Faculty Work

  • Cold Mountain Stole Chart A

    This chart is from the Cold Mountain Stole pattern by Keiran Foley, published in Summer 2009 issue of Knitty: http://www.knitty.com/ISSUEsummer09/PATTcoldmountain.php

     

    Knitting Subjectivity

    Transcribing Bertillon cards last week I got to thinking about knitting.  When I was a more prolific knitter, people would sometimes admire my creations (not that I was particularly gifted – just good at following instructions) and say things like, I Could Never Do That.  In response, I’d try to explain why it seems hard but isn’t.  After a while I began to think that knitting is, in many ways, like computing.  Writing a knitting pattern is a lot like writing a computer program – forget one step and it might not seem like a big deal until many thousands of stitches and rows later when your delicate lace sock more closely resembles a glove knit by cats for an octopus. 

    Designing knitting patterns can be hard and requires the skill, patience, and creativity to understand how each stitch constructs the whole.  Like the 1s and 0s that make up binary code in computing, knitting stitches are in the binary knit and purl.  The most complicated patterns are conceived of in charts where each “cell” contains a symbol representative of a stitch.  The comparison to pixels is not only irresistible; it is almost an exact translation. 

    Though not binary, Alphonse Bertillon tried to do something similar, encoding the features of the human body in to an elaborate (and problematic) classification of measurements and codes.  At least one goal here was to break down the human form in to objective constituents that can be consistently interpreted by anyone (purl and knit each mean one thing, whether accomplished in English, Continental, or other style) in order to solve the problems of recidivism and identification of defectors.

    Yet, as Dr. Langmead is prone to pointing out in her classes, none of these things are done in a vacuum of objectivity.  Computing platforms, programs, algorithms, and displays are designed by humans with human biases.  Subjective humans likewise construct knitting patterns.  Knitters use different yarns and needles and knit with different tensions, all of which contributes to a slightly different stitch or purl.  Bertillon officers inscribed their own prejudices and meanings to the system they employed. 

    The danger of subjectivity in knitting a scarf is obviously not equal to the danger of subjectivity in “objectively” describing the human body (see post by Jen about agency, authority, and control).  I’m excited to participate in the transcription of these cards and I look forward to seeing how these issues are explored in the work that results, including the installation proposed by Jen in the aforementioned post.  What other standardized systems do we conceive of as objective and what are the implications of overlooking their subjective origins?   

    Categories: 
    • Decomposing Bodies
    • Undergraduate Work
    • Graduate Work
    • Faculty Work
    • VMW
  •  

    Hyperobject: Gold

    6, 1959. MoMA

    Mathias Goeritz (German, active Mexico City), Message No. 7B, Eccles. VII:6, 1959. MoMA

     

    Alberto Burri, Sackcloth and Gold, 1953. Fondazione Burri

    Alberto Burri (Italy), Sacco e oro (Sackcloth and Gold), 1953. Fondazione Burri, Castello. 

    Categories: 
    • Agency
    • Faculty Work
    Tags: 
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    A Selection of Visualization Resources, as Curated by Alison in September 2014

    From time to time I am asked to speak about the process of visualization, especially in the context of humanities research. Each time I set about doing this, I look over my list of resources on this topic and curate a list of them. The list does not change dramatically over time, but it does vary. Below is the list of projects, resources and tools that I presented in September 2014 here at Pitt:

    Projects and Resources

    Tools of Note for Humanists

    These are a smattering of different types of packages...investigate for yourself! Fool around with them and see what happens.That's often the best way to learn.

    And, please don't forget about Excel and Numbers. They can often be your first, best path. If, for example, what you want to display adds up to 100%, please consider the benefits that a pie chart has to offer...

    Categories: 
    • Visual Knowledge
    • Faculty Work
    • VMW
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    Data Modelling "Class"

    This is the suite of Lynda.com and YouTube videos that I have been suggesting for a few terms to the humanists around who want to learn more about modelling data in a relational database form. The links for lynda.com are set to allow Pitt folks to login--if you're coming to this without a lynda.com login, then sorry...there's still lots of YouTube stuff here!

    FIRST SESSION: Data Modeling Basics

    Watch the following sections from this: http://www.lynda.com/Programming-tutorials/Foundations-Programming-Datab...

    Introduction
    1. Understanding Databases
    2. Database Fundamentals
    3. Database Modeling: Tables
    4. Database Modeling: Relationships

    And from this: http://www.lynda.com/FileMaker-Pro-10-tutorials/Relational-Database-Desi...

    Introduction
    1. Reviewing Data Modeling
    2. Resolving Many-to-Many Relationship [sic]

    Take notes on the things you are learning, of course, paying special attention to the questions you have. If you get very confused KEEP GOING. This is 90 minutes of video. Let the river flow over you. If you don't get confused, DON'T WORRY! You may simply be understanding. This could break either way.

    SECOND SESSION: Normalization Basics

    Watch these in order.

    Good basic overview of normalization and modeling:
    o2solutionsdotnet, “Understanding Normalization,” http://youtu.be/4T15hOhE5N4 (2m53s)

    Another good overview of identifying patterns:
    o2solutionsdotnet, “Discovering Patterns ,” http://youtu.be/M7mFn2LteuQ (8m40s)

    Example of 1st Normal Form:
    mrbcodeacademy, “Normalisation 1NF: First Normal Form Example,” http://youtu.be/x9BuWCUQawY  (9m10s).

    Example of 2nd Normal Form:
    mrbcodeacademy, “Normalisation 2NF: Second Normal Form Example,” http://youtu.be/8PwomfwMMyQ  (6m28s)

    Example of 3rd Normal Form:
    mrbcodeacademy, “Normalisation 3NF: Third Normal Form Example,” http://youtu.be/c7DXeY3aIJw (6m55s)

    Mr. B has longer explanations that are just fine as well. Sooo, if you'd like to hear more about each of the normal forms, you can watch those too. They are easch called “Understanding and Applying” the normal forms [as in: "Normalisation 3NF: Understanding Third Normal Form" http://youtu.be/wcp9hqOExqE]

    THIRD SESSION: Entity-Relationship Diagram Basics

    THIS IS ACTUAL READING. http://www.umsl.edu/~sauterv/analysis/er/er_intro.html.

    Oh, OK. And a video: http://youtu.be/-fQ-bRllhXc (please know that "bridge" table is the same as a "join.").

    And another video: http://youtu.be/wo-Wyul8CDQ

    Practice ER diagrams of your own. Use a pencil and paper. That's best.

    Categories: 
    • Visual Knowledge
    • Undergraduate Work
    • Graduate Work
    • Faculty Work
  • Kirsten, Kaley, Karen, and Sara.

     

    At the Flight 93 Memorial

    I took four undergrads to the Flight 93 Memorial today, three of them TAs in my 1010 course and one of them my daughter. The fields were full of goldenrod under a scintillating sky. The site is a huge strip of over 2000 acres located on an old surface coal mine, with wind power turbines turning in the distance.  The landscape plan incorporates coal's "scar" into its design, suggesting in a very subtle way the hidden layers of history and violence that culminated in the attack of September 11.  There is much to ponder here about agency -- the agency of the passengers on the flight, who organized themselves and brought the plane down, and whose remains are still there mostly unrecovered; that of the terrorists, who are unnamed and effectively expunged from the site; and that of the visitors, who are led through the memorial in a tightly choreographed pattern and barred from most of the site by gates, barriers, signs, and rangers.  At the same time visitors are enabled to leave objects and post comment cards, which often follow patterns but are sometimes highly idosyncratic and obscure in their meaning -- windows into other minds.  

    Categories: 
    • Agency
    • Environment
    • Undergraduate Work
    • Faculty Work
  •  

    Brown Bag Talk on Visualization

    I will be giving a brown back talk on visualization as a tool in the humanities tomorrow, September 5th at noon. All are invited!

    Categories: 
    • Visual Knowledge
    • Faculty Work
    • VMW
  • Système figuré des connoissances humaines, in Diderot and d’Alembert, Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers


    Système figuré des connoissances humaines, in Diderot and d’Alembert, Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers
. Published by Pellet, Geneva, 1777-1779, text volume 1. Courtesy of Special Collections, Hillman Library, University of Pittsburgh.

    • Système figuré des connoissances humaines, in Diderot and d’Alembert, Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers

    • Denis Diderot (French, 1713-1784), Jean le Rond d’Alembert (French, 1717-1783). Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers.
    • Denis Diderot (French, 1713-1784), Jean le Rond d’Alembert (French, 1717-1783) and Pierre Mouchon (French, 1733-1797)  Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers
    • Denis Diderot (French, 1713-1784), Jean le Rond d’Alembert (French, 1717-1783) and Pierre Mouchon (French, 1733-1797)  Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers
    • Denis Diderot (French, 1713-1784), Jean le Rond d’Alembert (French, 1717-1783) and Pierre Mouchon (French, 1733-1797)  Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers
    • Denis Diderot (French, 1713-1784), Jean le Rond d’Alembert (French, 1717-1783) and Pierre Mouchon (French, 1733-1797)  Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers
     

    Knowledge Reconfigured

    Drew Armstrong

    Diderot, d’Alembert and the Encyclopédie (1751)

    The “Tree of Knowledge” [Système figuré des connaissances humaines] appeared in the first volume of the Encyclopédie, ou, Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers (1751), a titanic publishing enterprise produced between 1751 and 1772 and masterminded by Denis Diderot (1713-1784) and Jean Le Rond d’Alembert (1717-1783).  The point of the diagram was to demonstrate that all knowledge [Entendement] is the product of sense experience and the workings of three mental faculties – Memory, Reason, and Imagination.

    The “Tree of Knowledge” encapsulated in a single image the main goals of the Encyclopédie: to reconfigure the entirety of human knowledge as the basis for future progress in all fields of inquiry.  Citing precursors such as Francis Bacon, John Locke, and Isaac Newton, Diderot and d’Alembert based their encyclopedia on empirical and mathematical knowledge, rather than the authority of sources such as Ancient texts or the Bible.  An array of contemporary specialists was tapped to write over 70,000 articles on topics ranging from abstract principles of justice to the intricacies of watch-making.

    The first folio edition of the Encyclopédie was a luxury product consisting of 17 volumes of text and 11 volumes of plates illustrating an array of sciences, technologies, and arts.  The 2,885 engraved plates added substantially to the cost and time of production, but the editors justified the inclusion of this material to better explain complicated processes and unfamiliar things to a curious readership.  The Encyclopédie was thus something of a museum of visual specimens as well as an alphabetical dictionary of terms and ideas.

    The ambition of the Encyclopédie was to change the way people thought.  The audacity of this project is brought into focus when considered in relation to the very limited nature of formal education available in eighteenth-century Europe.  Universities were accessible only to a privileged elite and their curricula – inherited from the Middle Ages – remained devoted largely to the study of ancient Greek and Latin authors, law, medicine and, most important, theology.  The Encyclopédie, by contrast, reached a European-wide audience.  By 1789, it is estimated that 24,000 complete sets in various formats and editions had been printed, more than half of which were distributed outside France.

    The Plates of the Encyclopédie

    The plates of the Encyclopédie often represent stages in complex technical processes by juxtaposing images of different types.  Vignettes representing human figures engaged in various activities are supplemented by large-scale renderings depicting tools and their proper manipulation.  Thus, in the plates that represent “Engraving” [Gravure], the process of transferring drawings to copper plates is illustrated in step-by-step fashion in a perspective view of an engraver’s studio, while the chisel-like tools used in this process are shown with cross-sections through their blades to better illustrate their forms.  Numbers adjacent to different parts of the image link each element into articles in the text.

    Other visual techniques employed in the Encyclopédie include table-like arrays of specimens grouped to facilitate visual comparisons.  Such, for example, is the strategy used in the plate from the Supplément (1777) illustrating the stages in the development of a frog, which breaks down the process of gestation to clarify transformation and mutation over time.  Two plates (1768) illustrating different systems of botanical classification – the one developed by the French scholar Joseph Pitton de Tournefort (1656-1708), the other by the Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778) – are especially striking, permitting the reader to compare two competing systems at a moment when neither had been universally adopted by botanists.  Through these images, the Encyclopédie contributed to discussions about the principles of disciplines and disseminated up-to-date ideas formulate by prominent specialists.

    The Encyclopédie was not merely conceived as a repository of information, but as an instrument for making new knowledge; as such, its product was ambiguous and open-ended, dependent on the reader making serendipitous juxtapositions.  In the course of the eighteenth century, a number of subsequent editions of the Encyclopédie were published, notably the smaller quarto edition exhibited here alongside the first folio edition. Published between 1777 and 1779 in Geneva, the quarto edition consisted of 36 text volumes and only three volumes of illustrations.  By this stage, the new publishers regarded the illustrations as cumbersome and largely unnecessary, explaining that while the Encyclopédie had contributed to “accelerating the progress of reason,” the cost of the original edition was an impediment to maximizing its benefits to humanity.

  •  

    Artl@s Bulletin

    The Artl@s Bulletin (http://docs.lib.purdue.edu/artlas/) recently came to my attention. This is a peer-reviewed online journal published by the École normale supérieure and the Centre national pour la recherche scientifique in Paris. As its editorial statement (part of which I've pasted in below) makes clear, its concerns are quite relevant to those of many of the constellations and related initiatives, including Itinera and Contemporaneity.

    From http://docs.lib.purdue.edu/artlas/about.html: 

    • ARTL@S Bulletin promises to never separate methodology and history, and to support innovative research and new methodologies. Its ambition is twofold: 1. a focus on the “transnational” as constituted by exchange between the local and the global or between the national and the international, and 2. an openness to innovation in research methods, particularly the quantitative possibilities offered by digital mapping and data visualization.
    • By encouraging scholars to continuously shift the scope of their analysis from the national to the transnational, ART@S Bulletin intends to contribute to the collective project of a global history of the arts.
    • The ARTL@S Bulletin welcomes submissions from scholars worldwide and at every stage in their career throughout the year. As a general guideline, manuscripts submitted to the ARTL@S Bulletin average between 5,000 and 7,000 words, including footnotes. Articles may be in English, French, German, Italian or Spanish.
    • The Artl@s Bulletin is indexed by ARTbibliographies Modern.
    Categories: 
    • Research Groups
    • Current Projects
    • Graduate Work
    • Faculty Work
  • periodic table of visualization methods

    Image Credit: Colby Stuart, "periodic table of visualization methods," https://flic.kr/p/xbFB1.

     

    PhD Seminar in the Digital Humanities, Fall 2014

    I will be teaching a PhD seminar this fall in the digital humanities at the iSchool here at Pitt. The draft syllabus is done for those who might be interested in seeing what is going on...check out the PDF attached at the bottom of the post.

    There will be balanced focus on the theoretical and practical aspects of producing digitally-inflected work in the humanities and social sciences, and students can expect to leave the course having built something that furthers their own research. Do be in touch if you have any questions or would like any further information (contact information).

    ETA: Class will be held on Mondays from 12-3pm in the School of Information Sciences.

    Categories: 
    • Agency
    • Visual Knowledge
    • Faculty Work
    • VMW
  • Old Media, New Media Image

    Old Media and New Media. Image Credit: Flickr user mermaid, london street art: what are these?.

     

    New Media Preservation Strategies

    Cornell University Library has started a project. funded by the NEH, to investigate how best to preserve born-digital art objects. Their preliminary findings (survey-based) have just been published as "Interactive Digital Media Art Survey: Key Findings and Observations." The eventual goal is to publish generalizable best practices in this area. Those of you interested in such things should certainly head over there.

    Categories: 
    • Agency
    • Visual Knowledge
    • Faculty Work
    • VMW

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