sketching ivanhoe

The publication of Johanna Drucker’s new book, SpecLab: Digital Aesthetics and Projects in Speculative Computing, has sent me back to my notebook of drawings from our SpecLab and ARP days, the period from roughly 2000 – 2006 when, first as a grad student and then as a post-doc, I worked closely with Johanna and Jerry McGann on the lunatic fringe of digital humanities. (Jerry and I had gone down the rabbit hole some years earlier with the Rossetti Archive as well.)

These are a few of my sketches for the last iteration of the Ivanhoe Game, the one that’s still available for play. I must confess — as much as I loved the design process in all its stages — that I haven’t played a really good game of Ivanhoe since we moved away from the more prosy and simple interfaces of the Turn of the Screw game (undertaken when Geoffrey Rockwell was a visiting scholar at UVA and I wrote moves like this) and the Haruki Murakami / D. G. Rossetti games I played in the wee hours of the night with my first baby sleeping in my arms. (The Rossetti one, on Jenny, in which I imagined a company specializing in flesh-bot reproductions of Victoriana, was re-printed by Laura Mandell at Romantic Circles and in Jerome McGann’s Like Leaving the Nile.)

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hidden history

This letter — addressed to the wife of Confederate General William B. Taliaferro in October of 1863 — was found hidden away in a bit of architecture during the demolishment, some 20 years ago, of an old stagecoach inn on the Kanawha River in West Virginia. My grandfather, Vic Stallard, a history buff, recognized it for its interest and offered the finder a pretty good trade. He swapped an old outboard motor for this record of family life and friendship at the height of the Civil War, and of the reaction of Tidewater Virginia to Lincoln’s first Emancipation Proclamation, issued only a few weeks before.

What follows is a quick-and-dirty transcript and (for me) a few fun questions. Did Sallie Lyons Taliaferro ever receive this message from Mary C. Jackson Mann (wife of Rev. Charles Mann of Ware Church)? Why was it hidden on a mail route hundreds of miles away from sender and recipient? Now that we’ve re-discovered it in Gran’s dresser drawer and he has asked me to look into its preservation, to which of a couple of logical Special Collections libraries might we offer it? And is Mary Mann really calling the Yankees “pumpkin-heads” in her botantical meditation, below?

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teaching carnival 3.6

Teaching Carnival 3.6: End of Term

The roustabouts are hoisting the tents. There’s a whiff of funnel cake in the air. Step right up! as the latest issue of the Teaching Carnival rolls into town. But first: a definition and a common-sense reminder or two. Finally, a nod to our most recent hosts, Chuck Tryon and David Parry, and also to fellow 3.6 carny Jeremy Boggs of Clioweb.

Now, new and notable posts in higher ed:

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on hoardings

Mine isn’t the only new blog in town. If you are interested in 19th-century scholarship, particularly as it is practiced and disseminated online, you should subscribe to Andy Stauffer’s The Hoarding. Andy has recently taken over the directorship of NINES from Jerry McGann. NINES is a scholarly collective and software project I worked on for several years, and I remain on its executive council — so it’s near and dear to my heart. (And if you’re here from the library world, you might be interested to know that it, in the form of Collex, provided the seed for Project Blacklight, an open-source catalog interface now being implemented by UVA Library and Stanford, among others.)

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lorem ipsum dolor sit amet

Or, Geeking to the Greeking.

There’s probably not a better way to begin a blog like this, than with a healthy dose of Lorem Ipsum. It’s an essential tool for designers of page and screen, helping us to imagine how our spaces will appear when they are filled with “real” content — a kind of metasyntactic variable, at scale.

What fascinates me about “greeking” (so called) is its hidden textual history, tracked down a bit several years ago by a Latin scholar at a Virginia college, but still inadequately explored. Okay, it’s mangled Cicero, metastasizing everywhere since the advent of desktop publishing and the Web — but did it spring fully-formed from the head of a Letraset designer in the ’60s, as in the earliest examples we can find? Or will we yet locate an elusive Aldine specimen book, evidence of the first time a printer said, “I need some fake text” and grabbed what was to hand, started swapping it up?

Lorem Ipsum becomes an even bigger cypher for me: of the ways we use our textual inheritance; of how physical those impulses are and how little they have changed in the digital context; and of how much we still have to figure out.  It’s the digital humanities.  It’s my own Etaoin Shrdlu, but with less signal for the noise.

I’m hoping this blog will be a place where (with a greater measure of discipline than this post may suggest!) I can explore some connected concepts of textual criticism, spatial and temporal representation, scholarly communication, the relation of constraint to poetic production and interpretation, and — still fairly new to me — the ins and outs of higher ed administration in the context of digital humanities labs and academic research libraries.

In other words, lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Praesent accumsan, orci id placerat dignissim, purus massa euismod orci, id ultricies leo risus ut orci. Fusce vitae felis vitae augue iaculis suscipit.

Now, don’t get me started on widows and orphans.