One topic that was trending at this past summer’s Digital Humanities conference was literary arts. Specifically, several abstracts detailed the creative use of technology in order to allow for literary arts to be created in new ways.
Creation by Visualization
Text visualization can be a valuable tool for gaining a deeper understanding of particular literary works after its authorship. However, recent research conducted at Arizona State University imagines a different method by which authors can create poetry . Their new program, Ambiances, creates a visual representation by modeling poetic elements of a poem in real-time. This allows a relationship to exist between the creation of the poem and its visualization where interactivity plays a key role. During the writing of a poem, the visual representation of the poetic elements are constantly in flux. This allows the author to guide the poem in one direction or another based on instant feedback from the visualization.
The image above shows the program in action. The left panel is for poem creation, the center panel is visualization, and the right panel is the program, which can be changed to express various elements of the poem
Creation by Collaboration
Continuing with the theme of poetry, researchers at Texas A&M University have developed a new method by which to write haikus . Their goal was to create a collaborative writing process that makes the poem seem as if it were written by a single author, although many people may have contributed. Their program “Exquisite Haiku” accomplishes just that. This program allows many users to contribute to a poem by letting them suggest and vote on the haiku, word by word. Exquisite Haiku doesn’t actually write anything itself, it just sets up the framework and keeps score, which allows for up to one thousand people write a poem together. With the selection of the word that is preferred by the majority, Exquisite Haiku has been capable of developing both coherent and even poetically creative haikus. An example of a haiku generated using this program is presented below:
winter’s color is
a clanging echo of some
distant summer song
Considering a different form of literary art, Arizona State University has also conducted research on collaboration within the literary genre of science fiction . In particular, the collaboration tool “Hieroglyph” has been created in order to allow science fiction authors to work closely with scientists and engineers in their domain in order to encourage more creativity and new ideas in storytelling. The current project investigates the effects of having collaboration between authors and scientists and how well “Hieroglyph” facilitates these partnerships. The goal of having collaboration across domains is to bring to the narrative ideas that are technologically feasible in the near future.
In general, it appears that imagining new ways to construct literary arts is an idea that was trending at last year’s Digital Humanities conference. One interesting point about this trend is that each of the projects presented different approaches about how technology can interact with the creation of literature. The program Ambiances creates visual representation of poetic elements in real-time, which allows for feedback between the author and visualization during the creation process. Exquisite Haiku allowed vast numbers of collaborators to write a haiku together where each author can suggest and vote on the next word of the poem; this methodology can give the feeling of only one author, while at the same time having many. Finally, Hieroglyph provides a platform for better collaboration between science fiction writers and scientists in a given domain. This program hopes to generate new ideas and expand collaboration beyond the typical discourse present today.
In conclusion, while digital humanities has already changed the ways in which literary arts are analyzed, it can be seen that digital humanities is also in the process of reinventing the way in which literary arts are created. These advances demonstrate the positive effects that technology can have on the arts and on humanities. Maybe someday, we will all be writing blogs in a collaborative fashion with real-time visualizations flashing in a sidebar, but for now we will just have to stay tuned and see where these trends in digital humanities take us next!
 Ambiances: A Framework to Write and Visualize Poetry. http://dh2013.unl.edu/abstracts/ab-365.html
 Exquisite Haiku: Experiments with Real-Time, Collaborative Poetry Composition. http://dh2013.unl.edu/abstracts/ab-155.html
 The Science Fiction of Science: Collaborative Lexicons and Project Hieroglyph. http://dh2013.unl.edu/abstracts/ab-341.html