I seek to undertake a detailed analysis of the historical perspective of Digital Humanities in a technology oriented media age, and would like to investigate how digitised records (consisting of visual or a textual data) and interfaces defined by algorithmic systems within computational machineries was transformed by informatics within interfaces. As well as the theoretical perspective, my research will continue to deal with the case studies theorising within a media archaeological perspective including the concepts of materiality, medium and dynamics of interfaces in keeping up with the hybridity of digital humanities.
It is largely recognised that the frameworks of a system in media-historical principles are based on the perspective of the archivological approach in the sense of Digital Humanities. A media archaeological approach, in an advanced notion of storing data, refers to the idea that historical objects are not possibly constructed by only the media itself. The context of the various media systems from Library catalogs to microfilming have been affected as well as the notions of the historical remains of the archive itself. (Ernst 2013) The traditional understanding of storing data is based on the idea of classifications of inventories. This, however, is replaced by a fluctuating order of information by dynamic access. Thus, it is observed in scholarly research that the archive is redefined by the transformation from being passive storage to an alghoritmically-generated process. (Ernst 2013) In this regard, this article analyses this dynamic transition among data, archive and the digital medium, examining their connections by inspecting interfaces through theorising the historical approach from a critical perspective.
In accordance with the hybridity of the digital humanities, the surrounding research for the article draws on the realms of history and media archaeologies crossing interdisciplinary studies to develop a broader theoretical analysis. The main subjects of the article provides the research questions by giving a brief summary by answering the questions: (1) What is the main reason(s) of the transformation of traditional Humanities and how is Digital Humanities reconceptualised regarding its metamorphosis analysing its context and theory? (2) How and what ways can Digital Humanities be investigated regarding the historical perspective of interfaces? (3) What is the relationship between the narrative and the object as a medium through a close attention to the case studies in a comparative basis in terms of materiality, and how, regarding the case studies, are interfaces and computational archaeologies influenced by the operations of cyber culture?
The centrality of the archivology draws a study around cultural and media archaeology through a Foucaultian concept from the physical concreteness to abstract discourses in terms of storage. In a regular sense, the archive is supposed to be a mileux for storage, preservation, classification and access. (Rossaak 2010b:11; Parikka 2012) In other words, it can be seen that the archive is considered as an abstract concept of storing data of modern culture, which operated as a medium itself. (Parikka 2012) In this regard, the article centralising the studies of multiple disciplines of history and media, hybridised with the theoretical research based on solidification of “intangible cultural heritage” (Laszlo 98; Flanders, Piez and Terras 2007) that aims to demonstrate a critical analysis depending on case studies.
It is commonly seen that primary sources of heritage content and resources have been increasingly digitised in arts and humanities. Museum archives and libraries are additionally changing its medium and digitised, yet, changing digital objects are supposed to be considered as collections in their own right, and it is observed that most of the artefacts are documented digitally by mediating its medium. According to Hayles,
“Collection databases with digital images of objects have been augmented by innovative ‘born-digital’ interpretive resources such as themed ‘guided tours’ of ‘highlight’ objects, illustrated timelines, and innovative approaches to object-based history such as the masterful History of the World in 100 Objects: a British Museum–BBC co-production broadcast on radio and podcasts with an accompanying website that extends the programme’s content and interactivity.” (2004)
Most of the museums and sites that express historical significance are proposing multiplicity in angles on a historical symbol offering wireless connections and applications in their exhibitions and permanent galleries. The artefacts that allow interactive usage of the medium are naturally greater in major, especially in well-resourced institutions, yet, the museums such as National Museum of Samoa offer modest options sharing their culturally-significant resources/collections through software based dashboards/platforms. It is obviously observed that the process of spreading cultural heritage through mediums which are defined by protocols and algorithms has been widening its reachability which associates the fact that especially “ethnographic” objects and archives accumulated within networks of colonial power, enables communities and the general public connected with collections which were used to have limited access. As a result of this, it is seen that the attempts to make the information and material as a collection, ‘set within the context of increasing the public engagement with digital technologies in general, are beginning to unsettle the often assumed ‘radical distinction between material and virtual’ (Witcomb 2007: 35; Hayles 2004). According to Andre Witcomb, material/virtual, weight/surface, aura/insubstantiality, authoritative knowledge/popular ideas, and elite privilege/democratic access do not express any division. Digitally defined objects which initiate particular features precise their own materiality and considered to have their own physical presence in an exhibition. With its unique technicality and substantiality, they can be considered as objects themselves which enables matters of distinctions (Witcomb 2007: 36; Hayles 2012). Born-digital objects might confuse the situation since the material itself increases the importance to future historians. (Hayles 2012) Furthermore, Hayles illustrates the fact that the body within postmodern definitions draws an immaterial informational structure by comparing to materiality with perceptional definitions,
“[T]he human body, our body, seems superfluous in its proper expanse, in the complexity and multiplicity of its organs, of its tissue and functions, because today everything is concentrated in the brain and the genetic code, which alone sum up the operational definition of being.” (2004)
David Bolter and Richard Grusin’s work Remediation (1999) demonstrates the fact that media itself expresses a constant change within a repeated movement of resemblance offering a simultaneous form of mediation through the scope of medium specified analysis (MSA). It depicts an alteration in the language of media communications such as text mediating into a digital medium as a vocabulary of screen and page processing in a digital software and analogue interface with the hybridity of code and ink, controllable buttons and images in an algorithmic system. (Hayles 2004) In this regard, a distinctive infrastructure between ‘old’ and ‘new’ media was offered by Manovich to be able to conduct MSA; which are (1) numerical representation; (2) modularity; (3) automation; (4) variability; and (5) transcoding. Emphasizing Hayles’ ideas on transcoding, it is seen that “numerical representation” is considered as the most viable matter in terms of its dynamics and programmability at medium’s specificity.
To be able to investigate these dynamic interactions, Medium-Spesific Analysis (MSA is seen necessary. It constructs an electrifying neocortex of literary criticism into recognising which strands on a traditional emphasis on materiality which are examined paradigmatically emphasising on the literary effects emerging the materiality of the texts that refers to the hypertext commonly used in both digital and print media.
Regarding her cognitive approach on materiality and new media tools, Hayles claims the fact that specifying materiality cannot be possible since it proposes a borderland between physical and mental, the artefact and the user, which provides an ideal chance to investigate the dynamic connection between the artifactual characteristics and the interpretation that materiality embodies. Hypertext proposes a medium by analysing dynamic interactions of the artifacts and their characteristics, and the interpretation that materiality embodies. (Hayles 2004)
In alignment with the auraic potential of the material outlined by Walter Benjamin discusses the unique existence of the physical object regarding the time and space, and it is claimed that the originality vanishes in reproductions since it tarnishes the ritual of the object through the process of digitisation. In this regard, it is claimed that the originality of physical objects loses its authenticity. In his work “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”, Benjamin claims that the metarial objects have a one-time experience in terms of their uniqueness. According to him, the aura represents for this experience of unique value which stresses on the fact that objects cannot be multiplied or reproduced. Another similar argument that he proposes is the “aesthetic experience” of the aforementioned one-time experience. An aura can be applied to the original piece of work. Replicas of the objects ruin the authentic aura of the unique experience. In this regard, centralising Benjaminian arguments, the article draws a critical approach of both of the case studies in terms of archivological sense.
For Benjamin, aura itself represents a distinctive dimension through the gaze of human beings: “There was an aura about them, a medium that lent fullness and security to their gaze inasmuch as it penetrated that medium” (SW, 2:515– 17; GS, 2:376; Hansen 2008, 342) In another saying, aura refers to a great structure which authorises the indication of the gaze, developing the capacity of its context. However, it is implied that the post-McLuhanian term with technological mileux should not be merged with Benjamin’s definitions since his understanding of medium aligns with philosophical usage (centralising Hegel and Herder), mentioning “an in-between substance or agency—such as language, writing, thinking, memory—that mediates and constitutes meaning; it resonates no less with esoteric and spiritualist connotations pivoting on an embodied medium’s capacity of communing with the dead.” (Hansen 2008)
History of Digital Humanities: From Hermeneutics to Computation
Traditional humanities which consists of the notions of hermeneutics transforms its form as a meaning and context since the material form text has experienced its metamorphosis in terms of its medium. This change, thus, concluded with the fact that the emphasis of “human” in humanities has shifted through a software-oriented focus by the “second wave” of the digital humanities. (Heftberger, 2012; Berry 2012)
It is observed that the phoenix-born sense of concept in Digital Humanities which documents a quantified algorithmical measuring as a numerical processing construct a distinctive form of humanities by the Berry-sense of term, the “computational turn” (2011). The tools and archives of digital humanities within a computational space, topologically extended by the internet hosting a systematic information patterns, parametric signals and protocols expand the notions of network. Migrating data to a networked space within calculable softwarised machineries reveals a distinct notion in terms of informative qualities and aesthetics. (Ernst 2013)
Archival objects which represent a cultural value in the scope of Digital Humanities, are metaphorically divorced from physicality and transforms into a distinctive form of material as they are stored in computational algorithms that are connected to a protocol. In this regard, this chapter will include a detailed historical aspect of the digital humanities analysing the metamorphosis of the medium by the “computational turn” (Berry 2011), and how digital humanities is mediated through computational surfaces.
The Genealogy of Digital Humanities
This chapter aims to analyse the component arguments connected to its humanistic attitude of the transformation by regarding the genealogical sense of digital humanities focusing on textual medium offering concrete examples in relation to interfaces through the lens of narrative theory, networks and aesthetics in an historical sense.
Unlike many other interdisciplinary experiments, humanities computing has a very well known beginning. In 1949, an Italian Jesuit Priest, Father Roberto Busa, began what even to this day is a monumental task: to make an index verborum of all the words in the works of St. Thomas Aquinas and related authors, totalling some 11 million words of medieval Latin.
Historical scope of archives tends to keep the record which was related to Aerarium near the Capitoline Hill during the Ancient Roman administration, considered as a birthof the archives of the state treasury including metals, reserve funds, insignia, senate resolutions and the other administrative papers. (Vismann 2008: 57; Parikka 2012)
It is seen that the frameworks of modern archival theory as preservational practices were articulated through the twentieth century. (Parikka 2012) The traditional understanding of the archives based on the fact that archive as a form is territorial, spatialised and walled which represents a functional symbol as an institution. To borrow Vismann’s words on record-keeping and archaeology of files: “The wall designated to surround the symbolic order of the law once the codification is complete turns everything outside into rubbish and file trash”(2008:64; Parikka 2012)
As Parikka states; “The new archives have to take into account formats, medium specifity, as well as various software related themes such as encoding.” A constructive approach in the dynamic nature of the world was faced in computational culture and softwares and computers were given as samples of the situation, which was also seen as a big future task for such museums of science & technology as, for example, The Science Museum, “building a new gallery of Modern Communications, which will also feature computing and networks (especially World Wide Web).” (2012)
A web novel “The Book of Going Forth by Day” by M.D Coverley indicates how navigation elements deploy an indicative action for electronic hypertexts. Following the spatial composition of prototyped Egyptian hieroglyphs, the interface engages both horizontal and vertical records. To borrow her words in order to employ a genealogical approach, Hayles indicates that;
“The horizontal panels provide the narrative, while the vertical panels give linguistic, historical, and geographic information about ancient Egypt, modeled after the rubrics that in hieroglyphic texts give information on how to interpret the depicted events. The correspondences between Egyptian hieroglyphs and the interface suggest deep connections between inscription systems, cosmological beliefs, temporal orderings, and geographic assumptions.” (2012)
Ancient hieroglyphic inscriptions were documented through any aspects in terms of directions; left to right, right to left, up to down, down to up, edging sideways into margins, or spiraling in a circle, with the order of reading indicated by the direction the figures face. Going Forth indicates a roundabout and unintended way of ancient Egyptian judgements about the “endless geometry” of the world. Additionally, it is signified that Going Forth expresses its inscription incomplex topologies in terms of its message, which allows flowing progression between exposition, narrative, maps, photographs, linguistic information, and historical context. (Hayles 2012) Going Forth proposes that the difference between writing and art was ambiguous in ancient Egypt, which indicates a fact that the worldview and inscription system had correlations. Migrating into a computational environment, the interaction adopts a form of perplexive connection between multimedia elements and navigational functionalities. (Hayles 2012)
This article has far intended to investigate the concentration of theories connecting to database, software, interface and materiality applying the case studies by the analysing of distinctive concepts. In this regard, in accordance with media archaeologies of digital humanities, my respective work represents an exploration in interface analysis of the medium through the scope of archivic objects migrating from a concrete medium to a digital mileux regarding the concept of intangible cultural heritage and materiality of the archive. Along with the aforementioned methodologies and literatures, the transformation of material and the medium was pertained by the most frequently question among digital humanities scholars and historians; “what happens to the archivological material once it is replicated and deported through a distinctive medium?” To borrow Hayles’ words; “as inhabitants of globally interconnected networks, we are joined in a dynamic co-evolutionary spiral with intelligent machines” (2006) referring to the inevitability of machinerised technologies which employs dynamic activities in terms of the association with human as a subject and information technologies.
A computer contains not only hardware but also a digital medium with texts and images as a representation on its screen. As such, interfaces are making an interpretation of the computational procedures into mitigating, well-known or “user-friendly” visuals and metaphors as known from much software, along these lines masking the computer as something surely understood. Through this frequent notion of the interface (as a surface), computational processes and the way we co-exist with computational processes are critiqued, and it is asserted that the understanding of interfaces requires to be subjected. As Dragana Antic and Matthew Fuller argue in “The Computation of Space”, it is indicated that the interchangeable dynamics of computer-interface connectivity regard the space and production of medium. As it is observed that the interface turns into a co-extensive medium concerning its reflectivity on computation through spatial design and experience within a genealogical approach.
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