Graduate Work

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

    The last two days of DH2016 were filled with an exciting array of panels and plenaries, and tough choices had to be made once again. And because I forgot to include it last time for those curious individuals, the full schedule can be found here: https://www.conftool.pro/dh2016/sessions.php

     

    Thursday

     

    In the long paper session on Analyzing and visualizing networks (4), the panel began with a presentation by J. Porter and Vanessa Seals on Dramatic Networks and Kinship Structures in African-American Plays. The most significant interest in their research was to explore if a computational analysis of dramatic networks could be combined with a socio-anthropological approach to kinship structures in ways that might reveal important cultural and social patterns. Their data came from a corpus spanning roughly 150 years of American drama, and included 20 black authors and 22 white authors. Critically, they employed dynamic network analysis using the Eingenvector centrality method based on Hanneman’s (for a breakdown of this method see http://faculty.ucr.edu/~hanneman/nettext/C10_Centrality.html) work in order to determine the “protagonist.” This method allowed the researchers to examine the network of Kinship based around the central character in the play. While this research is still ongoing, the preliminary results Porter and Seals presented were highly interesting. For example, the highest number of plays that displayed significant Kinship structures from both black and white authors clustered in the mid-20th century. Gender has a strong effect in kinship networks in plays from both black and white authors. In both black and white authors, men are less apt to be kin, but the difference between female and male characters is starker in dramas from black authors. The EVC average for male characters in black-authored plays was 8.7 compared to 6.7 for female characters from the same corpus. In white-authored plays, male characters averaged 5.9 to 5.7 for female characters. Notably, Porter and Seals acknowledged that their authors from both corpora were overwhelmingly male (11/20 for black authors, 17/22 for white authors), so deeper analysis is needed to examine the correspondence between gender/race of author to kinship structures of gender/race in their corpus. It should be noted that this paper was nominated for the Fortier Prize (awarded to outstanding newcomers), but it was ultimately not selected.

     

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

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

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

     

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

     

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

     

    Friday.

    Images and Art 1 and 2! 

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

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

     

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

     

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

    https://blogs.uni-paderborn.de/graphic-literature/projekt-2/

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

    https://blogs.uni-paderborn.de/graphic-literature/files/2016/07/Dunst.Laubrock.DH-2016.Corpus_Analyses_of_Multimodal_Narrative_150.pdf

     

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

     

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

     

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

     

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

     

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

    Categories: 
    • Graduate Work
    • VMW
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    Sustaining Medart: Interviews Inside and Outside the VMW

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

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

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

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

    For now, transcribing the interviews and extracting themes continues! 

    Categories: 
    • Sustaining MedArt
    • Graduate Work
    • VMW
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    Report from the field: DH2016 in Krakow Day 1, 2

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

     

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

     

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

    Really fascinating stuff!

     

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

     

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

    Categories: 
    • Temporalities
    • Current Projects
    • Graduate Work
    • VMW
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    Sit Still: photography, portraits, and doubling

    The website is finally here!

    sitstillexhibition.squarespace.com

    Categories: 
    • Identity
    • Current Projects
    • Past Projects
    • Graduate Work
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    Dioramas at the Field Museum

    PhD Student in History of Art and Architecture

    As we began researching Botany Hall and its role in the museum in earnest, I learned that the Field Museum in Chicago is making a new diorama, their first new one in 60 years! It will house 19th century taxidermy hyenas. On their website you can hear from the artists about their art-science process to make the diorama represent a specific moment in time. It is very interesting to watch the museum jump into this historic style of display and think about how it works for modern audiences. For example, it will be accompanied by an interactive screen. 

    The Field Museum's Youtube channel, The Brain Scoop, also has a bunch of great videos about the history of their dioramas and famed taxidermist Carl Akeley

    Categories: 
    • Dioramas in Context
    • Graduate Work
  • Race-ing the Museum participants, May 13, 2016, in Braddock PA (minus Marina who had to leave to catch a plane)

     

    Race-ing the Museum: Some Afterthoughts

    Our workshop ended on Friday the 13th with a beautiful day at the Carnegie Library of Braddock with the artist collective Transformazium, after a packed week of field work and intense conversation with an amazing group of graduate students and faculty from across Pitt's campus.

    Over the course of the week we met and talked with various curators, educators, and archivists at the Carnegie Museum of Art, the Teenie Harris Archive, the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation, the Heinz History Center, the Allegheny City Gallery on the Northside, Pitt’s special collections and multiple archives, and the Art Lending Library in Braddock.  We interacted in various ways with objects on display and brought from storage, as well as curated selections of mixed materials from larger collections, and on the last day had a chance to do some speed-curating of our own in the art lending space at the Braddock Library.  In between, we talked a lot about what we had seen and heard and about what we should do to put ideas in practice and push the conversation forward in public.

    For me personally it was a revelation to move from one radically different collection to another and to ponder the structural differences that help determine their narratives, audiences, and engagements.  Each institution has its own criteria of quality and value.  These value systems in turn create communities around them.  Some systems are inherently more exclusive than others and therefore present particular challenges for an ethic of inclusion.

    At the Hunt Institute, for example, with the help of their generous staff we spent a couple of hours examining prints and books mostly against the grain: we looked through botany books and various records of collecting expeditions by European and Anglo colonizers to see how they represented the indigenous and enslaved peoples who actually supplied much of the knowledge.  Against the hierarchy of power and knowledge communicated by the materials themselves, we worked to recover the devalued voice and expertise of the peoples at the bottom of the hierarchy. At the Teenie Harris Archive, in the Carnegie Museum of Art, with the help of their equally generous curators, we had the privilege of entering a lost world – the largely African American Hill district before the destruction wrought by urban renewal – through the eye and lens of the maker himself, a man who did not self-identify as an artist and who rarely entered the art museum where his huge collection eventually found a home.  Here the institution has the good fortune to mine the knowledge of the community, because many of them from those days are still alive and come in to talk about their pictures and their world.  And so an archive of images has also become an archive of oral memory and of written history, all deeply interwoven into a still living community fabric.  A quote my co-facilitator Shirin read to us two days later keeps returning to my mind: If one no longer has land, but has memory of land, then one can make a map.

    And in Braddock, where Shirin read that passage – one of the poorest municipalities in our region – we thought about the value system of an art lending library in the context of a community whose resources, knowledge, and creativity tend to be ignored in a racialized master narrative of blight and distress.  Here is a public library that lends original art for three weeks to anyone with a county library card – art that includes work donated by every artist represented in the 2013 Carnegie International, black arts printmakers, emerging artists, and paintings by incarcerated men in a prison art program.  All of it surrounded by books on art and society in a light-filled room with salaried art and culture facilitators from the nearby community to discuss the art and its makers and stories.  From these artworks and books we curated our own multi-media displays on various themes which had emerged here and there in our week-long conversation.

    That conversation was simultaneously challenging, contentious, draining, and energizing.  But the big question we returned to all week was what can we do?  Many interesting ideas for real projects came out over the course of the week, and some initiatives have gotten started.  We are talking about exhibitions and websites and courses and new partnerships and pedagogical initiatives.  I’m sorry I won’t get too specific at the moment, because we are in the early stages and some ideas may blossom and others may not.  But, with a little patience and some more work, we’ll start to roll out ideas and proposals and solicit advice and feedback.  We promise to keep you posted.

    Categories: 
    • Research Groups
    • Agency
    • Temporalities
    • Environment
    • Identity
    • Mobility/Exchange
    • Visual Knowledge
    • Graduate Work
    • Faculty Work
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    Doing surveys...in Kalamazoo

    As part of our NEH grant to investigate an early digital humanities project, Images of Medieval Art & Architecture, my research colleagues and I conducted usability interviews at the 2016 International Congress of Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Our team arrived on the campus of Western Michigan University around 2:15 pm on a Thursday, and had started interviewing by 3 o'clock. Fortunately, there were adequate supplies of coffee and ice water to keep us afloat through three days and approximately 115 interviews. We mostly avoided the boxed wine. 

    Although we have yet to thoroughly analyze the data we collected this weekend, initial analysis indicates that we sampled more women than men (approximately 68% female and 32% male), and that scholars are generally reluctant to admit that they use Google in their image research. We also discovered that only a small percentage of survey participants had ever seen the website before (only 17%), and although we were attending a conference on medieval studies, only about 22% of survey-takers stated confidently that they were "Extremely Familiar" with medieval art and architecture. Certainly, context had a part to play in this outcome, but it was nonetheless surprising.  

    Stay tuned for further reflections and updates...

    Categories: 
    • Graduate Work

    From the archives: The Arizona Desert Group

     

    Assembling a Project

    PhD Student in the School of Computing and Information

    Over the coming months, Colleen O'Reilly and I (and other guest bloggers) will be posting updates about our project, Dioramas in Context: using digital display to unveil the cultural history and artistic development of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History Botany Hall. Through these posts, we hope to document our research process, including the rewards and challenges of interdisciplinary and cross-institutional collaboration. A more thorough introduction to our project is forthcoming, but in the meantime, please enjoy a couple of photos from the Botany Hall archives at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.  

    Categories: 
    • Dioramas in Context
    • Graduate Work
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    Usability Research Commences!

    This week, my advisor, three courageous graduate students, and I will be attending the International Congress of Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo, Michigan. There, we will be conducting interviews as part of our ongoing research on the NEH-funded Sustaining MedArt project. We are primarily interested in how users currently engage with the site (created ca. 1995), and how their interactions with the site might inform the task of creating a sustainability roadmap applicable to this project and beyond…I created this little poster to advertise the work we’ll be doing next week!

    Categories: 
    • Sustaining DH
    • Sustaining MedArt
    • Graduate Work
    • Faculty Work
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    VMW Spring 2016 Update!

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

     

    Visiting Scholars in the Digital Humanities

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

     

    Graduate and Undergraduate Activities

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

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

     

    Decomposing Bodies

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

     

    Itinera

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

     

    Sustaining MedArt

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

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

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