Last week in class Dr. Zamora helped me come to the decision to remove the interview section of my thesis. This was to reduce the stress of jumping through IRB’s hoops, and it was also too cut down the thesis a bit, as Dr. Zamora felt that including and analyzing interviews would make the thesis more like a dissertation in terms of length and work. I have to say, it is a relief to have one less thing to worry about, especially something that was so vulnerable to things I cannot control, i.e. other human beings. I had been back-and-forth with whether or not to include interviews and surveys since last semester, or possibly even the semester before that. I felt like discourse and rhetorical analyses of community artifacts, autoethnography, and field observations just wouldn’t be enough, or perhaps like those methods alone weren’t scholarly and study-y enough. See? That same old doubt is still dogging me! Dr. Zamora assured me, however, that the aforementioned methods would yield plenty of “meat” to create a substantive thesis. Mmm… Thesis meat…
When I broke the news to one of the people I had already lined up for an interview, they were actually disappointed. They revealed that they had been bragging to a friend earlier that same day about the planned interview. It’s pretty neat to know that my thesis had this particular person excited, as they were the one who had first introduced me to closed species.
As I expressed in my last blog post, this week was mostly centered around finishing up the Griffia section of my Introduction. I got a draft written of the stuff I wanted to say, but I still need to go back in and add the “proto-citations,” as a good deal of the information I wrote about was just stuff that I had learned during my time in the community. By the way, I just made up that term: proto-citation. That’s what I’ve decided to call the little note I make after a statement in a rough draft that states where I got the info from but is not a full, fleshed-out, formatted citation. It’s just so I know what to cite later when I get to the next draft.
I also curated some more images, some of which I plopped right into the draft, and some of which I put into a “For Appendix” area. I made the decision to include colorful, eye-catching examples of each species in the section that introduces them rather than just anatomical sketches and the like. I realized that if I want readers to become as excited as I am about these creatures, I should give them examples that are demonstrative as well as fun.
Another task with which I was charged last class was to start preparing for my Lit Review proper by going back into my resources to re-familiarize myself and start working out which resources converse with which other ones. I went back into my Zotero and read through the notes I had made for many of the entries, and in so doing I realized I needed to add another section to my Introduction. I needed to explain to readers what the heck DeviantArt is! I had gathered a few resources which I had noted were for that express purpose, but I somehow forgot to factor them into the outline. I guess I fell into that trap of assuming everyone in the field would know what it was because two of my professors did. I added that section in between my statement of purpose and my overview of the three closed species communities I’d be covering. I began writing it based on comments my father had made when I told him about the website, but I did not finish the newborn section. I guess that’s where I’ll pick up in the coming week, in addition to diving headfirst into the Lit Review!
To be honest, this was the question of the week for me. Ever since I wrote down in my notes last class, “As an artist, what do I want to create?” I’ve been struggling. Mainly with that first artist part. It’s a strong word. Kind of heavy. Like a promise–a promise that I’m doing things and not just any things but insightful things, meaningful things.
art is my passion
…kind of like that.
Anyway, that question has been at the back of my mind all week as I try to figure out exactly what I want to work on for my thesis project. Not just what to make, but what makes an artist?
Before I dive too deep into that downward spiral, I do want to share what I discovered in regards to bot-making! In last week’s meeting, I was very interested in the possibility of creating an installation that revolved around an interface between bots, responding to each other and beyond. Primarily, I was interested in figuring out a way to get the bots to respond to Dada-related material posted to Twitter. For instance, if an edgelord someone posted a tweet about “wanting to die lmao”, I could have @Ya_Boi_DuCHAMP respond with “same” followed by some lines from an interview on Dada or lines from a Dada manifesto. Maybe I’d have an account @totally_NOT_Ya_Boi_DuCHAMP tweet out pics of urinals~
Essentially the stream–ha ha–would be its own kind of collaborative, netprov/ performance anti-art.
At least, that was an idea I had. After reaching out to some excellent bot-creators and professionals in the fields of digital studies and culture, Dr. Leonardo Flores (@Leonardo_UPRM) & Dr. Zach Whalen (@zachwhalen), I’m not sure if it’s still the direction I want to go in due to some limitations imposed on the medium. Recent regulation crackdowns with Twitter’s policies have made it rather difficult to create bots that would have the exact kind of functionality I’m looking for.
Both Dr. Flores and Dr. Whalen did recommend I check out Cheap Bots Done Quick. According to them, I can create bots through this site that would allow them to interact with and respond to other users. There isn’t a reply option, though (which I’m not sure I’d need). Also, the site relies on Tracery to select for the kinds of “tags” I’m looking for. So, I’d have to experiment with that to see what kind of functionality I’d have there.
Dr. Whalen also presented another option–Glitch. Bots created through this platform can be as “nuanced as I program them to be” but there’s a catch–I need to supply my own App credentials and Twitter is no longer giving those out. So, I’d have to re-purpose old bot credentials or have none.
So….I have options???
But, I really need to explore these different suggestions more thoroughly and see if either could be viable. I’m hoping to be able to that as part of my research for next week!
Back to that Question…
Now, as for whether or not I still think I want to make a bot installation, that’s indeterminable at this time.
I’m just not sure yet if a bot installation would be the best way to present the research I want to do.
As mentioned in my previous post, I’m interested in a possible connection between new digital forms of media and a kind of Neo-Dadaism/resurgence of Dada idealism. I find the possibility of that, and its implications, to be exciting. (It doesn’t hurt that it combines two of my fave subject areas either–art history and the digital humanities.)
But, after last week’s discussion, I think my purview of interest spreads further than that. Especially after looking at work by digital artists such as Maria Mencia and Emilio Vavarella–who reached out to me on Twitter to thank me for my interest in his work and to encourage me to continue my own!!!!!— I think I need to adjust the scope of my own research.
I’m not just interested in bits and blips of representation here and there across the digital data-sphere. No, I’m interested in self-representation in the digital age on a larger scale. I’m interested in how seemingly disparate forms of expression can combine to create new wholes. I’m interested in what that new whole is and in what it represents about you, me, and us.
Who are the creators behind emerging or re-emerging forms of expressions online?
Who are the artists?
I find this subject matter to be very compelling. Identity is such an integral yet experimental constant of life. Especially now, though, it has become challenged and re-imagined and remixed in new ways. I think it would be interesting to explore how identity is navigated and self-represented in the rich and ever-evolving digital landscape that is shaping more and more of our society and culture everyday.
A digital work that also inspired me to think more deeply about self-representation, identity, and technology this week is Reconstructing Mayakovskyby Illya Szilak. It is a work of Elit that I researched (and wrote about here) for another class. I don’t want to delve too deeply into my own thoughts on the work’s conceptual underpinnings but I do want to speak a little about its interface.
Essentially, there is a main narrative aspect of the work but there is also all of this rich historical, textual, and aesthetic content that, when paired with the narrative aspect, creates this whole new world for exploring literature, art, and ideology of the past. That I find interesting in the context of my own conceptual interests. I think it might be worth exploring how I could construct a work of ELit like Reconstructing Mayakovsky that would allow explorers of it to engage with and experience Neo-Dada and the complex relationship of the self and art to the digital in a new and compelling way. Could be artistic, yeah? Sounds artsy-ish, at least. Artist-material??? Call me Duchamp Idk.
And, that’s where I am now.
***Edit: ORSP got back to me and told me, essentially, I could have an installation work as part of Research Days. I would need to supply more information about the actual parameters of the installation before I could get approval or discuss exactly what to expect in terms of space and whatnot. They seemed game to help me, though–which is good!
When I first started grad school I was so nervous. I had no idea what an MA in Writing Studies would mean. What was I going to be able to do with this degree? Worst case scenario, I'd be able to teach college courses. Best case scenario, I'd be able to write my book. Which honestly, was the secret reason I wanted to go to graduate school but I knew that my family probably wouldn't think that was a good enough reason to put myself in thousands of dollars of debt. But I was determined, even without the possibility of getting a MFA in writing I would complete a book.
Step One, I registered for a Writing Children & Young Adult literature class. I loved that class. And in that class, I knew I wanted to write my book and it would get done. I had a great idea about a super smart girl from Newark that creates a time machine. Think modern day Quantum Leap.
In that class I wrote. It was hot garbage. I'm sure of it and Dr. Inskeep was way too kind in her comments and feedback. Needless to say, I wrote about 50 pages of words and I haven't looked at it again since the end of that semester.
After a full year into my graduate program, I was learning so much about writing in digital spaces and different theories of writing and writing practice. All super important and really academic stuff. I absolutely felt more intelligent but by this point, my creative juices had come to a halt. And then, Dr. Zamora offered a writing boot camp class during the summer. I jumped at the opportunity and in this class, I found my inspiration and conceived my master plan.
In the summer of 2017, I wrote a book. I wrote the first draft of my book titled, Misunderstood from start to finish. But that was just the beginning. I didn't want to stop there, I wanted to get my book published so I started researching and scouring Twitter to find out how to take my manuscript and turn it into a book. After I gathered enough info, I did what all teachers do, I made myself a visual reminder in the way of over-sized post list, known in the teacher world as an anchor chart.
Step One: Get an Agent
With the amount of student debt, I'll have when I'm done with grad school there was no way I was going to self-publish.
After almost a year-long process and about forty rejection letters from agents, which in all honesty is not a long time or a lot of rejections I started to see the forest through the trees.
I got an email from an agent named John Cusick who I'd met at a conference. He told me while he loved so much about my book and he thought I was a great (he might've said good, but revision is history) writer he couldn't extend me an offer of representation at that time. I was crushed, ready to quit my dream of writing and scratch my manuscript altogether when I re-read the last line of John's email. He alluded to the fact that if I worked on the manuscript some more and fixed some things, he'd be willing to take another look. Well, that was just the slither of hope I needed. I jumped up from my laptop and created my next anchor chart.
I was on my way. I spent the entire month revising and tweaking the manuscript pouring over it with what I hoped was a new perspective. I worked a summer job which allowed me the time to work on my revisions. I'm so grateful for that time. Then on August 8th, I resubmitted my manuscript to John Cusick. Eight days later he replied and said he wanted to speak with me. I'd made it to the next step. I was about to get "the call." In the publishing world, "the call" from an agent means they are interested in your work. And it could essentially go two ways. The agent could extend you an offer of representation or they could say I love this are you willing to make a few more revisions. Either way, it is a big deal. And as a writer, this tells you that you're onto something. In my case, my call ended with an offer. And on September Slowly but surely things are getting checked off of my list. On September 4th this was shared with the world:
That was until I got an email from my agent which contained my editorial notes. I'm not done yet, I've got work to do. I have to keep in mind that my true end goal is getting published. I want a book in hand. And in order to get there, I have to keep a tight schedule. So far, this is what I came up with:
So far, I haven't been able to write at my alloted times. And even though I had a laundry list of things to do after I left class last week, I was only able to do one of them which was to go through John's track changes in my documents and then I will change that.
I know this has been a super long post but I felt that I needed to get some things out. And this process of writing this blog has actually helped me think about and remember why I'm doing this work in the first place. Which is one of the questions I was supposed to explore but I am too busy tyring to stick to my plan which as of right now, is kicking my butt. I said all of this to say, I did not finish this week's homework.
At the end of our class meeting last week, I was given two main tasks for homework. The first of these was to reach out to the OSRP department to ask about certain elements of the IRB process; the second was to write out a draft of the entire Introduction section of my thesis. I did the first task, and I was not very pleased with the result. I finished 2/3 of the second task.
From the response to my email to OSRP, I learned that the target population for my research would not be considered a vulnerable population, but it would be considered a high-risk population. That was good news. The bad news came in the answer to my second question regarding the equivalency of the NIH ethical treatment of human research subjects training and the CITI training listed on the IRB application. As of May 2017, Kean no longer accepts the NIH training. At first, I was a little annoyed. I thought I’d just have to do a similar course that might take me a couple hours of my time. When I looked into the CITI training, however, I learned that it is something for which I’d have to pay at least $60. Or at least that’s what it looks like. I am aware of the great responsibility researchers take on when they endeavor to use human subjects in their work. I appreciate the need for would-be researchers to learn about this responsibility. I do not, however, appreciate having to pay $60 to be inconvenienced and learn something I was already certified (for free!) as having learned. Maybe I sound stingy or petty, but I’m just frustrated right now… I’m really going to have to discuss this with my professor.
As far as my Introduction, I was able to write out drafts of the overviews for two of the three communities I will be examining, GremCorps and CCCats. This included selecting and placing the images I would like to use in those sections. I did not get to finish the Griffia overview, as Griffia is a lot more complicated than the other two in terms of the mechanics and lore. Unlike GremCorps and CCCats, which are focused around a single species, Griffia is actually a union of three different groups with dozens of species. It also contains more gamified elements. I anticipate using the coming week on the Griffia section alone.
“we can’t all be poets but we have literary value…” ~ Alex Saum, The Democratic Value of Art Making from Fake Art Histories & The Inscription of the Digital Self
Welcome to my thesis blog~ Don’t mind the nonsense or the anxiety–it’s part of the process ^.^
So, my jam is searching for traces neo-neo-Dadaism is new digital media. For the folks at home, that means I’m looking for traces of an older art movement’s ideals–like absurdism, nihilism, anarchism, amoralism, automatism, de-contextualization–in new, emergent forms of digital creation like memes, and gifs, and Elit–Eliterature–not ebooks (check it). Specifically, I’m interested in making connections between new digital media and art so as to, maybe, better understand the implications and the purposes behind some of these emergent forms. Art and what it represents is a way to understand deeper and more profound truths about ourselves and our society. Ultimately, I hope my work can be applied to our understanding of emerging, digital genres and the users behind them as well as expanded by others to help contextualize future, digital works.
While my research and findings on this subject could certainly be represented through traditional means of presenting theses, it is my desire, as not just a researcher but an artist too, to incorporate some kind of installation or exhibit to accompany my work. In order to get a better grasp of some of the avenues I could take to accomplish this feat, I researched some contemporary digital artists and elit-authors/creators and their projects and wow. There is a lot of cool stuff going on in the field! Experimental and kind of confusing but, oh so inspiring and insightful and creative. I’m so excited to share some of the exciting work going on out there in the digital humanities and arts fields ^.^ I hope you find some of their work exciting too!
Maybe it’s my background in and my lifelong love (so far) for poetry, but I found myself heavily drawn towards some of the more poetic works of digital art and creation. More, I think I just love the idea of incorporating text–something so traditional–with the digital. SO many projects right now are dealing with de-contextualization, as well, and a new kind of digital automatism–which are both fascinating concepts in the analog sense but are given new life by new technology.
Alex Saum‘s #SelfiePoetry project is one such work that sticks out. The series, composed of two volumes–Fake Art Histories & The Inscription of the Digital Self, explore, “the intertwining of two ideas: the untruth behind artistic or literary histories, and our (il) legitimacy to intervene them to create narratives that make teleological [def. relating to or involving the explanation of phenomena in terms of the purpose they serve] sense”. The collection consists of 8 poems that challenge the notion of “the self” against “a somewhat vague, and rather unorthodox, selection of literary movements in Spanish and English”. Essentially, the human is contrasted against the literary, truth notwithstanding.
The poems exists as videos in which Alex Saum recites her poetry over a collage of selfies and other compelling/contrasting images. The first volume exists as a playlist here.
This is my fave from the collection:
I think this poem, in particular, embodies the aesthetic and the tone I am looking to embody in my own work.
Another digital poet who’s work captures that aesthetic and tone I appreciate is Ian Hatcher. I was a little hesitant when I first looked him up since it seemed like audio and sound were his jam (fyi for new readers, sound and audio are not my jam; in fact, they intimidate me quite a lot). Still, I decided to look into his work (due to a stellar recommendation) and I am so glad I did. His poetic style and voice are absolutely captivating and compelling.
Here’s one of my fave works:
It is so cool and I can imagine an audio file like this accompanying an installation work. Hatcher’s poetry reminds me of, again, the de-contexualized valued my many Dada (and Futurist, tbh) artists and writers.
In addition to Hatcher’s audio works, I also found his poetry app , Abra, to be quite interesting.
It seems to be another study in de-contextualization but also in absurdism and trying to make meaning from seeming nonsense. If not an installation proper, I think creating an app of some sort to accompany my thesis work may also be an idea worth exploring. An app would put my work in the hands of and before the eyes of a wide ranging audience, perhaps enhancing the impact of my work. The affordances of an app also bring into question the exact nature of the message I want to promote. What is the role of the viewer in interacting with new forms of digital media? And, how can I make neo-Dadaism in new digital media mean something to my audience?
*Highly recommend you check out the app and play around with it for yourself!
Jason Nelson is another elit artist and poet I admire and whose work truly inspires me to think about the possibilities of my own work. In fact, I would say Nelson’s This is how you will dieinspired this thesis! It first made me aware of the possibility of there being Dadaism in new forms of digital creation.
While searching through his website, I came across a poetic work of Elit titled Evidence of Everything Exploding. I didn’t read/play through the whole piece but its initial set-up and aesthetic appeals to me.
I also like the idea of combining poetry with an underlying, possibly historical, plot. Elit certainly allows for such seemingly dichotomies to exist and be meaningful. It might be fun to explore incorporating some poetry, perhaps from myself or classic Dada artists, over classic memes or gifs or something?? Perhaps with audio of me reading another poem over-top?? That might be over-the-top but it could be compelling.
I see Nelson’s work being seminal to my own research; I just keep coming back to it and finding something new in it every time to appreciate and engage with, emotionally and intellectually. The way Nelson articulates absurdity and nonsense but also deep meaning is both impressive and inspiring (sorry if I’m fangirling but god non-denominationaldo I love his work).
Re-conceptualizing the Self
Another theme I found myself drawn towards in my research of digital artists was that of the self and of self-representation in the digital age. What does it mean to be yourself in the digital world? What does it matter?
Emilio Vavarella‘s Digital Skin Seriesis one of the first digital art projects that really drew me in when I began my research. I was absolutely, morbidly fascinated by the project and a little bit disturbed? It’s great. I mean, look at it:
The Digital Skin Series is composed of self-portraits in which I pose “under the digital skin” of strangers I’ve crossed paths with in the past. To create this series, I first used a 3D scanner to obtain an accurate tridimensional model of my face. Then I used a camera-prototype to acquire HD portraits of strangers. Finally, I applied their portraits to my digital skull as if they were simply an additional layer. The result is a series of photographs where bidimensionality and tridimensionality collide in an intimate and unpredictable way.
In the past, myths about skin were common across cultures and related to radical biological metamorphoses. For example, in the Navajo tradition – which considered the skin a mask – if you were to lock your eyes with those of the skinwalkers, they could project themselves into your body and transform into you. In today’s network society, bodies have left that organic condition and are characterized by transient statuses: individuals have become di-viduals, data aggregates, samples, signals. The last boundary between us and the world, our skin, has become a transient membrane that changes along with the trans- and meta- human forms under it. The space that was occupied by the skinwalkers of the past has been taken over by infinite reconfigurations and mediations. What remains the same is that to be human still means to constantly shift through generative metamorphosis, corruptions, and de-generations that escape any clear categorization.
It’s such a fascinating idea and I think it’s realization conveys its conceptual underpinning very well. Also, I like the introduction an remixing of the mythological in this project. I think that background adds a whole other layer of understanding and meaning to the work. It would be cool if I could incorporate a sense like that in my project, a recognition and re-realization of the old in the new.
Another artist (and epoet) who explores the idea of self-realization in this new media landscape is María Mencía. In her digital project Transient Self-Portait, an interactive work based on two important Spanish sonnets–one which references the passage of time and the other which invokes the idea of the unavoidable death, “the transient nature of the digital/data self” is explored. As the two sonnets appear and disintegrate across the screen, a self-portrait is constructed from the text. The two works become an illustration of the sonnets.
“the project is a response to some of the concepts that emerge from these sonnets: ephemerality of life, transient entities, fragility, which are also relevant to our age and the electronic world we inhabit. It questions the experience of reading; the use of digital grammars (interacting and engaging with the work); while exploring the concepts evoked in the sonnets.”
Participants are invited into the work, encouraged to use their own voices to control the direction of the piece and create a self-portrait from the text. User input is integral to the work. So, as you read the work and run your mouse over the text, you create in a very visceral way. “The creative process is that of producing, reflecting, programming and testing the medium to explore these notions in an electronic media society of dialogues with self-images, engaging the participant in a reading experience of ‘in’ and ‘out’ of language, via webcams and interactive aesthetics and poetics.”
I appreciate how, like Vavarella’s work, Mencia’s work realizes its conceptual under-layer. It articulates a point about the flesh and blood self through creative, digital interfacing. Also, it’s a recipricol exchange. I would love it if my own project could incorporate a level of reciprocity. I want my readers to feel not just like they got something from my work but that they also gave something back to it.
The New in the Old
In addition to looking at the work of digital artists and elit-creators, I also looked fro inspiration from work still being made more traditionally or in conjunction with traditional means. Amaranth Borsuk’s Moon Signs project, made in conjunction with artist Carrie Bodle, in once such combination work I found to be compelling and interesting. Borsuk’s project was inspired by Bodle’s wavesigns project (which is a sound and video installation where “a six-channel video installation layers five dimensions of oceanographic data on large semi-transparent textile screens, while a five-channel sonification engages viewers/listeners with references to underlying systems of data” which is really f*cking cool too) and consisted of two, participatory sound poetry events in which participants were invited to use “a lunar calendar as a poetic compass to navigate the night sky and build a word ladder to the orb that exerts such force over our lives and our language”. Borsuk describes the project as thus:
“we designed a volvelle [a wheel chart] whose apertures reveal a word ladder composed of 31 words. The gradually changing poem waxes and wanes along with the lunar phases, shown on the opposing side of the dial. In the center of the volvelle, apertures reveal constellations of words from a cento printed below. This patchwork poem culls lines from dozens of poems that feature the moon: reflecting a range of time periods, styles, identities and themes. They range from poems responding directly to the lunar landing to poems in which the moon acts as lover or muse for the projective poetic imagination.”
This work, again, seems to reference the de-contextualization of text as a way for creating new meaning and story. I like that participants are invited to create and construct lexia in a collaborative way, too. Even if the work generated in seeming nonsense, there can be meaning in the act of participation itself.
Lisa Park‘s installations are also incredibly compelling and inspirational. Though differently from Elit, her art makes use of new digital technology to create new meaning and to explore the complexity of living in this day and age. One installation of hers I found particularly interesting was Rhythm. The project “is an interactive installation that translates the user’s heart beats into abstract visualization in real-time. A participatory work of time-based art, it allows participants to make rhythmic gestures of their heart beats. The detected heart beats modulate the thickness of each brush marks, which creates a recreation of one’s physical and emotional states.” Park states that the brush’s movements are inspired by Pollock and many of the color palettes are inspired by those of other famous works of trad art like Van Gogh’s Starry Night. Totally my jam. I love that integration of the new and the old. More, I really love art that references itself.
Park states, “The aim of this work is to create an enjoyable and playful experience for the visitors to create their own unique piece that captures their personality, emotion, and moments”. I like the idea of giving participants something that is uniquely their own, as well. Again, this kind if work, to me, makes use of reciprocity. You get what you give the work.
One last artist whose work I really enjoyed and that resonated with me was Judy Malloy and her work its name was Penelope. The installation is an interesting mix of elit and analog technology. Essentially, the work consists of a large, hypertextual painting and a computer, running Malloy’s book version of the text. Again, it’s another interesting juxtaposition of the old and the new, of what it means to create something by hand. If I could, I would love to create a work that makes a, perhaps, hidden juxtaposition more accessible.
its name was Penelope
So…. I have a lot of ideas. A lot of inspiration. Not so much direction. I know I would like to create an installation that captures some of that neo-Dada I see in new digital media and that communicates what that means to participants or that invites participants to engage in their own kind of meaning-making. More, I would like to create a space for meaning-making to occur.
In my head, I’m envisioning this kind of immersive installation that surrounds the participants and their senses. But, maybe that’s not the best way to convey my purpose? Or, introduce my audience to my topic? I think I need to do more research on installation work but also on digital/elit artists and how they set-up their exhibitions. More, I think I need to get an idea of what would be possible to do with the resources I have at my disposal at my university.
So….yeah, I’m not really sure where that leaves me but I’m sure we can discuss it more at length on Thursday though~
*If you haven’t had enough of me already, you can check me out on the Twitter ^.^ Sometimes I’m witty???? #debatable?????