journal number three
Kalervo and Donna both framed this week’s discussion of editing (out?) in terms of preservation and loss, which – perhaps tangentally – reminds me of last term’s psychoanalysis class in which loss was a central idea. Thinking of loss in the context of preservation inherently implies a whole that we don’t have access to. We only know a part of the whole of knowledge; we are lacking some knowledge that someone edited (out!). We don’t even know what we have lost, only that we have lost something. Might that propel the urge to preserve?
Because we are literature junkies, the logical conclusion to our considerations of loss and preservation as applied to editing is where Donna ends up in her journal: an edition is better than no edition, something is better than nothing even if it is flawed or lacking, even if it is the worst case scenario. I wonder if this is true – it seems to be, because the alternative construction of this position would argue that no edition at all is better than a text that has been shaped by the editor because the editor’s inherent bias robs us of our objectivity even before we begin to consider a text. And then where would we get our lit-fix? I suspect this paradoxical debate is one of the reasons why a foundational assumption behind the tree of the recensionist method of textual criticism is that the original is lost. There, we have loss again.
In the spirit of the in-between-binary space we keep coming back to in class, how would this binary be altered so that the question we ask does not relate only to the utility of an edited text, but the process of deciding on that utility? I think the idea that Foucault ends his introduction with asks a similar question (although he seems a little defensive about the kind of structuralism that comes out of linguistics being applied to history!): if history can be seen as totalizing and focused on continuities OR “general” as he calls it, focused on discontinuities? Based on his introduction, I think he is advocating for the latter approach, but his is a more nuanced version of considering the discontinuities in history – he seems to be warning that the “discontinuous” or “general” understanding of history requires a serious acknowledgement of the rich methodological quandaries it poses. This “displacement of the discontinuous” seems like the theoretical solution to the theoretical understanding of editing in terms of prevention and loss, because it leads to “the inversion of signs by which it [the discontinuous, or what is missing] is no longer the negative of the historical reading (its underside, its failure, the limit of its power), but the positive element that determines its object and validates its analysis” (11). Again, this resonates with this idea that keeps coming back to me about the performance of the conversation of editing, weather it is the editing of a text or history – which of course are related!
Aside from digital and/or scholarly editions of texts, another application of thinking editing in terms of preservation and loss: the recent TED talk by Eli Pariser regarding the way that Google filters information, a critique of that jealously guarded algorithm that we talked about last class: http://matadornetwork.com/radar/ted-on-filter-bubbles-even-if-youre-logged-out-google-results-change-from-person-to-person-vid/
Pariser makes some interesting connections that are related to our discussion, especially when he calls algorithms “editors,” but without a sense of civic ethics; robotic gatekeepers, his presentation graphics seem to suggest. I think he could focus more on the editors or programmers that decide on those algorithms before they are put into motion, those who totalize history in the face of discontinuity. When he calls out some of the audience members who work for Facebook, for example, it reminded me that his idea of personalization is related to Cloud’s characterization of editing as a capitalist venture.
I really dig the theoretical reading and talking we have been doing on our own and in class. When it comes to the practical php coding, I am behind. I am excited by it too, but it takes me longer to understand than I think it will (does that mean Foucault is easier!!?). I have not yet cracked the first of our few assignments this week, and I’m not sure about how to go about answering the technical problems that you have posted on the forum, though I plan to spend all day tomorrow (and probably the rest of the week) figuring it out. My goals for the week are to slay the php chapters and assignments and try to help out on the tech forum while you all do the same slaying! It occurs to me that the tech forum actually relates a lot to what we have been talking about in class: I am having trouble putting my actions into words that will be accessible by someone trying to converse with me or help me with my endeavour. If I am thinking theoretically about the benefits of transparency through conversation, one place to practice this methodological conversation regarding editing texts is on the forum (php files are texts too, especially considering that they dictate the information displayed and the manner in which it is displayed).