My name is Setsuko Yokoyama, a first year PhD student at the Department of English. Prior to coming to Maryland, I completed a master’s program at the University of Michigan School of Information. (Yes, I seem to be chasing block Ms.) My research interest lies in American poetry, contemporary editorial theories and practices, and digital humanities. As a part of my dissertational project, I am planning on developing a digital platform for an American Modernist poet. The idea is to make primary resources readily available online for students and scholars in order for them to make their own judgment when navigating through the poet’s literary legacy. This is why I’ve decided to join the course, hoping to equip myself with the best practices for born-digital project and to be familiar with the debates in the field. I am also interested in getting to know my colleagues at iSchool, hoping we might be able to collaborate in the future.
I was particularly thrilled as I went through the somewhat idealistic description of “The Open Museum” chapter. Richard Rinehart writes: “Can we imagine museums whose authority is used to facilitate & engage a community rather than treat its members as passive cultural consumers?” (106) My marginalia reads: YES! Rinehart, of course, has in mind the new media art and that is different from my “digitized art”, i.e. digitized tape audio records. However, examples Rinehart provides concerning the generative nature of open source code make me realize that the metadata aspect of my work would be considered “digital art.” I seek relevance because, not surprisingly, Rinehart’s illustration of the historical shift among the cultural institutions’ role is also mirrored in the gradual change in Anglo-Saxon academia, concerning the notion of what scholarly edition of literature ought to be. It used to be the case that “authoritative” or “definitive” editions were considered desirable. This status quo of scholarly edition was further enhanced by the limitation of print media. Editors at times need to make scholarly judgment when met with variants, illegibility, and/or uncertainty of the manuscripts as they labor to transcribe the writer’s hand. The problem was that once transcription was presented in a manner divorced from the manuscript’s empirical evidence, those scholarly interventions became close to invisible to the readers’ eyes. Digital publication platform now allows editors to display the variants of manuscript and invite readers to the dialogue of what constitutes a literary text.
Though digital editions have challenged the authoritative notion, I think we have yet to leverage the power of the digital. That is to say, to the best of my knowledge, there hasn’t been a participatory edition that allows the readers to “play with” metadata scholars produce. As Rinehart describes, codes can be downloaded, studied, used, and remixed. Imagine what we can do with major digital editions such as The Walt Whitman Archive, Willa Cather Archive, and Emily Dickinson’s Correspondences should they allow users to download a big set of carefully prepared metadata? They are there, but their potential is yet to be fully appreciated, in my opinion. It seems like the book technology and/or archival and library exhibition model are deeply engrained in scholarly editors when designing the user experience—relevant to what Rinehart and Ippolito described concerning the “fixation on fixity” mentality of conventional cultural institutions.
I wonder how I can best address the need to reconsider the expansive possibility of literary metadata. Should editors be wary about the derivable projects? Rinehart and Ippolito provide examples about the weeding process of ArtBase. Granted we are forgoing the elitist and colonial approach, what do you think is the healthy relationship between professionals and amateurs concerning the Open Museum model? I ask because I think there will always be an agenda from the professionals’ side (including literary editors) in wanting to facilitate, say, reinterpretation of resources.