Week 41: 24th – 30th June
The day of the transfer assessment was finally here. I’d written previously about the requirements and outcomes for the transfer process (in week 30), so I knew what to expect, but despite this (and reassurances from my supervisors that I’d done enough preparation) I was still pretty nervous. Thankfully, the assessment is generally quite friendly, as well as being a good opportunity to chat about your project with experts from your field. Three gruelling hours later, I passed without revisions and had plenty of new information to follow up.
As part of my transfer document, I’d submitted an essay about my research so far, a training plan, images of my work, and a number of online links. However, the work that the assessors seemed most interested in was this blog documenting my PhD process. Although I’ve found it a useful addition to my practice, I didn’t realise how much of a central factor it could be in my research, and it was encouraging to receive such a positive response to my efforts. In fact, the process of live publishing my PhD links directly to the idea of an artist publishing practice, creating stronger links between the theoretical and practical elements of my research and creating a more ’embodied’ text (where the format of the text reflects the content).
In particular, the emerging field of Digital Humanities is one that seems to particularly reflect my interests, and is also currently championed by the book artist and academic, Johanna Drucker. Her collaboratively written book on the topic begins by setting out the parameters for digital humanism.
‘Digital Humanities asks what it means to be a human being in the networked information age and to participate in fluid communities of practice, asking and answering research questions that cannot be reduced to a single genre, medium, discipline, or institution. Digital Humanities represents a major expansion of the purview of the humanities, precisely because it brings the values, representational and interpretive practices, meaning-making strategies, complexities, and ambiguities of being human into every realm of experience and knowledge of the world. It is a global, trans-historical, and transmedia approach to knowledge and meaning-making.’
This equates to asking how networked technologies enhance the possibilities for the production, interpretation and distribution of cultural products. Within this also exists the ethical question of processing and curating vast swathes of data including personal stories and experiences, otherwise referred to as the difference between close and distant reading.
These kinds of enquiries open up new possibilities for my project, not only from a philosophical standpoint, through the use of the rhizome, but also in considering non-modern readings of the object through the application of network theory to material culture. In other words, the network as a contemporary computational device merely expresses a pre-modern way of seeing and understanding, whereby objects are context specific and reflect the relationships around them. In practical terms, this knowledge also enables me to comfortably connect my online and offline research activities under the heading of Digital Humanities in order to explore these networks through curatorial installations and digital archives.