Deformative Criticism at #SCMS17

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At the upcoming SCMS conference in Chicago, I will be participating in a workshop on “Deformative Criticism and Digital Experimentations in Film & Media Studies” (panel K3 on Friday, March 24, 2017 at 9:00am):

Deformative criticism has emerged as an innovative site of critical practice within media studies and digital humanities, revealing new insights into media texts by “breaking” them in controlled or chaotic ways. Deformative criticism includes a wide range of digital experiments that generate heretical and non-normative readings of media texts; because the results of these experiments are impossible to know in advance, they shift the boundaries of critical scholarship. Media scholars are particularly well situated to such experimentation, as many of our objects of study exist in digital forms that lend themselves to wide-ranging manipulation. Thus, deformative criticism offers a crucial venue for defining not only contemporary scholarly practice, but also media studies’ growing relationship to digital humanities.

Also participating in the workshop will be Jason Mittell (Middlebury College), Stephanie Boluk (UC Davis), Kevin L. Ferguson (Queens College, City University of New York), Mark Sample (Davidson College), and Virginia Kuhn (USC).

My own presentation/workshop contribution will focus on glitches and augmented reality as a deformative means of engaging with changing media-perceptual configurations, including the following case study:

Glitch, Augment, Scan

Scannable Images is a collaborative art/theory project by Karin + Shane Denson that interrogates post-cinema – its perceptual patterns, hyperinformatic simultaneities, and dispersals of attention – through an assemblage of static and animated images, databending and datamoshing techniques, and augmented reality (AR) video overlays. Viewed through the small screen of a smartphone or tablet – itself directed at a computer screen – only a small portion of the entire spectacle can be seen at once, thus reflecting and emulating the selective, scanning regard of post-cinematic images and confronting the viewer with the materiality of the post-cinematic media regime through the interplay of screens, pixels, people, and the physical and virtual spaces they occupy.

Video: Digital Seriality: Code & Community in the Super Mario Modding Scene

Above you’ll find the video of my talk, “Digital Seriality: Code & Community in the Super Mario Modding Scene,” which I delivered on September 27, 2016 as part of the Interactive Media & Games Seminar Series at Stanford University.

Here is the abstract for my talk:

Digital Seriality: Code & Community in the Super Mario Modding Scene

Shane Denson

Seriality is a common feature of game franchises, with their various sequels, spin-offs, and other forms of continuation; such serialization informs social processes of community-building among fans, while it also takes place at much lower levels in the repetition and variation that characterizes a series of game levels, for example, or in the modularized and recycled code of game engines. This presentation considers how tools and methods of digital humanities — including “distant reading” and visualization techniques — can shed light on serialization processes in digital games and gaming communities. The vibrant “modding” scene that has arisen around the classic Nintendo game Super Mario Bros. (1985) serves as a case study. Automated “reading” techniques allow us to survey a large collection of fan-based game modifications, while visualization software helps to bridge the gap between code and community, revealing otherwise invisible connections and patterns of seriality.

Speculative Data #WeirdDH #MLA16 #S107

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The “Weird DH” panel at MLA 2016 in Austin, chaired by Mark Sample, was great fun, and it generated quite a bit of discussion, both online and off. Luckily, Eileen Clancy preserved the twitter discussion in a Storify (https://storify.com/clancynewyork/weird-dh), so in case you couldn’t make it out last week, you can still catch up on some of the topics and reactions to the talks by Jeremy Justus, Micki Kaufman, Kim Knight, and myself.

(If I get around to it, I will also be posting the full text of my talk very soon.)

Videographic PechaKucha

Inspired by Jason Mittell’s latest blog post on “Videographic Deformations,” in which Jason discusses an exercise we did at last summer’s NEH digital humanities workshop on Scholarship in Sound & Image in the context of what Lisa Samuels and Jerome McGann call “deformative criticism,” I’ve finally gotten around to uploading a multiscreen compilation of “videographic PechaKuchas” that I made in Middlebury, based on the videos made by all the participants in the workshop. Be sure to check out Jason’s post for the essential context, and: Enjoy!

(For best image quality, check out the video on vimeo, where you can view it in 1080p HD.)

Weird DH at MLA 2016

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On January 7, 2016, I’ll be participating in a panel, organized by Mark Sample, on “Weird DH” at the MLA Convention in Austin. Here’s the lineup:

107. Weird DH

Thursday, 7 January3:30–4:45 p.m., Lone Star C, JW Marriott

Program arranged by the forum TC Digital Humanities

Presiding: Mark Sample, Davidson Coll.

1. “Speculative Data: Postempirical Approaches to the ‘Datafication’ of Affect and Activity,” Shane Denson, Duke Univ.

2. “Analyzing Belligerent Erasure: Weird Digital Humanities and/in the Native,” Jeremy Justus, Univ. of Pittsburgh, Johnstown

3. “‘Weird Tales of Super-K’: A Synesthetic Journey into the National Security Archive’s Kissinger Correspondence,” Micki Kaufman, MLA

4. “Danger, Jane Roe! Using Embroidery and Electronics to Make Data Weird,” Kim Knight, Univ. of Texas, Dallas

Subject:

Keywords:

 

And here’s the abstract for my talk:

Speculative Data: Post-Empirical Approaches to the “Datafication” of Affect and Activity

Shane Denson, Duke University

A common critique of the digital humanities questions the relevance of quantitative, data-based methods for the study of literature and culture; in its most extreme form, this type of criticism insinuates a complicity between DH and the neoliberal techno-culture that turns all human activity, if not all of life itself, into “big data” to be mined for profit. Drawing on recent reconceptions of DH as “deformed humanities” – as an aesthetically and politically invested field of “deformance”-based practice – this presentation describes several methods by which a decidedly “weird” DH can avail itself of data collection to interrogate and critique “datafication” itself.

The focus is on work conducted in the context of Duke University’s S-1 Speculative Sensation Lab, where literary scholars, media theorists, artists, and “makers” of all sorts collaborate to produce computational and data-driven “things to think with” that blur the boundaries between art and digital scholarship. One such project, Manifest Data, uses a piece of “benevolent spyware” that collects and parses data about personal Internet usage in such a way as to produce 3D-printable sculptural objects, thus giving form to data and reclaiming its personal value from corporate cooptation. Another ongoing project uses data collected by (scientifically questionable) biofeedback devices to perform realtime collective transformations of audiovisual materials, opening theoretical notions of “post-cinematic affect” to robustly material, media-archaeological, and aesthetic investigations. These and other projects, I contend, point the way towards a truly “weird DH” that is reflexive enough to suspect its own data-driven methods but not paralyzed into inactivity.

Bibliography:

S-1 Speculative Sensation Lab. Manifest Data. Collaborative art/theory project. Description online: <http://s-1lab.org/project/manifest-data/>.

S-1 Speculative Sensation Lab (with contributions from Luke Caldwell, Karin Denson, Shane Denson, Amanda Starling Gould, David Rambo, Libi Striegl, and Max Symuleski). “Manifest Data: A Kit to Create Personal Digital Data-Based Sculptures.” Hyperrhiz: New Media Cultures 13 (2015): <http://hyperrhiz.io/hyperrhiz13/sensors-data-bodies/manifest-data.html>. Web.

Sample, Mark. “Notes Towards a Deformed Humanities.” Samplereality (2 May 2012): <http://www.samplereality.com/2012/05/02/notes-towards-a-deformed-humanities/>. Web.

Samuels, Lisa, and Jerome McGann. “Deformance and Interpretation.” New Literary History 30.1 (1999): 25–56. Print.

Shaviro, Steven. Post-Cinematic Affect. Winchester: Zero Books, 2010. Print.

 

Out Now: Hyperrhiz 13

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Hyperrhiz 13 is out now. The special issue on “Kits, Plans, Schematics” includes the Duke S-1 Lab’s contribution “Manifest Data,” along with a variety of other great projects utilizing data, physical computing, bodies, and other living and nonliving things. Check it out!

Conversations in the Digital Humanities at Duke

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Today, Oct. 2, 2015, the Franklin Humanities Institute, the Wired! Lab, the PhD Lab in Digital Knowledge, and HASTAC@Duke will be presenting “Conversations in the Digital Humanities,” the inaugural event of the new Digital Humanities Initiative at Duke University. More information about the event, in which I will be participating alongside colleagues from the S-1: Speculative Sensation Lab, can be found on the FHI website.

Also, all of the 10-minute “lightning talks” will be live-streamed. The first block of sessions, from 2:15-3:45pm EST, will be streamed here, and the second block, from 4:00-5:40pm, will be viewable here. (Apparently, the videos will be archived and available after the fact as well.)

Here is the complete schedule:

2:00 – 2:15
Welcome and Introduction to Digital Humanities Initiative

2:15 – 3:45 
Session 1 (10 minutes per talk)

  1. Project Vox (Andrew Janiak, and Liz Milewicz)
  2. NC Jukebox (Trudi Abel, Victoria Szabo)
  3. Visualizing Cultures: The Shiseido Project (Gennifer Weisenfeld)
  4. Going Global in Mughal India (Sumathi Ramaswamy)
  5. Israel’s Occupation in the Digital Age (Rebecca Stein)
  6. Digital Athens: Archaeology meets ArcGIS (Tim Shea, Sheila Dillon)
  7. Early Medieval Networks (J. Clare Woods)

3:45 – 4:00
Coffee Break

4:00 – 5:40 
Session 2 (10 minutes per talk)

  1. Painting the Apostles – A Case Study in “The Lives of Things” (Mark Olson, Mariano Tepper, and Caroline Bruzelius)
  2. Digital Archaeology: From the Field to Virtual Reality (Maurizio Forte)
  3. The Memory Project (Luo Zhou)
  4. Veoveo, children at play (Raquel Salvatella de Prada)
  5. “Things to Think With”: Weird DH, Data, and Experimental Media Theory (S-1 Lab)
  6. s_traits, Generative Authorship and the Emergence Lab (Bill Seaman and John Supko)
  7. Found Objects and Fireflies (Scott Lindroth)
  8. Project Provoke (Mary Caton Lingold and others)

5:40 – 6:00 
Reception