Arbitrary Annotations

Through the process of annotating The Tales of John Oliver Hobbes (hereafter JOH), I have come to realize just how arbitrary annotations really are. Until recently, annotations have always been the helpful notes located at the bottom of a page – always furthering my understanding of what is happening in the text, giving a definition, and, at times, recommending further reading. I’ve never thought about how much work these extra tidbits of information really are to incorporate in either a print or digital text . . . until now. Continue reading

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To read JOH is to love JOH

Elizabeth Bennet, depicted by C.E.Brock - not the only complex heroine in British Literature, just the most well-known

Elizabeth Bennet, depicted by C.E.Brock – not the only complex heroine in British Literature, just the most well-known

I might be setting myself up for some backlash here, but I never used to be a huge Jane Austen fan. I signed up for a course on 18th century literature in my fourth year of undergrad, and the professor only announced on the first day of class that by 18th century, he really meant just Jane Austen. Four months of Austen would be a dream for some people, but I think I was too busy feeling tricked and indignant to really fall in love with her writing, at least initially. But then (predictably) I read Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennet forever, etc., etc. When the class ended, I never sought out another novel of manners, written by a woman, featuring biting social commentary and a feisty heroine, primarily because I didn’t really realize that there were others. Continue reading

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The Fallacy of Completion in the Digital Edition

I “finished” my Wikisource annotations about 10 days ago. As I was writing the “last” annotation, I remember thinking two things: 1) Wow that was way more work than I initially realized. 2) My sense of completion on this project is very tangential. This project is unlike any other academic assignment I have undertaken. Unlike an essay or presentation, which are characterized by finality, by completion, our edition is open to constant change. JOH has really stressed, for me, the arbitrariness and, perhaps even falsity, of designating a work “complete.”

In terms of amount of work, I really was surprised by how many hours I spent slouched at my computer, eyes glazed over, looking into some really strange biblical phrases or fascinating facts about everyday Victorian life… I never thought I would be writing about coal holes, for example. Although I did spend quite a lot of time as the editor of my 25 or so pages, I can’t help wondering how much longer and painstaking this project would have been without the internet. Every time there was strange phrasing in the text, I would copy and paste the sentence into Google and 9/10 times I would find that JOH was referring to a biblical passage. Without the internet, I simply would not have the knowledge or even skill to assume the role of editor. I often wondered how editors managed at all before the internet. Who could possibly know the bible that well?!

My time on this project, also underlined, for me, a kind of diminishment of the need for expertise (hopefully, I am not sounding as dogmatic as Keen). The answer to my former question about the bible is, quite simply, a scholar of Judeo-Christianity or, in the very least, someone who is extremely well-versed in the bible. Would this same expert know about coal holes or floriography or Victorian mourning clothes?… I am not so sure. Before the internet, it probably would have taken the work of a diverse team of researchers and scholars to undertake a project like this. It seems to me that every edition, regardless of whether it is printed or digitized, pre or post internet, is most likely the result of group rather than singular effort. It’s funny because as much as our project is a social edition, each 25 page unit seemed to be undertaken singularly, with little to no collaboration within the editorial segment. Our collaboration seemed to occur between the pages rather than within them.

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Hobbes and her Self-Concious Reflections

While reading The Tales of John Oliver Hobbes and in particular Some Emotions and a Moral I was astounded by Hobbes’ wit. Her writing is both humorous and layered with meaning. For this reason, Hobbes’ book was ideal to annotate; it was entertaining to read and full of references to decode.

While reading the selections that I was assigned to annotate I appreciated her witty self-conscious comments in particular. Her prose features multiple moments of subtle self-reflexivity, which are impossible to ignore and important to parse. For example, in Some Emotions and a Moral, Lady Theodosia says to Cynthia:

“‘…these literary and artistic people are very dangerous. You never find two alike, and the only certain thing about them is that ultimately they will do something to make everybody uncomfortable” (Hobbes 48).

I cannot help but think that this passage refers back to Hobbes’ own role as writer. By reflecting on “artistic people” she points to herself as well—the artistically inclined author of our text. The last part of this passage resonated with me primarily: “ultimately they will do something to make everybody uncomfortable.” Although Hobbes’ text may not be necessarily provocative it does shine light on topics such as femininity, artistic genius, and class. In a way, by reflecting on these kinds of subjects she achieves a jarring affect (I was not expecting her to comment on these topics so openly!). Her biting wit makes multiple subjects transparent and therefore contributes to the text’s at times parodic tone.

With comments like these I am constantly wondering: Is there a greater project at hand or statement to be made here about art?

Overall, I truly appreciated Hobbes’ wit and self-reflexivity. It undoubtedly resonates with a modern audience, exposes the reader to Hobbes’ role as author and, ultimately, calls attention to the substance of her humour.

Posted in Week 10: Second reflection on the Social Edition and Wikisource | 2 Comments

Too Much of One Thing…

I watched a lot of television growing up. As Lawrence Lessig points out, “the average TV is left on for 8.5 hours a day” and “the average American watches that average TV for about 4.5 hours a day” (Lessig 68). Now I didn’t clock the number of hours of television I watched a day growing up, but the TV was certainly on for most of the day. As that was the main medium through which I consumed information, I would argue that a lot of what I learned about literature I learned from television.

I watched Gilmore Girls religiously, where reference upon reference was being made. Gilmore Girls was a one-hour drama. Typically, a script for a show this length is around sixty pages, whereas a script for Gilmore Girls was about one hundred in order to accommodate the number of references, musical, cultural, literary, filmic the list goes on. In order to gain a comprehensive understanding about what is going on in that show you have to look up the references.  The point is, the “remixing” of mediums and information can allow for self directed learning, which often times can be far more effective than traditional education. As Lessig quotes Mimi Ito, remix can be “a strategy to excite ‘interest-based learning’. As the name suggests, interest-based learning is the learning driven by found interests” (80). A lot of exposure to different things now often comes from secondary sources or remixes and references to “the original” since the growth of technology. And in turn, learning no longer has to be linear or begin with the so-called “original”.

Sir Ken Robinson gives a talk for the RSA (Royal Society of the encouragement of the Arts) on how education needs to be changing along with the technology of the 21st century. Ironically the linked video is actually an adaptation of the talk he gave and the RSA remixed it into an animated version. In this video, Robinson says that there are two types of academic ability—academic (smart people) and non-academic (non-smart people). Many people who are brilliant think they are not because they have been judged under this model (Robinson).  He goes on to say that this old model maintains the idea that there is one answer: “don’t look! And don’t copy! Because that’s cheating,” whereas outside of schools that’s called collaboration”. Lessig makes a similar claim about academia, he says, ” ‘Entertainment’ is separate from ‘education’. So any skills learned in this ‘remix culture’ is ‘constructed oppositionally to academic achievement'” (Lessig 79). Remixing and collaboration are meant to benefit education and new generations, but if education is to continue in its traditional way many students and people will be severely hindered in any future growth personally, professionally, technologically etc.

Why rethinking education and academia in this way gives rise to questions of legitimacy and possible amateur takeover (The Cult of the Amateur), I’m not sure. Is it too optimistic to think that legitimate academia and creative collaboration can co-exist, work together or even learn more from one another? I should hope not.

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Five Reasons You Should Read John Oliver Hobbes

This blog has been a reflection on the creation of Social Edition of The Tales of John Oliver Hobbes and has focused broadly on digitization in the Humanities. This week we focus on John Oliver Hobbes and her work. This list is by no means exhaustive but here are a few reasons we’ve come to ♥ John Oliver Hobbes.

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Between annotation and John Oliver Hobbes

When it comes to annotation and critical editions, I am a relative outsider to the genre. In my entire life, the only example of this type of project that I’ve read was a critical edition of Anne Frank’s diary. I have to admit that I eventually had to put the book down because every page was filled half-way with footnotes. It interrupted the flow of my reading and it made it difficult to get “into” the book. However, having annotated a few chapters of JOH, I have come to realize that this genre seeks to provide a threshold between the inside and the outside of the text. The value is to not get “into” the story as such, but to see what lies at its margins, what it is reaching towards. As such, the process of annotation has forced me to consider what was important for JOH’s experience of Victorian culture.

In annotating I discovered that much of the setup of A Study in Temptations is spent describing the social context of the Victorian era. In the first chapter, she quite specifically locates her characters within a time where the episcopal lecturer James Gibbons proselytizes, where Dissenting from the Church of England is a hot topic of debate, and Tories and Whigs abound. Furthermore, she incorporates her personal knowledge of non-conformity as the political-religious position of Dr. Johnson. I find it interesting that she is so explicit in setting up her novel with these religious undertones. It speaks to the sort of anxieties and concerns that I assume were prevalent at the time.

This attention also speaks to the craft of her writing. At the outset, the novel is explicitly about temptation. However she mobilizes this concept by positioning it in a time where temptation implies religious-political tensions between restraint and release, between virtue and sin. In other words, a morality that structures the Victorian society. In this way she has expertly set up the conditions where there is logical frame from the nature of the ensuing conflicts. Had it not been for the process of annotation, I do not believe that I would have seen how her unfamiliar literary and cultural allusions amassed and coalesced into a foundation for the very structure of the narrative.

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The votes are in … and … Shakespeare’s the Man!

Marge’s post nicely opens up the discussion of remixing classic novels by focusing on Clueless, a rendition of Jane Austen’s Emma and discusses the creativity and originality needed in such renditions. A lot of the best movies of our generation are remixes of classic novels and plays by Shakespeare. One of my favourite movies is She’s The Man, which is a remix of Shakespeare’s The Twelfth Night. Another recent rendition of a Shakespeare play is 10 Things I Hate About You, a modernized version of Taming of the Shrew. Both of these movies were quite successful at the box office, together bringing in a total of approximately $111 million dollars – which speaks to the films’  popularity.

These modern adaptations and remixes of Shakespeare’s plays have popularized his work and made his plays accessible to the masses of the 21st century. When Shakespeare is introduced in high school and university english classes collective (and exaggerated) sighs can be heard across the country. Continue reading

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Social edition article on Wikipedia

I just started the article Social edition on Wikipedia so that we can include it as part of the introduction to our own social edition. Currently there’s a number of areas that need attention. Can anyone help out?

  1. A more substantial summary of what a social edition is, when and who it developed the concept
  2. A list of current social editions
  3. A list of readings that are pivotal to understanding the concept
  4. A list of wikipedia categories that the concept belongs to

If you are unsure about how to add something to the page, you can just post it below in the comments and I’ll add it.

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Is the “cult of the amateur” really that bad…?

Like Sydney and Julie have expressed in their posts this week, I too was off put by Keen’s negative perspective on the Internet in his book The Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet is Killing Our Culture. As Julie has pointed out, Keen’s anxieties towards the internet stems from a fear of the “amateur cult” that he believes are contributing to a proliferation of truths via the internet, through blogs like this one, and as a result are distorting “real” truths. In his first chapter, entitled “The Great Seduction,” Keen suggests that “in a world in which audience and author are increasingly indistinguishable, and where authenticity is almost impossible to verify, the idea of intellectual property has been seriously compromised” (23), and that “the value once placed on a book by a great author is being challenged by the dream of a collective community of authors who endlessly annotate and revise it” (25). While I think most of us would agree that this deterioration between author and audience perpetuated by the Internet is accurate, I don’t think this has to be as horrific as Keen implies. As Margaret suggests in her post this week, “remixing actually makes originality achievable,” and I think the same is possible with this “increasingly indistinguishable” line between author and audience that Keen seems so appalled by. Continue reading

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