Thursday, February 14, 2013

Tools, Technologies, Inquiry

    After exploring the different tools and technologies listed on the assignment sheet, we determined that we would compile a bibliography using Zotero. We think that Zotero would be very useful for a larger, more focused project, because the program includes multiple kinds of documents (PDFs, websites), and the documents can be tagged according to the user’s interest. We don’t necessarily see Zotero as a technology that would invite certain inquiries (or prohibit certain inquiries for that matter) – the tool just seems to be more focused on making connections and patterns by amassing texts and musings/annotations on those texts.  

     What follows here is an assessment of the limitations and affordances of the different tools we explored during this assignment. Archive Grid would allow one to see, for example, secondary materials written about Francis Bacon (there are no primary, manuscript materials from him); however, the site does host primary materials. The INPHO project’s ontology, however, allows a user to examine the complex relationships among terms and thinkers, which would help us answer the question from Tuesday regarding the relationship between rhetoric and inquiry – INPHO seems pretty well-suited to help us see the link between those concepts and to trace them across texts. We found it much more helpful. On MONK, if a user knew of a particular researcher who had compiled bibliographic material on that site, then one could peruse that material to see the connections that have already been made (problematic because there seems to be no logical organization to the untrained user). Internet of Encyclopedia of Philosophy allows you to search rhetoricians/philosophers, topics/periods. However, instead of searching the primary texts, the user is directed to a description of the text. A search for terms is hosted through Google (linking to different spaces). We searched for rhetoric, and the search brought us to different spaces, but not to the texts. On the whole, it seems suited to aligning thinkers and terms.

     We would like to be able to trace, for example, shifts in terminologies and understandings. Specifically, when did eloquence become known as style? Being able to search a genealogy of terms would be both useful and effective in tracing our terms. Dates and figures associated with this shift would help the user notice paradigm shifts and open up new ways of understanding the rhetorical tradition through those terms. Some of the tools show clear groupings of people, which represents an intellectual network specific to time and place and specific ways of thinking about the connections that should be made across the rhetorical tradition. We think this could either be prescriptive or helpful, so it is something that we should be aware of.

Molly and Logan 

1 comment:

  1. Molly and Logan:

    I was glad to read your process. You sussed out some key differences between tools -- differences that point out how tools I lumped together into a single category do themselves belong to subcategories, so I'll be curious to know whether subcategories felt evident to you.

    I wonder if you see any way that the question of "How eloquence became known as style" could be complicated, or made more nuanced, as a result of your exploration of these tools? In other words, I imagine that as you were searching and reflecting, you might have come across various ways of asking the question, or assuming the terms of the question. For example, would we be expecting or assuming to see the change all at once, or do we anticipate that there might be a chain or string of lexicon (words/terms) to help signal the change? And then, are we assuming a particular century's notion of "style," i.e., are we assuming that's the term that we now hold, and "eloquence" is the outdate term? And then, would the best place to witness that change (or series of changes) be in TOCs or titles or in the text itself? Based on your careful assessment of InPho, I get the sense that you had an expectation in mind of how this change or switch would look, so I think it can be valuable to consider that in more depth. I found your last paragraph (in the post) to be particularly insightful in drawing our attention to the ways that most tools rely on assumptions about how data are grouped (or can be gathered).

    When you mentioned that there were no primary Bacon texts in Archive Grid, that draws attention to an interesting omission, doesn't it? Knowing that the principal function of Archive Grid is to connect (rather than to collect or display), I wonder if you have thoughts/ideas about why Bacon texts online haven't been aggregated or hosted by Archive Grid? Is it because the Grid is only designed to draw from particular sources, either proprietary or institution? Or because of limitations or constraints on how it was constructed and built?

    What do you/we think about the fact that sources like the following:

    don't get aggregated?

    There are probably several reasons, so I'm curious in having us brainstorm them, to learn more about both the tools and our habits of inquiry. Thanks for drawing attention to the gap. I'm really hoping to be able to discuss this next week!

    -Dr. Graban