Thesis Presentation

Respect the Gap:
From Big to Boutique Data through
Laboring-Class Poets Online

A digital thesis by Cole Crawford

Critical Technical Practice

A critical technical practice will, at least for the foreseeable future, require a split identity -- one foot planted in the craft work of design and the other foot planted in the reflexive work of critique. Successfully spanning these borderlands, bridging the disparate sites of practice that computer work brings uncomfortably together, will require a historical understanding of the institutions and methods of the field, and it will draw on this understanding as a resource in choosing problems, evaluating solutions, diagnosing difficulties, and motivating alternative proposals. [...] This strangeness will not always be comfortable, but it will be productive nonetheless, both in the esoteric terms of the technical field itself and in the exoteric terms by which we ultimately evaluate a technical field 's contribution to society.

(Philip Agre)

Data in the Humanities

... imagine that someone called your family photograph album a dataset. It’s not inaccurate per se, but it suggests that this person just fundamentally doesn’t understand why you value this artifact.

When you call something data, you imply that it exists in discrete, fungible units; that it is computationally tractable; that its meaningful qualities can be enumerated in a finite list; that someone else performing the same operations on the same data will come up with the same results. This is not how humanists think of the material they work with.

(Miriam Posner)

Boutique Data

Big Data Boutique Data
Automatically generated Manually created and curated; acknowledges labor of data creation
Bigger is better; examine the aggregate All sizes; shuttle between close and distant methodologies
Top-down data model Bottom-up data model
Completeness is valued; gaps are bugs Gaps are features worth investigating



Laboring-Class Writing Communities

Historical and Ceremonial Counties of Britain

Credit: Dave Gillet


Thomas MacQueen


Bio Dates
Flourished Years: 
1826 to 1836
Title Publication Date Publisher Locations Edition Editor Patron Subscription Description Key Subscribers Pages Call Number Dialect Language Digitized or Digital Editions
My Gloaming Amusements: A Variety of Poems 1831 Beith Google Books
The Exile, a Poem in seven books 1836 James Duncan Glasgow Google Books

Arrivance and Eventfulness

[…] an event that remains an event is an arrival, an absolute arrival [arrivance]: it surprises and resists analysis after the fact. At the birth of a child, the primal figure of the absolute arrivant, you can analyze the causalities, the genealogical, genetic, or symbolic premises, and all the wedding preparations you like. Supposing this analysis could ever be exhausted, you will never get rid of the element of chance [l’ aléa], this place of the taking-place […] analysis always tends to diminish surprise.

(Jacques Derrida, "Artifactualities")