DH Methods Presentation

I made a handout for my presentation in RMH’s methods course. I tried to structure the presentation as a conversation in which I (attempted) to answer questions and show examples. I created text files from our exam reading list to mine/visualize, but we ran out of time. We were going to explore/compare Bitzer’s “The Rhetorical Situation” with Vatz’s “Myth of the Rhetorical Situation” in voyant tools. I also had an idea to look at “rhetoric” in each book of Aristotle’s “On Rhetoric” in voyant tools to look for how the term was situated. I could still pursue these projects myself, but what arose was an interest in comparing rhet/comp exam reading lists from as many institutions I can find. I don’t know what I’ll do with the data yet, but I am curious to look at the lists across institutions.

the force of seeing

Metaphors of sight are overused, but when it comes to visualizing information, sight seems to aptly fit. I’m trying to account for a different sight or seeing that I’ve been thinking about as we read and discuss DH methods, conversations, and concerns that is more mindful of these and the scopes at which they are done. In reading for this week, I realize that this is a bit of an abstraction (and maybe a result of being prompted to talk about my research), but I’m thinking about the methods we have been discussing as means of remembering (and maybe, re-membering in terms of putting broken bodies back together, or even bringing individuals [ideas and people and things] back into sight). It’s odd to me that I haven’t explicitly thought of DH methods as doing memory work; I think I can dismiss it by saying that these methods are to uncover new patterns that weren’t noticed before, so they wouldn’t be how something was experienced. But in doing this work, at least on texts that are still contemporary (and even texts that have been “established” or experienced in a particular way as to have epistemological implications), conceptions of what is/n’t change. There are counterhistories in the field of rhetoric and composition to alter how the field constructs itself—what it occludes and includes (here I have a very flimsy connection between conception and memory that is in want of development). I don’t think that making texts visible is neutral work, void of intent, but making visible seems more passive than reconstructing what was visible. Making visible is positing a new perspective, perhaps different from what existed before, to materials that we have/not encountered (and differently).

I’m still working through these ideas, and to me they seem disjointed, but I’m noting a difference or perhaps a different degree (or nuance) in what is being done to and from seeing materials. I am reminded of James Elkins’ “The Object Stares Back” from his book On the Nature of Seeing; he says “ultimately, seeing alters the thing that is seen and transforms the seer. Seeing is metamorphosis, not mechanism”. He is working to move beyond a concept of sight as “just looking” to one of intent, to one that is not singular, on that multiplies and changes because there is no fixity—looking has force. I’m left with questions on the nature of seeing, constructing, and remembering and the matters of concern they raise in using these methods. What is their force in seeing? Are they too scattered to notice and focus? What is/are the scopes of this work—not in how closely or distantly materials are looked at, but where their gaze is cast? Is there a connection between sight and memory in this work? What comes with and from new ways of seeing?






This week in RCDH, we are discussing Matthew L. Jockers’ Macroanalysis. My role is that of catalyst, so I will work to synthesize the posts of my peers.

Jason appreciated having to read methodology more closely, explaining that in (humanities?) scholarship, method is usually not as developed or attention getting as arguments and conclusions being put forth. He also remarked that he respected Jockers’ balanced approach to making a case for more distant reading methods without diminishing more commonly used close methods; Jason explains “he’s advocating for scholars to use all of the available tools at their disposal”. Jason also found himself thinking about what rhetoric can bring to DH instead of the other way around, which he admits is how he has been thinking about our readings: DH makes him think of tools in these methods, while rhetoric makes him aware of the choices that go into creating, using, and analyzing these tools and their use. Jason ends by raising questions about difference in what can be gained distant reading a corpus of texts vs. a text, ultimately wondering what disservice we do to ourselves by seeing them as situated in different camps, caring for different matters.

Romeo appreciates Jockers’ readability and balanced concern for close and distant methods, which he highlights through Jockers’ definition of macroanalysis—that moving between micro and macro scales is most effective as these approaches inform each other. Romeo finds Jockers’ rationale for macroanalysis compelling, explaining that “He argues that macroanalysis is just another means for evidence gathering and that to embrace new approaches and methodologies to give way to new possibilities of analysis.” With attention to size of information/texts one is working with, Romeo condenses Jockers’ succinctly in describing how a macroanalytic (and computer assisted) approach can reveal information a researcher would otherwise miss (beyond unassisted human ability).

Lindsey, like Romeo and Jason, appreciated how accessible and interesting Jockers’ writing about DH methods is, even seeing it as a text not just about macroanalysis, but caring for DH methods more broadly. She was struck by thinking about research methods, more specifically, she realized she has been approaching reading our DH texts from a composition frame of reference, which surprises her because she is more trained in rhetoric. She is know wondering how DH might intersect with her interests in visual analyses of bodies, performances, and sexuality and what she might take from our course conversations “to conceive of a project that conducts a macro analysis of the rhetoric of our visual culture”. What she is now thinking about is what DH tools and methods there might be to study the visual—”how can a macro analysis account for the rhetorical study cultural artifacts?” Are DH methods limited to alphanumeric texts?

Despite the different points of engagement with Jockers’ texts, it seems like my peers are engaging with methodology/methods more deeply, moving from reading to understand how they are done to wondering what they might do with them in their different areas of interest in rhetoric and composition—perhaps a move too from wondering what is possible/potential to imagining what is possible/potential as DH work.