April 25 ­– Virtual and Time-Based Experiences

///April 25 ­– Virtual and Time-Based Experiences
April 25 ­– Virtual and Time-Based Experiences 2018-01-04T16:07:51-05:00
  • Guest Speaker – Marina Hassapopoulou


Hassapopoulou, Marina. “Analysis Beyond Analytics: Exploring the Transformative Crossover Between Cinema & Media Studies and the Digital Humanities.” NYU Center for the Humanities.

Staley, David J. “Chapter 4: Virtual History” in Computers, Visualization, and History: How New Technology Will Transform Our Understanding of the Past. Armonk, New York: M.E. Sharpe, 2014.

Tufte, Edward R. “Chapter 6: Narratives of Space and Time” in Envisioning Information. Cheshire, Conn.: Graphics Press, 1990.

 Sites (mandatory viewing this week)

 The Fallen of World War II – Data-Driven Documentary About War & Peacehttp://www.fallen.io/ww2/.




Timeline of Historical Film Colors

Labyrinth Project

Mapping Cinematographic Territories

Filming Revolution

Erik Loyer

Vectors Works

Roaring Twenties by Emily Thompson

The Virtual Window by Anne Friedberg

Technologies of History by Steve Anderson


  1. Lauren April 22, 2017 at 8:00 am

    Hassapopoulou summarizes the debate and question we have been asking all semester, what should be driving the digital humanities research. Is her stance that everything should come from first knowing the question you want to ask before using any of the tools? Or should the new availability of the tools and data actually encourage a new approach to how research should be done? If you gave someone a different tool it seems it would be unwise to not also consider changing the approach and process of how research questions are done?

    Does using tools like virtual reality bring a sort of science fiction vibe to historical narratives? Does it pull it away from a historical understanding into a fictional account?

    By mistake when I first started viewing the Data Driven Documentary I had my volume off and was 5 minutes into when I realized I might be missing something. This spoke volumes to how comfortable people are to seeing graphs and visualize and can pull out the narrative that is being told. This got me thinking for the purpose of this documentary why was the narrative important, wouldn’t it be more impactful to allow the mind to process on conclusions over both processing visual and audio at the same time? When we use tools in the digital are we prone to over stimulate the user to the point that we allow them to disengage from the material and become merely a passive observer? Even platforms that encourage participation are littered with click bait, are we unable to allow people to sit with material on the digital means and purely process?

  2. Cat April 23, 2017 at 1:51 pm

    1. I found interesting Hassapopoulou’s argument that today’s drive towards data visualization is nothing new. I still don’t know if I would consider Vertov’s Man with a Movie Camera an example of “film-as-data” as she states, though. I would agree that he is editing to reveal recombinatory patterns, but I don’t think she quite sold me on that idea that his work is a precursor to data mining.
    2. At the end of his chapter, Tufte says that “perhaps one day high-resolution computer visualizations, which combine slightly abstracted representations along with a dynamic and animated flatland, will lighten the laborious complexity of encodings— and yet still capture some worthwhile part of the subtlety of the human itinerary” (119). Have we reached this point?
    3. I like Hassapopoulou’s point that “the methodological boundaries of our fields need to become more open in order to fill in epistemological gaps in the production of historical consciousness and in the study of cinema in all its permutations.” I have found that since entering my very interdisciplinary department— Media, Culture, and Communication— a lot of these methodological boundaries have been blurred. This has helped my understanding of communication and generally large and complex ideas, such as “modernity,” greatly. I feel that generally there has been a push in academia for this type of interdisciplinary thinking. Are any subjects or institutions holding out? Why might they be resistant? What might higher education look like in fifty years if this trend continues?

  3. Jane Excell April 25, 2017 at 1:05 pm

    In some ways, the application of DH tools to the analysis of film seems more straightforward than its application to written texts, primarily because film today is created digitally. This allows us to use various DH tools to quantify the creation of the film in ways that we cannot with a text (number of shots, length of scenes, etc.). However, it seems like this could lead to increasingly superficial analyses; as Hassapopoulou puts it, “this can get to the point where the analytical depth and inquiry are in danger of being reduced to a show and tell of the functions of automated systems and to a diminished regard for important “so what?” questions.” How might scholars go about offsetting this potential tendency to analyze film at a more mechanical, rather than analytical level?

    I thought it was interesting that in Staley’s three defining qualities of “virtual reality,” technology is not specifically referenced at all. He says that in order to be considered “virtual reality,” a program must be “realistic,” “immersive,” and “interactive.” I don’t disagree with those qualities, but it was only upon reading them that I realized how subjective the idea of “virtual reality” can be. I’ve felt immersed in a realistic, interactive text before, for example, but of course that’s not “virtual reality.” Should some kind of specific technological qualifications be placed on a definition of VR, and if so, what would they be?

    I heartily agree with Tufte’s remarks on the confusing nature of train timetables! I still find it difficult to read and understand the bus schedules produced by the MTA today. I can see how combining information on time and space and conveying these together clearly is a challenging task, but I wish Tufte had given some more suggestions as to how these kinds of schedules might be more coherently formatted. How might the MTA go about re-envisioning the conveyance of this type of information?

    P.S. from the movie- when that red column of Soviet casualties just kept going up and up… ay. Very effective use of data to convey human loss.

  4. jpetinos April 25, 2017 at 1:50 pm

    1) Hassapopoulou’s piece made me think: How can we think about film as just small bits of visual data organized into a coherent story or message? In this way, visualizations and the stories they tell, are just films that leave more open space for the viewer or person interacting with the data. Once again, how does Digital Humanities blur the lines between art and science?

    2) What is it about visualizing he data of World War II deaths and deaths from subsequent wars that affects us so differently than written statistics? How does the documentary’s message change if it depicted deaths from war over time in a smaller part of the world? What does this idea of changing the lens of focus, especially as it concerns media depictions, tell us about concepts of “accuracy” or “truth?”

  5. Alfo April 25, 2017 at 2:24 pm

    1. In Hassapopoulou’s article, she says that “the digitization of analog resources highlight the need for greater democratization of access to the collections of cultural institutions, the potential of these digital archives to have a life of their own should also be emphasized”, inviting the public to engage critically and interactively with archival material. But are these institutions actually opening to the public this precious material? I have the impression that it is still reserved to people somewhat related with the academic environment.

  6. phyllis plitch April 25, 2017 at 3:30 pm

    1. In Marina Hassapopoulou’s article, she writes that visualization design is “nothing new if we relate this impetus back to early filmmakers like Vertov, who reinvented the language of cinema to reveal recombinatory patterns in the editing of
    audiovisual data. “This anachronistically algorithmic approach to film suggests that approaches to film-as-data in Cinema Studies predate current data mining and digital visualization tools, yet overlap with humanistic inquiry at the core of the Digital Humanities.” Does the growing array of digital tools actually paradoxically make it more challenging to propose new ways of understanding and generating knowledge? Do we give early film pioneers more leeway in terms of our interpretations because the underpinning of film exploration seems to have been primarily inspired and generated by sheer creativity, without digital tools to assist in research?

    Also, is this the answer to the “What is…” question we’ve grappling with this semester!? “Just like Kuleshov’s pre-digital data-gathering methods, digital tools must be strategically employed to address compelling research questions in order to justify their use in the analysis of cinema. As Yuri Tsivian argues, “in science as in scholarship, progress is measured not by new answers given to old questions, but by new questions put to old answers” (Cinemetrics). It is imperative that certain established methodologies in Cinema Studies, such as close reading, cultural studies, philosophical inquiry, and ideological investigation must not be forgotten for the sake of privileging distant reading, data analytics, and other software driven methods. It is my concern that, as the analytical tools for the study of cinema are shifting towards computational methods, so is some of the scholarship being produced; this can get to the point where the analytical depth and inquiry are in danger of being reduced to a show and tell of the functions of automated systems and to a diminished regard for important “so what?” questions. This shift in focus can lead to significant omissions in the study of film if only digitally driven methodologies are emphasized (especially in light of institutional funding and the reorientation of priorities within the field).”

    2. In Staley’s chapter, he seems to gently reproach historians for being too timid. (I think). Yet, do some of the projects described raise inherent and growing danger, especially in our new world of alternative facts? Are these concerns mitigated by the fact that users have the ability to make choices in an interactive setting that he describes, even if the history isn’t factual?

    3. Also, would the latest crop of virtual reality glasses meet Staley’s immersive ideal? Do big corporations that are leading commercial development of “virtual reality” experiences bring us closer or further away from Sutherland’s wonderland?

  7. Sarah April 25, 2017 at 4:13 pm

    For Marina Hassapopoulou, “Analysis beyond Analtics”

    Shapes as Gendered Hierarchical Knowledge:
    Blue boxes, boxed flowcharts – and perhaps even- database themselves with their charts project a kind of gendered arrangement of information. In designing hierarchies of knowledge, what do the choice of shape tell us about hierarchies of knowledge? Is there a fundamental difference in the design of knowledge when arranged as a flow chart vs a relational diagram?

    Visual & Design:
    “A multimodal humanist is not only one who ‘brings together databases, scholarly tools, networked writing, and peer-to-peer commentary, but also one who can leverage ‘the potential of visual and aural media.’ (McPherson 120).” Hassapopoulou.
    I think Hassapopoulou is advocating for the inclusion of visual and arual as text – however, I originally read this as …role of visual and aural media to communicate… the DH project. A repeating theme in this class _ Is DH production an art form? Does DH literature give enough attention to the work of design?

    METHODS as Hierarchical.
    I am very curious as Hassapopoulou’s understand of (historical) methods as hierarchical? Yes, I see disciplines, academia, archives and institutions – all as hierarchical, but it seem that MH is implying that methodology is hierarchical? Is reading hierarchical? Possibly??!? Of Grammatoly, Derrida certainly finds language and writing to be so.

  8. Whitney April 25, 2017 at 4:16 pm

    1.) What would be possible examples of the “‘topics not previously thought to possess a history”, as mentioned by Marina Hassapopoulou toward the end of her piece on DH and Cinema/Media Studies?

    2.) I honestly find it strange that, after two semesters worth of class readings, we are still able to hit on even more reasons why the DH community is questioned by traditional scholarly fields. It’s literally impossible to make a film without technologically relevant machinery, so why are academics so scared of looking at these sources with the aid of digital tools? While I find the “Yeah, but why?” question important for a researcher to process through before/during/after a study, the “Yeah, but why?” of using a digital tool to facilitate a laborious process, seems kind of obvious – so that even more laborious work can be done. Ugh, basically, why does everyone seem to be on such high horses, still, about DH?

    3.) Did anyone else have the film “Her” floating in the back of their mind while reading David Staley’s chapter on Virtual History? Staley repeatedly made a very strong distinction between reality and virtual reality and that the line between the two must not be blurred – but why not? I also think to a Childish Gambino lyric off of his album Because the Internet: “Is it real, cause you’re online? Is it real, cause you’re online? Is it real…online?” Going back to the film “Her” – why can’t a relationship/experience be real if it’s digital? YOU CAN DIE IN THE MATRIX – how real is that??? (theoretically, of course)

  9. Hannah May 9, 2017 at 12:34 pm

    I like that Hassapopoulou indicates that bring DH into Cinema Studies is not necessarily new when she says: “Although the argument, that the treatment of film as a database with computational and mineable data has existed before digital technology, has already been made in relation to filmmaking, little attention has been paid so far to the fact that Digital Humanities (DH) approaches to the study of film are also evident as far back as early film theory.” This is an interesting case because while DH may “feel” new, I don’t think it always is. Perhaps the technology is new but I’m not sure the methodology always is.

    She also says, “In addition, as scholars such as Katherine Groo and Geoffrey Cubitt have advocated, the methodological boundaries of our fields need to become more open in order to fill in epistemological gaps in the production of historical consciousness and in the study of cinema in all its permutations.” I think here, it’s the understanding that technology for cinema studies (or the humanities) is nearly the same as how we use technology in life. It “fills in gaps” but it is not necessarily creating different circumstance. Just a thought.

    I like Staley’s piece. It reminds me of something we read in Topics in Gender Politics (Gender and the Digital Age) though I’m blanking on exactly what the piece was. However, it was about how VR is also a real thing, even though we call it virtual. I think this comes up with VR concepts of gender as well.

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