Category Archives: Uncategorized

Workshop for Digital Humanities (MMU)

The following are for the MMU.

The Digital Shakespeare project  website is located at Delighted Beauty and some of the visualisations generated by Stephan Thiel are on Understanding Shakespeare.

The Digital Humanities data is available on this website.

The Gephi Link is here for visualisations of social networks etc..

 

Sample Raw Text Version

<b 001170 English Shakespeare Gutenberg Cheesman> 

Othello: Her father loved me, oft invited me,
Still questioned me the story of my life,
From year to year: the battles, sieges, fortunes
That I have passed.
I ran it through, even from my boyish days,
To the very moment that he bade me tell it;
Wherein I spake of most disastrous chances,
Of moving accidents by flood and field
Of hair-breadth scapes i' the imminent deadly breach,
Of being taken by the insolent foe
And sold to slavery; of my redemption thence
And portance in my travels' history;
Wherein of antres vast and deserts idle,
Rough quarries, rocks and hills whose heads touch heaven
It was my hint to speak ñ such was my process -
And of the Cannibals that each other eat,
The Anthropophagi and men whose heads
Do grow beneath their shoulders. This to hear
Would Desdemona seriously incline;
But still the house-affairs would draw her thence,
Which ever as she could with haste dispatch,
She'd come again, and with a greedy ear
Devour up my discourse; which I observing,
Took once a pliant hour, and found good means
To draw from her a prayer of earnest heart
That I would all my pilgrimage dilate,
Whereof by parcels she had something heard,
But not intentively. I did consent,
And often did beguile her of her tears,
When I did speak of some distressful stroke
That my youth suffered. My story being done,
She gave me for my pains a world of sighs:
She swore, in faith, 'twas strange, 'twas passing strange,
'Twas pitiful, 'twas wondrous pitiful!
She wished she had not heard it, yet she wished
That heaven had made her such a man; she thanked me,
And bade me, if I had a friend that loved her,
I should but teach him how to tell my story
And that would woo her. Upon this hint I spake.
She loved me for the dangers I had passed,
And I loved her that she did pity them.
This only is the witchcraft I have used:
Here comes the lady; let her witness it.

TEI Lite (XML) version

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<!--              b001170 German 0020 Swaczynna 1972 no tags.xml              --!>
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<teiHeader>
  <fileDesc>
    <titleStmt>
      <title>Othello</title>
      <author>Shakespeare,William</author>
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      <publisher></publisher>
      <pubPlace></pubPlace>
      <date></date>
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        <title>Othello</title>
        <author>Swaczynna</author>
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        <date>1972</date>
        <lang>de</lang>
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  <div type="act" n="1">
    <div type="scene" n="3">
		<sp who="Othello"><speaker><hi rend="i">Othello</hi></speaker>
		<l n="1" part="Y">Ihr Vater liebte mich, lud mich oft ein,</l>
		<l n="2" part="Y">fragte stets nach der Chronik meines Lebens,</l>
		<l n="3" part="Y">von Jahr zu Jahr; nach Schlachten, Stürmen, Schicksalen</l>
		<l n="4" part="Y">die ich erlebt -</l>
		<l n="5" part="Y">ich lief es durch, von Knabentagen an,</l>
		<l n="6" part="Y">bis zu dem Augenblick da er mich fragte.</l>
		<l n="7" part="Y">Sprach von bedrohlichen Ereignissen,</l>
		<l n="8" part="Y">von schrecklicher Gefahr zu See und Land;</l>
		<l n="9" part="Y">wie Mauerbruch ums Haar mich tötete;</l>
		<l n="10" part="Y">wie mich der Feind höhnisch gefangennahm -</l>
		<l n="11" part="Y">als Sklaven mich verkaufte, wie ich die Freiheit fand,</l>
		<l n="12" part="Y">und wies so ging im Laufe meiner Reisen;</l>
		<l n="13" part="Y">wobei von weiten Höhlen, öden Wüsten,</l>
		<l n="14" part="Y">Felsklippen, Bergen, die den Himmel streifen,</l>
		<l n="15" part="Y">vielfach die Rede war, so ging ich vor -</l>
		<l n="16" part="Y">von Kannibalen, die einander fressen;</l>
		<l n="17" part="Y">Antropophagen, und Menschen deren Kopf</l>
		<l n="18" part="Y">unter den Schultern wächst - all dies zu hören,</l>
		<l n="19" part="Y">war Desdemona mit viel Ernst bestrebt;</l>
		<l n="20" part="Y">doch immer zog die Hausarbeit sie fort,</l>
		<l n="21" part="Y">und wenn sie die in Eile ausgeführt,</l>
		<l n="22" part="Y">kam sie zurück, und schlang mit gierigem Ohr</l>
		<l n="23" part="Y">was ich erzählte; ich bemerkte das,</l>
		<l n="24" part="Y">und nutzte einmal eine gute Stunde,</l>
		<l n="25" part="Y">wo mir gelang dass sie mich herzlich bat,</l>
		<l n="26" part="Y">ihr meine ganze Pilgerfahrt zu schildern,</l>
		<l n="27" part="Y">die sie in Teilen schon vernommen hatte,</l>
		<l n="28" part="Y">aber nicht voll bewusst, ich stimmte zu,</l>
		<l n="29" part="Y">und oft verleitete ich sie zu Tränen,</l>
		<l n="30" part="Y">wenn ich von manchem schweren Schlag erzählte</l>
		<l n="31" part="Y">der meine Jugend traf - war ich zu Ende,</l>
		<l n="32" part="Y">gab sie mir für mein Leiden tausend Seufzer;</l>
		<l n="33" part="Y">schwor Wirklich es sei seltsam, äußerst seltsam;</l>
		<l n="34" part="Y">es sei erschütternd, wundersam erschütternd;</l>
		<l n="35" part="Y">wünschte sie hätt es nicht gehört, doch wünschte</l>
		<l n="36" part="Y">sie wäre solch ein Mann - sie dankte mir,</l>
		<l n="37" part="Y">und bat mich, wenn ein Freund von mir sie liebe,</l>
		<l n="38" part="Y">sollt er ihr nur mein Leben nacherzählen,</l>
		<l n="39" part="Y">das würde sie gewinnen. Auf diesen Wink hin sprach ich -</l>
		<l n="40" part="Y">sie liebte mich weil ich Gefahr erlitt,</l>
		<l n="41" part="Y">ich liebte sie für dies ihr Mitgefühl.</l>
		<l n="42" part="Y">Das ist die Hexerei die ich gebraucht -</l>
		<l n="43" part="Y">hier kommt das Fräulein, lasst sie es bezeugen.</l>
		</sp>
		</div>
      </div>
    </body>
  </text>
</TEI.2>

Text tools (in order of complexity):

  1. Wordle: http://www.wordle.net/
  2. Google ngrams: http://ngrams.googlelabs.com/
  3. Tapor: http://portal.tapor.ca/portal/portal (automatically uses Glasgow stop words)
  4. ManyEyes (IBM): http://www-958.ibm.com/software/data/cognos/manyeyes/

Image Analysis

(Manovich 2011, Imageplot of Mondrian 1905_1917)

ImagePlot visualization software: http://lab.softwarestudies.com/p/imageplot.html

ImagePlot is a free software tool that visualizes collections of images and video of any size. It is implemented as a macro which works with the open source image processing program ImageJ.

ImagePlot was developed by the Software Studies Initiative with support from the National Endowment for Humanities (NEH), the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2), and the Center for Research in Computing and the Arts (CRCA).

New Aesthetic Argumentum Ad Hominem

Papercraft Self Portrait – 2009 (Testroete)

One of the most frustrating contemporary ways to attack any new idea, practice or moment is to label it as “buzz-worthy” or an “internet meme”. The weakness of this attack should be obvious, but strangely it has become a powerful way to dismiss things without applying any any critical thought to the content of the object of discussion. In other words it is argumentation petitio principii, where the form of the argument is “the internet meme, the new aesthetic, should be ignored because it is an internet meme”. Or even, in some forms, an argumentum ad hominem, where the attack is aimed at James Bridle (as the originator of the term) rather than the new aesthetic itself. Equally, the attacks may also be combined.

I think the whole ‘internet meme’, ‘buzz’, ‘promotional strategy’ angle on the new aesthetic is indicative of a wider set of worries in relation to a new scepticism, as it were (related also to the skepticism movement too, possibly). We see it on Twitter where the medium of communication seems to encourage a kind of mass scepticism, where everyone makes the same point simultaneous that the other side is blindly following, a ‘fanboy’, irrational, suspect, or somehow beholden to a dark power to close, restrict or tighten individual freedoms – of course, the ‘I’ is smart enough to reject the illusion and unmask the hidden forces. This is also, I think, a worry of being caught out, being laughed at, or distracted by (yet) another internet fad. I also worry that the new aesthetic ‘internet meme’ criticism is particularly ad hominem, usually aimed, as it is, towards its birth within the creative industries. I think we really need to move on from this level of scepticism and be more dialectical in our attitude towards the possibilities in, and suggested by, the new aesthetic. This is where critical theory can be a valuable contributor to the debate.

For example, part of the new aesthetic, is a form of cultural practice which is related to a postmodern and fundamentally paranoid vision of being watched, observed, coded, processed or formatted. I find particularly fascinating the aesthetic dimension to this, in as much as the representational practices are often (but not always) retro, and in some senses, tangential to the physical, cultural, or even computational processes actually associated with such technologies. This is both, I suppose, a distraction, in as much as it misses the target, if we assume that the real can ever be represented accurately (which I don’t), but also and more promisingly an aesthetic that remains firmly human mediated, contra to the claims of those who want to “see like machines”. That is, the new aesthetic is an aestheticization of computational technology and computational techniques more generally. It is also fascinating in terms of the refusal of the new aesthetic to abide by the careful boundary monitoring of art and the ‘creative industry’ more generally, really bringing to the fore the questions raised by Liu, for example, in The Laws of Cool. One might say that it follows the computational propensity towards dissolving of traditional boundaries and disciplinary borders.

I also find the new aesthetic important for it has an inbuilt potentiality towards critical reflexivity, both towards itself (does the new aesthetic exist?) but also towards both artistic practice (is this art?), curation (should this be in galleries?), and technology (what is technology?). There is also, I believe, an interesting utopian kernel to the new aesthetic, in terms of its visions and creations – what we might call the paradigmatic forms – which mark the crossing over of certain important boundaries, such as culture/nature, technology/human, economic/aesthetic and so on. Here I am thinking of the notion of augmented humanity, or humanity 2.0, for example. This criticality is manifested in the new aesthetic’s continual seeking to ‘open up’ black boxes of technology, to look at developments in science, technology and technique and to try to place them within histories and traditions – in the reemergence of social contradictions, for example. But even an autonomous new aesthetic, as it were, points towards the anonymous and universal political and cultural domination represented by computational techniques which are now deeply embedded in systems that we experience in all aspects of our lives. There is much to explore here.

Moroso pixelated sofa and nanimaquina rug, featured on Design Milk

The new aesthetic, of course, is as much symptomatic of a computational world as itself subject to the forces that drive that world. This means that it has every potential to be sold, standardised, and served up to the willing mass of consumers as any other neatly packaged product. Perhaps even more so, with its ease of distribution and reconfiguration within computational systems, such as Twitter and Tumblr. But it doesn’t have to be that way, and so far I have more hope that it even in its impoverished consumerized form, it still serves to serve notice of computational thinking and processes, which stand out then against other logics. This is certainly one of the interesting dimensions to the new aesthetic both in terms of the materiality of computationality, but also in terms of the need to understand the logics of postmodern capitalism, even ones as abstract as obscure computational systems of control.

For me, the very possibility of a self-defined new ‘aesthetic’ enables this potentiality – of course, there are no simple concepts as such, but the new aesthetic, for me, acts as a “bridge” (following Deleuze and Guattari for a moment). By claiming that it is new ‘aesthetic’ makes possible the conceptual resources associated with and materialised in practices, which may need to be “dusted off” and to be used as if they were, in a sense, autonomous (that is, even, uncritical). This decoupling of the concept (no matter that in actuality one might claim that no such decoupling could really have happened) potentially changes the nature of the performances that are facilitated or granted by the space opened within the constellation of concepts around the ‘new aesthetic’ (again, whatever that is) – in a sense this might also render components within the new aesthetic inseparable as the optic of the new aesthetic, like any medium, may change the nature of what can be seen. Again, this is not necessarily a bad thing though.

Glitch Textiles by Phillip David Stearns

Another way of putting it, perhaps, would be that a social ontology is made possible, which, within the terms of the the constellation of practices and concepts grounding it, is both distanced from and placed in opposition to existing and historical practices. Where this is interesting is that, so far, the new aesthetic, as a set of curatorial or collectionist practices, has been deeply recursive in its manifestation – both computational in structure (certainly something I am interested in about it) – and also strikingly visual (so far) – and here the possibility of an immanent critique central to the new aesthetic can be identified, I think. Of course, it is too early to say how far we can push this, especially with something as nascent as the new aesthetic, which is still very much a contested constellation of concepts and ideas and playing out in various media forms, etc., but nonetheless, I suggest that one might still detect the outlines of a kind of mediated non-identity implicit within the new aesthetic, and this makes it interesting. So I am not claiming, in any sense, that the new aesthetic was “founded on critical thinking”, rather that in a similar way that computational processes are not “critical thinking” but contain a certain non-reflexive reflexivity when seen through their recursive strategies – but again this is a potentiality that needs to be uncovered, and not in any sense determined. This is, perhaps, the site of a politics of the new aesthetic.

Certainly there is much work to be done with the new aesthetic, and I, for one, do not think that everything is fixed in aspic – either by Bridle or any of the other commentators. Indeed, there is a need for thinking about the new aesthetic from a number of different perspectives, that for me is the point at which the new aesthetic is interesting for thinking with, and pushing it away seems to me to be an “over-hasty” move when it clearly points to a either a fresh constellations of concepts and ideas, or certainly a means for us to think about the old constellations in a new way. This means that we should not aim to be either for or against the new aesthetic, as such, but rather more interested in the philosophical and political work the new aesthetic makes possible.

The Gigantic

We now live in a world where the very size of the real-time stream begins to exceed capacities to understand or make any sense of the sheer flow of data, and Twitter which currently handles 250 million tweets per day, or 1.25 billion per week, is a great example of this (Totsis 2011). Ways of thinking about the real-time stream as a totality are needed to help think through the implications of this data rich world and provide a contribution towards a cognitive map. For this reason I think that Heidegger’s notion of the concept of the ‘gigantic’ that he introduces in Contributions to Philosophy (From Enowning) might prove to be useful. For Heidegger, the gigantic represents a new moment whereby the very impossibility of understanding the extremeness of small and large sizes as calculability becomes itself a change in quality. As he argues in ‘The Age of the World Picture’:

A sign of this event is that everywhere and in the most varied forms and disguises the gigantic is making its appearance. In so doing, it evidences itself simultaneously in the tendency toward the increasingly small. We have only to think of numbers in atomic physics. The gigantic presses forward in a form that actually seems to make it disappear – in the annihilation of great distances by the airplane, in the setting before us of foreign and remote worlds in their everydayness, which is produced at random through radio by a flick of the hand. Yet we think too superficially if we suppose that the gigantic is only the endlessly extended emptiness of the purely quantitative. We think too little if we find that the gigantic, in the form of continual not-ever-having-been-here-yet, originates only in a blind mania for exaggerating and excelling (Appendix 12) (Heidegger 1977: 135).

And as Livingston (2003) further explains:

At first, the ‘gigantic’ simply means the unlimited processes of quantification and assumptions of quantifiability that make possible modern technological means of expression and control. But when understood in a broader historical perspective, the ground of the ‘gigantic’ is not just the absence of limits on the process of quantification, but a fundamental aspect or feature of quantity itself (Livingston 2003: 332-333).

Here the gigantic is understood as the very possibility of quality being derivational from quantity itself. Thus the kinds of quantitative possibilities for human existence are measured, calculated, listed, captured, pure data itself as being:

But as soon as machination is in turn grasped being-historically, the gigantic reveals itself as ‘something’ else. It is no longer the re-presentable objectness of an unlimited quantification but rather quantity as quality. Quality is meant here as the basic character of the quale, of the what, of the ownmost, of be-ing itself (Heidegger 1999: 94).

The gigantic then becomes the mark of the age of the real-time stream inasmuch as the gigantic becomes the ‘greatness’ of this moment. We therefore increasingly use this notion of gigantism as a means of assessing the very importance of things within our everyday experience, not, that is, that the specific value itself has any particular or important meaning, but rather that the sheer impossibility of conceiving of the number (whether large or small) becomes a kind of sublime of unrepresentability. A mere mood or feeling that is associated with the gigantic then becomes something that we routinely consider to be a way to understand meaningful difference.

The gigantic is rather that through which the quantitative becomes a special quality and thus a remarkable kind of greatness. Each historical age is not only great in a distinctive way in contrast to others; it also has, in each instance, its own concept of greatness. But as soon as the gigantic in planning and calculating and adjusting and making secure shifts over out of the quantitative and becomes a special quality, then what is gigantic, and what can seemingly always be calculated completely, becomes, precisely through this, incalculable. This becoming incalculable remains the invisible shadow that is cast around all things everywhere when man has been transformed into subiectum and the world into picture (Appendix 13) (Heidegger 1977: 135).

Heidegger helpfully lists the forms of the gigantic:

1. The gigantism of the slowing down of history (from the staying away of essential decisions all the way to lack of history) in the semblance of speed and steer ability of “historical” [historisch] development and its anticipation.

2. The gigantism of the publicness as summation of everything homogeneous in favour of concealing the destruction and undermining of any passion for essential gathering.

3. The gigantism of the claim to naturalness in the semblance of what is self-evident and “logical”; the question-worthiness of being is placed totally outside questioning.

4. The gigantism of the diminution of beings in the whole in favour of the semblance of boundless extending of the same by virtue of unconditioned controllability. The single thing that is impossible is the word and representation of “impossible” (Heidegger 1999: 311).

Thus that we live in a flow of real-time information that exceeds our capacities to understand or follow it – for example when we have followed enough people such that our stream in Twitter is too fast to parse – is the kind of affect that I think the notion of the gigantic points towards. This is not a feeling of being overwhelmed or being in a situation of losing control, rather it is a feeling of pure will-to-power, as it were, experiencing the gigantic as a manifestation of yourself. Equally, the flows of data both into and out of your life then become a marker of your gigantism, the subjectivity of the stream is constituted by the flow of data through which a moment of curation take place, but a curation of gigantism, not a reduction as such, but a wholeness or comprehensiveness of coverage. Each of us then becomes our own gigantic in as much as we increasingly generate data flows into and out of the networks of social life mediated through software and code.

In the culture of the modern subject who would master the world according to the logic of representation and through the technologies grounded in such a logic, which seem to overcome the very limits of space and time, the mystery of transcendence can indeed seem to “appear” only through its sheer absence.  Such a culture, then, would appear to be a culture of absolute immanence or even “total presence,” a culture de-mystified by a subject who, most notably in the technologies of all-consuming light and image, seems to comprehend all (Carlson 2003).

This is a total presence in the real-time stream, presented through such real-time streaming technologies as Twitter, Facebook (especially through their Ticker), the Jawbone Up, and the concept of frictionless sharing that Facebook has advocated (MacMannus 2011). This is a world in which the sheer gigantic incalculability of the calculable becomes an experience beyond the mere technical process or possibility of data collection, transmission, and transformation. Indeed, it becomes the very moment when one is caught within the mystery of the sheer unrepresentability, or perhaps better, comprehensibility of our own streams of data generated and flowing through these new forms of social network. Made manifest, perhaps though digital technology, but also pointing towards the other unencoded that remains outside of these networks, as plasma or the region, and from which this data is drawn.

But Heidegger offers the suggestion that within the gigantic there is opened a shadow in the form of a moment of possible transcendentalism, perhaps even a new form of sacred, that points to the possible reconfiguration of previous marginal practices or a reconfiguration of things. This, I want to suggest, opens up new possibilities for a human subjectivity that can undertake the practices of listening and harkening to that which lies behind the rushing sound of the real-time streams and their shadows.

By means of this shadow the modern world extends itself out into a space withdrawn from representation, and so lends to the incalculable the determinateness peculiar to it, as well as a historical uniqueness. This shadow, however, points to something else, which it is denied to us of today to know. But man will never be able to experience and ponder this that is denied so long as he dawdles about in the mere negating of the age. The flight into tradition, out of a combination of humility and presumption, can bring about nothing in itself other than self-deception and blindness in relation to the historical moment… Man will know, i.e., carefully safeguard into its truth, that which is incalculable, only in creative questioning and shaping out of the power of genuine reflection. Reflection transports the man of the future into that “between” in which he belongs to Being but remains a stranger amid that which is (Heidegger 1977: 136).

 

 

 

Bibliography

 

Carlson, T. (2003) Locating the Mystical Subject, in Kessler, M. and Sheppard, C. (eds.) Mystics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, accessed 02/12/2011, http://www.soc.ucsb.edu/projects/ct3/docs/LocatingtheMysticalSubject.doc.

 

Heidegger, M. (1977 [1938]) The Age of the World Picture, in The Question Concerning Technology and other Essays, New York: Harper Perennial, pp115-154.

 

Heidegger, M. (1999) Contributions to Philosophy (From Enowning), Indiana: Indiana University Press.

 

Livingston, P. (2003) Thinking and Being: Heidegger and Wittgenstein on Machination and Lived-Experience, Inquiry, 46, 324–345.

 

MacManus, R. (2011) The Pros &amp; Cons of Frictionless Sharing, ReadWriteWeb, accessed 02/12/2011, http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/frictionless_sharing_pros_cons.php

 

Totsis, A. (2011) Twitter Is At 250 Million Tweets Per Day, iOS 5 Integration Made Signups Increase 3x, TechCrunch, accessed 02/12/2011, http://techcrunch.com/2011/10/17/twitter-is-at-250-million-tweets-per-day/

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#tmda2011 WORKSHOP ANALYSIS TEXT: Leader’s speech, Manchester 2011 David Cameron (Conservative) Location: Manchester

Twitter stream for the workshop:

https://twitter.com/#!/search?q=#tmda2011

Storify too:

This week, in Manchester, this party has shown the discipline, the unity, and the purpose that is the mark of a party of government. I’m proud of my team, I’m proud of our members, I’m proud to lead this party – but most of all, I’m proud of you.

People have very clear instructions for this government: “Lead us out of this economic mess.”

“Do it in a way that’s fair and right.”

“And as you do it, make sure you build something worthwhile for us and our children.”

Clear instructions. Clear objectives. And from me: a clear understanding that in these difficult times, it is leadership we need. To get our economy moving. To get our society working, and in a year – the Olympics year – when the world will be watching us, to show everyone what Great Britain really means.

But first I want to say something to you in this hall. Thank you. Despite the predictions we won elections all over the country this May, so let’s hear it for those great campaigns you fought and the great results you achieved.

And thank you for something else. In the AV referendum, you did Britain a service and kicked that useless voting system off the political agenda for decades to come.

And next year let’s make sure we back Boris, beat Ken and keep London Conservative. You’re not just winners – you’re doers.

This summer, as before, Conservatives went to Rwanda to build classrooms, teach children and help grow businesses. Social action: that is the spirit of the modern Conservative Party.

This is a party – ours is a country – that never walks on by. Earlier this year some people said to me: “Libya’s not our concern”, “don’t start what you can’t finish”, and even – “Arabs don’t do democracy.” But if we had stood aside this spring, people in Benghazi would have been massacred. And don’t let anyone say this wasn’t in our national interest. Remember what Qadhafi did. He’s the man who gave Semtex to the IRA, who was behind the shooting of a police officer in a London square, who was responsible for the bombing of a plane in the skies over Lockerbie. Let’s be proud of the part we played in giving the Libyan people the chance to take back their country.

In Afghanistan today, there are men and women fighting for Britain as bravely as any in our history. They come from across our country: England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland. They now have the equipment they need. And we’re on target to bring them home by the end of 2014.

Theirs has been a campaign of incredible courage and sacrifice, and I know everyone in this hall will want to send a message to everyone who serves and who have served. Those in uniform in our armed forces and in our police. And those not in uniform, keeping us safe from terrorism on our streets.

We’re proud of you. We salute you. Thank you.

But leadership in the world is about moral strength as much as military might. A few months ago I was in Nigeria, on a trade mission. While I was there, I visited a vaccination clinic. It was very hot, pretty basic and the lights kept going off.

But to the rows of women, cuddling their babies, this place was a godsend. One of the nurses told me that if it wasn’t for British aid, many of those beautiful babies would be dead. In four years’ time, this country will have helped vaccinate more of the world’s poorest children than there are people in the whole of England.

Of course, we’ll make sure your money goes to the people who need it most, and we’ll do it in a way that’s transparent and accountable. But I really believe, despite all our difficulties, that this is the right thing to do. That it’s a mark of our country, and our people, that we never turn our backs on the world’s poorest, and everyone in Britain can be incredibly proud of it.

Leadership in fighting poverty. Leadership in fighting tyranny. But when it came to that decision to help the Libyan people, there was something dispiriting about the debate here at home. It wasn’t that some people thought we shouldn’t do what we did – of course it’s everyone’s right to disagree.

It was that too many thought Britain actually couldn’t do something like that any more. And you hear that kind of pessimism about our economic future, our social problems, our political system. That our best days are behind us. That we’re on a path of certain decline.

Well I’m here to tell you that it isn’t true. Of course, if we sit around and hope for the best, the rest will leave us behind. If we fool ourselves that we can grow our economy, mend our society, give our children the future we want them to have. If we fool ourselves that we can do these things without effort, without correcting past mistakes, without confronting vested interests and failed ideas, then no, we’re not going to get anywhere.

But if we put in the effort, correct those mistakes, confront those vested interests and take on the failed ideas of the past, then I know we can turn this ship around.

Nobody wants false optimism. And I will never pretend there are short cuts to success. But success will come: with the right ideas, the right approach, the right leadership. Leadership from government: to set out the direction we must take, and the choices we must make. But leadership also from you. Because the things that will really deliver success are not politicians or government. It’s the people of Britain, and the spirit of Britain.

Some say that to succeed in this world, we need to become more like India, or China, or Brazil. I say: we need to become more like us. The real us. Hard-working, pioneering, independent, creative, adaptable, optimistic, can-do. That’s the spirit that has made this United Kingdom what it is: a small country that does great things; one of the most incredible success stories in the history of the world.

And it’s a spirit that’s alive and well today. I see it in Tania Sidney-Roberts, the head teacher I met in Norwich who started a free school from scratch, now four times over-subscribed. Her ambition? To set up another school and do it all over again. That’s leadership.

I see it in the group of GPs in Bexley who have taken more control of their budgets, and got their patients – some of the poorest in the country – free care on Harley Street. Their ambition? To cut waiting times, cut costs and improve care – all in one go. That’s leadership.

And we all saw it this summer. Dan Thompson watched the riots unfold on television. But he didn’t sit there and say ‘the council will clean it up.’ He got on the internet. He sent out a call. And with others, he started a social movement.

People picked up their brooms and reclaimed their streets. So the argument I want to make today is simple: leadership works. I know how tough things are. I don’t for one minute underestimate how worried people feel, whether about making ends meet, or the state of the world economy. But the truth is, right now we need to be energised, not paralysed by gloom and fear.

Half the world is booming – let’s go and sell to them. So many of our communities are thriving – let’s make the rest like them. There’s so much that’s great about our country. We don’t have to accept that success in this century automatically belongs to someone else. We just have to remember the origin of our achievements: the people of Britain, taking a lead. That’s why so much of my leadership is about unleashing your leadership. Giving everyone who wants to seize it the opportunity, the support and above all the freedom to get things done. Giving everyone who wants to believe it the confidence that working hard and taking responsibility will be rewarded not punished.

So let’s reject the pessimism. Let’s bring on the can-do optimism. Let’s summon the energy and the appetite to fight for a better future for our country, Great Britain.

Of course that starts with our economy. As we meet here in Manchester, the threat to the world economy – and to Britain – is as serious today as it was in 2008 when world recession loomed. The Eurozone is in crisis, the French and German economies have slowed to a standstill; even mighty America is being questioned about her debts.

It is an anxious time. Prices and bills keep going up – petrol, the weekly shop, electricity. On the news it’s job losses, cutbacks, closures. You think about tuition fees, and house prices, the cost of a deposit, and wonder how our children will cope. Of course, government can help – and this one is. We have cut petrol duty, kept the winter fuel allowance and kept cold weather payments. We froze council tax this year, and as George announced in that great speech on Monday, we’re going to freeze it again next year too.

But we need to tell the truth about the overall economic situation. People understand that when the economy goes into recession, times get tough. But normally, after a while, things pick up. Strong growth returns. People get back into work. This time, it’s not like that. And people want to know why the good times are so long coming.

The answer is straightforward, but uncomfortable. This was no normal recession; we’re in a debt crisis. It was caused by too much borrowing, by individuals, businesses, banks, and most of all, governments. When you’re in a debt crisis, some of the normal things that government can do, to deal with a normal recession, like borrowing to cut taxes or increase spending – these things won’t work because they lead to more debt, which would make the crisis worse.

Why? Because it risks higher interest rates, less confidence and the threat of even higher taxes in future. The only way out of a debt crisis is to deal with your debts. That’s why households are paying down their credit card and store card bills. It means banks getting their books in order. And it means governments – all over the world – cutting spending and living within their means.

This coalition government, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg and I – we’ve led the way here in Britain. Our plan is right. And our plan will work. I know you can’t see it or feel it yet. But think of it like this. The new economy we’re building: it’s like building a house. The most important part is the part you can’t see – the foundations that make it stable. Slowly, but surely, we’re laying the foundations for a better future. But this is the crucial point: it will only work if we stick with it.

And there’s something else we’ve got to stick to. Because we’re not in the Euro, we can lay these foundations ourselves: on our own terms; in our own way. So let me say this: as long as I’m Prime Minister, we will never join the Euro. And I won’t let us be sucked into endless bail-outs of countries that are in the Euro either. Yes, we’re leading members of the IMF and have our responsibilities there.

But when it comes to any Euro bail-out mechanism, my approach is simple: Labour got us into it and I’ve made sure we’re getting out of it.

Of course, our deficit reduction programme is just one big bail-out of the last Labour government. This past year we’ve been subjected to a sort of national apology tour by Labour. Sorry for sucking up to Qadhafi. For not regulating the banks properly. For crushing civil liberties. For failing to go green. For not building enough homes. For the infighting that made them the most dysfunctional government ever.

But you know what? Nothing – not a peep – on the thing they really need to say sorry for. Wasting billions and billions of your money. No apology for that. You know what the Shadow Chancellor, Ed Balls claimed last week? That Labour didn’t spend more money than they had “available”. Hello? Ed – you spent £428 billion more than you had “available”. There is only one conclusion you can rationally draw. We must never let these Labour politicians anywhere near our economy again.

As before, it falls to us to clear up after the Labour Party. I have insisted that we do it in a way that is fair. You can’t cut a deficit the size of ours without everyone making a sacrifice. But those with the most money are bearing the biggest burden. We’ve imposed a permanent levy on the banks, getting them to pay more every year than Labour did in one year.

We’ve raised taxes on people who make their money overseas but live here. At the same time we’ve given real help to the poorest and most vulnerable. We’re taking over a million of the lowest-paid people out of tax altogether. And after the scandal of the 75p pension rise under Labour, we’re linking pensions to earnings so elderly people will be £10,000 better off in their retirement.

Yes, this is a one-nation deficit reduction plan – from a one-nation party. And here’s something else that we – yes we – have done. The NHS is the most precious institution in our country – to my family, to your family. At the last election, it was Labour policy to cut the NHS. It was Liberal Democrat policy to cut the NHS.

It was our policy – Conservative policy – to protect the NHS and spend more on it this year, next year and the year after that because we are the party of the NHS, and as long as I’m here we always will be.

But real fairness isn’t just about what the state spends. It’s about the link between what you put in and what you get out. As we debate what people get from the state, let’s remember how we generate taxes. So to the unions planning to strike over public sector pensions I say this. You have every right to protest. But our population is ageing. Our public sector pensions system is unaffordable. The only way to give public sector workers a decent, sustainable pensions system, and do right by the taxpayer, is to ask public servants to work a little longer and contribute a little more. That is fair. What is not fair, what is not right, is going on strikes that will hurt the very people who help pay for your pensions.

Dealing with our debts is line one, clause one of our plan for growth. But it is just the start. We need jobs – and we won’t get jobs by growing government, we need to grow our businesses. So here’s our growth plan: doing everything we can to help businesses start, grow, thrive, succeed. Where that means backing off, cutting regulation – back off, cut regulation. Where that means intervention, investment – intervene, invest. Whatever it takes to help our businesses take on the world – we’ll do it.

The global economy has transformed in recent years. It used to take companies decades to become global giants: now it can take a couple of years. When you step off the plane in Delhi or Shanghai or Lagos, you can feel the energy, the hunger, the drive to succeed. We need that here.

Frankly, there’s too much ‘can’t do’ sogginess around. We need to be a sharp, focused, can-do country. But as we go for growth, the last thing I want is to pump the old economy back up, with a banking sector out of control, manufacturing squeezed, and prosperity confined to a few parts of the country and a select few industries. Our plan is to build something new and to build something better. We can do it.

Look what’s happening in East London. Europe’s financial capital is now matched by Europe’s technology capital in Tech City. Facebook, Intel, Google, Cisco – even Silicon Valley Bank – seeing our potential and investing here. Look what’s happening across our country. The wings of the world’s biggest jumbo jet – built in Wales.

The world’s most famous digger – the JCB – made in Staffordshire.

Do you watch Formula One? Well whether it’s the German Michael Schumacher, the Australian Mark Webber or the Brazilian Reubens Barrichello, they all have one thing in common – they drive cars built right here in Britain.

This is the new economy we’re building: leading in advanced manufacturing, technology, life sciences, green engineering. Inventing, creating, exporting.

Of course, it’s easy to talk about these things: harder to deliver it. For a start, you won’t deliver it just by dividing industries into saints and sinners. That’s not just an insult to the financial and insurance companies, accountancy firms and professional services that make us billions of pounds and create millions of jobs – it’s much too simplistic.

As I’ve always argued, we need businesses to be more socially responsible. But to get proper growth, to rebalance our economy, we’ve got to put some important new pieces into place. Taking action now to get credit flowing to the small businesses that are the engine of the economy. And ring-fencing the banks so they fulfil their role of lending safely to the real economy. Setting up Technology and Innovation Centres where scientists and academics can work with entrepreneurs to turn brilliant inventions into successful products. Reforming taxation to encourage enterprise and investment in high growth firms. And sometimes that means taking controversial decisions; challenging vested interests.

When firms need to adapt quickly to win orders and contracts, we can’t go on with rigid, outdated employment regulations. The critics may say: what about workers’ rights? But the most important worker’s right of all is having a job in the first place.

When in modern business you’re either quick or you’re dead, it’s hopeless that our transport infrastructure lags so far behind Europe’s. That’s why we need to build high speed rail and why we’ll get the best super-fast broadband network in Europe too. When a balanced economy needs workers with skills, we need to end the old snobbery about vocational education and training. We’ve provided funding for 250,000 extra apprenticeships – but not enough big companies are delivering.

So here’s a direct appeal: If you want skilled employees, we’ll provide the funding, we’ll cut the red tape. But you’ve got to show more leadership and give us the apprenticeships we need.

Unlocking growth and rebalancing our economy also requires change in Brussels. The EU is the biggest single market in the world – but it’s not working properly. Almost every day, I see pointless new regulation coming our way. A couple of weeks ago I was up in the flat, going through some work before the start of the day and I saw this EU directive. Do you know what it was about? Whether people with diabetes should be allowed to drive. What’s that got to do with the single market? Do you suppose anyone in China is thinking: I know how we’ll grow our economy – let’s get those diabetics off our roads. Europe has to wake up – and the EU growth plan we’ve published, backed by eight countries, which I want us to push at every meeting, every council, every summit, is the alarm call that Brussels needs.

There’s one more thing. Our businesses need the space to grow – literally. That’s one of the reasons we’re reforming our planning system. It’s hard to blame local people for opposing developments when they get none of the benefits. We’re changing that. If a new manufacturing plant is built in your area – your community keeps the business rates. If new homes get built – you keep the council tax. This is a localist plan from a localist party.

Now I know people are worried about what this means for conservation. Let me tell you: I love our countryside and there’s nothing I would do to put it at risk. But let’s get the balance right. The proportion of land in England that is currently built up is 9 per cent. Yes, 9 per cent. There are businesses out there desperate to expand, to hire thousands of people – but they’re stuck in the mud of our planning system. Of course we’re open to constructive ideas about how to get this right.

But to those who just oppose everything we’re doing, my message is this: Take your arguments down to the job centre. We’ve got to get Britain back to work.

The new economy we’re building must work for everyone. You know the real tragedy of New Labour’s economy? Not just that it was unsustainable, unbalanced, overwhelmed with debt. But that it left so many behind.

Labour talked opportunity but ripped the ladders of opportunity away. We had an education system that left hundreds of thousands unprepared for work. A welfare system that trapped millions in dependency. An immigration system that brought in migrant workers to do the jobs that those on welfare were being paid not to do.

We had a housing system that failed to meet demand, so prices shot up and fuelled an unsustainable boom. And we had a government that creamed the taxes off the boom to splurge back into benefits – redoubling the failure all over again. Labour: who tell us they care so much about fairness, about justice, who say they want to hit the rich and help the poor – it was Labour gave us the casino economy and the welfare society.

So who’s going to lift the poorest up? Who’s going to get our young people back to work? Who’s going to create a more equal society? No, not you, the self-righteous Labour Party. It will be us, the Conservatives who finally build an economy that works for everyone and gives hope to everyone in our country.

That starts with a good education – for everyone. It sounds so simple: proper teaching, good discipline, rigorous exams. But it’s hard. It’s hard because our education system has been infected by an ideology that instead of insisting on every child’s success has too often made excuses for failure. They said: “poor kids can’t learn.” “Black boys can’t do well.” “In this community we really mustn’t expect too much – don’t you understand?”

Oh yes, I do understand. Believe me I do understand and I am disgusted by the idea that we should aim for any less for a child from a poor background than a rich one. I have contempt for the notion that we should accept narrower horizons for a black child than a white one. Yes it’s the age-old irony of the liberal left: they practice oppression and call it equality.

So we are fighting back. And something massive is happening. There is now irrefutable proof that the right schools, with the right freedoms and the right leadership, can transform the education of the most deprived children. You heard yesterday from that inspirational student from Burlington Danes Academy in Hammersmith. Inner city school. Deprived area. Nearly half the pupils on free school meals.

But this year, three-quarters got five good GCSEs including English and maths. That’s way better than what the majority of the state schools in Sussex, Cambridgeshire, Hampshire got last year – some of the most affluent counties in the country.

Why? Because the head teacher, her staff, the parents – rose up and said: “We are as good as anyone. Our children can achieve anything.”

Leadership works. So we’re backing more head teachers to turn schools into Academies. And we want more parents, teachers, charities, businesses, entrepreneurs, to come in to our education system and set up Academies and Free Schools.

Change really is underway. For the first time in a long time, the numbers studying those core and vital subjects history, geography, languages are going up. Pupils’ exams will be marked on their punctuation and grammar. And teachers are going to be able to search pupils’ bags for anything banned in school – mobile phones, alcohol, weapons, anything. It’s a long, hard road back to rigour, but we’re well and truly on our way.

And here’s something else we’re going to do. In Britain today, we have schools that are intolerant of failure, where ninety percent of pupils get five good GCSEs. Yes: private schools. You’ve heard me talk about social responsibility so let me say this. I want to see private schools start Academies, and sponsor Academies in the state system. Wellington College does it, Dulwich does it – others can too. The apartheid between our private and state schools is one of the biggest wasted opportunities in our country today. So let it be this party that helps tear it down.

Rigour back in learning. Standards back in schools. Teachers back in control. Yes – the Conservatives are back in government.

An economy that works for everyone means sorting out welfare and immigration too. Welfare began as a life-line. For too many it’s become a way of life. Generation after generation in the cycle of dependency – and we are determined to break it.

Part of our answer is controlling immigration. So we’ve put a cap on the numbers of non-EU immigrants allowed to come into our country to work. We mustn’t lock out talent – I want the best and brightest entrepreneurs, scientists and students from around the world to get the red carpet treatment. But the bogus colleges, the fake marriages, the people arriving for a month and staying for years, the criminals who use the Human Rights Act to try and stay in the country – we are clamping down on all of them.

We’ve got to get some sense back into our labour market and get British people back into work. For years you’ve been conned by governments. To keep the unemployment figures down, they’ve parked as many people as possible on the sick. Two and a half million, to be exact. Not officially unemployed, but claiming welfare, no questions asked. Now we’re asking those questions. It turns out that of the 1.3 million people who have put in a claim for the new sickness benefit in recent years. One million are either able to work, or stopped their claim before their medical assessment had been completed.

Under Labour they got something for nothing. With us they’ll only get something, if they give something. If they are prepared to work, we’re going to help them – and I mean really help them. If you’ve been out of work and on benefits for five years, a quick session down the job centre and a new CV just isn’t going to cut it. You need to get your self-esteem and confidence back; you need training and skills; intensive personal support.

Previous governments were never willing to make a proper commitment to this, but we have – investing now, so we don’t pay later. We’re going to spend up to £14,000 on some people just to get them trained and back into work. Yes, I know that’s a lot of money – but it’s worth it. Let it be us, let it be this government that finally builds an economy where no one is left behind.

And for most people that includes a home of their own: not just any old home but a decent one: light and spacious, a place with a proper front door and room for the kids to play in. But the percentage of British people who own their home is going down. Unless they get help from their parents, do you know the average age of a first-time buyer in our country today? Thirty seven. You hear people say: “why can’t people just rent like in Europe?” or “there’s nothing we can do because we don’t have the money.”

I disagree. The failure of the housing market is bound up in the debt crisis. Because lenders won’t lend, builders won’t build and buyers can’t buy. We’re sorting this out, bringing back the Right to Buy and using the money to build new homes. Macmillan made us the party of the property-owning democracy. Margaret Thatcher gave people the Right to Buy. Now let us, in this generation, inspire a new Tory housing revolution.

While I’m on the subject of those great Conservative figures, let me say this. I’m incredibly fortunate to have such strong support from our previous leaders. Michael Howard. Iain Duncan Smith. William Hague. Sir John Major. And of course, Lady Thatcher. You know what? We don’t boo our leaders. We’re proud of our past and what those people did for our country.

A few months ago, we were shocked by the scenes on our streets in London and other parts of the country. But perhaps the most shocking thing is that people weren’t that surprised. There was no great call for a public enquiry to find out what had gone wrong. Instead the sound you could hear was the angry, insistent, overwhelming cry of a country shouting to its leaders: We know. We know why this happened. We know what’s gone wrong. We know that if the system keeps fudging the difference between right and wrong, we’ll never improve behaviour. We know that as long as the police go round with one hand tied behind their back, we’ll never make our streets truly safe. And more than anything we know that if parents don’t meet their responsibilities, kids will get out of control. Yes, people said: we know what’s gone wrong: and we want you to put it right.

One thing people want is speedy justice. After the riots those responsible were put straight in the courts and tough sentences were quickly handed out. And I’ve made it clear to the police, to the prosecution services, to the Ministry of Justice, to the Attorney-General, if we could do that then, let’s make sure we do it all the time. But the problems go deeper. That’s why my driving mission in politics is to build a Big Society, a stronger society.

It starts with families. I want to make this the most family-friendly government the country has ever seen. More childcare. More health visitors. More relationship support. More help with parenting. And for the 120,000 families that are most troubled – and causing the most trouble – a commitment to turn their lives around by the end of this Parliament.

Today I can announce this: a new focus on the 65,000 children in care. Do you know how many children there are in care under the age of one? 3,660. And how many children under the age of one were adopted in our country last year? Sixty. This may not seem like the biggest issue facing our country, but it is the biggest issue for these children. How can we have let this happen: we’ve got people flying all over the world to adopt babies, while the care system at home agonises about placing black children with white families.

With the right values and the right effort, let’s end this scandal and help these, the most vulnerable children of all. But for me, leadership on families also means speaking out on marriage. Marriage is not just a piece of paper. It pulls couples together through the ebb and flow of life. It gives children stability. And it says powerful things about what we should value. So yes, we will recognise marriage in the tax system.

But we’re also doing something else. I once stood before a Conservative conference and said it shouldn’t matter whether commitment was between a man and a woman, a woman and a woman, or a man and another man. You applauded me for that. Five years on, we’re consulting on legalising gay marriage.

And to anyone who has reservations, I say: Yes, it’s about equality, but it’s also about something else: commitment. Conservatives believe in the ties that bind us; that society is stronger when we make vows to each other and support each other. So I don’t support gay marriage despite being a Conservative. I support gay marriage because I’m a Conservative.

We value community spirit and social action too. We see it everyday in our own lives, it’s one of the great things about Britain, and do you know what? Over the last five years of the Labour government, the number of people volunteering went down. Last year, the decline was halted.

And now the proportion of people saying they feel they belong strongly to their neighbourhood is the highest for a decade. If you’re cynical, go to Wythenshawe, a few miles from here. It used to be ravaged by crime and drugs and graffiti. But local people opened a community hall and a gym. They got the kids off the streets. They cleaned up graffiti and kicked out the drug dealers. Of course, government can’t legislate for this. But we can support the leadership that makes it happen.

That’s why we’re giving neighbourhoods new powers to take over the running of parks, playgrounds and pubs. It’s why we’re making it easier for people to give their time and money to good causes. It’s why we want elected mayors in our great cities, and it’s why right now we’re drawing up plans to really open up public services and give more power to people.

But one of the biggest things holding people back is the shadow of health and safety. I was told recently about a school that wanted to buy a set of highlighter pens. But with the pens came a warning. Not so fast – make sure you comply with the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002. Including plenty of fresh air and hand and eye protection. Try highlighting in all that.

This isn’t how a great nation was built. Britannia didn’t rule the waves with arm-bands on. So the vetting and barring scheme – we’re scaling it back. CRB checks – we’re cutting them back. At long last common sense is coming back to our country.

Building stronger communities is why we’ve introduced National Citizen Service. You saw it for yourself at the start of this afternoon’s session. One of the people who took part this year, Owen Carter, wrote to me and said:

“[This] has changed my perspective of life – you can do anything if you work hard and have a supportive team around you. You can do anything’.

That’s the spirit I’m talking about. That’s why we’re tripling the scale of National Citizen Service. That’s how we’ll build our Big Society. That is leadership.

Next year, we welcome the world for the Olympics – and of course the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. These two events say a lot about Britain. Tradition. Modernity. All in one.

And today, we can choose to be a country that’s back on its feet and striding forward. Paying down our debt and earning a living. Getting people off welfare and into work. Breaking new ground in education, with excellence for everyone not a privileged few.

We can be a country where people look back on their life and say: I’ve worked hard, I’ve raised a family, I’m part of a community and all along it was worth my while. We’re too far away from that today but we can get there.

It’s not complicated, but not easy either – because nothing worthwhile is easily won. But you know, we’ve been told we were finished before.

They said when we lost an Empire that we couldn’t find a role. But we found a role, took on communism and helped bring down the Berlin Wall.

They called our economy the sick man of Europe. But we came back and turned this country into a beacon of enterprise.

No, Britain never had the biggest population, the largest land mass, the richest resources, but we had the spirit. Remember: it’s not the size of the dog in the fight – it’s the size of the fight in the dog. Overcoming challenge, confounding the sceptics, reinventing ourselves, this is what we do. It’s called leadership.

Let’s turn this time of challenge into a time of opportunity. Not sitting around, watching things happen and wondering why. But standing up, making things happen and asking why not.

We have the people, we have the ideas, and now we have a government that’s freeing those people, backing those ideas.

So let’s see an optimistic future. Let’s show the world some fight. Let’s pull together, work together. And together lead Britain to better days.

Workshop on Digital Humanities

The following are for the Digital Humanities Workshop at Sussex University, 6th October 2011. The Digital Shakespeare project  website is located at Delighted Beauty and some of the visualisations generated by Stephan Thiel are on Understanding Shakespeare.

Sample Raw Text Version

<b 001170 English Shakespeare Gutenberg Cheesman> 

Othello: Her father loved me, oft invited me,
Still questioned me the story of my life,
From year to year: the battles, sieges, fortunes
That I have passed.
I ran it through, even from my boyish days,
To the very moment that he bade me tell it;
Wherein I spake of most disastrous chances,
Of moving accidents by flood and field
Of hair-breadth scapes i' the imminent deadly breach,
Of being taken by the insolent foe
And sold to slavery; of my redemption thence
And portance in my travels' history;
Wherein of antres vast and deserts idle,
Rough quarries, rocks and hills whose heads touch heaven
It was my hint to speak ñ such was my process -
And of the Cannibals that each other eat,
The Anthropophagi and men whose heads
Do grow beneath their shoulders. This to hear
Would Desdemona seriously incline;
But still the house-affairs would draw her thence,
Which ever as she could with haste dispatch,
She'd come again, and with a greedy ear
Devour up my discourse; which I observing,
Took once a pliant hour, and found good means
To draw from her a prayer of earnest heart
That I would all my pilgrimage dilate,
Whereof by parcels she had something heard,
But not intentively. I did consent,
And often did beguile her of her tears,
When I did speak of some distressful stroke
That my youth suffered. My story being done,
She gave me for my pains a world of sighs:
She swore, in faith, 'twas strange, 'twas passing strange,
'Twas pitiful, 'twas wondrous pitiful!
She wished she had not heard it, yet she wished
That heaven had made her such a man; she thanked me,
And bade me, if I had a friend that loved her,
I should but teach him how to tell my story
And that would woo her. Upon this hint I spake.
She loved me for the dangers I had passed,
And I loved her that she did pity them.
This only is the witchcraft I have used:
Here comes the lady; let her witness it.

TEI Lite (XML) version

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  <div type="act" n="1">
    <div type="scene" n="3">
		<sp who="Othello"><speaker><hi rend="i">Othello</hi></speaker>
		<l n="1" part="Y">Ihr Vater liebte mich, lud mich oft ein,</l>
		<l n="2" part="Y">fragte stets nach der Chronik meines Lebens,</l>
		<l n="3" part="Y">von Jahr zu Jahr; nach Schlachten, Stürmen, Schicksalen</l>
		<l n="4" part="Y">die ich erlebt -</l>
		<l n="5" part="Y">ich lief es durch, von Knabentagen an,</l>
		<l n="6" part="Y">bis zu dem Augenblick da er mich fragte.</l>
		<l n="7" part="Y">Sprach von bedrohlichen Ereignissen,</l>
		<l n="8" part="Y">von schrecklicher Gefahr zu See und Land;</l>
		<l n="9" part="Y">wie Mauerbruch ums Haar mich tötete;</l>
		<l n="10" part="Y">wie mich der Feind höhnisch gefangennahm -</l>
		<l n="11" part="Y">als Sklaven mich verkaufte, wie ich die Freiheit fand,</l>
		<l n="12" part="Y">und wies so ging im Laufe meiner Reisen;</l>
		<l n="13" part="Y">wobei von weiten Höhlen, öden Wüsten,</l>
		<l n="14" part="Y">Felsklippen, Bergen, die den Himmel streifen,</l>
		<l n="15" part="Y">vielfach die Rede war, so ging ich vor -</l>
		<l n="16" part="Y">von Kannibalen, die einander fressen;</l>
		<l n="17" part="Y">Antropophagen, und Menschen deren Kopf</l>
		<l n="18" part="Y">unter den Schultern wächst - all dies zu hören,</l>
		<l n="19" part="Y">war Desdemona mit viel Ernst bestrebt;</l>
		<l n="20" part="Y">doch immer zog die Hausarbeit sie fort,</l>
		<l n="21" part="Y">und wenn sie die in Eile ausgeführt,</l>
		<l n="22" part="Y">kam sie zurück, und schlang mit gierigem Ohr</l>
		<l n="23" part="Y">was ich erzählte; ich bemerkte das,</l>
		<l n="24" part="Y">und nutzte einmal eine gute Stunde,</l>
		<l n="25" part="Y">wo mir gelang dass sie mich herzlich bat,</l>
		<l n="26" part="Y">ihr meine ganze Pilgerfahrt zu schildern,</l>
		<l n="27" part="Y">die sie in Teilen schon vernommen hatte,</l>
		<l n="28" part="Y">aber nicht voll bewusst, ich stimmte zu,</l>
		<l n="29" part="Y">und oft verleitete ich sie zu Tränen,</l>
		<l n="30" part="Y">wenn ich von manchem schweren Schlag erzählte</l>
		<l n="31" part="Y">der meine Jugend traf - war ich zu Ende,</l>
		<l n="32" part="Y">gab sie mir für mein Leiden tausend Seufzer;</l>
		<l n="33" part="Y">schwor Wirklich es sei seltsam, äußerst seltsam;</l>
		<l n="34" part="Y">es sei erschütternd, wundersam erschütternd;</l>
		<l n="35" part="Y">wünschte sie hätt es nicht gehört, doch wünschte</l>
		<l n="36" part="Y">sie wäre solch ein Mann - sie dankte mir,</l>
		<l n="37" part="Y">und bat mich, wenn ein Freund von mir sie liebe,</l>
		<l n="38" part="Y">sollt er ihr nur mein Leben nacherzählen,</l>
		<l n="39" part="Y">das würde sie gewinnen. Auf diesen Wink hin sprach ich -</l>
		<l n="40" part="Y">sie liebte mich weil ich Gefahr erlitt,</l>
		<l n="41" part="Y">ich liebte sie für dies ihr Mitgefühl.</l>
		<l n="42" part="Y">Das ist die Hexerei die ich gebraucht -</l>
		<l n="43" part="Y">hier kommt das Fräulein, lasst sie es bezeugen.</l>
		</sp>
		</div>
      </div>
    </body>
  </text>
</TEI.2>

Text tools (in order of complexity):

  1. Wordle: http://www.wordle.net/
  2. Google ngrams: http://ngrams.googlelabs.com/
  3. Tapor: http://portal.tapor.ca/portal/portal (automatically uses Glasgow stop words)
  4. ManyEyes (IBM): http://www-958.ibm.com/software/data/cognos/manyeyes/

Image Analysis

(Manovich 2011, Imageplot of Mondrian 1905_1917)

ImagePlot visualization software: http://lab.softwarestudies.com/p/imageplot.html

ImagePlot is a free software tool that visualizes collections of images and video of any size. It is implemented as a macro which works with the open source image processing program ImageJ.

ImagePlot was developed by the Software Studies Initiative with support from the National Endowment for Humanities (NEH), the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2), and the Center for Research in Computing and the Arts (CRCA).

Messianic Media: Notes on the Real-Time Stream

Realtime streams draw from the advantages of the processual nature of code/software to create a rapidly updating data-flow form that provides an ecology of real-time updates. An example of the real-time stream is the Twitter platform.

A stream is a dynamic flow of information (e.g. multi-modal media content). They are instantiated and enabled by code/software and a networked environment (see Berry 2011a). They are increasing part of the digital media ecology including:

  • notification streams (what you should know, @mentions)
  • activity streams (what are people doing?)
  • news and media streams (news and reporting, financial data, etc.)
  • ‘pure’ or branded streams (recognised entities, human and non-human)
  • aggregated or ‘mixed’ streams (streams of streams)
Importantly, the real-time stream is not just an empirical object; it also serves as a technological imaginary, and as such points the direction of travel for new computational devices and experiences. Of course, the ‘real-time’ itself is a mediated construct, created in software and managed through careful processing and presentational cues for the user. After all, the mere passing through computation creates some latency, or data lag, that marks it as already in the past before the user receives it as a feedback loop.

A feedback loop involves four distinct stages. First comes the data: A behavior must be measured, captured, and stored. This is the evidence stage. Second, the information must be relayed to the individual, not in the raw-data form in which it was captured but in a context that makes it emotionally resonant. This is the relevance stage. But even compelling information is useless if we don’t know what to make of it, so we need a third stage: consequence. The information must illuminate one or more paths ahead. And finally, the fourth stage: action. There must be a clear moment when the individual can recalibrate a behavior, make a choice, and act. Then that action is measured, and the feedback loop can run once more, every action stimulating new behaviors that inch us closer to our goals (Goetz 2011).

This imaginary of everyday life, a feedback loop within and through streams of data is predicated on the use of technical devices that allow us to manage and rely on these streaming feeds. This combined with an increasing social dimension to the web, with social media, online messaging and new forms of social interaction, allows behaviour to be modified in reaction to the streams of data received. However, the technologies to facilitate the use of these streams are currently under construction and open to intervention before they become concretised into specific forms. We can ask questions about how participative we want this stream-based ecology to be, how filtered and shaped to we want it, who should be the curators, and who we can we trust to do this. 

Cognitively, it is argued that streams are also suited to a type of reading called ‘distant reading’ as opposed to the ‘close reading’ of the humanities (Berry 2011a; Moretti 2007). This ‘close reading’ created a certain type of subject: narrativised, linear, what McLuhan called ‘typographic man’. At present there is a paradoxical relationship between the close reading of current taught reading practices and the distant reading required for algorithmic approaches to information. To illustrate, books are a great example of a media form that uses typographic devices for aiding cognition for ‘close’ reading: chapters, paragraphs, serif fonts, avoiding textual ‘rivers’ and white space. Most notably these were instantiated into professional typographic practices that are themselves now under stress from computational algorithmic approaches to typesetting and production. Close reading devices required a deep sense of awareness in relation to the the reader as a particular subject: autonomous, linear, narrativised and capable of feats of memory and cognitive processing. Devices were associated with a constellation of practices that were surrounded around the concept of the author (see Berry 2011b). 

The future envisaged by the corporations, like Google, that want to tell you what you should be doing next (Jenkins 2010), presents knowledge as a real-time stream, creating/curating what they call ‘augmented humanity’. As Hayles (1999) states:

Modern humans are capable of more sophisticated cognition than cavemen not because moderns are smarter… but because they have constructed smarter environments in which to work (Hayles 1999: 289).

In a real-time stream ecology, the notion of the human is one that is radically different to the ‘deep attention’ of previous ages. Indeed, the user will be constantly bombarded with data from a thousand (million) different places, all in real-time, and requiring the complementary technology to manage and comprehend this data flow to avoid information overload. This, Hayles (2007) argues, will require ‘hyper attention’. Additionally this has an affective dimension as the user is expected to desire the real-time stream, both to be in it, to follow it, and to participate in it, and where the user opts out, the technical devices are being developed to manage this too through curation, filtering and notification systems. Of course, this desiring subject is therefore then expected to pay for these streaming experiences, or even, perhaps, for better filtering, curation, and notification streams as the raw data flow will be incomprehensible without them.

Search, discovery and experimentation requires computational devices to manage the relationship with the flow of data and allows the user to step into and out of a number of different streams in an intuitive and natural way. This is because the web becomes,

A stream. A real time, flowing, dynamic stream of information — that we as users and participants can dip in and out of and whether we participate in them or simply observe we are […] a part of this flow. Stowe Boyd talks about this as the web as flow: “the first glimmers of a web that isn’t about pages and browsers” (Borthwick 2009).

Of course, the user becomes a source of data too, essentially a real-time stream themselves, feeding their own narrative data stream into the cloud, which is itself analysed, aggregated, and fed back to the user and other users as patterns of data. This real-time computational feedback mechanism will create many new possibilities for computational products and services able to leverage the masses of data in interesting and useful ways. This might allow the systems being designed to auto-curate user-chosen streams, to suggest alternatives and to structure user choices in particular ways (using stream transformers, aggregation and augmentation). In some senses then this algorithmic process is the real-time construction of a person’s possible ‘futures’ or their ‘futurity’, the idea, even, that eventually the curation systems will know ‘you’ better than you know yourself. This means that the user is ‘made’ as a part of the system, that is, importantly the user does not ontologically precede the real-time streams, rather the system is a socio-technical network which:

is not connecting identities which are already there, but a network that configures ontologies. The agents, their dimensions and what they are and do, all depend on the morphology of the relations in which they are involved (Callon 1998).

Nevertheless, it seems clear that distant reading of streams will become increasingly important. These are skills that at present are neither normal practice for individuals, nor do we see strong system interfaces for managing this mediation yet. This distant reading will be, by definition, somewhat cognitively intense, strengthening the notion of a ‘now’ and intensifying temporal perception. This is a cognitive style reminiscent of a Husserlian ‘comet’ subjectivity, with a strong sense of self in the present, but which tails away into history. It would also require a self that is strongly coupled to technology which facilitates the possibility of managing a stream-like subjectivity in the first place. Indeed, today memory, history, cognition and self-presentation are all increasingly being mediated through computational devices and it is inevitable that to manage the additional real-time streams data flows new forms of software-enabled systems will be called for.

Above we gestured already towards the softwarization of ‘close reading’ and the changing structure of a ‘preferred reader’ or subject position towards one that is increasingly algorithmic (of course, this could be a human or non-human reader). Indeed it is suggestive that as a result of these moves to real-time streams that we will see the move from a linear model of narrative, exemplified by books, to a ‘dashboard of a calculation interface’ and ‘navigational platforms’, exemplified by new forms of software platforms. Indeed, these platforms, and here we are thinking of a screenic interface such as the iPad, allow the ‘reader’ to use the hand-and-eye in haptic interfaces to develop interactive exploratory approaches towards knowledge/information and ‘discovery’. This could, of course, still enable humanitistic notions of ‘close reading’ but the preferred reading style would increasingly be ‘distant reading’. Partially, or completely, mediated through computational code-based devices. Non-linear, fragmentary, partial and pattern-matching software taking in real-time streams and presenting to the user a mode of cognition that is hyper attention based coupled with real-time navigational tools.
Lastly, more tentatively we would like to suggest an interesting paradox connected with the real-time stream, in that it encourages a comportment towards futurity. This, following Derrida, we would call ‘Messianic’ (a structure of experience rather than a religion) (Derrida 1994: 211), connecting the real-time stream to an expectation or an opening towards an entirely ungraspable and unknown other, a ‘waiting without horizon of expectation’ (Derrida 1994: 211). As Derrida writes:

Awaiting without horizon of the wait, awaiting what one does not expect yet or any longer, hospitality without reserve, welcoming salutation accorded in advance to the absolute surprise of the arrivant from whom or from which one will not ask anything in return and who or which will not be asked to commit to the domestic contracts of any welcoming power (family, state, nation, territory, native soil or blood, language, culture in general, even humanity), just opening which renounces any right to property, any right in general, messianic opening to what is coming, that is, to the event that cannot be awaited as such, or recognized in advance therefore, to the event as the foreigner itself, to her or to him for whom one must leave an empty place, always, in memory of the hope—and this is the very place of spectrality (Derrida 1994: 81).

The Messianic refers to a structure of existence that involves waiting. Waiting even in activity, and a ceaseless openness towards a future that can never be circumscribed by the horizons of significance that we inevitably bring to bear upon the possible future.

Derrida, like Benjamin, situates the messianic in a moment of hesitation. For Benjamin, that moment is one of “danger”; the past flashes up before disappearing forever. For Derrida, it is a moment of haunting; the spectral other makes its visitation in the disjunction between presence and absence, life and death, matter and spirit, that conditions representation. Although the messianic “trembles on the edge” of this event, we cannot anticipate its arrival. Because the arrival is never contingent upon any specific occurrence, the messianic hesitation “does not paralyze any decision, any affirmation, any responsibility. On the contrary, it grants them their elementary condition” (Specters 213). The moment of hesitation – the spectral moment – enables us to act as though the impossible might be possible, however limited the opportunities for radical change may appear to be in our everyday experiences. The global communications networks, although often invasive and dangerously reductive, also serve as privileged sites of messianic possibility precisely because of their accelerated virtualization (Tripp 2005).

This futurity raises important questions about the autonomy of the human agent, coupled as it is with the auto-curation of the stream processing not just providing information to but actively constructing, directing and even creating the socio-cognitive conditions for the subjectivity of the real-time stream, algorithmic humanity.  A subject with a comportment towards awaiting which forgets and makes present. Or as Derrida suggests:

It obliges us more than ever to think the virtualization of space and time, the possibility of virtual events whose movement and speed prohibit us more than ever (more and otherwise than ever, for this is not absolutely and thoroughly new) from opposing presence to its representation. “real time” to “deferred time,” effectivity to its simulacrum, the living to the non-living, in short, the living to the living-dead of its ghosts (Derrida 1994: 212). 

Bibliography

Berry, D. M. (2011a) The Philosophy of Software: Code and Mediation in the Digital Age, London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Berry, D. M. (2011b) The Computational Turn: Thinking about the Digital Humanities, Culture Machine, Special Issue on The Digital Humanities and Beyond, vol. 12, accessed 12/09/2011, http://www.culturemachine.net/index.php/cm/article/view/440/470

Borthwick, J. (2009) Distribution … now, accessed 12/09/2011, http://www.borthwick.com/weblog/2009/05/13/699/

Callon, M. (1998) Introduction: Embeddedness of Economic Markets in Economics, The Laws of the Markets, Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, pp.1-57.

Derrida, J. (1994) Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning, & the New International,  Trans. Peggy Kamuf, London: Routledge.

Goetz, T. (2011) Harnessing the Power of Feedback Loops, Wired, accessed 12/09/2011, http://www.wired.com/magazine/2011/06/ff_feedbackloop/

Hayles, N. K. (2007) Hyper and Deep Attention: The Generational Divide in Cognitive Modes, Profession, 13, pp. 187-199.

Moretti, F. (2007) Graphs, Maps, Trees: Abstract Models for a Literary History, London, Verso.
Tripp, S. (2005) From Utopianism to Weak Messianism: Electronic Culture’s Spectral Moment, Electronic Book Review, accessed 12/09/2011, http://www.electronicbookreview.com/thread/technocapitalism/dot-edu

New Book: Critical Theory and the Digital

New book, Critical Theory and the Digital, coming in 2012 on Continuum. 

Digital Shakespeare Monday 16 May 2011, Workshop and Talks, Swansea University

Digital Shakespeare
Monday 16 May 2011

Workshop and Talks

SWANSEA UNIVERSITY
4th floor SmallTalk Room, Faraday Building

Organised by Dr. David M. Berry and Dr. Tom Cheesman

Few dispute that digital technology is fundamentally changing the way in which we engage in the research process. Indeed, it is becoming more and more evident that research is increasingly being mediated through digital technology. Many argue that this mediation is slowly beginning to change what it means to undertake research, affecting both the epistemologies and ontologies that underlie a research programme (sometimes conceptualised as ‘close’ versus ‘distant’ reading, see Moretti 2000). Of course, this development is variable depending on disciplines and research agenda, with some more reliant on digital technology than others, but it is rare to find an academic today who had no access to digital technology as part of the research activity and there remains fewer means for the non-digital scholar to undertake research in the modern university (see JAH 2008). Not to mention the ubiquity of email, Google searches and bibliographic databases which become increasingly crucial as more of the worlds libraries are scanned and placed online. These, of course, also produce their own specific problems, such as huge quantities of articles, texts and data suddenly available at the researcher’s fingertips, indeed, “It is now quite clear that historians will have to grapple with abundance, not scarcity. Several million books have been digitized…and nearly every day we are confronted with a new digital historical resource of almost unimaginable size” (JAH 2008).

In this workshop we will look at how we might use the new digital tools of text aggregation, processing and information or data visualisation to provide the ways of looking at and thinking about Shakespeare. From making data patterns, to narrativising through algorithms and visualisation we aim to examine how these approaches and methods can assist in undertaking humanities research into textual materials.

Programme

11.30-12.00    Registration (4th floor SmallTalk Room, Faraday Building)

12 noon:    Introduction and Welcome (David Berry)

12.15-12.50:    The Swansea VVV Project: Visualising Version Variation (Tom Cheesman)

13.00-13.45:    Understanding through Visualisation (Stephan Thiel, Potsdam)

13.45-14.00:    Coffee Break

14.00-14.30:    Shakespeare in Arabic (Sameh Hanna, Salford)

14.30-15.00:    Visualising Textual Corpora (Geng Zhao, Swansea University)

15.15-16.15:    Computational Information Design  (Stephan Thiel, Potsdam)

16.15:    Reflections on the workshop (Tom Cheesman, Robert S. Laramee)

16.45:    Ends

There is no charge for the workshop but as space is limited please email d.m.berry@Swansea.ac.uk if you are interested in attending.

http://www.delightedbeauty.org/

Funded by the Research Institute for Arts and Humanities (RIAH)

Tabs, Pads and Boards: Why Apple et al will make a HDTV

Xerox Palo Alto Researchers using Tabs, Pads and Boards (Weiser 1991)

There are many discussions across the internet about why Apple will not make a HDTV, ranging from simple cost, likely small return on investment, competitive environment, difficulty in innovating, long replacement cycles, and perceived customer lack of interest (Arment 2011, Dixon 2011, Hughes 2011, Lisagor 2011, cf. McCracken 2011). However, the majority of these articles make the fundamental mistake of treating a stand-alone product as a self-standing revenue stream, rather than considering it within the growing ecology of media appliances that Apple has been building. At the reception end of the very impressive Apple vertical media system Apple has, surprisingly, a rather poor product line. There are computers (laptop and desktop), which aren’t ideal for watching mass media like films, iPads, which whilst very innovative are uncomfortable to hold for the duration of a television programme or film, iPhones and iPods, which whilst handy out-and-about are unlikely to be used to consume mass time-based media, suffering, as they do, from the same issue as the iPad.1 Therefore that leaves only the television, that much maligned representative of 20th Century media as the key communal access point into the new media environment, and clearly Apple currently doesn’t manufacture or sell one.

Of course, they do make the so-called ‘AppleTV’, a television-add-on product that connects to an existing TV HDMI port. But I believe this is a transitional product that allows wide-spread testing of the value of a strategic technical innovation in HDTV, representing the beginning of the development of a protocol that enables this to take place through its AirPlay technology (see Gillmor 2011). As it stands AppleTV is a curious media-receiver for the television, supplying some computational intelligence into a dumb output device and pointing to the possibilities of streaming media. This, in itself, raises the question: is the television of the 20th Century still fit for purpose?

First, we should note that something has fundamentally changed in the media landscape. Foremost to this are the rise of computational media, and the ubiquity of the computer microprocessor. This has led to a rapid tsunami of disruptive change across the traditional media sector as media have become increasingly computational in form and function. Strangely, this has caught the traditional media completely by surprise even as it revolutionised the production and distribution mechanisms for media content and which they took advantage of to reduce their costs (Kiss 2011). At the heart of this transformation lies the magic of software/code which has enabled media to flow increasingly rapidly between various devices, spaces and places (Berry 2011), and which the traditional media has viewed with great suspicion and attempted to prevent through a mixture of law, digital rights management and sheer bloody-mindedness. The music industry missed the change in customers behaviour when they no longer wanted to purchase lumps of expensive plastic to play on clunky music players, and this has been followed by a similar change in television and film consumption. As Steve Jobs observed in 2010,

The way that we market movies is undergoing a radical shift. It used to be that you spent a fortune on advertising on TV running your trailers. But now you can advertise on the Web….When we went to the music companies, we said “who is your customer?” And they said, “Best Buy, Tower”…their distribution partners. But that wasn’t their customer. They needed to recognize who their true customer was….So what changed in the music business was not the back end, but the front end. The way that you market to the consumer….The film industry needs to embrace that. And it needs to let people watch the content they want to watch, when they want to watch it and where they want to watch it (Jobs quoted in Paczkowski 2010, emphasis added).

The key here is that it is the front-end that is suddenly under pressure from the massive changes bought forward by the rapid increase in processing ability, software/code and storage. The television and film industry isn’t quite sure who their customer is anymore, and they are pretty certain it is not the kinds of people that rip their films and programmes and stream them around their houses. But these new technologies, that are now cheap enough to build into so-called smart televisions, are about to make everyone interested in real-time streaming information and data. The media industry also do not understand the new ways in which people want to consume their media both across and through devices – starting on one and finishing on another.

Indeed, we are on the cusp of a fundamental redefinition of what the television screen is: no longer the dumb output device that sits at the end of a uni-directional cable so that a corporation can sell your attention to the advertising industry.  Simultaneously it is clear that the personal computer is also in the middle of a pretty fundamental shift itself, with Jobs memorably describing desktop computers as ‘going to be like trucks’ (Fried 2010). The success of the iPad, and other new tablet-like devices, shows that what people want to be able to do with their media will become increasing important in both differentiating computational products, but also in structuring the technology and media industries.2

However, momentous as these changes appear to be, they were heralded by research undertaken at the Xerox Palo Alto research centre in the 1990s. There researchers were given the space and time to think about how we might use technologies to augment the work (and play) that we undertake in our everyday lives. More importantly they questioned the ‘personal’ in the personal computer and wondered if,

The arcane aura that surrounds personal computers is not just a “user interface” problem. My colleagues and I at PARC think that the idea of a “personal” computer itself is misplaced, and that the vision of laptop machines, dynabooks and “knowledge navigators” is only a transitional step toward achieving the real potential of information technology. Such machines cannot truly make computing an integral, invisible part of the way people live their lives. Therefore we are trying to conceive a new way of thinking about computers in the world, one that takes into account the natural human environment and allows the computers themselves to vanish into the background (Weiser 1991: 78).

Drawing on substantial theoretical and empirical research they highlighted the importance of a technology falling into the background of the activity that the user wanted to undertake. This they christened ubiquitous computing. Clearly, key to this is that the technical device or object should be merely a surface interface to the underlying task that a user wished to accomplish, whether playing a film, sending a letter, reading a book or so forth. For this to be less a problem of using the computer, with its arcane and clunky keyboard interface, and more a problem of accessing the media directly they argued,

Such a disappearance is a fundamental consequence not of technology, but of human psychology. Whenever people learn something sufficiently well, they cease to be aware of it. When you look at a street sign, for example, you absorb its information without consciously performing the act of reading.. Computer scientist, economist, and Nobelist Herb Simon calls this phenomenon “compiling”; philosopher Michael Polanyi calls it the “tacit dimension”; psychologist TK Gibson calls it “visual invariants”; philosophers Georg Gadamer and Martin Heidegger call it “the horizon” and the “ready-to-hand”, John Seely Brown at PARC calls it the “periphery”. All say, in essence, that only when things disappear in this way are we freed to use them without thinking and so to focus beyond them on new goals (Weiser 1991: 78).

Through a number of refinements and empirical experiments they settled on range of device categories that seemed to be needed to negotiate a computational media landscape, dividing them into three classes: tabs, pads, and boards: tabs are ‘inch-scale machines that approximate active Post-It notes’, pads are ‘foot-scale ones that behave something like a sheet of paper (or a book or a magazine)’, and boards are ‘yard-scale displays that are the equivalent of a blackboard or bulletin board’ (Weiser 1991: 80). It does not take much imagination to see that Apple’s strategy has followed the Xerox research to a remarkable degree, except for one glaring exception (cf. Ozzie (2009) where he outlines Microsoft’s ‘three screens and a cloud definition’):3

  • Tabs: iPhone, iPod
  • Pads: iPad, Macbook Air,
  • Boards: ?

Again, it is critical that the Xerox team saw computation as a distributed system, not a self-contained device. That is, that they understood the importance of the network for computational media. This immediately transformed the kinds of information that each of these classes of technical device was able to use and transmit to others, and most importantly these devices were programmed to understand the importance of the real-time stream, above and beyond that of historical data and media. Indeed, they even referred to ‘liveboards’:

Liveboards can also be used as bulletin boards. There is already too much data for people to read and comprehend all of it, and so Marvin Theimer and David Nichols at PARC have built a prototype system that attunes its public information to the people reading it. Their “scoreboard” requires little or no interaction from the user other than to look… (Weiser 1991: 86).

Twitter (Gruber 2008)

Again, it is striking how contemporary the problems and solutions are that the Xerox team are gesturing towards. We are today entering a rapidly changing computational ecology being structured around the concept of the real-time stream (Berry 2011). Currently, most tools created to deal with the real-time stream have favoured temporality as a means of both representing and presenting the data, such as with Twitter, where the real-time stream tends to be viewed as a rapidly changing flow of information down a page (see image). However, this kind of representation is actually rather poor when you want to negotiate the information is contains, it needs, in other words, to allow the transformation of time-axis manipulation which Friedrich Kittler theorised as that ‘[which] shift[s] the chronological order of time to the parallel order of space – and spaces are things that can principally be restructured – [thus] written media become elementary forms that not only allow temporal order to be stored but also to be manipulated and reversed’ (Krämer 2006).

This requires a large surface area that allows information to be moved around, recombined and re-presented in different ways. It also enables the juxtaposition, rotation, reversal and visualisation of data in interesting new ways. As Latour (1986) points out,

on paper, hybrids can be created that mix drawings from many sources. Perspective is not interesting because it provides realistic pictures ; on the other hand, it is interesting because it creates complete hybrids : nature seen as fiction, and fiction seen as nature, with all the elements made so homogeneous in space that it is now possible to reshuffle them like a pack of cards.

For the Xerox scientists this space could be created by the use of large screens that they called ‘boards’. These boards allowed the user to project, send, manipulate, write on and generally visualise different forms of media on a collaborative, multiply authored, multiply viewable space in a communal environment. They explained:

Yard-size displays (boards) serve a number of purposes: in the home, video screens and bulletin boards; in the office, bulletin boards, whiteboards or flip charts. A board might also serve as an electronic bookcase from which one might download texts to a pad or tab. For the time being, however, the ability to pull out a book and place it comfortably on one’s lap remains one of the many attractions of paper. Similar objections apply to using a board as a desktop; people will have to get used to using pads and tabs on a desk as an adjunct to computer screens before taking embodied virtuality even further… Boards built by Richard Bruce and Scott Elrod at PARC currently measure about 40 by 60 inches and display 1024×768 black-and-white pixels. To manipulate the display, users pick up a piece of wireless electronic “chalk” that can work either in contact with the surface or from a distance. Some researchers, using themselves and their colleagues as guinea pigs, can hold electronically mediated meetings or engage in other forms of collaboration around a liveboard. Others use the boards as testbeds for improved display hardware, new “chalk” and interactive software (Weiser 1991: 85).

We are already seeing the beginning of experiments in these new ways of spatialising the real-time stream, such as PulseFlipboard and Showyou on a pad device, but with the greater size of a television screen, or board, new ways to present, negotiate and visualise media will become increasingly possible. However, the Xerox engineers cautioned:

The technology required for ubiquitous computing comes in three parts: cheap, low-power computers that include equally convenient displays, a network that ties them all together, and software systems implementing ubiquitous applications (Weiser 1991: 85).

Clearly, the first two have been available for a while, with tablets and smart phones able to leverage their computational power to provide very convincing interfaces to the media environment, and networks built around WiFi, now starting to enable the transmission of real-time streams of data and media that allow live viewing and interaction. However, until now the software systems that would enable this ubiquitous interaction of different devices both of and in the media network have been slow to be developed because of the reluctance, previously mentioned, of the traditional media to give up their profitable transmission monopolies.

With AirPlay, however, Apple, has created a real-time streaming system that combined with technologies like iTunes Home Sharing, Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Flickr and so forth requires only the terminal output device, the board, to complete the vertical media infrastructure and consumption network (cf. Gerrish 2011 who argues the HDMI interface ports will be the key site of media competition). Haptic, networked, smart and communal, this would complete the ubiquitous computing trinity that Xerox dreamed of over twenty years ago, and points the way towards both the real-time streams and the online media clouds that allows a whole new digital media ecology to blossom and grow.4

Notes

1. Other problems remain with tab and pad type devices most noticeably the current tethered reliance on the PC, see Gruber (2011) for an interesting discussion of this. 
2. Here one can only note the remarkable new self-definition of Apple that Steve Jobs introduced in a keynote in 2010 where he stated that Apple lay between liberal arts and technology, and which he reiterated again in 2011 stating: ‘it’s in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough. That it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our hearts sing’ (see Macworld 2011). 
3. ‘I don’t think it’s – they’ll be totally cloud-based in the realm, in the – let me back up. There’s kind of a – in order to get things going across the company you need meetings, you need to say things, say them again, and say them again. So we say three screens and a cloud, three screens and a cloud, three screens and a cloud, throughout the company. And what that means is everything we deliver, from a user experience perspective, will be – will have some aspect of its value delivered across the PC class of device, the phone class of device, and the TV class of device. Every one of them will have something, and all will be connected to the cloud. That will bring them all together’ (Ozzie 2009).
4. This is how Apple describe airplay: ‘You have great HD videos on your iPad and some friends on your couch. Or you’re in the middle of an epic action scene that could use a little more screen. Just tap the AirPlay icon on your iPad and see it on your HDTV. Make sure your iPad and Apple TV are connected to the same Wi-Fi network, and the AirPlay icon appears automatically’ (Apple 2011). 

Bibliography

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Thoughts on Augmented Computational Inequality

When thinking about the profound changes introduced by digital technology at a social, economic and political level, it is interesting to see recent arguments being made in terms of two elites battling out for supremacy over who is able to ‘control’ culture and serve as the gatekeepers to it (see Jarvis 2011, Anderson 2011). Here I want to think of them as two camps, on the one side we have what I call the moderns, represented by writers like Nick Carr (2011) and Matthew Crawford (2010), and in the postmodern camp writers like Jeff Jarvis (2011) and Clay Shirky (2010). Indeed it is in this vein that Jeff Jarvis criticises what he calls the The distraction trope, the idea that technology is undermining our ability to think deeply without being sidetracked (see Agger 2009, Freedland 2011). In a similar way to the enlightenment thinkers who pitched the moderns against the old, Jarvis argues:

And isn’t really their fear, the old authors, that they are being replaced? Control in culture is shifting (Jarvis 2011).

In this argument, Jarvis attacks ‘modern’ writers like Nick Carr (2010) and Jonathan Freedland (2011), who worry about the changes that digital technology introduce into our lives as we are increasingly living non-linear lives. Indeed, the shift could be understood as one from the modernist subject, unified, coherent, linear, reflexive to a postmodern subject, fragmented, incoherent, non-linear, and increasingly real-time (see Berry 2011). Jarvis believes that the moderns’ arguments essentially boil down to an attempt to hold back culture and technology so that an old elite remain in power. These ‘old’ elites are not the traditionalists that the original moderns attacked. Indeed, those traditionalists supported religion, the King and the old hierarchies of status and power.

Rather it is the moderns themselves that the postmoderns have no time for. These moderns are the middle class who have benefited from the Humboldtian ideals, the bourgeois who have monopolised the media, the universities, and the professional class more generally over the past century.

For the German Idealists, like Humboldt, culture was the sum of all knowledge that is studied, as well as the cultivation and development of one’s character as a result of that study. Indeed, Humboldt proposed the founding of a new university, the University of Berlin, as a mediator between national culture and the nation-state. Under the project of ‘culture’, the university would be required to undertake both research and teaching, respectively the production and dissemination of knowledge. The modern idea of a university, therefore, allowed it to become the preeminent institution that unified ethnic tradition and statist rationality by the production of an educated cultured individual (Berry 2011: 19). 

These new ‘old’ moderns are the formerly privileged minority who were educated in a national culture and shared in a cultural milieu that they believed that was rightfully theirs. This cultural education gave them not only the power of discourse more generally, but also real power, in terms of preparation through elite schools and universities in traditionally humanities education to become the masters. These are described as the kinds of people that used to read novels like Tolstoy’s War and Peace (see Carr 2010) – although it is doubtful that they ever did. As Carr (2008) argues,

Bruce Friedman, who blogs regularly about the use of computers in medicine, also has described how the Internet has altered his mental habits. “I now have almost totally lost the ability to read and absorb a longish article on the web or in print,” he wrote earlier this year. A pathologist who has long been on the faculty of the University of Michigan Medical School, Friedman elaborated on his comment in a telephone conversation with me. His thinking, he said, has taken on a “staccato” quality, reflecting the way he quickly scans short passages of text from many sources online. “I can’t read War and Peace anymore,” he admitted. “I’ve lost the ability to do that. Even a blog post of more than three or four paragraphs is too much to absorb. I skim it” (Carr 2008).

Of course, it was never a problem for the working class to have staccato minds and to suffer the consequences of the shallowness of thinking bought by poor education and little access to high culture. These moderns now express their concern that they too may be losing their cognitive powers in a technology infused society. Indeed, their fears sometimes sound rather like a paranoia over a potential loss of the self,

I can feel it, too. Over the past few years I’ve had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory. My mind isn’t going—so far as I can tell—but it’s changing. I’m not thinking the way I used to think. I can feel it most strongly when I’m reading. Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the case anymore. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle (Carr 2008).

This is identified as a loss being suffered by the ‘literary types’ (Carr 2008), the cultural elite who previously were able to monopolise the deep thinking in a society. Naturally, this cultural elite also considered themselves the natural leaders of a society too. In Britain we tend to think of Oxbridge educated politicians like David Cameron, George Osbourne, Nick Clegg, and Ed Milliband who currently monopolise political power – although it is doubtful that we think of them as deep thinkers.[1] They were certainly educated in the belief that certain kinds of knowledge, usually humanities knowledge, was for ‘some humans’, an elite that could understand and protect it (Fuller 2010). For the postmoderns, on the other hand, the world has already shifted beyond the moderns’ control, Holt (2011) explains:

‘No one reads War and Peace,’ responds Clay Shirky, a digital-media scholar at New York University. ‘The reading public has increasingly decided that Tolstoy’s sacred work isn’t actually worth the time it takes to read it.’ (Woody Allen solved that problem by taking a speed-reading course and then reading War and Peace in one sitting. ‘It was about Russia,’ he said afterwards.) The only reason we used to read big long novels before the advent of the internet was because we were living in an information-impoverished environment. Our ‘pleasure cycles’ are now tied to the web, the literary critic Sam Anderson claimed in a 2009 cover story in New York magazine, ‘In Defense of Distraction’. ‘It’s too late,’ he declared, ‘to just retreat to a quieter time’ (Holt 2011).

The new barbarians at the gates are increasingly led by techno-libertarians who declare that technology is profoundly disruptive of old powers, status and knowledge. Indeed, David Clark (1991) famously declared what has become one of the guiding principles of the IETF,

In many ways, the IETF runs on the beliefs of its participants. One of the “founding beliefs” is embodied in an early quote about the IETF from David Clark: “We reject kings, presidents and voting. We believe in rough consensus and running code”.  (Hoffman 2010).

The postmoderns, themselves generally educated in technology, business, technology law, and the physical sciences, see themselves pitted against an old guard that they see as increasingly defending an unsustainable position. For them knowledge can now be freely mediated through digital technology, and the moderns, as guardians of culture and history, are out-of-date, defunct and obsolete. This is, of course, revolutionary talk, and is reminiscent of the original premise of the social sciences that argued for ‘all humans’ rather than a privileged subset (see Fuller 2010). Indeed, one could argue that the universalisation of their claims to democratic access to knowledge is crucial for their political project. All the bulwarks of the modern empire, the university, the state, the large-scale corporation and even the culturally sophisticated educated elite are threatened with being dismantled by a new techno-social apparatus being built by the postmoderns.[2]

However, the arguments of the postmoderns have an important and critical flaw – they are blind to the problems created by economic inequality. The moderns dealt with this political economic problem by educating a minority of the population that would be involved in the social reproduction of knowledge but were crucially committed to the wider ‘public good’. The postmoderns, on the other hand, call for the market alone to right the wrongs of class, status and hierarchy without any countervailing means of correcting for areas where the market produces problems, so-called ‘market-failure’.[3] For the moderns, the state can be used as a tool to correct the wrongs of the market and offer solutions through the use of various kinds of intervention, for example to help prevent inequality, to regenerate an area or to correct lack of investment by the private sector.

Within the terms of the postmodern imaginary, however, the state is itself identified as part of the problem, having been to closely entwined with the logic of the moderns. The only solution is transparency and ‘openness’, a dose of sunlight being applied to all areas of social life. Usually in the form of private wealth channelled through philanthropy linked to a calculative instrumental rationality, such as demonstrated by the Gates Foundation.

“In this case, 40 superwealthy people want to decide what their money will be used for,” Peter Krämer, a Hamburg shipping magnate and philanthropist, told the German magazine Der Spiegel. “That runs counter to the democratically legitimate state. In the end, the billionaires are indulging in hobbies that might be in the common good, but are very personal” (Bruinius 2010).

Thus, the postmoderns see the world divided starkly between those who work hard, and those who do not (usually in hidden areas away from the glare of cleansing technology); for those that work hard will inherit the riches, but for those who do not, then a technological solution will be found to solve this problem, usually in the form of league tables, targets, incentive structures and monitoring. Lyotard clearly identified this postmodern mindset where,

Knowledge becomes a force of production it also becomes both a tool and object of economic and political power. Knowledge…is already… a major…stake in the worldwide competition for power. It is conceivable that nation-states will one day fight for control of information, just as they battled of over territory, and… control of access to and exploitation of raw materials and cheap labour. A new field is opened for industrial and commercial strategies on the one hand, and political and military strategies on the other. (Lyotard 1984: 5) 

The result of this new circuit of power and knowledge is that knowledge is now connected directly to wealth. Indeed, the underlying problem is that ‘truth’ is increasingly tied to expenditure and power, for the pursuit of knowledge is now tied to the use of advanced and, on the whole, expensive technologies. Power is connected to expenditure, for there can be no technology without investment just as there can be no investment without technology. But further to this, in an era of augmented technology then those who can afford it will have bought the cognitive capabilities that certain technologies allow. In other words, it is not that writers such as Nick Carr are losing their ability to think, rather they do not earn enough money to buy the right kind of technology to think with. Google, amongst others, looks forward to a new age of ‘augmented humanity’

Monetizing “augmented humanity” will require large existing businesses that depend on the economics of scarcity to change to the “economics of ubiquity,” Schmidt said, where greater distribution means more profits. He cited the (long-expected) successful monetization of YouTube as an example. “Augmented humanity” will introduce lots of “healthy debate” about privacy and sharing personal information, and it will be empowering for everybody, not just the elite, Schmidt said (Gannes 2010).

This implies new gatekeepers to the centres of knowledge in the information age are given by technologies, cognitive and data-processing algorithms, data visualisation tools and high-tech companies. Providing you have the money you will have access, and not just access, as we increasingly rely on computational devices to process this raw data and information. Thinking itself, outsourced into cognitive technical devices will supply the means to understand and process the raw information given by access. For Lyotard the only way to fight this corporate and military enclosure of knowledge is clear: ‘The line to follow for computerization to take . . . is, in principle, quite simple: give the public free access to the memory and databanks’ (Lyotard 1984: 67). However, it is clear that access itself will not be enough, it is not that we live in an information age, rather it is that we live in a computational age, and computation costs time and money, something which is unequally distributed throughout the population.

Indeed, the consequences of this computational inequality is that the richer you are the faster you will think, the wider the knowledge you can pay to access, and the better your analysis. This is a not a computational divide between the computational-haves and the computational-have-nots, but the reduction of all knowledge to the result of an algorithm. The postmodern rich won’t just think they are better, indeed they won’t necessarily be educated to a higher level at all, rather they will just have the better cognitive-support technology that allows them to do so. Knowledge is therefore recast to be computable, discrete, connected, in a real-time flow and even shallow – if by shallow we mean that knowledge exists on a plane of immanence rather than hierarchically ordered with transcendental knowledge at the peak.

To build this new world order the existing gatekeepers of knowledge need to be bought to heel to enable the computational systems to scour the world’s knowledge bases to prepare it for this new augmented age.[4] Knowledge and information will be the fuel of this new capitalism. Indeed, Lyotard was right in calling for the databanks to be opened, but he might not have realised that they would contain too much information for any single human-being to understand without access to the unequally distributed computational technology and know-how. We might therefore paraphrase Lyotard and say that the line is, perhaps, in principle, quite simple: give the public free access to the algorithms and code.

Notes

[1] “Consider the social pedigree of the leading lights on both front benches today. Cameron, Clegg and Osborne went to private schools whose fees are more than the average annual wage. More than a third of the current Commons was privately educated, three percentage points up on that elected in 2005, reversing a downward trend over several generations… The Labour leader, Ed Miliband, went to Oxford from affluent north London, graduated in philosophy, politics and economics — or PPE, an apprenticeship scheme for budding pols — and was soon working for Gordon Brown. The defeated David Miliband went to the same Oxford college (Corpus Christi), also did PPE and was soon advising Tony Blair… The shadow chancellor, Ed Balls, is another Oxford man, who also graduated in — yes— PPE and also ended up working for Brown. At Oxford he met his future wife (and current shadow home secretary) Yvette Cooper, which should not be a surprise, because she too was reading PPE” (Neil 2011).
[2] If this reminds you of the statements of Julian Assange and Wikileaks, it should. They draw from a similar vein for their critique: ”Its not only in Vietnam where secrecy, malfeasance and unequal access have eaten into the first requirement of foresight (“truth and lots of it”).” (Assange 2006).
[3] Although a nascent universalisation is suggested by the notion of the ‘common’ as used by movements like the Creative Commons and open source software groups (see Berry 2008).
[4] This in part explains the attack on the universities current monopoly on knowledge by both the state and the information techno-capitalists. It also show why the state is under such pressure to release its own reservoirs of information in the form of the open access movement, with notable examples being the US data.gov and the UK data.gov.uk. For a good example of this see the Cape Town Open Education Declaration.

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