Category Archives: Digital Humanities

Comparing data modelling techniques

As discussed in previous posts, data refers to a collection of information. Whatever the purpose of this collection, in order to gain insight and work with this information, an adequate manner of displaying and comparing data is necessary in order to get full use out of it. Some thought needs to be put into how a system is designed for modelling data, the first step in database design and object orientated programming. Data Modelling is generally understood as having three stages of design: Conceptual, Logical and Physical. (“Data Modeling – Conceptual, Logical, And Physical Data Models”) Complexity increases with each stage of design. It should be highlighted that the structure of containing data is often purpose built. “The biggest challenge is correctly capturing the requirements on the data model. Often when the project starts, there are only vague requirements (if requirements at all), and the data model must represent these requirements completely and precisely. Therefore it is a very challenging task to go from ambiguity or vagueness to precision. ” (Hoberman)

Data modelling assumes the following in its design:
i) There can be numerous links between different data
ii) Categorization of data, separation and encapsulation is necessary for searchability – and  a well built ontology allows you to get the most out of your data.
iii) Unique keys are used to identify parts of information, as access points linking data.

The Conceptual model highlights how the different bits of data relate to one another, specifying Entity Names and Relationships. The Logical model, is more specific and detailed – adding Attributes, Foreign Keys and Primary Keys. The physical model, must be implementable and applicable to the database of choice -specifying Column names and data types, tables names and Foreign and Primary keys. (“Data Modeling – Conceptual, Logical, And Physical Data Models”)

Within the Conceptual, Logical and Physical schemas there are numerous ways of modelling data, that can vary according to design depending on using the data for comparison and tracking correlations. Hoberman reminds us that methods of building and modelling this data can vary. “In some efforts, the database design is completed, and then the logical and conceptual are built for documentation and support purposes.” While familiarity with ones data set is needed for the purposes of interpretation, techniques of displaying data can be useful for particular purposes. Personally, I find visual data modelling techniques much easier to work with – particularly when comparing data. “The underlying benefit of creating a data model is that the data actually becomes understandable, as others can read it and learn about it. ” (Hoberman)

Different types of data modelling techniques which we should be familiar with include:

Spreadsheets for example can be used to model data, depending on the purpose this can be adequate as information can be grouped in rows and columns. The example is given of spreadsheets as data notation with financial business experts by Steve Hoberman. However, he also highlights the importance of definitions when modelling data – as every data set needs to be treated differently. The key understanding here is the elation between different types of data.

Visual representation of data can be very useful, especially when looking for comparisons and correlations. Diagrams are very useful when trying to design the structure for holding your data – setting out links and structure. What is important too is query languages for databases, which can have ontologies assigned such as W3schools standards like RDF. There are numerous software programs that can be useful for Data Modelling from spreadsheets, to diagram drawing softwares for explaining the concept but these must be held on database platforms designed to support data models like MySQL which we’ve used in class


Works Cited

Hoberman, Steve. “Data modeling techniques explained: How to get the most from your data”. Date of Access: 11 May 2017.

“Data Modeling – Conceptual, Logical, And Physical Data Models” from Data Warehousing. Online. Date of Access: 11 May 2017.

Guest Speaker Angeliki Chrysanthi – Geotagging

Georeferencing is used to specify geographing location with code or the place. This can be done through various softwares, automatically, semiautomatially or manually adding metadata to files in question.
Embedded metadata informs about who took the image, where it is, any kind of technical information available such as camera settings(usually stored by the device automatically). Copyright information may be included in some cases. Geotagging may be done automatically for the device if it is GPS enabled. EXIF data is taken automatically from devices, shutter speed, GPS etc. Largely functions to connect a photo to the place, time subjects etc. GPS devices capture timestamps in a GPX format. GPS devices can store either track logs (drawing a path or directions) or capturing specific points according to a time (every 5 secs for example). A devices clock must be synchronised in order for it to work with GPS as it gets you the time of your image. Metadata, including GPS coordinates can also be added manually, and can be done when images are digitised – particarly with GPS coordinates as if you don’t have the camera settings from a manual camera than you will never have it. Digital creators describe the content of the image, either embedding it as part of the digital file or as an external “sidecar” file as part of a referencing system
Examples were given by Hochman, Manovich and Yazdani 2014: ”On hyper-locality: Performances of place in Social Media” which explored the relationship between the physical space and the digital – an interesting topic, particularly when geotagging is relatively accessible to consumers through apps and social media today. Geotagging can be very useful for fields like Archaeology – which the examples in the practical section were related to, or community based projects like the Historic Graves projects discussed. Many have adopted such methods because photos can be attached to where finds have been made. Its also been useful for Archival images including lithographs and paintings – sometimes tracked across 100s of years through digitised images with estimated locations in some cases.
In the practical section we learned how to manually add GPS data to image files, and how to batch add data using external files using Geosetter – shown in the screenshot below. There was a discussion about the different types of coding and programs to use best for different purposes – including several examples. Geobabel assists when there are GPX files, facilitates Geosetter to read files when they are not in the right format. The data files in this case were used to construct a map including tracks, which was a relatively straight forward process one we learned how to use the software. The capabilities to extend the use of such principles can be seen in the development of software like Archdis can convert the data to shape files reducing it all down to points.

Data gathering is massively important, which was explained through examples. Approaches need to be modified and improved on, depending on who the target audience are. What really stood out to me was the search for feedback in the examples. Case studies, questionnaires and interviews were used and while they were useful there were gaps in the information – especially as the participants involved were just behaving as normal with a GPS device in their pockets because they were already used to going about taking photos and weren’t so involved in the GPS logging side of Archaeology. There can be different concentrations of images(hotspots), but certain images may be of more significant points. Results as always require interpretation.

The additional reading provided was very interesting, highlighting the importance of Metadata standards for Geotagging and some of the guidelines around this topic. Schemas are used making the data readable, and usable externally. This reading was produced by EMDaWG (Embedded Data Working Group – Smithsonian Institution) and it largely contains technical information. Data needs to be processed, ensuring the same GPS formatting is used etc., and that the attached data is machine readable and logical.

Overall, this was a very comprehensive introduction to quite a vast topic This type of research needs some planning and foresight, with considerations around the dataset the audience and more.


EMDaWG (Embedded Data Working Group – Smithsonian Institution) “Basic Guidelines for Minimal Descriptive Embedded Metadata in Digital Images” April 2010.

Hochman, Manovich and Yazdani ”On hyper-locality: Performances of place in Social Media” 2014.

Computational Analysis vs. Curatorial Expertise

Computational analysis sees the powers of machines, and can constitute the sensing and analysing of files like an image. Computers can be thought how to recognise images, Colours, shapes, faces all have to be defined for the computer to recognise them if asked.
In class we were given an introduction to Tracking.js, with practical exercises showing us how to use this library in this practice and set parameters for what we were trying to detect. Tracking.js is a library of different computer programs, useful for detecting attributes of images. It can be used to sense colours, faces or shapes. A large advantage is that it is browser based, which make it very easy to use and it is open source.
Digital objects require metadata to be used, and while there are very basic labelling systems that a computer can generate, the image requires time resources to be devoted to it alongside digitisation. Complicated algorithms are be used by computer platforms to “read” an image, or any digital file. This works by detecting elements, defined as part of the computer program. Computer scientists create the algorithms, but the consumer can use them. E.g. SAS suite of Textual Analysis programs. An important point is that it may not detect all, or might get things mixed up or identify extra elements ike eyes of a face, and crevices. It only looks at what is available to it, what it can identify, what it has been programmed to do – human expertise is needed to interpret the results.
One should consider that computers are machines and parameters need to be defined for them to operate under. Limits need to be set, because how they work is by searching within specified parameters. Software also requires human design, there is a decision making process where default behaviours of programs have to be decided. Any program is designed with certain assumptions in mind, and it is a good idea to bear this in mind when choosing software for computational analysis. The example of the SAS suite of Textual Analysis programs referred to above, for example, has several tools that are used for different aspects as a part of data mining which are listed by Chrakraborty, Pagolu and Garla (4) Use of such software for analysis requires an understanding of the data set at hand, and curatorial expertise.
The computer doesn’t care about what its analysing it is a machine, it just calculates based on the parameters defined by the user. Curatorial expertise implies a lifetime of learning behind it, analytical skills and critical thinking. The advantage of the human over the computer is interpretation, a computer can be fooled deliberately by controlling conditions if you know what the computer is looking for or accidentally by similar looking areas (in the case of visual computational analysis). While human error is indeed possible, hopefully curatorial expertise would reduce these chances. Furthermore, human expertise may reveal significance quicker than a computer would – at least from data output by a computer. Furthermore, computational analysis needs human expertise to be further developed, not just in terms of developing technological capabilities but also in terms of specifically identifying data relevant to a field and being able to narrow it down enough and make it machine readable.
Computational analysis is not perfect yet, but it is being constantly improved. New digital tools are constantly being developed and improved upon, however it should always be remembered that this requires human effort. Furthermore, it requires human understanding and curatorial expertise as one needs to know what to look for in the first place to design a program to do the task. Though the machine will provide results based on what it is looking for, interpretation is required to understand the significance of results.

Works Cited

Goutam Chakraborty, Murali Pagolu, Satish Garla. Text Mining and Analysis: Practical Methods, Examples, and Case Studies Using SAS. (2013) North Carolina, USA: SAS. Web.

The Digital, Archaeology and Digital Archaeology

“Mesh of Stones” A digital reconstruction of standing stones at newgrange, England.

Costopoulos discusses the normalization of Digital Archeology over the last number of years, its significant application and sums up the aims of publishing in Frontiers in Digital Archeology: “I want to stop talking about digital archaeology. I want to continue doing archaeology digitally.” What he is talking about here seems deliberately provocative – though his argument that the digital tools enhance the research in the field of Archaeology still stands true, even if such contributions are left out of conversations about digital archaeology. The tools are not unique to Archaeology and the definition of “Digital Archaeology” may still be developing, but realistically Archaeologists have been using technology to assist their work for a long time. He is an outspoken writer on the subject, but this article attracts criticism by Jeremy Huggett in aptly titled post “Let’s Talk about Digital Archeology”, stating that: “A superficial reading of the article suggests a degree of weariness and cynicism here. But it seems to me that the article potentially questions the very legitimacy of what I understand by digital archaeology.” His point is that while Archaeologists invariably use computers at some point in this age, but Digital Archaeologists have specific skills. Huggett questions the logic behind Costopoulos not wanting to categorise these skills and talk about their application – pointing out that to do so would be to leave an entire field of archeology out of the conversation: “Questions surrounding the introduction, development, and implications of new technologies within the subject go far beyond questions of standardisation, ethics etc. in addressing the very fundamental stuff of archaeology and its interpretation – or, at least, they should do.”
“In a Manifesto for Introspective Digital Archeology” Hugget brings up ‘New Aesthetic’ in relation to digital archeology, discussing trends in theory since the 1950’s which have transformed the field of archeology. Specifically, the challenge addressed in this piece of writing is how technology has affected how archeological knowledge is created, and how the subject is viewed. The people working in the field and scholars have been changed by this as previously there were computer scientists and Archeologists, but from the mid-80’s onwards people began to specialize in this themselves. While traditional archeologists and historians still exist, the digital archeologist and their status in the field is contested – largely from conservatism. However, the influence of Digital Archeology on how the subject is approached and researched should not be underestimated, having transformed the scholar in the Digital Age. Hugget argues that “Digital archaeologists are arguably the best positioned amongst digital humanists to investigate and understand the implications, transformations, and repercussions of digital technologies.” (“A Manifesto for an Introspective Digital Archeology, 87). New technology has of course provided incredibly useful tools, and this has changed how Archeologists approach their work – but an understanding of theory is still necessary. “Yet with few exceptions, that preoccupation has not been turned towards the consideration of the digital technologies used within archaeology other than in a superficial way. The belief that computers increasingly facilitate all these theoretical concepts is commonplace – much less so is the recognition that, all too often, they in fact restrict and subvert these very ideals and frequently disguise that they do so through a combination of technological sleight of hand and the law of unintended consequences.”(“ A Manifesto for an Introspective Digital Archaeology.” (89)

Works Cited

Costopoulos, Andre. Digital Archeology Is Here (and Has Been for a While) Specialty Grand Challenge ARTICLE Web. Front. Digit. Humanit.,Date of Publication: 16 March 2016. Date of Access: 02 Dec. 2016.
Huggett, Jeremy. “A Manifesto for an Introspective Digital Archaeology.” Open Archaeology 2015; 1: 86–95. Date of Access: 02. Dec. 2016
Huggett, Jeremy. “Let’s talk about Digital Archaeology” WordPress. Web. Date of publication; May 10, 2016 Date of Access: 02 Dec. 2016.
“Mesh of Stones” Archeological Heritage. Published: 2012.×280.jpg

Video Evaluation

The videos that I focused on are: 1) Digital Humanities in Practice – Spatial Humanities & Social Justice and 2) Digital Humanities in Practice – Visualising Text. In both cases the names and qualifications of the main speakers in the videos are in the descriptions. Youtube is the source of both videos, and this is a reliable source generally unless either video is taken down – however, it won’t be up for ever and this shouldn’t be considered a permanent source. The date the videos were created don’t seem to be included anywhere – but presumably would have been created after the date in January 2015 when the Dariah Teach initiative began. The description contains the publication date with the first video being published on Nov 23, 2016 and the second published on Oct 19, 2016.

The videos were created for several audiences, students, those interested in the Digital Humanities and those interested in some of the projects. Both were created to inform and share information, as part of Dariah Teachs goals to provide open-source teaching materials. The organisation is a reasonable entity to create this video as it is dealing with specific of Digital Humanities practices and tools used in academia. The level of the audience would be at least of students and other academics, that is those who have academic interest but may not be experts in the area. Because the videos are on Youtube, the scope for other audiences to access these videos are high. The vocabulary of the narration seems to be general adequate for the intended audience. However, the second of my chosen videos uses a lot of dense jargon and technical terms – seen in other videos in the channel too. It is difficult to tell how other groups may react upon seeing this video, particularly with the first video as apartheid is still remembered by those who lived through it.
The goal of the first video is to draw attention to mapping some of the institutionalised human right violations – but also to promote this researchers project. The central theme of the first video is apartheid – and the platform which combines narratives on significant topics e.g. defensive design of Winnie Mandela’s house. But it draws attention to inequalities in everyday life, and in academia generally. The second video many topics they are linked in a manner that makes linear sense. It was probably specifically focusing on scholarly interest in Interactive Textuality: introduce this topic and elaborate on some of the general uses. A lot of information is given about specific cases, as part of a 3d recreation of historically significant locations with the aim of reconstructing Twentieth Century history as a Social Justice/history platform, combining video testimony with a 3d platform – illustrating connections between testimonials with reconstructions e.g. a protective wall built in living spaces to protect from police fire. There is an emphasis the information not previously given to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which highlights the difficulties around telling stories in terms of legality

Authority of the Speaker
In both cases the speakers have academic expertise, quick searches of them would support their authority to speak about chosen topics. We know who the speaker is from the description at the bottom of the video. They have expertise on the topic, at least academically – and would appear to be quite knowledgeable on the subject from the information provided. Similarly, the speakers in the second video are both specialists in specifics area that they are speaking of, knowledgeable around theoretical trends in the field and its capabilities.
The first video has Angel D. Nieves, Professor of Africana Studies and Digital Humanities at Hamilton College, US. The video is about black special humanities, as a subfield of spatial humanities looking at the history of African diaspora. Here we have 2 different approaches to making videos, which may affect the reception of the message. The first video emphasises understanding “what it’s like to be African diaspora”, specifically looking at apartheid regimes and the imposition of restrictions and control on their lives – but also the resistance of those of African descent in their daily lives. The video specifically deals with the concept of restorative social justice through the telling of narratives highlighting injustices during apartheid rule. The organisation lends some credibility to the speaker in the first video, while he may not visibly be of African descent he does seem to know what he’s talking about. He thoroughly explains the field and the issues at hand, specifically social control in this case.
The second video features two speakers: Geoffrey Rockwell, Professor of Philosophy and Humanities Computing at the University of Alberta, Canada and Stéfan Sinclair, Associate Professor of Digital Humanities at McGill University. The second of my chosen videos is concerned with textual visualisation as a process. Here the speakers are concerned with visual textuality, its uses and applications. They come from specific academic field, while the speakers speak about capabilities of technology generally a lot is related to their specific fields. However, they cover multiple different topics. Videogames like Pokemon Go- which we are told is different categorically, though it is related as it is a form of visual image/information literacy


The point of view of the speaker is clear in each video. In the first video, the relationship between the speaker and the organisation creating the video is transparent. He clearly has an agenda, to expose injustices as part of his research – but also to defend the validity of his research. The second video is more aspirational, it is regarding the capability for the application of technology. Both speakers are biased in a sense, working in the field that they defending and promoting – and speculating about the future.
One could evaluate the accuracy of the first videos content of the video by searching through the narratives around apartheid South Africa and looking for evidence of specific events, or looking for publications or review of the study when they are released. The research is for the most part original to the speaker, but also draws on previous research and witness testimonials. The second video is largely opinion, but qualified opinion on their respective fields. Though there are not sources provided, there are many general references

Production Quality
Both videos are high production quality – well-lit and framed like the other videos on Dariah Teach and you can change the quality of video on the Youtube platform and generate subtitles. The content is the ideas presented in clear audio – with clear linear narratives. Titles are used effectively, describing the topic being spoken of as it transitioned from one topic to another. The first has focus primarily on the speaker, though it is furnished with examples as he speaks, showing video narratives and computer platforms. With a variety of transitions used to illustrate what is being spoken of. There are other videos with a similar purpose to the second video, promoting the Digital Humanities and showing their application and it is similar in tone to the others on this Youtube channel. The second of my chosen videos has less additional material on top of the information given by the speakers, who are in a central position onscreen while speaking.

Works Cited

“Digital Humanities in Practice – Spatial Humanities & Social Justice” DariahTeach. Youtube. Web. Published: Nov 23, 2016 . Date Accessed: 30 Nov. 2016.
“Digital Humanities in Practice – Visualising Text” DariahTeach. Youtube. Web. Published: on Oct 19, 2016. Date accessed: 30 Nov. 2016.

Images on Social Media

Social media is increasingly playing a prominent role in everyday life, especially in the western world.  Large multinational companies are beginning to monopolise particular services “free” to the user like Google search engine, or Facebook, who owns Instagram and has tried to buy Snapchat. They may be free to use, but that is because their product is the user reach that they have for advertisers and business. These profiles are becoming increasingly important as online identity and there has been rising demand in the past number of years for services to be provided on the internet. Images have a prominent position, being eyecatching, identifiable and are generated from a variety of sources.

In fact, it is a barrage of images and information as part of a platform for users to communicate, with significant cultural influence both in terms of user generated culture and the transmission of existing human expression and knowledge. For this reason it also as a place for forming cultural identity, as evidenced by the use of particular sites by subcultures e.g graffiti artist profiles on flickr etc. Groups form and the image can be representative of a unification – a logo if you will. The capability is there for online communities to form and post images, interact with one another and take things away into their daily lives – regardless of the type of image. Associations with images can be made by users online e.g. Evil Kermit and indulging oneself. Furthermore, these “cultures” spreads rapidly amongst a large pool of uses worldwide online through ideas and the image.

Interaction begins to take place in a “third space”, with ideas shared between cultures . Though extensively criticised for his use of dense language, Homi K. Bhabha provides a framework for understanding the clashing and merging of cultures and appropriation of different elements resulting in “hybridity” and “mimicry”. E.g American hip-hop culture, the “gangster” image – and the appropriation of Box hats and baggy trousers. The role that social media plays in trend setting, commercial sales and creating a personal image hasn’t been concretely defined and researched yet but there are undoubtedly links. “Selfies” as a form of image have become incredibly power online, common amongst Facebook, Snapchat and other social media users and the profile photo functions as a form of representation of identity. The potential for the social media to be capitalised on is recognised by advertising, branding and marketing companies who increasingly make efforts to engage audiences onlineOr comic book culture, and its popularisation alongside the release of multiple high budget commercial cinema films merging the Marvel and DC “universes”. they certainly take advantage of hashtags

This third wave post-structuralist theory is adaptable, and can be applied to Social media sees user generated content in the form of profile photos and posting, videos etc. Different platforms see different use: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram all have different uses but the image has significant power in all of them. Construction of identity

Photos have a significant amount the information attached to them like user generated tags, location, captions etc. separate from the codified construction of the image itself. Who are the audience for posted photos? How are they taken symbolically, and what systems are the for “reading them”

Of course this space is shared by Events, businesses, promoters, and advertised who all generate images. Information security and privacy issues aside, how information is disseminated has changed greatly, seeing a blurring of the lines between social or personal communication and media communication.

Postmodernist concerns seem useful for criticism, reality has become increasingly mediated by social media. Memes, “facts” . Even “fake news” has come to the attention of the public, with speculation of its role in the American presidential election – all grab out attention with images. Hyper-reality with connotations of illegitimacy in a Baudrillian sense seems apt, and the simulacrum seems applicable to the social world online. It’s a question of information as well as images. Images can be stolen, manipulated, framed in different manners. “Catfish”is a documentary about uncovering the false information given by an online “friend” who had falsified an entire family history supported with images and addresses. Connotations of illegitimacy and uncertainty mark the image online. Especially considering photoshop and other photo modifying software, but the information attached to an image is equally if not more important


Works Cited

Baudrillard, Jean. Simulacra and Simulation. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1994. Print.

Bhabha, Homi. The Location of Culture. London: Routledge, 1994. Print.

“Evil Kermit meme seeks to seduce us all to the dark side (23 Photos)” By Bob. Date of Publication: 17 Nov. 2016.


“Catfish” 2011 Universial Pictures: C.A.Ariel Schulman; Henry Joost; Ryan Kavanaugh; Brett Ratner; Tucker Tooley; Andrew Jarecki; Marc Smerling; Zac Stuart-Pontier; Mark Mothersbaugh; Yaniv Schulman; Angela Wesselman;

“NSA flickr account”Anon. Flickr. Date of Access: 29 Nov. 2016.



Concerns when curating an Image Collection

Curating an image collection presents its own concerns and challenges. Where photos for a collection are sourced can bring up problems, especially around ownership to images and rights to their distribution. Copyright law aside, there are ethical considerations when sourcing images. Especially when images are drawn from private collections. If the photographer is no longer alive to give their permission, like in Finding Vivian Maier, is it acceptable to bring their work into the public domain? This may be an extreme example, but it nonetheless highlights numerous issues around ethics in relation to presentation of image collection, and the attachment of information to the images. Particularly in the digital age when information can be distributed quickly and cheaply to a large audience. The internet provides numerous platforms that can host image collections, with its own set of issues. The photographs taken by Vivian Maier were purchased in an auction by Maloof who scanned them and published them online alongside his blog via popular website ’Flickr’ in August 2009– allowing them to be viewed by a large audience. Though the image collection in this example was largely ‘discovered’ in the form of negatives, physical exhibition required the collection of prints which were sold for monetary gain

Collections of images have to source their material somewhere. The purpose of the collection largely dictates where photos are sourced from and how they are presented. An amateur historian, Maloof bought 30,000 negatives at an auction – later purchasing more from others who had bought them originally. The images in question were mainly taken around New York, and Chicago over a womans lifetime as she worked as a nanny for numerous Chicago families and photographing daily. “Taking snapshots into the late 1990′s, Maier would leave behind a body of work comprising over 100,000 negatives. Additionally Vivian’s passion for documenting extended to a series of homemade documentary films and audio recordings.” (“About Vivian Maier”, Maloof Collections) This provided archival material, original negatives showcasing her natural talent which were previously unpublished and undocumented. The controversy over this collection of images encompasses privacy issues, and it is worth bearing in mind that Vivian Maier had no input in how the work was framed. How images are framed and presented in an image collection affects how they are perceived and consumed by an audience.

Curation of images requires further categorisation and the attachment of information to photos to contextualise them. Largely unknown in her own lifetime, Vivian Maier’s “discovery” began with this collection of images curated by John Maloof being published online, and later being exhibited first in New York and then internationally. She was an enigmatic and elusive character who literally made efforts to hide her work from others, and framing her work in this context gave it mystery and intrigue which was picked up on by various magazine and newspaper articles that brought her to public attention. The ‘public eye‘  has always been a powerful force, with the internet consumer interaction has changed – seeing an increased input into the process which the consumer is interacting with. Maloof attracted a lot of attention and began digging in to her history and this became a big part of the exhibition of her work. Crowdsourcing was used to source funding via popular website Kickstarter and a documentary was made, interviewing the children she used to nanny. His efforts received a lot of media attention, with articles being written about Vivian Maier who became a phenonomon. “Maloof has edited a book of her work, Vivian Maier: Street Photographer, which was published in November, and has raised money for a documentary film about her that is in the works.” (Zax, December 2011) The issue here at hand is the invasive searching for information about Maier resulting in scrutiny of the artist’s life as well as here work. Some controversy was generated by the recording of interviews of many surviving people who knew Vivian Maier during her life, building an interesting picture but also implying mental illness and a darker side to her character. Ethics and the attachment of context and information to images are concerns when curating an image collection – largely in the hands of the collectors and the gallery, but now becoming more complex in the age of information.



Works Cited

Maloof, John,, et al. Finding Vivian Maier. Widescreen. Sundance Selects, 2014.

Vivian Maier. 2016 Maloof Collections. Web. Date of Access 18 Nov. 2016.

Maier, Vivian. Self Portrait. Digital image. Vivian Maier. Maloof Collections, Nov. 2013. Web. 18 Nov. 2016. <>.

Zax, David. “Vivian Maier: The Unheralded Street Photographer”Smithsonian Magzine. December 2011. Web. Date of Access: 18 Nov. 2016.

Re-configuring perception of the artifact: digital technology and recording heritage

The museum and archaeological practice have transformed with digital technology. “The likes of crowdsourcing, hi-res scanning, 3D rendering and photogrammetry are increasingly becoming part of the methodology of preserving culture in the 21st century.” (Sinclair) This has conceptual ramifications for the cultural artefact itself as well as the fields of archaeological practice. The production of copies of cultural artefacts has long since been part of archaeology and museums methodologies and practice, but it is now easier than ever to do so. “Archaeologists and heritage managers have drawn on a range of recording technologies to generate highly accurate datasets of historic objects, monuments and landscapes. They have also increasingly drawn on the rich functionality of 3D modelling packages to create visualisations and reconstructions of the past.” (Jeffrey, 144) Jeffrey seems optimistic about what he terms a “potential golden age.” (144)

Sinclair questions the practice of reconstructing destroyed cultural heritage, pointing out some problematic aspects: “While an artistic reaction resulting in a new work of art is one thing, replicating an object or structure that has been destroyed – or copying it before it is lost – opens up many more questions.” (Sinclair) He gives several examples of companies specialising in digitisation of heritage and reproduction, mentioning the kinds of projects that have been worked on by companies like Factum Arte who create high resolution copies, utilising methods including aerial photogrammetry. Technological innovation spans beyond the museum, the issue that he discusses being the reproduction of objects and even architecture in the middle east. “But the ability to remake significant structures on the sites where they once existed is clearly a process that requires an awareness of cultural sensitivities, not to mention a desire to collaborate with local communities and organisations.” (Sinclair)

Jeffrey discusses what digital reproduction does to the aura of an object, echoing similar concerns to Benjamin from 1936 – but highlighting usefulness of this technology: “Bearing in mind that one of the ultimate objectives of digital visualisations is to help us understand the past, not only is it a peculiarly modern medium, but conceptually it represents a huge break from all previous ways of interacting with the world.“ (145) It is not without problematic aspects, as the object no longer needs a location in the real world and it becomes immaterial and immortalised in a sense as it cannot decay and is infinitely reproducible (or at least perceived this way by those who are not computer scientists). “No substance – barring the nascent field of haptics which offers a peculiar analogue for the sense of touch, the object has no physical substance that we can sense, no weight, no texture, no smell and no temperature.” (145) Online technology has facilitated increased connectivity and accessibility, virtually all over the world but generated all sorts of issues around licencing and copyright. Jeffrey’s argument would be that the aura of the object is not reduced, being a difficult concept to pin down in the first place. “This sensation, the thrill of proximity, is not essentially about the physical object itself, it is about the people who have been close to it in the past and our connection to them.” (Jeffrey, 147) Democratisation of recording technologies has its own issues around means of and purpose of reproduction

Works cited

Sinclair, Mark. “Should museums be recreating the past?” Creative Review. 20th July 2016. Web. Date of Access: 26 Oct. 2016
Giza Plateau Alignments. Cheops Pyramids. Web.
Jeffrey, Stuart Challenging Heritage Visualisation: Beauty, Aura and Democratisation. Open Archaeology 2015; 1: 144–

The Limits of Digitisation


Jeffery argues that virtual representation has merit in itself, but he also points out that there are limits and issues surrounding digitisation. “In the digital domain long-standing issues of data integration, discovery and long-term preservation have now begun to be tackled in a meaningful way.” (144) How we understand digitisation is important, and the purpose affects the process itself – depending on why we are digitising (or recording), the data associated may change and even how it is presented and to what standards are adhered to (which affect how it can be accessed and used by programs and people). Though Jeffery is talking specifically about digitisation as an indispensable tool for archaeology and other specific areas – this is a widely applicable point on the digital sciences overall. While computer sciences have come on a long way in a relatively short space of time, further review and development is still needed to resolve longstanding issues around the use of data. Technological limits on digitisation aside, there are still conceptual limits stemming from earlier issues around representation.

Automatic means of production supposed ‘objectivity’ separates this representation from the artistic processes previously required. While advancements in technology have furthered the scope of digitisation, many issues surrounding recording and representation have been discussed previously. “Originality in photography as distinct from originality in painting lies in the essentially objective character of photography.” (Bazin, 7) Due to this ‘objectivity’, there is a credibility implied of the representation of a “real” object. “Photography enjoys a certain advantage in virtue of this transference of reality from its thing to its reproduction” (Bazin, 8) The understanding of photography as storage of data, measurements and recordings of ‘real life’ is often extended to the digital world. However, just as Bazin experimented with manipulating this “reality” in film to display the creative vision of the director– digital technology can be used to manipulate data and representations according to the inputter, the choices they have made and the processes that they have followed to digitise and attach data. Digital technology has reached a point where it can be used to create new and virtual objects of unprecedentedly high quality, while this widens the scope of recording and digitisation it also brings up conceptual difficulties. It is difficult to say which category digitisation falls into as on one hand it connotes authenticity as recording of data, but on the other hand the capacity to for manipulation has ramifications for how we understand this recording or representation.

Semiotics have provided useful critical tools for examining the art and the object, interpreted according to subjectivities – and these concerns are also applicable to digitisation, and the collection of data which is ultimately a representation. One of the key distinctions is between the ‘signifier’ or representation and the ‘signified’- what it represents. “Context other words, is a text itself, and it thus consists of signs that require interpretation” (Bal and Bryson, 175) There are choices made about the information included alongside digitisation. The attachment of metadata to a digital object e.g. a photograph, allows its indexing and aids computer programs use of data attached to a file. Encoding data has its limitations, needing a structure that can be accessed and read. XML as a hierarchal coding language has become the industry standard, and is extendable – providing a basis for other coding languages that attach metadata to photos. It has the capacity to take in different types of data or signifying elements, but this also needs to be read or interpreted to make use of it necessitating standards. How information is attached to a digitised object and how it is presented, as well as how it can be used and accessed by computers and people. Standardised schemas like Dublin Core and VRA core are utilised in order to make metadata accessible and readable but though they are commonly used, these may not be the best schemas for encapsulating data depending on what is being digitised and why. A further consideration is that metadata needs to be attached the original object (or signified), but also the digitised image or scan and surrounding data (signifiers).



Bal, Mieke and Bryson, Norman “Semiotics and Art History”. The Art Bulletin, Vol. 73, No. 2 (1991), pp. 174-208

Bazin, Andre. “The Ontology of the Photographic Image” Trans. Hugh Gray. Film Quarterly, Vol. 13, No. 4 (1960), pp. 4-9
“Film Theorist Andre Bazin” Web.
Jeffrey, Stuart. “Challenging Heritage Visualisation: Beauty, Aura and Democratisation.” Open Archaeology, No. 1: (2015), pp. 144–152