ScripThreads Profile

The Human

Although the digital tools give us the ability to experience and analyze narratives in a new form and context, these tools cannot stand alone as an analysis of the text. In order to successfully analyze these texts in the Digital Humanities, we require the HUMAN element. As the project designers explain in a forthcoming article:

“A computer can read the same screenplay as you, but it is going to read it differently. The continuities and differences between your perception and the computer’s is a powerful starting point for uncovering storytelling techniques, better understanding cognitive reception, and achieving a fuller understanding of the object being studied” (Hoyt, Ponto, Roy). 

This passage underscores the importance of the relationship between digital tool and human perceiver. Without the two working in conjunction, or in opposition with each other (the perceiver challenging the tool’s production, and the data reciprocally challenging and further complicating the perceiver’s reading of the narrative), the digital humanities research falls flat: no questions are being asked or successfully answered. As the designers underscore: the digital tools are just “starting point[s] for uncovering storytelling techniques”, and the human perceiver is necessary for interpreting and uncovering the questions, connections and relationships in the narrative that are being studied.

            The project designers further empower the reader: “The emotion is within you. Emotion is something you are great at feeling as reader and spectator” (Hoyt Ponto, Roy). This emotion is meaningless to a computer and digital tool, which follows its specific pathways for detecting data, emotion and cognitive intuitions are unperceivable and uninterpretable to a computer. The designers addressed this digital limitations by including more data sets for the program to detect. As the explain: “we also sought to create a narrative profile. . . that accounted for scenes, pacing, and character interactions. Rather than reducing a screenplay simply to statistical aggregates, we wanted to map the way a screenplay unfolds as it moves from page to page” (Hoyt, Ponto, Roy). The creation of this visual and 3-dimensional map and narrative network combats these limitations by expanding the data set available for interpretation, but it still deals entirely with data and requires a human interpreter.

            Although there are great limitations to interpretive research done by a computer, the symbiotic relationship between the digital tool and the human perceiver strengthens research done by the perceiver/reader. This relationship may be seen as symbiotic (both participants dependent on each other for success (in biology seen as survival), but I argue that it takes on an almost soft parasitic quality of literary analysis. The computer’s data cannot survive, or be successful in interpreting and analyzing the text on its own, and as the human perceiver uses this tool as a “host”, it participates in a more successful analysis of the text. This relationship is a backwards parasitic relationship, where the host (human perceiver) is more successful with the parasite (digital tool), while the parasite cannot survive without the host: a mutual parasitism.

            The human aspect of the Digital Humanities is essential to successful and thought provoking literary analysis. As the project designers close their forthcoming article: “ScripThreads is a tool to aid Humanities scholars. This is a tool for narrative analysis and interpretation, not a substitute for screenwriting and criticism” (Hoyt, Ponto, Roy). Although the tools often overshadow the human involvement in the Digital Humanities, the role of human interaction with both the text and manipulation of the digital tool is integral to the process of literary analysis and the future of the Digital Humanities.

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