Digital Humanities Projects
— by Robert W. Williams
This page is updated for 1 February 2019: Section 3.2.3. was added with internal links to my academic presentations on digital humanities.
The General Purpose of the Retextualizer Project
Retextualizer is a browser-based application for digital humanities (DH) research that is designed to facilitate new interpretations of a text, specifically by disassembling texts into meaningful components (here sentences), and then reassembling the components into different configurations, whether in reverse order or in random arrangements.
Retextualizer rearranges the original essay by juxtaposing sentences—perhaps jarringly—that were not initially so positioned; it thereby can provide the conditions for new insights into the text, its ideas, and its themes.
Each Retextualizer web page repeats the project's general purpose, as well as the instructions, which also can be read below. In addition, each project page will contain further information relevant to that specific essay.
Retextualizing the Works of W.E.B. Du Bois
"Apologia", Suppression of the African Slave-Trade [SSTA](1954)
"Postscript", The Ordeal of Mansart [PSOM](1957)
The Project Goals of Retextualizer
Digital Humanities Research:
Texts can be read in sequence as created and/or presented, publicly or otherwise. With computers, we can digitally interact with such works. In their written forms as typescripts or manuscripts texts can be digitized and then can be (re-)analyzed and (re-)interpreted via computer software. Section 6 below lists online resources that cover various dimensions of the digital humanities. Many more resources can be located via Internet searches.
The digital manipulation of texts includes deformance, as Jerome McGann and Lisa Samuels called it in "Deformance and Interpretation" [New Literary History, 30:1 (1999): 25-56; Accessible online].
Literary works have unstable meanings, McGann and Samuels argued, and discussed several methods to use on literary texts, typically poems, including a reversal of the poem's lines.
Such techniques of deformation have received support, such as:
Cohen, Matt. 2006. "Trangenic Deformation: Literary Translation and the Digital Archive." Walt Whitman Archive [Website]. Online.
Sample, Mark. 2012. "Notes towards a Deformed Humanities." Samplereality [Blog], (Posted May 2). Online.
Criticisms of literary deformance have been put forward:
Hoover, David L. 2005. "Hot-Air Textuality: Literature after Jerome McGann." TEXT Technology, 14:2. Online (PDF).
Hoover, David L. 2007. "The End of the Irrelevant Text: Electronic Texts, Linguistics, and Literary Theory." Digital Humanities Quarterly, 1:2. Online.
Robert W. Williams's Research:
The current Retextualizer application builds on a previous version which had no copying, viewing, or sentence-numbering features. I initially coded the basic randomizing and display functions in May 1999 as a way to create and present randomized versions of essays by Immanuel Kant and Walter Benjamin.
Since that first version, digital humanities research has come to influence my scholarship, most notably by means of computer applications, such as concordancers and collation software. Those digital tools help me to understand how Du Bois paired words and phrases within their contexts, and also to illustrate how he re-used and modified text in different works over time. The Retextualizer project continues this avenue of my research.
I have created several hypertext presentations on issues related to DH. [This subsection was posted for the 1 February 2019 update.]
"The Intertextuality of Du Bois's Idea of Humanity: A Collation Analysis": The African American Studies and Research Center at Purdue University hosted the 30th Symposium on African American Culture and Philosophy on 1-3 December 2016. The symposium theme was "Exploring the 'Humanity' in the Digital Humanities".
"Algorithmic Displacement and the Black Atlantic: Retextualizing the 'Souls' Essay by W.E.B. Du Bois": I presented this at the 2018 African American Digital Humanities Conference, held at the University of Maryland, College Park, on 20 October 2018. I covered the use of the Retextualizer application on the SBFI essay.
Digital Humanities: Online Resources
Bailey, Moya Z. 2011. "All the Digital Humanists Are White, All the Nerds Are Men, but Some of Us Are Brave." Journal of Digital Humanities, 1:1 (Winter). Online at JDH.
Drucker, Johanna. 2012. "Humanities Theory and Digital Scholarship." In Debates in the Digital Humanities, 2012 Ed., edited by Matthew K. Gold and Lauren F. Klein. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. URL: http://dhdebates.gc.cuny.edu/debates/text/34
Drucker, Johanna. 2012. "Representation and the Digital Environment: Essential Challenges for Humanists." Posted at the University of Minnesota Press blog, 16 May 2012. URL: http://uminnpressblog.com/2012/05/representation-and-digital-environment.html
Gallon, Kim. 2016. "Making a Case for the Black Digital Humanities." In Debates in the Digital Humanities, 2016 Ed., edited by Matthew K. Gold and Lauren F. Klein. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. URL: http://dhdebates.gc.cuny.edu/debates/text/55
Gold, Matthew K. & Lauren F. Klein (Eds.). 2016. Debates in the Digital Humanities, 2016 Ed. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. URL: http://dhdebates.gc.cuny.edu/debates?id=2.
Kim, Dorothy & Jesse Stommel (Eds.). N.D. Disrupting the Digital Humanities. URL: www.disruptingdh.com/position-papers/
Liu, Allan. 2013. "The Meaning of the Digital Humanities." PMLA: Proceedings of the Modern Language Association, 128:2; pp.409-423. URL: http://escholarship.org/uc/item/5gc857tw.
Nowviskie, Bethany. 2016. "On the Origin of 'Hack' and 'Yack.'" In Debates in the Digital Humanities, 2016 Ed., edited by Matthew K. Gold and Lauren F. Klein. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. URL: http://dhdebates.gc.cuny.edu/debates/text/58
Price, Kenneth M. & Ray Siemens. 2013-2015. Literary Studies in the Digital Age: An Evolving Anthology. URL: https://dlsanthology.mla.hcommons.org/.
Risam, Roopika. 2015. "Beyond the Margins: Intersectionality and the Digital Humanities." Digital Humanities Quarterly, 9:2. Online at DHQ.