Habit Forming

Adopting new tools means spending time learning through trial and error, making a mess of your research file organization system, starting over (and over) with a different tool, and working to maintain attention on the project’s goals not merely the means to achieve them. Occasionally it does us a disservice to adopt a new tool and can be almost catastrophically disruptive to transition to a new system mid-project. Scholars’ skepticism toward digital tools may be less to blame for the delayed adoption of new modes of working than the timeline of most research projects. How many technological advancements occur over the course of five or six (or seven or eight…) years? How many new tools emerge after the research project has taken root? Is it worth uprooting a research project in the service of promoting a culture of academic early adoption?

To complicate matters further, we learned today that there appear to be as many ways to find an answer to a question online as there are data to help construct an answer to that question. How are researchers expected to know what is the most efficient way to arrive at the best and most verifiable answer? If a tried and true method has worked for years, what incentive does an art historian (or humanist) have to break their research habits? On the other end of the spectrum, when does trying new tools and seeking out new ways to answer a question online become a bad habit? When does compulsive early-adoption be an impediment to substantive research? I’m not at this point and I certainly don’t think we need to be worrying too much about enthusiasm for DH getting the best of PhD candidates, but I do notice that I am inclined to pendulum between voraciously learning about and trying apps, software, cloud services, and social media and checking out from tech trends entirely. Is two weeks enough time to establish a more balanced approach?

Source: Habit Forming

browsing / searching

Research suggests that for humanities scholars search is both ubiquitous and imperfect. Kemman and colleagues confirm the dominance of Google and keyword search for contemporary researchers. Rimmer and collaborators report that humanities researchers tend not to use advanced search techniques, but do use more exploratory strategies including “chaining” — following links through the literature via citations — and browsing, especially in physical libraries…

…Models of browsing tend to emphasise physical spaces and resources; similarly for humanities researchers, physical libraries seem to be favoured as browsable, serendipitous and enjoyable information spaces. Theorists of browsing offer some clues as to how browsing can be supported in digital environments. Bates critiques the conventional forms — “a long list or a set of thumbnails” and calls instead for “rich scenes, full of potential objects of interest, that the eye can take in at once” — what she terms a “massively parallel glimpse.” Toms and Bates both emphasise stability and orientation; interface elements that establish and maintain continuity within a browsing space.

– Mitchell Whitelaw, Generous Interfaces for Digital Cultural Collections

Useful ideas for the proposed Web Portal. How do we allow users to most productively and enjoyably access this aggregated set of objects? How can they pose the questions they bring, and how can the collection be presented in such a way as to spark new ones?

Source: browsing / searching

Doing DH



Ok so..

What I learned so far at DoingDH:

  • what art history does is very difficult to define
  • use twitter for work ^_^
  • write a blog to start getting a digital presence out there..

But customizing this site is a lot harder than I thought; I’ve already changed my theme 3 times (and downloaded maybe too many of them) because they never look anything like the preview.

Also finding intelligent things to write is not that easy… so no filter here, expecially at 8.30pm after a cool Corona 😉



Digitizing My Scholarship

I took this photo about a month ago in the historically rich state archives of Siena. A group of archive-oriented PhD students were given the opportunity to interact with primary documents for two weeks in Florence. We had held and touched letters and documents, learning to read them and navigate the arcane system of Italian archives. This was the concluding day, a field trip to the Archivio di Stato of Siena, an archive still housed in an old Palazzo which imparted the documents with an added gravitas.

By the time I was in Florence for the seminar with the Medici Archive Project, I knew that I was going to be participating in Building a Digital Portfolio. While spending two weeks in archives, I felt transported to the world before the digital. But my archival research is not that distant from digital humanities. Like Jules Prown’s Copley research (2001), the success of my doctoral dissertation relies on massive quantities of data. I hope that digital art history will help me interpret the data that I will potentially uncover during my research. Making these two institutes a perfect pair for the summer before I begin writing my dissertation.

Source: Digitizing My Scholarship

post #1

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Source: post #1

What Happens After Print?

Tomorrow’s reading, “Scarcity or Abundance,” makes me think back to my former life, before I returned to school to complete my PhD. After years of working in galleries and museums – working way too much for very little money – I accepted a role at UBC as the Senate Secretariat. One of my first duties was editing and shepherding through print publication the University’s academic calendar. With zero experience I did it. I was given an Oxford dictionary and UBC’s (outdated) style guide; tips from colleagues in Communications rolled in…everyday; I learned about blue-lines, editor’s marks, and en- and em-dashes; I learned how to make an index, and as well, mark index entries; I argued with faculty about grammar, punctuation, and worse, how I couldn’t include imagined words but had to stick to my Oxford no matter what terms they used in their discipline. Through trial and error I made into one voice hundreds of Senate-approved proposals that together shaped the University’s academic policies.

I was as proud as a new mother when my first print calendar was sent off to press. A few weeks later I was a new mother and when I returned to work ten months later, poof, my maternity replacement informed me that after much discussion and following intense study of best practices in universities across Canada, the print Academic Calendar had gone online. But in that first year the online version was little more than a PDF of the print copy. The process of proper digitization needed to be completed, and that became my new task.

The lion’s share of the work had been done by the time I got back to my desk: ‘chapters’ were replaced with a hyperlinked table of contents; related pages and words were also hyperlinked, with astonishing frequency; and the index was gone and in its place was Google search functionality. But issues arose almost immediately. Just because we could, we did, and every month following Senate and the inputting of new proposals a new online Academic Calendar was released. Making available the most up-to-date information for students and faculty was intended to be beneficial, but it backfired: students were confused which policies applied to them, or what courses they could use towards their degree, since the calendar often changed mid-year (and sometimes multiple times). I was working long and hard each to ensure accuracy within a tight time frame, and no one knew which version of the academic calendar ought to be archived – the first one, the last one…eeek, all of them? Talk about abundance.

So, like all good bureaucrats we developed new policies. We moved to publish online versions of the academic calendar at key periods, two to three times an academic year with only the final version (best version?) archived on the web. We differentiated between corrective releases and new releases, and when more than a year after the fact we learned that the registration folks gave us incorrect fees, we published an errata page that did not erase the mistake (because, after a long conference call, we agreed that rewriting history was a bad idea), but rather noted the error in the archived version and joined it with the correct information. The way we did our business also changed: in a meeting I noted, as the Senate committee deliberated the length of a particular course description, that we were no longer policing a mammoth print calendar but were only bound by the maximum character allowance of the database in which we entered course information. Hallelujah, they said, and went back to arguing over punctuation.

A lot of work went on behind the scenes to ensure that the online academic calendar ‘read’ properly as a digital publication. The publication (I still use the word) became more user-friendly, student-centered, and visual. Tables replaced bullet points entries, font-sizes could be enlarged, and whole sections could be PDF-ed for convenience (but not downloaded). Nuances between UBC’s two campuses were accepted (I worked in the Okanagan; the first campus, the bigger campus, is in Vancouver) and found their way into language, text, and presentation. We agreed to never hyperlink outside of the academic calendar (too risky, students might get lost) and we used the phrase “the online academic calendar is the official academic calendar” often. After a few tries I think we got it right.

I miss my academic calendar. It was an intellectually challenging but rewarding task to take policies and see them through to implementation in a living, online document, a very different animal indeed. Online publications need not just a different work-flow, but a wholly different set of protocols that start way before text is proposed and approved. Although for years many of my Senators lamented the loss of holding the book in their hands and flipping through its pages to find what they were looking for, they are quite used to it now. It’s like the book never existed.

Source: What Happens After Print?

A network map of Japanese art collectives

This post inaugurates our first homework assignment at “Building a Digital Portfolio,” which just successfully concluded its first day (you can follow the summer institute on Twitter with #doingdah15). After setting up our own domains and installing WordPress, we were asked to write a blog post on a project we were interested in working on throughout the workshop, so here we go!

As seen in the header image of this blog post, out of a variety of digital humanities methods, I am currently most interested in data visualization and network analysis. In terms of modern (late 19th to first half of the 20th century) Japanese art, which is my scholarly focus, I think a great application for this would be to utilize already published data on art exhibitions and art journal publications in Japan. The two volumes I’m starting off with are A Catalogue of Art Exhibitions during the Prewar Showa Period (Shōwaki bijutsu tenrankai shuppin mokuroku senzenhen) and A Bibliography of the Table of Contents of Art-Related Magazines (Bijutsu kankei zasshi mokuji sōran). The first volume contains data on art exhibitions held from 1926-1945: which artists displayed in which exhibitions, and sometimes the price attached to a particular work for sale. The second volume is an index that has gathered the table of contents from fifty-three major Japanese art magazines and journals that were published from 1869 to 1948.

Art exhibitions in Japan are inseparable from the art collectives that hosted them. Indeed, as stated by Alicia Volk and Satō Doshin, artist collectives (bijutsu dantai) configure prominently in 20th century Japanese art history.1 Retrospective exhibitions catalogs on this period  are often accompanied by genealogical diagrams showing stylistic developments and the evolution of artist collectives . Yet these diagrams do not suffice to show the complexities of the social interactions that existed among artists at the time. For this project, I define social interactions as two or more artists displaying their works in the same exhibition and/or publishing on the same journals. I propose the use of sociograms (diagram of social links a person has), one mapping exhibitions in which artists displayed their works, and the other mapping journals on which artists published, to visualize how artists and collectives were connected through these two modern platforms of display and circulation of images and information.

Kindai yoga no ayumi A genealogy of modern Western-style painting. Atsuo Imaizumi and Koichi Ishikawa ed. The History of Modern Western-Style Painting: The West and Japan [Kindai yoga no ayumi: seiyo to nihon]. Tokyo: Toto bunka shuppan, 1955: 63.

Network analysis will allow us to see and explore a macro-view of the network formed by artist groups. I still have to read more on social network analysis to come up with a comprehensive list of findings I hope to make through my sociogram (i.e. “where’s the beef?” question), but one element I plan to investigate is the range of clusters that formed according to various categories (e.g. geographical clusters: Tokyo vs. Kyoto, Japanese mainland vs. the colonies, gender: male & female artists, sponsorship: governmental vs. extra-governmental, and group stance: conservatives vs. progressives). What kind of network structures did these clusters generate throughout the 20th century? Which figures really tightened each cluster as “closure” figures? Which artists acted as “broker” figures, bridging clusters that wouldn’t have connected otherwise? How do the networks of exhibitions and publications compare/contrast? How are these two platforms related?

All of this are a work in progress, and that is why the header image is cropped. It’s actually an incomplete sociogram that I made with Gephi, using data that I processed with Google Sheets. The green nodes are the different art exhibitions, while the orange nodes are names of artists, and the edges between them indicate that an artist displayed their work in an exhibition. I made the diagram as my first attempt at learning Gephi, and through that exploration I realized that I should add time as a dimension to make the graph more meaningful. Also, I’m anxious to get my hands on coding so I can process my data on a much bigger scale.

Although my project primarily utilizes data visualization and network analysis, I’m also excited to survey other digital humanities methodology through the workshop, and see how they can also be applicable. For instance, we will be looking at major digital art collections tomorrow, which should provide new ideas for me to think about how I could present this project as an online, visual exhibition consisting of an interactive network diagram and/or images and metadata of the artworks and magazine articles.

1. [Footnote coming soon]

Source: A network map of Japanese art collectives

From Here We Go Digital: Anxieties and Aspirations

The Internet. All together now.

When it came time today to register domain names the group became restless: hands went up, eyebrows rose, and fingers tapped the keyboard then stopped, then tapped again this time in a steady and receptive tap that could only be the delete key being pummeled. If the group shares an anxiety about doing digital humanities it seems to be the thought of creating an indelible mark on the Internet. For me, registering a domain at Reclaimhosting.com created a temporary state of delusion about the Internet. Despite the fact that my (this) domain will expire in a year if I do not renew it, I felt like I was creating a permanent reflection of myself for all the world to see. This is connected to a separate anxiety-inducing misconception about the Internet–namely that what we put out there will in fact be seen at all. I am not an Internet cynic, but I do know that if I do not take the appropriate measures to ensure that my content is shared and viewed, it will not reach anybody. This fact helped me escaped my delusion and quelled my anxiety about this domain situation. I reminded myself that I am not permanently bound to this domain and that by doing nothing to promote this post I will not experience the discomfort of the public eye.

My anxiety about putting anything on the Internet hinders my capacity to move forward with using digital tools in my work. Hopefully, the tools I am about to be introduced to will serve as buoys to keep me afloat when the Internet appears too dark, too choppy, or too vast to cast off into. In less metaphorical terms, I want to learn to use the community of scholars active online to improve my research. I know that people (in general) are a rich resource but as it stands I restrict my access to this resource; I forget that the Internet is not a soulless behemoth but a great big mass made up of lots of little human interactions.

Aside from working on changing my perspective of the Internet, I want to spend the next two weeks revisiting primary source materials that I have already assessed in a “traditional” way. To start, I need to organize these pages of PDFs in a way that makes them more accessible. Second, I would like to experiment with using their contents as data. My goal is to have a seed of a digital component to my research project that I can develop as a complement to the writing I have already done. I am working with letters from museum staff, artists, and chemical companies regarding the planning of a specific exhibition of plastic art in the late-1960s. One question I am attempting to answer in my research is if, and if so, how much, impact artists the plastics industry. This question, I think, lends itself to statistical analysis and visualizations.

Lastly, I am about to start teaching for the first time and hope to ground my approach to classroom work in digital methods. I am particularly interested in how to communicate with students better and to learn from the experiences of others who have already tried certain tools in the classroom.

Source: From Here We Go Digital: Anxieties and Aspirations

Day 1 of DH @ GMU

We’ve just finished our first day of “Building  a Digital Portfolio,” a two-week seminar for graduate students hosted by The Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University.

It was a whirlwind day, full of introductions, yummy Panera food, discussions of readings, the meaning of digital art history, and the ideas behind “threshold concepts.” Lots to chew on. We also spent a good deal of time discussing twitter (which I already use) and setting up our own domains (of which I already have one – but why not have another?). This page will serve as a blog, a repository of ideas, and a space to share reflections throughout the course of the seminar.

First things first: we’ll be working on individual projects, and I’ve had a tough time narrowing down what I want to do. Here are some ideas; all of these things need “doing,” but what can I reasonably tackle in the next two weeks?

Malthi Mapping Project – I’ve just returned from three weeks of digital GPS mapping of this intriguing Middle Helladic site in the Southern Peloponnese. As the official photographer, I’m sitting on a goldmine of photos of walls and rooms. I need to develop a good system of metadata-tagging these photos and filing them in a database of some sort so that they’re accessible to scholars working on the site. Along with this I also need to cull together a number of images that I took in the process of learning photogrammetry, and learn the software that deals with the creation of 3D images based on photographs.
Along with this, I’ve toyed with the idea of developing a website for Malthi, so that subsequent seasons can update their progress in a real-time manner. First I’ll need to discuss this with the Co-PIs, however, to see what their needs are.
Developing an interactive webpage that explores the differences in the landscape of Athens during the Ottoman period and today. This is a side project born of the work I’ve been doing at the J. Paul Getty Museum this past year. I’ve worked on developing an exhibition of the watercolour paintings of Edward Dodwell and Simone Pomardi, and I’ve become quite interested in exploring how the fabric of the Athenian city has changed in the past two centuries.
Creating a content-management system for my extensive (40,000+) collection of images related to my work and teaching. I am not sure how to begin this, but was relieved to read in some of last night’s assignments how this was an issue for art historians and digital management people.
Finally, I’d like to start brainstorming about the future of my dissertation work. I’ve long wanted to push the boundaries of my study of the Erechtheion frieze. Rather than a simple reconstruction drawing – which would be next to impossible, given the limitations of studying the very fragmentary frieze – I think the project calls for something digital, but I have lacked the time to explore this more fully. This could be a good time to start thinking seriously about the post-defence life of my dissertation.

This is a good start, although overly-ambitious for just two weeks, so I welcome ideas about where I could focus in such a short period of time!

Source: Day 1 of DH @ GMU

Doing DH 2015 –Digital Humanities Workshop

This site will be an inquiry into digital humanities as applied to research of art, objects, textiles and landscape in the colonial Andes.

Things to think about with regard to textiles and landscape:

*Do we know how textiles moved between communities, storehouses and centers of power in Inka Empire? And how did textiles move/transact under colonial power?

*Can we trace common practices, measures, communication systems re: textiles?

*How was textile production managed locally and regionally in Inka period, and versus colonial period?…and do we see corresponding variation or contraction of textile practices/communications system as result?

*What are the patterns, relationships, trends to look for…