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In this article, we argue that, just as an edition of a book can be a means of reifying a theory about how books should be edited, so can the creation of an experimental digital prototype be understood as conveying an argument about designing interfaces. Building on this premise, we explore theoretical affinities shared by recent design and book history scholarship, and connect those theories to the emerging practice of peer-reviewing digital objects in scholarly contexts. We suggest a checklist for subjecting prototypes directly to peer review: Is the argument reified by the prototype contestable, defensible, and substantive? Does the prototype have a recognizable position in the context of similar work, either in terms of concept or affordances? Is the prototype part of a series of prototypes with an identifiable trajectory? Does the prototype address possible objections? Is the prototype itself an original contribution to knowledge? We also outline some implications for funding agencies interested in supporting researchers who are designing experimental computer prototypes. For instance, if a series of prototypes functions as a set of smaller arguments within a larger debate, it might be more appropriate to fund the sequence rather than treating each project as an individual proposal.
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How a prototype argues
Alan Galey
Faculty of Information/Book History and Print Culture Program,
University of Toronto, Canada
Stan Ruecker
University of Alberta, Canada
With the INKE Team
In this article, we argue that, just as an edition of a book can be a means of
reifying a theory about how books should be edited, so can the creation of an
experimental digital prototype be understood as conveying an argument about
designing interfaces. Building on this premise, we explore theoretical affinities
shared by recent design and book history scholarship, and connect those theories
to the emerging practice of peer-reviewing digital objects in scholarly contexts.
We suggest a checklist for subjecting prototypes directly to peer review:
Is the argument reified by the prototype contestable, defensible, and
Does the prototype have a recognizable position in the context of similar
work, either in terms of concept or affordances?
Is the prototype part of a series of prototypes with an identifiable trajectory?
Does the prototype address possible objections?
Is the prototype itself an original contribution to knowledge?
We also outline some implications for funding agencies interested in supporting
researchers who are designing experimental computer prototypes. For instance, if
a series of prototypes functions as a set of smaller arguments within a larger
debate, it might be more appropriate to fund the sequence rather than treating
each project as an individual proposal.
1Prototypes as theories
It makes a difference whether we think in terms of
processes or of products. The differences between
computer and computing,ormodel and modelling,
are more than grammatical. As Willard McCarty
asserts, the participle ‘turns things into algorithmic
performances’ (2008, p. 254), and signals intellec-
tual processes whose full complexity cannot be con-
tained within single artifacts. It thus enriches our
vocabulary far more to speak of computing than of
the computer. That principle also helps explain the
widespread takeup of John Unsworth’s idea of
scholarly primitives—discovering,annotating,com-
paring, and so on—which he expressed not as
nouns but as participles, implying communities of
practice based on performable actions, not just
shared products (Unsworth, 2000). Our intention
is to extend this logic of process to terms like
designing and prototyping, both of which name activ-
ities at the core of the digital humanities. We ap-
proach this issue by exploring how the often
Alan Galey,
Faculty of Information/Book
History and Print Culture
University of Toronto.
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at University of Victoria on March 12, 2015 from
disparate fields of design and book history under-
stand the relationship between artifact and process.
Both of these fields operate in the messy middle
ground between interpretation and making, and
both can contribute to a theoretical framework for
new questions facing humanists.
The Implementing New Knowledge Environ-
ments (INKE) project, for example, includes re-
search teams based in Interface Design and
Textual Studies, among others, with all researchers
working collaboratively on strategic prototypes for
new reading environments (Siemens et al., 2009;
Galey et al., forthcoming). As these sorts of collab-
orations become viable on a broad scale, it becomes
essential to develop shared vocabularies and re-
search questions. Accordingly, this article aims to
address the questions of how the process of design-
ing may be used simultaneously for creating an
artifact and as a process of critical interpretation,
and whether new forms of digital objects, such as
interface components and visualization tools, con-
tain arguments that advance knowledge about the
world. We explore these questions first by exploring
theoretical affinities shared by recent design and
book history scholarship, and then by connecting
those theories to the emerging practice of
peer-reviewing digital objects in scholarly contexts.
These questions touch upon scholarly best prac-
tices and their codification. Guidelines abound in
the digital humanities, and yet, although we have
guidelines for evaluating digital scholarship in insti-
tutional contexts (see the MLA’s Guidelines for
Evaluating Work with Digital Media in the
Modern Languages), the profession has paid less
attention to how to evaluate the products and pro-
cesses of digital scholarship as intellectual contribu-
tions. How can design become a process of critical
inquiry itself, not just the embodiment of the re-
sults? This question puts at stake some of our fun-
damental assumptions about the relationship of
tools to interpretation, and of research products to
research processes.
One longstanding tradition of design is to under-
stand it as an invisible handmaiden to content,
where form follows function, and where the typog-
raphy in a book, for example, becomes transparent
to the reader (Bringhurst, 2005). Good design in
this school of thought is design that goes unnoticed.
An alternative tradition treats design as creative ex-
pression, where the hand of the designer is evident
and we see a style that can be associated with the
person responsible (Rand, 1985). A related vari-
ation, sometimes referred to as critical design,is
predicated on design as a rejection of the first trad-
ition, resulting in, for example, typography that is
intentionally difficult to read and chairs that no one
can sit in (Dunne, 2005). All of these approaches to
design have their place, and we would argue that
each of them can legitimately be understood as a
form of interpretation. However, we also propose
that there is another distinct possibility, where one
of the goals of the designer has been deliberately to
carry out an interpretive act in the course of produ-
cing an artifact.
As Lev Manovich has publicly
phrased it, ‘a prototype is a theory’ (2007). One of
the functions of the artifact then becomes to com-
municate that interpretation, and to make it pro-
ductively contestable.
Our purpose in this article is to find a useful
bridge between the tool-building tradition of the
digital humanities on one hand, and interpretive
and critical traditions like book history and science
and technology studies on the other. As digital
humanities tool-building—another participle—
matures from being primarily service-based to
inquiry-based, now may be an apt time to revisit
an argument made by Langdon Winner in his
touchstone essay ‘Do Artifacts Have Politics?’
(1980). In Winner’s analysis of Robert Moses’s in-
famous design for Long Island’s expressways—with
overpasses deliberately too low for public transit
busses to clear, effectively barring access to parts
of Long Island to all but (mostly white) car
owners—he argues for an understanding of technol-
ogy and society that ‘takes technical artifacts ser-
iously’ and pays ‘attention to the characteristics of
technical objects and the meaning of those charac-
teristics’ (1980, p. 123). Book historians, design
scholars, and digital humanists alike have been
making the very same case in recent years, but
from the perspective of makers, users, and critics
of highly technical objects. Though our digital ob-
jects may be new, and not necessarily the kind ima-
gined by Winner, his article makes a point that
A. Galey and S. Ruecker
406 Literary and Linguistic Computing, Vol. 25, No. 4, 2010
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builders and critics of tools alike cannot afford to
ignore: ‘If our moral and political language for eval-
uating technology includes only categories having to
do with tools and uses, if it does not include atten-
tion to the meaning of the designs and arrange-
ments of our artifacts, then we will be blinded to
much that is intellectually and practically crucial’
(1980, p. 125). In this view, even doorknobs have
politics in that they may be round, requiring a
human hand to turn them, or shaped as levers,
such that a person with a prosthetic limb or an
armload of groceries with one free elbow can still
successfully use them. This is more than simply a
matter of utility. Both designs are political in that
they presume and construct different kinds of
worlds, with the round doorknob presuming a
world in which everyone’s bodies are the same,
and in which hands with opposable thumbs and
sufficient grip strength are always available.
Again, these are familiar arguments in fields like
inclusive or universal design, and science and tech-
nology studies. The digital humanities must not lose
sight of the design of artifacts as a critical act, one
that may reflect insights into materials and advance
an argument about an artifact’s role in the world.
Our purpose here is to follow the implications of a
hermeneutical approach to design for digital huma-
nities projects that entail the strategic prototyping of
digital artifacts. We both lead projects, separately
and together, which combine digital prototyping
with critical analysis, and focus on a research
model rather than a service model (a crucial distinc-
tion for the INKE project, for example). Our various
collaborations have prompted us to look for ways
that our respective home fields of design and book
history intersect.
The argument we offer is two-pronged. First, we
offer book history and design as examples of two
fields that have more or less independently been
theorizing the collaborative production of artifacts
as a critical and creative process, involving multiple
kinds of agency worthy of analysis. These are by no
means the only fields where this tendency is pre-
sent—there are similar examples in film studies,
software studies, and literary studies, to name a
few—and recognizing this methodological link
across fields benefits all of them, particularly those
located at intersections, like digital humanities and
book history. We argue that the digital artifacts hu-
manists create can do more than simply measure up
to standards for interoperability and usability. We
recognize that digital artifacts have meaning, not
just utility, and may constitute original contribu-
tions to knowledge in their own right. The conse-
quence of this argument is that digital artifacts
themselves—not just their surrogate project
reports—should stand as peer-reviewable forms of
research, worthy of professional credit and contest-
able as forms of argument.
2Design and interpretation in
the history of the book
Ideas about design enter the digital humanities from
a number of directions, each bringing certain dis-
ciplinary predispositions with them. Edward Tufte,
for example, has published several books richly de-
picting the variety of information design strategies,
often with the same comprehensive historical scope
one finds in book history conferences and publica-
tions but without the deep contextualization book
history brings to the objects it studies (cf. Tufte,
1997). Like design, the field of book history offers
a perspective on the ethos of thinking through
making which informs much digital humanities re-
search and pedagogy generally. Manovich’s asser-
tion that ‘every prototype is a theory’ has a
counterpart in Bernard Cerquiglini’s claim for text-
ual scholarship that ‘every edition is a theory’ (1999,
p. 79). The symmetry of these two statements ex-
tends to much of design and book history as cognate
but often separate fields.
New forms of scholarly creation, especially those
emerging from the digital humanities, need to be
understood within the epistemic contexts that
design and book history have concurrently been
modeling in recent years. Although literary studies
and hypertext theory have, in the wake of
post-structuralism, redefined what it can mean to
be an author, it has fallen to book historians to
recontextualize authorship within broader contexts
of meaning-making that are not purely linguistic or
textual, but also material—such that authoring
How a prototype argues
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becomes only one activity among many, including
designing,manufacturing,modifying,reading: these
and other processes shape the meanings of books,
and are no less vital to the interpretive potential of
digital artifacts.
Book history, an interdisciplinary field compris-
ing history, bibliography, and literary studies
(Howsam, 2006), has a more complex relationship
with design than may appear on the surface. In its
most public form of dissemination, the academic
monograph (usually single-author), book history
may seem to non-practitioners to be more con-
cerned with understanding the past from a distance,
analyzing and commenting upon the history of
books with tremendous acuity and vigour, but not
directly intervening in the stories its practitioners
tell. On closer inspection, however, we can find
forms of textual scholarship whose scholarly primi-
tives can materially change the field of evidence,
such as book historians who uncover new artifacts
through archival research (discovering; cf.
Tischendorf, 1867), and analytical bibliographers
who radically change our understanding of how
particular books came to be as they are (usually by
comparing; cf. Hinman, 1963). We also find editorial
theorists and literary critics who change those
stories, in effect, by prompting us to look with
new eyes at the same evidence, and to revise the
vocabularies we use to conceptualize foundational
ideas. Although we are a long way from the period
when the definitive account of the printing trade
was written by a printer (Moxon, 1683), one can
look at recent history and find textual scholars
who themselves operate presses and design books.
Studying the history of book design has long
been part of bibliography, but the work of D. F.
McKenzie, Jerome McGann, and others since the
1980s has brought the materiality of texts to the
attention of wider audiences in the humanities,
and emphasized the crucial link between the
design factors in a text’s material forms and that
text’s possible interpretations (McGann, 1991;
McKenzie, 1999). Fredson Bowers, for example,
excoriated literary scholars for failing to account
for material influences in the transmission of texts,
but did so with textual accuracy as his foremost
concern (Bowers, 1959). By contrast, McKenzie’s
1985 Panizzi Lectures, published the following year
and again in 1999 as Bibliography and the Sociology
of Texts, accomplished a more successful kind of
outreach by emphasizing the meaning-making
power of book design and material form. He also
drew attention to the importance of collaboration
between multiple agents in the construction of
meaning in books and other textual artifacts, ex-
pressed in the simple formulation ‘forms effect
meaning’ (1999, p. 13). Where Bowers sought to
drag literary interpreters back down to earth,
McKenzie instead brought the objects of interpret-
ation back to the level of the human, emphasizing
texts’ physical embodiment in particular editions
(e.g. McKenzie, 2002), historical documents (e.g.
his discussion of the Treaty of Waitangi in
McKenzie, 1999, pp. 77–128), and even features of
landscape in aboriginal cultures (e.g. his discussion
of the Arunta country in Australia in McKenzie,
1999, pp. 39–41).
His approach to the sociology of texts was
well-timed, coinciding not only with the rise of
book history as a new field, but also with the pro-
liferation of personal computers and other forms
of digital media. In the two decades since
McKenzie’s Panizzi Lectures, the study of design
in the history of the book has progressed from chro-
nicling aesthetic and technological developments
to become something more like the history of
meaning-making through design. Practitioners in
both fields study the intimate and profound connec-
tions between how things work and what they mean.
3Documents as conversations,
peer review as paratext
The printed book has functioned as both an object
and a means of peer review. These two functions
have intersected at crucial moments in the develop-
ment of the book’s material form, and the design of
books often reflects—even shapes—their antici-
pated evaluation by communities of expert readers.
In our own time, traditional models for peer review
are being challenged in tandem with traditional
forms of the book, as for example (Fig. 1) in
MediaCommons Press’s open peer-review process
A. Galey and S. Ruecker
408 Literary and Linguistic Computing, Vol. 25, No. 4, 2010
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for Kathleen Fitzpatrick’s book Planned
Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology, and the
Future of the Academy.
At the time of writing, in
the winter of 2010, a draft of Fitzpatrick’s book is
publicly available on the Web via an interface
which records paragraph-by-paragraph annotations
by readers, and permits notes on those notes and
so on—including responses by the author herself.
It is no coincidence that Fitzpatrick’s book about
peer review is itself a prototype for the review pro-
cess it describes. Like other prototypes, it demands
evaluation not just of its content but also of its form
as a digital object. Her draft chapter on ‘The History
of Peer Review’ surveys crucial moments in the de-
velopment of peer review as a process, such as the
Royal Society’s creation in 1752 of a Committee on
Papers for its journal, Philosophical Transactions (see
also Kronick, 2004).
However, it may be worth taking a broader view
of related practices in the history of the book, as we
advocate in this paper. For example, Adrian Johns
suggests that the Royal Society’s peer-review prac-
tices began not with the papers reviewed in the early
to mid-eighteenth century, but as early as 1661 via
the Society’s system of ‘perusal,’ a kind of gift econ-
omy in which whole books or manuscripts were
Fig. 1 Text and commentary from Fitzpatrick’s Planned Obsolescence as it appears in MediaCommons Press’s
open-review interface
How a prototype argues
Literary and Linguistic Computing, Vol. 25, No. 4, 2010 409
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presented to the Society, delegated to a specific
reader, and discussed among the Society’s member-
ship as part of a complex system of responses
(Johns, 1998, pp. 482–91). Worth noting, with a
view to our argument about peer review of artifacts,
is Johns’s point that the Royal Society’s official
books for registering submitted letters and papers
grew to include theories and hypotheses in general,
as well as artifacts and inventions (pp. 485–6). The
latter were usually submitted (in a sealed box held
by the Society’s secretary) not for peer review but to
settle disputes over priority. The convergence of
these mechanisms anticipates our own view of
digital prototypes. This system depended not only
on print as a technology, but also on the inclusive
sociology of texts that McKenzie extended to media
of all kinds, old and new. In this light, a parallel
history of antecedents for emerging forms of peer
review may be found by examining the connections
between book design, paratext such as annotations
and prefatory materials, and the emergence of peer
review itself.
Planned Obsolescence and CommentPress make
their argument jointly through the relationship be-
tween text and notes made possible by the interface.
As can be seen in Fig. 1, the interface itself and the
kind of dialogue it permits are relatively familiar;
annotations are not merely product reviews, in the
genre of user comments on retail websites like, but rather the kind of dialogue be-
tween author and readers that we associate with
blogging (the interface, CommentPress, is a plugin
for the WordPress blogging engine). As annotations
to a single text, however, the reviewers’ comments
also continue a long tradition of collaborative an-
notation in the history of the book.
For example, CommentPress’s goal of ‘turning a
document into a conversation’ (http://www.future has an antecedent
in the early editions of Utopia. Literary scholars
and historians have long recognized the first Latin
editions of Utopia to be among the most important
early humanist books to combine printed annota-
tion and other forms of paratext with the idea of a
community of peers (Allen, 1963; Carlson, 1993;
Jardine, 1993; Leslie, 1998; Kinney, 2005; Massai,
2007, pp. 49–55), such that sole attribution to
More as an individual author misrepresents the col-
laborative nature of Utopia as a project. As with the
CommentPress interface, its early editions stand on
the threshold between books as published products
and conversations as unfolding processes. With
their successive changes and additions to Utopia’s
complex paratextual frame, the editions of 1516
(Louvain), 1517 (Paris), and 1518 (Basel) begin to
seem like a series of iterative prototypes.
by 1518 Utopia could be regarded as a creation not
just of its named author, Thomas More, but also of
several collaborating agents, including: other hu-
manists in More’s circle such as Erasmus and
Peter Giles, both of whom contributed prefatory
letters and possibly the edition’s printed marginalia;
the humanist printer John Froben; and the engraver
Ambrosius Holbein, whose contributions included a
figure of the fictional island and an image of the
dialogue in Giles’s garden, represented in the book.
The printed glosses which first appear with the
1518 edition of Utopia, sometimes attributed to
Giles or Erasmus, signal only a fragment of the col-
laborative efforts which generated Utopia as a hu-
manistic experiment in the possible relations
between imaginative literature, social critique
couched in irony, and the design of the printed
book. As Warren Wooden and John Wall have
argued, even details in Holbein’s woodcuts, such
as the distinctive ornamental vines which connect
the map of Utopia to the figure of the dialogue
about it (see Fig. 2), work together by design to
support Utopia’s metafictional frames-within-
frames (Wooden and Wall, 1985).
Another key to this experiment was the layer of
commendatory letters between the members of
More and Erasmus’s circle which framed the early
editions of Utopia, and which by 1518 had expanded
into a network of exchanges between peers with
More’s text at their centre. Like the online annota-
tions solicited by CommentPress’s open peer-review
process, the early letters accompanying Utopia serve
both to authorize the text, bestowing individual
stamps of approval, and to contextualize it within
a specific community of readers. As Peter Allen sug-
gests, ‘On its first appearance, then, Utopia carried
with it a group of names which would clearly iden-
tify it for the knowledgeable sixteenth-century
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410 Literary and Linguistic Computing, Vol. 25, No. 4, 2010
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reader as a document of northern European,
not just English, humanism’ (1963, p. 97). Such
authorization was no less a form of ‘editorial
marketing’ (Valle
´e, 2004, p. 53) than the lists of
respected peer-reviewers found in present-day
scholarly journals. Taking Allen’s reading together
with Wooden and Wall’s, we could say that the 1518
Utopia editions had the equivalents of both an
editorial board (the prefatory letter-writers) and a
design team (Erasmus, Froben, Holbein, and
perhaps others).
What we see in Utopia—as one example among
many—is a precursor to open peer review in the
form of these scholars’ efforts to create, as
Anthony Grafton describes it, ‘a new kind of virtual
community that was sustained not by immediate,
direct contact and conversation so much as by a
decades-long effort of writing and rewriting’
(2009, p. 23). However, as we have been arguing,
terms like writing and rewriting may too easily con-
flate other meaning-making activities like designing,
which must be recognized if we are to understand
both the history and the future of the book. The
complex emergence of peer review, broadly con-
strued to include the humanities and not just the
sciences, requires us to contextualize recent proto-
types like CommentPress not only within develop-
ments in intellectual history, but also within
changes in the design of those material objects
that gave intellectual history its shape. These proto-
types were theories whose meaning was inseparable
from their material form.
4The arguments of objects and
If we take seriously the idea that books and other
objects from the past can embody complex ideas
about the cultures that created and used them,
what then of the digital objects that we design in
the present? By understanding how fields like book
history take the design decisions embedded in phys-
ical artifacts as interpretive objects, we can begin to
see digital humanists’ creation of new digital arti-
facts as interpretive acts. The word book in book
history is deceptively narrow; we use it, as Leslie
Howsam suggests, ‘only for lack of any better col-
lective noun’ (2006, p. 3). Within the digital huma-
nities, attention to the design of the ‘expressive
form’ of books and ‘non-book texts’ (McKenzie,
1999) is poised to extend into the study of digital
objects, including electronic literature and video
games. Although McKenzie suggested a natural ex-
tension of bibliography’s analytical and interpretive
methods to texts in all media, including film, sound
recording, and electronic text, the digital object pre-
sents challenges to hermeneutic assumptions carried
forward from the print-based bibliography of the
past century. Anthony Dunne aptly describes the
interdisciplinary challenge when he asks, ‘How can
we discover analogue complexity in digital phenom-
ena without abandoning the rich culture of the
Fig. 2 The first page of Book 1 of the 1518 Utopia, featur-
ing Holbein’s woodcut of the dialogue which frames the
book (reproduced by permission of the Huntington
Library, San Marino, California).
How a prototype argues
Literary and Linguistic Computing, Vol. 25, No. 4, 2010 411
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physical, or superimposing the known and comfort-
able onto the new and alien?’ (2005, p. 17).
In contrast to digital text production and soft-
ware design, we have a fairly well-defined under-
standing of the traditional roles of non-authorial
agents in print and manuscript book production,
such as scribes, binders, typographers, compositors,
correctors, and illustrators. ‘The sociology of texts’
names an interpretive orientation which embraces
these agents’ contributions to the traditionally au-
thorial process of meaning-making. In essence, book
history has embraced design as a hermeneutic pro-
cess, but has done so using a print-based vocabulary
inherited from bibliography. Reciprocally, William
Gaver and others in the worlds of design and
human–computer interaction have been incorporat-
ing into their work an emphasis on interpretation
and ambiguity, acknowledging the influence of
humanities perspectives, but also drawing on a vo-
cabulary suited to systems as well as artifacts, and to
future designs as well as past ones (Gaver et al.,
2003; Sengers and Gaver, 2006). The challenge
now is to bring these perspectives together to under-
stand the kinds of agency that produce meaning in
digital objects, and to appreciate the critical poten-
tial of digital objects in terms limited neither to
print culture nor to the utilitarianism of industrial
design (Dunne, 2005).
We believe that the theoretical questions and
convergences described above are strongly relevant
to the emerging area of peer review, evaluation, and
authorship status of digital objects. Just as the
boundary between digital documents and software
applications has become less distinct due to web
technologies, so has the boundary between trad-
itional scholarly monographs and digital objects
such as the ‘interactive media submissions’ solicited
by Digital Humanities Quarterly and Vectors.By
recognizing that digital objects—such as interfaces,
games, tools, electronic literature, and text visualiza-
tions—may contain arguments subjectable to
peer review, digital humanities scholars are assum-
ing a perspective similar to that of book historians
who study the sociology of texts. In this sense,
the concept of design has developed beyond pure
utilitarianism or creative expressiveness to take on
a status equal to critical inquiry, albeit with a
more complicated relation to materiality and
If we take seriously the suggestion that a digital
object can embody an argument, then it should be
possible to apply to digital objects some of the
standard criteria for reviewing arguments. For
Booth et al. (2008), the three key components of a
good thesis topic are that it is contestable, defens-
ible, and substantive. To be contestable, the thesis
must try to convince people of a position that not
everyone already believes. To be defensible, it must
be possible, given the right kind of argument or
evidence, that members of a reasonable audience
could be convinced to change their minds and
accept it. To be substantive, the argument must be
worth the time and effort it takes for the writer to
make it and the reader to engage with it.
For a prototype, we propose that contestability
might reasonably consist of the inclusion some-
where in the interface of either an old affordance,
earlier seen in other interfaces but now done in a
new way, or else a new affordance—one not earlier
seen. Defensibility might equate to the heuristic
evaluation of the possible strengths and weaknesses
of the new affordance, both in its own right and also
in comparison with other ways of providing the
same affordance.
For instance, someone might be proposing a new
visual browser for text collections such as Texttiles
(Giacometti et al., 2008). Texttiles provides a set of
small tiles that can be dynamically sorted. There are
many existing alternatives for file browsing, includ-
ing conventional methods such as hierarchical
trees (as in desktop file systems), advanced methods
such as coverflow interfaces, and experimental
approaches such as microsliders (Ahlberg and
Shneiderman, 1994). In order to subject the
Texttiles prototype to peer review, it would be
useful to expand this catalog to include as many
varieties of visual systems as possible for file hand-
ling that have been attempted, and to compare the
strengths and weaknesses of the new system in the
context of the others.
Another frequent form of evidence consists of the
results of user studies, which often involve measures
of performance or preference. For old affordances
handled in a new way, the studies could be
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comparative. For new affordances, comparison is
not really possible, but the strategies that can be
adopted include looking at what we have elsewhere
called ‘affordance strength’ (Paredes-Olea et al.,
2008; Ruecker, 2006). However, since we are
arguing here for a direct form of peer review that
is unmediated by an accompanying article or study,
we must discount the possibility of evidence from
user studies, which in any case tends to be most
satisfying and useful during the formative phase of
a project, rather than as a means of justifying a tool
that has already been completed.
Whether or not a prototype idea is substantive is
somewhat harder to determine. It rests on the po-
tential significance of the design both in terms of
intellectual importance and practical value. It is not
always possible to evaluate such factors with
any precision, especially early in the process. This
is, however, equally true for conventional
In addition to the argument made by a single
prototype, it is also important in some cases to
look at a trajectory of iterations of the prototype
or of the larger research project that has produced
the prototypes. Iteration involves a series of deci-
sions about the argument being made, which
should best be understood by considering the alter-
native choices that were available at each stage. For
example, as Roberts-Smith et al. (2009) argue, the
Watching the Script project began with a 2D stylized
interface that privileged the concept of the text as
the central governing object in the production of a
play. The current 3D version of the interface, on the
other hand, takes as its central organizing principle
the Aristotelian line of action, which includes the
text but emphases directorial choices about every-
thing that is happening on stage. This change in
perspective has had profound consequences for the
prototype, including the need to support a full range
of viewing angles of the stage, and the radical decou-
pling of movement from speech.
The question of authorship is another factor to
consider in the adoption of peer review of digital
objects. Unlike research results in the sciences, arts
research is still frequently published by a single
author. However, in the case of digital objects, it
is rare for a single person to be responsible for the
entire process of conceptualization, design, develop-
ment, and testing (Sinclair et al., 2003). At what
point is a contribution significant enough to war-
rant the digital equivalent of authorship? Who
should be first author—the person who had the ori-
ginal idea, or the person who did the bulk of the
design, or the person who did the programming?
These are questions which, if asked within a
book-history context, would resonate with Roger
Stoddard’s often-quoted assertion that ‘authors do
not write books. Books are not written at all. They
are manufactured by scribes and others artisans, by
mechanics and other engineers, and by printing
presses and other machines’ (1987; emphasis in ori-
ginal). Peer review of digital objects thus involves
digital humanities in a kind of sociology of texts
with respect to the re-evaluation of authorship,
while also foregrounding new aspects of digital
design such as fragmentariness, modularity, and
5Peer review of digital objects
We propose that it is possible to interpret digital
objects, and in particular experimental prototypes,
as forms of argument. Our contention is that this
kind of interpretation can be the basis for academic
peer review of the prototypes themselves, not just of
articles that describe prototypes. In this section, we
outline a set of conditions that should be met in
order for peer review of digital objects to be suc-
cessful, and provide a checklist that may serve as a
starting point for peer reviewers.
First, it is necessary to determine whether or not
a prototype is intended to be making an argument
or whether it is something else entirely, such as a
production system. Just as in the complex system of
other forms of scholarly knowledge, it is therefore
necessary for the reviewers to be familiar with the
context of the prototype within the history of pro-
totyping, and to be sensitive to the nuances of the
The idea of a genre of prototype can be under-
stood in two ways. First is the possibility that there
are a range of related pieces of software that either
work in somewhat the same ways, or else attempt to
How a prototype argues
Literary and Linguistic Computing, Vol. 25, No. 4, 2010 413
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provide the same affordances. Second is prototype
genre in the sense of design transferability (Chow
and Ruecker, 2006), where a prototype designed for
one set of users working in a particular domain is
transferred to a new set of users in a new domain,
such as civil engineers using maps and antiquarians
using facsimiles based on the same technology. In
this case, the concept for the prototype may have
already been well established in another content
domain but not in the current one, so that, for ex-
ample, an innovation in image browsing has been
introduced for collections of photographs but has
not been used for collections of 3D objects in arche-
ology. In these cases, part of the review should in-
volve discussion of how well the prototype addresses
the needs of the new domain, and whether modifi-
cations were required for the transfer.
Once it is clear that the prototype does reify an
argument, it is necessary to identify the various
points being raised. This process can be somewhat
difficult, since visual arguments, like written
arguments, may require some unpacking and testing
and ruminating. A visual argument is not likely to
proceed through a series of syllogisms, but many
written arguments are similarly less formal.
Reviewing the points in a visual argument involves
identifying the larger argument, then examining
visual details to see how they contribute to the
whole. It is also useful to look for ways in which
the prototype attempts to accommodate possible
objections, as it is often the case that these attempts
will result in compromises to the purity of the
prototype idea. For example, a browsing prototype
may also include a search function. While search
functions are not intrinsic to the affordance of
browsing, it is widely understood that search func-
tions are helpful and that any subsequent user study
would consider the lack of a search function worth
In the context of peer review, it is perhaps also
worth mentioning that it may not be the most ef-
fective approach to have the designers and program-
mers responsible for a new prototype also provide
the analysis and description of their own work in
the context of reporting on a user study. First, it is
very difficult to establish the proper intellectual
basis for the critique. Second, as with authors, so
with designers and programmers—they are not
always the best critics of their own arguments.
Finally, we should address the thorny question of
when it is best to provide the peer review of a proto-
type. If we consider a development process that
begins with design sketches (first static, then kinet-
ic), moves to a working prototype (either vertical,
with one important function working properly, or
horizontal, with many functions working superfi-
cially), then continues to a production system
(with everything working to some extent, although
still subject to bug fixing and iterative improve-
ment), we are presented with a spectrum of
From the perspective of computing science, the
design is usually not sufficient. Computer scientists
have a well-founded fear of ‘vaporware’ where de-
signers discuss features for systems that have never
existed and will never exist, and the obvious answer
is to only deal with working prototypes. The disad-
vantage of this approach is that it devalues design to
the point that it can be nonexistent.
From the perspective of researchers and granting
agencies, it would perhaps be most useful to intro-
duce a first peer review stage following design,
before the time and expense of building the proto-
type ever occurs. ‘Paper prototyping’ was a
well-established method in the visual communica-
tion design community by the early 1990s and con-
tinues to be used by designers to take paper
mockups into user studies (e.g. Helmer-
Poggenpohl, 1999). Prototypes that pass peer
review at the design stage would then have more
authority when seeking resources for programming,
user studies, and further phases of peer review.
A checklist for peer-reviewers might read as
Is the argument reified by the prototype contest-
able, defensible, and substantive?
Does the prototype have a recognizable position
in the context of similar work, either in terms of
concept or affordances?
Is the prototype part of a series of prototypes
with an identifiable trajectory?
Does the prototype address possible objections?
Is the prototype itself an original contribution to
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414 Literary and Linguistic Computing, Vol. 25, No. 4, 2010
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It is worth noting the difference between the above
criteria and those which normally apply in more
entrepreneurial scenarios: is it useful? will it work?
is it the most efficient design? will it be profitable? is
it patentable? These are relevant questions in many
contexts but, as Winner argued, there is a danger in
reducing the meaning of an object to its use-value.
6Case studies of digital objects
As examples of how the peer review process for
digital objects might work, we offer three brief
case studies, consisting of radically different kinds
of prototypes: Stefanie Posavec’s Literary Organism,
W. Bradford Paley’s TextArc, and Adrian Cheok’s
Poultry Internet.
In her Literary Organism project (Figs 3 and 4),
Stefanie Posavec provides a visualization of Jack
Kerouac’s On the Road. Posavec creates a set of
flowers that represent themes in the book with dif-
ferent colours, while a branching structure repre-
sents the ordered hierarchy of content objects
from chapters down to words.
There appear to be several related arguments ex-
pressed by Literary Organism:
an infographic can be beautiful as well as
themes can be used as the basis for an info-
graphic about a novel
prospect on the entire text is worthwhile
an infographic about a novel need not contain
words or directly represent numbers
Taking the items in sequence, it seems important
first of all that Posavec is insisting on the beauty
of the infographic. A person can read Robert L.
Harris’s monumental Information Graphics: A
Comprehensive Illustrated Reference (2000) from
cover to cover without having the point brought
home that a beautiful object is more attractive to
spend time studying than a plain object. Yet in
Posavec’s work, the beauty of the image is the
most immediately striking thing about it.
There are, however, some potential objections to
Posavec’s argument. First is that not everyone may
agree on what is beautiful or attractive. Despite the
difference in people’s tastes, however, it is possible
to argue that the manifest attention to detail in a
beautiful object still produces some effect—perhaps
even increasing the user’s trust in the quality of the
prototype (Ruecker et al., 2007). From this point
comes a second, and perhaps more serious, objec-
tion that attractive objects may arouse suspicion in
the viewer, who feels in danger of an attempted ma-
nipulation. This suspicion is particularly acute in
the academic world, where there is an established
rhetoric of resistance to commercial interests arising
from a legitimate concern that someone may be
‘selling something’ rather than presenting a
balanced argument.
That themes can serve as the basis for an info-
graphic is similarly unusual in the context of other
infographics. Although it is possible to find visual-
izations based on words (cf. TextArc, to follow), we
are much more used to seeing a phenomenon con-
verted to numbers and thus numerically displayed
in an infographic. Emphasizing the themes of
Kerouac’s work suggests that the manual identifica-
tion of themes is part of the process, since tech-
niques for the automatic identification of themes
are still themselves in the experimental stage. In
fact, elsewhere on her site is an image of the work
in progress, showing how she manually highlighted
and marked the themes in the text using coloured
markers and pens (Fig. 5).
Third is the argument that prospect on the entire
text is worthwhile. Posavec does not produce por-
tions of the diagram, but instead includes the com-
plete text. Although it is becoming increasingly
recognized that people are able to deal very well in
perceptual terms with complex environments, and
in particular with those where they have some
agency over the data, we live with the legacy of in-
formation overload, a concern that is valid under
certain circumstances but not necessarily under
well-designed ones.
Finally, Posavec proposes that the diagram does
not need to include two affordances that are nor-
mally expected: there are no actual words, and there
is no interactivity in the sense of tools to selectively
search or otherwise emphasize different portions of
the image or to access the text. There is a contestable
element in each of these visual assertions. The last is
How a prototype argues
Literary and Linguistic Computing, Vol. 25, No. 4, 2010 415
at University of Victoria on March 12, 2015 from
probably the least defensible, and the design could
be strengthened in several ways by providing various
forms of interactivity, including direct access to the
text. This kind of increased affordance would also
render the design significantly more substantive as
an argument.
Our second case study looks at W. Bradford
Paley’s TextArc visualization (Fig. 6). TextArc has
been well-known in the digital humanities commu-
nity for many years, representing a striking depart-
ure from earlier concordancing approaches such as
the Key Word In Context (KWIC) list.
That de-
parture in the direction of the visual overview of
the entire document is the most central contestable
element in the prototype. TextArc also shares with
Literary Organism the concept that infographics can
be beautiful without losing their function. Its least
defensible argument, however, is that this much
visual complexity is appropriate for a collocation
It is worth noting that both the Literary
Organism and TextArc visualizations make argu-
ments which require not simply comprehension of
data, but the kind of active interpretation of texts
that sometimes involves reading against the grain.
For example, both are contestable at the level of
their overt assertions, as we have discussed, but
both digital objects also make consequential argu-
ments at the level of form in the way they tacitly
represent their materials. Literary Organisms’s trees
use a visual structure found in the natural sciences
(such as cladistics) as well as in textual scholarship
(such as the stemmatic trees used to chart the rela-
tionships between material witnesses of texts), and
philosophy (such as the scheme of branches of
knowledge represented in the Encyclope
´die). In all
these cases, the potential disjunction between ma-
terials and representational scheme has prompted
In the case of Literary Organisms,
one might object to Posavec’s matching of one
Fig. 3 Detail of Stefanie Posavec’s Literary Organism design, which shows Part One of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road
(reproduced with permission from Stefanie Posavec).
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416 Literary and Linguistic Computing, Vol. 25, No. 4, 2010
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theme or another with any given part of the text, or
even to her categorization of themes—though as
Fig. 5 shows, she has visualized these assumptions
forthrightly, in a way that invites alternate readings.
However, reading Posavec’s visualizations critically
also requires us to pay attention to the expressive
form of the digital object. The form of the tree de-
pends on the premise that a novel like On the Road
may be represented as an ordered hierarchy of con-
tent objects, a premise which has been fiercely
Fig. 4 This poster shows the entire text of On the Road, as configured into branching colour-coded themes by Stefanie
Posavec (reproduced with permission from Stefanie Posavec).
How a prototype argues
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Fig. 5 Posavec shows here some of the manual work done in preparation for the infographic, involving marking the
themes in the text with a highlighter and pen (reproduced with permission from Stefanie Posavec).
A. Galey and S. Ruecker
418 Literary and Linguistic Computing, Vol. 25, No. 4, 2010
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debated (DeRose et al., 1990; Renear, 1997;
McGann, 2001, p. 185; Hayles, 2005, pp. 89–116;
Robinson, 2009) and whose origins in the rigidly
logical structures of computer text-processing belie
the organic metaphors of the visualization.
Similarly, TextArc’s choice to represent the
microtext as a circle invokes the longstanding sym-
bolic connection in the Western tradition between
circular forms and the concept of perfection or
completeness. Like the perfect circular orbits of
heavenly bodies in astronomy prior to Kepler, or
Antonio Panizzi’s famous circular reading room in
the British Museum, circular forms encompass
complexity. However, one could read TextArc
against the grain by looking at the ways it avoids
the complexity of materials in the sublunary human
world, especially materials like Hamlet, whose text
survives in three authoritative yet incommensurable
printed versions, not to mention its long history of
editorial interventions and theatrical adaptations
(Mowat, 1988; Werstine, 1988). None of this
material complexity is reflected in TextArc’s visual-
ization, which simply parses through one of Project
Gutenberg’s plain-text transcriptions and leaves
editorial issues unaddressed. TextArc’s visualiza-
tions are not really about Hamlet or Alice in
Wonderland or its other sample texts; they are
about TextArc’s own algorithmic and aesthetic
complexity. Yet TextArc’s greatest value may
appear when we stop wanting it to be a tool and
surrender up some unseen use-value. Like many of
the most enduring works in the arts and humanities,
we do not necessarily need to agree with TextArc’s
underlying assumptions in order to appreciate it as
a spur to further work along similar lines. The cap-
acity to inspire should not be underestimated when
we evaluate digital objects.
The preceding examples are familiar kinds in
digital humanities research, especially in their reli-
ance on text-processing, but it is important not to
have too narrow a conception of what a prototype
object can look like. Our third example is Adrian
Fig. 6 TextArc, a visual text analysis tool, as applied to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, showing inter-episodic use of
‘Rabbit,’ and four foreshadowing references to ‘Queen’ before the co-occurring character ‘King’ appears (reproduced
with permission from W. Bradford Paley).
How a prototype argues
Literary and Linguistic Computing, Vol. 25, No. 4, 2010 419
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Cheok’s Poultry Internet (Fig. 7), which is an at-
tempt to produce a means for people to interact
physically with their pets at a distance. This example
tests the limits of our analysis in a number of ways.
First, it takes us outside the domain of visualization
and into the realm of interaction, as fairly broadly
defined. Second, the design introduces not only new
software, but also new hardware. Third, it enters
into an area of public debate, namely animal
rights, in such a way as to highlight the differences
between conventional research concerns and what
might be described as a form of action research,
where the design has larger social implications.
Cheok is making the following arguments:
technology should be used to intervene in cases
of previous inhumane action
technology should support animal-human
technologies which support animal-human rela-
tionships may also support relationships between
warm-heartedness is a research objective
These points are contestable: not everyone would
agree with Cheok’s implicit arguments; some
might agree with his premise but think of other
ways it could develop into an argumentative proto-
type. The Poultry Internet is explicitly a response to
factory farming, as Cheok makes clear in his video
(accessed 19 August 2010)]. His user study partici-
pants were not the people, but rather the chickens.
The research question was: ‘Did the chickens enjoy
wearing the jacket?’ They apparently did, choosing
the jacket 73% of the time. From the field of animal
studies, we recognize that chickens are iconic ani-
mals in factory farming, where they are similarly
hooked up to machines and remote feedback sys-
tems. The question is whether the prototype suc-
cessfully subverts or instead reinforces cultural
perceptions of chickens as mechanized organisms.
This question asks us to critically examine the de-
tails of the implementation of the prototype with-
out necessarily attacking the premise outlined in the
points above, and works in the inevitable gap—big
or small—that may exist between all intentions and
But is the premise itself defensible, in the sense
that it is capable of being defended through argu-
ment? We would say perhaps not, which is to say
that there are some issues where people are not
readily convinced by evidence and arguments, no
matter what form those take. Such is the difference
between arguments and convictions. Reasonable
people subscribe to both, and both in turn are re-
flected in the prototypes that digital humanists
Finally, the Poultry Internet does raise a substan-
tive issue—something that is true of much of the
work of Cheok and his team. In the best spirit of
critical design they remind us that artifacts do
indeed have politics, whether that artifact is a
chicken–human interface, a highway system, an
annotated page, or an encoded text and correspond-
ing visualization.
All of the prototypes we have discussed here are also
theories. One theory is not necessarily as good as the
next, but the digital humanities will surely benefit
from recognizing the diversity of forms which
Fig. 7 Adrian Cheok’s Poultry Internet is intended as
a means of increasing good relations between people
and their pets (
¼1x-8EzuMiqU). This image shows Cheok with the
rooster Charlie, who is wearing the jacket that allows
him to be petted remotely (reproduced with permission
from Adrian Cheok).
A. Galey and S. Ruecker
420 Literary and Linguistic Computing, Vol. 25, No. 4, 2010
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theories and critical arguments may take. Although
scholars usually find themselves making cases for
their work both in writing and in person, traditional
genres can limit the persuasiveness of arguments
which take non-traditional forms—such as the
Poultry Internet, which is about as non-traditional
as we can imagine. All too often, intricate and dy-
namic digital objects become flattened into screen-
shots for the purposes of project reporting. We
suggest that prototyping as a critical process de-
mands that we move beyond the binary in
which written project reports become stand-ins
for digital objects themselves, in all their complex-
ity and media-specificity. This perspective re-
quires us to learn to read digital objects critically,
respecting their intellectual potential in the same
way that a peer-reviewer recognizes the potential
of an article, book, or grant application—keeping
in mind that recognition and approval are not the
same thing.
Our argument also raises questions about how to
support research, which we have not explored here.
Should a prototyping project be the only one of its
kind which receives funding, or is it best to have a
number of parallel projects working on the same
questions in different ways? The utilitarian impulse
might prefer the former model, but we imagine
more net gains, in the form of a critical debate
occurring among prototypes, from the latter. If we
were to embrace the implications of this approach,
we might call, for example, for funding programs
where three distinct teams, working at different lo-
cations, were all to receive parallel funds to carry out
the same project. Our prediction would be that the
results would be far richer in terms of the theories
expressed through prototyping than any we have
seen to date.
Alternatively, we might propose a more longitu-
dinal form of funding that intentionally supports a
series of prototypes. Projects of this kind could
more readily form a trajectory over time, without
gaps in the middle of the process caused by the
current need to find distinct funds for each step in
the series. This also sidesteps the possible negative
connotations of reviewers correctly pointing out
that the work is not necessarily sufficiently original
at each step.
There are also implications for crediting work.
Fields like digital humanities, book history, and
design tend to incorporate a plurality of attribution
models, borrowing aspects from the humanities, sci-
ences, and creative arts, though hopefully all would
agree that proper attribution is a matter of ethics.
Digital objects make the practical side of attribution
tricky, since it is standard practice for programmers
to re-use code between projects and to incorporate
code libraries shared by others. We also believe that
as the concept of design transferability finds ever
greater support, we will see a similarly increasing
redeployment of design assets into families of proto-
types. More work on the question of attribution is
needed, though the answer probably lies not in
adopting a single disciplinary model but in under-
standing design as a complex practice that does not
work the same way in all contexts. We argue that a
helpful theoretical apparatus may be found in
McKenzie’s notion of the sociology of texts, which
recognizes the different kinds of agency at work in
human artifacts, collaborating and contesting with
each other to make meaning.
As a way of thinking, design positions us in a
potent space between the past and the future.
Failing to recognize design as a hermeneutic process
means failing to understand how our inherited cul-
tural record actually works. Yet the other side of the
coin is the opportunity to understand how our own
designs are part of a longer continuum than project
cycles normally prompt us to think about. Even
Utopia could be regarded as an ongoing project in
critical design, in the sense that the complexity of its
design continues to provoke new interpretations
and debates. Should digital artifacts not strive for
the same kind of interpretive afterlife? Michel de
Certeau’s description of the paradox of historical
research applies equally well to the temporal orien-
tations of design and book history in the digital
humanities: ‘founded on the rupture between a
past that is its object, and a present that is the
place of its practice, history endlessly finds the pre-
sent in its object and the past in its practice’ (1988,
p. 36). Understanding how objects argue is one way
of responding to this rupture, making a virtue of the
entanglement of past and future intentions in any
human artifact.
How a prototype argues
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1. A complete list of INKE team members and partners
may be found at We are grateful to Emily
Monks-Leeson, the audience at Digital Humanities
2009, and especially John Bradley, for their comments
on an early version of this paper.
2. For a similar approach, see Matthew Ratto’s Critical
Making Lab at the University of Toronto’s iSchool: (accessed 19 August
2010). See also Ratto, 2009 and Ratto and Hockema,
3. We are grateful to Katherine Rowe for bringing the
MediaCommons project to our attention. It should
be emphasized that all references to Planned
Obsolescence appearing here refer to a draft undergoing
open peer review the published version may change
4. To be precise, there were two 1518 editions of Utopia
published by John Froben in Basel, one in March and
the other in November. The differences between the
two are negligible for the purposes of this discussion.
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may be found in Gibson, 1961.
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see Rockwell, 2003.
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known as phylogenetics), see Mayr, 1976, pp. 433–78;
on stemmatics, see McGann, 1983; on Diderot and
D’Alembert’s tree of knowledge, see Darnton, 1984.
7. For an analysis of interactions between humans, tech-
nologies, and particular species, see Haraway, 2008,
esp. her chapter ‘‘Chicken’’ (pp. 265–74).
A. Galey and S. Ruecker
424 Literary and Linguistic Computing, Vol. 25, No. 4, 2010
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... Although the concept of seeing "prototypes as theories" was suggested in preliminary digital humanities research work (Galey & Ruecker, 2010;Ruecker, Brown, et al., 2009;Ruecker, Radzikowaska, et al., 2011), the concept of academic prototyping was formally introduced as a research method 51 by Ruecker, Adelaar, et al. (2014) when they presented "The 51 After an exhaustive investigation of different literature search engines-Scopus, LISA: Library and Information Science Abstracts, Inspec, Web of Science, EBSCO Discovery, Academic Search Complete, Google Scholar-and with the assistance of Angie Mandeville, the UofA Librarian designated for Human Ecology, evidence of any use of the term "Academic Prototyping" as a research method could not be found prior to 2014. Generally, the term refers to generic ways to describe any prototyping process in academic areas (particularly in engineering, computing, and Case of the Dynamic Table of Contexts," a rich-prospect browsing (see Section 3.4) and experimental interface prototype case. ...
... It challenges fundamental assumptions on the relationship of tools of interpretation (i.e., hermeneutics), research products, and research processes. In addition, it suggests that design can become a process of critical inquiry itself, rather than just the embodiment of its results (Galey & Ruecker, 2010). ...
... The difference between prototyping and prototype is more than grammatical, and can be compared to semantic differences between computer and computing, or model and modelling (Galey & Ruecker, 2010). Thus, it is necessary to make a distinction between academic prototyping and academic prototypes, to understand the purpose of using the term for this project; while the first refers to this pioneering research concept, the second only refers to the products of the process of making something, also defined as samples, models, or mockups. ...
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This research project investigated the nature of colour from a biocentered and biomimetic perspective. The phenomenon of structural colour—often described in physics as light interference produced in material surfaces at the nano-scale—is of particular interest in the field of biomimicry, as new discoveries are emerging with potential applications for researchers in biological science and design. Through the scientific and technological literature available, this research project studied the mechanisms of structural colour in life forms, the ways these mechanisms and structures are combined to create colour, the strategies implemented by several species when using them, and the implications for biomimetic implementation on materials and products.
... Following the call by Galey and Ruecker (2010) for a hermeneutical and critical approach to design in digital humanities projects, and elaborating on Armaselu et al. (2016), it is assumed that the combination of HCI modelling and digital prototyping with genetic analysis may shed light on facets of the building process that have been less examined in tool design for digital humanities. Research from other areas, for instance combining genetic criticism with narrative theory (Bernaerts and Van Hulle 2013) or with rhetoric (Jensen 2016), have shown the potential of analysing the dynamics of production and revision in providing new insights into the studied phenomena by taking into account two important aspects of genetic methodology, the "temporal dimension" and the "space of possibility" (Jensen 2016, 268), intrinsic to any work in progress. ...
... The concept was multiproject-oriented and based on a modular design including core versus project-specific modules, ultimately integrated into a backend-frontend architecture and making use of technologies such as JavaScript, Java, XML-TEI, XSLT, HTML, and CSS. As previously pointed out, a prototype can be the embodiment of an argument (Galey and Ruecker 2010). In particular, an interface for digital editions may have a twofold function: it allows the editor to set up an argument about the edition and provides users with the opportunity to "view the text through an expert's lens" (Bleeker and Kelly 2018, 197). ...
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The paper proposes a methodology that combines theoretical and practical aspects from human-computer interaction (HCI) and genetic criticism to trace and analyse prototype evolution. A case study illustrates this type of enquiry by examining the iterations and the dynamics of change in the design and development of the Transviewer, an interface for digital editions. The initial assumption is that such an analysis can inform existing models in interface design and possibly provide new ground for discussion in humanistic HCI. For instance by fostering broader reflections on software production as a technological and cultural artefact and the gradual shaping of the principles and metaphors underlying the construction of a certain type of knowledge, argument, or interpretation through an interface. Cet article propose une méthodologie qui combine les aspects théoriques et pratiques de l’interaction homme-machine (IHM) et la critique génétique afin de repérer et analyser l’évolution de prototypes. Une étude de cas illustre ce type d’enquête en examinant les itérations et les dynamiques du changement dans la conception et le développement de Transviewer, une interface pour des éditions numériques. La supposition initiale est qu’une telle analyse peut offrir des renseignements sur les modèles existants de la conception d’interface et peut potentiellement fournir de nouvelles informations à la discussion autour de l’IHM humaniste. Par exemple, cela peut faciliter de meilleures réflexions plus élargies sur la production de logiciels comme artefact technologique et culturel, ainsi que sur la formation progressive des principes et métaphores qui sont à la base de la construction d’un certain type de connaissance, d’argument, ou d’interprétation à travers une interface.
... In their article, 'How a Prototype Argues,' Alan Galey and Stan Ruecker pose the question, 'How can design become a process of critical enquiry itself, not just the embodiment of the results?' 70 Like Kraus and her students, they see new possibilities for critical design in bibliographical and textual studies, 'where one of the goals of the designer [is] deliberately to carry out an interpretive act in the course of producing an artefact,' and 'one of the functions of the artefact then becomes to communicate that interpretation, and to make it productively contestable.' 71 As Kraus and her students have found, these experiments in biblio-making enable us to 'discover fault lines in the objects, artefacts, or systems being explored [...] and in doing so allows us to imagine them otherwise: to see them as alterable rather than immutable; as possibility spaces rather than rigid, inherited structures.' 72 Galey and Ruecker identify design and book history as 'cognate but often separate fields', which stress the importance of 'thinking through making' and have 'independently been theorising the collaborative production of artefacts as a critical and creative process, involving multiple kinds of agency worthy of analysis.' ...
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At the end of the twentieth century, increased access to certain technologies and processes, such as 3D scanning, computer-aided design, rapid fabrication and microcircuitry, enabled consumers to become creators of material design. These activities, which collectively came to be known as making, extended across both public and private sectors, including the study of the book. This paper offers an extended discourse on the full range of activities comprising the bibliographical maker movement, which in recent years has coalesced around the idea that maker culture may be employed to enhance our understanding of not only the history but also the future of the book. The application of these new technologies toward critical book studies has proceeded from the practice-based approach to research and instruction first begun under the auspices of the bibliographical press movement in the mid-twentieth century. In keeping with this earlier work, biblio-making is predicated upon the idea that certain kinds of knowledge are best gained through personal experience and experimentation. This article will first outline the benefits of applying 3D technologies to the goals of book history before locating and describing the activities of participating individuals and institutions within three broad categories: holistic, 3D digitisation; recovering historical tools and processes; and creative experiments in book design. As the article demonstrates, the strength and potential of the bibliographical maker movement lies in its widening community of practice and that, by virtue of its being an open-access network of constituents, it is now poised to make a significant and lasting contribution to the study of the book.
... Toolkit-based modelling aims "firstly to explicate thoughts through haptic models to provide shared understandings among diverse people, and secondly to facilitate creative idea development at early stages in the innovation process" (Schulz et al., 2015, p. 325). Such models, when finished, become a representation or explanation of the thinking process of its creator (Schulz et al., 2015, p. 324); a reification of thinking and knowledge about the design process (Galey & Ruecker, 2010). ...
Historical maps tell rich stories, and they are also valuable data objects. They vary greatly in size, type, and context, as well as the kinds and density of information they contain. Historical maps are indeed objects that invite close reading, interpretation, and debate. Whereas a variety of environments exist for the annotation, manipulation, and representation of digital maps, or map-derived data, workflows in the spatial digital humanities can be complex and those environments are not often well integrated. In this article, we describe a prototype named ‘MapFolder’ for studying maps, its algorithms for calculating the areal distortion, its visual design for communicating that distortion, along with a scholarly workflow. We blend annotation practices common in the spatial humanities with the workflows of georeferencing in order to be able to visualize how historic cartographic documents compare with the geospatial representations we are familiar with today. The case studies we use to demonstrate ‘MapFolder’ are maps of the medieval period, a body of maps that are less often studied algorithmically and that are usually avoided in typical workflows of georeferencing. MapFolder is by no means a prototype designed to work exclusively with medieval maps, but since maps of this period are only partially geographic in their design, they offer a particularly fruitful opportunity to rethink the algorithmic manipulation of historical depictions of the world. Working with this complex data from the humanities allows us, as well, to propose the use of visualization for critical, comparative spatial analysis in pre-modern studies and beyond.
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Integrating the digital humanities (DH) into undergraduate level higher education programs has often been a difficult and ambiguous process. Faculty sometimes struggle to create syllabi that incorporate technologies but that do not require constant redesign as technologies evolve. Institutions may lack systems to connect students with faculty and staff who are interested in collaborative research, and collaboration beyond one’s own institution can be complicated or inaccessible for students. These are real challenges; as institutions increasingly develop DH courses and degrees, the impact on undergraduate students is diverse, ranging in minimal involvement, to career-altering. So, what should the role of the undergraduate in DH be, and how can we address these challenges? For the past three years I have explored these questions. This exploration has led to helping redesign and teach the foundational seminar for Hope College’s Mellon Scholars DH Program, as well as co-founding and chairing the Undergraduate Network for Research in the Humanities (UNRH), an undergraduate-led organization with the mission of reimagining the undergraduate role in DH through the establishment of a network of digital humanists who present research, collaborate, and share ideas. On the basis of these experiences as an alumna of Hope’s DH Program and UNRH Chair, I have been considering the ways in which faculty, staff, and institutions might support undergraduate DH researchers. My work has culminated in a series of models, programs, and initiatives that address the need for fostering the next generation of digital humanists in the classroom, at the institution, and beyond.
This article presents an argument to extend possibilities and discussions about the role of design in democratic participation. We ground this argument in case studies and observations of several grassroots experimental participatory design workshops run with the intention of producing spaces for community deliberation and a tangible transformation of these communities. These cases show how systemic mapping and prototyping are used to increase community understanding of how potential futures represent values systems that should correspond to the values the community would like to see in place. The methodologies used on these workshops are presented it here as an opportunity to question the role of design in democratic deliberation and policy making.
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Esta pesquisa aborda a leitura em voz alta entre adultos com foco no entretenimento. O projeto foi inspirado na percepção de como os livros infantis se tornam um mediador da interação entre o adulto e a criança. Nesta proposta, intenta-se replicar entre adultos essa conexão percebida; agora não mais por uma necessidade de auxílio, mas sim, por uma vontade de estar com o outro em um momento de entretenimento. Logo, o objetivo geral é contribuir através do design editorial com a promoção de relações positivas entre adultos por meio da leitura em voz alta. No processo investigativo a metodologia escolhida foi a Teoria Fundamentada em Dados e, junto com esta, utilizaram-se protótipos experimentais. A abordagem da pesquisa se alinhou ao Design Positivo. Dessa forma, buscou-se encontrar possibilidades de projeto que melhorassem o bem-estar subjetivo dos usuários, focando-se principalmente no aspecto social do livro. Nos primeiros estudos exploratórios foi observada a dinâmica da leitura oral que acontecia naturalmente em pares e em grupo. Com base nesses resultados, os protótipos realizados passaram a ter diretrizes mais delimitadas para o usuário, as quais envolviam leitura, desenho e pintura, assim como abrangiam tanto pessoas que já se conheciam previamente como desconhecidos. Foram desenvolvidos dois protótipos físicos: The Listener’s Book e O Alienista – para ser lido a dois. O primeiro consistia em um livro específico para os ouvintes utilizarem quando estivessem ouvindo a leitura. Em suas páginas, ao invés de conter texto, foram oferecidos espaços para desenhar que acompanhavam o ritmo de leitura do "livro do autor". O segundo apresentava a proposta do modelo editorial Leitura Distribuída. Nessa edição o conteúdo foi dividido de forma alternada em dois volumes para ser lido em voz alta por duas pessoas juntas: um volume continha os capítulos pares e, o outro, os ímpares; naqueles em que o texto estava ausente foram disponibilizadas ilustrações para serem coloridas pelo ouvinte. Os protótipos se mostraram satisfatórios dentro do objetivo proposto e propiciaram aos leitores momentos de interação, relaxamento e aproximação. Através de seus resultados foi possível estabelecer diretrizes a serem seguidos em outras propostas de design com o foco na leitura compartilhada. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ This research is about the development of a design framework intended for adults who read out loud to other adults as a prosocial activity. Although it addresses both reading and listening, the focus of the design activity is on adult listeners. The project was inspired by children’s books, in how they serve as a mediator for the interaction between the adult and child. The idea is to replicate the same experience between adults, not anymore for a necessity of help to read, but now for a willingness to be together during a moment of leisure. Therefore, the general goal of this project is to promote, through Editorial Design the strengthening of affective bond among adults through reading out loud practices. The methodology is based on Project-grounded research, with the resources of experimental prototypes addressed to thinking how could design enhance the out-loud reading experience for an adult listener. The study follows the Positive Design’s approach, searching design possibilities to enhance the subjective well-being of the users, focusing especially on the social aspects of the book that used to be present at least until the beginning of the 19th, century. First, the experimental prototypes were made to better comprehend the oral reading dynamic that happened naturally between pairs and small groups. Based on these results, the following ones were more concentrated at practice possibilities, including reading, drawing, and painting, and involving people who already knew each other, as well as people who did not know each other before the reading experience. Two physical prototypes were developed: The Listener’s Book and O Alienista – para ser lido a dois. The first one consists of a booklet with blank and illustrated pages, with numbered pages that would directly relate to the page spreads of the book that would be read. The idea is to maintain a relationship between the "author’s book" and the "Listener’s Book". The second was an edition of the model Distributed Reading. It uses two books. One contains the odd-numbered chapters, with visual and text prompts replacing the even-numbered chapters. The companion book reverses the pattern, with the original content in its even-numbered chapters, and prompts replacing odd-numbered chapters. Both prototypes proved to be satisfactory in promoting among the readers moments of relaxation, interaction, and closeness. Through the achieved results it was possible to establish guidelines to be followed in future projects involving shared reading experiences that strengthens affective bonds.
This essay cluster addresses the curriculum design of graduate programs, asking how Digital Humanities projects might be integrated into them. From the perspectives of M.A. and PhD students, these essays explore the risks and rewards of integrating digital research into a traditional degree program or reshaping the degree requirements altogether. Randa El Khatib opens the cluster with an argument in favour of a digital dissertation, wherein the digital component comprises a significant part of the intellectual work of the dissertation by informing its argument either through the theoretical framework, methodology, or some other significant aspect integral to the original contribution that it makes. Reese Alexandra Irwin considers the institutional and administrative complications of integrating digital research into graduate programs, contending that that the library is the most advantageous place from which to draw support for graduate student digital projects, but that in order for the library to adequately support student projects it must be treated as a pedagogical partner by the student’s home department. Caroline Winter uses her experience digitizing Mary Shelley’s Gothic tales to explore how developing satellite digital projects that complement monograph-style doctoral dissertations is an opportunity for graduate students to develop digital skills, explore different modes of research, and experience being part of a strong community of practice. In her response, Michelle Levy weighs the risks of the various approaches to digital projects outlined in the previous essays and concludes that the institutions that house these students must offer greater support by adapting to the changing and increasingly digital landscape of humanities disciplines. Résumé Ce regroupement de dissertations aborde la conception de curriculum des programmes d’études supérieures, en demandant comment les projets des Humanités Numériques peuvent y être intégrés. Du point de vue d’étudiants de maîtrise et de doctorat, ces dissertations examinent les risques et les avantages de l’intégration de la recherche numérique au programme de diplôme traditionnel ou d’une réorganisation totale des exigences du diplôme. Randa El Khatib commence ce regroupement par un argument en faveur d’une dissertation numérique dont l’élément numérique contribue une part significative du travail intellectuel de la dissertation en présentant ses arguments au moyen du cadre théorique, de la méthodologie, ou d’un autre aspect important et essentiel à sa contribution originale. Reese Alexandra Irwin examine les complications institutionnelles et administratives d’une intégration de la recherche numérique à des programmes d’études supérieures, en soutenant que la bibliothèque est le lieu le plus favorable à partir duquel les étudiants de cycle supérieur peuvent recueillir de l’aide pour leurs projets numériques, mais, pour cela, il faut que le département universitaire d’un étudiant traite la bibliothèque comme un partenaire pédagogique. Caroline Winter tire parti de ses expériences faites en numérisant les histoires gothiques de Mary Shelley afin d’examiner comment le développement de projets satellites numériques qui conviennent à des dissertations doctorales de style monographique offre une opportunité aux étudiants de cycle supérieur pour développer des compétences numériques, d’explorer de divers modes de recherche et de faire partie d’une communauté forte de pratique. Dans sa réponse, Michelle Levy considère les risques des diverses approches à des projets numériques présentées dans les dissertations précédentes et conclut que les institutions qui accueillent ces étudiants doivent offrir davantage de soutien en s’adaptant au contexte changeant et de plus en plus numérique dans les disciplines des humanités. Mots-clés: conception de curriculum d’études supérieures; humanités Numériques
Studies in the culture and history of the book are a burgeoning academic specialty. Intriguing, rigorous, and vital, they are nevertheless rooted within three major academic disciplines-history, literary studies, and bibliography-that focus respectively upon the book as a cultural transaction, a literary text, and a material artefact. Old Books and New Histories serves as a guide to this rich but sometimes confusing territory, explaining how different scholarly approaches to what may appear to be the same entity can lead to divergent questions and contradictory answers. Rather than introduce the events and turning points in the history of book culture, or debates among its theorists, Leslie Howsam uses an array of books and articles to offer an orientation to the field in terms of disciplinary boundaries and interdisciplinary tensions. Howsam's analysis maps studies of book and print culture onto the disciplinary structure of the North American and European academic world. Old Books and New Histories is also an engaged statement of the historical perspective of the book. In the final analysis, the lesson of studies in book and print culture is that texts change, books are mutable, and readers ultimately make of books what they need.