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)


  • 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
  • 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 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.

    • 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 (!

    • 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.

    • 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),


    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.

    • 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:

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

    Matt Kirschenbaum, "What is Digital Humanities and What's it Doing in English Departments?"

    • 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:

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

    Christof Schöch, “Big? Smart? Clean? Messy? Data in the Humanities,” Journal of Digital 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,

    Johanna Drucker, DH101, 

    Matthew Gold, ed., Debates in the Digital Humanities,


    The Hermeneutics of Shipping Logs
    Ben Schmidt, Northeastern University, NULab

    Alison Langmead and Drew Armstrong, University of Pittsburgh

    Music21: A Toolkit for Computer-Aided Musicology
    Mark Cuthbert, MIT

    NYPL Building Inspector
    NYPL Labs in collaboration with the Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division at the NYPL

    Quantifying Kissinger
    Micki Kaufman, CUNY Graduate Center

    • 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). 

    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.

    • 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

    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.

    • 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:

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