Women Architects and World Fairs

Author: Thoughts + Recent Work

Digital Pedagogy

I really appreciate Bruzelius’ and Jacobs’ approach to a ‘living syllabus’, and it is definitely something I could see myself using for my own reference/instruction. In a field that is so canonized, I appreciate scholars who are creating work that creates moments for intervention and expansion. In discussing how they chose the objects for their ‘living syllabus’ Bruzelius’ and Jacobs’ explain, “Although we used the canonical objects illustrated in the standard introductory textbooks, we approached these places, objects, and the raw materials of which those objects were made as points of departure for a semester-long meditation on the lives (and trajectories) of things.” While this project was developed specifically for art historical work and objects, I see this working as an excellent model for archival instruction because archival materials have a similarly rich, varied, and often complicated provenance. Being able to visually breakdown and unpack a story through the use of interactive tools like StoryMaps, Omeka, and TimeMapperJS could help students connect to the history of an object. As a related benefit, I see the living syllabus working as an excellent tool for increasing equity and as a way to shift harmful narratives around archival materials. It would allow for detail and context beyond what a finding aid may be able to provide. Additionally, involving students in the creation of the living syllabus provides an opportunity for greater student interaction, interest, and engagement that can not be overlooked. In fact, it is a main benefit highlighted by Bruzelius’ and Jacobs’: “For students, the creation of maps generated by their individual interests (such as the origins of the cedar used in the Pharaoh’s boats at Giza) stimulated a higher level of research and engagement with the sources. We found that students used a broader assortment of primary materials, and proposed their own solutions or interpretations of the evidence.”

Public Engagement/Crowdsourcing

I really love the idea and energy behind crowdsourcing projects in GLAM settings, but I do think it is a tricky balance. As I mentioned in class, I’ve been thinking about the use of crowdsourcing for metadata entry that Jessica BrodeFrank mentions in her article Crowdsourcing Metadata in Museums: Expanding Descriptions, Access, Transparency, and Experience. In her introduction BrodeFrank makes a strong case for crowdsourced cataloging by highlighting two of the major issues that have long plagued metadata entry: labor and transparency. BrodeFrank bolsters her argument by explaining that “…over the last two decades [crowdsourced cataloging] has proven not only to increase access points to collections but also to enrich catalogue data. As well, crowdsourcing presents an opportunity for museums to make what has long been an opaque back-end process more transparent, turning metadata creation into a mission-supporting activity.” Later in the article BrodeFrank points to the divide between descriptive, technical metadata (or ‘structured metadata’) and everyday language when she highlights that prioritizing the first over the later may “hide materials from the wider audiences who may be searching for them—in other words, how prioritizing what objects are can prevent the discovery of what they’re about.” This is where crowdsourced metadata can really make a difference: it’s created for the people, by the people. While I absolutely agree with BrodeFrank’s arguments, especially the concerns around labor, it is that same concern that leaves me feeling hesitant about crowdsourced metadata projects. Even with the use of machine learning and AI, I can’t help but wonder how much labor and time someone may have to spend on the back end to correct for mistakes made by participants and those created by or not caught by AI. Knowing what I know about GLAM institutions, this labor would likely be absorbed by someone who is apart of an understaffed team, and who is being paid too little for the amount of work they do. Additionally, I’m concerned about one of the major issues present in the Tag Along with Adler project: a lack of diversity due to ‘superusers’ who dominant the communal process. Even so, I do think that this is an approach with immense value. I’m excited by the possibility for transparency, access, and diversity of perspective that could be possible through crowdsourced metadata projects – but at this time the process is still saddled with major labor, diversity, and transparency issues that need to be addressed.

Mapping Time

I was really impressed with the Mina Loy project we read about this week. One of my biggest takeaways was the amount of money and the amount of labor it takes to do a DH project justice. The Mina Loy project received a $75,000 grant from the NEH, had teams of undergraduate students across multiple universities working on the site as part of a class, and had several funded professors, and graduate student positions dedicated to working on the project. Earlier in the semester we looked at several projects that had great bones but that seemed to lack funding for long term maintenance because we ran into broken links and issues with old embedded flash features, etc. Though maybe it’s not a fair comparison as the Mina Loy project isn’t that old yet because it launched in 2020, so maybe it will be a different story if we check back in another three or four years. As far as the actual website goes, I found it to be a really successful layout – it felt like the user experience was considered at every turn. I really liked having multiple site navigation bar options – one for those who like to scroll and a fixed bar at the top of the page for those who like to jump right to specific content. I was also impressed by the layers of work behind each click as I went deeper into the website like how all of the carousel photos click out to their own story map with more detail about the image. This site sticks out to me as a kind of ideal model and would be an example I’d show to anyone wanting to see the full potential of a completely fleshed out digital humanities project.

Data Visualization: word cloud experiments

This is a word cloud generated from a PDF discussing the book The Art of Collaboration: Poets, Artists, Books. I chose to represent this word cloud with the icon of a book for, well, obvious reasons – I also wanted to experiment with how the word cloud would look with in circular shape so I tried that with the earth icon. The colors were chosen fairly arbitrarily because I struggled to think of meaningful reasoning behind color choice for this particular word cloud, though I do see how it could be useful or more important for other word clouds using different data sources. Overall, I think this is a somewhat successful word cloud but in a really narrow way: I was interested in this book’s title and wanted to use a word cloud to see if this 12 page synopsis of the book would reveal how closely aligned the book is to my own research. So for that very specific purpose, the word cloud was a quick and easy way for me to decide that I would like to grab this book from the library and take the time to read it!

Problems with digital surrogates/textmining curiosity

For this week’s batch of readings I was most drawn to Collections and/of Data: Art History and the Art Museum in the DH Mode by Matthew Battles and Michael Maizels. Specifically the discussion of the S.M.S. NOs 1–6s project.  This project is a digital version of William Copeley’s editioned, snailmail multimedia project S.M.S which was started in 1968. Subscribers of the project received a batch of music, poetry books, and other art objects created by artists like John Cage, Dick Higgins, and La Monte Young. The project was meant to move art out of the art gallery, out of the hands of wealthy collectors, and to provide more access to contemporary art outside of the traditional art market. In that same spirit of accessibility, S.M.S NOs 1 – 6 aims to exist as a “digital translation” or “digital avatar” of the original items found within S.M.S packages. When discussing the user experience for S.M.S Nos 1 – 6 Battles and Maizels write, “Users are now able to interact with digital avatars of each S.M.S. object: flipping it over, turning its pages, listening to its audio, or activating its intended motion.” While I can appreciate the dedication to creating a haptic experience that mimics the experience of handling the actual objects, and I really love the entire spirit of both Copeley’s original S.M.S and this digital translation, it still feels off. In class I discussed all the different experiences and nuances that are lost when someone is only able to access a digital surrogate – this is definitely the visual material/special collections archivist in me coming forward. I’m someone who absolutely values and champions digitization of materials but as a means of more equitable access, not as a replacement or as a kind of surrogate, I don’t think that is ever fully possible. As for data I’d be interested in working with and how I may apply it: I was really interested in text mining and the work being done over on Mining the Dispatch. It was really interesting to think about how I may be able to incorporate that into my research and work for Rhiannon, which heavily relies on language, text, keywords, etc. I think that the Mining the Dispatch project could work as a kind of model for this – so instead of mining civil war era Richmond Times Dispatch issues I could tailor it to Rhiannon’s interests by mining North Carolina newspapers (and from the same era would work as that falls into her years of focus) for mentions of immigrants, race relations, music, railroad mentions, etc. I’d imagine that I could basically plug in the list of search terms I’ve amassed while researching for her to see what kind of hits I’d get, what kinds of trends show up over time, and in what specific areas of the state which could all be of interest to her.

Defining Digital Imaging

Before I started reading through Introduction to Imaging, Revised Edition I took a look at the hardcopy edition specifications to note the year of publication: 2003. I find that it’s always important to be conscious of the publication year when reading articles and texts because it helps to provide some context – but I find it to be especially helpful when reading anything that deals with technology. In the year 2003, I was twelve years old and thanks to this website I was able to recall the technological landscape of that specific year. It was the year Blu-ray discs were introduced to consumer markets and was the year that myspace.com launched; just three years earlier, the first camera phone was invented. While I’m sure no one could have predicted the way camera phones (and similarly, the eventual mass-affordability of personal digital cameras) would cause digital photography to take off – it’s interesting to note that Introduction to Imagine, Revised Edition largely focuses on the digital image as a digital surrogate for a physical item. Hubbard and Lenert actually provide a fairly confusing definition of what they understand a ‘digital image’ to be and I’m left feeling unsure if they’re factoring in images taken digitally or if they’re specifically referring to scans/digitally duplicated objects. I’m leaning towards the latter as their use of the term digital images is never paired with the word camera and instead seems to be exclusively coupled with mentions of scanners. For example, in their section titled The Digital Image Defined they write, “This matrix is created during the scanning process, in which an analog original is sampled at regular intervals, or the color of selected points of its surface, corresponding to each pixel, is recorded. Generally speaking, the more samples taken from the source image, the more accurate the resulting digital surrogate will be.” Though in later sections titled “The Image” and  “Image Capture” they do mention the use of digital photography as a reproduction method/capture method, I wish that they would have been more clear in their definition from the start. Below is an image I took circa 2010 of my grandma and her boyfriend. This is a scanned 35mm print – it was scanned using a household flatbed scanner and I used photoshop to do some minimal spot touching for dust.

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