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CREATING A CULTURAL STUDIES CONSORTIUM: THE GENRE EVOLUTION PROJECT Eric S. Rabkin Department of English University of Michigan Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1003.

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Presentation on theme: "CREATING A CULTURAL STUDIES CONSORTIUM: THE GENRE EVOLUTION PROJECT Eric S. Rabkin Department of English University of Michigan Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1003."— Presentation transcript:

1 CREATING A CULTURAL STUDIES CONSORTIUM: THE GENRE EVOLUTION PROJECT Eric S. Rabkin Department of English University of Michigan Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1003 Presented at the Modern Language Association Convention San Diego, California 27 Dec 2003 Copyright © 2003 Eric S. Rabkin

2 Slide 2 Hypothesis and Methods Hypothesis: cultural creations evolve in the same way as biological organisms, that is, as complex adaptive systems that succeed or fail according to their fitness to their environment and, by their existence and success, modify their environment. Methods: a dialectically developing system for coding that allows gathering statistically significant amounts of relevant cultural data. Collaborative, progressive definition of fields and values Collaborative data-collection Ongoing normalization Data analysis may be both qualitative and quantitative Extending the network of collaborators and of the cultural creations examined

3 Slide 3 UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN Ann Arbor, Michigan Founded January 1998 Eric S. Rabkin: English Carl P. Simon: Mathematics, Economics, Public Policy, Director of the Center for the Study of Complex Systems Bobbi Low: Natural Resources and Ecology ~ 15 student researchers/semester

4 Slide 4 Project Website

5 Slide 5 Online Database – login (All logos courtesy of Ross Smith; web application courtesy of Zach Wright)

6 Slide 6 Online Database – opening screen (For a full list of GEPA2 team members, see or or drop-down menu of Readers in database searches)

7 Slide 7 Key Data Sources Offline Archives (U-M, MSU, Texas A&M, UC-Riverside) Microforms Online Internet Speculative Fiction Database Contentos Index Locus Index Science Fiction and Fantasy Research Database

8 Slide 8 The Medical Lessons Of Science Fiction Literature and Medicine, spring 2001, pp. 13-25

9 SF Stories by Dominant Science Using GEP tacfile of 12/18/00N% of 1836 % of 1094 Expected random distribution of 1836 total unique texts 1025.56 Expected random distribution of 1094 science-designated unique texts 615.56 Unique stories, dominant science = pedagogy 60.330.55 Unique stories, dominant science = physics 1719.3115.63 Unique stories, dominant science = medicine (p<0.0001) 412.233.75

10 Slide 10 Reprinted Medicine Stories Reprinted Stories, dominant science = medicine # of Reprints Flowers for Algernon (Keyes, 1959)19 Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand (McIntyre, 1973) 17 The Planners (Wilhelm, 1968)8 The Last Flight of Dr. Ain (Tiptree, 1969)7 The Miracle of the Broom Closet (Norbert, 1952) 2 In each story, note both the role of the doctor and the outcome.

11 Slide 11 Female Authorship Over Time Decade% female authorship 1920s0.00 1930s2.19 1940s3.23 1950s8.04 1960s11.27 1970s13.10 1980s14.62 1990s22.11

12 Slide 12 Authors of Reprinted Stories, dominant science = medicine Sex p<0.0001 Daniel KeyesM Vonda McIntyreF Kate WilhelmF James Tiptree, Jr.F W. NorbertM Author Sex and Medicine Reprints

13 Discussion of the Medical Lessons of Science Fiction Science fiction is in many ways a literature of stereotypes. Often it does not so much praise science as show us when and how to fear it. Science is fearsome when it puts power in the hands of someone who feels too little obligation to subordinate him- or herself for the community, someone who feels unrestrained by the dictates of god or needs of humanity. It is not too false a stereotype to see women much more than men as sacrificing for others. How many Noras have fled their dolls house compared to the number of men who just couldnt be bothered raising their children? Women tend to stick, to nurture, to suffer, not inevitably, of course, but often in reality and very often in stereotype. Louis Pasteur is an icon of intellect, Florence Nightingale of selfless compassion. This is a matter that science fiction typically does not want to address, but when it does, it is disproportionately women who show us the way, who make clear that the only good doctor is the doctor who puts his (or, in McIntyres exemplary case, her) welfare after that of the patient. The SF exploration of medicine, in Keyes and Wiener and Wilhelm and Sheldon, makes us feel that we are misspending our funds by supporting such people. If one were to read science fiction about medicine out of ones common humanity, it would put one on guard. If one were to read it as a physician, one would draw one clear lesson: learn humility and service or society will abandon you; the pursuit of medicine, even for the ostensible good of others, will be crippled. The future of medicine, science fiction tells us, will be molded not only by the minds of doctors but by their characters.

14 Slide 14 Extending the GEP Within Units Increase N for any given database Increase number of relatable databases Across Units Develop projects that allow true collaboration

15 Slide 15 MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY East Lansing, Michigan Founded September 2002 – aiming to exploit a fine popular culture archive Anne Edison-Swift: English (B.A., 2003) Lister Matheson: English Tess Tavormina: English ~ 12 student researchers/semester

16 Slide 16 Socialization and Collaboration Anne Edison-Swift and Brandon Mills get training in A2 The MSU Library supports GEPA2 and GEPEL Anne Edison-Swift, Brandon Mills, and Jon Bakos train GEPEL

17 Slide 17 Dealing With the Magazine Die-Off In 1951: ~ 38 SF monthlies in the U.S. In 1961: ~ 4 SF monthlies in the U.S. Q 1: Why? Standard Answer: The demise of the American News Company (The real answer is more complexsee GEPA2 MS., Who Really Shaped American Science Fiction? Eric S. Rabkin, James Mitchell, and Carl P. Simon) Q 2: Which monthlies survived, and why?

18 Slide 18 A GEPEL Conclusion Editorial policy shapes the magazines (the organisms) survival characteristics, where survival is measured as continued existence. Survival characteristics are defined as elements included in Astounding and not in Planet Stories which may have contributed to Astoundings success. These elements included a higher prevalence of advertising, as well as trimmed edges, science fact articles, and a higher literary standard for stories. The relationship between the reader and the editor also appears essential to Astoundings survival. Planet Stories and Astounding both included letters to the editor, in which readers critiqued recently published stories, ranked them, and made recommendations for future issues. Analog editor John Campbell acknowledged readers' comments and used their opinions to guide future content far more than any editor of Planet. This paper will give evidence for why John Campbells reader-guided editorial policy enabled Astounding to survive the 1950s die-off and extrapolate how Astoundings survival characteristics apply to Analog and other magazines published today. ---from accepted abstract for Life or Death: How John Campbells Astounding Survived the Great 1950s Science Fiction Die-off submitted by Amelia Beamer and Aimee Sutherland for the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, March 2004

19 Slide 19 Dealing With an Objection Standard literary histories of SF claim that Campbells main contributions were a) demanding an increase in the sophistication of characterization b) demanding an increase in the hardness of SF How can GEPEL test those objections? a) by reference to GEPA2 publication (Eric S. Rabkin and Carl P. Simon. "Age, Sex, and Evolution in the Science Fiction Marketplace," Interdisciplinary Literary Studies, spring 2001, pp. 45-58 ) disproving the characterization assertion b) new analyses by GEPA2

20 Slide 20 Average Hard SF by Half Decade

21 Slide 21 Average Hard SF by Half Decade in ASF

22 Slide 22 TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY College Station, Texas Founded January 2003 – aiming to exploit both expertise in evolutionary aesthetics and a superb SF research collection Leigh Brett Cooke: Slavic Hal Hall: Library Nicole DuPlessis: English graduate student ~ 10 student researchers/semester

23 Slide 23 Dealing with Methodology Questions of intercoder reliability Questions of socialization Contribution by Nicole DuPlessis--based on GEPAM experience and analysis of a sampling of five years worth of GEPA2 email archives--yet to be fully used in GEPA2 or GEPAM GEPA2 has begun developing coding decision trees that are successful in boosting intercoder reliability

24 Slide 24 Outcome Decision Tree

25 Slide 25 UNIVERSITY OF TRENTO Trento, Italy Founded May 2003 Oriana Palusci: English ~ 4 student researchers, first two semesters ~25 student researchers, subsequent semesters

26 Slide 26 SF in Italy Enormously popular since the end of World War II Almost all SF in Italy is foreign, 95% of which is originally in English, 90% of which is originally American No reliable compendious bibliographic sources in general, none at all for SF Most SF translations were unacknowledged abridgments, but this is no longer true As in the U.S., SF in Italy is visible not only in literature but in film, design, architecture, etc.

27 Slide 27 The GEPs Italian Connection The Influence of American Science Fiction on Post-WWII Italian Culture A Research Plan Which American short story authors wrote novels? (GEPTN GEPA2) Which novels got translated into Italian? (GEPTN and GEPA2) How do those novels fare in translation? (GEPTN) What factors bear on these questions? ((GEPTN with GEPA2) Number of novels? Date of publication? Publisher? Date of translation? Sex of translator? Movies? Etc? Data sources Public American sources GEPA2 sources Public Italian sources Private Italian sources

28 Slide 28 Future Development of the GEP Code other genres of cultural production, such as News periodicals Graphic art Automobile design Etc. Collaborate with other GEP groups Develop an ever richer sense of the forces shaping cultural change Use our understanding of cultural change to create the most effective new cultural products

29 Slide 29 Lessons For Collaboration GEP Make sure that methods are appropriate to the group and vice versa Make sure the methods are understood Learn from each other General Exploit the power of collaboration Do work in which everyone gains Lay out clear working relationships

30 Ad astra per aspera…

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