Visual Media Workshop

The VMW is
a lab/
workspace/
creative zone/
vertext/
forum/
platform/
initiative/
experiment

that

sits at the intersection between/
falls between established disciplines of/
crosses the fields of

art history and information studies/
humanistic inquiry and technology/
established humanistic and new data-driven approaches

(Alex Oliver, April 2014)

VMW

    • New Itinera Visualization
    • Current Itinera Visualization
    New Itinera Visualization

    This is a screenshot of the foundation for the new Itinera visualization that I've been working on. The goal is to be able to show relationships between different people in an informative way. This would allow for new understandings of the relationships between the Travelers as a whole, or in smaller more personal groups. 

     

    Summer Progress on Itinera's "Travelers" Visualization

    For the past year or so I have been working on learning how to write Javascript D3 code and use that knowledge to write a new visualization for the "Travelers" section on Itinera. This is an update of the progress I've made while at the VMW this summer.

    In May I started learning how to navigate the server that Itinera is on. Along with that I was introduced for the first time to the code that runs Itinera's current "Travelers" visualization. Spending time reading the code and figuring out what parts do what was really beneficial to my overall understanding. Throughout June and July I was able to make a basic but working concept of the new visualization. The nodes successfully appear and also respond when clicked on. Unfortunately, the code is buggy and doesn't display the relationships in an informative way. There is still a lot more work to do, but at least the foundation steps are working successfully. I've spent a lot of time watching D3 tutorials and learning the language, but it's a goal of mine to really solidify my understandings. Along with working on Itinera, this summer I have been working on a draft for my contribution to a collaborative multi-media essay about Itinera. The prompt is for six members of the Itinera team to present their lived experiences with working on Itinera. The plan for my contribution is to write a short essay and have interactive live code to go with it. Most of my experience has been working on code, which might be difficult to express in writing. Therefore, having a live interactive example will be an informative way to show the process and how it works. On the top of my to-do list is to write the essay portion, then figure out how to make visualizations that are compatible online and descriptive. Throughout the summer I've also worked on transcriptions for the Decomposing Bodies project. I look forward to continuing my work at the VMW when the fall semester starts!

    Categories: 
    • Itinera
    • Undergraduate Work
    • VMW
  •  

    Another Year, Another K'zoo

    For the second year in a row, I had the distinct privilege of attending the International Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo, Michigan. According to the Medieval Congress' Twitter feed (@KzooICMS), this unique conference attracted almost 3,000 attendees this year. 

    In 2016, our brave team of researchers arrived at Western Michigan University equipped with iPads and University of Pittsburgh lanyards with the aim of conducting usability surveys (you can read more about that in my October 2016 update). Last week, Dr. Langmead and I presented at a session sponsored by the Material Collective and shared the results of these surveys and talked about personal vs. collective image collections. Here is our Swipe.to presentation, for your enjoyment. I will not repeat our survey findings here, as I've written about them before. However, I will note that our Swipe.to polls revealed the following information about the attendees at our conference session:

    First, we asked of the attendees (mostly art historians): "How long do you want your research images to last?" 

    • ~32% selected "Forever"
    • ~41% selected "Until the end of my career"
    • ~14% selected "Until the end of the research project (approx. 2-3 yrs)"
    • 0 selected "Until the end of the week"
    • <1% selected "It doesn't matter to me"
    • ~10% selected "Another option"

    Following this question, we asked: "How long do you expect your research images to last?"

    • ~18% selected "Forever"
    • ~36% selected "Until the end of my career"
    • ~23% selected "Until the end of the research project (approx. 2-3 yrs)"
    • <1% selected "Until the end of the week"
    • <1% selected "It doesn't matter to me"
    • ~23% selected "Another option"

    We then asked: "Is there a gap between your expectation and desire for image persistence, and are you concerned about it?"

    • ~43% selected "Yes"
    • ~35% selected "No"
    • ~22% selected "I don't see a gap"

    Finally, and perhaps, most importantly, we asked: "If you could store your research images communally, would you?

    • 48% selected "Yes, in a heartbeat"
    • 16% selected "Yes, I suppose"
    • 32% selected "Maybe...talk to me more"
    • 0 selected "No, it's fine"
    • 0 seleged "No way"
    • <1% selected "Other"

    Consider these as you will! 

    We also presented the attached "rogue" poster at various wine hours throughout the Congress. 

    Categories: 
    • Sustaining MedArt
    • Graduate Work
    • Faculty Work
    • VMW

    File: 

  •  

    Semester Wrap-Up of Decomposing Bodies

    Hard to believe that this semester is already coming to an end!

    My work on Decomposing Bodies this spring focused on two different areas: reading and research about the history of policing and prisons in the United States, and data management of the images and related documents making up the heart of the DB dataset. At first glance, these two endeavors seem wildly different, and they certainly require different ways of thinking and skillsets, but I think that they are both essential part of the work that makes DB an interesting and engaging project, and that you can’t have one without the other.

    Decomposing Bodies is a digital humanities project, and the work that I’ve done on it this past spring has been both digital and humanistic. After the Data (after)Lives exhibit in the Fall, we felt it was important to update DB’s presence on the web to reflect our most recent work, and some of the ideas, tools, and visualizations that have come out of it. This involved updating the public Decomposing Bodies website with a timeline of the project’s history, updated bibliography and contributors, and the addition of an interactive visualization of the faces and measurements of some of the people documented by Bertillonage that make up DB.

    Along with updating the website, I have also worked to update the documentation of the transcriptions of the Bertillon cards in Omeka. I can now say that over 1,800 cards have been completely transcribed, and 700 more have been at least partially transcribed. This represents approximately 20% of the cards in the Decomposing Bodies collection. This is in large part thanks to the work of the graduate and undergraduate students working in the VMW, including two First Experience in Research students, Joe Jang and Ashley Cipcic, who not only helped immensely with transcription this term, but also conducted their own research about the racial and social demographics of the people in the cards they transcribed.

    Engaging with the social and cultural situation that led to the implementation of Bertillonage in the Ohio penal system was another avenue of my work for this semester. This is the ‘human’ part of this project. I have been reading about the history of the prison system in the United States, and the particular circumstances that lead to the implementation of Bertillonage in Ohio at the turn of the last century. Some of my readings have included: “At Hard Labor: Rediscovering the 19th Century Prison”, by Martin Miller, Forgotten Reformer : Robert McClaughry and Criminal Justice Reform in Nineteenth-Century America, by Frank Morn, and the Proceedings of the annual congress of the National Prison Association, held at Cincinnati, September 25-30, 1890. It’s impossible to disconnect the prison reform movement of the late 19th century from the shift in the goals of incarceration that was happening concurrently, or from the rapid expansion of the prison-industrial complex in the United States today. And no part of that process can be separated from the understanding of race in Reconstruction Era America.

    I will be continuing to work on Decomposing Bodies over the Summer Term, and I hope to expand my work in both the data management and historical contexts of this project. There are so many directions to go with DB, and I feel lucky to get to explore some of them, especially as they relate to my own research interests. See you in the summer, then!

    Categories: 
    • Decomposing Bodies
    • Graduate Work
    • VMW
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    Semester Wrap-Up

    For the past few weeks, I have worked on writing a reflection of my experiences thus far on the medart project. I did this partially as a way to wrap up my experiences this past semester and partially as a means to synthesize my work to make it more useful to the grant report.

    To write my reflection, I started by going through any notes and spreadsheets I have saved to my computer and by going through my Constellation posts. The process of going through my old blog posts has been really useful for creating a comprehensive reflection. Being able to use the blog posts also helped me to see how important writing detailed blog posts was. As it were, I had a detailed record of everything I had done the past two semesters that I could work from.

    I organized my reflection into five sections not including an introduction and conclusion. Each of the five sections was dedicated to one of the tasks I was assigned over the course of the past year. I lumped most of my earlier tasks like reading the grant, comparing file trees, and looking at the interview transcriptions into a section called “familiarization,” because each of these tasks were geared toward familiarizing me with medart. The remaining sections were “Metadata,” “The Wayback Machine,” “Finding Aids,” and “Urchin Reports.” In each section, I wrote about why the task was performed, what I did, any problems that were encountered, and what we discovered from this task. Hopefully, as a synthesis of the work I have done, this reflection will be useful to the grant report.

    I also took some time to write an introduction for the finding aids I wrote this semester. The finding aids will be in the appendix of the grant report. In the introduction, I provided background information on why we decided we needed finding aids and on the different versions of medart stored in the hard drive. I then went on to explain my method when creating the finding aids and the challenges that stemmed from the lack of consistent organization in the medart directories. Finally, I explained how the finding aids were organized and the best way to navigate them.

    After break, I will be returning in May after attending the 52nd International Congress on Medieval Studies at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, MI. I’m excited to talk with medievalists about what we have learned about medart and to hear Aisling and Alison present at their roundtable. During the summer semester, I look forward to working on the socio-technical roadmap for medart.

    Categories: 
    • Sustaining MedArt
    • Graduate Work
    • VMW
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    Progress with Itinera

    Throughout the past month or two, Victoria and I have been translating the Minutes of the Royal Academy of Architecture and we have been having a great time with it! So far, we have realized that several of the architects went on tours together and while not all went at the same time, there seems to be a lot of overlap between the trips. I would say the most difficult part of this process is translating the text because it is 16th century French and many of the words do not match up. Many of the words have second meanings such as la maison which does not literally mean "the house" but "the family". As we continue to put the tour stops into Itinera, I have noticed that the architects go to church to church or to an aristocrats home where they then observe the stones. It is very interesting to see how invested they are to build the perfect building for King Louis XIV and I can't wait to read more about their travels.

    Categories: 
    • Itinera
    • Undergraduate Work
    • VMW
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    Maintaining "Sustaining MedArt"

    It is early April, so the Sustaining MedArt team is once again preparing for the International Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The project, originating with an initial usability survey in the autumn of 2014, explores the relationship between perceptions of site usability and sustainability. In particular, we entered this project wondering how user experiences correlate to preservation worthiness. 

    In addition to preparing our grant report for the NEH (with ample input from Jedd Hakimi, in particular), Dr. Langmead and I are planning our portion of the Collective (A Roundtable). This collective presentation, listed on page 43 of the Medieval Congress 2017 program/tome, is sponsored by the Material Collective, “a collaborative of art historians and students of visual culture” seeking “to foster a safe space for alternative ways of thinking about projects.” For our participatory portion of this session, we will ask attendees to engage with questions about their personal collections of research images, among other things (await update in May!).

    During and since the autumn, we’ve accomplished various tasks in preparation for writing our grant report and producing a socio-technical digital preservation roadmap. These are as follows:

    • We interviewed Dr. Alison Stones, co-creator of the MedArt, and Philip Maye, a major contributor to the site. From these interviews, we learned a great deal about the site’s origins and major moments of change throughout the past two decades.
    • Lindsay Decker, our courageous MLIS-student researcher, thoroughly examined various iterations of the website through an analysis of the website’s file tree and the hard drive on which former instances are saved. Screen captures on the Internet Archive have played a vital role throughout this research as well. The end result? A comprehensive index of the site(s) modeled after an archival finding aid. Lindsay has blogged about her research processes here and here.
    • Jedd Hakimi continues to research and write extensively in preparation for the final grant report. He has provided helpful frameworks for thinking about various aspects of the project throughout the past few months.
    • I am producing an academic poster (WATCH THIS SPACE!) and am applying for various conferences (ditto). I will also be posting our presentation from Kalamazoo in late May!
    Categories: 
    • Current Projects
    • Sustaining MedArt
    • Graduate Work
    • VMW
  • Here is an agent put into Itinera.

     

    Quarries and Itinera

    It's been a little more than a month since I joined the Itinera project, and I am happy to say that there has been much progress made. Supriya and I have finished reading through the Minutes of the Royal Academy of Architecture and have finished entering agents into Itinera. An example is pictured above. In the next upcoming weeks, we will really have to work hard to finish putting in the entire trip that we have mapped out, put together our poster for our presentation, and finish up our abstract (which is actually due Friday). In my class related to the research, we worked on preparing our abstracts and "elevator speeches" about our research. I am extremely excited to present our hard work.

    I have found that the hardest part of this project so far was actually reading the text and pinpointing the important information needed. One thing I was especially excited about, though, was realizing changes in the French language in the minutes and the modern version. This made it a lot easier to translate the text, as I realized that "mesme" was mean to be même (which means same). Simply understanding these differences allowed for quicker reading and comprehension. From this point on, I believe that the project will go quicker in getting the information for the trip into Itinera, as we already have it mapped out in our own notes.

    Au revoir,

    Victoria

     

    Categories: 
    • Itinera
    • Undergraduate Work
    • VMW
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    Urchin Report on Medart

    I’ve spent the past month analyzing an Urchin Report on the usage of Medart. Google Urchin was Google Analytics predecessor. I was using Urchin 7 which is the newest version, but it was released back in 2010, so there haven’t been any recent updates to it. I was warned that not every aspect of the software would work, and I found that to be true. There were no visitor data, but there were data on how many visits and hits there were to the site. Data on visit length did not appear consistently and neither did total bytes used. I was excited to find that Urchin had recorded bot activity, which gave me a more accurate depiction of site usage. We are more interested in use by real people, so I extracted bot hits from total hits to see how many real people used the site. However, Urchin states that it identifies bots by looking for “bot-like” activity which means there could be some inaccuracies. Therefore, while this data is helpful and shows some trends, it is possible that the information isn’t exact.

    I only had access to usage data from the past 18 months. 18 months initially consisted of Sept. 2015 to Feb. 2017, but since it is now March I have lost access to the Sept. 2015 data. Luckily, I had already recorded everything I needed from Sept. 2015 before the data disappeared. It appears that Urchin can only store 18 months of data at a time.

    Since I worked on this mostly in February, I’m going to focus this post on data from Sept. 2015 to Feb. 2017. When looking at total and average visits to medart, it looks like there is a slight low in the summer months and a spike beginning in Oct. 2016. However, when we look only at hits and take out the bots, it is clear that there is a consistent usage increase September to October with a peak in November for both 2015 and 2016. There is a slight dip in December but the lows are definitely in the summer months (June, July, August). This shows that activity by real people follows a pattern dictated by the academic calendar. The spike in visits that began in Oct. 2016 is likely a result of increased bot activity which has continued to the present, not because of increased use by real people.

    To reiterate, Urchin may not have accurately filtered out all the bots. One way we decided to combat any possibility of misinformation was by looking at hits to the glossary page. There’s no reason for bots to be overly interested in the glossary page, but it would be something people would use. We decided that by focusing on the glossary we might get a better idea of how many real people use medart. I found that the glossary page appeared as one of medart’s top 5 most visited content for the past 18 months. The glossary had 9,074 visits and was the third most visited page. In comparison, the home page had the most visits at 89,012. The vast difference in these numbers indicates that a large portion of home page visits could be bots. 9,074 visits are much closer to what we would expect from 18 months of usage. For each time period, Urchin would only give me information on the top 5 pages in medart. I went through month by month to see if the glossary was always in the top 5 content. The glossary didn’t show up in the top 5 content at all until September, 2016. It is possible that the glossary rose in popularity as a result of the Sustaining Medart team’s visit to Kalamazoo in May, 2016.

    Medart’s top 5 content consistently included the home page and the main menu pages for France and England, but interestingly enough, medart’s page on the Tower of London also appeared consistently. In fact, this page was the fifth most visited page overall for the past year and a half. The Tower of London page got 7,096 visits, and users spent an average of 6 minutes and 12 seconds on it. This is compared to the glossary which saw 3 minutes of average time spent. Of all the top 5 content, users spent the most time per visit with the Tower of London page. This activity did not sound like bot activity, so why were so many users spending so much time on this page? I dug a little deeper and found that the Tower of London was in the top 5 all 18 months except during July, August, and September of 2016 with a low in Dec. 2015 and a peak in March, 2016. This very nearly mimics the academic calendar, so it could be something used for classes. I wanted to know how people were finding this page so I googled “Tower of London Medieval Timeline” and looked under google images. An image from the Tower of London page was one of the first to come up. I found that someone had posted a link to this page on Pinterest. After some more searching I found two more images from medart saved to Pinterest. It’s exciting to see medart integrated into social media, and to see the effect it can have on site usage. It was good that I was able to get some insight on how actual people found medart. According to the Urchin Report, everyone who used medart got there by typing in the URL. This is extremely unlikely which is why I did some actual searching to get this information.

    I did a similar search to find out how people were getting to the glossary. I googled “medieval glossary” and medart’s glossary was the ninth result. I checked through the other results to see if any linked to medart but didn’t find anything. People certainly can get to the glossary this way, but I think it’s more likely that usage increased because of the presentation at Kalamazoo in May.

    Overall, the Urchin Reports presented us with a lot of really helpful information. We got further validation that medart usage revolves around the academic calendar, and we were able to look more closely at bot activity on the site. The Urchin Report also led me to discover other ways people have linked to medart, such as through Pinterest.

    Categories: 
    • Sustaining MedArt
    • Graduate Work
    • VMW
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    Decomposing Race

    Political correctness has been pushed to propagate the idea of distance between the political elite to the working class and distract people from the larger, more substantial issues at hand. One of the most relevant issues, racism, has been skirted around despite its continual relevancy to the problems of modern society. Racism has always existed, and continues to exist. Its presence, impact, and definition have changed, but are still visible. During my time transcribing Bertillon cards from the Ohio State Reformatory and Penitentiary, I have found trends between complexion and crime as well as racial undertones and early usages of political correctness.

    Historically, Black people have been underprivileged and marginalized. They were granted only second-class citizenship, if at all. This influence was clear in the transcription data that Ashley Cipcic, my research partner, and I have collected. In the prisoner records--the cards we catalogue into the Decomposing Bodies online dataset, Omeka--Laborer, the most menial job, was also the most common job. It appeared 96 times in our (growing) dataset of 642. People with dark, brown, chocolate, or mulatto complexions held 60 of those 96 positions. Medium complexions held another 27 of the 96 positions. The presence of race as a determining factor of socioeconomic status was significant. From birth, Black people’s occupational limits were predetermined.

    Black people’s “tendencies” to commit crimes, too, may have been predetermined. It is interesting to note the demographics of Ohio in 1900. At the time, only 97,000 people of the total population of 4,158,000 (2.3%) were Black. Nevertheless, 40.6% of the prisoners we archived were of complexions that carry racially charged language; of our compiled list of 642 prisoners, 261 were labeled as dark, chocolate, brown, or mulatto. Though it is not necessarily true that police purposefully sought out Black people to arrest, or that Black people may have had a propensity to commit felonies due to their exposure to crime, poverty segregation, and inhumane treatment, there is a notable correlation between complexion and entering prison. Efforts to treat people fairly were, however, somewhat present. It should be noted that some White people were labeled dark as well. Furthermore, 199 prisoners (this excludes those that were specified as medium brown, dark, etc.) were ambiguously labeled as “medium.”

    The fact that “medium” could have been attributed to any person also speaks to the slowly encroaching idea of political correctness and unbiased treatment of people--not insofar that it would be defined as such, but that America of the 1900s began its attempt to enforce equal rights and treatment. The Civil Rights Movement did not even begin to form until Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954), but the idea that all peoples deserved respect may have started to develop.

    The irony of this situation (other than the categorization of the descent of all Black people as “Negro,” regardless that they were most likely born in America like their white “American” counterparts) is that the historical mistreatment of Black people in America has created a situation in which people are never truly equal. Equality does not exist now, nor has it ever. The effects of racism in America still linger.

    I do not claim to have found anything that directs us to the beginning of inequality or answers our problems (in regards to race and prison), or to have better defined the proper usage of political correctness. I do, however, think that the trends that Ashley Cipcic and I have stumbled upon may lead to the beginnings of the answer to why the prison system in America is prejudiced.

     

    All state demographic data was from http://blackdemographics.com/states/ohio/ which collected census data.

    Categories: 
    • Decomposing Bodies
    • Undergraduate Work
    • VMW
  •  

    Introduction and Goals

    Hi!

    My name is Laxmisupriya Avadhanula and I am a part of the FE-R working with Dr. Drew Armstrong and Lily Brewer.  The project is to categorize the archaeologists in the quarries they had visited in France in 1678 and then documenting their tour into Itinera. While I have arrived to this project a bit late, I am hoping to be able to use my French minor and Neuroscience major for making connections. I am hoping to be analyze how visuals patterns are easier to understand by the brain and make connections when it is in a 3-D model compared to words or a 2-D model. At the same time, I am hoping to answer how their travels influenced different archaeologists. While this is a different field for me, I am hoping to understand how the Arts and Science are codependent.

    Categories: 
    • Itinera
    • Undergraduate Work
    • VMW

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