At long last, our teams’ updated project proposal.
Maria Baker: Project Manager
Maria is a multigenre/cross-genre writer who frequently works with photography and loves to repurpose utilitarian text forms such as questionnaires, reviews, and manuals as sites of non/fiction. She holds an MFA in Writing from Pratt Institute, where she now teaches a Pratt Integrative Course focusing on interdisciplinary modes of storytelling and creative strategies. She leads a community writing project for older adults in Clinton Hill and also works at Columbia University’s writing center (where she can pursue her interest in writing studies). Overbaked & Underproofed lets her obsession with evaluative language and the currency of opinion merge with her interest in popular TV shows and their structural formulas and language use.
Maria is responsible for assembling all team members’ contributions, maintaining and shaping the overall narrative of the project, editing verbal content, and developing the Bingo Game.
Project Work Plan: The project will take 12-13 weeks to complete and will consist of overlapping phases signified by three milestones. Since much of the project’s later phases will be determined by the findings of earlier stages, a vital pre-spring-break checkpoint will help specify the course of action for the later stages.
The initial phase from 2.8.2023-3.15.2023 is devoted to re/defining the project scope, corpus creation, and initial text analysis. During this time, we will first consider the specific corpora (in addition to GBBS, Season 12) we want to investigate, integrate team members’ specific research interests and skills, and articulate an adjusted project scope. Under the leadership of Teddy, the GBBS corpus of season 12 will be tagged and readied for analysis, along with a second comparison corpus pulled from an American cooking show, which will allow us to explore comparisons in the use of judging language between shows. A third comparison corpus based on an early season of GBBS is under consideration, which would help us track changes in judging language over ten seasons of GBBS. The corpus/corpora will be available in a csv format via GitHub, and Teddy will have tagged the judging segments’ speakers specifically. [Milstone 1# finished corpora in csv on GitHub.] Initial research questions will be formulated during this phase and adjusted on an ongoing basis alongside the development of the corpora. During this phase, Nuraly will research current GBBS fan fora and the presence of GBBS fans and GBBS-related discourse online to help us define our target audience more precisely. Ruby will investigate which website platform and set-up will best serve the project and, based on the technological capabilities, we will think about the structure and content of the site. Maria will further consider various versions of an integrated Bingo game might take and explore whether we can manage to acquire the skills to produce an interactive version via Twine.
Overlapping with the initial phase, between 3.1.2023 -3.29.2023, the focus will increasingly shift to text analysis and visualization of findings which, under the leadership of Teddy, will be performed with the assistance of the following tools and methods: Python and Voyant, NLTK Sentiment analysis, and JGap. During this time, we will add and specify research questions based on initial findings, and we will let us consider what findings we want to visualize and represent on the webpage. [Milestone #2 – Complete text analysis and initial visualizations.] Conversations about website content and structure will continue, as will related research. And research into stakeholders of the project and outreach strategies will also continue (informed by findings). The level of interactivity for the bingo game will be finalized during this phase as well.
3.29.2023 MIDPOINT Meeting. At this meeting, we will review all text analysis findings, visualizations, research progress, and website-building possibilities/capabilities and revise the work plan for the second half of the semester. Decisions we make will influence the scope and final structure of the website and determine ancillary content that has to be developed.
[4.5.23 – 4.12.23 springbreak]
4.13.2023 – 5.3.2023 During this phase, we will work on implementing the goals confirmed during the midpoint meeting. Under Ruby’s leadership, the focus will be on finalizing the layout & graphic design of the website and integrating and uploading content. Ruby will also refine the graphic design aspects of the data visualizations chosen to be included. Maria will gather, ready, and edit (for consistency and with an eye on presenting the content for our target audience/s) final versions of verbal site content, like white papers, narratives, bios, etc. Nuraly and Teddy will activate social media accounts and refine our outreach strategy. During these three weeks, the game’s final version will also be integrated into the site. (Whether explicit Bingo game testing is necessary will depend on our decisions at the midpoint meeting.) [Milestone #3 – website showing and communicating findings is set up.]
5.3.2023 In-class pre-launch (dress rehearsal)
5.3.2023-5.10.2023 During the last week, we will troubleshoot and address feedback received during our 5.3. trial run. Additionally, we’ll prepare the launch presentation and continue social media outreach.
5.10.2023 Public launch.
As I’m thinking about the limits of visuals to render taste (a major theme of the project), here is a quick screen taste test. Perhaps it’s an example that disrupts the assumption that a visual can transmit taste accurately.
How do you absorb the visual above?
How does your relationship to it change when you read the description below?
“First, there’s a layer of ladyfingers, then a layer of jam, then custard, which I made from scratch, then raspberries, more ladyfingers, then beef sauteed with peas and onions, more custard, and then bananas, and then I just put some whipped cream on top!” (It’s the delicious trifle from the the TV show “Friends” )
Did the simple descriptive language get something across that the image couldn’t? Did it untangle the simultaneity of the image with (a small) dramatic and tasty effect?
OTHER TASTY PLACES
While further contemplating how we encounter the sense of taste in digital environments, I am searching for/thinking about on-screen examples that produce an experience of taste for me — or at least productive associations between visuals and taste & smell.
Perhaps I am looking for ways to create unlikely synesthesia (= an automatic overlapping/joining of senses). Below is James Wannerton’s London tube map. He is a synesthete who intuitively associates geography/places with taste. I think the language on the map is sparse but descriptive (as opposed to evaluative which could be a scale of bad-tasting to good-tasting, e.g. ) and therefore more evocative.
LESS OUT THERE, MORE PRACTICAL
This week, at the very beginning of Overbaked&Underproofed I’ve mostly been thinking about how the proposal’s ideas, timelines, role-concepts map onto the reality of the semester. Now that we have a splendid team of three (Teddy, RC, me) and a concrete timeline, my lens on the project is shifting. Something I’d call “practicality mode” is kicking in. A mode that’s very different from the grant-focused mode. I prefer practicality mode.
As a group we still have to make some decisions about workflow & communication structure, but we’ve already collected possibilities. So far we have a shared google drive to collect relevant project info, and we have a doc that collects weekly questions. The questions encompass practical as well as conceptual issues. This week they’re everything from “Shall we use Trello?” to “What’s a good way to house and begin tagging this GBBS corpus?”
Wrangling the corpus will be the main focus of our first month, and it is an immensely exciting part of the endeavor. I think much of the project’s ultimate shape will be defined by what we get from the corpus. Teddy (!!!) found a published transcript of GBBS that will save us a ton of work and frees us up to think about additional ways of annotating the corpus. What else, other than evaluative judging language, might we want to track? Usage related to speaker? Shifts related to episode theme? How contestants of different language backgrounds absorb and reuse the GBBS language?…
Most of the things I’ve pursued revolve around storytelling, performance, and communication. I trained as an actor, a dancer, and a writer and worked as a cultural critic for a newspaper. So, the result is: extensive knowledge of the dramatic arts (stage and screen) and the practical and theoretical aspects of narrative/story and genres. I love finding ways to structure and dramatize all kinds of material/data to utilize their narrative potential.
Graphic design and photography:
I’ve created and published several multi-media photo + graphic design art projects (these also experimented with the relationship between image and text). And I have designed newsletters and promo materials for two theaters and one independent magazine. I’m not super great at fancy graphic design programs, but I am good at considering visual rhetorical strategies and conceptualizing a publication: How could this be structured, how should it be navigated, and how does it communicate its intent/content to an audience?
I have an MFA in writing, teach a creative thinking and multi-modal comp class, and work at a writing center, so rhetoric and composition always inform my approach. For previous projects, I‘ve also written successful grant and conference proposals.
Related interests and areas of research:
Multilingual composition, constructed languages, language and gender, and a critical engagement with the still considerable cultural potency of Englishes.
I’ve managed a theater school, play festivals, and an architect’s office, and I have led a few collaborative projects that straddle online and IRL components. One of them is an ongoing community story project with older adults. I’d say I am good at developing workflow strategies, and timelines, and can keep track of the various strands of a multifaceted project. I’m also pretty good at anticipating the unanticipated and responding to practical challenges.
Um… not yet.
WHAT THE PROJECT IS ABOUT:
Overbaked & Underproofed proposes to look closely at the language used in the judging segments of The Great British Baking Show (GBBS), a reality TV baking competition that has been on-air for more than ten seasons and has been one of the most-streamed original tv-shows in the US during the pandemic. As the only reality TV show in the top 15, it placed third in the “original content” category, only surpassed by Lucifer and Squid Game in 2021. GBBS accumulated more than 13 billion viewing minutes on streaming platforms in 2021.
Overbaked & Undreproofed (Ob&Up) is named for two of the most common words used by the judges when critiquing the “bakes” created by contestants, and these two words might already represent 10% of the limited judging vocabulary in use.
The project wants to probe how evaluative language works in GBBS and illustrate why the narrow vocabulary of judgment fundamentally fails to transmit anything evocative about the multi-sensory nature of the often complex edible objects at the competition’s center. Instead, Ob&Up argues, this paucity of language further flattens our screen-mediated relationship to the sense of taste. GBBS diverts attention from the lack of descriptive language by relying exclusively on visual elements. As viewers, we must taste with our eyes only.
Nuanced and descriptive language, which could take us beyond the visible, does not attempt to expand our experience. For example, the judges might only let us know that while a cake looks beautiful, its “flavors aren’t coming through .” Hm. As an audience member savoring and exploring what is tasted along with the judges is not available as an option. This discrepancy between the visual and the verbal points to the way in which —in the televised and virtual worlds— all senses seem to be required to recede and grant primacy to the visual. Considering the power of descriptive language to appeal to other senses in a medium that cannot produce taste, smell, and touch, the project wants to consider how this reliance on visual primacy excludes some audiences entirely and limits all audiences considerably.
To allow viewers of GBBS to explore how sparse and evaluative language contributes to a sub-par experience of “the bakes,” Ob&Up wants to mix an academic approach with a playful one. Part of the objective is to develop a watch party bingo game (see a low-tech version above) that viewers can play and then share via social media. By guiding viewers’ awareness to notice evaluative expressions, the simplistic framework of judgment, and the bland experience they offer, Ob&Up aims to induce a shift towards more conscious media consumption, ultimately producing a new and expanded media literacy.
SKILLS THE PROJECT WOULD HELP US DEVELOP AND PRACTICE:
Realizing this project would give us the opportunity to:
- Create and annotate/tag/organize a unique corpus (by extracting judging language from one season of the show)
- Work with text analysis tools and methods to explore the corpus and probe for other linguistic patterns, which might let us formulate additional research questions and yield additional insights
- Utilize data visualization tools to make our findings legible for a public audience
- Present a narrative of our findings to the audience via a website and social media
- Think about, develop, and integrate a simple “judge-this-bake” bingo game, which would serve a pedagogical function by fostering critical viewing via interactive engagement. (This could be a downloadable and printable bingo card.)
AND ONE MORE NOTE:
Alan Liu’s question “Where is Cultural Criticism in the Digital Humanities?” has been hugely influential in developing this idea, and Liu’s text is the reason why the project’s focus is on using the insights and evidence a new corpus can yield to investigate aspects of a cultural phenomenon. An endeavor that wants to explore, contextualize, and criticize a recent artifact of popular culture (an artifact like GBBS that is often coded as trivial, low-brow, and feminine) by employing DH methods can serve as an example of DH-informed cultural criticism and can also help to bring DH approaches to a broader audience. The playful context of the project should appeal to the many people who are fans and viewers of GBBS, as well as to people interested in linguistic and rhetorical aspects of evaluative language and the connection between language and the rendering of the sense of taste in digital environments.