Recently, Meredith presented at The Digital Word seminar, hosted at Maynooth University between the Media Studies and Music departments. Meredith provides a fantastic summary of the seminar as well as some great links to resources.

On 20th April 2016, I had the opportunity to join three Maynooth University faculty members in presenting at The Digital Word seminar. Jointly hosted by Maynooth’s Media Studies and Music departments, the seminar came to life thanks to a collaboration between Drs. Jeneen Naji and Gordon Delap through the university’s Digital Arts and Humanities Research Cluster. The seminar was based on the concept of the digital word as a mutable object “that slips and scrambles at our touch.” With presenters from three different university departments, the multidisciplinary seminar sought to highlight the variety of humanities research being undertaken at Maynooth and contribute to the broader conversation about what “the word” means in digital spaces.

Chaired by Dr. EL Putnam of the Media Studies department, the seminar featured talks from Dr. Gordon Delap, Dr. Jeneen Naji, Dr. Stephen O’Neill, and myself, a PhD candidate in Media Studies.

Gordon is a member of Maynooth’s Music Department and he introduced his work with electroacoustic compositions. As Gordon explained, combining electronic sounds with audio and video files, and increasing the disorder of those files, creates a kind of “dirty audio” which creates something new from existing media. He offered examples of his word, including one piece that reworks pieces of an old speech of Richard Feynman’s and combines it with virtual instruments (or instruments with no physical counterparts).

Jeneen, who lectures in the Media Studies department, spoke about the future of print in cyberspace and shared parts of a book chapter that she is co-writing for an anthology. Her starting point was challenging the idea that younger generations don’t read and she went on to highlight the idea of hyper-reading in digital contexts. She also spoke about how digital spaces lend themselves to different modes of storytelling, where text can be accompanied by images, audio, video and more. She made the argument that our need to tell stories hasn’t changed – what has changed is how we tell those stories.

The third speaker, Stephen (from Maynooth’s English Department), had recently published a book titled Shakespeare and YouTube: New Media Forms of the Bard. He spoke about the quoting and quoted Shakespeare phenomenon, and in particular, he explored the use of specific Shakespeare-related hashtags on social media sites and the way Shakespeare becomes a conduit to connectivity between people on those sites. As many literary scholars know, Shakespeare thought of himself as a playwright first and foremost, intending for his plays to be performed (and not necessarily read). The use of social media to circulate Shakespearean quotes ends up reclaiming a bit of that social, performative aspect of the play.

As the final speaker, I introduced the case study for my dissertation, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, and highlighted the initial stages of my research, which focuses on digital narratives and contemporary reading practices in digital spaces. Using The Lizzie Bennet Diaries as a thematic anchor, I highlighted some of the different narrative paths that exist for readers within the story and then tied LBD to Espen Aarseth’s theory of cybertext. I concluded by proposing the future trajectory of my research, which aims to survey and interview readers of digital narratives to better understand their experiences with multiplatform narratives.

For those interested, you can read through the various tweets from The Digital Word seminar on Storify.