On Co-creation and Building IV:

This blog is dedicated to Karl Steel; I cannot think of a better person with whom I would want to build and collaborate and co-create.

Last blog I got carried away with the argument that

we must build to know.

And it’s true.  Whether it’s building an experimental set-up that allows us to collect measurements of some kind, whether it’s a form of art that allows us to see some aspect of ourselves or our world that we couldn’t quite see before, or whether it’s simply a palate of post-structuralist theories that allow us to analyze a literary text,

we all use an apparatus to produce knowledge, to take a “measurement” of the universe, in whatever way seems interesting or useful to us.

The thing I love about working across a few disciplinary boundaries, and using computational tools is that it allows me to invent the apparatus I want to  ask the questions I want to ask–which usually tend to be questions I feel vehemently that everyone should have been asking all along, and yet I find to my chagrin that they haven’t beenI mean really, how could we not have been talking about what Piers circulates with in the manuscripts? How is that not it’s most immediate textual context?  Doesn’t it seem obvious?  Well, I guess it isn’t.

Continue reading On Co-creation and Building IV:

On (Collaboration and) Building III: We Must Build to Know

In her book Meeting the Universe Halfway, Karen Barad defines an “apparatus” as any configuration “specific material reconfiguring[] of the world that do[es] not merely emerge in time but iteratively reconfigure spacetimematter as a part of an ongoing dynamism of becoming.” (142)

In Barad’s account, which spins of of Neils Bohr’s philosophy-physics, the “measuring apparatus” for an experiment is the specific set-up that is used to take a particular measurement.  What Barad points out, by way of Bohr, is that the apparatus itself is a part of the material configuration that produces a measurement.  She doesn’t simply mean what the social constructivists mean–that a phenomenon is “made” by the naming of it.  Rather I understand her to be pointing to the fact that a “measurement” becomes a possible articulation of the universe only when a measuring apparatus is in place.  And more particularly, that the type of apparatus one uses determines the type of measurement one can get.

In terms of the sciences, this is a very practical consideration.  Take, for example, the work on parchment surfaces that I put up earlier in the summer. In order to take a “measurement” of the parchment’s surface, I had to build an apparatus.  Ok.  I had to have a physicist build an apparatus (my days of building apparatuses in labs seem to be largely over…sort of…at least of building apparatuses with lasers).  Our apparatus only allowed us to take a certain kind of measurement, that was accurate on a certain scale, and that may or may not have answered the question we set out to address.

But the success of that apparatus is not really the point.  The point here, is that an apparatus had to be built in order to ask the question I wanted to ask of parchment surfaces.

Continue reading On (Collaboration and) Building III: We Must Build to Know

On Collaboration and Building II: Digital Architecture and BL 35157

In order for a digital project to really live up to its potential–the possibilities it has over print–it has to include an infrastructure. We have already been working on creating structured data, but now we have to think about building a repository for that data.  As long as data is confined to a particular space–be it a book, laptop or even cloud service–it is accessible only through the entry points that medium makes available.

Many formats make it easy to access information, but difficult to put that information into relationship with other information. What is more, that information is largely from a single source (an author) and cannot be changed or updated as new information comes available, nor can it be altered by anyone other than the author.

That is the power of digital projects: by building an online architecture for your data, you make ongoing collaboration and community-sourced data possible.

Continue reading On Collaboration and Building II: Digital Architecture and BL 35157