The Digital Installation Component of Refreshing Self-Reliance

Welcome to the digital installation component of “Refreshing Self-Reliance”  by Sam Hamilton from Issue 10: Originality in a Digital Culture of New American Notes Online. This installation component plus the “Essay 2.0” make up the whole of “Refreshing Self-Reliance.”

What it is & How it Works

This digital installation component of “Refreshing Self-Reliance” is a random quote generator that cycles through some pithy aphorisms from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s 1841 essay “Self-Reliance.” It used to be that when you hit the ↻ or “Refresh” button in your browser, a new statement from Emerson’s essay appears. Now, it’s a sort of randomly generated choose-your-own-adventure path through both Emersonian aphorisms and my reflections/ruminations on those aphorisms and their application to 21st century digital authorship and self-reliance. And those aphorisms now appear two places. In the toolbar to the right of this post . And also in the footer below this post . The aphorisms are presented and cycled through using a WordPress widget called the Flexi Quote Plus. And, the aphorisms presented and cycled through using this widget constitute the “first layer” or the digital installation component of “Refreshing Self-Reliance”.

In some of Emerson’s statements in the first layer, a key word or phrase serves as a hyperlink to a new page featuring my reflections and ruminations. These reflections constitute the second layer of this digital installation component of “Refreshing Self-Reliance”. 

This is the third version of digital installation component of “Refreshing Self-Reliance”. It is a refreshing of a refreshing of a refreshing of “Self-Reliance,” or “Refreshing Self-Reliance 3.0.” The first version — version 1.0 — was constructed with a random text generator using JavaScript. Specifically, I tweaked a basic randomizer code amended by Ian James, created by Andy Angrick and Mike Barone, and offered through JavaScriptSource. My version of the code populates the textArray JavaScript function with quotes from “Self-Reliance.” I retained the same “shell” format and removed the textArray function from the HTML JavaScript code to create the more static pages of the second layer. Here is a Google Drive folder containing the random text generator’s original code.

Initially, I “hosted” both the first and second layers through an end-around “cheat” using public folders in Dropbox, before Dropbox eliminated this cheat.

Then, I hosted both layers on webspace provided by my graduate institution, the University of Pittsburgh. When I graduated, however, that space was no longer available to me.

At my new institution, Bridgewater College, I’ve had to abandon the original JavaScript code in favor of a Bridgewater College controlled WordPress site and the Flexi Quote Plus widget. I’ve received tremendous help from the IT team here at Bridgewater, specifically Tyler Weissman, our IT Accessibility Coordinator.

At its core, “Refreshing Self-Reliance” seeks to perform and explore something quite close to Emerson’s original essay. Both, I think, seek to reveal the true emptiness of the idea of “self-reliance,” not just within the contemporary Digital Age, but indeed always and forever. At this point, I think the story of creating and hosting the text of the digital installation component of  “Refreshing Self-Reliance” reveals this emptiness just as effectively as the reflections and ruminations made within the text itself.

That said, sorting through the gnarly messiness of the text itself — a messiness made messier by all the technical SNAFUs encountered during the composing and hosting of this text — may not be worth it. So, if you prefer, you can read the “Non-Randomized Reflections” and also consult my “Works Cited, Consulted, and Considered