Though I haven't been able to do more exploring on Gephi since I don't have my own laptop, during the time we spent on it in class I was able to do a fair amount of exploring. It was interesting to see a visual representation of the themes in The Little Review that we had discussed in class last week. The visual map and nodes confirmed that death was a key theme, if not the key theme of the magazine. Poetry and T.S. Eliot, not surprisingly, in turn seemed to have a strong connection with the theme of death. I also found it helpful to zero in on the connecting lines and their thickness or thinness. With little effort Gephi helped me see themes and connections that were strong in the magazine and also allowed me to see the smaller or more subtle connections and themes. I loved that Gephi provides this way of examining a large amount of text in the same screen view and offers a springboard for further study.
I enjoyed the concept of Gephi, though the operationalization of it was tricky. I enjoyed seeing how the sea of words and cells from our timeline spreadsheet was turned into a map of sorts through the graphing tools, though I also found some of the limitations amusing (my program kept mapping TS and Eliot separately - no surprise, they had many shared edges!). It would be neat to see this program cleaned up and made more user-friendly.
I see one of Gephi's great strengths lying in the way it seems to help overcome some of the difficulties with reading magazines through their online PDF or screenshot instantiations. In Dr. Latham's "Unpacking My Digital Library" piece, he discusses how the common approach to reading a magazine is to flip through an issue, stopping at various articles/scriptons, maybe going through the piece a few times with different sequences, but not to do a linear reading progression from start to finish. The presentation of digitized versions of magazines we've been looking at lately has created an environment that tends to constrain the reader to start-to-finish reading; it's hard to flip through a PDF the way you can flip through a magazine. In contrast, Gephi makes it easy to hover over various nodes and look at their connections at will. In this way, I think Gephi helps restore in the digital realm an important element of and approach to reading magazines.
I think that Gephi actually made it a bit more difficult to “read” the Little Review, but that’s probably because I don’t fully understand everything that the program can do and/or how to do it. It was helpful, though, to see how everything was connected because it wasn’t so obvious at first how they were, just reading it page by page. Something else that was really helpful/interesting was to see how you could isolate one of the nodes and it showed you what else was connected to that one, so you could see how one theme or author was represented throughout the magazine. I think it would be really cool if you could click on a node and see the actual journal page, kind of a mixture of the Modernist Journals Project and Gephi, and then all of the pages of the nodes that are linked to that one; that would allow you to “read” it through the graph, and to actually read it. Plus, it would make the issue’s themes easily searchable. (I tried to add screenshots, but they were not working for me.)
One of the things which struck me about both final readings for class involves these authors' wishing to legitimize the literary field in scientific ways. In class discussion was raised the idea of a certain insecurity which tugs at the consciousness of the literary-minded, a need to situate artistic merit, especially of the non-pop-culture sort, amid the more imposing technological goliaths, which tend to garner appeal from monied sources.
This comes into focus particularly in the academic arena, in which English departments the nation over come under fire for usefulness (or alleged lack thereof) in the modern world, especially an American one, driven by markets and demand. Perhaps we can benefit from considering what is perhaps a little too sparse these days, at least from a mass media perspective: careful scientific method at work in all fields. Then the tension between the fine arts and fine sciences can reunite as they creatively tended to begin in inception, and the arts will not have to justify themselves into existence quite so anxiously.
If one remembers that the great money-making filmss of Hollywood begin overwhelmingly in the creative minds of literary talents, the truth remains that while the talent may not garner its due attention in a timely manner (or at least from the perspective of the author/artist), its influence is indisputable.
If students of magazine research systematically and thoughtfully approach their subject matter, great psychological and sociological finds are thus sure to emerge from these seemingly maddeningly inconsistent fields of data--even if the results become only unhazy from research progeny; it requires due faith.
I was also interested in the Scholes and Wulfman chapter. Just this week, I was having an email exchange with a friend of mine who is not an academic but is somewhat interested in what we do in our program. We were kind of talking about the role of computers technology in literary studies (something my friend is reluctantly opposed to) and I kind of laid out a distinction between scholarship and criticism. My friend was skeptical that literary studies could remain valuable if it extracted the humanist element into the interpretive equation. I had a similar conversation at my xmas dinner table as well. The way Scholes and Wulfman frame the use of digital technology for the study of magazines is interesting but it does seem to tend toward the scholarly rather than critical arena. I'm certainly not saying this is a drawback, but they don't really seem to be able to say why these digital aparati are valuable. What do they feel these tools would add to our experience of the texts? For my project, and in some ways I think this was what Bill was saying about his own last week, my concern is that the digital tool I'm building or applying warps the text that it represents in certain ways. Scholes and Wulfman say that there have been complex scholarly tools that critics have used (concordances) and those haven't necessarily presented any problems to the critic's access to the text they are interpreting. I think this point is well taken. If you don't like the tools, then don't use them and read the text itself. Easy enough.
My real concern, or should I say question, is about the role of the humanities academic. There was a time when the scholar was the predominant humanities academic occupation. I associate curative and preservative tasks with scholarship and interpretive work with criticism. This brings up a larger point about the role of humanties texts in culture. It seems possible that we are shifting away from a critical position and into a more scholarly one. I think it's possible the critic is an abberation in humanities culture.THat is, our task is to tend to the texts rather than interpret and disseminate them. I think it was Gerald Graff or someone who said that literary studies is declining because English literature no longer plays an active role in maintaining a national culture. My question after all this is, I guess, can these shifts toward scholarly tools be read by us in the field as a drift away from interpretation and toward academic jobs as museum curators?
(This piece is cross-posted at the Magazine Modernisms Blog)
This post is a shorter version of what will eventually become a longer piece about digital methods for the analysis and teaching of modernist magazines. By way of background, the occasion for this post was a workshop I did this week with two joint sessions of my graduate course in modernism and digital humanities and Sean Latham's graduate course in modernism and new media. Sean's course is interested in the ways in which modernist literature (and this week, magazines) embody functionalities of 21st Century digital media (i.e. the "new" new media). They have been discussing Katherine N. Hayles' concept of emergence, through an unpublished essay of Sean's, "Unpacking My Digital Library: Programming Modernist Magazines," forthcoming in Editing Modernisms in Canada, eds. Colin Hill and Dean Irvine.
Emergence describes "a particular kind of complexity that arises not from the individual elements of a system, but only from their interaction" (15). It emphasizes the interactive system of meaning that derives from the connections among various content items of a magazine, and only from those connections. In arriving at this sense of a dynamic readerly coherence, he uses Espen Aarseth's concepts (from Cybertext ) of "texton," a string of information that exists in the text (a poem, an advertisement, a headline, etc.), and "scripton," their idiosyncratic assemblage by the reader.
Bound up in these concepts is the nature of magazine reading itself. Magazines are not codices. They are not books to be read serially from cover to cover (although a few of us 21st-Century denizens who study magazines might admit with blushed cheeks that we do).
So, our workshops looked at social network analysis and text mining as ways of potentially identifying, or at the very least of recording and analyzing, scriptons that might emerge in the magazines.
We picked the September 1918 issue of The Little Review at the Modernist Journals Project (MJP) because it features one of the few direct references to the First World War, W.B. Yeats' poem "In Memory of Robert Gregory," an Irish airman. It contains other items on the theme of death, including James Joyce's "ULYSSES Episode VI," later known as "Hades," depicting the funeral of Paddy Dignam. However, there is a number of other items that deal with the themes related to death, such as two short stories by Sherwood Anderson and Ben Hecht, respectively titled "Senility" and "Decay," and which immediately follow Joyce's installment. Aside from these editorially juxtaposed pieces, however, are numerous items of criticism or correspondence that rail against literary obsolescence as a kind of death, if not in so many words. For instance, it emerged in our discussion that Edgar Jepson's essay "The Western School" is talking about the deterioration of contemporary literary production in a way that is evocative of death and shares valences with the ways in which other pieces deal with death more explicitly. Most importantly, it was only through the comparison with the other pieces dealing with death -- which appear later in the issue -- that we were able to read it in concert with the emergence of death at all.
For our workshop, I prepared a dataset from information my students have culled from the MJP. These data derive from an interactive timeline project that my students in periodical studies have done in four different courses at three different universities. The students curate content in the MJP by entering items and their bibliographic data into a shared Google Docs spreadsheet. The bibliographic data include author, genre, page numbers, and publication date, the latter of which places the item on the timeline. More importantly, students assign topic tags to each item in order to provide a sense of its meaning. In the timeline, readers can click on an item to view a description and link to its location in the MJP. The timeline is additionally surrounded by filters from the data types (author, genre, magazine, topic tag) that allow the reader to refine further her exploration of the data. The idea is that codifying the metadata into the timeline will allow for discoveries and provoke questions as more and more content is entered. This is one possible technology for uncovering and articulating emergence within and across magazines. Using some (carefully massaged) data from the timeline, I made some CSV files to feed to Gephi for the generation of network graphs. While the timeline interface separates connections in time, and therefore also in space, Gephi presents them in a 2D, timeless space so that all are apparent. In the interest of transparency, I also posthumously added the Death tag and some other ones that reflect our discussion from the first day. These include Greatness and Mediocrity (among others), since we noticed that Yeats' poem takes pains to point out how much Gregory had in fact not accomplished relative to his more prolific peers.
So, with these connections in mind, we get this bibliographic and thematic overview of the September 1918 Little Review. The image uses the Fruchterman Reingold layout algorithm (see here for information about Gephi layouts) to place the more highly connected nodes in the center, grouped by edge weight. That means the nodes that have more connections with each other will be in closer geographical proximity. One pattern that emerges is the relative distance of the genres Poem and Short Story. They appear on opposite sides of Death and, aside from that, have nothing in common thematically or in terms of contributors. In Gephi, one can mouse over a node in order to view its nearest neighbors (a degree separation of 1) in context of the larger graph (see here).
That effect becomes even more pronounced if we generate an ego network of Death, with the node sizes re-set for context, and mouse over different terms within it so as to highlight their immediate connections. The disparity between Poem and Short story becomes even more clear. In this picture, which shows the micronetwork that emerges when mousing over the Short Story node, we see that the Short Story genre has virtually nothing in common with any other content.
On the other hand, mousing over the Poem node reveals a much wider micronetwork that connects Yeats' poem with several works by Eliot, Jepson's Essay, and the triad of Greatness, Mediocrity, and Irony. Why would Margaret Anderson and Jane Heap apparently use the short stories to carve out a separate space for the lowly and dissolute? Is it part of a strategy to explore different aspects of death and dying, using generic properties to present different facets?
Interestingly, the Novel and Essay genres bear nothing in common with Short Story but have several connections with Poem, particularly in the topics of Greatness, Poetry, and Art, and in featuring Irony as a device. This graph shows what happens when we mouse over Novel. It would seem that the short stories in this issue are more straightforwardly realistic about death and dissolution than their longer form and poetic peers.
The isolation of the Short Story group is even more pronounced if we change to the Yifan Hu Proportional layout algorithm, which calculates centrality and repulsion in such a way that clusters become apparent while emphasizing the differences as outlying branches (see here for more information about Gephi layouts). The bottom portion of this image shows the two clusters of the Hecht and Anderson stories as they attach with Death, while the entire field bears no relationship with them. Likewise, Ford Madox Hueffer's installment of Women and Men bears little relationship with the rest of the issue, constituting an outlying branch of the Novel node not connected with Death. Conversely, Joyce's installment of Ulysses is quite well integrated with other memes in the issue, while Heuffer's is the only literary piece not connected with Death.
It is interesting to note what else is not connected with Death. The advertisements at the back of the issue, one of them for a Hammond typewriter that emphasizes the Greatness of Literature, as if the tool could somehow make the buyer a great writer ("No Other Typewriter Can Do This"), but obviously without the Ironic representation of Mediocrity that characterizes much of the actual literary content. The ad for Mason & Hamlin, "The Stradivarius of Pianos," also emphasizes Greatness as a selling point. In thinking about these relationships, the ads seem to represent the lack of Ironic insight into worthiness and Mediocrity that take front and center in Yeats' poetic argument. While we can't know what the editorial intent was in placing these objects together (or if there even was one), what we can be sure of is that a system which enables readers to tag content semantically can help to provoke new questions that might be worth going back to the magazines to investigate.
I raise the latter issue about advertisements because they constitute a part of the emergence of Death that was not discussed in class. It occurred to me as I was massaging the spreadsheet to feed to Gephi and thinking about the pieces we had read. This would be an example of how collaborative markup, say of a small working group of scholars or even one comprising all the members of our field, can aid in the discovery of emergences utilizing artifacts we might not individually have noticed or thought of as relevant. This would be a reactive and not so much a predictive method, one that utilizes both the stable bibliographic data as well as the idiosyncratic scriptons assembled by readers.
I would like to suggest, though, that a predictive method might be found in text mining. Using the Voyeur Tools for analyzing corpora, we can see the chronological surges in word frequency over the entire Little Review corpus in the MJP. A spike in word frequency in a given issue might mean that we are more likely to generate scriptons related to that word. As a brief example, see this Voyeur corpus of The Little Review from its beginning in 1914 through the Winter 1922 number (use the gear cogs to apply the Taporware stop word list, and be sure to make the change globally).
After applying the stopword list (and making a few other manual removals), this picture shows the raw frequency trends of the top five reoccurring words in the currently available segment of The Little Review. The word life has the top overall frequency in the corpus, but its usage declines precipitously with the start of the First World War. What does the trend look like for the word death, and is there a significant pattern around the September 1918 issue, as above, or perhaps at different key moments in the War?
A much bigger, live version of this graph allows us to gain more information by mousing over and clicking. The word art has a massive and unique surge in Volume 3, number 8 (January 1917). The reason for it is that Jane Heap took over as content editor for that issue with a round of essays on art and aesthetics. Although a 3- or 4-issue arc of the run bears a higher focus upon art, the word (and the subject?) drop almost completely for a bit and then return to a normal pattern for the rest of the run, with some higher spikes later on. I will address this sort of method in more depth, looking specifically at how we can locate emergences in the issues to which the graph directs us.
I found Dr. Latham’s paper to directly answer a question discussed in 21st century American literature last week. We are reading a novel about two comic book illustrators (The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay), and someone mentioned that the book was like reading a comic book. While the book suggests comic book aspects, it does not offer the same experience a comic book does. After reading this article though, I’ve decided the most notable difference is that one is available as part of a series, and the other comes as a single unit, much like the magazines. Dr. Latham writes, “Put bluntly: despite masquerading in a codex form, magazines are not books” (3) and so the opposite, that books are not magazines is an obvious statement. I think the same thing applies to things that are offered as smaller parts of series: comic books, television shows, newspapers, etc. You don’t need to read every issue of Scribner’s to understand one issue, (though being familiar with all issues will offer a more informed perspective), and it’s not necessary to read the first Batman comic ever to get his story. Essentially, reading a magazine is an undecipherable equation with constantly shifting variables and exponents of answers. Novels and films don’t allow that personal choice (yet) because there is one set path to follow.
This term of emergence explains that well, how it “provides a powerful way of thinking about how all those textons that we can mark and measure in a text manage to produce something more than the sum of their parts” (15). Karen’s presentation last week is relevant to this, as she noted the editorial decisions made in differing magazines with their different editors and values for a singular episode of Ulysses. It is important of course that individual experiences are factored in when we discuss “how” to read a magazine. These nuances are as subtle as the magazine experience in itself; it is affected by several people (writers, editors, ads) and put together in a single work to be interpreted by many different people.
I also think this idea of things working together in emergence works for the Moretti graphs centered around David Foster Wallace, Toni Morrison, and Johnathan Franzen. Moretti compiles maps that show books Amazon recommends buying when a certain work is selected from one of these authors, creating miniature codexes on these internet pages. Like the magazines, these suggested books work together to create a message that has multiple, individual-driven interpretations. The difference with the Amazon page is that it is not carefully composed by editors and authors, but by computer algorithms and multiple and varied Amazon users.
Upon reading the Scholes and Wulfman article "Modernism and the Rise of Modernism," I (as apparently the commentator on our copy of the text was) was struck by this statement:
"What we need to understand is that modernism was not only the sum of these relatively successful solutions. It was the struggle between those two modes itself, in both artworks and criticsms, combined with the struggle between reaching a broad audience and pleasing a small coterie, between seeking to create a 'great audience' for 'great poets', as Poetry magazine sought to do, and 'making no compromise with the public taste, as the Little Review claimed it was doing" (34).
This quote coming just after Dujardin's idea that "symbolism could enhance directness" (Scholes and Wulfman 34), and this idea that speed is important to modernism (28). I'm about to explode these ideas I think. Scholes and Wulfman talk about speed being important in terms of printing and manufacturing, but another way that speed is incredibly important is in the distance (and the time it takes to cross that distance) between producer and consumer. So, questions begin to arise about the ways this speed manifests in magazines (even all print media popularized in the early 20th century like throwaways, newspapers, bulletins, etc.). For example (and I have no idea if this is the same form that the newspaper took in the early 20th century, but the general principle remains), have you ever opened your crisp, new, dainty newspaper, and read its contents partially. Then, something happens and you spend forever attempting to put it back in its original form (or you abandon it like me and throw it on the floor and come back later)? Or, with the same newspaper, have you spent forever trying to get the pages separated because the pages have stuck together? Why has the newspaper settled in form of the large, thin, sheet with lots of information on one page with runny ink? If the producer is interested in speed, then why not have newspapers in the form of flashcards, smaller pages, or even pick your own pages of interest at the numerous news stands that existed in the early 20th century (if this is even the form it took)? I'm sure a majority of the explanation is cost effenciency, but even today, why not mix it up in that form (obviously other forms have been made like multimedia forms, text messages, etc.)? Also, have the magazines that were interested in having a "higher class consumer" always had thicker pages? While there's obviously a convenience factor at work there (it's so much easier to turn the pages) and this idea that you are getting a quality work because of the quality pages, maybe there's also a motivation on behalf of the producer (advertisers, writers, editors, etc.) that you will get to their product faster or spend more time looking at it because its an unaffected piece of paper [unlike your flimsy (I mean dainty) newspaper that bends, runs, moves].
Also, to continue, this article is rife with mindblowing word usage like this "directness" I referenced earlier and this idea of "greatness," speed, and public taste all mixed into the magazine. Both articles are interested in this physical relationship that producer (writer, manufacturer, etc) has with the consumer in the advertising and content, and this relationship, to me, has always been understood in my world as very one dimensional. However, it seems to me that there's a very multidimensional experience lurking here. Perhaps I've drank too much Kool-aid in my life, but it seems like there's a clear physics about the ideal relationship being fulfilled or created by magazines in this time period. Any other thoughts about this?
This is a crazy story.