Week 9: Rough Idea of a Vague Inkling of a Paper Topic

For my paper, I’m going to enlarge on a topic I looked at in week 3: reading manga in translation and scanlation. For those who didn’t read my scintillating post, scanlations are fan-made translations, written on top of scans of the Japanese originals.

Kali made a really interesting comment on that post, raising the question of fan interpretations coming out in the scanlations. This made me think about how authority works in this type of situation. All translations are essentially interpretations. So, whose interpretations are the “right” ones? Are there right ones?

Translations made by licensed publishers are authoritative in that they own the copyright to the works. But, manga fan communities have their own spheres of influence and authority, sometimes to the point of eclipsing the corporate. For instance, a Google search of “sailor moon manga” comes up with two free reading sites that host scanlations, a link to Miss Dream, the main source for Sailor Moon scanlations, and a Sailor Moon themed fan wiki. Only after that does the first Amazon listing appear.

Besides that, interpretations can be problematic. A number of years ago, the publisher Tokyopop did a controversial licensed translation of the series Wish by Clamp. Some characters in the manga were referred to by gender-neutral pronouns in Japanese. Tokyopop decided to change these to gender-specific pronouns in the translation. While they explained their reasonings in the introduction, it was still a questionable change. The application of gendered-pronouns was often inconsistent with what they stated in their introduction. As well, the use of these pronouns had a huge effect on the reading of the series and the characters. It could be argued that a fan translation of the manga might be more authoritative, or a more “correct” reading.

This tension between fan communities and companies, and the issue of translation and interpretation, is very interesting to me.

Pay no attention to the hand inside the book – digitization, labour, and the troubling implications of Google hands

The Wizard of Oz revealed. Found at: https://theyellowbrickroadfreeblog.wordpress.com/behind-the-curtain/

In order to balance out the length of last week’s post, I’m going to keep this one fairly brief. I have very much enjoyed the serendipitous nature of how my paper topic has unfolded – informed and pushed along by my research into last week’s blog post as well as discussions around it. I have decided to use the appearance of Google book scanners’ hands in digitized copies of Google books as a jumping off point to consider the invisible labour of digitization work (the title of this post is my working title so far). I will also be considering the response to, in particular Google’s mistakes, in which the human effort of digitization is accidentally made visible; I will be looking into the sort of forensic work done by those who hunt down these mistakes, and then compile and display them (either on blogs, as artwork, or in printed publications). I am interested in what this means with regards to the relationship between the human and the digital, and how accidents in digitized books can reveal the manipulations of their creation.

To be supporting my exploration, I will look into firsthand examples of images including book scanners’ hands, blogs, books, and art projects that recapture and disseminate them, as well as responses to the issue in the popular media (you can see most of these sources in my reference list for last week’s post). I will be using theoretical readings from this course to comment on the implications of these digitizing mistakes (such as Trettien’s exploration of print on demand books and Mak’s investigation of Early English Books Online (EEBO)).

I have also taken out some fascinating books from the Inforum including Digital Labour and Karl Marx by Christian Fuchs, Digitize this Book!: The Politics of New Media, or Why We Need Open Access Now by Gary Hall – and relating to Google specifically, From Gutenberg to Google: Electronic Representations of Literary Texts by Peter L. Shillingsburg, Planet Google: One Company’s Audacious Plan to Organize Everything We Know by Randall Stross, and The Googlization of Everything (And Why We Should Worry) by Siva Vaidhyanathan.

If you guys have any thoughts/comments/sources you would like to direct my way, I would be glad to hear them!

Week 9: Potential Paper Topic- Future of Children’s Books and ebooks

For my final paper I am thinking of examining the future of children’s books and ebooks. When I was a preschool teacher we had paper and board books, audiobooks (some of which had follow along picture books) and two iPads within the classroom. The students interacted with each object differently. They would sit and read or look at the pictures in the picture and board books, listen to the audio books and look at the accompanying picture books and play games on the iPad. In an ever digitizing world full of busy parents, young children are being continuously exposed to and becoming increasingly proficient in using smart phones and iPads. Many of the students in the class were more experienced in using iPads then both teachers. At one point a student downloaded angry birds and neither teacher could figure out how to fix it and had to ask the student to do so.

Children as young as two and a half using advanced technology is becoming common place. As children’s books have often been an area full of creativity and  experimenting with formats it makes sense that we will see new and innovative ebooks being created for children. In my paper I will try to uncover the possibilities available to creating ebooks for children and the manner in which they will help to develop children cognitively. Take The Hungry Caterpillar for example what was available originally as a paper book and board book can be found online in a pdf slideshow, youtube of people reading the book and audiobooks. Though it is not yet available as an ebook, with questions and challenges for counting, identifying color and fruits and vegetables and sorting this ebook has the potential to do a lot for the cognitive development of children.


Links to the very hungry caterpillar:



The Future of… Reading Motivation

The more I think about it, the more I realize the concept of “the future of the book” is limiting, if not downright problematic. At first glance, it implies that books are artifacts akin to smartphones, which annually undergo upgrades that largely (though not always) are the product of technological advances and “upgrades.” In other words, “the future of the book” gives the implication that books are mere artifacts that evolve in a vacuum with some Steve Jobs-like figure (maybe Jeff Brezos?) deciding on new features for books – even though we know the field encompasses much more than its moniker may initially suggest.

For my research paper, I’m considering examining readers of books. Books have no future if there are no readers. Along these lines, I plan on looking at reading motivation of books. This kind of motivation – especially in the form of library programs and personal practices – has a role in determining how much prominence the reading of the books has in society.

A prime example of personal practices that seem to have gained popularity in recent years are reading challenges, which encourage readers to read more and read more widely.

Also, there are many, many examples of libraries that try to encourage reading through general and specific means. Below is a picture of a small passive program to motivate patrons to read at Hart House Library:

Mary - Final Picture
Taken by author. Hart House Library, Toronto. March 3, 2016.

I hope to examine how and why reading motivation programs and practices have changed over time – and to attempt to determine where they might go in the future.

Week 8: Content and Containers

I was inspired by David’s post about movie mistakes that were not caught during editing when considering my example for this weeks blog post. I chose to look movies presented in the form of VHS vs DVD. Although we can move through a movie on VHS using the rewind and fast forward options, it is very difficult to pinpoint the exact moment where we want to stop. I can remember countless times trying to fast forward through movie trailers at the beginning of a movie but going too far, then having to rewind to find the start of the featured film. In this way, the seamless content is constantly being disrupted by the viewers desire to move through the VHS, skipping movie trailers, to access the featured film. But by moving through the VHS, the chances that the viewer will stop at the correct moment before the feature starts are very slim, so the viewer is caught in a rewind and fast forward battle.

With the DVD, the container has adapted more efficiently to the desire of the viewer and created an easier way to move through the content. We now have the option to move directly to the featured film with the press of one button that takes the viewer to the main menu of the DVD. We also have scene selections which makes it easier to move through the film to find exact scenes the viewer is interested in without having to spend a long time fast forwarding through the entire feature.

Prior to the DVD, the content of held in a VHS was constantly being disrupted in an in efficient way as the viewer tried to move through the different sections of the VHS to reach the featured film. The DVD has minimized the disruption of content, allowing the viewer to more easily move throughout the content.

the ghostly disruption of Google hands



A couple weeks ago I briefly mentioned the issue of ghostly Google book scanners’ hands appearing in digitized versions of Google’s books. I think this is a great opportunity to delve further into a complex example of content and container merging, or perhaps more appropriately, colliding. In this case, Google’s attempts to seamlessly reproduce, for free, ‘the most comprehensive index of full-text books’ is being disrupted, and in quite revealing ways.

Reactions to the hands have been fascinating – they have been called ‘disturbing’, ‘creepy’, and ‘eery’ (Goldsmith, 2013; Marshall, 2014). Some have felt that the hot pink ‘finger condoms’ are the most jarring aspect of the images (Moore, 2009). There is a feeling of disembodiment here – one blogger, Phil Patton, likened finding the hand obscuring the page with disgust: “The suddenness of its appearance suggested scanning as an unclean process; I thought with horror of the guy who found a finger in his bowl of fast food chili.” (in Moore, 2009). This notion of ‘cleanliness’, or the assumed mechanized process of digitizing books, shows another side to these reactions – they inadvertently reveal much about public opinion regarding the digitization of books and issues of authenticity. A BuzzFeed article titled “21 Google Book Scans That Bring Surprising Intimacy To The Digital Book World” hints at the obfuscation of the very human work that goes into digitization projects (human, and therefore, prone to error).

The sheer volume of books being scanned has been to blame for the many “glitches, not least the scattering of pink fingers” (Moore, 2009). One Wired article reproduced a photo of a worker’s hand with the caption, “Overworking your book-scanning crew much, Google?” (Beschizza, 2007). Another blog coined the phenomenon as ‘finger spam’ and “called on Google to ensure its scanning is more reliable if it wants to make money from on-demand publishing” (Moore, 2009). Whitney Anne Trettien has pointed out of annotations in print-on-demand books that, “the history promised by this POD facsimile remains inaccessible, its ostensibly transparent textuality obscured through the process of digitization. Multiple scans have deformed its turn-of-the-century typography; the open system of earlier annotations — an invitation to discourse with the page, and with the past — has hardened to a pixelated crust. Rather than humanizing the book for its readers, then, these fixed annotations render it more alien, since they never allow it to transcend its own objectness, to dissolve into the immediacy of text” (2013, par. 23).

Kenneth Goldsmith points out that, “Something new is happening here that brings together widespread nostalgia for paperbound books with our concerns about mass digitization,” he feels that “the obsession with digital errors in Google Books arises from the sense that these mistakes are permanent, on the record” (2013).



If we look deeper though, past initial feelings of affront, there is something insidiously revealed by the presence of these hands; they make manifest the otherwise invisible labour of Google book scanners. Goldsmith writes that, “it’s easy to forget that they’re the work of an army of invisible laborers—the Google hands” (2013). Most importantly, these hands speak to issues of class and race within Google’s labour practices. Leah Henrickson has noted, “Once you start looking at pictures of Google book-scanners’ hands, you’re bound to (pretty quickly) recognize a trend: most of these book-scanners seem to be people of colour. Women of colour, in particular” (2014).

Avi Solomon has noted that, “If you search Google Images for ‘Google books fingers’ you get poignant images (to my lights) of scanner worker bee hands. Makes me value the massive, anonymous and underpaid effort that goes into maintaining the ‘digital’ economy” (in Frauenfelder, 2009). In 2007, Andrew Norman Wilson, an ex-contractor of Google, while working at the Google campus, decided to learn more about Google’s data-entry workers, or ‘ScanOps’, those responsible for the digitization of these books. He captured some footage of the workers leaving their shifts, and was fired for issues of privacy shortly after. His video has become an art installation called “Workers Leaving the Googleplex” (see here: https://vimeo.com/15852288), a play on the Lumière Brothers’ 1895 “Workers Leaving the Factory” (Goldsmith, 2013). In addition Wilson has created a larger art project entitled “ScanOps” (http://www.andrewnormanwilson.com/ScanOps.html), which has been displayed in galleries, featuring “large, saturated color photos of those same workers’ hands” (Goldsmith, 2013). His efforts also remind us that “we, too, are contributing our own labor to the company’s bottom line” (Goldsmith, 2013). While true, in some ways, the transformation of these hands into art objects further objectifies them as something of note – and who is profiting from that? Wilson is not the only one to undertake artistic endeavours related to these hands – artist Benjamin Shaykin has published a book called “Google Hands” (http://benjaminshaykin.com/Google-Hands) that also reproduces the images. Krissy Wilson, creator of the blog “The Art of Google Books” (http://theartofgooglebooks.tumblr.com/) has noted that “The Art of Google Books can serve as a tool for people that digitize books, explicating much of what can go wrong in the photographic process, as well as standing alone as a gallery of aesthetic images” (in Fleischer, 2012).

This is a rich topic, one that I would like to explore more in depth than I have a chance to here (maybe I’ll be rerouting my final paper topic?!), that has much to tell us about beliefs of the sanctity of physical books, the so-called ‘flawless’, mechanized process of digitization, and the very real human beings that hold, manipulate, work, and (sometimes, if just by accident) reveal themselves, superimpose, obscure, and comment on the material they reproduce.


Beschizza, Rob. (2007). Google books adds workers’ hands to classics. Wired. http://www.wired.com/2007/12/google-books-ad/.

Fleischer, Victoria. (2012). Q&A: The art of Google books. http://www.pbs.org/newshour/art/qa-the-art-of-google-books/.

Frauenfelder, Mark. (2009). Scans of google books with fingers in them. Boingboing. http://boingboing.net/2009/10/22/scans-of-google-book.html.

Goldsmith, Kenneth. (2013). The artful accidents of google books. The New Yorker. http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/the-artful-accidents-of-google-books.

Henrickson, Leah. (2014). The darker side of digitization. Book History, Illuminated. https://bhilluminated.wordpress.com/2014/03/20/google-book-scanners/.

Marshall, Chelsea. (2014). 21 Google book scans that bring surprising intimacy to the digital book world. BuzzFeed. http://www.buzzfeed.com/chelseamarshall/google-book-scans-than-bring-surprising-intimacy-to-the-d#.rrB1brmDp.

Moore, Matthew. (2009). Google book ‘finger condoms’ cause mirth. The Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/google/6396896/Google-Book-finger-condoms-cause-mirth.html.

Shaykin, Benjamin. (2009). Google hands. http://benjaminshaykin.com/Google-Hands.

Trettien, Whitney Anne. (2013). A deep history of electronic textuality: The case of English reprints Jhon Milton Areopagitica. Digital Humanities Quarterly (7) 1. http://www.digitalhumanities.org/dhq/vol/7/1/000150/000150.html.

Wilson, Andrew Norman. (2011). Workers leaving the Googleplex. https://vimeo.com/15852288.

——. (2012). ScanOps. http://www.andrewnormanwilson.com/ScanOps.html.

Wilson, Krissy. The art of Google books. http://theartofgooglebooks.tumblr.com/.

Week 8: Content and Containers

The interaction between content and container is very evident in the world of webcomics. Webcomics are, obviously, comics published on the internet. The experience of reading them is mediated through web browsers and screen size. As well, they exist in their own webspaces that serve not only as the container for the comic, but as an advertising and promotional space for the author(s).

For this post I will look at two webcomics that I read fairly regularly: Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton and Strong Female Protagonist by Brennan Lee Mulligan and Molly Ostertag.

Both have been collected in trade paperbacks, which allow them to be read like a regular comic. This is a stark contrast to their online form. In a bound volume, each comic “page” occupies one whole physical page. Online, each comic “page” has its own web page, but depending on the size and magnification of your browser window, the entire page cannot be displayed. While in a book the page can be viewed in its entirety, on the internet it must be scrolled through and is often truncated, cut off and framed by the browser window. The container mediates the reading experience, often impeding it.

Strong Female Protagonist, issue 6, page 27
Strong Female Protagonist, issue 6, page 27

Webcomics do not just exist as straight pages, however. They occupy a space that is as much for advertising as it is for displaying content. Sometimes this aspect of the container is discrete.

Screen Shot 2016-03-11 at 11.02.47 AM

The website header for SFP is mostly occupied by the title and update information. There are small buttons, in the same style as the navigation buttons further down, that lead to the shop and a page to make donations. The advertising is there, but it is unobtrusive and blends in with the content.

In contrast, the header of Hark! A Vagrant is predominantly advertising and it is very noticeable.

Screen Shot 2016-03-11 at 11.10.05 AM

The advertisements are for Kate Beaton’s books and other products related to her comics. Though three buttons are drawn in the same style as her comics, they are in eye-catching colour while her strips are in black-and-white. As well, the “support” (or donation) link is bolded, and options to donate or buy are located right after the link to the description of the comic.

These aspects of the container unapologetically draw attention to themselves. However, the emphasis on the words “order” and “new” may in fact be ironic. Beaton has a dry sense of humour and is often self-deprecating. By making her ads so dominant, she could be critiquing the necessity of ads in the first place. Or, she could just be excited about her books, t-shirts, and stuffed ponies (I know I am).

In looking at these examples, it becomes evident that there is no real line between content and container in the world of webcomics. The content is mediated and imposed upon by the container until it is extricated from it and situated in a new container, the trade paperback.


Hark! A Vagrant: http://harkavagrant.com/

Strong Female Protagonist: http://strongfemaleprotagonist.com/issue-6/page-27-5/

Consumer tracking & YouTube

While ruminating on the relationship between content and containers, my mind kept returning to YouTube. In this week’s readings, Whitney Ann Trettien (2013) writes about “artifacts that seem to skirt the peripheries of the average user’s experience in fact occupy a central position within the digital marketplace, exposing the processes of mediation and communication circuits upon which network capitalism depends.” One place where the invisible infrastructure of network capitalism is apparent is the tracked search.

As other YouTubers will attest, the place of advertisements on the site has changed over time. Once one video ends, another will begin almost immediately, creating a continuous play list. In between these videos, advertisements will occasionally play. Normally I do not pay much attention to advertising on the internet, ads are after all commonplace; however, around the time I was planning my wedding, the ads were suddenly all wedding-themed. This shift in content was jarring, and made YouTube’s ability to track my searches obvious.

While I am aware my searches are being tracked on most sites, this sudden shift in ad content, so clearly linked to changes in my recent searching activity, made the surveillance visible. It was a reminder that the continuous flow of content available on YouTube is determined by my search habits and the site’s ability to monitor what I watch. For a moment the infrastructure of logarithms and code designed to make a profit at my expense was obvious.


Trettien, Whitney Anne. “A Deep History of Electronic Textuality: the Case of English Reprints of John Milton’s Areopagitica.” Digital Humanities Quarterly 7, no. 1 (2013).

Week 8: Distortion in Google Maps

The example I ended up with this week looks at instances of digital images being unintentionally distorted in Google Maps. There are some pretty bizarre examples that can be viewed when looking at certain locations, which a digital artist named Kyle F. Williams has captured collectively after scouring Google Maps. I have included a couple of examples below (Figure 1 & 2), but if you want to see a bit more you can check out this article. They are sometimes comical, but mostly just strange, and definitely worth having a look at or trying to find your own. I believe this is a suitable example because it shows the contents of Google Maps having been, quite literally, disrupted (or perhaps disembodied is the more appropriate term) by the technology being used to capture it.

Wk8BlogPostImage Wk8BlogPostImage2

Fig. 1 & Fig. 2 Source: Doug Bolton/ Kyle F. Williams/Google Maps, (The Independent, 2016)

This happens because of errors in the stitching of the panoramas taken by the Google Street View technology, making the end result at odds with Google’s goal of creating a seamless panorama that can situate the viewer within a locale in a life-like way. It is also an interesting example because it only reflects one layer of the containers involved in Google maps, which is at the level of production and capturing of the photos, rather than a glitch within the software itself. However this still has real repercussions since Google’s photography in this circumstance is intended to be a faithful vehicle of representation.

In A Deep History of Electronic Textuality, Whitney Anne Trettien remarks on the pros and cons of reproduction in photography in relation to print when she notes that, “even as photography helped far-flung bibliographers collaborate on collating versions, it also threatened to disrupt the field with forgeries and even devalue the work of bibliography itself” (para.4). This only serves to highlight the fact that the difference between intention and result can be vast when seeking to represent something as a digital image. Ultimately these are inaccuracies that interrupt the experience the user is meant to have, and these images from Google Maps demonstrate that the experience is especially jarring when the object being represented is supposed to be reality.


Bolton, Doug. “Artist Captures Bizarre Distorted Images on Google Maps.”    The Independent, 18 Feb. 2016. <http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/google-maps-photo-spheres-kyle-f-williams-keelayjams-a6881396.html>.

Trettien, Whitney Anne. “A Deep History of Electronic Textuality: The Case of Eng/ish Reprints Jhon Milton Areopagitica.” Digital Humanities Quarterly. Volume 7 Number 1, 2013. <http://www.digitalhumanities.org/dhq/vol/7/1/000150/000150.html#shillingsburg1996b>.


Wearable Technologies : Seamless integration between the Digital and Physical Worlds

For this week’s blog post, instead of looking at how the seamless world of content is disrupted by that which contains it, I am going to look at how wearable technologies can potentially do the opposite of that by seamlessly integrating the digital and physical world.

A brief history of wearable computing

Steve Mann is a pioneer and inventor of wearable technologies from the early 90’s. Some refer to him as the father of wearables since they have been a part of his life and body since the 1980’s. He has tackled issues such as privacy, sousveillance, and cyborg-law (Wikipedia, 2016). One of his inventions developed at the MIT Media Lab from 1994-1998, Sixth Sense, is a gesture-based wearable device that comprises of a camera, mirror, and projector worn around the neck (Wikipedia, 2016). His designs were further developed by Pranav Mistry in 2012. It is named Sixth Sense because it supplies extra information directly to the user, in addition to their five senses (Wikipedia, 2016).

Sixth Sense (not the movie…)

I will focus on the design of Sixth Sense by Pranav Mistry and some of the ideas for the device. Pranav’s logic is that we interact with our environment with our five senses that give us information and parses knowledge of the world around us. His idea is to bring information from the digital world to the physical world without the reliance on either physical-based mediums such as paper or digitally on a screen (Mistry, 2010). We should be able to interact with our world using natural hand gestures that we are all familiar with. For example, taking a picture by making a rectangle with our fingers. By projecting information onto any physical surface a person could browse the web or send an email. Pranav’s TED Talk on Sixth Sense shows you all the possibilities of the device.

Breaking the container

The rise of mobile devices and computing have tied us to either a space or device that mediates our experiences through a screen. I found Sixth Sense to be interesting because it seamlessly integrates the digital world with the physical one. For example, in his TED Talk, Pranav is reading a newspaper; the device scans the picture in the headline about a Presidential speech and the video of the talk can be played right on the surface of the paper being held. There was no need to use another device to look up the video or additional information. Every task can be done through the device around your neck using the materials around you and natural hand gestures. Instead of having to carry a dedicated e-reader, tablet, or physical book any surface can be used to project text. If a surface is not available the hand can be used as well. I find something like this extremely useful and it plays with the idea of containers by eliminating the need for them. The spheres of physical and digital are no longer separated by different devices but are seamlessly integrated into one medium. It will be very exciting to see where the development of this technology goes.


Mistry, Pranav. (2010). Sixth Sense: Integrating information with the Real World. http://www.pranavmistry.com/projects/sixthsense/

Wikipedia contributors, “SixthSense,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=SixthSense&oldid=706133763 (accessed March 10, 2016).

Wikipedia contributors, “Steve Mann,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Steve_Mann&oldid=708447748 (accessed March 10, 2016).