Review of Visualizing Schneemann

I’ve been assigned a review of Michelle Moravec’s Visualizing Schneemann project I saw presented live in 2014, at THATCamp CAA. Very neat to look at it again with a sharper DH lens. Here are my thoughts:

Applicability: Is it directed at a clear audience? Will it serve the needs of that audience?

The audience is other DH scholars, advanced ones too who know and understand the tools used and can follow along quickly. Many areas of new research are identified and teased out, likely with applications for other researchers.

Quality: Is the scholarship sound and current? What is the interpretation or point of view?

Although Moravec admits missing data, she posits that her conclusions would likely be the same: namely, that Schneemann’s network was dominated by strong ties to a small circle of male friends. Her scholarship is not verifiable.

Accessibility: Is there a fee for use? is specific software required?

Access to the project description is free, but no access is granted to the data behind the research (although screenshots of data visualizations etc., are available).

User Experience: Easy to navigate? Does it function effectively? Does it have a clear, effective, and original design?

The text (with screenshots) is a narrative read from top to bottom, general to specific, following methodologies that answer specific questions; one can’t get lost, although one can’t get too close either.

Use of New Media: Does it make effective use of new media and new technology? Does it do something that could not be done in other media—print, exhibition, film?

A wide array of tools have been used to complete this project. The visualizations are somewhat effective, but I required her narrative in order to follow along; had she presented the screenshots alone I would not have been able to. In this way her scholarship reads in a traditional format.

Referencing Mitchell Whitelaw’s essay “Generous Interfaces for Digital Cultural Collections,” I was surprised that at no time is the audience offered (at minimum) a screenshot of an original Schneemann letter. It seems to me that Moravec has lost slightly her hold on the object that has permitted her study of Schneemann’s network.

Source: Review of Visualizing Schneemann