September 24, 2005

Elective Affinities is Underway

by Nick Montfort · , 4:14 pm

I just heard a very interesting panel at the Elective Affinities conference that is going on here at Penn. Benjamin Harvey from Mississippi State University spoke first about Virgina Woolf and her relationship to the British Library reading room, which was renovated early in the 20th century so that it was lined with famous authors’ names – a register that was lacking in novelists and was also all male, although many users of the reading room were female, and a majority were by the 1930s. After that, Penn’s own Fernando Pereira – he’s the head of the computer and information science department – spoke about using statistical natural language processing to identify topics. It was quite a voyage out from the material nature of the library to its abstract existence as a document collection, and provocative.

Coming up soon at Elective Affinities: On Monday in the Class of ’47 Room, Houston Hall, 4pm, I’ll give a talk on “How Stella Got Her Text Back: Trajectories of Word and Image in Creative Computing.” This is part of the Words on Screen panel, which also includes presentations from Nathan Ensmenger (“Wizards, Hackers, and Poets: The Power of Computer Codes and Other Incantations”) and Zach Whalen (“Reading as Cryptography: The Role of Encoding/Decoding in Digital and Print Culture”). And on Tuesday, there are three panels in the series V-V-V on-line: Verbal-Visual-Vocal Poetries in Hyperspace, chaired by Charles Bernstein, at 9am, 2pm, and 4pm. The panelists include Johanna Drucker, Steve Clay, Kari Kraus, Al Filreis, Sue Sallinger, Kenny Goldsmith, and Matt Kirchenbaum – details are on the Kelly Writers House calendar.

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