Thursday, July 08, 2010
Embroidered Digital Commons: Rescension
This week we are at the Digital Humanities Conference at Kings College London, close reading and stitching the term 'Rescension' as part of the Embroidered Digital Commons. Here's the term -
“Rescension: A re-telling, a word taken to signify the simultaneous existence of different versions of a narrative within oral, and from now onwards, digital cultures. Thus one can speak of a 'southern' or a 'northern' rescension of a myth, or of a 'female' or 'male' rescension of a story, or the possibility (to begin with) of Delhi/Berlin/Tehran 'rescensions' of a digital work. The concept of rescension is contraindicative of the notion of hierarchy. A rescension cannot be an improvement, nor can it connote a diminishing of value. A rescension is that version which does not act as a replacement for any other configuration of its constitutive materials. The existence of multiple rescensions is a guarantor of an idea or a work's ubiquity. This ensures that the constellation of narrative, signs and images that a work embodies is present, and waiting for iteration at more than one site at any given time. Rescensions are portable and are carried within orbiting kernels within a space. Rescensions, taken together constitute ensembles that may form an interconnected web of ideas, images and signs.” (Raqs Media Collective, 2003)
The Digital Humanities is a large net woven by many scholars from many fields, each with their own perspectives on the concept of how the digital can be a form of commons, and how it is restricted. Many of the conference delegates are working with digitising texts, and have very specific understandings of the term 'rescension' within their work. Whether computer programmers, textual scholars, researchers or practitioners within literature, history, geography, computing, cultural studies or cultural theory - they are also keen embroiderers.
Barbara Boralejo has been working on different versions of the Canterbury Tales. As she stitched she explained that a conservative definition of rescension involves searching for the original authentic text; whilst a more open understanding of the term brings together many rescensions of a text to help understand the whole.
Dacos Marin from THAT Camp embroidered a patch and brought along a 'Manifesto for the Digital Humanities'. Article 12 of the manifesto introduces the problematic notion of a common vocabulary which is highly complex for such a diverse group of people from a range of disciplines: "12. We commit to building a collective expertise based upon a common vocabulary, a collective expertise proceeding from the work of all the actors involved."
Perhaps the Lexicon of/for the Digital Commons can be a step towards exploring the complexities of metaphor and translation in our understanding of the commons within the humanities and how that might exist as a digital space? There are so many questions of language here I can't even begin.
This morning Bethany Nowviskie from Virginia USA is embroidering her patch. Bethany is Director of the Scholars' Lab at the University of Virginia Library, and has been following the Open Source Embroidery project for some time. It's great to meet people from the OSE list in person and find out more about their projects. Bethany told us about the Hacking Wearables workshop she ran at The Humanities and Technology Camp (THAT Camp) at the Great Lakes.
Sophie McDonald is helping out with the Embroidered Digital Commons and is making short films of each embroidered term. Her MzTEK workshops also include developing wearable technologies among other things. After a quick chat with Geoffrey Rockwell about the Dictionary of Words in the Wild we discovered that there are no images for the word embroidery. So Sophie is now embroidering the word for the Dictionary, which we will photograph and add to their website. I rather like this way of interlinking online artworks exploring the relationship between text and image, or text and material.
Charlene Lam is also helping out in between assisting Craft Central in their efforts to support emerging designer-makers. Charlene has been a long-time member of the Open Source Embroidery project, and contributed her beautiful embroidered idioms to the exhibition at BildMuseet and MOCFA in San Francisco last year.