Visual Media Workshop

The VMW is
a lab/
creative zone/


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)



    Report from the Field: DH2016 in Krakow Day 3, 4

    The last two days of DH2016 were filled with an exciting array of panels and plenaries, and tough choices had to be made once again. And because I forgot to include it last time for those curious individuals, the full schedule can be found here:




    In the long paper session on Analyzing and visualizing networks (4), the panel began with a presentation by J. Porter and Vanessa Seals on Dramatic Networks and Kinship Structures in African-American Plays. The most significant interest in their research was to explore if a computational analysis of dramatic networks could be combined with a socio-anthropological approach to kinship structures in ways that might reveal important cultural and social patterns. Their data came from a corpus spanning roughly 150 years of American drama, and included 20 black authors and 22 white authors. Critically, they employed dynamic network analysis using the Eingenvector centrality method based on Hanneman’s (for a breakdown of this method see work in order to determine the “protagonist.” This method allowed the researchers to examine the network of Kinship based around the central character in the play. While this research is still ongoing, the preliminary results Porter and Seals presented were highly interesting. For example, the highest number of plays that displayed significant Kinship structures from both black and white authors clustered in the mid-20th century. Gender has a strong effect in kinship networks in plays from both black and white authors. In both black and white authors, men are less apt to be kin, but the difference between female and male characters is starker in dramas from black authors. The EVC average for male characters in black-authored plays was 8.7 compared to 6.7 for female characters from the same corpus. In white-authored plays, male characters averaged 5.9 to 5.7 for female characters. Notably, Porter and Seals acknowledged that their authors from both corpora were overwhelmingly male (11/20 for black authors, 17/22 for white authors), so deeper analysis is needed to examine the correspondence between gender/race of author to kinship structures of gender/race in their corpus. It should be noted that this paper was nominated for the Fortier Prize (awarded to outstanding newcomers), but it was ultimately not selected.


    I wanted to especially focus on this project because it was given by two young scholars and employed a pretty solid collaborative method over an interesting topic. And in a “teachable moment,” (and maybe more so for myself) I want to outline two salient points:

    1.Visualizations are not the most important aspect of a presentation! Although they can help clarify subtle and big differences, a clear breakdown of your data, description of your method and tools, and explanation of your results are the most important aspects of a good DH presentation.

    2. When working in a team dynamic, especially with one humanist and one technical person, it’s critical to know your tools as well as your humanities questions. You should strive to be pretty fluent in both realms. Because ultimately that will affect how you approach your data. These two points foreshadowed the following panels


    In the Panel “Creating Feminist Infrastructure in the Digital Humanities,” a lengthy discussion of developing infrastructure in DH resulted in fruitful exchange of ideas amongst panelists and audience members. Most particularly, the panelists emphasized the urgent need to talk about technical training and humanities simultaneously, especially for thinking about building infrastructures that are accountable and responsible to the range of disparate people participating in DH now. While our modes come from the humanities, the technical aspects are taught in IT and library sciences. There is a greater need to include an infrastructure that incorporates technical training in the humanities, and humanities theory in technical training. But ideologically in DH infrastructure, as Deb Verhoeven mused, we need a method of coexistence that is equitable and generous, but also one that recognizes that ideology and infrastructure also changes us. And how can a Feminist infrastructure allow us to examine the “how” of how systems work, while simultaneously creating new ways of thinking beyond the limits of that system?


    In the Plenary for the Busa Award, recipient Helen Agüera outlined the role that the National Endowment for the Arts was an early supporter of many Digital Humanities projects, and in particular the Text Encoding Initiative. She further outlined that as digital projects have developed, the institution itself as updated and evolved. This meant the NEA not only updated their digital infrastructure. They have also increasingly funded DH projects that provide open access or research under represented subjects and themes. As some of our colleagues in HAA and in the DH community at Pitt have experienced firsthand, the NEH is a valuable resource for scholars.



    Images and Art 1 and 2! 

    This art historian was positively giddy at the final two sessions on Friday. Since the panels were related I would like to highlight a few papers from both sessions.

    In “Seeing Andalucia's Late Gothic heritage through GIS and Graphs” Patricia Ferreira Lopes from the University of Seville presented the collaborative project between herself and Antonio Jimenez Mavillard and Juan Luis Suarez from the University of Western Ontario. The aim of the research was to develop new perspectives on historical cultural production by applying computational methods of the Late Gothic architecture of Andalusia. As she rightly pointed out, Material production and transportation, the fluctuation of agents and transfer of knowledge gave rise to a truly transnational architectural heritage. Lopes and her collaborators thus applied two different methods to examining their data: a spatial approach that uses GIS and a database of entities and styles developed in conjunction with the cultureplex lab at Western Ontario. These two methods allow the researchers to map the geological and topological architectural site, while at the same time creating a relational network of professionals, builders, and planners working on these sites.


    While the work is already fascinating enough, Lopes and the other researchers hope to create an even more open database for scholars to input their own research on entities connected to this period. More information can be found at Lopes’ website (in Spanish)


    For their long-paper “Corpus Analyses of Multimodal Narrative: The Example of Graphic Novels,” Alexander Dunst (University of Paderborn) and Jochen Laubrock (University of Potsdam) presented their use of a Graphic Narrative Mark Up Language (GNML) to preform a multi-modal analysis of western graphic novels. The research group was particularly interested in the One of the most interesting aspects was using eye-tracking software to test their ML tool against actual reception of images and text. This meant the researchers integrated humanist inquiry, digital computations, and cognitive methods to examine a popular, but little researched medium. The project is rich and dense, and I highly suggest checking out the project blog.

    They were also helpful enough to upload the slides from the presentation:


    The second to last long paper presentation of the conference was well worth the wait. “Performance, the document, and the digital: the case of Lynn Hershman Leeson’s ‘Robertas’” from Gabriella Giannachi at the University of Exeter was a fantastic explication on the role DH can and should play in the future of Art History. I have to admit this paper seemed more at home at CAA, but the research question Giannachi raised was very much affected by methodologies taken from DH. For our interests as Art Historians, how can DH give us different perspectives on the relationships among Performance, Documentation, and Archives, particularly in our current moment, where the role of the Digital (environment) is increasingly becoming more constitutive of the work of ‘art’?


    Using the case of Lynn Hershman Leeson’s  “Robertas” Giannachi outlined the various, convoluted “real” and “digital” manifestations of Leeson’s “Roberta.” The first manifestation of Roberta was an identity assumed by Leeson from 1972-1978 as The Roberta Breitmore Series. This person took out a credit card, had a real address, looked for roommates for her New York flat, contemplated suicide, and finally, was “cast out” of Leeson’s body in an Exorcism ritual. For a period of time, the only existence of Roberta was constituted by the ephemera contained in archival boxes in Leeson’s home. But the Roberta identity returned in Leeson’s work as technological advances allowed for more diffuse manifestations and interactions. In cyberRoberta (1995-8), Roberta became a telerobotic doll, whose eyes were replaced with webcams that uploaded images of visitors to a site. The users of the site could view the images taken by cyberRoberta’s cameras, as well as control the movement of the camera. Most recently, Roberta appeared as the central character in the work Life-squared (2007). In this work, Roberta exists in a virtual world of San Francisco’s famous Dante Hotel in 1972.  Furthermore, the physical construction of Roberta in this work, as Giannachi told me later, was built on the film portrayal of a “Roberta” citation character played by Tilda Swinton in Teknolust (2003).


    Moving beyond a traditional differentiation between “original” performance and document (and it’s attestation/confirmation within an archive) raised in this crossing over, interpenetration, and re-mixing of the “Roberta” identity is one that cannot be ignored in Contemporary Art Historical discourse. Digital technology has affected the status of resurrecting the identity of Roberta, but also leads to further questions of how and what Art Historians should document and archive. Giannachi argued that we should be already be developing a “Best Practices” framework, possibly along the lines of Suzanne Briet’s Inter-Documentary model (a nice discussion can be found here: This framework takes seriously that a “work” in the mode of Leeson’s “Roberta,” which means incorporating an “original” performance (the Instruction), as well as the secondary documentation (Exploration), the archive (Diffusion), and the collective reception and distribution of the Documentology (Organization). This last point is particularly important now that we are seeing museums themselves participate in the continual unfolding of a work (and here Giannachi brought in a lovely use of Deleuze). Since the museum is a site of distribution, in both a physical/phenomenological experience and in the digital environment, institutions need to be aware of their own ways of documenting and preserving their role in this unfolding process. As someone who has a great interest in these issues, Giannachi’s paper was probably one of the most exciting presentations of the conference!


    So to recap an exciting 4 days: Digital Humanities is an ever evolving, inter-disciplinary field, which brings together different scholars from humanities and digital/computer worlds. In a span of any given hour, I felt completely at home and completely out of my depth. I learned about many different methods, techniques, and approaches to exploring humanities disciplines using computational and digital methods. It seemed like everyone has their niche, but also (more often than not) they are open to exploring new and different ways of utilizing developing technology and approaches. Maybe I’m just still a novice, bright eyed and bushy tailed. But through my discussions inside and outside the panels and sessions, I found people who were interested in talking with me about all sorts of things. I cannot even begin to get into how important this conference was for stimulating new professional and scholarly relationships.


    But I will say that Montreal 2017 is going to be very, very exciting. Time to start brushing up on my French! (No really, the conference is going to be bi-lingual, and that’s actually fantastic.) I hope to see a good University of Pittsburgh contingent there, because I am definitely coming back for more!

    • Graduate Work
    • VMW

    Sustaining Medart: Interviews Inside and Outside the VMW

    While interviewing attendees of the International Congress on Medieval Studies for the Sustaining MedArt project, and after beginning the transcription of these interviews in the Visual Media Workshop, it is interesting to reflect on how both processes are different. 

    During the interview process, if you’re anything like me, you gauge the people around you before walking up and asking to interview them. The good thing about asking random people at a conference if you can interview them is that you will usually only receive one of two answers; yes, or no—so it’s a low-risk situation. Luckily for me, most of the people I approached did agree to an interview, most after a preliminary conversation about where each of us was from and what kind of work we were doing. Before each interview began, it was important to ask if the person was alright with being recorded, and most individuals agreed. During the interview it was important to simultaneously keep on track with the order of question you were asking, stay engaged with the person answering the question, and also be aware of the fact that the iPad was recording the entire encounter. During such a multi-tasked process it is sometimes difficult to remember everything a person said in order to pick out certain themes, unless that theme is recurring in almost every single interview. In the case of the interviews that I carried out, one major recurring theme that was easy to remember because of its frequency was that people said they often go to Google first when searching for images of medieval art and architecture.  

    Inside the lab, we listen to each interview as best as we possibly can in order to transcribe them. Although most are fairly easy to hear, some have proved extremely difficult to hear and so take longer to transcribe. The transcription process is much different from the interview process. You are hearing the interview out of context, you cannot see the person/s speaking, and non-verbal communication is lost. You are also not engaged with the conversation in the same way as if you were present during the moments of the interview. These, I think, are important to consider in any project that involves doing on-site interviews.

    What is most helpful about transcribing these interviews is that we now have data that we can work with, data that we can have handy in a spreadsheet, and data that we can code and extract themes from using grounded theory. Some interesting themes that have already been extracted are trust in the authority and reliability of the MedArt website, that the site is relatively simple and easy to use, especially for students, although many would like the site to have a search bar or other option to ease navigation. Some other themes include expressing guilt or concern over using Google due to frequent lack of attribution and good quality images, and a belief that the site should be promoted via academic entities in order to secure preservation funds. 

    For now, transcribing the interviews and extracting themes continues! 

    • Sustaining MedArt
    • Graduate Work
    • VMW

    Report from the field: DH2016 in Krakow Day 1, 2

    The annual Digital Humanities conference is happening in Kraków, Poland this year. It is my first DH conference (thanks Alison for gently pushing me into the water!). It is also largest conference to date, with over 900 registered attendees from all over the world descending on an area roughly the size of Pittsburgh's Oakland neighborhood. (Sorry Oakland, Kraków edges you out just slightly in history and beauty! I will reserve judgment on the Pierogi situation for now.) Like many of the issues that circulate in the HAA department, this year’s theme is Past/Future. The opening talk by Agnieszka Zalewska, particle physicist at CERN, maybe neglected to address the soft humanities aspect of the conference in favor of hard science, but this nerd was totally into learning about molecular physics, and not about Chaucer or obscure dead languages for a moment. Indeed, although her talk focused on the ways in which CERN can *maybe* provide a model for the Digital Humanities, the particular poetic of her message was that CERN emphasizes the relationship between mentors and mentees, in order to pass knowledge and skills in a particular field of study.


    The intersections of, contrasts between, or even contestations in the Past and the Future have naturally been explored in many of the panels. Since it is impossible to visit all 9 of the simultaneously running panels per session, I am trying to attend talks that broadly touch upon the issues related to our interests in HAA, as well as my own particular topics and passions (woo dynamic network analysis!). On the first full day of paper presentations, I attended panels discussing Network Analytics, recognizing and extracting visual patterns, and the second of a series of panels devoted to Diversity within the field of DH. The Network Analytics panel was a pretty straightforward, short paper presentation of a variety of projects that examine and implement methodologies of analyzing network relationships. For my own research, this panel exposed a number of ways in which I could continue to look at actors and relationships within a network. A big point of contestation was whether the data required discreet static networks, and when, and how, a researcher should think about networks in a dynamic analysis.


    Because I am an art historian, the panel on recognizing and extracting visual patterns, which specifically dealt with implementing computational methods on Mayan Hieroglyphs, was a nice zone to be in. Finally, Art(?)! Icons! Symbols! All the papers in this panel examined ways to decipher, analyze, translate, and make available the Mayan system of language to broader publics. The researchers mostly come from a larger consortium of the MAAYA project, and the most public facing (and code intensive) project can be found here (including the HOOSC [Histogram of Oriented Shape Context] code source):   

    Really fascinating stuff!


    The final panel I attended was on “Diversity” in DH. The scare quotes are intentional. As Padmini Murray Ray said in her presentation: the word “Diversity” is being used to erase bigger intersectionality problems within the field. Just because we as scholars recognize the problem does not mean we can just put the bandaid term “inclusivity” or “diversity” over the issue and call it a day. We need to be responsible for our own culpability in the continuation of systemic oppression. As she said: “I know I fail. The question is: How can I fail better?” How can what we do in the Digital Humanities allow us to help others (the underrepresented, POC, *queers) do the important work? Of course, I cannot help but think about the systemic oppression, violence, and social issues facing the United States right now, one of the major representative countries at the conference. Science is safe. Software is safe. Hardware is safe. Maybe the questions we should be asking of ourselves as scholars, academics, humanists, SHOULDN’T be safe. Maybe we should be breaking up that system of safety, while acknowledging it may also endanger our own sense of security. I will be attending more panels on this topic, because the conference is, at the very least, providing a space for these discussions during almost every session. But when is trying not enough?


    Sorry (not sorry) Chaucer, this isn’t your rodeo anymore.

    • Temporalities
    • Current Projects
    • Graduate Work
    • VMW

    VMW Spring 2016 Update!

    The Visual Media Workshop has continued to be a thriving hub for the department’s Graduate Students and Faculty Members. Lead by Dr. Alison Langmead and a crack team of interdisciplinary participants, the VMW (known colloquially in the department as “The Lab”) has initiated several new and exciting ventures in the Digital Humanities over the past year. Alongside our ongoing lab-centered projects (Decomposing Bodies, Itinera, Sustaining MedArt), the VMW-led workshops and discussion groups have been a near weekly occurrence. Alison and Kate Joranson, Head of the Frick Fine Arts Library, offered a VMW toolshop series to assist graduate students with thinking through their academic and research projects in the context of online digital platforms. In a two-part conversation over Fall 2015 and Spring 2016, the Computational Visual Aesthetics group brought interdisciplinary faculty and students into dialog on the topic “10 Things That Computer Scientists Need to Know about Art Historians and That Art Historians Neet to Know about Computer Scientists before Beginning a Productive Collaboration.” While these conversations were only a few of the many highlights this year (see below for more updates), the VMW is striding forward towards more cross-disciplinary dialogues between the humanities and the digital world.


    Visiting Scholars in the Digital Humanities

    This spring, the VMW and the Digital Medial Lab in the Department of History hosted Matthew Lincoln as the inaugural Visiting Digital Graduate Scholar speaker. Lincoln’s public lecture “Continuity/Discontinuity: Network Dynamics in the Golden Age of Dutch Printmaking” discussed the importance of formal network concepts to understanding artistic print production of the Netherlands in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Lincoln demonstrated how multiple analytical perspectives, including both descriptive analysis, as well as some simple simulation modeling, suggest new ways of thinking about both continuity and discontinuity in our histories of printmaking. This was followed by an open workshop that examined Lincoln’s pipeline from downloading public data to finished visualization, with particular attention to the process and tools useful for cross-disciplinary projects. 


    Graduate and Undergraduate Activities

    The Digital Graduate Scholars Working Group began to meet in Spring 2016. This is a student-led interdisciplinary working group in which digital pedagogy and research methods are explored.

    First Experience Research students Maureen Borden and Christopher Babu spent Spring 2016 working on Decomposing Bodies (see below). After reading about the Bertillon system and its implementation in Ohio, they spent the early weeks of the semester transcribing information from the Bertillon cards into Omeka. Through the transcription process, each student became familiar with the data, and was able to develop an original research question based on their observations. The resulting research projects were presented at the Celebration of Research in Alumni Hall on April 22.


    Decomposing Bodies

    In November 2015, Dr. Langmead traveled for a final time to Columbus, Ohio with graduate students Aisling Quigley and Chelsea Gunn to photograph Bertillon cards at the Ohio History Connection. One of the major activities associated withDecomposing Bodies (DB) has been the continued transcription of Bertillon cards in the project’s Omeka website. As of the end of Spring 2016, just over 2,500 cards have been transcribed. Behind the scenes, extracting the dataset from Omeka and making it accessible in a more flexible spreadsheet format has been another significant task in the VMW. This process is intended to increase eventual access to the DB dataset for researchers, including First Experience Research students and students and faculty involved in the upcoming “Data (after)Lives exhibition. A public-facing DB website is currently in development, and can be found at This website will be a resource available beyond Pitt’s campus, and will provide information about Bertillonage in general, and the work of the DB team specifically. While images and transcribed data will not be publicly hosted on the site, information about how interested parties can contact the VMW to gain access will be.



    Itinera, another of the lab-centered projects, is entering its third year of existence and continues to be a point of interdisciplinary interest. As project manager for the past year, Meredith North recorded the travels of many, many more European intellectuals. This has primarily centered around the German author and playwright Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and his circle of acquaintances during his travel in Italy. Undoubtedly, Goethe’s The Italian Journey: 1786-1788 is an important work of non-fiction, but as a travelogue it is also an ideal work for Itinera data. Even though Goethe’s Italian journey represented only a fraction of his life, travels, and acquaintances, this document has provided a significant source of information for the cultural life and social relationships of the late-18th century. Agents like Angelica Kauffmann, Wilhelm Tischbein, and Jacob Philipp Hackert have emerged as important artists during this time, and their network relationships have assisted greatly in expanding Itinera’s existing connections. With the addition of some clear interface navigation instructions, Itinera has also become a little more user friendly.


    Sustaining MedArt

    Dr. Langmead and Aisling Quigley received an NEH Research and Development Grant in December 2015 to conduct further research on the nascent project, “Sustaining MedArt.” This project, initially presented as a poster, gained traction at iConference 2015, and has developed into a long-term study. Integral to their investigation of Images of Medieval Art and Architecture (, a two-decade-old “time capsule” digital humanities project, is usability testing. This term they have focused on creating a Qualtrics survey in anticipation of a forthcoming trip to the International Congress of Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo, Michigan. There, they will survey conference attendees on a volunteer basis in the hopes of learning more about how individuals with varying degrees of experience may engage with this unique website. 

    • Current Projects
    • Itinera
    • Undergraduate Work
    • Graduate Work
    • Faculty Work
    • Spaces
    • VMW

    Digital Graduate Scholars Group

    It has been a couple of years in the making, but we've finally arrived…. the Digital Graduate Scholars Group!! As a cohort of PhD students, we are primarily concerned with providing a safe and non-judgmental space to discuss our experiences with and/or questions about digital methodologies. Although we come from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines (Art History, Composition and Rhetoric, Information Science, and beyond), we share the essential desire to share and interrogate digital methodologies and the discourse surrounding them.

    Activities: We propose to critique, or “workshop,” our own digital projects, analyze projects published by others, review relevant blog postings and other “light” readings of interest, and to provide a forum for sharing events (both in person, and through our collaborative blog). We also invite each other and scholars from outside our group to lead workshops or provide mini tutorials about different tools of interest. Our primary concern is that the work we do actually relate to the interest of group members and reflect and respond to the needs of our community.

    Does this sound like something that you, as a PhD student, would like to learn more about? If so, either email me at or Chelsea Gunn at

    Our next meeting is this Friday, March 25th at 10 am in the Visual Media Workshop at Frick Fine Arts. 

    • Graduate Work
    • VMW


    Website Toolshop Resources

    Here are some of the terms and resources we covered today in today's VMW Toolshop: Making Your Own Website. 

    Domain Names

    A domain name is an identification string that represents an IP resource, such as a website. These names are formed according to the rules of the Domain Name Systems (DNS). Domain names are often compared to phone numbers, but they are also kind of like personalized license plates. Domain names can generally be purchased from a variety of registrars and hosting services. This does not include the hosting required to mount a website. 


    Name Servers & Domain Name Systems (DNS)

    The name server translates the more human-readable domain name ( into the more computer readable IP address (http://123.456.789.1234). The server component of a DNS is one example of a name server. It provides a distributed naming system for computers, networks, and Internet resources. 


    File Transfer Protocol (FTP)

    FTP is a standard network protocol that transfers files from a computer to server or network. If creating your own site files, you can use free FTP services like Filezilla or Cyberduck to transfer files from your computer to your host. 



    Hosting is a service that provides the storage space for your website files. Hosting services provide space on their servers for monthly or annual fees beyond the cost of the domain name registration. The host assigns the DNS address for your site files to your registered domain name. (We talked about Reclaim Hosting.)


    Website Files

    This is the content that populates the hosted space. These will often be MySQL or PHP files that make up the back end of the website's structure. Many hosts have easy one-click install options for popular content management systems. (We talked about Wordpress, Omeka, Drupal, Scalar.)


    Basic Steps Involved

    Research available hosts/compare rates 

    Research software - see what other comparable websites are using by looking at the footer or View Source

    Purchase domain name

    Purchase hosting plan

    Install content management system 

    And consider coming to our next toolshop Friday, February 12 at 10:00am to learn about Curating Your Online Presence: Beyond the Website to further discuss content and social media. 

    • VMW
  • Digital Tools

    Image Source:


    Digital Tools of Interest: Winter 2015-2016

    Below please find a curated list of the digital tools I am currently recommending to people when they come to me with particular humanities-based tasks that they'd like to accomplish.

    Text Processing

    Data Visualization

    Blank Slates

    Time and Place

    Data FitnessTM (Matt Burton)

    Time-Based Media


    Text Annotation

    App Creation

    HTML Creation

    Network Analysis

    Another nice, not ovewhelming, list is found here from the Carolina Digital Humanities Initiative:

    • Agency
    • Faculty Work
    • VMW
  • ADHC

    The Alabama Digital Humanities Center,, October 2015 (Photo: Alison Langmead)


    Resources for the Network Analysis Workshop: Alabama Digital Humanities Center, October 28th, 2015

    For a general introduction to network analysis, start with Scott Weingart's work here: 

    Second, see Elisa Beshero-Bondar on her own applications of this material, and secondly a glossary of hers:

    If you'd like a bit more background on XML, might I suggest yet a third of my colleagues (!), David Birnbaum:

    On the visualization of networks, you can consult apost by Elijah Meeks to start (he jumps right in, though):

    Tools for Playtime:

    A Few Topics to Consider (i.e. if you can describewhat these are by the end of the workshop, I'll have gotten somewhere!):

    1. Degree
    2. "The Centralities"
    3. Co-Citation Networks
    4. How GIS and Network Analysis require somewhat similar mindsets...

    And, for reference, here are a few projects that are currently discussing issues surrounding network ontologies in the Early Modern World:

    • Visual Knowledge
    • Faculty Work
    • VMW

    VMW Toolshop: Exporting Metadata

    During the Visual Media Workshop’s tool shop on organizing images for research and teaching, some questions arose regarding the process of exporting metadata from content management systems, specifically Adobe Bridge and Picasa, to spreadsheets. Exporting this information allows you not only to back up image metadata in an easily-readable format, it also allows you to move the metadata between systems both now and in the future. We have compiled a few simple tools for extracting metadata from these programs, and invite students to visit the VMW on Friday, October 2 between 10am and noon to learn more (even if you were not able to attend our initial session on image organization). We'll go through some of the specifics of Bridge and Picasa...and are very interested to hear what successes and not-successes you all have had with these systems. And, as always, there'll be carbs and coffee.

    For those interested but unable to attend, or those who would like to test these out prior to our session in order to come equipped with questions, links and brief introductions to of each of these tools are included below.


    ExifTool is an open-source command-line application for reading, writing, and editing image, audio, and video metadata. This can be used to export metadata from Bridge or Picasa, and is also used to manage metadata within Flickr.

    Extract Metadata Bridge Script

    To access this Javascript plugin, select Bridge Tools from the left-hand menu, then select Extract Metadata from the submenu. The script file and installation instructions can be found there. (This won’t work for versions earlier than CS3.)

    VRA Panel Export

    This is another Javascript plugin, but designed to import and export VRA Core metadata. Metadata can be exported to a tab-delimited file, which you can then open in any spreadsheet program. Script files and installation instructions for both Mac and PC platforms are included on the site.


    It’s worth noting that over time, Javascript plugins may cease to be supported, or may be incompatible with future versions of Bridge or Picasa. For this reason, although the integration of the plugins may be more immediately user-friendly, it is worth becoming acquainted with the functionality of ExifTool as well.


    • VMW

    Contemporaneity submission deadline extended!

    Hello all!

    Contemporaneity co-editors in chief invite you to submit to the department's journal Contemporaneity. The new deadline is September 30th, 2015. We hope that this constellation-based edition sparks conversation in the department and beyond. Please share with your colleagues.



    In the 2013 documentary The Missing Picture Cambodian filmmaker Rithy Panh revisits his own painful memories and experiences of the Khmer Rouge genocide by creating miniature dioramas from a deeply personalized account of historical settings and personages. As Panh said in an interview, "these aren’t just figurines, they are something else, they have a soul.” Panh’s traumatic experiences relay not only a very personalized account of the grainy historical record, they give a particular agency to artistic objects.

    In its 5th edition, Contemporaneity will focus on the concept of agency in visual culture. As a method, agency examines the dynamics of visual culture and human relations, questioning the work, its makers, its audience. The concept of agency has enjoyed increasing currency within multiple disciplines—the humanities and social sciences among them—opening up new avenues for understanding social and aesthetic interactions, including anthropologist Alfred Gell’s conception of the art object as embedded in a system of action, Michael Baxandall’s examination of artistic intent, and the extension of relational and contextual artistic practices by Claire Bishop. Contemporaneity is seeking submissions that cover a wide range of issues, topics, periods, and disciplines with an emphasis on the complexity of human and non-human agents interacting in the visual world. These topics may include, but are not limited to:

    • Historiographical/theoretical models of agency
    • Virtual agency, avatars, self-fashioning, branding
    • Indigeneity, mestizaje, hybridity, trans-/cross-culturation
    • Gendered, queer, ethnic, classed, race/racialized identities
    • Embodiment, cult objects, iconoclasm
    • Curation, patronage, collecting
    • Artist intention, artist workshops and collaboration
    • War, counter-histories/memories, politics of testimonial and memorial practices
    • Political agency, activism, riots
    • The disappeared, the dead, the missing, the absent


    We are further seeking papers for a special subsection that address, problematize, or work through the conceptual issues surrounding “Reenactment” as a mode of artistic production. What may be lost, what may be gained, when one reenacts? Who is allowed to reenact, when, where and to what purpose? How does one begin to assess the innovative work of artists, like Panh, who seem motivated by alternative historiographical values such as resurrection, embodiment, and vivification? This includes but is not limited to the following issues:

    • Trans-multi-inter media considerations of reenactment in visual art, film, or theatre and performance
    • Formal strategies of recursive processes
    • The body as a means of generating and preserving history
    • Paradigms of ritual, re-performance, and altered states
    • Revisiting traumatic acts of institutionalized violence
    • Techniques of historical staging in curation and exhibition studies

    The deadline for submissions is September 30, 2015. Manuscripts (6,000 word maximum) should include an abstract, 3-5 keywords, and adhere to the Chicago Manual of Style. To make a submission, visit, click Register and create an Author profile to get started. Proposals for book and exhibition reviews, interviews, or scholarly discussions will also be considered, and we recognize that these submissions may take many forms. Proposals can be uploaded online at

    Contemporaneity is a peer-reviewed online journal organized by the History of Art and Architecture Department at the University of Pittsburgh. Visit and



    • Research Groups
    • Agency
    • Temporalities
    • Current Projects
    • Graduate Work
    • VMW