Three of our PhD candidates—Adam Bradley, Lauren Burr, and Dani Stock—have recently won prestigious SSHRC doctoral fellowships. I asked them to write a paragraph about their research. Here are two descriptions.
Adam Bradley’s project is titled “Visualizing Literature: The Avant-Garde Aesthetic in the Digital Humanities”
My research centers on applying the modernist critical strategy of estrangement, as encountered in the work of Mikhail Bakhtin and in many strands of early twentieth century avant-garde art (e.g. surrealism, dada, futurism) to the problems of Digital Humanities. That is, I am creating digital tools that defamilarize the aesthetics of a given text in order to gain a new perspective on the components that make it up. If the computing tool itself is used in an imaginative, experimental spirit it opens up the possibility of a completely new type of scholarship. Jerome McGann writes that “the general field of humanities education and scholarship will not take the use of digital technology seriously until one demonstrates how its tools improve the ways we explore and explain aesthetic works.” I contend that by using the computer to explore aesthetic works, namely using digital tools to continue and extend the practices and sensibilities of critics and artists into new approaches, we can achieve this improvement. By combining the critical strategy of defamiliarization with rigorous mathematics and the adoption of scientific modeling techniques, we can “form a new kind of literary study absolutely comfortable with scientific methods yet completely suffused with the values of the humanities” (Potter). My project will approach this problem with a set of computational tools that aids the study of literature.
Dani Stock’s project is titled “Normalizing the body online: the rhetorical construction of disease and disability in online communities.”
As various theorists in health studies and the medical humanities have observed, online media afford disease sufferers an important mode of interaction with technology characterized by the reclamation of power over knowledge about the body. While these studies point to the social empowerment made possible by online media, there remains some question, largely unexplored by present scholarship, as to whether the elevation of “patient experience” and “participatory medicine” by the Medicine 2.0 movement partly disguises the central interests of funding groups in data collection, the continued centralization of medical authority, and the perpetuation of regulatory controls on the human body.
My proposed study combines critical and new media theories, disability studies, and medical humanities to examine contemporary power relations that structure online medical discourse. Through a qualitative study that examines the design, user activity, and political economy of three major online social networking sites, specifically Inspire.com, PatientsLikeMe.com, and DailyStrength.org, the project will explore the political, economic, and social functions of online media that position the subject according to a particular set of ideals, and both reinforce and upset normative standards of human behaviour.
Wow! Such interesting research is being undertaken at uW English. BIG congratulations to all SSHRC winners!