GSW 100 Online Exhibition


In the Fall of 2017, I taught a 4-credit undergraduate class entitled “What does a feminist look like? Art and Activism in the Second Wave.” As a final project, students worked with materials in the University of Rochester’s Rare Books and Special Collections Library that related directly to the class’s content and timeframe. Using WordPress, each student connected his or her selected object with artworks, publications, primary documents, and current events as a way of constructing a network of interpretation around the object.

The design of the main page for the exhibition was inspired by Printed Matter Tables, and the header image is a riff on the cover of Our Bodies, Ourselves.

View the exhibition.

 

 

Televisual Time


In 2016-2017, I worked as a Research Assistant on Televisual Time (REJ), a DH project organized by Assistant Professor of English Joel Burges. As this was a brand new project, we began at the ground level and spent much of the year thinking through theoretical and methodological questions. For Burges, the magazine was compelling as a physical instantiation of television’s temporal structure that, as a result, might be seen as a physical instantiation of time past. At the same time, it gives a zoomed-out perspective on TV that makes it akin to the kind of “distant reading” common to data-based DH analysis. With these comparisons in mind, what might a large-scale digital analysis of TV Guide tell us about the medium of television and, particularly, its way of structuring time?

Technology

This project introduced me to the necessary—and often frustrating—preliminary steps involved in getting an archived-based DH project off the ground. The original plan was to use OCR to read digitized copies of the magazine. First question: are the materials already digitized? At what cost? Although a digitized archive was found to exist, it was beyond the budget of such a new project.

Our next attempt was to use microfilm, which we were able to procure via Interlibrary Loan. However, these materials turned out to be inadequate for our uses, since the magazine had been recorded at a very small scale: between 2 and 4 issues vertically per 35mm microfilm reel. Once scanned and viewed as PDFs, the text of the schedules was unintelligible to the computer, and often to us as well.

Next, we turned to the magazine itself, and thus to eBay, where we were able to purchase a selection of issues from each decade. After scanning the magazines, we were able to OCR most of the text, but many of the TV Guide-specific elements, such as times and channels, were not picked up. The evolution from a two-column layout to a grid and the corresponding shrinkage of text brought diminishing returns.


Televisual Genre

Given these setbacks, I decided for the rest of the semester to see what we could gather from the OCR files, rather than dwelling on what we couldn’t. I thus found myself turning away from time and toward more accessible questions of genre. From 1952, when the magazine was started, through the early 2000s, TV Guide included genres alongside many of its listings. These genres, however, were inconsistent, both in their identity and their distribution. Using text-searching software, I collected data about genre and published the preliminary results as a research report on the Mellon website. For me, the most interesting outcome was the idea of calculating genre distribution in minutes: how long, for example, one could spend watching all of the comedies on air in a given week (hypothetically or with the aid of recording technology). For 1998, this number—13,560 minutes, or 226 hours—far exceeds the total number of minutes in a week, being 10,080. An odd comparison, to be sure, but intriguing nonetheless.


TV in the Seventies

In December 1972, LIFE Magazine published its last issue. Featuring “A Year in Pictures,” this final publication represented the capitaluation of the once-burgeoning illustrated press to the new world of television news. In 1973, TV Guide took up the mantle of annual retrospection with “How You Saw the World on Television in 1973.” How does the world look different in a magazine verus on TV? And what did this shift mean for photography as a broader medium? While these questions grew out of my TV Guide reserach, they have since become increasingly significant to my dissertation reserach on photography’s changing status as a mass medium in the 1970s.

ReEnvisioning Japan

Glass lantern slide from Kyoto
Detail from a Japan travel album
In 2016-2017, I worked as a Research Assistant on ReEnvisioning Japan (REJ), a digital archive that explores changing representations of Japan and its place in the world in the 20th century. The project’s lead is Joanne Bernardi, Associate Professor of Japanese and Film and Media Studies at UR.

What drew me to Bernardi’s project was the dynamic between material and digital that is central to the archive’s mode of presentation. Her largest collection is that of postcards, printed images that—like photographs—are easily read as illustrations when digitized, rather than objects. Working with the team, I was able to see first-hand how collaboration between humanists and computer scientists can produce remarkable results, such as the high-resolution viewer plug-in developed specifically for the site. That this plug-in, which I can only imagine will be used by many others in the DH community, was developed in the specific context of a materially-concerned archive in some ways represents a reclaiming of the dangers of prescriptive software, as it will spread some of that same emphasis on materiality to countless other projects.

Technology

I joined REJ in the middle of the site’s transition from WordPress to Omeka. Following the stages of this transition exposed me to important conversations about best practices in file management, how to determine metadata fields, and other related issues that comprise the behind-the-scenes critical thinking of any digital project. In short, just as a two-dimensional image does not necessarily neutrally convey a three-dimensional object, an item’s metadata does not neturally convey the item itself.

When I first started with REJ, I knew little about Omeka except that its collections management and exhibition creation tools might be applicable to some of my own art history-oriented projects. My experience with REJ encouraged me to explore the platform more in-depth in regards to my own discipline, since Bernardi’s project is based primarily in the methodology of Japanese cultural history. In the process, I have become aware of ways in which Omeka is geared toward the discipline of history in which it was created and therefore motivated to focus on how art historical questions both work and do not work within the platform’s affordances (see Histories of Photography).

Mind and Metadata

Inspired by REJ’s engagement with Jules Prown’s theory of material culture, I am currently planning an article that explores these ideas in conjunction with his pioneering work with computer databases in the 1960s.

Recataloguing New Topographics

I made this project—my first DH project—in the Fall of 2014 for “The Art of Industry,” a course at the University of Rochester taught by Peter Christensen. Entitled “Recataloguing New Topographics,” the project was a digital component of my research paper about the 1975 exhibition now considered a turning point in the history of landscape photography.

In his catalogue essay, curator William Jenkins touts his selected photographers as demonstrating a “styleless style,” which the limited selection of images—only three or four per artist despite a much larger checklist—supports. How might a different selection of images tell a different story about this photographic tendency while still equally representing the exhibition? Using consumer photobook-making software, students construct their own versions of the catalogue, destabilizing assumptions about the transparency of documents to history.



Catalogues and Photo Books

In addition, this project invites students to look critically at a contemporary trend in consumer technology, being the creation of photo books. As an artistic format, the photo book blossomed—alongside New Topographics—in the 1970s.

Installation view from the 1975 exhibition

Technology

This project uses the BookWright software by Blurb, one of the most popular self-publishing and marketing platforms.


 

Digital Art History Workshops

In the summer of 2017, I participated in two selective workshops about Digital Art History. The first, “The Art Historical Image in the Digital Age,” was held at the American Academy in Rome, and the second, “The Iconic Turn: Image-Driven Digital Art History,” was part of a larger series of DH workshops sponsored by the European Summer University at the University of Leipzig. Both of these workshops exceeded my expectations in ways I could not have imagined. Most broadly, the opportunities to work with art historians concentrating in a wide array of historical eras (Rome) and with art historians from across the globe (Leipzig) gave me a much wider perspective on my DH work and its potential for expansion. In different ways, both workshops encouraged my thinking about photography in relation to the reproduction of images, whether in textbooks or photobooks, as a way to expand the temporally localized interests in my dissertation (the American 1970s) to a much broader range of subjects.


I was also honored by the opportunity to present my project on Uncommon Places to the entire ESU community, through which I received valuable feedback from an international perspective.

Photo by @jeremydouglass

Histories of Photography

This project grew out of a personal desire for a place of organization, something for which I have found Omeka to be rather useful. As a docent for the History of Photography galleries at the George Eastman Museum,
I receive PDFs with small images and wall text for each exhibition, which changes every few months. In preparing for my tours, however, I wanted a way to view images more in-depth that would more closely approximate the opportunities afforded in the gallery itself. Omeka offered a platform for organizing object metadata and recording my evolving thoughts on each work, especially as they were shaped by interactions with museum visitors.



Matters of Scale
Expanding out from this original function, I next began to explore ways that a web interface could enhance visitors’ understandings of the exhibitions, especially once their physical instantiations were replaced. After all, the purpose of these museum exhibitions is not simply to show off images, but to show off objects, made with different photographic processes, cameras, and materials. From this perspective, a grid or even list of equal-size thumbnails works against the idea behind the exhibitions, which is to enrich the narrative of photography’s history with an understanding of its many technological transformations. For example, the large size of certain USGS survey photographs points to practice of contact-printing glass plate negatives, while the ability to print large images in the late 20th century signals the improvement of digital printing. In the gallery, these insights are important aspects of the history as it is imparted to viewers, but the standardized scale of the typical online archive reduces if not entirely obliterates their visual impact.

Therefore, as I developed the project, I began exploring alternative modes of presentation. The current solution is rather simple: a horizontally-scrolling window in which photographs are displayed to scale. The sideways scroll and center orientation abstractly mimics the layout of the exhibition space, while the addition of a lightbox points to the experience of stepping close to a photograph and switching from exhibition view to the single object and ultimately its finest details. As a result of this project, scale has become an incredibly important element of my interest in digital technology’s potential for displaying photographic collections. Displaying objects in an exhibition at a comparative standardized scale is a fairly simple premise that nonetheless has a significant impact on how viewers understand the objects they are viewing, and I intend to pursue this issue in my future work.

Technology

This project originated as a test case for Omeka wherein I could explore the platform’s possibilities. Working with the Eastman Museum’s collection allowed me to skip right to questions about user experience, since the difficult labor of gathering metadata and creating high-quality images was already done. That being said, I quickly found that Omeka did not work quite how I imagined it to, particularly with regard to the popular Exhibit Builder plug-in. In future iterations of this type of project, I plan to explore alternative collection management systems.

For copyright reasons, this prototype site is currently password-protected. If you would like to view it, please contact me at tracy.stuber [at] gmail.com.

UR Mellon Fellows

Website

During my tenure as an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in Digital Humanities, I designed the fellows’ promotional material and both designed and maintained the fellows’ website.
Built on WordPress, the website was hosted on university servers, which made for some logistical challenges around updating files, installing plug-ins, and so on.

Graphic Design

My primary goal for poster design was to use a consistent, recognizable style that would tie our different events together.

polipost

polipost is a concept app that addresses the convergence of social media and political expression. Building on the premise of apps that will send physical postcards from uploaded digital images, this app encourages users to communicate visually and textually with their elected representatives about issues that matter to them. For a small fee, users can send a customized postcard to a representative of their choice that bears an image of their own making. Seeking to redirect the energies behind common practices on Facebook and Instagram, polipost is also intended to pose further inquiry into how images communicate, personally and politically.

Technology

This prototype was made using Marvel.