Noting a key development that decisively distances the Victorian “crisis of information” from our own, namely, the emergence of a technical concept of information between the 1920s and the 1940s, Mitchell focuses on the efforts of this special issue's contributors to capture the uncanny nature of the relationship between data and information in the Victorian period and in our own informatic age. Mitchell underscores and seeks to expand on two strategies employed by contributors: on the one hand, the exploration of what Mitchell calls “unsecured” terms (that is, terms used in both the Victorian era and our own information age but which occupy either liminal or contested roles in both periods) and, on the other hand, the creation of metaconcepts that illuminate an aesthetic practice common to both periods. Mitchell illuminates the first strategy by focusing on the discussion of “belief” in several of the contributions to this special issue and suggests that this work might be expanded by connecting the contributors' accounts of belief and narrative in the Victorian era to the long, complex history of Bayesian approaches to probability. Mitchell illuminates the second strategy by expanding on Caroline Levine's metaconcept and brief history of “the enormity effect,” drawing especially on Paolo Virno's discussion of the fate of the structuring principles of sublimity in our own contemporary moment of precarious labor and multitude.
Robert Mitchell; Response. Genre 1 April 2017; 50 (1): 139–152. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00166928-3761396
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