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Faculty Fellows 2017-18

Jonathan Abel

jea17@psu.edu

Information and The New Real: The Bloated Cultures of New Media Part of a longer book-length study entitled The New Real: Media, Marketing, and Mimesis Made in Japan, the chapter that I propose to complete during a CHI Residential Fellowship focusses on four kinds of digital literature. The chapter will analyze the data of Japanese cell phone novels, twitter novels, visual novel games, and episodic video narratives. Bringing these tools to bear on my studies of the born-digital cultural material as a CHI fellow will bring to my work a methodology in which interpretation meets form.

Kathlene Baldanza

ktb3@psu.edu

The literary world of pre-colonial Vietnam is not well understood. Imported and locally produced books written in literary Sinitic (Hán), the Vietnamese script Nôm, or a combination of the two circulated simultaneously. My project catalogues the imported books that were available to Vietnamese readers in the 18th and 19th centuries in order to make clear how these texts generated—or inhibited—new texts. It explores the reading practices Vietnamese readers used to process books written in a foreign language. I demonstrate that Vietnamese publishers and authors both employed tools of information management that originated in China and developed their own Nôm-based tools.

William Blair

wab120@psu.edu

Within the records of the Freedmen’s Bureau lies a collection with the shocking title of “Murders and Outrages.” These reports trace 3,972 instances of atrocities—murders, assaults, knifings, sexual assaults, economic coercion, and assassinations of government agents—committed by southern whites against Republicans and black people in the post-Civil War South. Until now scholars have not understood the reason these data were collected and its impact on northern policy against former Confederates. This compilation proved instrumental in mobilizing Republicans to visit a hard peace that replaced civil governments in the South with military rule and led to black male suffrage and passage of the 14th Amendment.

Anne Demo

atd1@psu.edu

The CHI fellowship supports completion of the final case study in my book. This chapter, tentatively titled “360° Documentary: Immersion, Apprehension, and Excessive Force,” explores the legal and sensory notion of “excessive force” in VR projects by Alejandro G. Iñárritu and Nonny de La Peña.  My analysis engages questions central to digital innovations in human rights media: How does sensory immersion and user-directed movement within a virtual place connect us to others? What are the ethical challenges of this mode of documentation? In what contexts might immersive documentaries be used to cultivate “solidarity with” and not the vicarious “experience of” distant places of conflict and risk? 

Christopher Moore

crm21@psu.edu

In the book I’m writing, Heraclitus and Knowledge, I argue, in effect, that Heraclitus (c.540–c. 480 BCE) was the first to theorize information. He does so as part of his continuous critique of Ionian research (“polymathy”), the scientific trend exemplified in his generation by Pythagoras and Xenophanes. Heraclitus argues that aiming for discovery, accumulation, and systematizing – that is, the manipulation of information – wrongly assumes that we are in a position to manipulate it. We need rather to understand ourselves first and our relationship to the world and other people. We must start by learning how to recognize.

Daniel Purdy

dlp14@psu.edu

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, China was a topic of serious scholarly interest at early modern German courts. East Asia constituted a region into which German princes each hoped to expand their own agendas, though often for distinctly different reasons. I am researching scholarly and imperial networks operating within early modern Europe and across the globe. My book focuses on three stages: first, how Jesuit missionaries integrated themselves into Chinese scholarly networks; second, how information was transported between China and European centers; third, how European print media preserved information about China both through libraries and the constant republishing of the same bits of information in popular literature.  My argument relies on contemporary German media theories by Friedrich Kittler, Bernhard Siegert, and Wolfgang Ernst, while also incorporating the accounts of early modern science put forward by Bruno Latour, John Law, Steven J. Harris, and other adherents of Actor-Network Theory.