Category: Uncategorized

The Frequency of “I”

Editing the new, digital version of the text proved remarkably tedious. I was given two different novels to edit: the end of “The Parable of the Talents and the beginning 150 pages of “Fledgling.” I corrected the errors from the last few pages of “the Parable of the Talents” extremely quickly: there were not many extra characters and the separation of the paragraphs was kept intact. All I had to do was correct misspellings. After this easy experience, I was expecting the rest of the project to be finished extremely quickly.

Then I moved on to correcting the new, digital text of “Fledgling.” Unfortunately, my scanning process was more complicated than I would have liked. Because my BYU ID had an old, unused email address, I could not access the scanned files using my own account. I borrowed my husband’s ID to scan and send the digital files: after receiving the files he emailed them both to me. While the first file, the end of “The Parable of the Talents,” sent easily, the 15o pages of “Fledgling” could not send as a normal PDF, so he compressed it. I believe this was the cause of the extremely large amount of errors in my new, digital text of “Fledging.” Paragraphs were separated incorrectly, quotation marks were irregularly interchanged for the its singular form, words were misspelled, words were omitted, etc. The most blatant and annoying error to correct, however, was the mis-recording of the word “I.” It was marked incorrectly more than half the time it appeared. On some pages, it was almost every time it was written. It was often interchanged for marks such as “|” , “{” , or “[“. Sometimes a J was inserted in its place. Sometimes a “L.” In any case, it was a mess to correct.

Despite it being extremely tedious and annoying to edit, the incorrect recording of the word “I” made me make some interesting conclusions about the text. I have just finished writing a 10 page paper about Derek Walcott’s epic poem “Omeros.” In my paper, I addressed the idea of representation: in the poem there is a self-inserted poet-narrator that interjects in the narrative. He writes his feelings about each character, creating the plot through which their motives are shown, their character and personality explained. Essentially, he controls the characters he writes. In the poem itself, the personal pronoun “I” is hardly ever used. It only manipulated when the meta-narrative of the poet-narrator interjects. Indeed, this creates some problems in terms of giving certain characters proper representation. The females in the narrative especially lack depth of character are written as merely objects and metaphors to further the poetic motives of the writer. Thus, the lack of the pronoun “I” in the narrative means that the characters do not get to express their feelings themselves. It can be concluded, therefore that the characters are not representatives of true human expression.

What does this mean about Octavia Butler’s “Fledgling”? “I” is included extensively: nearly 20-30 times as page in the most extreme examples. With the brief skimming I did of the text, this means that there is more dialogue. There is more internal dialogue. It means the main character thinks a lot about her feelings, her actions and her motives. Because of these narrative devices are used more extensively in the text, it could be concluded that characters are represented properly. The main character especially forms her own opinions, speaks her mind, and thinks about herself.

I suppose this is a mini-study of the project we will be completing for the final. However, in the short survey I did of the interjection of the personal pronoun “I” in Octavia Butler’s “Fledgling,” I can conclude that studying the frequency of words within a text can help us draw conclusions about the character of the book and its author.

Reactions to Octavia Butler

The name Octavia Butler was familiar to me when I read it on the booklist. My only guess is that my sister mentioned it at some point in time: she is an English major and we frequently discuss literature. However, I didn’t know anything about her before picking up “Bloodchild and other stories.” I was shocked to discover I was reading science fiction. It definitely was not what I was expecting. I was even more shocked after looking up Octavia Butler online. Not only did I discover that Butler was black, but that she was a black female publishing science fiction in the 70s and 80s. After reading more from her memoir included in the collection and reading some about her wikipedia, I was impressed by her tenacity, persistence, and passion. She worked her way into a white-male dominated field, and, from the sense I get from her autobiographical writing, she did it with unflinching confidence in her ability as a writer. Immediately she became a kind of heroin in my eyes.

I am also extremely impressed (and excited) about her work. Bloodchild is progressive. (This is true today, however, it was extremely true considering the time it was originally published in 1984.) This is mainly because of its male pregnancy narrative. I am always curious when creators attempt to capture or understand a man’s reaction to this particular female experience. I think that is, firstly, because it is something men will never be able to experience. Therefore, it is always hypothetical, always imaginary. Secondly, I think it is because there are two extreme negative male reactions to pregnancy and birth (as far as I can see as portrayed in popular media): one is the reaction of disgust and fear, the other is the downplaying of the intensity or pain. Thirdly, because we live in a male-dominated society, to think of men preforming the role of the repressed gender flips our societal structure on its head. In the case of “Bloodchild,” the male must choose to house and eventually breed in an act of love, selflessness, and sacrifice. Thus, the male must take on the qualities that are often classified as feminine, qualities that are considered lesser because the represent subservience and therefore weakness. At the end, the narrator understands the pain he must endure and the sacrifices he will have to make in order to house and raise the children of T’Gatoi, but in the end he chooses to give his life to her because he loves her.

Also interesting to me is its exploration of human subservience. Historical narratives, like colonialism, display the earthly struggle of dominance and control. Broadly speaking, our existence wrapped around the fight for control. In “Bloodchild,” humankind willingly sacrifices their control and power for resources, thus contradicting popular science fiction stories of the time that told stories of otherworldly colonialization. However, not only does Butler’s peaceful story of subservience break the norms developed in the genre, but it also contradicts most western narratives that parade the success and glory of colonialism. However, after doing some reading, I discovered that the story is not attempting to be a metaphor for slavery. Rather than attempt to show the humankind as slaves to this new superior race, Butler is attempting to convey a kind of peaceful cohabitation.

Overall, I am intrigued by Butler’s use of science fiction to address real-world controversial social issues. Creative plot devices often successful give new and clear insight onto the human condition in ways that I not considered before. I am excited to read more of her work.

The Babadook and Midsommar: Summed Images and Barcodes

Some shots from The Babadook:

Summed image of The Babadook:

And Barcodes:

And Midsommar:

Summed Image of Midsommar:

And Barcodes:

“Deepfakes:” How Technology Unevenly Victimizes Women

I had never heard of “deepfakes” before even though articles by Drew Harwell, Emma Grey Ellis, and Samantha Cole were all published in 2018. To be honest, I was appalled. Although technology has been trending toward the personally invasive for years, “deepfakes” seem like a new low; this is not social media intruding on and potentially changing your political ideologies, nor even is it government surveillance monitoring the records of our personal devices. This is identity theft in the most crude sense; a person with some cheap technology can take pictures of you from the internet and make a believable video of you doing… anything. It is manipulative, immoral, and destructive.

As the articles and video mention, there is seems to be a few ways this technology can be manipulated. Firstly, it has been used by films to recreate deceased actors so they can appear in sequels or franchises. Although trivial, this seems like the technology’s only positive use. Secondly, it has the potential to be used to create videos of fake news as a method of persuasion; videos of politicians can be altered to perpetuate political polarization, further false political ideologies, and even potentially sway elections. The main use of this technology currently, however, is its use to create fake porn. This porn in its most harmless form (if you could call it harmless) manipulates images of celebrities to create realistic videos of famous women. In these cases the videos are not created as a way to intentionally harm its victims, rather its intention is to appeal to users on porn sites and is often an obvious (but cruel) joke. In its most evil form, it is being used as revenge porn: a way to degrade and harass women who have supposedly possessed as a threat to the internet.

The negative effects of such actions are catastrophic. Not only do these videos have the potential to cause extremely emotional distress on the victims, but it can ruin their entire lives, causing them to loose their jobs and potentially their families. In Drew Harwell’s article, an unnamed victim says that she felt “nauseated, mortified” and “violated–this icky kind of violation.” No woman should have to feel this kind of humiliation, this kind of vulnerability, especially at the expensive of a joke made by a male on the internet. More terrifying than the potential power of these new evolving technologies are the evil intentions of men that are being exposed through these large numbers of “deepfake” porn videos emerging on the dark web.

My main question is this: why are women the main victims of this harassment? To me, the situation makes me feel hopeless. I have always felt as though our era has been one of progressive woman’s rights; although we are still not where we should be, it seemed as though we had come along way, especially with the exposure of the #MeToo movement of 2017. These videos make me feel as though it was all in vain: we are still vulnerable. In the darkness of anonymity, women’s bodies are still to target of brutal harassment. And until United States law can help defend these targeted women against “deepfake” porn, women remain powerless victims in the hands of the internet. As Scarlett Johansson said in Harwell’s article “the fact is that trying to protect yourself from the Internet and its depravity is basically a lost cause. . . . The Internet is a vast wormhole of darkness that eats itself.”

Deformed Humanities: Analysis or Simply Recreation?

Mark Sample describes the “deformed humanities” as the process of drawing new systems of analysis from a work through the act of its deconstruction. Rather than referring back to the original work in its analysis (as Sample claims that “deformative humanities” do), the “deformed humanities” leave the original work behind, relishing in the new interpretations inferred in the destructed work. Sample claims that “the deformed work is the end, not the means to the end.” Using Sample’s own example, rather than striving to piece humpty dumpty together, “deformed humanities” leave the broken egg how he is: oozing, cracked, yellow, white, and probably smelly. This is the new analysis; this is the new work.

There are a few questions I have about his implications about the newly formed “deformed humanities.” While I do think it could be a constructive way to create new art, I question whether it can be a reliable form of analysis.

Firstly, it seems inaccurate to call the practice of creating new work from the deformation of a work of literature or art humanist analysis. In my limited understanding of humanities practices, the humanities as a discipline strive to find patterns of meaning in cultural and artistic productions, thus attempting to explain our human world and the individual cultures that inhabit it. This reconciliation of the arts with significant meaning is the fight of the humanist. Therefore, it seems critical to me that the work of a humanist must lie in analysis, not in artistic production. While the creations formed in the “deformed humanities” may communicate interesting themes, the purpose of the product does not lie in interpretation. Thus, the new practice of “deformed humanities” does not fit in my narrow definition of the humanities discipline.

Secondly, the odds of finding significant meaning in the deconstructed seems unlikely. In Sample’s example of one of his own deconstructed works of analysis, “Hacking the Academy,” he switched out every noun in a group of essays entitled “Hacking the Academy” with the word found seven nouns later in the dictionary. As Sample admits himself, ” the result of n+7 would seem absolutely nonsensical…” and in most cases, due to the random method of deconstruction, the results would be nonsensical. In his example, however, his random algorithm produced interesting phrases and juxtapositions where hidden meaning seems almost perfectly placed. While his practice of “deformed humanities” proved successful, deformation may not always produce such interesting results.

Although I am unsure the deformed humanities classify as a branch of the humanities, and the chance of finding significant meaning in the result of deformed humanist research seems slim, I still understand the value of a deconstructive approach. Perhaps the beauty of the study is that the results are random, the creation is strange and new, and the practice seems to break the boundaries of academic acceptance.

Is Facebook Altering our Current Political Climate?

Over the weekend, my husband and I engaged in a conversation with a friend who is on the opposite end of the political spectrum than us; we are left-leaning while he is moderately republican. The conversation touched numerous controversial issues of that have emerged in the past months: the morality of the two presidential candidates, the Black Lives Movement and the validity of their argument and suggested policies, police brutality and the tension between individual agency and societal trends, and what we, as college students, are obligated to do about it. One thing we all simultaneously agreed on is the debilitating political polarization found on all of our Facebook feeds. We noticed that all of three of our newsfeeds followed a similar pattern; the majority of the posts aggressively support our own political views, utilizing intellectual arguments and language, while one or two posts from the opposite side of the political spectrum are presented in their most degraded and unbelievable form. The point is, rarely do I see the opposing political ideology presented as intellectual, moral, or persuasive.

From a consumer-sided view of Facebook’s political propaganda machine, it seems as though the social media algorithms are changing our nation’s political climate. Leaders from within Silicon Valley appear in Netflix’s new documentary “The Social Dilemma” claiming that social-media’s need to draw more and more screen-time from its consumers is the cause of the jarring polarization found on it’s feeds. As we show interest in a subject by looking at a post for a sustained amount of time, Facebook and other sites are intended to produce similar content in hopes to draw us in. Thus, the very design of social media algorithms are perfected modeled to dramatize, exaggerate and embellish popular news.

The article posted by the Columbia Journalism Review entitled “Study: Breitbart-led Right-wing Media Ecosystem Altered Broader Media Agenda” seems to suggest the opposite: it is not technology that is driving political opinion, rather it is political opinion that is driving the information found on technology. Their argument is compelling; the left and the right both are internalizing information differently on the internet, as demonstrated by Breitbart (Breitbart is significantly more polarized and an focused primarily on one politician). Thus, the internalization and presentation of political news as perpetuated on technological media is not symmetrical, suggesting that the polarization is not caused technology, rather mirrors the actual political climate of our nation. This information is supported by specific data graphed and analyzed.

Both conclusions are extremely alarming: either the technology we use is driving our society to be more hateful and less understanding, or our society’s views are simply already extremely non-mediating. It is probably both: at least I am compelled to believe that technology is further perpetuating our society’s already polarized political climate. While this information has not left me comforted, reading Columbia Journalism Review’s article has reminded me that my personal perspective is not always correct, although I often perceive it to be. Data examined in a new way, through the utilization of digital humanities’ techniques, opens new door of understanding and interpretation.

Digital Humanities: The Question of Creation

Kathleen Fitzpatrick’s brief article “The Humanities, Done Digitally” subvertly references Stephen Ramsay’s previous speech entitled “Who’s In and Who’s Out” in an attempt to redefine the scholarly field of digital humanities. As Fitzpatrick acknowledges, the field should not admit “every medievalist with a website,” however, complexities in interdisciplinary content and methods makes the line difficult to define. Creation, as referenced in Ramsay’s analysis, is often a place-marker claimed by some experienced scholars in the field. Thus, it has been contended that a digital humanist must be a creator, whether it be in the creation of “archives, tools, or new digital methods” (to aid in the work of humanities scholarship). However, this definition has been complicated by scholars in the field who claim that the definition should expand to include those who interpret.

Fitzpatrick calls this tension the “theory-practice divide;” it exists obviously in most humanities disciplines and is manifested in cleared divided rolls such as the literary scholar and the novelist. However, in disciplines such as the media arts, after years of tension between makers and scholars, the divide is beginning to close and “an increasing number of programs are bringing the two modes together in a rigorously theorized practice.” In a dramatic and controversial sentence, Fitzpatrick claims this melding is proving that the differences in the practices is arbitrary and that in fact “the best scholarship is always creative, and the best production is always critically aware.” Thus, a connection between the analytical and the creative could expand the digital humanities study in effective ways.

This argument alone is enough to convince digital humanists that the gap should be bridged. To me, as a student of interdisciplinary humanities it seems obvious that criticism and practice go hand in hand. Movies such as Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” succeed with significant assistance from the auteur’s knowledge of film theory and cultural awareness (the shower montage, with its iconic music, suggestive imagery, rapid jump cuts and extreme plot suggests cinematic skill, a knowledge of film criticism, and audience recognition). In turn, the most intriguing scholarship is creative in its conclusions and often in style.

To take it a step further, through the lens of reader-response criticism, all analysis could be considered a new creation. Put simply, this theory suggests that meaning lies with the consumer rather than the creator; for example, in the case of a novel, the reader’s interpretation is favored over the intent of the author. Thus, by some scholars it is suggested the medium takes a new life each time it is consumed, changing with each individual’s perspectives and past experiences. Through this thinking, the act of analysis is an overt act of creation.

Thus, after reaching these conclusions, I would agree with both Stephen Ramsay and Kathleen Fitzpatrick: I believe Digital Humanities should be defined by creation, however, it is only if the definition of creation includes digital theory.

A Hello Kitty! Lighter: Patterns Between People and Their Objects

The phrase “pattern recognition” haunts William Gibson’s novel of the same name. Placed with regularity within the protagonist (Cayce)’s inner-dialogue, the frequent nod to the novel’s ambiguous theme seems to indicate an interconnectedness between seemingly trivial details locked within Gibson’s dense physicality. An on-the-surface read could lead to an assumption that the repetitious phrase indicates the attention to detail needed by Cayce to solve the international “who done it” puzzle (that is, who produced the overwhelmingly captivating video footage). Or perhaps “pattern recognition” plays homage to the genius hidden behind the pattern-filled 135 video clips, linking them together in ways footageheads debate for hours.

I interpret that it might have something to do with the relationships between people and their objects.

Reading through Cayce’s awkwardly tense interaction with Taki, I underlined the phrase “a Hello Kitty! lighter,” initially unsure of any significance. For context, Taki uses this lighter in the middle of their conversation, after he mentions that “Keiko is body-con.” The exactness of the description immediately flung my mind to my vivid imagery produced by Cayce’s wandering through “Hello Kitty!” advertising earlier that day. I believe it was this intense visual reaction coupled with the irony of the image (it seemed odd that something so girly and childish be flaunted on something used to light cigarettes) that compelled me to underline the otherwise arbitrary phrase. However, only sentences after the small reference, Cayce mentions that she feels as though “the lighter has followed her here from Kiddyland, a spy for the Hello Kitty! mind group,” indicating that Cayce was also struck but the visual repetition, and is trying to make some sense of the connection. There is something significant in the lighter, whether it connects Taki to Tokyo, or Taki to Cayce, or links all three in a surreal deja vu moment. Whatever the connection, the Hello Kitty! lighter indicates a connection between the physical world with the psychological.

Simplistically, the Hello Kitty! lighter seems to suggest a relationship between person, object, and location. The moment Taki reveals the lighter from his pocket, he is becomes undoubtedly Japanese; since its creation by Yuko Shimizu in 1974, the symbol of the bright pink anime cat has come to signify Japanese commercialism and entertainment across the world. Immediately, Taki’s ownership of the lighter identifies him as not only a citizen of his home country, but also a consumer of its culture. Thus, he is marked, and the small item he has chosen to possess defines him and connects him with a specific location, whether subconsciously or consciously in the minds of others.

However, there is something more complicated going on. As soon as Cayce identifies the object, an abundance of images and experiences vibrate through her head. She is reminded of seeing thousands of these anime cats earlier that day, and is perhaps reminded of other times in her life when she might have interacted with the symbol of Hello Kitty! She makes judgements about the object, suspecting it to have followed her from Kiddyland, and perhaps makes judgements about Taki’s character. Thus, Cayce becomes connected to the Hello Kitty! lighter, to Taki, and to Tokyo and joins in the instantaneous relationship between person, object and location.

I think the complicated nature of this connection between humans and the objects they possess lies in the unspoken coincidences between the symbols we see and their connections to our previous experiences. For example, there appears to be a connection between the two different apparitions of Hello Kitty! images on the day Cayce met Taki. Does a pattern lie underneath the way we respond to others and the objects they possess? Is there a meaning behind Cayce’s double exposure to Hello Kitty! memorabilia? Or maybe we simply assume there is one because “homo sapiens are about pattern recognition:” we give meaning where there is none.

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