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Fulbright Project Statement

Fulbright Project Statement

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Published by K. A. Laity
The project statement for the Fulbright at NUI Galway that I will undertake this coming year (2011-2012).
The project statement for the Fulbright at NUI Galway that I will undertake this coming year (2011-2012).

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Published by: K. A. Laity on May 19, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial No-derivs


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FULBRIGHT PROJECT STATEMENTFor the Digital Humanities project at National University of Ireland(NUI) Galway, I would propose the following topic for theundergraduate seminar in the Fall semester:Writers in Motion: Romanticism and Reality in Lives of 21
CenturyWriters The “Writers in Motion” project aims to bring together popularportrayals of writers on film with the realities of being a writer in the21
century. Films offer us a romantic view of writers' lives. Forgethard graft: according to movies, writers live, love and drink to excess,then occasionally transcribe their adventures in a brief montage.Success, naturally, ensues. We will spend some of our timeinterrogating romanticized representations of writers in a variety of modern films
while contrasting those portrayals with the realities of writers’ lives both in the past and in the present. We will explore thebenefits inherent in the complicated gap between reality andrepresentation: why is Hollywood selling us this vision of the writer? Just as historians seek to recover past writers in the context of thesocial conditions of their time, de-mystifying the distorted perceptionsfostered by Hollywood’s commoditization of a romanticized past thatobscures social realities, we will try to glimpse the realities beneaththe representations modern writers confront. Technology is changing the writer's life with the new surge inpublication of ebooks and the instant access to writers and booksprovided by the internet. Writing was once a solitary profession, butnow writers can collaborate and communicate with each other andwith their readers. How are instantaneous communication and elastictextual formats changing the ways we write and read? What does itmean to be a writer in the 21
century? Will the traditional printhierarchy and genre structure dissolve or will new categories develop?Are traditional publishers still necessary? The recent end-run aroundpublishers by the Wylie Agency, when super agent Andrew Wylie soldhis clients' ebook rights directly to Amazon's Kindle store, has inflamedalready tense relations between traditional print publishers and ebooksellers—not to mention authors, agents and readers.What new categories are emerging that may supersede the traditionalforms of publishing? How should writers approach these newopportunities? With greater access afforded to publication by the web,does this model, made possible by new and revolutionary technologies,lead to more democratic forms of producing and disseminating ideas
and knowledge? Or does it reinforce and exacerbate existinghierarchies among writers and the value of what they produce? Doesequal access to publication in digital media enhance the range of alternative ideas and democratize knowledge by expanding access toreaders hitherto excluded? Or does it further reduce its value byflooding cyberspace with reams of otherwise unpublishable dreck?Media outlets are quick to pick up on the success stories (self-published authors whose works get picked up by publishing houses)and even Harper Collins has begun its new site Authonomy to try toharness the enthusiasm of self-published authors for profit. While wetend to think of self-published authors as unrealistic dreamers with badgrammar and subsidy publishers as leeches willing to fleece thosedreamers, the core of academic publishing resembles the same model,with scholars often footing the bill for their publications (although thepublishers in question are generally noted for their rigor). Yet manyscholars still find resistance to the idea of electronic publication fromolder colleagues and governing bodies. The form does not determinethe content—e-journals can be just as rigorously refereed as print ones—but the capitalist mode of thinking persists: anything that's freecannot be valuable.Using the music industry as a model, we can see parallels to theupheavals in the publishing world. The survival of the recordcompanies should offer some comfort to traditional publishers as wellas to the success of new exclusively ebook publishers. Just as theinitial fears of piracy became the focus of much anxiety as well as legalefforts (often punishingly excessive), there is much handwringingabout ebook piracy as well. How much should publishers and writersworry about this inevitable practice? Boing Boing co-founder CoryDoctorow, who offers all of his books as free downloads as well as forpurchase, often quotes Tim O'Reilly's edict that obscurity is a greaterproblem for most writers than piracy will ever be, but it doesn't stop alot of writers from obsessively trolling the net in search of piratedbooks.I want to explore how the world of social media in particular helpsshape the reception of ebooks and their dissemination. Given thatmost publishing houses focus all of their publicity efforts on a handfulof writers, most writers must be responsible for their own promotion.How much is too much? Are writers spending too much timepromoting their writing? Or is it advantageous to be in control of theirown "brand" on the internet? Those who do not shape their profile onthe web will be at the mercy of random opinion. Is it to a writer'sadvantage to interact as closely as possible with readers? Or will thisprocess lead to blander content as writers try to please ever-fickle
audiences? These issues are at the heart of writing as a process and academia asa source of not only writing and publishing, but of cultural analysis. The internet is changing us in so many ways and so quickly thatscholars are scrambling to understand and reflect upon those changes.We need to devote time to exploring these myriad effects; they affectnot only our own lives as scholars, but they're reshaping the ways welook at information and knowledge. Our students' relationships to textand its ownership have also shifted drastically. For many academics,this has meant an increasing plague of plagiarism; the solution maynot be greater policing but changing the ways we think about writingand collaboration. It's wonderful to think that the world is now at ourfingertips in a very real and tangible way; yet, because people expecteverything online to be "free" it remains a vexed question how writersin particular will make a living doing so. This project grows out of two courses that I teach: the first, Writers inMotion, explores the romantic view of writers created by films abouttheir lives. Knowing that the lives of most writers would offer aWarhol-like study in monotony as they sit before their computers,typewriters or paper pads, filmmakers choose to dramatise the onlyexceptionally action-filled writers' lives and perpetuate an image thatgives an unrealistic image of writing as a practice. The second course,Writing for New Media, forms one of the keystones to our new minor inFilm and New Media Studies, which I helped develop. In this courseour focus centers on writing for the particular needs of the web,whether in the 140 character limit of Twitter or the targeted linkagerequired in a blog post, but also asks students to be conscious of theirown presence on the web and how to shape it the better to improve job opportunities or develop valuable connections (whether monetaryor social). It helps students to become more aware of the "stickiness"of information on the web (and the deep web) but also to be moreconscious of how the constant flood of information from the webshapes our opinions and observations, and whether that process hasbecome more superficial.I'd like to think that NUI-Galway will provide an optimum location forthis collaborative teaching and research project. The Moore Institute'sprograms signal an environment that is taking the lead in developingmaterials for the new, wider audiences that can be part of thebroadening discourse that is academia in the 21
century. If you'llforgive a medieval metaphor, we no longer have to be monks keepingto our cells to pore over our texts, but can live like friars, sharing ourknowledge, receptive to new readings and unconventionalinterpretations that will allow us to shift our own perspectives and

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