This is a very nebulous proposal indeed, but lately I’ve been feeling a bit of a dearth in DH with regard to, oh, I don’t know, beauty. Inspiration. The kind of things you get from poetry and literature, right? Not that there’s always much emphasis on beauty in non-DH literary studies, either, of course, perhaps for good reason. I thought we might sit around and shoot the breeze about whether and how digital tools can or should provide interfaces to the aesthetic properties of literature. I’m thinking here primarily of originally analog literature (“Beauty is truth” etc.), but perhaps the folks who are studying e-literature are the ones who are addressing issues of aesthetics and technology. Or perhaps the critical code studies people (including especially those responsible for 10 Print) have a lock on it by getting into the larger cultural meaning as well as the aesthetics of code.
In proposing this, I’m thinking partly of a very interesting presentation I heard at the University of Kansas DH Forum by a poet and a scholar (Katharine Coles and Julie Lein) who are working with some technologists at Oxford to treat individual poems as “big data” and to create visualizations that would reveal their numinous nature. Basically, they reported failure (which I thought was awesome of them): they haven’t yet come up with a way of visualizing an individual poem’s gorgeous complexity. I wound up thinking that perhaps it simply isn’t possible. The abstract for their paper, “A World in a Grain of Sand,” is at kansas2012.thatcamp.org/big-data/ and their slides and a video of the presentation are at idrh.ku.edu/dh-forum-2012/.