Category > Oldies But Goodies (Early Digital Work)

The full title of this site is Palinurus: The Academy and the Corporation – Teaching the Humanities in a Restructured World. I created the Palinurus site beginning in February 1998 to encourage critical thought about the corporatization of higher education and the relation between academic “knowledge” and postindustrial “knowledge work”; includes a rationale statement, featured controversies suggested readings, and a gallery of quotations. (Some material submitted by contributors.)

Palinurus

The site fills me with melancholy when looking back on it now from the vantage point of 2013 after continued decreases in public funding for universities; the Great Recession beginning in 2007; the “privatization” of public universities; the trend toward “accountability” and “assessment” of education; the push by technology-industry leaders, pundits, and politicians for MOOC online courses to take up the slack; and other symptoms of the colonization of higher-education institutions by neoliberal philosophies and management structures native to contemporary business.

The original rationale statement for the Palinurus site begins: “This pilot site was built by higher-education humanities scholars who have awakened to the combined practical and intellectual challenge to higher education posed by business in the era of ‘knowledge work,’ ‘learning organizations,’ and ‘information society.'”

Date: February 1998

Palinurus Gallery of Quotes
  • Palinurus Site
  • Selected Pages of Interest (select links on home page, which is a frame page):
    • Rationale statement
    • Featured Controversies, inclduing “Dearing Report (U.K.),” “Cal State ‘Technology Infrastructure Initiative’ (U.S.),” “New Zealand ‘Green Paper’ and its Critics.”
    • Suggested Readings in the following areas
      • The Idea of Business
      • The Idea of the University
      • Academe and Business
      • Information Tech and the Academy
An early conference panel Web site that I built with Laura Mandell for the session on “The Canon and the Web: Reconfiguring Romanticism in the Information Age” at the MLA convention in Washington D. C., 29 December 1996. In his paper titled “Distant Mirrors and the LAMP” at the MLA convention in 2013, Matthew G. Kirschenbaum has discussed this site as an early “distant mirror” of the later web in its attempt to “situate the session amid a thick contextual network,” its “clear desire for interactivity, as expressed through the live email links and the injunction to initiate correspondence,” and its “curatorial sensibility.”

Date of site: 26 March 1996.
Date of event: 29 December 1996.

Canon and the Web Site    Go to site
This was the digital version of a ham radio club I started on my campus in 1995 for faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates in several departments (including English and Art) who were early enthusiasts of Web authoring. Included our Web show, a tools page, a project proposal page, and inspiration from Deleuze and Guattari.

“1995 calling 2013: transmission begins. . . .”

Date of site: 18 October 1995. (Earliest Internet Archive capture: 21 November 1996)

Many Wolves Web Authoring Collective
  • Many Wolves site (archival version of site as captured in Internet Archive, 21 November 1996)
This is one of the earliest “blog” essays I wrote–so early that it preceded the era of blogs.

Citation: “Should We Link to the Unabomber? An Essay on Practical Web Ethics.” English Department, UC Santa Barbara, 9 October 1995. http://www.english.ucsb.edu/faculty/ayliu/research/whyuna.htm

Date: 9 October 1995

Background: The Emergence of the Unabomber Manifesto on the Net

Shortly after the publication of the Unabomber’s “Manifesto on Industrial Society and its Future” in the New York Times and Washington Post on Sept. 19, 1995, Time-Warner mounted the Manifesto on its Web server and made it available as a subpage (titled “Unabomber: Tightening the Net”) from its Pathfinder home page. The link to the full text of the Manifesto is accompanied on the “Tightening the Net” page by links to a variety of mainstream media stories and commentary as well as by updates on the FBI’s manhunt. Copies of the Manifesto have subsequently also appeared on other servers on the net.

The Issue: To Link or Not to Link From a Scholarly Research Page

The Manifesto, its context, and its reception are events of major interest to scholars in such fields as science-technology-and-culture, sociology, journalism, etc. This is all the more so because the distinctly academic style of argumentation and language in the Manifesto (which comes complete with the bomber’s endnotes) establishes an intense feedback loop or “reverb” with the academic institutions whose faculty and staff have been among the bomber’s favorite targets–and casualties.

Given the nature of the Manifesto’s original publication history, however (i.e., violently coerced), the ethics of participating to any degree in the further dissemination of the document is problematic. This is certainly the case if one were considering mounting a duplicate of the whole document on one’s server. But it is also the case, however attenuated and primarily symbolic, if one is merely considering creating a link to the document as it exists on someone else’s server.

In the broadest perspective, the Unabomber incident is a uniquely compelling test of the ethics of pure research. . . .

A “technical experiment and theoretical allegory” based on the work of Jean-François Lyotard. In this early attempt to explore the then-new dynamic capabilities of hypertext, I use now obsolete “client-pull” Web methods to create a series of automated tracks of Lyotard’s thought. The site includes a short theoretical essay on “philosophy of this page.”

Date: August 1995.

Lyotard Auto-Differend    Go to site
Co-edited with Laura Mandell, The Romantic Chronology was database-driven hypertext chronology of the Romantic period with a links-archive and other resources designed to provide a historically-organized introduction to online materials in the area. A “Philosophy of this Site” page includes theoretical essays by the editors as well as Rita Raley and Carl Stahmer (serving at that time as research assistants for the project).

The site started in 1995 as a series of large static HTML tables. Then, in 1999, the site became one of my first attempts to create a database-to-Web site (using Filemaker, though at this time I was also experimenting with other limited database programs such as Access before graduating to SQL Server and, later, to modern content management systems with LAMP architecture and MySQL databases).

By 2013, when Laura and I had long stopped developing or adding content to the site, the old Filemaker database (a problem for my English Department’s sysadmin to maintain) was retired. The site was “flattened” in static HTML form for archival purposes.

Date of site: 1995.

Romantic Chronology
My primer for colleagues learning about the Internet. 124 pp.; “published” in bound form in 1994 and sold for $11 through my campus bookstore.

Date: 5 October 1994

  • Ultrabasic Guide to the Internet (full text as .pdf) (ported from a page-making program into PDF with some loss of elegance in formatting; bookmarks added to chapters)
  • My image from the guide illustrating the Internet as it appears through the “windshield” while driving on the information superhighway.
Original, static HTML version of my Voice of the Shuttle: Web Page for Humanities Research. I started VoS in late 1994 as a Web site restricted to my campus (U. California, Santa Barbara), then made it world-accessible on 21 March 1995 as the root site of UCSB’s first humanities server (named humanitas.ucsb.edu at that time). Original VoS Home PageLinks were collected primarily using the text-only Lynx browser (for speed over a 2400 baud modem) even though the Mosaic graphical browser had recently appeared. My colleague Victoria Vesna in Art scanned and Photoshopped the logo for me, using a bolt of fabric loaned by my colleague in English Shirley Lim.

From its origin to October, 1999, VoS stayed at the same address on the Humanitas server. It grew in that period to over 70 pages of links to humanities and humanities-related resources on the Internet. Its mission was to provide a structured and briefly annotated guide to online resources that at once respects the established humanities disciplines in their professional organization and points toward the transformation of those disciplines as they interact with the sciences and social sciences and with new digital media. An essay I published in 1998 narrates the origin and mission of VoS (“Globalizing the Humanities: ‘The Voice of the Shuttle: Web Page for Humanities Research.’” [pdf]).

In October 2001, after a year of development work by Jeremy Douglass and Robert Adlington, VoS was rebuilt as a database-to-Web site. A SQL-injection hacker attack on the site a few years later led to extensive further work by Douglass to harden the site.

Most of link collection, description, and maintenance was done solo (though for a brief period I had some funding and assistance from graduate students). I gradually slowed in collecting and fixing links for VoS over the years as portals and search engines became more generally used. Work on the site effectively stopped after c. 2009.

Date: December 1994