[-empyre-] visualization as the new language of theory

Simon Biggs s.biggs at eca.ac.uk
Fri Feb 5 19:08:36 EST 2010

Hi Greg

The last line of your post reveals where we differ. You describe the
availability of all (or at least many) of our books (whose books?) as an
³information sublime². I could go into a critique here of the sublime, but
that isn¹t where the primary difference in our positions is found. It is
your use of the word ³information², in this context, that I find

I understand a text (of which a book is an instance) to exist at the point
of its being read. I agree with the Derridean assertion that a text exists
as an activity, in the process of interpretation. Yes, information can sit
on the pages of a book lost on a library shelf waiting to be found or in a
forgotten directory on a hard drive (putting aside the idea that the
library, computer or network are also all potential texts) but it is in
their reading that such information becomes text. However, not all
information is text (although some have argued for and revelled in the
literary merits of such indexical systems, myself included).

Data-mining is one thing, reading another. I have made a number of automatic
reading systems (systems that make and then read texts). I didn¹t do this
because I thought the algorithm involved was actually reading. It didn¹t
enter my mind for a second that a computer programme might be able to
apprehend things. Of course not. The computer programme processed the data
according to a moderately complex set of rules (grammatic, semantic,
semiotic) and in the process exhibited a behaviour that slightly resembled
reading. It was, however, very obviously not reading. It is in this failed
mimicry that I find the beauty and motivation to make such work.

The idea of data-mining is to me of the same ilk. It is a quotidian process
that might reveal unexpected (and potentially valuable) patterns in data
which we might treat as texts we can read and in the process come to
apprehend something. But to confuse the reading with the data-mining is, in
my view, dangerous. It reduces both the reader and the text to data and
information rather than meaning and becoming. Lev¹s (interesting) piece
implicitly did that.



Simon Biggs

s.biggs at eca.ac.uk
simon at littlepig.org.uk
Skype: simonbiggsuk

edinburgh college of art

Creative Interdisciplinary Research into CoLlaborative Environments

Electronic Literature as a Model of Creativity and Innovation in Practice

From: Gregory Ulmer <glue at ufl.edu>
Reply-To: soft_skinned_space <empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au>
Date: Thu, 4 Feb 2010 13:36:35 -0500
To: soft_skinned_space <empyre at gamera.cofa.unsw.edu.au>, Gregory Ulmer
<glue at ufl.edu>
Subject: Re: [-empyre-] visualization as the new language of theory

Simon Biggs wrote:
> Hi Sean
> I am aware of the examples you give ­ but that was not the sort of
> thing I meant when suggesting some form of data analysis of a text. I
> was thinking more about how you could mash-up discourse analysis,
> corpus linguistics and reader reception theory, on the one hand, and
> empirical linguistics and statistical semantic modelling, on the
> other. I imagine it would be a mess so was entertained by what a
> possible visualisation might resemble (a car crash?). If you look at
> http://hosted.simonbiggs.easynet.co.uk/installations/utter/index.htm
> you might see something like this. The point I was seeking to make is
> that it seems ambitious to apply quantitative analytical methods to
> the understanding of something as subjective, fugitive and motile as a
> text (or other cultural artefact).

  Ambitious, and necessary... Data analysis is an important aspect of
these threads (although my interest includes text).  Are you perhaps
stating precisely the challenge to data/text mining, to design or
develop a means of accessing this (connotative?) level of discourse?  I
am thinking for example of the Digging into Data Challenge
 ( I participated with a group that was not awarded one of the few
grants).  "What do you do with a million books?" (or umpteen million,
thinking of the Google digitizing project) ... or a million animations?
The challenge relates to my post in October about the possibility of
inventing an approach to Web Ontologies using poststructuralist
ontologies.  Lev's work is relevant here of course.  As the (more or
less) entire archive of books becomes available online via full text
search, we will be (are) in a condition of the information sublime.  Is
the unity between the animation question and text mining found at the
level of database design or Web Ontologies (if all content is digital)?
  Learning much...
  thanks everyone for the bibliographies


*Gregory L. Ulmer*
 University of Florida

empyre forum
empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au

Edinburgh College of Art (eca) is a charity registered in Scotland, number SC009201

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