Saturday, October 29, 2016

Reading, the "official" word

The MLA (Modern Language Association) is putting together a site, Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities: Concepts, Models, and Experiment, "a curated collection of reusable and remixable pedagogical artifacts for humanities scholars in development by the Modern Language Association." It consists of a bunch of keywords, plus commentary and supporting materials.

I'm interested in the keyword, "reading," w/ materials curated by Rachel Sagner Buurma. First paragraph:
In the beginning, we learn to read; after we are literate, we read to learn. In this received wisdom of early childhood education, reading is only temporarily difficult, material, intractable; afterwards, it recedes into the background, becoming the transparent skill through which we access worlds of knowledge. But we are in fact always learning to read and always learning about reading as we encounter new languages, genres, and forms, and mediums.
Moving along, we get to machine reading, which
Machine reading has a longer history than we sometimes assume. Work on the nineteenth- and twentieth-century history of talking books and other reading machines shows how reading technologies developed to convert text into sound for blind readers questioned assumptions about the nature of reading while also contributing to the development of machine reading technologies like optical character recognition (OCR). In the realm of literary interpretation as “reading,” of course, Stephen Ramsay has famously emphasized the continuities between human and machine. For Ramsay, literary criticism already contains “elements of the algorithmic.”
And there you have it, the standard professional conflation of plain old reading and interpretive reading. Here's what she quotes from Ramsay (his book Reading Machines: Towards an Algorithmic Criticism, 16):
Any reading of a text that is not a recapitulation of that text relies on a heuristic of radical transformation. The critic who endeavors to put forth a “reading” puts forth not the text, but a new text in which the data has been paraphrased, elaborated, selected, truncated, and transduced. This basic property of critical methodology is evident not only in the act of “close reading” but also in the more ambitious project of thematic exegesis.
Yep, that's the catechism.

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