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

  • VMW in Summer 2015

    The Visual Media Workshop in Summer 2015...waiting for Fall Term to begin!

     

    To My (Once and Future) Undergraduate Research Assistants

    Please read this article, "An Undergraduate's Love Letter to Digital Humanities Research," by Tiffany Chan...and let me know your feedback (either below in the comments if you have worked here before...or to adl40@pitt.edu for everyone). For those interested in working and learning here in the Visual Media Workshop (VMW) in the future, this essay, written by an undergradate about her experiences in the digital humanities, provides a taste of the potential opportunities in the field. We strive here in the VMW to create a community where all ideas are heard, and where we sincerely want each other to succeed.

    Categories: 
    • Agency
    • Identity
    • Visual Knowledge
    • Undergraduate Work
    • VMW
  •  

    Syllabus for the PhD Seminar, "The Digital and the Humanities," Fall Term 2015

    Please find a link here and below for the (draft) syllabus for this Fall Term's PhD seminar, "LIS 3600: The Digital and the Humanities," It's being held in the iSchool from 9-11:50 on Thursdays. We are lucky to be having seven local luminaries visiting the seminar this term, so the class will not only provide a graduate-level introduction to the digital humanities (and allied social sciences), it will provide an introduction to the DH community in Pittsburgh.

    If you're interested in taking the course, and you a grad student at Pitt or CMU, do shoot me an email letting me know (adl40@pitt.edu)!

    Categories: 
    • Visual Knowledge
    • Faculty Work
    • VMW
  •  

    Sustaining MedArt iConference 2015 Poster

    This is the poster that Alison Langmead and I presented at iConference 2015! The abstract is also available at the IDEALS@Illinois website.

    Categories: 
    • Visual Knowledge
    • Graduate Work
    • Faculty Work
    • VMW
  • New York Public Library, Billy Rose Theatre Collection photograph file / Productions / Don Quijote (cinema 1915)

    New York Public Library, Billy Rose Theatre Collection photograph file / Productions / Don Quijote (cinema 1915), http://digitalgallery.nypl.org/nypldigital/id?TH-09130

     

    Brief Introduction(s) to the Digital Humanities

    A number of the members of the DH community at Pitt have put together the following list of texts that do a good job of introducing the overall state of the Digital Humanities in North America at the current moment. It begins with a section called, "Articles and Shorter Pieces," which has been kept intentionally brief so as to give you a good taste of the field without being overwhelming. Should you end up with a desire to read more, the next section entitled, "Larger Works," should satisfy many a curiosity. Finally, this post ends with a "Projects" section which includes just a few projects, some created here, others elsewhere, that have captured the attention of this community.

    Articles and Shorter Pieces

    David M. Berry, “The Computational Turn: Thinking about the Digital Humanities,” Culture Machine 12, 1-22. http://culturemachine.net/index.php/cm/article/view/440/470

    • Berry is a theorist and a maker, but his texts often take the long view, which makes him an apt choice here.

    Anne Burdick, et al, “A Short Guide to the Digital_Humanities,” in Digital_Humanities, 121-135. Entire book can be found here: https://mitpress.mit.edu/sites/default/files/9780262018470_Open_Access_Edition.pdf

    • Provocative and useful overview of DH from creation to assessment.

    Matt Kirschenbaum, "What is Digital Humanities and What's it Doing in English Departments?" https://mkirschenbaum.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/kirschenbaum_ade150.pdf

    • A history about the formation of DH as a "proper" field than it is about English, and it covers how DH became a thing of note at the MLA conference.

    Tara McPherson, "Introduction: Media Studies and the Digital Humanities,” Cinema Journal 48, 119–23. JStor link: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20484452

    • Another fine introduction from a slightly different point-of-view.

    Christof Schöch, “Big? Smart? Clean? Messy? Data in the Humanities,” Journal of Digital Humanitieshttp://journalofdigitalhumanities.org/2-3/big-smart-clean-messy-data-in-the-humanities/

    • Those wanting to know something about "data" in the humanities can start here. Others may have a more provocative approach, but this one is pretty even keel.

    Larger Works 

    Anne Burdick, et al, Digital_Humanities, https://mitpress.mit.edu/sites/default/files/9780262018470_Open_Access_Edition.pdf

    Johanna Drucker, DH101, http://dh101.humanities.ucla.edu/ 

    Matthew Gold, ed., Debates in the Digital Humanities, http://dhdebates.gc.cuny.edu/

    Projects

    The Hermeneutics of Shipping Logs
    http://sappingattention.blogspot.com/2012/11/reading-digital-sources-case-study-in.html
    http://sappingattention.blogspot.com/2014/03/shipping-maps-and-how-states-see.html
    Ben Schmidt, Northeastern University, NULab

    Itinera
    https://itinera.pitt.edu/
    Alison Langmead and Drew Armstrong, University of Pittsburgh

    Music21: A Toolkit for Computer-Aided Musicology
    http://web.mit.edu/music21/
    Mark Cuthbert, MIT

    NYPL Building Inspector
    http://buildinginspector.nypl.org/
    NYPL Labs in collaboration with the Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division at the NYPL

    Quantifying Kissinger
    http://blog.quantifyingkissinger.com
    Micki Kaufman, CUNY Graduate Center

    Categories: 
    • Identity
    • Faculty Work
    • VMW
  •  

    Disentangling DB

    Decomposing Bodies is a complex project comprised of complex data. In the past two years, we’ve digitized approximately 3,500 Bertillon identification cards and transcribed about 43,200 discrete data points (1,800 cards with 24 data points per card).

    Preliminary analysis of a small sample of the data (cards #412-948 from the Ohio State Reformatory) already supports some of our nascent theories. For example, our initial encounters with the cards led us to believe that prisoners were not measured in numerical order, although the cards are organized numerically. For example, Prisoner #412, the earliest prisoner documented in the cards at the OHS Archives, was measured on January 18, 1902. The first prisoner with recorded Bertillon measurements is actually prisoner #738 (measured on September 14, 1901). Why would this be the case? Were the Bertillon Officers measuring the long-term inmates inconsistently, on a case-by-case basis, while the incoming prisoners were measured in a more predictable manner?

    Card types are also mysterious. It seems that Card Type 1 (named according to the taxonomy we created) was used more in the early years, but Type 2 and 3 also appear in these initial folders. This is confusing because Type 1 cards were primarily used in the 1890s, yet these measurements were taken in the 1900s. Of the first 80 cards available and digitizable, we found that 53.75% are Card Type 2, 38.75% are Type 1, and only 7.5% are Type 3.

    Please refer to the drawing of the “average inmate” attached to this post to see some average measurements from this cohort. As you can see, the average height is around 5 ft 6 inches or 169.4 cm. Although this seems somewhat short compared to today’s averages, it actually adhered to height averages reported in men born in the 1880s (which was around 169.5 cm). See Max Roser’s webpage: http://ourworldindata.org/data/food-agriculture/human-height/.

    Anyway, these are just some of the emerging questions I've been contending with over the past term. I will be reporting more as we continue to collect data and I attempt to gather my thoughts.

    Categories: 
    • Decomposing Bodies
    • Graduate Work
    • VMW
  •  

    Lamenting Lord Elgin

    Today is my last day working on the Itinera database until my presentation tomorrow.  While gearing up for the end of the semester, let's take a moment to look back at the unfortunate life of Thomas Bruce.

    Thomas Bruce suffered from asthma throughout his life, so under his doctor's orders, he doused his face with mercury for his frequent lung complaints.  Medical treatment in the 1700s certainly is not what it is today. The mercury caused abrasions on his nose, which prompted doctors to cut off the tip of it, disfiguring Bruce's face.

    In August 1803, Bruce was traveling with his wife, Mary Nisbet, and got detained by the French in Bareges, because he was a British ambassador with a travel schedule that coincided with the Napoleonic Wars.  From there, he was eventually sent to prison at Lourdes.  While he was incarcerated, Nisbet was allowed to leave France, accompanied by a man named Robert Fergusson.  The two were secretly engaged in an affair, and Fergusson would go on trial in May of 1808 for adultry.

    In 1816, facing bankruptcy, Bruce sold his prized marbles to the British Museum.  He said that the marbles were worth about £75,000 (roughly $111,360), but the museum bought them for £35,000 (about $51,950).  Needless to say, he was not happy about the sale.

    Between his cheating wife, partial nose and massive debt, Bruce was not a happy person.  Because he bought the marbles and messed with Greek culture, people still don't like him after his death.  And they certainly don't pity him.  He will always be remembered as the man who brought antique culture to Britian, but at the expense of ancient Greek identity.

     

    The picture, of Thomas Bruce with his full nose, is courtesy of http://www.athensguide.com/elginmarbles/photos/elgin.JPG

    For more information, check out these books:

    Nagel, Susan. Mistress of the Elgin Marbles: A Biography of Mary Nisbet, Countess of Elgin. New York: William Morrow, 2004. Print.

    Vrettos, Theodore. The Elgin Affair: The Abduction of Antiquity's Greatest Treasures and the Passions It Aroused. New York: Arcade Pub., 1997. Print.

    Categories: 
    • Identity
    • Mobility/Exchange
    • Visual Knowledge
    • Current Projects
    • Itinera
    • Undergraduate Work
    • VMW
  •  

    Itinera Got An Upgrade

    We reworked Itinera because it was glitching on some tour stops for agents.  Now that it's been updated, all the tour stops are functioning, and it looks a lot nicer.  This is great because coincidentally, my FE-R presentation is next week.

    Today, I finished up all the goals that we were trying to achieve with inputting the Parthenon Marbles into Itinera.  All the sculptures are linked to each other, the people are linked to each other and (hopefully) I inputted all the relevant data.  I've done a lot of mouse-clicking in the past couple months, and I'm happy that we've been able to complete so much for this project!

    Next week, I'll be able to go back into Itinera and fix anything that I missed.  I'm relieved that I finished most of the programming today, because I was a little nervous that I wouldn't be able to input all the Marbles in time.

    Photo courtesy of the new Itinera site: https://itinera.pitt.edu

    Categories: 
    • Mobility/Exchange
    • Visual Knowledge
    • Current Projects
    • Itinera
    • Undergraduate Work
    • VMW
  •  

    Why the Parthenon Marbles are Controversial

    Last week, I got into the story surrounding Thomas Bruce and the Parthenon Marbles.  Now, let me tell you about the controversial past (and present) of these artifacts.

    As I mentioned, Bruce had to get a firman from the Ottoman authorities in order for his workers, including Giovanni Battista Lusieri and William Richard Hamilton, to continue sketching the Acropolis in Athens.  He eventually got this letter of permission in early 1801, and the document was deemed official by July 1.  However, due to transnational tensions that culminated into the Napoleonic Wars (1803 - 1815), government paperwork and rules at the turn of the century were a little murky.  This led to a disagreement on the true owners of the Parthenon Marbles.  People who want the Marbles to stay in London say that Bruce obtained the firman with the full knowledge and permission of the Ottoman Empire, which controlled Greece at the time, so his actions were completely legal.  But people who want the Marbles returned to Greece say that the Marbles should be replaced to their homeland, stating that Bruce illegally stole the Marbles during Greece's Turkish occupation.

    Bruce removed the Marbles between 1800 -1811, but then sold them to the British Museum in 1816 because he was facing debt.  Controversy about the Marbles was reintroduced in 1925 when a newspaper argued that Greece should be able to reclaim the Marbles.  Today, why do people care about the movement of the Marbles if it happened almost 200 years ago?  In October 2014, the London-based lawyer/activist/author Amal Clooney said that Greece had "just cause" for the return of the Parthenon Marbles.  So even today, the plot thickens.

    Why does this even matter?  Well, the controversy about the Parthenon Marbles is important for a couple of reasons.  Pro-London supporters say that the Marbles are "an important representation of ancient Athenian civilization in the context of world history" and they give "maximum public benefit" to the people of England, so it is more important that they should stay in London than go back to Athens.  To these supporters, the Marbles represent a moment in antiquity and continue to emphasize the ancient Athenian culture to the modern public.  Pro-Athens supporters say that the Marbles are an important symbol of the whole nation's heritage - in the present, not just in antiquity - and they should be returned for the sake of national pride.

    The significance of the Parthenon Marbles is completely defined by society, meaning that people assign importance to these ancient sculptures.  These artifacts are symbolic of an all-but-lost ancient culture, and if Greece ever gets the Marbles back, the nation will have to reevaluate their cultural significance in a modern context.

    In late March, Greece requested the return of the Parthenon Marbles for the second time.  The British Museum turned down the request, and it is unlikely that the Marbles will be returning to Athenian soil anytime soon.

    Check out these sources if you're interested in learning more about the controversy about the Parthenon Marbles:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/11274713/Why-are-the-Elgin-marble...

    http://greece.greekreporter.com/2015/03/27/double-rejection-for-partheno...

     

    Photo courtesy of http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/oct/14/amal-alamuddin-advis...

    Categories: 
    • Temporalities
    • Identity
    • Mobility/Exchange
    • Visual Knowledge
    • Current Projects
    • Itinera
    • Undergraduate Work
    • VMW
  •  

    Inputting into Itinera

    As I mentioned in a previous post, my next step in Itinera is to input my Elgin Marbles-related information into the database.  So far, I'm actually pretty efficient at this part.

    In Itinera, I'm submitting info for agents (people), tours (their lives), and tour stops (places they visited).  Right now, the main people whom I'm dealing with are Thomas Bruce (Lord Elgin), Mary Nisbet (his wife) and Giovanni Battista Lusieri (artist comissioned to draw the Marbles).  There are a couple more people involved, but those are some of the more central actors.  After I'm finished with the people and their lives, I'll be able to input information about the Marbles themselves.

    Everything in Itinera is connected - it is a digital web of art historical information.  Everything has to be precisely submitted step-by-step, and I frequently have to go back into the database to make sure that all the information is recorded correctly.  It's tedious and a little bit frustrating, but I think I'm getting the hang of it.

    However, I am a little concerned about the timing.  My FE-R presentation is in about four weeks, and I'm worried that we'll run into more problems as we try to submit the Marbles (which will be called 'objects' in Itinera).  I'm almost finished with inputting all the agents, tours and tour stops, so luckily, completing that won't take too much time out of next week.  Then I can spend the rest of the day entirely devoted to putting the Marbles in Itinera.  Jen and I have gone through my spreadsheet and identified about 20 sculptures or fragments of the Elgin Marbles that are ready to be put into the database.  Then it's just a matter of if Itinera will organize them correctly.

    At the same time, that still means that there are over 100 fragments in the British Museum alone that I won't get a chance to put in Itinera before the semester is over.  I know that this database is a work in progress and we will be adding info to it for quite some time, but I wish that I had more time in the Visual Media Lab to finish up this project before the semester ends at the end of April.

    Categories: 
    • Identity
    • Mobility/Exchange
    • Visual Knowledge
    • Current Projects
    • Itinera
    • Populations
    • Undergraduate Work
    • VMW
  •  

    Hey, Art Historians! Interested in learning more about copyright issues in your work??

    CAA has produced the pamphlet, "Code of Best Practices for Fair Use for the Visual Arts." It is clear, concise, and direct. Do read it!

    It's attached below, and it's also on the Internet here: http://www.collegeart.org/pdf/fair-use/best-practices-fair-use-visual-arts.pdf

    Categories: 
    • Agency
    • Temporalities
    • Environment
    • Identity
    • Mobility/Exchange
    • Visual Knowledge
    • Faculty Work
    • VMW
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