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2015 January



January 27, 2015

Shakespeare’s well-painted passion…digitally visualized

January 27, 2015 | By | No Comments

In this post I’m going to discuss my project in a bit more detail. As I’ve stated previously, I am interested in the way Renaissance playwrights write about, perform, and otherwise engage with visual art, artists, and artistic theory. So one of the first things I look for when studying this topic is when and how dramatists include visual art as stage properties, painters as characters, or deploy artistic language within dialogue.

For my CHI project, I’ve chosen to focus on Shakespeare’s work since it is accessible and better known to a wider range of people. I’ve also narrowed my scope by focusing on portraiture exclusively. Using Open Source Shakespeare I searched for the following words, each related to Renaissance portraiture: paint, counterfeit, varnish, shadow, table, and perspective. These key words (and their variants) relate to historical usage of artistic terminology. Still, sometimes a table is just a thing with four legs, and not necessarily “a board or other flat surface on which a picture is painted; the picture itself” (OED). So in those cases, I examined the passage to make the determination that term could, in fact, be at least a partial reference to painting.

We all know how complex Shakespeare’s words are so of course these terms pertain to more than just the visual arts. But my reading will focus on these terms because my larger argument (see my larger argument in my dissertation, circa 2016) focuses on the prevalent relationship between Renaissance visual and verbal artists.

Through the lens of the visual specifically, my project explores the ways in which the visual artist, his profession, and his works were used as metadramatic devices to reflect upon the visual nature of drama and its effect. Examining the integration of visual art within drama allows for a new method of understanding the dramatic arts as a counter-paragone medium. That is, while Renaissance artistic and literary theory generally divides forms from each other, (with the intention of privileging one form over others), my reading of these plays suggests that Renaissance visual and textual media are not actually limited by this artificial binary and instead coexist reciprocally through this metadramatic function.

In my last blog post, I mentioned that I presented Palladio to the other CHI fellows. Below is a quick graph I created using their web-based visualization tool. While at the moment it contains too much information to be useful (or even very readable), I just wanted to tinker with the platform in order to learn how it works.You can see that my main data points are the keys terms that I listed previously. Each point is sized to correlate to frequency. Aside from that, this graph is pretty difficult to read, but it at least illustrates the degree to which Shakespeare deploys artistic terminology (a lot). Click the image below for a larger view.

Graph1 Blog

This second graph contains less data and is therefore perhaps a bit more easily read and understood. Here, I just (selfishly) included some of my favorite plays and visualized the frequency to which they include my key terms. Click the image below for a larger view.

Graph2 Blog

In the next month or so, I’ll be playing around with the tool, Voyant, which I made reference to last month. I’m curious to see how using their text-based analytical tools might enable me to view this data in a new way.



January 26, 2015

Vizicites: A New Way to See the City

January 26, 2015 | By | No Comments

One of our responsibilities as CHI fellows is to present a workshop on a digital humanities program, tool, or app to the group. I chose to present my workshop on Vizcities, a somewhat new city-based data visualization platform. I was drawn to Vizicities for a few reasons: my scholarly (and not so scholarly) interest in maps and cities, and my desire to take a break from history and discuss a platform that uses contemporary data.

What sets Vizicities apart from other DH map platforms? It combines 3D and live data in one browser-based map. Inspired by SimCity, the creators wanted to build maps which showcase the 3D reality of cities (such as building heights and river depths) and capture live data in those maps. In their development diary, Vizicities has build 3D maps of London which capture live tweets, incoming planes, and even trains in the London Underground.

The creators are particularly excited for the Vizicities’ combination of live and 3D data to assist in urban planning and disaster relief efforts, such as floods, in which it would be key for emergency professionals to have live updates of water levels.

Given my interest in transportation, public space, and urban history, I was struck by the potential of Vizicities for historians. I can easily see historians using Vizicities to study contemporary movement in their city of interest and comparing this data to the same city in their period of study. I can also see sociologists, anthropologists and other social scientists diving into Vizicities to study urban areas in a variety of ways. Perhaps as the platform grows, the creators can develop its usability in rural areas as well. Vizicities is currently still in development, and I am looking forward to seeing what scholars can do with this powerful addition to the digital humanities world.

Lisa Bright


January 17, 2015

Yes, I can fix that…

January 17, 2015 | By | No Comments

As spring semester beings, I’m happy to dust off this blog and break the hiatus silence. I’m sure that I experienced many of the same things any tech savvy reader of this blog did over the holidays: fixing family members technology. Items were fixed that were obviously broken or sadly out of date, or I HAD to impose myself upon them seeing how inefficiently programs and objects were setup.

Unfortunately, I (and a few others I know) run into this problem professionally as well. And reflecting back on winter break, because of course with the start of spring semester the most likely question a person is asked is “How was your break?”, fixing family members computers reminds me a lot of the hurdles being faced within Anthropology. Much of Anthropology is just beginning to embrace digital technology and social media.

Now don’t get me wrong, I know that change is slow, especially academically. And it’s great that professional organizations and conferences are trying to connect with blogs, Twitter, and Facebook. However, it’s also frustrating to see it done incorrectly. You know what I’m talking about, tweets so far over the 140 character limit that the hashtag isn’t visible, or incredibly long hashtags that are practicably un-functional with no thought for reuse in the future years/conferences; tweets or Facebook posts about connecting with social media at a conference, with the instructions on a webpage that doesn’t work on mobile devices.

There’s also a current discussion regarding how to count online publishing on the yearly academic review for students and faculty. As many journals transition to online only publishing, these considerations need to be made now, rather than later.

So as 2015 begins to fly by, I’m hoping by this time next year progress towards digital acceptance has been made. But I have a feeling, we’ll all still be saying, “Yes I can fix that”, or “No, that’s not how that works”. I did just field a call from my step-dad asking me for the router password, even though I haven’t lived there in 12 years. And yes, of course I knew what it was.