A Million Blue Pages

Rationale

So far this semester, we’ve explored some different definitions of “digital humanities.” Stephen Ramsay says it’s about building, and so we made a map. I say it’s about “pattern recognition and interpretation,” and so we tried distant reading Duffy. It’s time to test a new theory.

Mark Sample suggests that digital humanities is about sharing: “The promise of the digital is not in the way it allows us to ask new questions because of digital tools or because of new methodologies made possible by those tools. The promise is in the way the digital reshapes the representation, sharing, and discussion of knowledge.”

Drawing inspiration in part from Zak Smith’s illustrations for each page of Gravity’s Rainbow, our class—along with other classes around the country as well as anyone else who feels like playing along—will create images, video, audio, and text for Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves and share them via a public platform: amillionbluepages.net (AMBP) [1]. Our ultimate goal is to create at least one item for every page of House of Leaves.

The Nitty Gritty

Nodes

Your group will create 20 nodes over the course of this project. A “node” for the purposes of this project is anything you can create and share via Tumblr, Instagram, Vine, or Twitter.

As Zach Whalen writes [2],

While these platforms suggest the kinds of things you can create (images, for example), it’s important to realize that a photo of a 3D-printed sculpture is, to Instagram, still an image. In other words, you should feel free to create just about anything that you feel responds to, clarifies, interprets, remixes, illustrates, juxtaposes—whatever verb you like—the content of a specific page.”

We will discuss these platforms briefly in class, but part of your assignment is learning how to use these platforms through sharing. (#worstprofever)

Again, your group must create 20 of these nodes: one for the front matter, one from the back batter (appendices, index), and 18 from different chapters in the book (there are 23 chapters in The Navidson Record). You can only create one node for each chapter. You cannot create a node for Chapter 6. You must create a node for Chapter 9.

There are any number of things your group might create, but among your nodes you must include:

  • At least one image
  • At least one video or animated GIF
  • At least one text
  • At least one audio

Although you’re working in groups, this is not simply an assignment where you divide the nodes among group members. Collaborate and confer about this project regularly. You’re being graded on that collaboration. “Sharing,” remember?

Special Nodes (Back Matter and Book Hacking)

  • For the back matter (everything from p.529 to the end), each of you must create something for a page that hasn’t yet been annotated in AMBP.
  • At least one of your nodes must involve you manipulating one or more actual pages from the book. Get as creative as you want. I’ve got a copy of the book that you can pull apart and mine for the pages you need.

Hashtags

When you have made a thing, share it via any of the aforementioned networks and include with it two tags: #ambp and #p123, where “123” refers to the page number you’re making an item for. Roman numerals work as well (e.g., #pxiv). You may include other tags as needed. For instance, #s15dh will help us easily find the material our class is producing.

In order for your work to be pulled into AMBP, you must post it publicly (i.e., not from a private account). However, you need not use an account that is connected to your real name.

Be Original

Please note that I’m not asking you to link to other objects that already exist online. Instead, I’m asking you to create something new and then share it. The line between creation and sharing is especially porous on Tumblr.

We live in a remix culture, of course, so you are welcome to take some work that someone else has made and transform it significantly (e.g., a collage, extreme Photoshop). Make sure that you credit your original source, however, as it is otherwise an honor code violation.

AMBP Index

Your group will keep track of your 20 nodes and the decisions made in each of them. Please use this template on Google Docs.

Reflection

For the project, you will write a two- to three-page reflection. Consider some of the following questions:

  • How did AMBP help you think differently about House of Leaves?
  • What platforms did you gravitate towards and why?
  • What themes/plot points were you most interested in investigating in your work?
  • What worked in this assignment? What didn’t?

Due Date

All of your work for AMBP is due on Tuesday, 14 April.

  • Please email your reflection documents to me in the following format: Last Name-AMBP.pdf.
  • Please have one member of the group email the AMBP Index to me as a PDF in the following format: Last Name-Last Name-Last Name-Index.pdf (e.g., Croxall-Dooley-Wagner-Index.pdf).

Grading

  • Excellent work is engaged, transformative, challenging, creative, influential and that can articulate thoughtful discoveries about one’s own processes and texts. This will earn an A on this assignment.
  • Poor work is incomplete, perfunctory, obvious or trite. This will earn a D or lower.

Your work is likely to fall on the spectrum between these two extremes.

Groups

Ashley
Nicholas
Elyssa

Jayme
David
Justine

Joyce
Brandon
Hana

Savannah
Maida
John

Matthew
Lily
Daniel

Erin
Caroline
Abby

Noreen
Benjamin
Nancy

[1] amillionbluepages.net was built by Zach Whalen. He’s amazing.

[2] This assignment was initially imagined by Brian Croxall and Zach Whalen. The first guidelines were created with Chuck Rybak. The present version draws heavily from Zach’s assignment and is informed by that of Mary Holland. It is licensed as Creative Commons BY (CC BY 4.0).