Martin Paul Eve bio photo

Martin Paul Eve

Professor of Literature, Technology and Publishing at Birkbeck, University of London

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Rocking Chair
Image credit: El Waka; Licensed under Creative Commons Non-Commercial Share-alike

This is a post to announce the initial draft of a mission statement and implementation plans [PDF] for my Digital Humanities project, Rockaby.

Although the PDF version contains a far greater number of screenshots and so forth, here's an excerpt of the theoretical underpinnings section that attempts to outline my intentions:

Rockaby: What it is and theoretical underpinnings
If documents were self-explanatory, if meaning were transparent in all objects, academia would have perhaps reached the end of its teleological arc. In acknowledgement of this grail quest, Rockaby is an Open Source (GPL v3) Python/Django web application for producing three discrete tiers of textual analysis. The first tier is a synoptic entity, designed for public engagement and re-presentation of complex texts, be they fictional, historic or academic; a step towards clarity by, as Wittgenstein put it, side-by-side perspicuity. The second tier is a keyed index for textual concordance which allows for cumulative frequency, and binary (an item's presence), spatialised mapping of a “theme”, “character” or other entity within the document's chronology. The final tier is for interrelations, allowing a single Rockaby instance to communicate, via an Open API, with another and plot multiple instances' spatialisations against one another.

Each of these tiers fulfils a unique function. The first provides a public front and feedback layer, while mitigating the problems of authority inherent in Wikis. Foreseen usage includes creating a Rockaby instance as an alternative pedagogical course output, the creation of publicly available synopses of complex literary works and suggestions for further reading. The second links into the first by Regular Expression technology, allowing indexed terms to feature as hyperlinks in the synoptic text. Meanwhile, this tier also begins to interrogate the text in new terms; do certain themes, for instance, always coincide in a writer's work? Finally, the last tier extends this functionality to a trans-textual setting. In this tier, complex questions of literary similitude (for example: Melville's Moby Dick is often compared to Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow) can be, in an exciting new mode, spatially quantified. Does a specifically indexed theme, for instance, exhibit spatial similitude within two or more works and can this be used to explain hitherto “uncanny” resemblances between works?

The point at which we are content to let a text stand for itself varies from work to work. Rockaby probes, in the contradiction of its exegetical function standing against its rooted raison d'être of opacity, this limit. “till in the end / the day came/ in the end came / close of a long day / when she said / to herself / whom else /
time she stopped.”

Creative Commons License
Rockaby Mission Statement and Implementation Plans by Martin Paul Eve is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.