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Remixing Digital Archives
The Victorian Meme Machine
Bob Nicholson // @DigiVictorian // #dhist
Funded by the Andrew Mellon Foundation
Remixing Digital Archives
The Victorian Meme Machine
Bob Nicholson // @DigiVictorian // #dhist
 The problem with Victoria...
We Are Not
Amused
“the most fitting place
for [this] book is in the
hands of the young
gentleman who has
undertaken to amuse an
assembled pa...
… it has been the custom of
certain individuals frequently
encountered in society (who are
desirous of being called ‘droll...
Hugh Rowley, Puniana: or,
thoughts wise and other-wise,
(London, 1867), p. 157.
1875
• March 1859
• Told at Punch contributor’s dinner
• April 1859
• Reprinted in: North Wales Chronicle, Hampshire Advertiser...
Dynamics of laughter
Access to popular attitudes/ideas
Language / Culture
Historical significance
Media Networks
Title
Issue
Headers
Article Text
KEYWORD
Search ‘why is Lord Overstone’
Article TextArticle TextArticle Text
Title
Issue
Headers
Article Text
KEYWORD
Search
Banking OR banker OR
money… etc.
Article TextArticle TextArticle Text
Find...
Title
Issue
Headers
Article Text
KEYWORD
Search
Banking OR banker OR
money… etc.
Article TextArticle TextArticle Text
Find...
Poetry
Jokes Fiction
Gossip
Children
Letters
Recipes
Reviews
Miscelleny / Human Interest
• SOURCE TYPE: Newspaper
• SOURCE TITLE: Lloyd’s Weekly News
• PUB. LOCATION: London
• PUB. DATE: 5 January 1896
• COLUMN ...
I don’t know what to buy mother for a
Christmas present. Do you?
Yes! Buy her a travelling bag!
Poetry
Jokes Fiction
Gossip
Children
Letters
Recipes
Reviews
Miscelleny / Human Interest
Jokes
Jokes
Remixing the Archive: Challenges
• Digitization
• Extraction from existing archives
• Access / Copyright
• Data format
• A...
Remixing the Archive: Challenges
• Digitization
• Extraction from existing archives
• Access / Copyright
• Data format
• A...
Remixing the Archive: Challenges
• Digitization
• Extraction from existing archives
• Access / Copyright
• Data format
• A...
lad.y Patieut 1to doctor,
alout the rocent
w-inter):'Achl .Doctor
donr, ehure ttiis
woctlrer's killetl. oE
ruany a.li mo::...
A Useful* Present,—Mrs* Heart £ (whose mother
has been visiting them for® four months): I don't
know what to D mother for ...
• SOURCE TYPE: Newspaper
• SOURCE TITLE: Lloyd’s Weekly News
• PUB. LOCATION: London
• PUB. DATE: 5 January 1896
• COLUMN ...
Crowdsourcing
Gamification / Reciprocal Impact
Remixing Digital Archives
The Victorian Meme Machine
Bob Nicholson // @DigiVictorian // #dhist
Archival Remixing
Creativ...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-GRgj7Q5OM0
www.DigitalVictorianist.com
@DigiVictorian
Remixing Digital Archives: The Victorian Meme Machine (IHR Digital History Seminar, 10 Nov 2015)
Remixing Digital Archives: The Victorian Meme Machine (IHR Digital History Seminar, 10 Nov 2015)
Remixing Digital Archives: The Victorian Meme Machine (IHR Digital History Seminar, 10 Nov 2015)
Remixing Digital Archives: The Victorian Meme Machine (IHR Digital History Seminar, 10 Nov 2015)
Remixing Digital Archives: The Victorian Meme Machine (IHR Digital History Seminar, 10 Nov 2015)
Remixing Digital Archives: The Victorian Meme Machine (IHR Digital History Seminar, 10 Nov 2015)
Remixing Digital Archives: The Victorian Meme Machine (IHR Digital History Seminar, 10 Nov 2015)
Remixing Digital Archives: The Victorian Meme Machine (IHR Digital History Seminar, 10 Nov 2015)
Remixing Digital Archives: The Victorian Meme Machine (IHR Digital History Seminar, 10 Nov 2015)
Remixing Digital Archives: The Victorian Meme Machine (IHR Digital History Seminar, 10 Nov 2015)
Remixing Digital Archives: The Victorian Meme Machine (IHR Digital History Seminar, 10 Nov 2015)
Remixing Digital Archives: The Victorian Meme Machine (IHR Digital History Seminar, 10 Nov 2015)
Remixing Digital Archives: The Victorian Meme Machine (IHR Digital History Seminar, 10 Nov 2015)
Remixing Digital Archives: The Victorian Meme Machine (IHR Digital History Seminar, 10 Nov 2015)
Remixing Digital Archives: The Victorian Meme Machine (IHR Digital History Seminar, 10 Nov 2015)
Remixing Digital Archives: The Victorian Meme Machine (IHR Digital History Seminar, 10 Nov 2015)
Remixing Digital Archives: The Victorian Meme Machine (IHR Digital History Seminar, 10 Nov 2015)
Remixing Digital Archives: The Victorian Meme Machine (IHR Digital History Seminar, 10 Nov 2015)
Remixing Digital Archives: The Victorian Meme Machine (IHR Digital History Seminar, 10 Nov 2015)
Remixing Digital Archives: The Victorian Meme Machine (IHR Digital History Seminar, 10 Nov 2015)
Remixing Digital Archives: The Victorian Meme Machine (IHR Digital History Seminar, 10 Nov 2015)
Remixing Digital Archives: The Victorian Meme Machine (IHR Digital History Seminar, 10 Nov 2015)
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Remixing Digital Archives: The Victorian Meme Machine (IHR Digital History Seminar, 10 Nov 2015)

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IHR Digital History Seminar - 10 November 2015

History has not been kind to Victorian jokes. While the great works of nineteenth-century art and literature have been preserved and celebrated by successive generations, even the period’s most popular gags have largely been forgotten. In the popular imagination, the Victorians have long been regarded as terminally humourless; a straitlaced society who, in the words of their queen, were famously “not amused” And yet, millions of jokes were written during the nineteenth century. They were printed in books and newspapers, performed in theatres and music halls, and re-told in pubs, offices, taxicabs, schoolrooms and kitchens throughout the land. Like many other forms of ephemeral popular culture, the majority of these jokes were never recorded and have now been forgotten.

But all is not lost. Millions of puns, gags, and comic sketches have been preserved – often by accident – in archives of nineteenth-century print culture. Some appear in dedicated joke books and comic periodicals, but most have survived as stowaways in the margins of other texts. They are scattered throughout thousands of Victorian books, newspapers, magazines, and periodicals. While some were organised into clearly demarcated collections, others were used more haphazardly as column fillers or sprinkled randomly among other tit-bits of news and entertainment. Until recently, the only way to locate these scattered fragments amidst the ‘vast terra incognita’ of Victorian print culture was to identify a promising host-text and then browse through it manually. The digitisation of Victorian print culture has opened up new possibilities for this kind of research. However, as this talk will argue, the structure of digital archives means that jokes are still buried among millions of pages of other content. In order to make these, and other marginalised texts, more visible, we need to rethink the organisation of our digital collections and open up their contents to creative forms of archival ‘remixing’.

In 2014, Bob Nicholson (Edge Hill University) teamed up with the British Library Labs on a project that aims to find and revive thousands of forgotten Victorian jokes. Their ‘Victorian Meme Machine’ automatically converts old jokes into images and posts them on social media using a ‘Mechanical Comedian’ (@VictorianHumour). In this presentation, Bob will report on the progress of the project and outline his plans for a new transcription platform designed around the principles of ‘meaningful gamifaction’.

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Remixing Digital Archives: The Victorian Meme Machine (IHR Digital History Seminar, 10 Nov 2015)

  1. 1. Remixing Digital Archives The Victorian Meme Machine Bob Nicholson // @DigiVictorian // #dhist
  2. 2. Funded by the Andrew Mellon Foundation
  3. 3. Remixing Digital Archives The Victorian Meme Machine Bob Nicholson // @DigiVictorian // #dhist  The problem with Victorian jokes  Archival Remixing  Creative Remixing  The Victorian Meme Machine
  4. 4. We Are Not Amused
  5. 5. “the most fitting place for [this] book is in the hands of the young gentleman who has undertaken to amuse an assembled party brought together […] for the purpose of spending a pleasant evening.” - Morning Post, 5 Dec 1867.
  6. 6. … it has been the custom of certain individuals frequently encountered in society (who are desirous of being called ‘droll dogs,’ ‘smart fellows,’ ‘capital company,’ ‘funny creatures,’ ‘agreeable rattlers,’ ‘wags,’ and similar appellations) to maintain their reputations by pilfering the jokes of other people, and thus trade on false capital… - Lancaster Gazette, 25 January 1845
  7. 7. Hugh Rowley, Puniana: or, thoughts wise and other-wise, (London, 1867), p. 157. 1875
  8. 8. • March 1859 • Told at Punch contributor’s dinner • April 1859 • Reprinted in: North Wales Chronicle, Hampshire Advertiser, Family Herald, Leeds Times, Manchester Times, Cheshire Observer, Leeds Intelligencer, Berrow’s Worcester Journal, Westmorland Gazette, Berkshire Chronicle, Hereford Times, Belfast News-Letter. • 1863 • Sherborne Mercury, Riddles and Jokes Collected by the Editor of Every Boy’s Magazine. • 1867 • Puniana, Bedfordshire Times and Independent • 1870 • Judy, Belfast News-Letter, Lancaster Gazette, Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper, Cardif and Merthyr Guardian, Jackon’s Oxford Journal. • The Huron Expositor, Hamilton Spectator • 1885 • Australian Town and Country Journal
  9. 9. Dynamics of laughter Access to popular attitudes/ideas Language / Culture Historical significance Media Networks
  10. 10. Title Issue Headers Article Text KEYWORD Search ‘why is Lord Overstone’ Article TextArticle TextArticle Text
  11. 11. Title Issue Headers Article Text KEYWORD Search Banking OR banker OR money… etc. Article TextArticle TextArticle Text Finding jokes about bankers
  12. 12. Title Issue Headers Article Text KEYWORD Search Banking OR banker OR money… etc. Article TextArticle TextArticle Text Finding jokes about bankers Article title: ‘jokes’ OR ‘wit’ OR ‘humour’ OR ‘jests’
  13. 13. Poetry Jokes Fiction Gossip Children Letters Recipes Reviews Miscelleny / Human Interest
  14. 14. • SOURCE TYPE: Newspaper • SOURCE TITLE: Lloyd’s Weekly News • PUB. LOCATION: London • PUB. DATE: 5 January 1896 • COLUMN TITLE: ‘American Jokes’ • JOKE TITLE: ‘A USEFUL PRESENT.’ • ATTRIBUTION: Puck • AUTHOR: [--] • JOKE FORMAT: Conversation • JOKE SUBJECTS: Mother-in-Laws; Christmas • NATIONALITY: American • CHARACTERS: ‘Mrs Henry Peck’; ‘Mr Henry Peck’; [Mrs Henry Peck’s Mother / Mr Henry Peck’s Mother-in-Law] • JOKE LOCATIONs: [--] Character One • Name: ‘Mrs. Henry Peck’ • Gender: Female • Identity: Wife; Daughter • Age: Adult • Class: [--] • Emotion: [--] • Appearance: [--] Character Two • Name: ‘Mr. Henry Peck’ • Gender: Male • Identity: Husband; Son-in-Law • Age: Adult • Class: [--] • Emotion: Anger • Appearance: [--]
  15. 15. I don’t know what to buy mother for a Christmas present. Do you? Yes! Buy her a travelling bag!
  16. 16. Poetry Jokes Fiction Gossip Children Letters Recipes Reviews Miscelleny / Human Interest
  17. 17. Jokes
  18. 18. Jokes
  19. 19. Remixing the Archive: Challenges • Digitization • Extraction from existing archives • Access / Copyright • Data format • Automatic or Manual?
  20. 20. Remixing the Archive: Challenges • Digitization • Extraction from existing archives • Access / Copyright • Data format • Automatic or Manual? • Integration into new database • Data format • Image Segmentation
  21. 21. Remixing the Archive: Challenges • Digitization • Extraction from existing archives • Access / Copyright • Data format • Automatic or Manual? • Integration into new database • Data format • Image Segmentation • Meta-Data • OCR • Annotations
  22. 22. lad.y Patieut 1to doctor, alout the rocent w-inter):'Achl .Doctor donr, ehure ttiis woctlrer's killetl. oE ruany a.li mo::y wlionevel dicd before.*]fooris}dn e, .. . FACT BrRoxaEn THAN- Tiorr. · LlrisL Lm Pltutieut (to.. Doctor). About the recept WWter) "Ach l Mctor" 'dear, '-Bhlue tMEl weallier's kiuedl oE mny an' mmy who Dev6tl' died before. Monshiw." A Fact Stronger than Fiction.—Irish Lady Patient (to doctor, about the recent winter): Achl Doctor dear, shore tliis weather’s killed off many an’ many who never died before.— Moonshine, >• ■ Canon MP OCR Samsung Optical Reader ABBYY FineReader OCR
  23. 23. A Useful* Present,—Mrs* Heart £ (whose mother has been visiting them for® four months): I don't know what to D mother for a Christmas present. Do J0?. -# Mr. Henry Pecks Yes I Buy her a travel bag! ABBYY FineReader OCR
  24. 24. • SOURCE TYPE: Newspaper • SOURCE TITLE: Lloyd’s Weekly News • PUB. LOCATION: London • PUB. DATE: 5 January 1896 • COLUMN TITLE: ‘American Jokes’ • JOKE TITLE: ‘A USEFUL PRESENT.’ • ATTRIBUTION: Puck • AUTHOR: [--] • JOKE FORMAT: Conversation • JOKE SUBJECTS: Mother-in-Laws; Christmas • NATIONALITY: American • CHARACTERS: ‘Mrs Henry Peck’; ‘Mr Henry Peck’; [Mrs Henry Peck’s Mother / Mr Henry Peck’s Mother-in-Law] • JOKE LOCATIONs: [--] Character One • Name: ‘Mrs. Henry Peck’ • Gender: Female • Identity: Wife; Daughter • Age: Adult • Class: [--] • Emotion: [--] Character Two • Name: ‘Mr. Henry Peck’ • Gender: Male • Identity: Husband; Son- in-Law • Age: Adult • Class: [--] • Emotion: Anger
  25. 25. Crowdsourcing
  26. 26. Gamification / Reciprocal Impact
  27. 27. Remixing Digital Archives The Victorian Meme Machine Bob Nicholson // @DigiVictorian // #dhist Archival Remixing Creative Remixing
  28. 28. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-GRgj7Q5OM0
  29. 29. www.DigitalVictorianist.com @DigiVictorian

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