Jasmine Mulliken, from Stanford University Press, who participated in the “Documenting Born Digital Media” course that Ryan House and I taught last week at the Digital Humanities Summer Institute, has written a wonderful essay, entitled “Sustainable Design for the Digital Age,” about her experience in the course. The essay highlights the effectiveness of the Pathfinders methodology Stuart Moulthrop and I developed for preserving born digital literature and makes the case (that Stuart & have done in many places) that it extends beyond literature to games, interactive environments, apps, and such. Here is the link to her essay.
The project that her group worked on was the documentation of Stanford University Press’s first publication under the Mellon initiative, entitled “Enchanting the Desert.” Here is a link to her group’s output: a media rich, open-source book built on the Scalar platform developed in less than a week of the course. This is a huge achievement created in such a short period of time.
Here is a link to all of the documentation projects from the course, all of which includes the application of Pathfinders methodology.
Noted DH scholar & publisher James O’Sullivan recently wrote a report for The Academic Book of the Future project of the about publication efforts that push against traditional scholarly publishing through”open access publishing and the digital revolution.” His report, entitled “Scholarly Equivalents of the Monograph? An Examination of some Digital Edge Cases,” lists several examples of this kind of scholarly publishing, including Pathfinders. Leading the The Academic Book of the Future were Nick Canty ( UCL) and Marilyn Deegan and Simon Tanner, Department of Digital Humanities, King’s College London with Michael Jubb serving as principal consultant to the project. The project ran from on 1 October 2014 to 30 September 2016.
Here is a direct quote about Pathfinders from the final report:
- Produced by Dene Grigar and Stuart Moulthrop, Pathfinders documents a selection of early born-digital literature. The project emphasises pre-Web hypertextual works from 1986-1995. Pathfinders looks to document the experience of this first-generation of electronic literature by recording interactions with the authors of the works, as well as traversals by readers interacting with the pieces. In addition to the audio-visual materials, Grigar and Moulthrop have a forthcoming print monograph, Traversals (MIT Press), with close readings of these works. Grigar describes Pathfinders as the methodology, and Traversals as a process of that methodology. This project is an interesting example of how edge cases interact with more traditional forms, being both resource and insight at once.
With 173 pages containing over 100 videos, 200 photos, and several sound files and a lot of writing, it is heartening to see Pathfinders find recognition as a book project, for it certainly felt like writing one. Stuart and I appreciate the ongoing support of colleagues likes James and organizations like the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the British Library, UCL, King’s College, who make the case for experimental writing and publishing projects. I am also pleased that James included in his report Leonardo Flores’ important critical work with I Love E-Poetry.
Alejandro traversing Whispering Galleries, with Ryan handling the video camera
I’ve been at DHSI 2017 at the University of Victoria for the past week teaching the Pathfinders methodology in a course called “Documenting Born Digital Creative and Scholarly Works for Access and Preservation.” The participants include librarians, archivists, and literary and history scholars interested in finding ways to preserve video games, electronic music, apps, electronic literature, and interactive web-based projects.
Lori photographing Chessbard announcement card
The end result of the week of reading and discussing theoretical works that underpin the approach, experiencing works already obsolete (or on the way to that state), and working with tools for documenting works is fairly substantial body of output by five teams of participants. The projects include:
- A multimedia book of videos, photos, and descriptive writing built on the Scalar platform for Brian Eno’s “Bloom” app
- Entries in the ELMCIP Knowledge Base, the Electronic Literature Directory, and Wikipedia; and a multimedia book of videos, photos, and descriptive writing built on the Scalar platform for the electronic literary work, “Whispering Galleries” by Amaranth Borsuk and Brad Bouse
- A multimedia book of videos, photos, and descriptive writing built on the Scalar platform for a student made video game that critiques The Stanley Parable
- Entries in the ELMCIP Knowledge Base, the Electronic Literature Directory, and Wikipedia; and a multimedia book of videos, photos, and descriptive writing built on the Scalar platform for the electronic literary work, “Chessbard” by Aaron Tucker
- A multimedia book of videos, photos, and descriptive writing built on the Scalar platform for an interactive environment called “Enchanting the Desert,” by Nicholas Bauch
Julia interviewing “Chessbard’s” Aaron Tucker
Teams undertook Traversals and Interviews and learned, in some cases, how to prepare media for publication. Working with me has been Ryan House, my research assistant in the Electronic Literature Lab. To UVic we brought equipment like a light tent, lighting, cameras, and video cameras for use by participants for documenting their work. Here is a link to their projects.
This course has made it clear to me that the Pathfinders methodology is effective and can, indeed, be used for a broad application to wide variety of born digital media.
Participants in the course working on their documentation projects