4 min read
In my experimental bibliography, I hope to materialize and thematize some of the concerns I have had throughout the semester about the seemingly intractable conceptual problems of creating digital facsimiles and representations of books. I want my project to create an affective reaction in the viewer or user of the project, who will feel the same intense desire I feel to touch the physical books bibliographic data and digital facsimiles attempt to capture; I want to touch on the inaccessibility to the uninitiated of bibliographic data; and I want my work to function in the space created by bibliographic data which is both deeply machine-oriented and deeply humanistic.
I asked Nora Battelle, who worked on the END this summer, about her experience with the bibliographic data she collected, since I felt my project was missing something. She explained to me that all of the data is extremely personalized and that everyone’s cataloguing records look different, as our traditional descriptive bibliographies in this class vary in style. Though the records were all the same in terms of all being machine-readable and all going to serve the same purpose, Battelle explained, each cataloguer has their own style and the types of things each cataloguer chose to notate were different. Though the aim of collecting the data is to capture all of the information about the book, that is simply not possible and cataloguers will all record very different things. Battelle also mentioned that each cataloguer is so distinctive that database users can tell that certain entries were written by the same person. Though it is a database, a collection of digital information that can be read by a computer, it is also discursive and personal and irrepressibly human. That is incredibly exciting to me and something I hope my project will reflect.
My ideal and first-draft conception of the project, then, is as follows: I will create a small (fits in one hand) representation of each category of bibliographic data the traditional descriptive bibliography collects — format, title page, notes, etc. (I imagine these like little sculptures, with, for instance, the format representation a sculpture of a sheet of paper folded a certain number of times). I will then film someone’s hand playing with each small sculpture. I imagine that watching these short videos (hopefully GIFs?), the viewer will want to touch the objects, much as I strongly desire to hold, gaze upon, and flip through the real physical objects represented by digital facsimiles in the ECCO. I also hope that presenting these small sculptures of each category without any context will make the viewer feel slightly alienated or without an understanding of the categories, in order to recreate the feeling of inaccessibility I get when looking at traditional descriptive bibliographic data. A separate set of audio files, which ideally would be only playable once the viewer has watched the GIFs, or which would run out of order and at random throughout the viewer’s watching of the GIFs, would have people describing — first using the traditional bibliographic descriptive language and then speaking in personal and discursive ways — the book. This will capture the essential humanity and personalization of bibliographic description.
I am very unsure of my ability to technically make all of these things happen, since I am very bad at crafting, especially on a very small scale and I have zero knowledge of filmmaking or editing. But, if i figured out a way to make all of these things happen, it could be extremely cool. My final project might not end up materializing all of this, but I will definitely try and make use of my friends with artistic and digital skills, if that’s allowed.