Editors’ note: snap reflections

On April 21 2016, The Still Point Journal, that is, we, published a new blog post:

We invite creative responses to the experiences of working across analogue and digital, and between real and virtual worlds…

Two little words in our call for submissions for Digital Selves in Research – “across” and “between” – held more meaning than we realised at the time. So much of what our contributors have expressed, and so much of our own experience in organising this symposium, hides within those words. We seem to be recognising, in so many nuanced ways, that exploring the digital and the real isn’t about choosing one position or the other. We’re the hybrid generation, the researchers learning how to use the internet for scholarship. Is this what a period of transition feels like?

Digital Selves Ed post 1

Our invitation provoked myriad responses, but they all avoided this digital/IRL binary we could not help but set up. Our own vocabulary during this symposium has felt increasingly useless, out of time and place. We are still grappling with how to talk about the experience of being human, being researchers and practitioners in 2016 – but we hope this symposium has pushed our language further. Continue reading

Keynote: Dr Matt Hayler

Editors’ note: In his video keynote, Dr Matt Hayler discusses the ‘relationship between us and our things, the entanglement between our minds, bodies, objects and environments’, how ‘to be human is to be wrapped up in a life of stuff that often does its most potent work when we forget about it, and we think that we are working alone.’ Continue reading

[Command-Shift-4] McLuhan

 

Screen Shot 2016-07-22 at 18.07.38
How to Take a Screenshot of Part of Your Screen on a Mac

I began researching Marshall McLuhan on the internet to explore Marshall McLuhan’s ideas about how the internet effects research. The symmetry was pleasing.

1. medium is message google

One thing the internet tells you pretty quickly is that McLuhan did not say or think anything about the internet because he died in 1980. But Amazon customer Mark B. Cohen assured me we could still learn something.

6. Amazon comment

You can be a scholar on the internet, but why be a scholar when customers get better treatment? Sometimes it’s easier to treat the object of your research as a commodity. Continue reading

Fieldwork a la limeña

rock light
El Espejo de Piedra by Lika Mutal

On my knees, in an art gallery in a bohemian district of Lima, with my head inside a large rock, I thought: “How did I get here?”

I was being shown around an exhibition by an artist whom I wanted to interview. I had the impression at the time, and still do, that this preliminary meeting was a sort of test. I was being judged on how open I was to the artist’s ideas, how I would talk about their work and what the benefits to them would be.

Placing my head in the rock was an extension of this test; it was about my willingness to embrace certain elements of spirituality and of the artist’s vision (which I had quite possibly shown some scepticism towards). However, it was also a demonstration to me that the methods for introducing myself, gaining a person’s trust and setting up an interview in the UK, simply did not apply in Lima. Continue reading

Footnotes on Digital Selves

In a special edition of Footnotes on KCL Radio broadcast live on the 27 July 9-10am, hosts Fran and Char invited PhD researchers to take on the theme of The Still Point‘s first blog symposium: Digital Selves in Research.

From online facsimiles of manuscripts to social media profiles, PhD students from across King’s College London explore how they work with, analyse and are shaped by the digital. Thank you to Colleen Curran, palaeographer and historian; Anna Khlusova from Cultural and Creative Industries; and Rachael Kent, whose PhD spans the Digital Humanities and CCI as a member of the Ego-Media project.

The Still Point Journal‘s blog editor, James Fisher, also joined the panel to discuss all things ‘real’ vs ‘virtual’.

Links:
Colleen Curran https://twitter.com/cmcurran21
Anna Khlusova https://twitter.com/annakhlus
Rachael Kent https://twitter.com/RachaelCKent
European Research Council Ego-Media project https://www.ego-media.org

“Let Scholarship Fly Free”: Keynote Interview with Dr Caroline Edwards

This interview between Dr Caroline Edwards and James Fisher took place on 13th July in London, after her talk at the School of Advanced Study: ‘Social scholar: transforming scholarship in the digital environment’.

We chat about the way the digital environment shapes us as individual scholars, challenges academic traditions and offers new opportunities for ‘Open Access’ in humanities scholarship.

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Designed by Becky Chilcott for The Open Library of Humanities (under a CC BY 3.0 unproved license)

Dr Caroline Edwards is a Lecturer in Modern & Contemporary Literature at Birkbeck, University of London. Her research and teaching specialisms are in 21st century literature and critical theory, science fiction and post-apocalyptic narratives, Marxist aesthetics, and utopianism. She is currently completing her first monograph, Fictions of the Not Yet: Time in the 21st Century British Novel, and has recently co-edited two collections on contemporary writers – Maggie Gee: Critical Essays (Gylphi, 2015) and China Miéville: Critical Essays (Gylphi 2015).

In January 2013 Dr Caroline Edwards founded the Open Library of Humanities (OLH) with Dr Martin Paul Eve. The OLH launched in September 2015 as a humanities megajournal and multi-journal publishing platform – for more info, visit: https://www.openlibhums.org/

Follow @the_blochian and visit Dr Caroline Edwards’ website

Four Selves

These are all creations inspired by the hectic digital life doing my masters Cultural and Creative Industries in London. The name of each painting says it all. Every time I was doing an activity/ attending an event, if I have a strong image in my head, I feel that I have to bring it to life on canvas. So these four were inspired when I was feeling that the digital had constructed me in such a subtly important way. When I was DJing alone, posting online, studying alone, I felt too that I was somehow connected but also disconnected. I was so intrigued to search and explore for the inner self.

Lonely self
lonely self
social media self
social media self
searching self (DJ alone)
dj self
free soul self
free soul self

Tianmei Chen is an explorer, constantly looking for the passion of her life. She was born in a small village in Hubei, Central China. She has worked in fashion and advertising as a producer and blogger in Shanghai since 2008. She also co-founded a flower brand named Flowerbox and created Queen’s Art spot, a painting studio for beginners in 2013 because her self-taught experience of oil painting inspired many more Chinese young women who wanted to join her. She believes that art is for everyone and everyone can paint. Her experience encouraging young Chinese women’s development made her stand out in the Chevening Scholarship selection among over 36000 applicants in over 170 countries funded by FCO, UK, which sponsored her to study Cultural and Creative Industries at KCL. Now, she is in love with this amazing city, London.

Instagram @maychenyolo  //  Chinese Blog on Wechat: MAYCHENYOLO

 

Rethinking Digital Editions: A Movable Archive of Readings

Title page of 1596 Quarto
Title page from The Raigne of King Edward III (1596) Copyright: The British Library Board, C.21.c.50, A2r

Books – in the form of tangible, material objects that collect in vertical and horizontal arrangements on my shelves and desks – are my most conspicuous possessions. In the context of my research, which looks at the publication of sixteenth and seventeenth-century history plays, and draws on bibliographic studies and the (affectionately dubbed) ‘New Boredom,’ my attachment to the printed text is perhaps understandable.

I relish the feel, texture, dimensions and physical presence of a printed book, and the ways in which my books contain little histories of my reading experiences. Pages are downturned in the corners and covered in markings and marginalia, recording my thoughts, ideas and tangential observations, many of which I have silently ‘updated’ to improve upon the inarticulate musings of my undergraduate days. Rather than replacing my worn editions, I am still drawn by these old, faded texts bearing layers of comments and providing a context for nostalgic reminiscences, as well as the occasional insight or grimace. Continue reading

Stranger is Typing (the Search for Nenny)

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If I was to try to unravel the journey of this work or rather the journey of thought around this work, I suppose it begins with a rash of scam emails I received, professing love in an outpouring of questionable prose. This fed into a series of work questioning our sense of truth and relationship with truth.

The digital world has unlocked the gates to a playground where identity is no longer a fixed entity and each of us can inhabit a persona far beyond the constraints of the world we trudge through, in our familiar, somewhat worn, habit day-by-day. Suddenly our societal structures and frameworks are tossed aside, superfluous in a virtual landscape where the idea that ‘the truth is black and white’ couldn’t, ironically, be further from the truth.

As most of us have come to appreciate, the truth can be fluid, untethered, full of nuanced shades, organic in matter, amorphous, unfixed and changeable. Moulding itself to the hand that holds it. Teething issues arise of course, in this transitional period, when those native to a pre-digital age perhaps carry real life frameworks with them into an online world. This landscape of human communication, so overwhelming facilitated (and seemingly boundless, albeit within it’s own subtle behavioural constraints: from 140 characters to ready-made emojis) by social media, is littered with the casualties of this foray.

I find it fascinating that, at times when men and women have been victims of online romantic scams, and are then presented with the truth about the scammer by the authorities, they have chosen to reject the undeniable evidence offered to them about their fictional lover and instead choose to continue to believe wholeheartedly in this virtual relationship. This opens up an interesting conversation as to how truth of any sort is a decision, invested in and embraced by the believer through subconscious choice or otherwise.

Some time ago an email from a Mrs Nenny William arrived in my inbox . From the far flung shores of the Ivory Coast, she reached out to me in her strangely compiled turn of phrase, the  widow of a former Archdeacon, bullied by her money grabbing relatives, the mother of two soon-to-be orphans, asking me to become the controller of her wealth.

I took a simple experiment. I chose to believe Nenny. I took her offer to ‘become the controller’ but rather than her wealth I claimed control over this truth. I embraced it and I went online to find her. My journey to own this truth brought me in contact with others who, in turn, took on this truth in one form or another for themselves.  And a strange exchange of power took place. Identity and truth, at times, lost their footing. Once or twice I experienced a strange and fragile state which is difficult to convey in words,  a tremulous, fluctuating hold if you like on my surety of what was real or otherwise. Before long, I began to converse, less and less in my own dialect and increasingly so in the alien language of such social encounters.

I learnt much. Our digital selves are new beings, new skins, with possibilities we have never had to grapple with before. Identity and truth are quite loosely tethered in a virtual world, but their multifaceted online form is perhaps merely an outward manifestation of what always has been. In a moment, as I discovered, our selves can be cut free, so effortlessly, from their moorings and allowed to float freely down stream.


Susan Francis is a Belfast born artist now based in the South West of England. Her work moves between object, installation and film, with an increasing focus on film as a means to tease out momentary narratives, uncomfortable histories and fragile exchanges. Past work has included solo shows both within the UK and abroad, residencies in a number of countries, including The Bemis Centre for Contemporary Art in the United States, and work held in public and private collections internationally. http://www.susanfrancis.com

In Paris, 1913

Micro film

I’m sitting at my desk, time-travelling.

Outside, 21st century Paris is heavy with the first infestation of springtime tourists, snapping up the Opéra on selfie-sticks as they emerge, blinking, from the Métro.

Inside, in a stuffy room in the Bibliothèque national de France, unbeknown to those around me, I’m not there. I’m in 1913. Continue reading