Open AccessFeature PaperArticle
A Case Study of I’ll Be Fine
Humanities 2017, 6(2), 25; doi:10.3390/h6020025 -
Abstract
This case study of I’ll Be Fine describes my creation of a passively interactive, “playable” movie for networked screens, and outlines reasons why this story is an instance of a new genre of storytelling that might be called “playable narrative”. Although the piece
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This case study of I’ll Be Fine describes my creation of a passively interactive, “playable” movie for networked screens, and outlines reasons why this story is an instance of a new genre of storytelling that might be called “playable narrative”. Although the piece is interactive, and while it seems to satisfy certain features of the activity of play, I’ll Be Fine does not offer opportunities for strategy, competition, or closure, and does not proceed towards goals or outcomes, but seeks to construct meaning cinematically, proceeding sequentially across planes or layers, and using a spatial design much like the cinematic compositional scheme of background, middle ground, and foreground. While a general model for the spatial construction of playable movies is outside the scope of this writing, the following description of my design concepts are meant to delineate certain aspects of working with spatiality and playability while constructing an interactive story. Full article
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Open AccessFeature PaperEssay
Action, Passion, Crises
Humanities 2017, 6(2), 24; doi:10.3390/h6020024 -
Abstract
The title of this speech is taken from a remark of the renowned Judge Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr: “When we were young our hearts were touched with fire...[and as]...life is action and passion, it is required of [one] that [one] should share the
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The title of this speech is taken from a remark of the renowned Judge Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr: “When we were young our hearts were touched with fire...[and as]...life is action and passion, it is required of [one] that [one] should share the passion and action of [one’s] time, at the peril of being judged not to have lived [...] Full article
Open AccessFeature PaperArticle
Literary Autozoographies: Contextualizing Species Life in German Animal Autobiography
Humanities 2017, 6(2), 23; doi:10.3390/h6020023 -
Abstract
What does it mean to take animal autobiography seriously and how can we account for the representation of life-narrating animals? The article investigates animal autobiographies as ‘literary autozoographies’, drawing attention to both the generic contexts and the epistemological premises of these texts. Adopting
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What does it mean to take animal autobiography seriously and how can we account for the representation of life-narrating animals? The article investigates animal autobiographies as ‘literary autozoographies’, drawing attention to both the generic contexts and the epistemological premises of these texts. Adopting a double-bind approach stemming from autobiographical research as well as cultural animal studies, the article focuses on early nineteenth-century equine autozoographies from the German-speaking tradition. These texts are discussed exemplarily in relation to the parameters of fictional autobiographies, before they are contextualized with historical discourses regarding horses in natural history and so-called ‘horse-science’. Due to the fact that the poetics and aesthetics of the genre are modeled on the templates of factual autobiographies, the article argues that literary autozoographies can be read as fictional autobiographies as well as meta-auto/biographical discourse undermining autobiographical conventions. Furthermore, it shows that literary autozoography and zoology share a common historical and ideological epistemology accounting for the representation of animals in both fields. Literary autozoographies thus participate in the negotiation and production of species-specific knowledge. Reading Life of the Mecklenburg Mare Amante (1804), Life of a Job Horse (1807) and Life of a Worn-Out Hack (1819) alongside equine-centric discourses around 1800, the article demonstrates in what ways these texts can be regarded as part of a regime of knowledge attributing emotions and cognitive capacities to horses, while simultaneously arguing for humane treatment on the basis of interspecies homologies. Full article
Open AccessFeature PaperArticle
“Modern Nature”: Derek Jarman’s Garden
Humanities 2017, 6(2), 22; doi:10.3390/h6020022 -
Abstract
The queer filmmaker, artist, activist, and gardener, Derek Jarman, when diagnosed with AIDS in 1986, turned to what may seem like an unlikely form of political and aesthetic expression. His eventually world-famous garden allowed him symbolically and aesthetically to address the political issues
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The queer filmmaker, artist, activist, and gardener, Derek Jarman, when diagnosed with AIDS in 1986, turned to what may seem like an unlikely form of political and aesthetic expression. His eventually world-famous garden allowed him symbolically and aesthetically to address the political issues with which he had always passionately concerned himself: environmental degradation, nuclear expansion, homophobia, consumer culture, and AIDS. Each of these issues entailed a crisis of political response in the late twentieth century, and in the garden, Jarman addresses this crisis on a number of levels, but always as elements of a terminal condition without any prospect of a “cure.” Using literary analysis to examine the garden and Jarman’s writing about it, in addition to a cultural studies perspective to place these topics in a broad context, this essay undertakes a study of the garden’s codes and effects. Consulting Sarah Ensor and Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, both of whom describe terminality as a temporality with its own powers and ways of being, I focus on Jarman’s efforts in what he acknowledges as a damaged, post-natural landscape. Rather than seeing crisis only as a moment of emergency, Jarman imagines other more reflective responses to crisis that, I argue, complement more interventionist approaches. Full article
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Open AccessFeature PaperArticle
Troubadours & Troublemakers: Stirring the Network in Transmission & Anti-Transmission
Humanities 2017, 6(2), 21; doi:10.3390/h6020021 -
Abstract
With reference to concepts developed in Trouble Songs: A Musicological Poetics, our objective is to locate trouble (and “trouble”) in and around song, while attending to media forms, transmission processes, and embodied figures that carry trouble through song. These figures include trouble singer,
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With reference to concepts developed in Trouble Songs: A Musicological Poetics, our objective is to locate trouble (and “trouble”) in and around song, while attending to media forms, transmission processes, and embodied figures that carry trouble through song. These figures include trouble singer, troubadour and DJ, where the latter combines the roles of media curator, Mixmaster and MC. An exploration of and through these interrelated figures serves to elaborate a theory of transmission and anti-transmission of trouble. In all cases we are concerned with the technology of trouble, as well as modes and techniques for its transmission. Full article
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Open AccessFeature PaperArticle
Animal Poetry and Empathy
Humanities 2017, 6(2), 18; doi:10.3390/h6020018 -
Abstract
This article discusses how our ideas of empathy are influenced by the dichotomy of mind versus body, also known as Cartesian dualism. Within the aesthetic field, this dichotomy is seen when researchers define narrative empathy as imaginatively reconstructing the fictional character’s thoughts and
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This article discusses how our ideas of empathy are influenced by the dichotomy of mind versus body, also known as Cartesian dualism. Within the aesthetic field, this dichotomy is seen when researchers define narrative empathy as imaginatively reconstructing the fictional character’s thoughts and feelings. Conversely, the empathy aroused by a non-narrative work of art is seen as an unconscious bodily mirroring of movements, postures or moods. Thinking dualistically does not only have consequences for what we consider human nature; it also affects our view on animals. To show the untenability of dualistic thinking, this article focuses on the animal poetry genre. Using the ideas of the French phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty, I analyze two animal poems: “Inventing a Horse” by Meghan O’Rourke and “Spermaceti” by Les Murray. The analysis of these two poems suggests that the presiding ideas about aesthetic empathy and empathy in general need re-evaluation. Full article
Open AccessArticle
Toward the Eco-Narrative: Rethinking the Role of Conflict in Storytelling
Humanities 2017, 6(2), 17; doi:10.3390/h6020017 -
Abstract
Offered as a response to the increasingly popular call within the eco-humanities for stories that will help humankind adapt to catastrophic planetary conditions, this article proposes “the eco-narrative”—an approach to storytelling that strives to compose with, not for, its nonhuman characters. An extension
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Offered as a response to the increasingly popular call within the eco-humanities for stories that will help humankind adapt to catastrophic planetary conditions, this article proposes “the eco-narrative”—an approach to storytelling that strives to compose with, not for, its nonhuman characters. An extension of eco-critical projects that analyze stories for their depictions of nonhumanity, the theoretical research herein brings ecological analysis of narrative to the level of structure. In particular, it problematizes the dominant plot model of conflict/climax/resolution, suggesting that stories motivated by conflict reinforce dualistic and anthropocentric habits for approaching the animal other. Evaluating two narratives concerning the human practice of killing animals—the Pew Commission’s report on Industrial Farm Animal Production and Annette Watson and Orville H. Huntington’s “They’re here—I can feel them”—the article observes how the former’s efforts at animal rights advocacy are undermined by its very storytelling framework. Celebrating the latter story’s more playful approach to narrative instead, the article ultimately suggests that a theory of “infinite play,” as developed by James P. Carse, can be used to re-envision the dominant plot model. A template for cooperation in the absence of known outcome, infinite play thus becomes the basis for the eco-narrative—a storytelling framework flexible enough to cocreate with nonhumanity, even during an environmental moment characterized by crisis. Full article
Open AccessFeature PaperArticle
Narrative Transformed: The Fragments around Franz Kafka’s “A Report to an Academy”
Humanities 2017, 6(2), 19; doi:10.3390/h6020019 -
Abstract
Franz Kafka’s “A Report to an Academy”, in which the ape-turned-human Rotpeter provides a narrative account of his life, has been scrutinized with regard to its allegorical, scientific, and historical implications. This article shifts the focus toward the narrative set-up by closely reading
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Franz Kafka’s “A Report to an Academy”, in which the ape-turned-human Rotpeter provides a narrative account of his life, has been scrutinized with regard to its allegorical, scientific, and historical implications. This article shifts the focus toward the narrative set-up by closely reading the transformation that can be traced in the sequence of several narrative attempts found in Kafka’s manuscripts. Analyzing the fragments around this topic, I show how Kafka probes different angles—from a meeting between a first-person narrator and Rotpeter’s impresario and a dialogue between the narrator and Rotpeter, via the well-known “Report” itself, on to a letter by one of Rotpeter’s former teachers—that reveal a narrative transformation equally important as the metamorphosis from animal to human. The focus on the narrative constellations and on the lesser-known constitutive margins of the “Report” help to better understand, moreover, the complex relationship between immediacy and mediation, the ethnological concern of speech for the self and the unknown animal other, and poetological questions of production, representation, and reception. Full article
Open AccessFeature PaperArticle
Investing in College Education: Debtors, Bettors, Lenders, Brokers
Humanities 2017, 6(2), 20; doi:10.3390/h6020020 -
Abstract
Federal and private lenders have issued college student loans, now rising above $1.3 trillion nationwide and, to gain revenues for continued lending, sell them to securitizers who in turn bundle them into asset-backed securities. This paper argues that the magnitude of debt, high
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Federal and private lenders have issued college student loans, now rising above $1.3 trillion nationwide and, to gain revenues for continued lending, sell them to securitizers who in turn bundle them into asset-backed securities. This paper argues that the magnitude of debt, high rates of default and forgiveness, and uncertain long-term repayment by borrowers facing lackluster job opportunities replicate the techniques of neoliberal financialization (subprime mortgages, securitization, overstocked housing market) that triggered the 2008 economic meltdown. Full article
Open AccessFeature PaperArticle
Moving Beyond Retribution: Alternatives to Punishment in a Society Dominated by the School-to-Prison Pipeline
Humanities 2017, 6(2), 15; doi:10.3390/h6020015 -
Abstract
There is a growing national trend in which children and adolescents are funneled out of the public school system and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems—where students are treated as criminals in the schools themselves and are expected to fall into this
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There is a growing national trend in which children and adolescents are funneled out of the public school system and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems—where students are treated as criminals in the schools themselves and are expected to fall into this pattern rather than even attempt to seek opportunities to fulfill the ever elusive “American Dream”. There is a blatant injustice happening in our schools, places that ironically should be considered safe havens, places for knowledge, and means of escape for children who have already been failed by the system and sequestered to under-resourced, overcrowded, and over-surveilled inner cities. Focusing on the damage the public education system has caused and the ways in which policies and practices have effectively made the school-to-prison pipeline a likely trajectory for many Black and Latinx students, we hope to convey the urgency of this crisis and expose the ways in which our youth are stifled, repeatedly, by this form of systematic injustice. We will describe models of restorative justice practices—both within and beyond the classroom—and hope to convey how no matter how well intentioned, they are not adequate solutions to a phenomenon tied to neoliberal ideologies. Thus, we ultimately aim to exemplify how a feminist approach to education would radically restructure the system as we know it, truly creating a path out of this crisis. Full article
Open AccessFeature PaperArticle
Barking at Heaven’s Door: Pluto Mehra in the Hindi Film Dil Dhadakne Do
Humanities 2017, 6(2), 16; doi:10.3390/h6020016 -
Abstract
In this article, I discuss the representation of pets in the 2015 commercial Hindi comedy-drama (commonly known as Bollywood) Dil Dhadakne Do (DDD), which translates to Let the Heart Beat; this is the first ever case of a Hindi movie having a dog
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In this article, I discuss the representation of pets in the 2015 commercial Hindi comedy-drama (commonly known as Bollywood) Dil Dhadakne Do (DDD), which translates to Let the Heart Beat; this is the first ever case of a Hindi movie having a dog as a narrator. For centuries, Indian animal tales have had a habit of anthropomorphizing, but generally narratives about dogs uphold the basic prejudice that they are polluting and degraded animals. DDD introduces a dog named Pluto Mehra, not only as a pet, but as the fifth member of the Mehra family, with the role of the sutradhaar (storyteller, narrator) who recounts the story of a rich, dysfunctional family. Pluto knows the Mehras’ foibles and follies, and he is the only voice of reason among them. A generational shift in one’s outlook towards pets has taken place in the Indian middle classes: pets are no longer perceived as animals that must serve some purpose, but are actually considered to be equal members of the family, even becoming a statement of style for pet owners. I analyze this attitude reversal toward animals within the context of a globalized economy and consumerist ideology. Full article
Open AccessArticle
Identity, Power, and the California Welfare-Rights Struggle, 1963–1975
Humanities 2017, 6(2), 14; doi:10.3390/h6020014 -
Abstract
This article explores the work of welfare-rights activists in 1960s and 70s California. These activists were mostly working-class black and some white mothers, and the majority of them were themselves welfare recipients. As welfare recipients, women of color, and working-class people, they faced
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This article explores the work of welfare-rights activists in 1960s and 70s California. These activists were mostly working-class black and some white mothers, and the majority of them were themselves welfare recipients. As welfare recipients, women of color, and working-class people, they faced a wave of policies and ideologies that stigmatized them, policed their behavior, and made receiving benefits increasingly difficult. These policies were but one element of a larger political crisis, wherein the California government stoked racialized and gendered fears in order to shrink the welfare state. Rather than simply acquiesce to this reality, welfare-rights groups in California refused to accept it. Though scholars have studied welfare-rights groups in Washington, D.C., Nevada, New York, and other US states, almost no attention has been given to groups in California. In this article I use state legislation, newspaper articles, organizational records, and archived interviews to illustrate how California’s welfare-rights movement challenged anti-welfare policy and ideology. I argue that they did more than simply reject punitive legislation. They emphasized childcare, rebuked middle-class complacency, questioned the primacy of the nuclear family, and dismissed gender roles. In the process, they raised crucial, enduring questions about the nature of economic-justice organizing. Full article
Open AccessFeature PaperArticle
“I Do, I Don’t”: The Benefits and Perils of Legalizing Same-Sex Marriage in the United States—One Year Later
Humanities 2017, 6(2), 12; doi:10.3390/h6020012 -
Abstract
In 1970, a gay male couple applied for and was given a marriage license in Minnesota. The license was eventually rescinded by court order. Forty-five years later, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, limiting the
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In 1970, a gay male couple applied for and was given a marriage license in Minnesota. The license was eventually rescinded by court order. Forty-five years later, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, limiting the federal definition of marriage to consist of one man and one woman, was unconstitutional. The result was the legalization of same-sex marriage in the United States. The purpose of this article is to discuss the importance of establishing the right for same-sex couples to legally marry. It outlines the benefits and costs to LGBT communities one year after the establishment of same-sex marriage in the U.S. This paper explores the limits of utilizing a rights-based approach when advocating social change. The recommendation is for LGBT individuals, communities and allies to shift tactics to adopt a capabilities approach to organizing and mobilizing people, groups, and organizations around issues of injustice. A capabilities framework addresses the complexities of individual and community needs while providing a foundation for coalition building and lasting positive social change. Full article
Open AccessFeature PaperArticle
“And in That Moment I Leapt upon His Shoulder”: Non-Human Intradiegetic Narrators in The Wind on the Moon
Humanities 2017, 6(2), 13; doi:10.3390/h6020013 -
Abstract
Non-human narrators, by definition anthropomorphized, fill different functions in literature, and have different effects, not always positive for the species that is utilized, for example to voice a human political concern. However, many animal studies scholars agree that anthropomorphism, while inadequate, may be
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Non-human narrators, by definition anthropomorphized, fill different functions in literature, and have different effects, not always positive for the species that is utilized, for example to voice a human political concern. However, many animal studies scholars agree that anthropomorphism, while inadequate, may be the best way we have to get to know another species. Animal characters who tell their own, autobiographical, stories are particularly interesting in this regard. Eric Linklater’s children’s novel The Wind on the Moon (1944), raises posthumanist questions about human–animal differences, similarities and language, especially through its engagement of several non-human intradiegetic narrators. In a novel with surprisingly few other forms of characterization of the non-human characters, their own detailed narratives become a highly significant means of access to their species characteristics, their consciousness, and their needs. In an analysis of these embedded narratives using Genette’s theory of narrative levels and functions, as well as intersections of speech act theory and cognitive narratology, this article exposes an otherwise inaccessible dimension of characterization in Linklater’s novel. It argues that the embedded narratives, in contrast to crude anthropomorphism, are in fact what enables both a verbalization of the character narrators’ otherness, and a connection and comprehension between species. In other words, these non-human narratives constitute what might be called (with Garrard) examples of critical anthropomorphism. Full article
Open AccessFeature PaperEssay
Writing Language: Composition, the Academy, and Work
Humanities 2017, 6(2), 11; doi:10.3390/h6020011 -
Abstract
This paper argues that while college composition courses are commonly charged with remediating students by providing them with the literacy skills they lack, they may instead be redefined as providing the occasion for rewriting language and knowledge. By bringing to the fore the
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This paper argues that while college composition courses are commonly charged with remediating students by providing them with the literacy skills they lack, they may instead be redefined as providing the occasion for rewriting language and knowledge. By bringing to the fore the dependence of language and knowledge on the labor of writing, a pedagogy of recursion, mediation, and translation of knowledge through writing and revision counters neoliberalism’s commodification of knowledge and language, and offers an alternative justification for continuing education as the occasion for students to remediate language and knowledge through writing. Full article
Open AccessArticle
“How to Pronounce Meme.” Three YouTube Channels
Humanities 2017, 6(1), 10; doi:10.3390/h6010010 -
Abstract
Internet anomalies produce data and images beyond any authorship or source. They seem to compute and display the depths and potentials of the net “as such.” Explanations and theories surround and attempt to account for anomalies, from ARGs to NSA recruiting tools. Examining
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Internet anomalies produce data and images beyond any authorship or source. They seem to compute and display the depths and potentials of the net “as such.” Explanations and theories surround and attempt to account for anomalies, from ARGs to NSA recruiting tools. Examining three such anomalous YouTube channels, this essay does not propose a solution but rather maintains the anomalous as the constituent aesthetic and community of the net. Full article
Open AccessArticle
The New Commodity: Technicity and Poetic Form
Humanities 2017, 6(1), 9; doi:10.3390/h6010009 -
Abstract
One of the key strands of early thinking by the Language Poets, notably Charles Bernstein, Bruce Andrews and Steve McCaffery, was that the poem—particularly the mainstream, American lyric in thrall to the Imagist tradition—should be understood as partaking in the commodity system, either
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One of the key strands of early thinking by the Language Poets, notably Charles Bernstein, Bruce Andrews and Steve McCaffery, was that the poem—particularly the mainstream, American lyric in thrall to the Imagist tradition—should be understood as partaking in the commodity system, either in its capacity of presenting the world itself as consumable or as a commodity itself. Strategies to retool the poem included an exaggerated de-naturalization of language (akin to Brecht’s Verfremdung Effekt), the permanent deferral of epiphany as “pay off” (i.e., writing as ongoing phenomenological investigation), and, most extremely, the poem as engaged in a “general” as opposed to a “closed” economy—as pure expenditure, linguistic waste, in George Bataille’s sense. These practices, however, while they might have, in theory, “de-commodified” the poem (the evidence weighs against it, but it’s quite impossible to prove), have nonetheless confirmed the centrality of the early notion by William Carlos Williams that a poem is a “machine,” an autonomous producer of meanings, and to that extent an object. The French philosopher Gilbert Simondon argues in his theory of technicity that something human lies at the heart of the technical object and that its technical essence, like any player in the Darwinian evolution, has its own evolutionary journey through time. In Bernard Stiegler’s succinct formulation, “[a]s a ‘process of exteriorization,’ technics is the pursuit of life by means other than life.” This confluence of ideas suggests a possibility: that the technical elements of poems—what might have formerly been understood as stylistic tics, characteristic methods, visual and prosodic features—are themselves engaged in a quest for “life,” and that poems are in fact always already objects, existing outside of the system of commodities if only by virtue of obtaining an ontological status both: (1) irreducible to an over-determined system of exchanges (an unreachable “essence” in Graham Harman’s “object-oriented ontology”), and (2) autonomous from the life, actions and intentions of the poem him/herself. To that degree, the focus of early Language poetry on configuring the poem against the system of commodities overstepped its reach by attempting to “de-objectify” the poem, to dissolve it among systems of relation. Poems are less human to the degree that they are not proxies for the poet him/herself or total subjects to the “social,” but more human to the degree that they contain—as a steam engine, a diode or a Swiss watch—a technical essence. Full article
Open AccessArticle
Reconfiguration: Symbolic Image and Language Art
Humanities 2017, 6(1), 8; doi:10.3390/h6010008 -
Abstract
‘Reconfiguration: Symbolic Image and Language Art’ proposes an analytic and theoretical framework for computational aesthetic practices in terms of ‘reconfiguration’ and its derivatives, ‘reconfigurationism’ and ‘reconfigurationist’. Digitization of the media of aesthetic practices has rendered these practices subject to software architectures derived from
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‘Reconfiguration: Symbolic Image and Language Art’ proposes an analytic and theoretical framework for computational aesthetic practices in terms of ‘reconfiguration’ and its derivatives, ‘reconfigurationism’ and ‘reconfigurationist’. Digitization of the media of aesthetic practices has rendered these practices subject to software architectures derived from computational applications that, for the most part, have had little regard for aesthetics as such. The ‘images’ of contemporary aesthetic practices are often ‘symbolic images’ in the terms of the essay. They are co-produced by networked computation and digitized—symbolized—representations of media, all within new formations of (‘Big’) software architectures that are, typically, beyond the artists’ generative, poetic control. Aesthetic practice is configured by software and digitalization. To bring art and aesthetics back into a generative relation with this potentially constrictive not to say totalizing situation, artists must reconfigure. This is an intervention that computation traditionally and productively allows, even in the era of Big Software. Reconfigurationism is demonstrated, specifically, in the field of language art and is also proposed as a poetics, characteristic of a wide range of contemporary aesthetic practice in all media where computation is at play. ‘Reconfiguration’ and ‘reconfigurationism’ distinguishes itself from theories of a ‘New Aesthetic’ and pretends a more insightful and critically generative analysis. The essay’s ‘symbolic image’ bears a relation to Vilém Flusser’s ‘technical image’ but has a clearer relation both to language and to computation, since Flusser’s term is overweening with regard to (the end of the history of) language and overdetermined by its links to apparatus as opposed to the generalized abstractions of computation. Full article
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Open AccessEditorial
Introduction: Race, Politics, and the Humanities in an Age of “Posts”—Rethinking the Human/Race
Humanities 2017, 6(1), 5; doi:10.3390/h6010005 -
Abstract This Special Issue of Humanities comes at a time when the viability of the humanities are challenged on numerous fronts. [...] Full article
Open AccessArticle
IBM Poetry: Exploring Restriction in Computer Poems
Humanities 2017, 6(1), 7; doi:10.3390/h6010007 -
Abstract
In the 1960s, many years prior to the advent of personal computers and mainstream cultural accessibility to them, Emmett Williams devised a method that he felt reflected the expressive potential of algorithmic processes within a printed page’s confines. Williams’ “IBM” method serves as
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In the 1960s, many years prior to the advent of personal computers and mainstream cultural accessibility to them, Emmett Williams devised a method that he felt reflected the expressive potential of algorithmic processes within a printed page’s confines. Williams’ “IBM” method serves as a “muse’s assistant,” in which a user-contrived vocabulary is employed to construct poems in which letters of words in one line are used to create subsequent lines. This article introduces the imposed conditions of Williams’ invention, comparing and placing them within a range of digital writings that appear during subsequent decades. Full article
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