mfioretti: literature*

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  1. Researchers at Poland’s Institute of Nuclear Physics found complex ‘fractal’ patterning of sentences in literature, particularly in James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, which resemble ‘ideal’ maths seen in nature
    Tags: , , , by M. Fioretti (2016-01-28)
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  2. This is an excellent post to keep in mind when you see another recent post criticizing the current trend of dystopian sci-fi and going on about how sci-fi used to be about hope and wonder.

    No. It used to be about men. And now it’s not.

    Specifically white men. And I say this because a lot of the feminist sci fi centers white women & replicates the racism of classic sci fi. Not to mention the weird fetishization of POC on display in other spec fic like urban fantasy.
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  3. Will O'Neill has written an interesting piece on writing for games, full of advice particularly geared at indies, who are free from the usual constraints big companies impose on what kind of characters and plot points "sell" and whether narrative experimentation is worth the time and money.

    Read plays. They often focus on dialogue and monologues in a stylish-yet-realistic way that I think dovetails beautifully with the way that stories are typically well-told in games. To an extent, I even think theater can help you grapple with the limitations that you may face as an indie. For the sake of an audience in the distance, theater is broadly emotive in the way that your simple, non-facially-intensive character animations might also be. Sets and props are often static, simple or merely suggestive in the same way that yours probably are.
    Tags: , , by M. Fioretti (2015-06-03)
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  4. If we approach Rowling’s Twitter comments armed with Barthes, we can say that what she “always thought” of a particular character, or whether she always imagined gay and lesbian students at Hogwarts are irrelevant to how we interpret the Harry Potter series.

    Though the final Potter book was published in 2007, Rowling seems eager to retain an influence on how we understand her books by revealing ostensibly new information about her characters. Whether these character points were announced to readers via Twitter or alluded to within the Potter books, however, the meanings that we as a diverse international community of readers wish to take from them trump Rowling’s intentions as an author.
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  5. Maybe it’s time to start thinking of paper and screens another way: not as an old technology and its inevitable replacement, but as different and complementary interfaces, each stimulating particular modes of thinking. Maybe paper is a technology uniquely suited for imbibing novels and essays and complex narratives, just as screens are for browsing and scanning.

    “Reading is human-technology interaction,” says literacy professor Anne Mangen of Norway’s University of Stavenger. “Perhaps the tactility and physical permanence of paper yields a different cognitive and emotional experience.” This is especially true, she says, for “reading that can’t be done in snippets, scanning here and there, but requires sustained attention.”


    Mangen is among a small group of researchers who study how people read on different media. It’s a field that goes back several decades, but yields no easy conclusions. People tended to read slowly and somewhat inaccurately on early screens. The technology, particularly e-paper, has improved dramatically, to the point where speed and accuracy aren’t now problems, but deeper issues of memory and comprehension are not yet well-characterized.

    Complicating the scientific story further, there are many types of reading. Most experiments involve short passages read by students in an academic setting, and for this sort of reading, some studies have found no obvious differences between screens and paper. Those don’t necessarily capture the dynamics of deep reading, though, and nobody’s yet run the sort of experiment, involving thousands of readers in real-world conditions who are tracked for years on a battery of cognitive and psychological measures, that might fully illuminate the matter.

    In the meantime, other research does suggest possible differences. A 2004 study found that students more fully remembered what they’d read on paper. Those results were echoed by an experiment that looked specifically at e-books, and another by psychologist Erik Wästlund at Sweden’s Karlstad University, who found that students learned better when reading from paper.
    Tags: , , , by M. Fioretti (2014-05-03)
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  6. Brand analysts occasionally have fun speculating (in both senses) about the brand value of Shakespeare. But they all concede that the eye-watering sums they cite (US$562 million is the latest) would only work if the brand was owned by a commercial company.

    It isn’t: as theatre companies, heritage tourist sites, festival organisers and even educators have found. The Shakespeare Institute, the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Shakespeare’s Globe or the Oregon Shakespeare festival may all want to claim the Bard but they know their “Shakespeare” is only as good as the performance, experience, or master’s programme presented in his name.

    So perhaps the original texts themselves could help us put a value on “Shakespeare”. Let’s say, one of the 40 remaining complete copies of the First Folio. The most recent sale of a Shakespeare Folio raised £2.5m (1m less than Sotheby’s estimate).

    But that price, of course, reflects the rare book market, not the cultural value of Shakespeare. “Shakespeare” can be adopted by the book market, the iPhone case market, the tourist market or the education market but Shakespeare is always only the poster boy in markets whose value rests in the assets, labour and distribution that they use.

    So the value that ensues is created by the investment of finance and labour on the part of creators, audiences, universities, or merchandise companies. The asset on which all of these depends – the texts of the plays – is freely available to anyone. It is priceless in the literal sense of having no price because it cannot be exchanged. Even a terrible “Shakespeare” product (squeaking Shakespeare duck anyone?) cannot damage the capacity of the poems and plays to be worked through again and again.

    Shakespeare, by contrast, has what economists call “non-rival value”. Like the Rocky Mountains or the music of the Rolling Stones, its value depends upon knowledge and use. It is added to, not diminished, by the number of times it is referenced, developed, used and even consumed. Its value is open-ended, a work in progress, regenerated by conversations as much as by the talent and imagination of those who reform, reframe and reproduce it.
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  7. A form of poetry in India called Vachana sahitya is part of the popular Indian language, Kannada. It evolved in the 11th century and flourished in the 12th as part of the religious Lingayatha movement. Since that time, more than 259 Vachana writers, called Vachanakaru, have compiled over 11,000 Vachanas (verses).

    21,000 of these verses were digitally published into 15 volumes, called Samagra Vachana Samputa, by the government of Karnataka. These volumes were then turned into a standalone project called Vachana Sanchaya; this project was taken on by two Kannada Wikimedians, a Kannada linguist, and the author O. L. Nagabhushana Swamy—to enrich the Kannada WikiSource. This team used Unicode, a standard of consistency for converting text (and code) into a new format.

    Swamy was trying to access these poems, and was having trouble because it was in ISCII, an Indian character encoding standard. We began writing scripts to make the Vachanas (poems) searchable by an index. But, in order to do that well, we had to build a platform for everyone to use: the linguistic researchers, students, and the public at large who are interested in reaching this literature.

    Omshivaprakash, a Kannada Wikimedian, worked on the architecture of the platform, decided the infrastructure requirements, and chose the open source software tools to use. I was involved in providing critical hacks for digitization and valuable inputs through suggestions, feedback, and quality assurance.

    At present, our repository, Vachana Sanchaya, has around 200,000 unique words that were derived from these poems
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  8. The fundamental concept behind Kurt Vonnegut's master's thesis in anthropology at the University of Chicago was, in Vonnegut's words, "that stories have shapes which can be drawn on graph paper."

    Vonnegut's thesis was rejected* ("because it was so simple, and looked like too much fun," according to him), and he left the university soon thereafter, sans degree, to take a job with the public relations department at General Electric; but he would champion his theory defiantly, with characteristic wit and charm, for the rest of his days
    Tags: , , , by M. Fioretti (2014-02-21)
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  9. our actual colonists were carefully selected by “systematic colonisation” and perhaps too focused on making money from their small holdings (or their large sheep stations) to have the energy or emotion for writing big novels. All they wanted after a hard day’s dagging or clearing bush was to make dirty thumbmarks on the pages of the newest H Rider Haggard and fall asleep by the fire with a cup of moonshine.

    Many of the things New Zealanders don’t like about Australians – brashness, in-your-face competitiveness, a gloating arrogance – are also attitudes which in the 19th century allowed for big ambitions and big clashes and also big novels. And some of the things Australians don’t like about New Zealanders – our genteel pretensions, sense of superiority about our origins, smugness – are also inhibiting to big acts of self-expression.

    But we also did a lot of plain hard work in this deeply-forested landscape, such as chopping down the Ninety Mile Bush Lawson describes near Pahiatua, though it is work many of us wish we hadn’t done now. And we also spent a lot of time and emotion, and not always in good ways, on living, marrying and warring with Maori.

    Perhaps the story of the missing New Zealand novel in the 19th century is not to do with the cramping effects of bourgeois ambitions rather than the dramatic potential of floggings and chains, but the energy expended on the heart of the bush. Did that take all the imagination and energy there was?
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  10. when words commonly associated with misery show up in books, it meant that 10 years before, the economic situation was pretty grim.

    To reach this discovery, researchers from Bristol and London sifted through a database of more than five million digital versions of books from Google
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