With or without readers

OrsaiColores

Clear author-text-medium relationships.

 

Do you remember how clear my Orsai graphs were?

Well….

Not anymore.

Now, I call it the Orsai mess.

But before you see it, here’s an introduction of what happened.

The graph above includes only the ‘input’ from authors and editors, and is organized according to what medium they were published on (Orsai Blog, Bar Blog, Redacción Blog, Web Magazine, and Print Magazine). This is, so to speak, the text, the narrative of the project and, as any narrative, it relies on a million different strategies aimed at producing a reading effect. Well, in the case of Orsai, it is also a buying effect, otherwise all kinds of bad things happen: authors don’t get paid, magazines don’t get delivered, people get angry and, in short, the project dies.

Well, all of that, as it can be read in the narrative (the graph) is clearly orchestrated and maintained. It is a well-oiled machine.

Then come the readers.

About 400 articles, 5000 readers and +40,000 comments

About 400 articles, 5000 readers and +40,000 comments

Studying the figure of the reader has always been messy. It has also always been my thing. From the earlier posts here, you’ll see that I’m interested in what happens when we read, on what happens when others read the same. Well, what happens when 5 thousand readers read the same? This happens:

This is what I *love* about the possibilities of reading in participatory media platforms. There are traces of people’s readings. And what I *love* about my project: I can study those traces, I can study ‘readings’. So in this case, the original dataset was sliced to leave only those ‘pieces’ with a commenting section enabled – only the print magazine pieces were taken out really. The figure of  the reader is considered not someone who reads Orsai, but someone who comments on Orsai.

Now, from whatever’s going on the the Orsai mess, for now I just want to mention that if we put together each article, blog post, chronicle, short story, and reader comment as one item, readers have produced 99% of that. This is only a +2 year project, and it amazes me how much it is both dwarfed and impossibly expanded by those who read it.

Imagine the possibilities!

*As always, many thanks to versae for all his help. And special thanks to Hernán Casciari for the huge dataset he so generously gave me.

Where is the story?

Just got back from Toronto where I attended HASTAC2013 and had the chance to present a good chunk of my dissertation research and got a lot of good feedback. It was a really intense but productive weekend where I got to meet some very interesting colleagues, hear about amazing projects and even, surprisingly, find people who were into my own research! Thank you very much to all the organizers and participants for making it a great event!

I should also thank everybody that came to my presentation, and everybody that complimented my slides. I feel like I should say a bit about why I did them the way I did. More than making a statement on conventional softwares, the reason is I’ve been trying to give my presentations a more personal touch and a more organic sort of flow. The idea behind that is to use them both as aids to those attending the presentation but also aids for me to go along them more naturally. So for the past few months I have been experimenting with Paper and have managed a certain level of control over the handwriting and the drawing on the iPad. I especially like that the format is a small notebook and has really forced me to come up with concrete, to the point slides. Also, along the way I realized that it was weird that I was presenting the results of the empirical data in drawing, but went along with it just to be playful about the idea of visualization and representation. The really complex networks are definitely way beyond my level of proficiency on Paper. The one problem with Paper I had was that it does not allow to import other images into the notebook, so I had to export them into prezi instead and then put the slides together with the other images. The result, I thought was pretty neat, so I will probably try it a few other times during this Summer’s conference season.

Those following this blog from before will recognize much of what has been posted. For those just joining in, this might be a good introduction. I have tried to embed the slides into the post but failed miserably and time is pretty tight to go around twitching things here and there to make it work. So, instead, here is a link to the prezi that goes along with the text below.

 

Where is the Story? Textual and Social Network Analysis of Interstory

Interstory is characterized by one self-reflexive, interactive and immersive narrative delivered through different media platforms, and usually involving the ‘reading’ of different media. Because of the spreading out of the content, readers have a lot to do with the compilation, and in crowd-funded efforts the materialization – of the global narrative.

To understand a complex narrative and social phenomenon like this, I have explored Orsai a Spanish-Argentinian project deeply inserted in convergence media dynamics and truly benefitting from them as well. Through a very innovative distribution system including a currency of its own and print on demand, Orsai has reached not only the Spanish-speaking world but also the more ‘isolated’ Spanish-speaking communities around the globe.

The development of Orsai is also the narrative of Orsai. It started as Hernan Casciari’s personal blog in 2004, until 2010 when he associated with his life-long friend Christian Basilis to turn Orsai from a blog into a print literary-journalistic magazine. From here the project took the transmedia path morphing almost immediately into electronic Orsai in a variety of platforms: kindle, ipad and issuu, a publishing house and more interestingly a Bar. Through all of those changes the original blog, later on divided into three, remained a backstage where new developments, and media additions where narrated resulting in a highly self-referential and interlinked narrative. Through this period a large community was forming around the project – not necessarily interested in the magazine contents, but in Orsai as a story in itself. The reading community has made itself heard through the very simple yet powerful comments tool in the blogs and the web magazine. This has made the project quite successful and, impressively for such a grass-roots initiative, economically sustainable.

I have modeled this complex phenomenon in the following way: 5 media: print magazine, web magazine, 3 blogs amounting to a total 708 ‘pieces’ that include all articles, chronicles, short stories, blog posts, etc. published under the Orsai name. These texts have been written by 103 authors and have gathered the astounding amount of over 41 000 comments just in the period from 2010-2012. From the comments poured over the texts we have extracted a network of about 12 thousand readers many of whom not only comment on Orsai but arguably also buy any of the versions of the magazine and attend events at the bar. Arguably as well, many more visit the different sites.Using of all this data we have built a graph database following this schema where author writes piece, piece is published in medium, and reader comments on piece.

The textual graph has showed the centrality of the editors as authors as well as the centrality of the main project: Print Orsai, which nonetheless is surrounded by a heavy supporting textual apparatus responsible for eliciting the readers’ participation and, of course, economic contributions. From here, I have queried issues of authorship, genre, and readership to understand the narrative and social dynamics of the project.

In terms of authorship it has become clear that both editors, Casciari and Basilis have penned a large number of the pieces. This is expected of the blogs, of course, but it becomes significant when their pen is pretty ubiquitous in the print magazine, but not in the web magazine, which are supposed to be twin publications. We suggest that the reason for this is that many of the texts written by them are information about the magazine itself or promotional writings aimed at getting the readers’ appetite going. They are also the story of the project and, interestingly, heavily self referential.

Following Orsai’s own these texts have been marked as self-referential, including leaks about the magazine contents, profiles of featured authors and readers, editorials and two interesting textual additions of Orsai that keep its own narrative going ‘entradas’ and ‘sobremesas’. Using a ‘three-course meal’ as an analogy for Orsai reading, the editors include one ‘appetizer’, an introduction to an article; then a ‘main course’, the actual article; and finally a sort of ‘dessert’, a discussion of the article. These frame pieces are published in the print magazine but taken out of the web version arguably due to the presence of the blogs where much of this content is reiterated. Nevertheless, self-referential texts appear in all media and are the thread keeping the cohesion of the project by referring to each other. It is not insignificant that self-referential texts amount to over 30% of the whole published material in the two-year period.

The large amount of self-referential texts has proved more than effective not only in terms of keeping the project tight and alive, but also in terms of building a community that has made it their own and as such relate to and take care of it. Readers have poured over 41 000 comments constituting in total numbers 99% of all the items related to the project included in our database. Reader behavior follows, as it would be expected, a long tail pattern. Measures that have caught our attention are: only two readers have commented in 300 or more pieces, 10 have commented on 150 pieces, 50 have commented on 100 pieces; and 100 readers have commented on 25 texts. Contrary to my initial intuitions reader participation seems a lot more varied.

Comments vary widely, from a permanent competition to be the first to comment up to more serious discussions on digital publishing just to mention a couple. Word frequency analysis allowed us to see things that were expected, such as a very high level of direct mentions to Hernan Casciari, and much discussion of Orsai – whether it is referred to as orsai, revista, blog, bar, etc. in a very constant patter. And returned unexpected results such as a huge proliferation of “gracias” suggesting high levels of sociality in the readers’ network.

To wrap up some of the conclusions we have reached are.

Given that the global narrative is the story of the project itself, Orsai is sustained by the self-referential texts. They are the instances inviting larger reader participation and as a consequence of this are the ones receiving more comments. Self-referential texts are persuasive and keep the main project sustainable, that is, they are powerful marketing tools.

Interstories thus rely on their community to keep going, and since they have no huge media conglomerate pushing them, are vulnerable to community fluctuation. And lastly, because of the high levels of reader involvement an interstory like Orsai proposes a new kind of engagement oscillating between the purely narrative and the actual.

What a story looks like

One of the reasons why I studied literature is, well, because I like reading. My story is everybody’s story: spending childhood days alone and reading instead of playing around. I got my first computer pretty late, I must have been 15 or even 16 years old, and I didn’t have Internet at home until I was 18. So when I think of reading I still largely mean print reading, and perhaps especially, alone reading. That is why the idea of large groups all over the world reading a single story, and in a live fashion over the Internet fascinates me so much so as to write my phd thesis on it.

How a story is built, how it is experienced in our heads has been a concern in literary theory for a long time and, Reader Response theorist, for example, sought to systematize this process. Wolfgang Iser suggested a principle of expectations that are either fulfilled or frustrated, which keeps us advancing through a narrative without forgetting what came before. Others like Norman Holland sought to explain narrative transportation through psychological mechanisms. I always liked reader response theories, precisely because readers were important in them. Authors and books were there, but they weren’t there by themselves anymore.

Because of the way things move around so fast on the Internet, an analogue process seems to be happening. Millions of people are writing and publishing online, but not all of them are getting the company of readers. Why? That’s what I’m trying to find out. For one, not all of them could possibly be good writers; for another, not all of them can be offering the kind of literary/narrative experience that readers are looking for now. What this experience looks like is the other question I’m trying to answer. The good thing is there are some really good examples of stories that people have been more than willing to follow as they develop. Even better is the fact that we are all leaving a huge electronic footprint giving freaks like me a fighting chance at understanding how people come together because of a story, and observe how that story gets built.

Many might be scared of how much their footprints can be followed, but the possibilities granted by them are really wonderful. When it comes to stories, people leaving a trace of reading it will help get an idea of how that story came to be, or continue to happen, for lack of a better expression, outside my head.

What does a story look like? Well, using the ubiquitous network metaphor of our times, I have looked into what Hernán Casciari’s Orsai looks like. It looks a little bit like this:

One ‘chapter’, the shape of the Web magazine where readers can leave their comments on the pieces published:

RevistaWebSmall

Another ‘chapter’. The print magazine, with a surprisingly different structure to the Web version of the “same” magazine:

OrsaiImpresa_Small

Three other ‘chapters’. The blogs readers flock to and in which they tirelessly comment:

Blogs

All of them together. From the last post.

And the story keeps going. That’s the other issue I love, many stories on the internet are not finished yet. They keep moving, forward and backward, and sideways and in every other possible direction. Readers have to keep coming back; they have to keep digging and finding it where it goes. In return authors also have to keep the story going; they have to keep the readers attention.

Now the final question: where are the readers in this story? They are there! Many! and they are very active. This part of the research is becoming the most difficult one, not just because its complexity and scale, but also because using others’ data, even if it’s publicly available is not something institutions like to do. After a long phone call with Western’s ITS during which I explained that I’m a good person and won’t be attacking anybody’s system and there’s no need to ban my computer from the university’s network, I still have to wait for another phone call. I also have to clear out that all of the data will be treated respectfully and with no profit in mind at all (unless you think getting a phd is profitable, but nobody thinks that). I might need some sort of permission from Hernán Casciari as well to avoid ITS people come to get me or Javi.

Once this gets sorted out, something very exciting is going to happen: we will data mine the information of over 200K comments (yes, 200K blog comments!!) on the Editorial Orsai site, and turn them into graphs a bit like these and play around with them to get even the faintest idea of why and how people are so hungry for a story like this.

Preliminary visualizations of Orsai

It seems that I’ve reached the final stages of my dissertation research (The writing stands at about 45%). Last weekend (yes, we were working late on Friday) my lovely collaborator and myself finally sat down to outline the data mining process we’re going to carry out and what we’re going to do with the data. The problem is not going to be actually getting the data, which seems pretty straightforward and it should *only* take about 28 hours in one computer, 14 in two, 7 in four, and so and so on. The problem is how we are going to process and visualize what is promising to be a network of about 70 000 nodes and 100 000 edges without burning up all of the Cultureplex computer infrastructure and, more importantly, so that it tells us something. We are working on that.

During the process I’ve started outlining my hypotheses for the

OrsaiMarzo

Fig. 1. General network view

experimental part of the research, based on the data I already have. And this is what it is, so far.

The structure of the Orsai network based on data gathered so far considers year 1 and 2 of the print publication, ie. issues 1 to 10 and all blog entries from September 2010 to Jan 2013 and is organized according to this schema:

‘author’ (in blue) writes a ‘piece’ (in pink) that is published in a ‘medium’ (in red). Fig 1.

 

Orsaiauthors

Fig. 2. Casciari and Basilis clearly stand out from all other collaborators

Up to here, the network is pretty shallow and straightforward to follow. From here, it is evident that both editors are also the most active ‘authors’. In a different visualization, other authors start to stand out as the recurrent collaborators, while the large majority remain one time contributors to Orsai.

The hypohtesis pretty much sustained by this is that Orsai can be read, largely, as a ‘one-pen’ narrative, at least as individual as we can expect in these days and in these media. Hypothesis to explore in the near future: Names will fluctuate more as I include the readers – as the commentators of the project. Our estimate so fat is that on average, each of the almost 500 ‘commentable’ pieces has 100 comments.

Now, not only is Orsai more stable in terms of authorship than it would seem at first, but also, although there are many genres within the different media: profile, narrative chronicle, popular arts, comic, fiction, folletín, etc., the self-referential genres (leaks, editorials, sobremesas and entradas, etc.) amount to over 13% of the total of the pieces. This confirms my early intuition that Orsai is largely about Orsai, and that readers expect to read about Orsai in Orsai. Hopefully you’re still following. (Fig. 3)

GenerosOrsai

Fig. 3. All the pieces marked as belonging to a self-referential genre are presented in pink. All the other genres in blue.

OrsaiColores

Fig. 4. Self-referential pieces (still in pink) are connected not just to the editors, as expected, but more interestingly to all five different media.

From here, I started wondering where all the self-referential pieces were coming from: From the editors is the first response, and I’m right about it. But, I also found out that they are pretty much scattered proportionally in all the five media, which again confirms my earlier hypotheses about how Orsai keeps its cohesion among all its different manifestations. (Fig 4). This is an interesting insight up to know. What will be even more interesting is to see what other pieces can be marked as self-referential from the natural language analysis that’s going to come. What other authors are commenting on Orsai as they publish in it? And still even more interesting, to what extent are readers commenting on Orsai itself? Is the graph going to end up all died in pink? Maybe

So what’s next. After the data mining super session. This little (800+ nodes) graph will become a  monster to include all the readers, all their comments and the super intricate relationships between them. Basically, Who comments on what? Who replies to whom? How much? etc. And these are some of my hypotheses:

1. During the first year of Orsai more readers were making fewer comments but amounting to a larger volume (many comments-many readers). This tendency has likely reverted, and for the second year, or for the second half of the second year, fewer readers have amounted for the majority of comments (many comments-fewer readers).

2. Self-referentiality, ie. talk about Orsai itself has been a constant through the two years of publication. The terms to refer to it, however, have changed along with the project(blog, magazine, bar, editorial, etc). What has been the development? I want to suggest it has increasingly been referred to in more concrete terms and notions that the readers can more closely relate to. This question will be solved with NL analysis during the latest stages.

3. A tight community with very clear ‘code’ markers of interaction (like the PRI game at the beginning of each comment thread) has taken shape. What the development of that community is, I can’t tell yet.

4. Because of place-specific ‘props’ (pizzeria, bar) in addition to distribution issues, the readership of Orsai has become more local than it was in its earlier days. Answers to this will also show up after the data mining session.

Does anybody want to put some money on any of them?

Also, for more, you can visit my poster on Research Day to be held on March  25. Western University, Great Hall. I will be there, and there will be cookies and hummus.

Where is the story?

A lot of research has gone in the past few weeks into the blog aspect of Orsai. Although part of my argument consists of characterizing the project as an intermedial text, it is important to remember that it started off as a blog, a personal blog actually, and the blog aspects of it continue to be fundamental to the whole. The questions I’ve been asking myself then are what makes a blog different from an intermedial text? Is it really different? In what way? The usual. In order to answer that, I have to go back in Orsai’s history.

Orsai’s birth as a blog has a long and interesting story. In the early to mid 2000’s, Hernán Casciari produced a series of blog fictions such as Weblog de una mujer gorda, El diario de Letizia Ortiz, among others. The success of these varied, being Weblog the una mujer gorda the one who enjoyed a bigger readership because of its interactive live textuality and development. For about two years, Casciari wrote Mirta Bertotti’s diary where the story of her family interwove with the arrival of new technologies to their household and the recent history of Argentina. Fittingly, Weblog de una mujer gorda can be seen as Orsai’s “mother”. For about half a decade and while involved in his other blog narrative projects, Casciari kept Orsai a personal blog, one in which everything went: short stories, rants, personal happenings, and whatnot. Then came 2010 when the larger Orsai project started gestating first, “just” as a print magazine, then a publishing house, then a bar, now the publishing house is becoming interactive. Less than a year ago, the blog migrated from bitacoras.com into a new “pan-Orsai site and became many blogs to separate the focus of the content into a blog (as Casciari’s personal diary-bucket), redacción (where the magazine dealings are discussed) and bar (where the bar chronicles go). Increasingly, the narrative of the project has become more and more atomized.

Now, the texture of blogging and its uses might be seen already as a convergent one. The amount and variety of contents and media blogs are known to include — text, video, pictures, audio — is something we’ve come to take for granted. No question there. Also, we’ve assumed that there is a lot of leaking from blogs into other digital spheres such as social media, email, and analogue such as print publishing and live meetings. No question there either. But these two things are actually pretty different, almost contrary to each other. On the one hand is the flexibility of blogs to encase other types of content/media, the other is its susceptibility to spread outside of its digital covers. These are two very different movements. I believe, they are the key to my questions. In Convergence Culture, Henry Jenkins argues that convergence is not the “process of bringing together multiple media functions within the same devices”, the way it happens in blogs if we characterize them as devices. For example, whereas Casciari’s other blog narratives where contained in the blog and there might have been some “spilling” off the screen (Weblog de una mujer gorda was later published in print and adapted to theatre) all of it pointed in the direction of the blog as both its source and target.

In Orsai, the story is quite different and more in tune with what Jenkins proposes as convergence —“the flow of content across multiple media platforms”. In many ways, through these two years, the blog has remained the headquarters of the project, where only a portion of the stories are told, while the rest is narrated in other media or “simply” takes place at the bar. The constant narrative of the project makes all of the different media platforms (blogs, blog commentsmagazinebar) stay cohesive. Although in a historical way, the narrative of Orsai can be traced back to the original blog, ever since the inclusion of the print and location platforms, the story not only happens elsewhere, it also gets told elsewhere. The idea of following a story in Orsai becomes literal and to a large extent actual. The narrative is the thread uniting the diverse media components along which readers collect the story.

As opposed to a blog narrative in which the story is made up, by means of different media, within the blog; an intermedial text can be characterized as both the sum and the parts of the story made up also of different media but spread out in various platforms. The role of the reader is key to my characterization of intermedial text. In a blog narrative, the organization of the content is largely put together by an author, it might later on be complemented by the social interactions common in blogs, but readers need not go anywhere else to get the story. On the other hand, in an intermedial text, such as Orsai, the blog might be a meeting point, but the content is collected by readers there and anywhere they might find it. Then they make up the story from what they get.

Temas vs etiquetas

Finalmente, después de semanas de posponerlo me decidí a comenzar con el análisis temático de las piezas de Orsai. Esto implica dos cosas: releer los primeros 6 números y finalmente darme el tiempo de leer 7 y 8. La meta es leer y categorizar los 8 en dos semanas,  es decir, intentaré que no pase de tres; y desarrollar la lista de temas, categorías o como finalmente, me he decido a llamarlos, etiquetas. Más adelante lidiaré con los blogs… ¿Por qué el cambio? Primero, porque “tema” – como ya me lo había estado temiendo desde hace un par de entradas – es un término conflictivo que parece algo inflexible y determinante, incluso poco multiplicable. El riesgo era terminar con un tema por pieza. Por eso he optado por buscar menciones, motivos, ideas que más fácilmente recurran a lo largo de las ya casi 500 piezas que tengo en la base de datos. La idea de etiquetas, por otra parte, parece algo más provisional y manejable; no obstante, el punto sigue siendo ver la variabilidad/recurrencia temática expresada en términos menos monolíticos. Las piezas son muy diversas y, por ello, que intriga ver en qué momentos se tocan – tengo mis hipótesis, claro.

Los primeros experimentos con esto funcionaron a medias y me veo ya haciendo cambios a diario. Tengo, por ejemplo tres etiquetas llamadas “Orsai algo”. Por ahora queda muy claro cuál es cuál, pero cuando haya hecho más, lo sé, terminarán sobreponiéndose. Y la de “relación distribuidor-lector lector-lector” lo sé ya, es muy amplia y necesita partirse en dos.

Una sorpresa fue que en las primeras 3-4 piezas surgieron 8-9 de las etiquetas de la lista y, más sorpresa aún, que fueron aplicables para las primeras 15 (hasta ahí voy). Así que, ¿qué es lo que voy viendo, poco a poco? 1) El aparato “meta” está más presente en las piezas de autor (es decir, no la parte editorial: las entradas y las sobremesas) de lo que pensaba. 2) El resultado de esto, es que la separación drástica entre “aparato editorial” y “aparato autorial”, que era muy clara en la medusa, podría desaparecer o, al menos, desvanecerse considerablemente. 3)Es posible que surjan patrones temáticos en cada número, lo cual no es una estrategia abierta de la publicación (no hay issues especiales de nada, supuestamente) y será interesante teorizar las razones de esto si es que es el caso.

En otros temas: Hernán Casciari acaba de anunciar que en el último número de este año, el número 10, incluirá un número de páginas con las fotografías de todos y cada uno de los 5000 suscriptores del 2012. A diferencia del año pasado, durante este 2012, la presencia de los lectores en la publicación impresa había estado manifestada en las “Cartas al director”, pero no en imagen. Me parece un regreso muy acertado a una de las licencias editoriales que, en mi opinión, ayudaron a tejer tan estrechamente la comunidad de lectores que sigue manteniendo el proyecto a movimiento. Ya me las arreglaré para etiquetar esa sección.

Primeros avances conceptuales

Con varios días con la cabeza metida en el manual de NLTK y haciendo los ejercicios del libro de texto sigo siendo una neófita total de python y (al final de cualquier cosa de programación). No obstante, los límites y los alcances del NLP (procesamiento de lenguaje natural) hacen que pueda intuir algunas de las cosas que podría analizar en los miles de comentarios de los lectores. Al terminar apenas el primer capítulo de NLTK exploré qué tipo de patrones me puedo encontrar en los comentarios a “ojo pelón” y comencé a idear [idear – una de mis palabras favoritas] formas en las que puedo analizarlos sistemáticamente. Aquí algunos ejemplos (y como siempre quien tenga sugerencias será amplia y públicamente agradecida(o)).

– El número total de lectores de cada pieza y de todas la piezas. Aunque muchos lectores intervienen más de una, dos, tres veces será posible colapsar los duplicados y a la vez contar cuántos comentarios deje cada uno. Esto va a dar una buena idea del tamaño de la comunidad de lectores vs el número de suscriptores a la revista impresa y al número de descargas de las distintas versiones digitales. La organización de comentarios anidados también debe dejar ver cuánto hablan entre sí los lectores. Observar la distribución de la frecuencia de sus intervenciones, también debería permitir ver qué tan constante ha sido la comunidad de lectores, cómo, cuándo y porqué han desaparecido o aparecido algunos si lo empalmamos con momentos álgidos en la trama (sí, uso este término con toda la intención) de Orsai como el cambio de sistema de distribución, la apertura del bar, etc.

– Algo que me ha obsesionado desde que comencé a estudiar Orsai, qué temas despiertan mayor interés en los lectores y en qué medios. Solamente ver que hay piezas con 100 comentarios y otras con 800 o 900 es evidencia suficiente de que hay temáticas poderosas. Una de las entradas de blog que más comentarios ha recibido fue el anuncio de la apertura del bar. Sin duda este momento es un turning point en la trama. Mientras que, como elemento narrativo, es un hito de la historia, no me parece que el asunto sea tan “simple” y ahí entran las preocupaciones metaficcionales. La apertura de un espacio que no sólo permita – sino invite – a la participación en el proyecto, opino, ha despertado algo muy fuerte en los lectores.

– La autoconciencia del proyecto. Qué tan común es que la gente hable tal cual de “la revista”, “el pdf”, “el blog”, “la redacción”, “el comentario #”, y mi favorita “el proyecto”. “Proyecto”, me parece, se ha vuelto el término comodín de Orsai, la huella de su intermedialidad imposible de identificar con uno sólo de sus medios.

– Análisis un poquito más finos sobre por ejemplo: a) el papel de correctores de estilo que asumen los lectores. Su huella identificable: Casciari siempre responde “¡Corregido! b) la longitud de las entradas que a ojo de buen cubero parecen alargarse mientras más se alejan del momento de publicación.

 

Los lectores se han hecho leer (también)

Ha llegado el momento de mi investigación en el que los cuestionamientos duros y las dificultades se apresuraron todas juntas. La base de datos inicial – la medusa – ha resultado un trabajo relativamente claro y simple de organizar. De hecho, es el esqueleto que va a sostener todo lo demás: los aparatos editorial y literario/periodístico de Orsai son en sí el lado autorial, pero ¿qué hay de los lectores?

¿Los lectores? Los lectores se han hecho escuchar leer (también).

Los nodos de las piezas que componen la base de datos se han multiplicado, al menos, por 100 en las respuestas de los lectores. En promedio cada una de las noventa y tantas entradas de blog en el periodo que cubro (septiembre de 2009 al presente) recibe 300 comentarios, las casi 200 piezas de la revista publicadas hasta ahora al rededor de 150 y los blogs “menores” entre 50 y 70. Sin hacer la matemática exacta estamos hablando de cualquier cosa entre 50 y 70 mil comentarios de los lectores. (Finalmente estoy viviendo en carne propia el término que se repite en todos los ensayos sobre Humanidades Digitales: large datasets). Es realmente impresionante que incluso en número de palabras cualquier texto de Orsai se multiplica exponencialmente en manos de los lectores. Alegremente esto confirma un punto clave de la parte teórica de la tesis: la cualidad orgánica de un texto en su contexto (en su comunidad para decirlo de forma menos cacofónica) es que un input mínimo produce un output mucho mayor. Para los que seguimos a Boyd, esto es, incluso, un aspecto que distingue el hecho de leer en sí.

Entonces el problema es cómo manejar todo esto para poder analizarlo. Tres opciones claras, aunque seguro se me están pasando otras. Si alguien tiene sugerencias son infinitamente bienvenidas.

1) Comentario por comentario a la base de datos tal y como está el esquema. Sus ventajas son claras, sería una especie de close reading que permitiría un nivel de detalle del análisis minucioso, como poder identificar, e incluso caracterizar, a algunos de los lectores casi como si se tratara de personajes; notar los matices de las intervenciones de los lectores, etc. Sus desventajas no hay ni que mencionarlas.

2) Hacer una clasificación breve de nodos tipo, no más de 20 tal vez, en las que acomode (si bien un poco arbitrariamente – ahí la prueba de que todo esto sigue siendo labor interpretativa) cada comentario. Por ejemplo: en una categoría todos los “pri”, “dos”, “tres” que siempre aparecen al principio, en otra los agradecimientos a los autores, en otra las correcciones de estilo, etc. Lo que se volvería visible aquí es la frecuencia con la que los lectores recurren al tipo de comentario en qué piezas. ¿Quién sabe? A lo mejor todos los tipos de comentarios están balanceados en cada pieza o, dependiendo del tema de la pieza, predomina alguno.

3) El distant reading – probablemente usando el NLTK de Python – para formar una base de datos paralela que pueda empalmarse a la medusa. Con esta metodología podría, por ejemplo, obtener buenas mediciones de la frecuencia con la que los comentarios “pri” aparecen y ver como se distribuyen a lo largo del corpus de Orsai, o qué tan común es que los lectores se dirijan a los autores a otros lectores, establecer palabras clave que denoten emociones despertadas en los lectores o formas en las que se relacionan con el proyecto en general, no sería tan complicado. Me atrae mucho probar esta metodología aunque el nivel de detalle puede no ser minucioso en el sentido en el que lo sería con la primera opción, el dataset es tan grande que la información que obtenga de este análisis dificilmente sería irrelevante. Desventajas: apenas estoy aprendiendo a usar Python.

Independientemente de con qué metodología termine hay dos cosas que me tienen fascinada – incluir el dataset enorme hace necesario poner el énfasis en las “manifestaciones” de los lectores, de ninguna forma aisladas de los textos primarios, sino al contrario casi como parte de ellos. Y dos, observar cómo se ha establecido la comunidad en términos textuales.

La pequeña medusa

Esta es la pequeña medusa de información que salió de mis primeros esfuerzos picando datos.

 

Todavía no está anotada ni filtrada de ninguna forma, pero hay dos cosas que se ven ya muy obviamente. En primer lugar la separación clara de la mano editorial (lado derecho) y de los artículos de la revista (lado izquierdo). Aunque siempre he tenido la impresión de que estaban completamenten entrecruzados, no es descabellado decir que pertenecen, en gran medida, a diferentes ámbitos y que, a partir de aquí muy claramente tienen un peso análogo. En segundo lugar, notaran dos nodos color azul que sobresalen por encima de casi todos los otros. Se trata nada más ni nada menos que del editor/autor Hernán Casciari y su jefe de redacción Chiri (Christian) Basilis. Nunca hubo duda de que el trabajo de estos dos personajes ha sido el motor de Orsai desde el inicio, lo que es interesante es ver la forma en la que sirven de puente entre el “mundo Orsai” y la nube de la izquiera que es el contenido “duro” de la revista. El extremo de la derecha, la colita de la medusa es el nuevo aparato bloguístico que introdujeron Casciari y Basilis para reportar lo que sucede en todos los frentes de Orsai (revista, bar, blog). Todos los puntitos verdes son las piezas varias, los rojos son los géneros y los amarillos son los medios (Orsai 1, Orsai 2, Blog, etc).

Los dos siguientes pasos van a ser cruciales. Primero hacer una tipificación de todas la piezas de acuerdo a su tema (término que sigue en debate). Donde espero encontrar que un tema muy recurrente será otras piezas, otros medios y los propios autores. El último y más preocupante es ver dónde se ha formado la comunidad de lectores ¿más al rededor de la nube de contenido duro de la revista? o ¿más del lado del mundo Orsai? Yo creo que va a ser esto último.

El esquema para el análisis de red

Esta semana, finalmente, dejé las teorías un poco de lado. Puse a dormir mi largo capítulo que cual célula está próximo a bipartirse. En vez de poner todo en el mismo saco, un capítulo tratará de narrativa en el contexto de teoría biocultural y el otro de narrativa en nuevos medios e intermedialidad.

El análisis de mi estudio de caso, Orsai, había sido por meses pospuesto. Hacer una base de datos relacional requiere sobre todo paciencia y un esquema lo más claro (im)posible. Con el lab más tranquilo de lo que nunca antes lo había visto, llegó la inspiración, así que empecé haciendo el esquema de análisis que está aquí abajo

Muchos de los términos que manejo son bastante amplios, por ejemplo, género dependiendo del medio en el que se publique la pieza puede referirse a “crónica narrativa” en la Revista o a la sección de “lectores” en el blog de la redacción de la Editorial. Esta clasificación la tomo prestada de la propia editorial y en sí, del sitio web repositorio de (casi) todo Orsai. Sistematizando los datos me he dado cuenta que su clasificación (y reclasificación, porque muchos textos han sido mudados de medio) tiene inconsistencias, lo cual lo hace más interesante todavía. Para organizar eso yo de otra forma voy a usar los temas. Aún dudo si tema será la palabra más adecuada; en sí la idea es de qué se trata algo o a qué se refiere (sobre todo busco cuando una pieza se refiere a otra pieza). Pieza también es poco restrictiva y, en el contexto intermedial de Orsai, se puede referir a una entrada de blog, a un tweet o a cualquiera de los artículos de la revista, incluidas las “entradas” y las “sobremesas”. La idea de no hacer diferencias muy tajantes entre las diferentes piezas es manejarlas en el nivel más básico de algo que se lee sin importar en dónde, en qué o su supuesto rigor literario, periodístico, ortográfico o lo que sea. Por otra parte, aunque también se leen, los comentarios se diferencian de las piezas en que los unos derivan de las otras. X pieza da lugar Y/Z comentarios. Etcétera.

La parte que involucra a los lectores y a sus comentarios va a ser la parte más difícil de sistematizar e introducir en la base de datos. Si consideramos que, en promedio, cada entrada de blog tiene doscientos comentarios y cada artículo de la revista unos sesenta, el número de entradas se multiplica y se multiplica. No sólo eso, dudo si todos los comentarios deben ser considerados como tales o si debe haber una subclasificación de ellos que dejen ver la diferencia entre los “pri”, “segundo”, “top ten” que abren la conversación en el blog y los que proponen, critican y glosan las piezas. Los primeros aunque no aportan mucho contenido, son claros indicadores de la comunidad de lectores y sus hábitos, los segundos tienen más contenido y bien pueden ser aislados buscar realmente una conversación con el autor o con los otros lectores. Tampoco he decidido si deberé clasificarlos como positivos, negativos, neutrales – la discusión se pone muy emocional en Orsai, debo decirles.

Ahora, por si toda la discusión teórica que va a ir antes del análisis de los datos no crea suficientes preguntas, la base de datos (lo puedo ver ya) va a obligar muchas otras. Entre las más obvias (estás las podrán ver desde el esquema) están:

¿Qué temas son los más recurrentes? ¿En qué medio se dan esos temas?

¿Qué piezas o qué género de piezas producen más comentarios? ¿Qué tipo de comentarios?

¿Qué tipo de conversación se da? ¿Lector/Autor? ¿Lector/Lector? ¿Cuántos lectores realmente están activos en la comunidad de Orsai?

¿Cuál ha sido el desarrollo de la comunidad? ¿Es más internacional, más local? ¿Ha ido cambiando con el tiempo?

Y finalmente ver si se comprueba mi (hipó)tesis de qué el éxito de Orsai es la construcción de su propia mitología a través de elementos metaficcionales presentes en distintos medios.

Continuará… (por varios meses)