Graduate Work

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    A Finding Aid for Medart: Delving into the Depths

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

    Categories: 
    • Sustaining DH
    • Sustaining MedArt
    • Graduate Work
    • VMW
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    Exploring the Path to England

    Recently, I have taken some time to explore the changes made to medart’s menu page for England (menuengland). Some of the most drastic changes to medart occurred on this page. In the earliest snapshot we have of menuengland from 12.25.1996 the user had to navigate to the images they wanted through a map. The user had to click on the location of whichever monument they wanted images of. They did have a link to an alphabetic site list one could choose as an alternative to the map. In 2000, they increased the size of the map and made the alternative site list a more prominent feature on the site. By 2008, the map had been eradicated and the only navigation option was through the site list. I wanted to dig deeper into the reasons these changes were made and discovered a number of possibilities. My understanding is that the map used on the menuengland page of medart from 1996-2008 is an image map. One definition of an image map “is a list of coordinates relating to a specific image, created in order to hyperlink areas of the image to different destinations (as opposed to a normal image link, in which the entire area of the image links to a single destination),” (Wikipedia 2016). This essentially is what the map on menuengland does. There have been two different types of image maps. Server-side image maps were the first type and were used starting in 1993. The second type of image map is a client-side image map, and those were used starting in January of 1997. Therefore, we can assume that at least at first menuengland was using a server-side image map. I’m a little fuzzy on the different between a server-side and client-side image map, but I think it has to do with how the browser finds the URL you’ve clicked on within the image map. People had a lot of trouble with server-side image maps, because the browser didn’t always understand where to send the user. Now if you happen to see an image map on the web (the sites I was on seemed to scoff at the continued use of image maps and referred to them as “mystery-meat navigation”) it’s almost always client-side (Bloom). The modifications to menuengland happened primarily in 1998 (35%), 2000 (21%), and 2001 (38%). After 2001 it was only modified once each in 2008 and 2009 and then twice in 2014 that I can tell. The modifications may have been more frequent in 1998 because they were switching to the newly invented client-side image map. Then in 1999 the Web Content Access Guidelines (WCAG) 1.0 was published. WCAG 1.0 mentions image maps quite a bit, because they are inaccessible to someone using a keyboard. They recommend web developers provide a text equivalent when using an image map (W3C 1999). This could explain the changes in 2000 and 2001. In 2000, they changed menuengland by enlarging the map and making the site list (their alternative to the image map) more prominent. Previously, the site list was at the bottom of the page, and after 2000 it was moved to the top of the page and enlarged. They also added an option to explore the sites by category. This may have been an attempt to better comply with the WCAG or at least to make the site more accessible. The image map was not fully removed until 2008. From the Wayback Machine I can tell the image map was removed sometime between 5/9/2008 and 12/16/2008. However, upon looking at the metadata I was able to find an exact date since there was only one modification in 2008: 10/7/2008. This is very near to when WCAG 2.0 was published (December 11, 2008). WCAG 2.0 similarly condemned image maps and urged web developers to provide alternatives to users who needed assistive technologies to use a computer (W3C 2008). Medart removed the image map prior to the release of WCAG 2.0, but if it was a hot topic at the time they may still have removed it for accessibility reasons. They replaced the image map with a site list organized alphabetically and created an identical one for menufrance. Connecting the actions of the creators of medart to what was going on in the world of web development is both enlightening and exciting. Adding that context gives the changes made to medart more meaning. The changes they made to menuengland were likely not made on a whim to improve aesthetics or style but instead to improve the accessibility of the site and extend its usefulness to more people. References Bloom, Zack. “A Quick History of Image Maps.” Eager. Accessed November 28, 2016. https://eager.io/blog/a-quick-history-of-image-maps/. W3C. 1999. “Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.” Last modified May 5, 1999. http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG10. W3C. 2008. “Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.” Last Modified December 11, 2008. http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20/. Wikipedia. 2016. “Image Map.” Last modified November 11, 2016. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image_map.

    Categories: 
    • Sustaining DH
    • Sustaining MedArt
    • Graduate Work
    • VMW
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    Site Specificity and Diversity Concerns within Itinera

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    With the help of Matt Burton we were able to successfully extract metadata from the medart folders via unix commands. We have since imported that data into an excel spreadsheet from which we have begun analyzing and organizing our findings. I have been specifically looking at when which directories were most frequently modified and which file types were used most prominently. Unsurprisingly, the files are overwhelmingly jpgs followed by gifs and the directory with the most files by far is the “image” directory. We have also looked at which months showed the most activity and have found that their actions directly reflect the school year with the most modifications taking place in May and June and the fewest during the winter holidays in December and January.

    Unfortunately, we have only been able to find the date modified for these folders. Every avenue I have tried in my attempts to find the date created has yielded either November 4, 2014 (long after medart was created) or January 1, 1970 (long before medart was even thought of). While we will continue to look for new ways to capture the date created of these files, in the meantime there is a lot that can be learned from the metadata we already have.

    Also, while combing through the data I came across a folder titled “Kalamazoo.” In it I found presentation outlines for the 2009 International Congress on Medieval Studies. The Sustaining Medart team attended this same conference in May 2016 and will again in 2017. In 2009 two of medart’s primary creators, Jane Vadnal and Phil Maye, presented on medart. While we don’t have their actual presentations the outlines do give us some insight into the creation of medart and the intentions behind it. For example, we now know medart began as a way to turn Alison Stones’ course materials into webpages.

    Studying medart is constantly leading us to new surprises and discoveries at every turn. I’m excited to see what we will find next as we put more and more pieces of the medart puzzle together.

     

    Categories: 
    • Sustaining DH
    • Sustaining MedArt
    • Graduate Work
    • VMW
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    New Directions in the VMW

    Alison Langmead has embarked on outreach efforts to connect the VMW with other digital humanities spaces, beginning with our colleagues in the US, but soon hoping to move more internationally. We are looking forward to all of the opportunities this will provide, and are perceiving a future where the question is less "what can computers do for the study of material culture," and more, "what shall we do today?”

    One of these outreach efforts is making the connection with Tracey Berg-Fulton, creative technologist and webmaster at Registrars Committee of the American Alliance of Museums. Berg-Fulton donated to the VMW a 26000-entry dataset of Algernon Graves' collection of 18th- to 20th-century art sales, digitized from his vast, published ledger Art Sales from Early in the Eighteen Century to Early in the Twentieth Century. In the short run, S. E. Hackney and Lily Brewer are working toward implementing this data into visual patterns and historical contextualization respectively for Sotheby’s Institute of Art Research Award through the Art Libraries Society of North America. Undergraduate research assistant Vee McGyver, under Hackney’s supervision, is working on figuring out how to visualize relationships in data based on art sales using a force-directed graph from the javascript d3 library. Frick Fine Arts Library director Kate Joranson is sponsoring these efforts.

    As Graves’ data becomes available and conceptualized in visually informative ways, we’re investigating ways in which the data can turn into objects that we can track through Itinera (itinera.pitt.edu). By honing and creating more geographically specific locations for these entities and tracking works of art through Graves' art sales, the VMW cohort under Brewer’s guidance is working toward diversifying Itinera by mapping the European and non-Western routes of lesser tracked populations such as influential women and people of color through 18th-century Eastern Europe and Turkey. In our attention to multiple scales and modalities of historical vision, our attention focuses on the questions, how can we visualize and generate new insights into the travels of 18th-century travelers through contemporary identity politics and digital mapping methods? Furthermore, how can mapping diverse populations in this time over this space creating meaning through historical place-making?

    As the end of the term approaches, the Sustaining MedArt team lead by Aisling Quigley continues to unearth and reconstruct the socio-technical history of the website, Images of Medieval Art and Architecture (www.medart.pitt.edu). While the digital forensics research has provided helpful insights into the foundations of the site, this work has been arduous. The digital forensics tools are complex and uncooperative, and the dissection of the site itself has revealed a tangle of messy innards. Despite numerous obstacles, however, our team perseveres undaunted! Indeed, the complexities are revelatory in and of themselves, and the data is slowly but surely bringing to light important moments in the website creation process. Following from this work, the team, comprised of Quigley, Lindsay Decker (read Decker's reflections on the subject here), and Jedd Hakimi, is discussing and establishing a firm infrastructure for developing a socio-technical digital preservation roadmap.

    Undergraduate researcher Dheeraj K. Jalluri works on a neuroaesthetic research project investigating neural basis of artistic aesthetic experience in Abstract Expressionist art under Brewer's guidance. This semester, he is focusing on formulating a method to quantitatively analyze artwork qualities implicated in neuroaesthetic theories, such as symmetry and contrast and value using Photoshop. In future exploration, he gears his tools toward the crowd-sourcing tool Mechanical Turk and Fourier Analysis in the development of a larger research question that best suits these methods.

    Decomposing Bodies’ focus for the coming year will be building a unified online collection and corresponding data set for thousands Bertillon cards in the collection, and making that data accessible. The historical, physiological, and contextual data contained on these cards is a rich vein for researchers across many fields, and our goal with DB is to begin to make our digitized collection more visible to research communities and to begin building the relationships that will result in future projects and collaborations. These goals manifest in continuing the work of classifying and transcribing the cards, managing their metadata, and creating more robust public-facing representations of the project, under the guidance of project manager S. E. Hackney, and with contributions from the entire VMW cohort. (Read more of Hackney's reflections on the subject here.)

    As an invitation to inter-institutional connection and networking, those interested in our efforts toward constructing bridges to other digital humanities spaces can follow #arthistory on our Digital Humanities Slack (https://t.co/BI1cizC4de) and through our new listserv at https://list.pitt.edu/mailman/listinfo/ddarth.

    Categories: 
    • Current Projects
    • Decomposing Bodies
    • Itinera
    • Sustaining DH
    • Sustaining MedArt
    • Populations
    • Undergraduate Work
    • Graduate Work
    • Spaces
    • VMW
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    Almost There with BitCurator

    For the last  couple of weeks on the Sustaining MedArt project I have focused on compiling what I have learned from comparing MedArt with MedArt-2014 in addition to continuing to work with BitCurator.

    In my last post I excitedly announced that I had conquered BitCurator perhaps a bit prematurely. I have found that creating a disk image of the hard drive holding MedArt and MedArt-2014 may not be possible. The 2 TB hard drive is too large to be successfully imaged on a computer with only 700 GB of storage left. To combat this problem I tried making a copy of MedArt (which is only 1.8 GB and much easier to work with than the 7.7 GB MedArt-2014), but I have not been able to get BitCurator to read any of the copies I made.

    However, I was able to simply copy and paste MedArt onto a small 16 GB flash drive and was able to use it to successfully experiment with some of the forensic tools on BitCurator. Using tools like Bulk Extractor to create reports I was able to see everything that had ever been on the flash drive I was using, even though everything on the flash drive was deleted before the copy of MedArt was added. I did find a few things that were interesting like email addresses attached to certain files that showed me when the files had been emailed and to whom. But the reports really seemed to focus on the actual flash drive more than on its present contents. So I think I will start moving away from BitCurator tools that require a disk image, granted there are not very many.

    The BitCurator tools that might provide more useful responses are FITS and sdhash, which I learned about by talking to Matt Burton in DSS. FITS can extract metadata from MedArt and MedArt-2014, and sdhash can compare data. I’m also going to look into Mac’s Filemerge utility which can compare folders. Hopefully using these tools I will be able to get results more relevant to the Sustaining MedArt project.   

     

    Categories: 
    • Sustaining DH
    • Sustaining MedArt
    • Graduate Work
    • VMW
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    Structuring Decomposing Bodies

    Working on Decomposing Bodies over the last month and a half has been an exercise in process. Shortly after the start of the semester, the Data (after)Lives show went up, featuring data from DB, some of the physical Bertillon cards and exploring many of the same ideas that we confront in DB every day. Data (after)Lives was a great way for me to see what Decomposing Bodies is as a concept, but since then, most of my work has been examining and manipulating it as a structure.

    Since DB has changed hands several times over the past few years, a lot of what I have been doing is following the threads of my predecessors, trying to understand their processes, the choices they’ve made, and their relationships to the thousands of image files that truly compose the heart of this project. For every task that needs to happen to construct the dataset around these images, and to make that data available to researchers, there are dozens of tiny tasks that have to take place. Tasks from, “mark which files have been uploaded to Omeka” and “transcribe the handwriting on the cards into metadata fields” all the way to “defrag the hard drive” and “back everything up.”

    Let me be honest, visual media isn’t actually my area of expertise. Or even my research interest. But! The way people collect, label and organize things is. In case you couldn’t guess, I am a PhD student at the iSchool, rather than in Art History. For me, Decomposing Bodies is an interesting blurring of observing and contributing to how resources get organized and disseminated. I am finding gaps in documentation— what does tag “pass1c” mean?— and creating my own protocols for the project going forward— it means the “Age”, “Apparent Age”, “Born in”, and “Complexion” fields have been transcribed.

    Everything that the VMW does with DB is in preparation for other people to do something else with it later. We have to try and answer questions about how imaginary potential future researchers will want our data to be formatted, and what kinds of questions they might want to ask. The Data (after)Lives exhibit is the beginning of presenting those questions, and inviting conversation around what it means that these cards exist in the first place. My work, for now, is about making sure that those conversations can continue, and that all the pieces of this project are speaking the same language.

    Categories: 
    • Decomposing Bodies
    • Graduate Work
    • VMW
  • Vitruvian Man

    What does this mean?  Let's check the data on that.
     

     

    Sustaining MedArt and the Fear of Interdisciplinarity

    As a collaboration between Information Sciences and the History of Art and Architecture, “Sustaining MedArt” is a project conceived to be interdisciplinary—a term which many in my home department of English are happy to invoke when convenient, but one that few want to deal with practically when it means crossing venturing outside the humanities. This is, at least, how I feel as someone working on video games, a cultural artefact caught between quite a few disciplines at the moment, including sociology, computer science, literature, film studies, communication, media studies and so on. And, while I am happy to tout my own scholarship as interdisciplinary, it is perhaps more accurate to admit that it is mostly only my primary object of study that has a clear interdisciplinary appeal. Coming from humanities background, I largely treat video games as meaningful “texts,” reading them primarily from the inside out, following a hermeneutic tradition found in literary, art, and film scholarship. While I can appreciate and respect more scientifically oriented scholarly approaches—which I am also happy to incorporate anecdotally into my own work and pedagogy when applicable—I am also aware that, as a humanist, I conceive of scholarship’s purpose quite differently.

    I can imagine that my resistance appears narrow-minded to those conceiving of interdisciplinarity as a benevolent practice for opening lines of communication between scholarly discourses seemingly haphazardly sealed off from one another. (It is true that these disciplinary lines felt particularly inane on those occasions when I believe have stumbled onto some novel idea, only to discover that I have merely been rehearsing a tired conversation occurring in the department down the hall.) At the same time though, there are a number institutional and intellectual reasons for being suspicious of interdisciplinarity when it connotes crossing lines between the humanities and the sciences (social or hard). For starters, humanists are already on guard against what seems to be the increasing corporatization of the university—a system we fear is overly concerned with measurable “outcomes” and determines success through quantitative and data-based correlations. The humanist’s understanding is that much of what we provide students cannot and should not be calculated.  Merely consenting to these statistical schemas is often antithetical to our ideological skepticism of assessing value in terms of capital productivity.

    This belief is perhaps a function of a broader skepticism of applying scientific empiricism to the abstract categories of human culture, knowledge, and progress. Even as we humanists might maintain methodological rigor in our formal analyses, we do not present that methodology as “scientific.” We resolve to subsist in an era after post-structuralism, post-modernism and historiography (among other meta-critiques of critiques of critiques) have wreaked havoc on teleological searches for “the truth,” and so the conclusions we reach in our scholarship are self-consciously rhetorical and may even contain traces the creative abstraction of those primary sources we ostensibly interpret. As I see it, our general goal is to engender an unceasing conversation about what it means to be human by continuously revealing new ways of seeing things.  We question any ideological structure that allows us to take any part of our experience for granted as a given. (The central paradox at the heart of this humanist scholarship may be in the essential creed that all truth claims can be undermined.)

    So what happens, when avowed humanist like me joins an interdisciplinary project faced with the very practical responsibility of determining a “Socio-Technical Digital Preservation Roadmap” for actual cultural artefacts? Can I allow my research and analysis to actually suggest an entirely practical solution to a very concrete set of concerns about archiving material in the digital age? To be perfectly honest, I don’t know yet, but I am eager to find out. To be fair, maybe this isn’t as big deal as I seem to be making it—it might merely be another instance of the tension between theory and practice that a humanist faces every day when we have to do things like teach, write, and administrate.  However lofty our scholarship may be, our very participation in a functioning world is premised on the fact that we can act as if we are oriented towards something aligned with a notion of progress.

    Anyway, as an opening post, I hope I expressed some of my initial thoughts about my participation in this project.  In my next post, I’ll provide more of a specific look into the various ways we can define the MedArt website as the central object of our concern, and the ramifications stemming from those respective definitions.

    Categories: 
    • Sustaining DH
    • Sustaining MedArt
    • Graduate Work
  • A screen grab of MedArt ca. December 1996 c/o the Internet Archive.

     

    Update: Phase III of Sustaining MedArt

    It seems that autumn is finally here, more or less. It is a splendid season, but also perhaps the most hectic in academia-land. New students arrive, conference abstracts and grant proposals are due, and time seems to accelerate and contract alarmingly (or so it feels, as I get older).

    The Visual Media Workshop has expanded to include eight student researchers (from undergraduates to doctoral candidates), each arriving with their own skills and experiences and their own unique roles in our various projects.

    This post will focus specifically on Sustaining MedArt, our lab project funded by a Research & Development Grant from the division of Preservation and Access at the NEH. This project takes Images of Medieval Art & Architecture, a valuable scholarly resource and early instantiation of a digital humanities project, as a case study for exploring the correlation between usability and sustainability of digital content. Our research will culminate in the creation of a Socio-Technical Digital Preservation Roadmap with broad applicability to digital humanities projects.

    As of September, we have entered the third phase of our research, having successfully completed and analyzed initial user studies. For those who are curious about how a work plan might evolve for a year-long project, I’ve described our phases below:

    May 2016
    • conducted over 100 on-site, face-to-face interviews at the 51st International Congress of Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo, Michigan
    research team: Sarah Conell, Kiana Gonzalez, Alison Langmead, Jackie Lombard, and Aisling Quigley
    Summer 2016
    • transcribed and analyzed interviews from Kalamazoo
    • used grounded theory to extract phenomena from these interviews
    • began digital forensics work on the site (extracting file trees, etc.)
    research team: Kiana Gonzalez, Chelsea Gunn, Alison Langmead, and Aisling Quigley
    Fall 2016
    • develop the theoretical foundations for our project
    • continue digital forensics work with BitCurator
    • interview Dr. Alison Stones and early contributors to the site
    • submit paper abstracts for confernces
    research team: Lindsay Decker, Jedd Hakimi, Alison Langmead, and Aisling Quigley

     

     

    In this third phase, we are benefitting greatly from the significant contributions of Jedd Hakimi, doctoral candidate in Film Studies, who is creating an in-depth bibliography and developing the foundational underpinnings for our work. Lindsay Decker, MLIS student at the iSchool, is valiantly diving into BitCurator, battling with its many quirks, and becoming our in-house expert on digital forensics.

    Initial findings from our research thus far include the following discoveries:

    1.  many scholars implicitly trust the authenticity and reliability of the content on the Images of Medieval Art & Architecture site because of the obvious association with an academic institution (expressed through the ".edu" in the site's URL), and the presence of Dr. Alison Stones name on the homepage (a known and respected entity in the history of medieval art and architecture)
    2. many scholars express concern/embarassment/shame/guilt about the fact that they resort to Google for image searches, because they generally distrust the authenticity of the information they discover, or cannot find attributions for this content
    3. many assume that a search bar will improve the website. We've found evidence that the initial site creators and contributors experimented with a search feature in the early days of the website, but we've found no evidence that it was ever implemented as it is absent from the December 1996 screenshot.

    I will post with further updates in the not-too-distant future, and my fellow team-mates are also contributing to the site with their own blog entries. Stay tuned!

     

    Categories: 
    • Sustaining MedArt
    • Graduate Work
    • VMW
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    Getting to know everything about MedArt

                It has been a busy two weeks on the MedArt project. I am thrilled to announce that I have conquered BitCurator, and it is up and running in the VMW. However, that is a fairly recent development so I have not had the opportunity to use it too much. I did manage to get it working last week on my personal laptop. My initial sense of victory was quickly dashed when I began imaging the MedArt files and saw the time remaining was slowly counting down from 68 hours. My five year old PC was clearly running BitCurator under protest. Hopefully, the Macs in the VMW will be better equipped to handle this kind of workload.

                When not grappling with BitCurator I have continued to familiarize myself with everything we have on MedArt. I have been going through the MedArt folders we have saved on a hard drive in search of any anomalies and any differences between the pre-2014 folder and the folder that contains information about the current version of MedArt. One of the more interesting features is an early version of a search box. As far as we know the search box was never implemented. The search box wasn’t really one box but two. In the first box the user was to select the physical location of the architectural site they were looking for, and in the second box they had to select the type of building they were looking for like “church” or “cathedral.” There was also evidence of MedArt being used as a classroom tool in a folder titled “grant.” This folder contained a series of online quizzes on architectural features dated to 1997. I am interested to find out to what extent MedArt was originally intended to be used in the classroom.

                To supplement my understanding of the ways in which MedArt has changed over the years I also utilized the Internet Archive. The earliest snapshot of MedArt on the Wayback Machine was from Dec. 22, 1996 and the latest was from this past June. By looking at these snapshots and the many in between I was able to get a clear view of how much the site has changed over the past 20 years. I isolated five dates that demonstrated the biggest changes to the MedArt site. These five images will illustrate the evolution of MedArt.

                I also did some reading to further my understanding of digital forensics. In fact the entire Sustaining MedArt team read chapter three of Mechanisms: New Media and the Forensic Imagination by Matthew Kirschenbaum. The chapter was called “’An Old House with many Rooms’: The Textual Forensics of Mystery_House.dsk.” In this chapter Kirshenbaum describes his experience analyzing a computer game from the 1980s called Mystery House. He used a disk image of the game which acts as a representation of all the information on the disk at a certain time (Kirschenbaum 2008, 114). This is similar to what I will be doing with MedArt on BitCurator. In this chapter Kirschenbarm highlighted the importance of placing the game in the context of its time. On the Mystery House disk he found evidence that it had once housed two other computer games from earlier in the ‘80s. He concluded that the user of the disk must have overwrote the other games with Mystery House because they had nowhere else to store it and they had finished the other two games (Kirschenbaum 2008, 127). The exercise of placing the files in the context of their time will be an important strategy for the MedArt project which began in 1995. The internet then was very different from what we use today, and it is important that we do not forget that going forward.

                One way I have become better acquainted with the internet of the mid-90s has been by investigating databases similar to MedArt that were established around the same time. Some of the sites I found were the Index of Christian Art, the Early Modern Women Database, the Emily Dickinson Archive, and the Valley of the Shadow. Each site has stood the test of time differently. The Index of Christian Art recently put out a survey and is currently implementing the changes suggested in the returned surveys. The Valley of the Shadow and the Emily Dickinson Archive have recently undergone updates. However, the Early Modern Women Database is no longer being maintained at all by the University of Maryland and hasn’t been since 2012. I also used the Internet Archive to look at these databases before they underwent updates, and found sites very similar to MedArt. I was not able to find anything on the Internet Archive regarding the Early Modern Women Database other than snapshots of a screen that reads “URL not found.” I’m excited to see where we take MedArt as we proceed with this project.

     

    Kirschenbaum, Matthew G. 2008. Mechanisms: New Media and the Forensic Imagination. Massachusetts: Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 

    Categories: 
    • Sustaining MedArt
    • Graduate Work

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