Bibliography and the Sociology of Data
In his Bibliography and the Sociology of Texts, D. F. McKenzie famously suggests that books are expressive forms: “sociology simply reminds us of the full range of social realities which the medium of print had to serve, ... [and] the human motives and interactions which texts involve at every stage of their production, transmission, and consumption. It alerts us to the roles of institutions ... ” I will outline a framework for a “sociology of data” by investigating data as expressive forms. What kinds of tools could document the human motives and interactions which data involve at every stage of their production, transmission, and consumption? How might the full range social realities which data serve be documented? How might we document data in ways that help us to understand the ways that institutions affect social discourse?
In order to suggest more general approaches to each of these questions and how we might document the procedures and machines that present computer data to us, the talk will begin with a discussion of new software tools that discern valuable patterns in the systems used to encode digital versions of literary texts from early twentieth century Korea.
Performances are documents. So theatrical performance may be a model for documenting the social realities that data serve. A book of Korean poetry as a digitally enacted theater experience will be discussed as one possible model for documenting the social realities that data serve. Other forms of documents and documentary practice will be needed to document the sociology of data. Textual models printed using 3D printers will be discussed to think about how new documentary forms can illuminate how institutions affect social discourse.
In the ubiquity and variety of its evidence, bibliography as a sociology of data will have an unrivalled power to resurrect those who have created data in their own time, and users of data at any time. By dealing with the facts of transmission and the material evidence of reception, the sociology of data can make discoveries as distinct from inventing meanings. In focusing on data as recorded forms, it defines a common point of departure for any historical or critical enterprise, humanistic or scientific. New readers/users of data make new data, and their new meanings are a function of their new forms.
Wayne de Fremery is an assistant professor of Korean Studies, Sogang University, in Seoul, Korea. He has a background in economics and is an award-winning book designer. His 2011 doctoral dissertation at Harvard, “How Poetry Mattered in 1920s Korea,” presents a bibliography and sociology of Korean poetic texts from the early twentieth century.