, is swept up in the "archive fever" - a desire and drive to archive every single thing it can, whether or not anyone else considers those things to be relevant. That is the goal of the archive. An archive saves everything and takes note of everything, just in case someone should have the desire to access it.

Stolen Time

I was really confused and overwhelmed by The Stolen Time Archive. It seems to me that the only way a person can truly understand it and get everything out of it would be to spend hours sorting through its information and pictures. I did, however, come away from it with a better understanding of what archives can be and how they can fit in with the concept of postmodernism. The Stolen Time Archive was definitely a more postmodern look at archives. I got that feeling even before I "clocked in," when I was reading the poetry at the beginning of the project. At first, the project is difficult to navigate because you have no idea what's going on, which forces the user to be patient and meticulous. This was obviously done with intent. Minimum wage jobs do require patience, and they can seem pointless and grating at times. I feel like the very setup of the archive is emulating that in a way.

The archive is also very random. You make the decisions by clicking on whatever interests you. It is not a linear experience, but rather one built upon whatever you choose, which creates seemingly random results as well. The archive may require several playthroughs to really understand what the general message even is, which put me off a bit. I wonder if the experience would have been more rewarding if I'd had more time. It's also funny to me that the archive is named "Stolen Time," and that's basically what it does if you get too wrapped up in it. It almost seemed never-ending to me.

External Processing about Archival Theory and How I Don't Like Change

Allow me to be blunt in saying that I really didn't understand the point of the Stolen Time archive. While I think it has some fun elements as a program and is visually pleasing, it is not very efficient. Personally, I just didn't get it. Perhaps my idea of an archive is still too conservatice, but I feel that an archive exists to provide access to information and resources. In order to serve is purpose in the best way, I feel that an archive needs to be fairly easy to navigate. I understand that this could be the result of a consumer-friendly, I-use-an-iPhone-because-it's-easy-to-navigate mentality that consumes my generation, but to some degree I can't help that I had adapated to that mindset. To another degree, I am comfortable with my definition and I don't like change. In my mind, the archive is not a "good archive" because it isn't efficient. It doesn't serve to provide information or resources and it is certainly unclear how exactly to navigate its contents.

That being said, I do see the project's function as art. To me, the project can be free of the (my) implications and guidelines of an archive. It is not helpful, necessarily, but it is enjoyable. It is certainly creative and provides a unique experience. Perhaps ths the word I would use for the project is an exhibit. Now I know that an exhibit is also a collection of objects/information which certainly sounds similar to my definition of an archive. However, I guess the function or purpose of the collection is where my distinction is. The Stolen Time project doesn't really seek to inform but to entertain (I use that term loosely). In most cases, people do not go to art museums to learn; they go to experience the art. Similarly, this project is providing an artistic, aesthetic experience. 

In this way, the proejct realtes to our archival theory discussions in that it seeks to expand the idea of what an archive can be. I certainly see the digital, interactive project taking the notion that an archive is a living organism of sorts. For instance, each photo and document exists hidden somewhere in the project; they move around as you explore; they are a part of the body of material. It's very fascinating to explore these ideas, especially as they can be applied to the internet as a whole. After all, the website containing the archive is one of millions of websites in the larger body that is the internet. Interestind ideas!

Physicality and Time in the Digital Archive

The Stolen Time Archive is an incredibly dynamic archive, one that requires the users to engage with the material in order to access it. Its requirement for engagement on the part of the researcher left me quite confused at first. Every other archive I’ve ever accessed has been pretty straightforward, whether digital or physical. With The Stolen Time Archive, though, the user has to “Launch Project” in order to access any of the archived pieces. The idea of having to create a project in order to access the archive was totally foreign to me—but really fun, once I figured it out.

In spite of its unusually demanding level of user interaction, The Stolen Time Archive embodies many of the same archival concepts as those we’ve been discussing. On the most basic level, Stolen Time is a collection of pieces of history, just like any other archive. The particular types of pieces in this collection are office worker ephemera. However, Stolen Time collects more than just this ephemera—it also collects and records every place your cursor moves while working on a specific project. This feature adds an interesting element of time to the archive. It reminds the researcher that he/she is an active part of the archive. The researcher, depending on what he/she does with the information researched, has the potential to change the way that the ephemera are understood (especially if the information is used to create a secondary site, such as our Waste Land wiki. The recorded cursor movements also add physicality in a way that I’ve never experienced with a digital archive.  Seeing the cursor movements reminded me that I was physically interacting with the documents in the archive, even though a keyboard, touchpad, and screen were all necessary intermediaries to allow the interaction to happen.

In terms of sheer ease of use, Stolen Time isn’t the most effective. As far as I can tell, it’s impossible to search for a specific item. Instead, the user just has to play around with the program. However, as an interactive experiment in archiving theory, Stolen Time is incredibly effective. It forces the user to think about the method of digital archiving in a way that most digital archives do not require.

The Waste Land as an Archive

I had never thought of The Waste Land as an archive prior to reading Foucault, but when I consider the poem in that light there really isn't a better term that can be used to describe it. According to Foucault's definition, an archive "...unites in a single "volume" a series of linguistic elements that derive from existing books and that are, by virtue of their specific documentary character, the repetition of things said in the past" (105). The Waste Land is the only poem I can recall reading that appears to be more like a catalog of other ideas than an original text; it "cataologs" ideas, phrases, and direct references from world history and other works of literature throughout, and it's one of many reasons I enjoyed reading the poem. I loved trying to figure out where certain references were being pulled from. 

Archives are also used to preserve history and literature, and The Waste Land achieved that by reimagining and throwing together older texts, presenting them to a new audience. No work of literature is original, as each new piece either directly or indirectly draws upon previous works for inspiration. T.S. Eliot seemed very aware of this in his writing of The Waste Land. He purposely sought out references for use in his own work, which - strangely enough - makes the poem original, from a certain point of view.

The Waste Land as an Archive

Like Kaity, I found in the reading of Foucault's Fantasia of Library that it was not difficult to find comparisions between the archival qualities of The Temptation and similar archival qualities in The Waste Land. Foucault describes The Temptation as "a monument to meticulous erudition"; he may as well have been describing the style and work of Eliot in The Waste Land (Foucault, 89). Just as Flaubert recollected, remembered, and revised a multitude of past works through his writing of The Temptation, Eliot preserved fragments of the European literary tradition that came before him through the poetry of The Waste Land (Voss and Werner, ii). 

In Eliot's capturing and conserving of texts, stories, and songs that came before The Waste Land, however, there is "a history of loss" (Voss and Werner, i). Voss and Werner in their discussion of archives, showed that archives, while preserving, are often fragmented representations of the works they preserve. The Waste Land has this fragmented modern archival quality. Within The Waste Land, Eliot provided a space for various literary works to be preserved and passed down, extending the space the works previously occupied, to paraphrase Foucault (91). However, these works, though preserved through the medium of Eliot's poem, are not whole. The poem is a showcase of Eliot's brilliant ability to take fragments of historical and monumental literary works and "in a single movement... cause them to glitter and disappear" (Foucault 92).

The Waste Land Archive

Like Justin, before reading these articles, I had an outdated idea of what exactly an archive was. In Voss and Werner’s words, I had acknowledged the physical site, but ignored the “conceptual space.” Defining the archive this way made me rethink what exactly a literary work was. Voss and Werner quoted Bornstein saying that “literary work exists not in any one manifestation but in an archive that brings all the versions with claims upon our attention put together.” I think this is much easier to see in the digital age because we can do a quick google search and have tons of different editions or versions of a piece at our fingertips.

Specifically in regards to The Waste Land, I liked where Voss and Werner paraphrased Greetham saying, “that the archive proper is comprised of ‘garbage,’ ‘cultural scraps…leftovers…bits of memory.’ ” This made me immediately think of The Waste Land because of all the fragmentation there is. It’s like there’s these little ‘bits of memory’ put together into one seamless piece. We get biblical allusions juxtaposed with more recent allusions, yet it’s still one coherent piece. I also thought of The Waste Land when Voss and Werner say that each archive, as a construct, “reveals some things while concealing others.” As a part of the multimedia group, I found this to be especially true. When The Waste Land is just a printed text, the different voices that emerge are mostly concealed, but when you see a performance of it, or listen to a recording of Eliot reading it himself, those different characters become revealed.