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

  •  

    Introduction and Goals

    Hello,

    My name is Victoria Johngrass, and I am a freshman working in accordance with the Office of First Experience in Research with Dr. Drew Armstrong and Lily Brewer. As I joined the project late, there will be a lot of catching up to do, but I am eager to contribute to this. With my intended major of biology, the project of categorizing the archaeologists in quarries in France in 1678 and documenting their “tour” into Itinera is a bit out of my comfort zone, but I am interested to see what direction it takes me in. Thankfully, my other intended major of French will assist in reading and comprehending the documents provided.

    This project is extremely out of the box for me, but I intend to relate it to my scientific discipline. To do this, I will analyze patterns and process, and I will try to look at the linearity of the travellers routes. How are different architects connected? When and where do their paths cross? How did their travels evolve and what did they influence? These are the questions I hope my research with this project will answer, and I hope this project will also provide to me a greater understanding of the digital humanities and their importance in today’s society.

    What I hope to get out of my experience in this lab is an understanding of the research process, gathering and inputting data, as well as forming connections. While this is a pretty general idea of what takes place in a research lab, I feel as though it can also be applied to what I wish to do with my own research in the field of Biology. I also hope this project helps me to grow as a student and expand my horizons, as I have already looked into a few Art History courses since meeting Drew and Lily.

    I will keep this blog updated with my findings and progress throughout the semester.

    Au revoir

    Victoria

    Categories: 
    • Itinera
    • Undergraduate Work
    • VMW
    • The reverse side (without mugshot) of a Bertillon card
    • The cover of the book "Punishment and Inequality in America" by Bruce Western
    • A screenshot of the tags currently in use in the Decomposing Bodies Omeka site
    The reverse side (without mugshot) of a Bertillon card

    The reverse side (without mugshot) of a Bertillon card

     

    Updates to Decomposing Bodies

    This term is seeing some big changes for Decomposing Bodies— some that will be apparent from the outside, and some that will only affect those of us working behind the scenes. The Decomposing Bodies project has been a part of the VMW since the winter of 2013, and has gone through several phases over the years. This term, myself, along with two First Experience in Research (FER) students, as well as the support of the entire staff of the VMW, we are rolling out the next phase in Decomposing Bodies— what it is, how it’s organized, and who it’s for.

     

    Tags

    Creating a dataset of the text written on the Bertillon cards in the images that make up DB is the process of transcription, which is work that is shared between everyone working in the VMW. We use the content management system (CMS) Omeka, which is a project of the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, at George Mason University. A part of the transcription system involves the use of tags, which allow users to indicate how much of a card has been transcribed, and whether there are any anomalies with the card. This makes review by the Project Manager much easier, and keeps track of our progress on the transcriptions. Beginning in January, we transferred to a new system of tags, which document similar aspects of the transcription process, but in more explicit terms. For example, the tag “pass1a” has become “Front,” indicating that all the fields on the front of a particular card have been transcribed. Not all of the tags translate so cleanly from one system to another, which is why before implementing the new system, I created what is known in the info management world as a “crosswalk”: a document outlining the items in the new tag schema, and their relationships to the old system. Future researchers using the DB dataset will likely never encounter these tags, or be affected by this change, but it marks a shift in how the ongoing work on this project is handled.

     

    Website

    However, not all the planned work on Decomposing Bodies will be behind the scenes. After the Data (after)Lives exhibition last fall, we’ve been working with Sam Nosenzo, an undergraduate Computer Engineering major here at Pitt, to create interactive visualizations of the faces from the Bertillon cards. This project is an extension of Sam’s piece with Alison Langmead and Aaron Henderson for Data (after)Lives, 7,105 Faces, in Order, and asks the viewer to confront the humanity of the people documented by the Bertillon cards. This interactive tool, as well as a static video version, will be a part of the public-facing Decomposing Bodies website, which is in the process of getting a major overhaul this term.

    Besides integrating Sam’s work, I have also been working on creating a comprehensive timeline of the past three and a half years of work on Decomposing Bodies, which will documented on the DB website. Along with this timeline, there are myriad resources related to Bertillonage, criminality, prison reform, surveillance practices, and facial recognition technologies that the research team has collected over the years. This bibliography, as well as some discussion of its influence on our own work with DB, will also be available on the updated website. These updates are expected to be live by the end of the Spring term. Keep an eye out here for the official launch date!

     

    FERs

    As I mentioned in the introduction to this post, Decomposing Bodies has two FER students this term: Joe Jang and Ashley Cipcic. They have been assisting with transcriptions of Bertillon cards, as well as developing a research project related to the content of the cards they’re looking at. They will both be writing blog posts documenting their work this semester. Ashley’s blog posts are at http://www.constellations.pitt.edu/blogs/ashley-cipcic, and Joe’s are at http://www.constellations.pitt.edu/blogs/joe-jang.

     

    Prison Reform and Bertillonage

    Finally, in thinking about not only creating the DB dataset, but also engaging with the objects and concepts that the dataset documents, I am beginning exploratory research into the role of Bertillonage in the prison reform movements happening across the United States, but especially in the midwest, at the turn of the 20th century. The implementation of Bertillonage in the Ohio State Reformatory and the Ohio Penitentiary— and across the US in general— is an interesting permutation of Bertillon’s original system, which was intended for use in the police force, in order to identify recidivist criminals at the point of arrest, rather than as a form of documentation for individuals as they move into the penal system. The conflation, or at least shortening of distance, between policing and prisons in the United States during this time has powerful repercussions for how crime, punishment, and surveillance are treated in contemporary discourse. You can see my ongoing reading list for this project at: https://www.zotero.org/shackney19/items/collectionKey/2QXCC52E  

    Categories: 
    • Decomposing Bodies
    • Graduate Work
    • VMW
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    Connections with Medart's Past

    I recently finished the finding aid for PITT_EDU–medart. PITT_EDU–medart is a folder containing the earliest version of medart. It was the primary directory for medart until they created VRCOLL out of a need for more storage space. However, instead of moving the contents of PITT_EDU–medart onto VRCOLL, they continued to maintain it. PITT_EDU–medart served as the nucleus of medart in that the contents of VRCOLL often linked back to material in PITT_EDU–medart. Some of what’s on PITT_EDU–medart is no longer active on the medart site or in some cases never was. In this way PITT_EDU–medart is very much like a time capsule of medart’s history.

    PITT_EDU–medart includes relics of medart’s past such as course materials from Alison Stones’ “Introduction of Medieval Art and Architecture” classes. We know from interviewing Alison and by reading her work that medart was intended as a classroom tool. The course materials are further evidence of this. Assignment outlines, images to be used in assignments, and quizzes on vocabulary are some examples of course materials found on PITT_EDU–medart.

    There is also evidence of experimentation in PITT_EDU–medart. I found a version of the search feature that I hadn’t seen before. This further emphasizes that they considered a search feature but must have determined it wouldn’t work for medart since it was never made live on the site. The wording on the search feature (can be seen in the above image) indicates doubt on the part of its creator in regard to its functionality. It’s possible that it wasn’t that they didn’t think a search feature would work for medart, but rather couldn’t get the search feature to workv period.

    Another interesting discovery while creating the PITT_EDU–medart finding aid was consistency in the inaccuracy of France’s alphabetical categories. Instead of a long list of sites in France, they are organized into sections such as A-C or D-K etc. However, when exploring the file trees I noticed that A-C or D-K was not always an accurate title for a particular section. For example, D-K has starts with Chadenac and ends with Montmouillon, L-Z starts with Lacharite and ends with Metz, N-R starts with Montmouillon and ends with Rouen. It was interesting to see these inaccuracies reflected in the hard drive. On the current medart website the sites are organized into the correct sections.

    Creating this finding aid has given me the opportunity to evaluate the differences and connections between the VRCOLL and PITT_EDU–medart directories as well as with projects I worked on earlier this year.

    Categories: 
    • Sustaining MedArt
    • Graduate Work
    • VMW
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    More to Analyze: Color, Contrast, and Composition?

    Since deciding on the Hudson River Valley School of art, a dataset that is both consistent in theme but varying in compositions and use of art characteristics (e.g. color, contrast), I have been exploring more analyses. If the dataset is varied enough, I believe it makes sense to consider multiple characteristics, rather than just one. 

    As far as color and contrast goes, I will be going ahead with the Photoshop Histogram Analysis. In my previous blog posts, I have detailed how it provides information on the Red, Green, and Blue channels of the image. I will look at varying levels of these channels throughout the artworks (using mean, range, etc.), and at the end of the survey, ask the subject which of the three colors they prefer the most. Here, results will look at a possible correlation between color preference and artwork preference. For contrast, many current measures of contrast focus on comparing the darkest and brighest points of an image and focus on extremes. Because I want a measure of average contrast throughout the work, RMS (Root mean square) contrast seems to be the most relevant, as it looks at the average values of pixels in comparison to the mean. In addition, I could also compare the representation of the colors channels with one another to look at a measure of color contrast.

    While I have mentioned both color and contrast before, the primary new characteristic that I am considering is subject composition. As aforementioned, these Hudson River Valley School artworks are similar in theme; they depict mountains and vegetation, bodies of water, and the sky. These three to four components are consistent throughout most of these works. However, while the presence of these components is consistent throughout these artworks, the usage and representation of them may not be consistent, and seem to be varied. There are several aspects to consider here, including area ratio, continuity, and dividing or border lines. For area ratio, we can do a simple comparison of how much of the painting is water versus how much of the painting is sky. Compositional differences here could surely affect one's perception of these artworks (but we must consider and ask whether the subject simply prefers one over another, e.g. sky over mountains). We can also look at the continuity of these areas; is there one connected region, multiple regions, or is one region fragmented by another component? For example, there may be two small ponds (bodies of water) in a work, or a large mountain in the middle of the artwork may divide the sky into two areas. To look at the areas, I can just use Photoshop to measure the area taken up by each component. Alternatively, I could use a grid system and look at the representation around each point to suggest a specific probability of representation. This would also allow me to specify and analyze in which quadrant of the painting certain components are most common. Lastly, we can also look at the line that divides or borders two of these regions. For example, the line that divides the sky and bodies of water is very typically the horizon line. The vertical position of this line in relation to the painting's height can be noted, and may signify how much vegetation/water versus sky/mountains is depicted (another question: is there actually a relationship here?). However, we also have lines that divide the mountains/vegatation and the bodies of water. These lines are likely not horizonal and straight like the horizon line, and may have a non-zero slope or be irregular. However, by looking at the general slope and horizontal and vertical position of this line, in addition to the other area-related charactertistics, we can better find significant and relevant compositional differences between these artworks of similar theme.

     

    Categories: 
    • Undergraduate Work
    • VMW
  •  

    Itinera's Best Practices

    In the Fall semester of 2016, I started training potential Itinera contributors outside the post of project manager. These individuals included Eleanor Harvey, senior curator at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Fracesca Torello, professor of architecture at Carnegie Mellon, S. E. Hackney, fellow Visual Media Workshop project manager, and Lindsay Decker, VMW graduate assistant. Through their feedback and questions during the trainings, I was able to refine my Spring semester project, which is to develop a Scalar site dedicated to outlining the best practices for Itinera. My vision for this project is to provide a platform for scholars interested in the mission of Itinera to be able to view and appreciate its networked complexity and readily envision themselves contributing to that complexity with their own objects and processes of inquiry.
     

    Scalar
    Currently, the content manager I am looking into is Scalar, an open-sourced authoring and publishing platform developed by the University of Southern California. Their mission is to enable their authors to assemble various media with text to create and structure easily navigatable, long-form and essay-length pages. From Itinera's point of view, the benefit of organizing information in this digital format is creating a business-card-like deliverable that, when given to interested parties, demonstrates the networked and relational complexity–while still, I hope, the do-ability–of working with Itinera through Collective Access, the University of Pittsburgh's web-based cataloging tool. (Collective Access is used to catalog the digital images for both the University Art Gallery and Decomposing Bodies project here at the University of Pittsburgh.)
     

    Itinera's Best Practices
    In using Scalar, I am building an online manual that: one, walks the user through the process of data input, both in text-based and video/screen capture directions; two, outlines common issues that arise when the historical record is translated into structural hierarchies in flattened input forms; and three, answers to frequently asked questions. I am certain to include the workflow, diligently put together by Jen Donnelly and Meredith North before me. Also, my growing list of chapters include: Source Authorities, Highlighting Narrative and Historical Tone, Location Specificity, Object Metadata, Supporting Agents Input, and a template for Users' Logging and Reflections. The aim of these chapters is to highlight issues that have emerged for the art historians working on Itinera that concern the nuances of the historical narrative that are lost in the metadata.

    For example, "Highlighting Narrative:"
    Tour Case Study:

    AG16051001_mn, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu:

    This is a factual overview of Montagu’s Turkish tour:
    With her husband and ambassador Edward Wortley Montagu, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu set out to Turkey from Westminster, England by way of the Netherlands, Austria, and Serbia from August of 1716 to November 1718.

    This is historical context suggesting the motivations behind the tour:
    At that time, Turkey was at war with the Venetian Republic, whereby Mr. Montagu was assigned to mediate on behalf of England an agreement with Austria, in the attempt to prevent Austria from engaging with the Spanish power in the Mediterranean.

    This is my interpretation of the historical account, preserving the voice of the original historical record:
    During this time, Lady Montagu entertained at court while studying Arabic and reading Arabic poetry. Toward the end of their tour, her husband inevitably failed at establishing a truce with Austria, his position was usurped by a competitor, and he failed to ascend to a political post of any import, resulting in a general, bitter demeanor. Shortly after they separated. Lady Montagu turned her sights to Italy for almost the rest of her life, keeping up with her studies and correspondence with her stately and artistic friends abroad. She died in 1962, reviled and adored across Europe and the Near East.

    In short, my intention is to create an editable and mutable document that demonstrates the complexity of historical and social histories for Itinerant posterity.

    Categories: 
    • Environment
    • Mobility/Exchange
    • Itinera
    • Graduate Work
    • VMW
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    A Finding Aid for Medart: Delving into the Depths

    To start the semester, I finished a finding aid I had started last semester. The finding aid was for VRCOLL-medart,one of the versions of medart we have stored on a hard drive. VRCOLL-medart is that largest of the three versions of medart, and the finding aid, as it is now, is 16 pages long. I set up the finding aid by listing the main folders and then recording either a summary of its contents or a detailed account. A lot of the finding aid had to be done on a case by case basis, because there really was no steady consistency to the organization of VRCOLL-medart. Some folders were titled after a monument and everything in the folder was used for medart’s webpage on that monument. Other folders might be named “Business Cards” and contain a to-do list for a grad student, instructions on how to create an image retrieval link, a file that can’t be opened named “History-of-medart,” and not a single reference to business cards. In cases like that I had to list everything that was in the folder because there would be no way to summarize it other than “miscellaneous files,” in which case half the folders in VRCOLL-medart would be labeled as such. The lack of consistency certainly contributed to the length of the finding aid. The reason for the disorganization of VRCOLL-medart might be simply because it was used for so long and by so many different people. Collaborative efforts by many graduate students with different organization strategies are probably the greatest reason for the inconsistencies. Another is the sheer size of VRCOLL-medart, which consists of 116 GB, far larger than any other version of medart we have. VRCOLL-medart is larger, because it also houses images and information for the Chartres website which was a separate project run by some of the same people. One aspect of VRCOLL-medart I found particularly interesting were the folders dedicated to specific countries. The medart website has images only of France and England, but VRCOLL-medart has folders for the Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland, and Spain. At first, I thought these folders only contained images from these countries and that medart never had the time or funding to make webpages for them and put them up in medart. But interestingly enough there are multiple html webpages for each country including homepages for all of them except the Czech Republic. So the question is why did they not add the webpages and images to medart if they had already created them? All in all taking the time to thoroughly sweep VRCOLL-medart has provided us with quite a bit of useful information. There was email correspondence saved in VRCOLL-medart concerning requests to use medart images, questions about medart, and conversations between medart’s creators. I also found a presentation two of the graduate students who worked on medart gave at a conference that gives us insight on their thoughts on medart and how it was intended to be used. There were also usage stats and a great deal of other information in VRCOLL-medart that will be useful to our understanding of medart’s history. I’m interested to discover more about medart from the other two versions of it we have.

    Categories: 
    • Sustaining MedArt
    • Graduate Work
    • VMW
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    Considering Artistic Movements to Focus On & A Prelude to Photoshop Pixel Histogram Analysis, Part 2

    In my last blog post, I mentioned possible artistic movements to use for my dataset. I have chosen works from the Hudson River Valley School of Art. I will be pulling images from reputable museum websites and making sure all images are of similar resolution and size. These artworks are similar in overall style, which should eliminate any bias toward certain artistic styles, but do vary in characteristics like color usage (sometimes dependent on the time of day that the work is portraying). Due to this apparent difference in color usage, the Photoshop Histograms will be useful as they show color distribution using the RGB scale, and it will be interesting to see if people prefer works that have more, for example, blues than reds.

    Concerning the histograms that were shown in my last blog post, I would like to take some time to explain them. They are graphical representations of the pixel values within an image. For each histogram, the x-axis represents some value from 0 to 255 that corresponds to a brightness intensity (left to right is black to white). The y-axis shows the representation of that pixel value in the image (how much there is). Concerning the between the RGB channel and the individual Red, Green, and Blue channels, the RGB channel seems to sum the histograms for the individual channels. For the individual channels, the y-axis is similar to the RGB channel but the x-axis is a gradient from black to the saturated color (left to right). As far as analyzing contrast, the histograms themselves will not be enough. Qualitatively, looking at a the histograms and seeing that there a multiple peaks that are far apart on the x-axis is a logical sign of contrast within the work. However, quantitatively, programming will have to be used. This aspect of the project will be further investigated during winter break and the beginning of the Spring Semester.

    Finally, I am excited to say that I will be doing this project under the support of the Brackenridge Fellowship next semester. I would like to thank Dr. Alison Langmead, Lily Brewer, and Dr. Douglas Ruff for all their help in preparing my application, as well as Dr. Peter Koehler and others in the Honors College for accepting my project.

    Categories: 
    • Undergraduate Work
    • VMW
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    Exploring the Path to England

    Recently, I have taken some time to explore the changes made to medart’s menu page for England (menuengland). Some of the most drastic changes to medart occurred on this page. In the earliest snapshot we have of menuengland from 12.25.1996 the user had to navigate to the images they wanted through a map. The user had to click on the location of whichever monument they wanted images of. They did have a link to an alphabetic site list one could choose as an alternative to the map. In 2000, they increased the size of the map and made the alternative site list a more prominent feature on the site. By 2008, the map had been eradicated and the only navigation option was through the site list. I wanted to dig deeper into the reasons these changes were made and discovered a number of possibilities.

    My understanding is that the map used on the menuengland page of medart from 1996-2008 is an image map. One definition of an image map “is a list of coordinates relating to a specific image, created in order to hyperlink areas of the image to different destinations (as opposed to a normal image link, in which the entire area of the image links to a single destination),” (Wikipedia 2016). This essentially is what the map on menuengland does.

    There have been two different types of image maps. Server-side image maps were the first type and were used starting in 1993. The second type of image map is a client-side image map, and those were used starting in January of 1997. Therefore, we can assume that at least at first menuengland was using a server-side image map. I’m a little fuzzy on the different between a server-side and client-side image map, but I think it has to do with how the browser finds the URL you’ve clicked on within the image map. People had a lot of trouble with server-side image maps, because the browser didn’t always understand where to send the user. Now if you happen to see an image map on the web (the sites I was on seemed to scoff at the continued use of image maps and referred to them as “mystery-meat navigation”) it’s almost always client-side (Bloom).

    The modifications to menuengland happened primarily in 1998 (35%), 2000 (21%), and 2001 (38%). After 2001 it was only modified once each in 2008 and 2009 and then twice in 2014 that I can tell. The modifications may have been more frequent in 1998 because they were switching to the newly invented client-side image map. Then in 1999 the Web Content Access Guidelines (WCAG) 1.0 was published. WCAG 1.0 mentions image maps quite a bit, because they are inaccessible to someone using a keyboard. They recommend web developers provide a text equivalent when using an image map (W3C 1999). This could explain the changes in 2000 and 2001. In 2000, they changed menuengland by enlarging the map and making the site list (their alternative to the image map) more prominent. Previously, the site list was at the bottom of the page, and after 2000 it was moved to the top of the page and enlarged. They also added an option to explore the sites by category. This may have been an attempt to better comply with the WCAG or at least to make the site more accessible.

    The image map was not fully removed until 2008. From the Wayback Machine I can tell the image map was removed sometime between 5/9/2008 and 12/16/2008. However, upon looking at the metadata I was able to find an exact date since there was only one modification in 2008: 10/7/2008. This is very near to when WCAG 2.0 was published (December 11, 2008). WCAG 2.0 similarly condemned image maps and urged web developers to provide alternatives to users who needed assistive technologies to use a computer (W3C 2008). Medart removed the image map prior to the release of WCAG 2.0, but if it was a hot topic at the time they may still have removed it for accessibility reasons. They replaced the image map with a site list organized alphabetically and created an identical one for menufrance.

    Connecting the actions of the creators of medart to what was going on in the world of web development is both enlightening and exciting. Adding that context gives the changes made to medart more meaning. The changes they made to menuengland were likely not made on a whim to improve aesthetics or style but instead to improve the accessibility of the site and extend its usefulness to more people.

    References

    Bloom, Zack. “A Quick History of Image Maps.” Eager. Accessed November 28, 2016. https://eager.io/blog/a-quick-history-of-image-maps/.

    W3C. 1999. “Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.” Last modified May 5, 1999. http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG10.

    W3C. 2008. “Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.” Last Modified December 11, 2008. http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20/.

    Wikipedia. 2016. “Image Map.” Last modified November 11, 2016. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image_map.

    Categories: 
    • Sustaining MedArt
    • Graduate Work
    • VMW
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    Considering Artistic Movements to Focus On & A Prelude to Photoshop Pixel Histogram Analysis

    In my last blog-post, I touched on a potential method to study neuroesthetics by first analyzing the specific characteristics of some artwork using Adobe Photoshop. While I have continued to look at possible ways to quantify artwork characteristics, I first decided on a methodology. I plan on using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, an online-based method designed to get human subject input. I can create a dataset of artwork (discussed later) and have each subject judge which artwork he or she finds more pleasing from a random selection of two. From this, I can gather data on which artworks are preferred more, and relate that to the characteristics of the artworks. For example, if as the contrast in artwork increases, the preference also increases, then perhaps that is an interesting correlation worth studying more.

    For creation of the dataset, in my last blog-post, I considered Abstract Expressionism. After discussions with Dr. Alison Langmead and Lily Brewer, I have come across several other possible movements of art that could be used to create my dataset. What is important is that this dataset is not a random collection of artwork from different time periods and different artistic movements. To reduce potential bias from subjects simply preferring one style of art over another, they should all be somewhat similar in theme (or even all from the same artist), unless one wants to compare two different styles. For example, Minimalism (Agnes Martin, Frank Stella, etc.) was a movement that partly originated as a reaction to Abstract Expressionism, so it may be interesting to look at both minimalist and abstract expressionist artworks together. Separate from the Mechanical Turk project, analyzing these movements could show more similarities than previously thought (e.g. maybe they differ in shapes and lines but use color and contrast similarly). Another potential robust genre of artwork for the dataset is landscape paintings (Hudson River School, Dutch Landscape Painting, etc.), as many of them have a similar theme but may differ in qualities like contrast and color. Here, another potential comparison would be landscape paintings versus landscape photography (Timothy O’Sullivan, Ansel Adams, etc.). Currently, I am considering all of these movements/genres and analyzing few works from each, and will have selected one (or two for comparison) for the dataset by the end of this semester.

    In analyzing these few works, I have been using Adobe Photoshop. Photoshop can be used to find pixel measurements throughout the artwork, especially via the histogram feature. Below are the histograms of two minimalist artworks, Harran II by Frank Stella and Untitled by Agnes Martin.

    StellaHistogram

    AgnesMartinHistogram

    From this window, the mean, standard deviation (std dev), and a median pixel value, all with a value from 0 to 255, can be found for a variety of channels (RGB, Red, Green, Blue, Luminosity). In addition, one can also find the Gray Value minimum, maximum, mean, and median of the work, which are measures of general brightness1. Below are tables with the histogram information for both works:

    StellaHistogramTable

    MartinHistogramTable

    As far as comparisons between the two images, nothing within these measures is surprising; for example, there is certainly less color variation in Martin’s work, as seen in the lower Std. Dev. In my last blogpost, I considered a method to look at symmetry of artworks. After looking at these histograms, I reasoned that I could use the same method to look at symmetry again. This time, I would simply compare the histograms of the left and right sides to show possible similarities between the general characteristics of each half. Below is the data from those histograms:

    AgnesMartinLeftRightTable

    As far as looking at the general pixel characteristics of both the left and right halves of each image, this method proves useful, though it does not say much about line or compositional symmetry. Both halves of Agnes Martin’s work have very similar colors (and are otherwise very symmetrical), which is shown by the close histogram values for the left and right side. However, in Stella’s work, the left and right halves use fairly different colors, and this difference is shown especially in the margin between the means/medians of the halves for all channels.

    I think this method for analysis of the artwork is very promising for looking at color usage in these artworks. As far as the symmetry analysis goes, a further step could be to overlay the histograms of each half over one another and measure the common area. This would show more accurately how similar these histograms are, since they are not unimodal and the mean/median and standard deviation could potentially be similar for two very different histograms. 

    In my next blogpost, I will further discuss movements being consdier for the dataset as well as development in this Photoshop histogram analysis. 

     

    1. https://helpx.adobe.com/photoshop/using/measurement.html

    Categories: 
    • Undergraduate Work
    • VMW
  •  

    Site Specificity and Diversity Concerns within Itinera

     

    Since starting on Itinera, I've focused on Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, an 18th-Century aristocrat and poet. Specifically, I focus on her tour from London, through Eastern Europe, and into Istanbul with her hubsband, the English ambassador to Turkey. As her introduction reads:

    With her husband and ambassador Edward Wortley Montagu, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu set out to Turkey from Westminster, England by way of the Netherlands, Austria, and Serbia in August of 1716. At that time, Turkey was at war with the Venetian Republic, whereby Mr. Montagu was assigned to mediate on behalf of England an agreement with Austria, in the attempt to prevent Austria from engaging with the Spanish power in the Mediterranean. During this time, Lady Montagu entertained at court while studying Arabic and reading Arabic poetry. Toward the end of their tour, her husband inevitably failed at establishing a truce with Austria, his position was usurped by competition, and he failed to ascend to a political post of any import. Shortly after they separated. Lady Montagu turned her sights to Italy for almost the rest of her life, keeping up with her studies and correspondence with her stately and artistic friends abroad.

    Originally, I saw my take on this project to be one that diversifies both the travelling agent and their destinations. As it was, and, in light of recent electoral events, selecting and following a wealthy, white woman as she travels through Eastern Europe and Turkey was not going to suffice. Thus I've redirected my thinking on what it means to do diverse digital humanities and scholarship as far as I can see: though it would be wrong to ignore the readily available histories of white travellers during this time, I use Montagu as locus to investigate the structural biases built in to the historicization and visualization of these white, European travellers.

    In doing so, I hope to place at the forefront practical and conceptual best practices: practically, I aim for site specificity in order to visually differentiate the plot points on Itinera's map. When an agent, Montagu, visits Rome, for example, she lists details such as churches, squares, villas, often without naming the building or describing its function. So I focus my attention on teasing evidence foremost from the primary material, (i.e., Montagu's Turkish Embassy Letters) and historical data (i.e., histories of medieval bridges, churches, etc.) in order to best differentiate between sites. I ask myself questions such as:

    • Architecturally, which sites, details, buildings were extant while she was visiting and what buildings are known to have been demolished? This question might lead to understanding what peoples were displaced with the destruction of their communities and spaces both during the Austrio-Turskish War as well as more contemporary wars.
    • Socio-politically: what positions did her hosts hold? I can find much of this information in the endnotes, but sometimes this would still need further investigation, especially with the misspelling of a name or location. Certainly, this question can help in determining in what "castle on the hill" she stayed while in Budapest in January 1717, but even more importantly this specificity can shed light on her hosts' alliances and what hand they had in the erasure of other histories.
    • Also socio-politically: what historically significant meetings and events occurred while she was in that city that would indicate the location of a town center, assembly hall, or city center? This question could shed light on significant events in the history of the Habsburg Empire and could point to the location of other points of interest in uncovering other histories. For example, what effects, if any, did Montagu's epistolary criticism of the Imperial German Diet's assembly to other aristocrats (i.e., Alexander Pope) have on court life? Would the ramifications of her criticisms have any political or legistlative effect?

    Practically, if I'm able to piece together pieces of evidence that in some way answer questions such as these, I am able to narrow down a specific location with some degree of certainty. And if such details are not available, I do not take it upon myself to differentiate the location and will, as necessary, defer to others who specialize in these histories. I recognize at this point I am an interlocutor to interpret subjective data and place it into a flattened network of other data points on a map. In this case, if I name the site simply as "Rome instead" of "the north wall of the Colosseum," I leave the reponsibility of further specification to a future historian that may perhaps work with a new visualization and evidence.

    This attention to site specificity, of course, serves a worthwhile conceptual function as well. Although I am still working on this connection, attention to historio-politically mediated spaces in turn draws attention to the systems of power and the erasure of other histories. 

    Categories: 
    • Environment
    • Mobility/Exchange
    • Visual Knowledge
    • Itinera
    • Graduate Work
    • VMW

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