Player Piano: Mechanizing the Humanities

A couple of weeks ago, I gave a talk at the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH) with the same title.  I've linked to the video here so you can see the slides along with my monotone voice.  In this talk, I use imagery and music along with mathematics to explore how we might approach taking ownership of computing in the humanities.

[vimeo 22954934]

The last slide is wrong.  It should be the following:

I'll explore the implications of this code in another post.

Creating a Book Cover

I'll say right off that I don't know how to create a great book cover.  What I want to explore in this post is my thinking behind the evolving cover for my first novel, Of Fish and Swimming Swords.

When self-publishing, you have to provide covers for each of the formats you're publishing.  If an electronic edition, you'll need the equivalent of a front cover.  If going with a POD edition, you'll need the front, spine, and back of the cover.  Usually, you want the electronic cover to be a version of the POD cover.  For my covers, I'm using Inkscape for vector drawing and the GIMP for final composition and effects.  Both are free, open source applications that have versions for Microsoft Windows, OS X, and most UNIX/Linux distributions.

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Typesetting a Book with LaTeX

The other day, I talked about building an e-book for Kindle and Nook.  Today, I want to add a few things to the Makefile we created so that we can produce a PDF.  The end result will be that every time you want to create a PDF of the book, you will only need to type 'make pdf'.

If you're one a Mac, you'll want to install MacTeX.  If you're on Linux/UNIX, you'll want to install the package that contains pdflatex.  We'll be using LaTeX to typeset our book.

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Building a Book for Kindle and Nook

I'm thinking about self-publishing my novel, Of Fish and Swimming Swords, on Kindle and other ebook readers.  Today, I want to talk a little about the process I'm using to build the book as I do final edits and formatting.

The easiest way to build a book for Kindle and have a good chance that it will look like what you want is to create a MobiPocket file.  Amazon makes available all of the tools you need to create one of these files.  I use a Mac, so if you use either a Mac or a Linux/UNIX system, you should be okay.  I'm not sure how things work on Windows.

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Thinking About Self Publishing

Draft eBook Cover

My first novel is a queer, science fiction piece that I wrote for my thesis.  I've had it with a publisher for almost two years now and I haven't heard anything back other than that the editor liked what he saw.  Given how short the shelf life is for paper books, I've been thinking about self publishing the novel electronically instead of waiting for a publisher to go through the year or two process from acceptance to market, only to have the book off the market in a few weeks.  I may add a POD version if I make enough from the ebook to pay for the small ($39) setup fee that Amazon/CreateSpace charges for improved royalties.

Joe Konrath is a big proponent of self-publishing.  Some of his posts read like a late night infomercial, but they are still helpful in getting a sense of what's happening in the market.  A good balance is the Writer Beware section of the SFWA website.

So why would I choose to do self-publishing if I've been through an MA program in creative writing, I know that self-publishing doesn't give me professional credit, and that it's probably a matter of time before I either get my novel accepted or I give up and write a new novel?  If I can't find an editor who thinks my novel is worth a few thousand dollars investment, then what makes me think my novel is good enough to sell for $0.99 or $2.99?  Isn't this dangerously close to vanity publishing?

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Thinking Through Some Functional Ideas

I'm working through some ideas on how to move the Utukku/Fabulator expression language more into a descriptive, functional style.  I want to be able to have the programming be exposed as an editorial statement showing how certain calculations are done or inferences are drawn.  The computer's interpretation of the data can be as important as a person's, and knowing what the person was expecting the computer to do can be as important as knowing what the person thought they wanted the computer to do.

With that in mind, I want to walk through a few possible ways of constructing phrases and inference rules to see how they go.  Since my stereotypical example seems to be a concordance, that's where I hope to end up.

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There's Something Odd About Emma

Part of the LHC at CERN, an experimental endeavor
Image via Wikipedia

During the first week of March, a group of humanities scholars and developers gathered in the bowels of the McKeldin library on the University of Maryland campus.  You can see the website that talks about the results on the MITH website.  We held Corpora Camp to test some ideas on distributed humanities computing that will eventually feed into the next phase of Project Bamboo. The result is an application for exploring texts called “woodchipper.”

While most of my focus is on the architecture, I want to explore what we’re beginning to enable.  If you have experience with Scrivener and Mathematica, then you have some idea of where I’m headed.  I won’t flesh everything out here.  That will have to wait for my Digital Dialogues talk at the end of April titled, “Player Piano: Mechanizing the Humanities.”

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Semester Goals for Fabulator

A hanging flower basket on the street in Victo...
Image via Wikipedia

Now that I'm finished with the move from Texas to Maryland, I'm starting to plan the next four or five months.

This spring will be spent getting the Fabulator engine and Radiant extensions ready for DHSI.  If you are interested in getting hands-on with the system, join us in Victoria for a wonderful week in June.  I can think of few places that are more enjoyable in June than Victoria, BC.

I'll also be posting some documentation or tutorials here to help explain the language at the heart of the Fabulator system.  I'm considering a few changes that I'll announce in a few weeks when some other plans start coming together.

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Picking Up Here

If you've been following my Tumblr, welcome to my personal site.

I'm starting a new job at the University of Maryland, College Park, on January 10th.  The Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH) is bringing me in as a software architect for a number of exciting projects.  I figure this is a good time to freshen up the site.  I'll dig up the older content at some point and post it here as an archive.

One of the projects I'll be working on is Project Bamboo, specifically, Corpora Space.  I'll continue working on some of my open source work from Texas A&M University that I've posted about on another blog.  The running commentary I wrote there will continue here.  Some names may change as code is brought into the Bamboo universe.

The new year promises to be full of wonder and surprises.  I'll try to keep you up to speed here.