This post is going to be different for a number of reasons, that I will attempt to explain to my best ability throughout the text. First thing first, as a part of my Digital Humanities and Arts assessment on a tools and methodologies module I was asked to create a curated visualization – locating and interrogating a dataset, and through virtualization analyze it to expose a pattern, while asking a social or cultural question. After reading on what was asked of me, I knew straight away on what I wanted to write on. As one might have already realized from browsing this website, I feel very passionate about Art History which I also study in college. I wanted to see the pattern of the display of modern and contemporary Middle Eastern art, produced by female artists, through exhibitions and accusations of art institutions in the West (Europe and North America). This idea seemed very exciting to me, and I had set out with big ambitions of focusing on three major art institutions: the MoMA, Guggenheim Bilbao and Tate (in particular I wanted to examine the galleries in London, Liverpool and St. Ives). However, due to word limitations of the assignment and the lack of the sufficient amount of time to examine all those in detail, I have had to unfortunately scale down. Therefore, I have decided to concentrate on one institution only – Tate, and look at the wider scope of all Middle Eastern artists in general. I have had to abandon the focus on modern and contemporary, as singling out the numbers and data for it would have been to difficult to complete in the assigned time. I believe that even with this smaller sample of data that I will present and visualize here, the point and argument that I will raise will still be valid and clearly illustrated.
As a part of my assessment for my Tools and Methodologies module in Digital Arts and Humanities, I was asked to participate in a community-engaged project to compile a variety of data for public use. Below, I will describe the process that I have undertaken and reflect on my experiences, concentrating on not only how I engaged but what impact did my engagement have, what I learned and how I could apply these skills and techniques in the future. Zooniverse  ‘is the world’s largest and most popular platform for people-powered research [which results in] in new discoveries, datasets useful to the wide research community, and many publications‘.  The platform offers multiple crowdsourced participation projects, neatly organized into diverse discipline categories such as Arts, biology, history, medicine, space and many more, in total over fifty projects.
For one of my modules in Digital Arts and Humanities subject I was asked to create a digital artifact. I’ve thought long and hard about it, finding it a challenge to create one since I have no background in IT, and I assumed that I lacked the necessary computing and coding skills to create one.
‘The world’s art at your fingertips‘  is google’s motivation behind its project to give a chance to anyone with the access to the internet to view artworks from various worldwide collections on one platform. The project provides high resolution images of the artworks, allowing you to zoom into spectacular detail. Essentially, the project is an indoor “open street” map of the world’s major galleries and museums, allowing the user to take a 360* tour of art institutions. This is not a new invention (it was founded in 2011) , however I wanted to write on this topic and share some of my thoughts on it with you.
This post has been inspired by a Ted talk  which I recently watched.
Chris Milk claims that we can first-hand experience the internalization of the author’s expression though the medium of virtual reality. Milk briefly discusses the history of artistic mediums, and states that ‘in all other mediums the consciousness interprets the medium, in virtual reality the consciousness is the medium’.  I was intrigued by this idea. The medium of virtual reality is completely immersive, using the new technology to involve the spectator to experience first-hand the vision which the author wanted to create. Because the spectator is presented with a “reality”, top a certain degree the consciousness becomes the medium, which confirms Milk’s ideas.
This blog post is going to discuss the ARTUK website. The ArtUK ‘platform provides a single digital infrastructure for all the UK’s art, searchable by artist, artwork or theme’.  Currently, the website contains over 200,000 artworks, more than 38,000 artists and is free to use, and can be easily accessed by anyone in the world with the page receiving ‘about 300,000 unique visitors each month, of which 40% come from overseas‘. The online collection is a brilliant innovation which through the use of digital technology, makes all of Britain’s paintings freely and easily available online, thus allowing everyone to enjoy the artworks.
Recently, I have come across the concept of Electronic Literature. Questions as to what is it and does arise as well as the most important aspect: what are the advantages and benefits that it can provide. Is it perhaps a digitized text, an online version of a document or just a story born digital?
The Electronic Literature Organisation refers to E-Literature as ‘works with important literary aspects that take advantage of the capabilities and contexts provided by the stand-alone or networked computer’.  Thus, we imagine the content to be interactive; to mix different mediums of story telling such as visual, film, sound and text. The opportunities of the interactive features are unlimited, as it ‘does not reside in any single medium’.  It is almost as if the content was gamified – allowing for the interaction and active input of the reader, making choices such as the speed of the literature or the progression in the narrative. This causes the spectator to no longer be passive while reading. E-Lit has been designed to be used on computers, laptop, tablets and mobile phones.
Kathrine Hayles explored the idea Electronic Literature in her essay ‘Electronic Literature: what is it?’  although written in 2007 it is still relevant to understanding Electronic literature. Hayles discusses the ideas of ‘digital born’ , and how in fact the new technologies have modified the more traditional types of narratives (such as oral or written). The author imposes that E-Lit requires different reading strategies from its viewers; this thus I think faces us with being more involved in the text, forming different interpretations but in turn one acquires a different, richer experience than just reading text.
Having written and read about Electronic literature from a very optimistic point of view, I must admit that I have a few issues with it.
Does it take away from the reader’s imagination? Literature usually only provides us with text – leaving it up to our mind to create the visuals, sounds and interpretations of the settings and characters described. Yes, I have stated that the reader is physically active in the narrative by interacting with the digital device. However, they are passive by not being involved in the actual narrative. The viewer is faced with a complete “experience” to which they cannot add any personal creativity. The whole story is created for the spectator, and all they need to do is view it. They do not engage any of their ingenuity, rather it all just unfolds in front of them, with all the visuals already created for them. Scott Rettberg  describes this idea coherently, that they ‘do not involve their participants in the sort of imaginative or interpretive experience we associate with literary texts, but instead with the activity of playing and adjusting variables in a simulation‘. 
There are many unique properties of the digital world inserted into story telling over the past number of years, and I think that it is a brilliant way to entertain the reader. However, I do think that we should mix it up every now and again, enjoy the electrical literature but also pick up a “regular” book every now and again and let our mind create and construct our own, exclusive interpretations of the text.
Due to limitations of this post, I did not have the sufficient time into discussing all of my opinions on the topic. However, I do hope to return to Electronic Literature in my future posts and investigate different examples of it.
 The Electronic Literature Organisation http://eliterature.org/what-is-e-lit/ (accessed on 25/10/2016).
 Kathrine Hayles, ‘Electronic literature: what is it?’, 2007. http://eliterature.org/pad/elp.html (accessed on 25/10/2016).
 Scott Rettberg, ‘Communitizing Electronic Literature’, 2009. http://www.digitalhumanities.org/dhq/vol/3/2/000046/000046.html (accessed on 25/10/2016).
Photograph credit: https://twitter.com/visitthecity/status/484397395619618816
This blog post will deal with visualizing data. I have chosen to carry it out on a text I have recently studied for one of my class in Art history – The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects written by Giorgio Vasari (1568 enlarged version). Vasari is one of the key figures of history of Art history as he was among the first people to construct a written testimony of the artists of his period, through writing their biographies. His book The Lives of The Artists, is sectioned into three periods arranged by the time artist’s active, artistic course. Even though Vasari includes some of his personal opinions and picturesque anecdotes in the biography, the book still stands as one of the key texts of the Renaissance art.
Personally, I thought it would be intriguing to compare my analysis of the text carried out for one of my essays with a digital visualization.
Firstly, I accessed the text through an open source website called Project Gutenberg (https://www.gutenberg.org/). Then, having extracted the text (I decided to use the well renowned section on Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci) I pasted it to a data visualization tool Voyant (http://voyant-tools.org/).
These are my results: Voyant is great for visualizing the more technical aspects. I found out that the text contains 6,765 words and 1,614 unique word forms. The most frequent words in the corpus were ‘Leonardo’ (61), ‘having’ (34), ‘great’ (21) and ‘said’ (17). The factual information was not surprising or beneficial – it was quite expected for ‘Leonardo’ to appear most often as it’s his biography. Furthermore, the words ‘having’, ‘great’ and ‘said’ would not have helped you at all in the understanding of the text if you were not familiar with it. Perhaps, this sort of a mechanical breakdown could be convenient to use for other documents.
The tool also provided, a word collage bubble and a time & frequency graph.
The ‘Cirrus’ was, in my opinion, a visualization that was best read if you were familiar with the text. Yes, you may be aware that the words ‘Florence’ and ‘Milan’ appear often in the text, and if applying logic you will figure out that they are the places where the Tuscan born artist worked. Leonardo’s father’s name ‘Piero’ is another word that appeared often, and you will probably figure out that this was the name of one of his companions. From words such as ‘marvellous’, ‘divine’, ‘beautiful’ and ‘greatest’ one can gather the idea Vasari conveys in his oratory of praise to Leonardo, such that he greatest painter of his period (besides his rival Michelangelo whom Vasari undeniably favoured). Overall, I think it did reveal some of the main ideas of the text but it did not give one any certain information, but it did provide a very brief overview of the text.
The graph was not exactly suitable for this text. It showed a constant repetition throughout the text of ‘Leonardo’ (as expected), the word ‘having’ seemed to have been used most frequently at the beginning and end of the text and the information of the location of other words throughout the text did not bring anything to the understanding of the text.
Other features of visualizing the text were also worthless to interpreting The Lives. Overall, most of the results that I got were unfortunately disappointing. Overall, I did not benefit from Voyant visualizing Vasari’s text.
However, I did not want to judge data visualization by using only one tool. I tried a tool called Textalyser (http://textalyser.net/). It did not help me visualize what the text was about either. After I fed the text into the tool, I received a very technical breakdown of the text into the number and frequencies of the words used. I found it strange that the tool failed to recognize that the words such as ‘the’, ‘of’ and ‘and’ were obviously going to be some of the most frequent words as it would be the case with most English texts!
Perhaps it is due to my choice of text that I did not find data visualizing beneficial. I think Vasari’s work should be read through in person to appreciate his selection of fragments of Leonardo da Vinci’s life through which he demonstrates the ways and means through which the artist exercises virtue. I wouldn’t completely stay away from Voyant – I think it would be useful to inspect a text and get a laconic summary of it.
Have you tried data visualizing? Do you think it’s useful? I would love to hear your opinion!
Open Street Mapping is a non- profit organisation created by Steve Coast to simply to make people’s everyday navigation easier. Once you log in you can edit and view the maps available as the project is crowd source where the users generate the content. You could compare it to Google maps of which I am sure that everyone heard and used at least once, except in my opinion it is better. It is updated more frequently, contains more detail and users who know the area well can create reliable shortcuts which will decrease your journey time. As a part of one of my modules, I was asked to try it out – work on a few of the tiles contributing to the humanitarian function of the foundation, filling in geographical data of areas not often mapped as usually big corporations are not willing to invest in such as it is no (financial) profit to them.
I have decided to work on the Humanitarian Open Street Map Team as I felt that the work I contribute to it will be more beneficial than mapping just my local area, but also my local neighborhood has already been mapped in great detail. I wanted to help those from the more disadvantaged territories as as I have mentioned before they are neglected by profit orientated companies. The humanitarian function is a great aspect of the foundation – besides it obviously assisting those from the impoverished region; it also makes the user feel as if they are contributing to a magnificent cause by helping those in need.
To be honest, I feared that the task would be a challenge to me as I have no in depth geographical knowledge and no sense of direction. However, I was surprised as how easy to navigate and how clearly the process is explained. I had no trouble using it and even found it fun as it was just like playing a game! However, what I did find troublesome and slightly annoying was the quality of some of the photographs, especially those from the poorer areas; but I do think that it was not the foundations fault.
Using OSM had an overall positive impact on me. The fact that digitizing enables us help the other inhabitants of the planet do disaster mapping or community developments is a tremendous factor; and by looking at some of the past achievements of the tool it underlines the impact of technology on our everyday life and proves that technology is a significant advantage of our age.
What also intrigued me is that the foundation is entirely a crowdsource initiative meaning that it is the user that contribute their local knowledge (or like me try to figure out the imagery provided by Bing to mark the features). This type of ‘teamwork’ is abstract as you are not always sure if the person mapping it is correct yet that’s why the OSM requires other users to validate your tiles. If there is one thing that I have learned from this experience it is how far we go if we all work together.
I was also impressed by the foundation’s history of helping others and seeing how they have aided especially those ranging from Nepal to West Africa. It is surreal to think that something we find enjoyable such as spatial mapping, those in the disadvantaged areas could find so benefiting in finding their escape routes or homes during a disaster.
I think that now that I am aware of this tool I will use it more often, might even download the app to my phone! I think it will be very useful for me when I am travelling larger cities – Open Street Mapping indicated all the roads (and path walks!) and each building is clearly indicating meaning that I will find where I am looking for quickly. I would highly recommend for you to try it!
Sorry for not writing in so long. Today I’m coming back with a review of an old, trusty digital tool – Google Docs. I know it’s something everyone has heard of before but I bet you that there are still some people out there who don’t use it! I will tell you the why’s and how’s to easily manage your documents everywhere that you go provided that you have an internet connection and a Google ID (this you get instantly if you have a Gmail account).
Google docs is a free web-based platform which provides its users with a word processing software, accessible through Fire fox, Safari, Google Chrome or Internet Explorer; also it’s available to download the application on your phone through Android or iOS systems. This is incredibly convenient for two reasons: 1. you never lose your progress as it automatically saves the document online and 2. you can edit your work wherever you are (especially handy if you are a student). Google docs enables you to perform collaborative writing –coediting documents with others, making group work so much easier. All you have to do is click the ‘share’ button on the top right hand side of the screen and enter the person’s email address, my favourite part being the fact that you can make comments on certain lines of the text without having to actually change it and messing up the other person’s plans. In its structure it is very similar to Word – you have similar if not identical in some cases options of changing the font’s style, size, colour, spacing… the list goes on. You can edit the text to look exactly how you want it to look and read.
Online, one will find a rather large selection of articles and reviews of Google docs. Some of the examples include pcmag, greenbot, zapier or the review section of the apple store where you can download the application for your phone. I have collected information from the above websites as well as I have used Google docs frequently for the past two years, therefore I have a clear understanding of this word processing software application. Gathering the research materials online gave me a better insight of the more technical aspects of the platform such as that the users get 15GB and all features free, but if you need more storage space you can purchase it for $1.99/month for 100Gb storage, $9.99/month for 1TB and up to 30TB for $299/month. Nearly all articles that I have come across give Google docs a very good rating, praising it for its efficiency, simplicity in use and the budget friendly option of having it for free.
The application seems to be stable, I never had any negative experiences with the digital tool – it never crashed, unless there was a fault in my internet connection. It is not the first version of the application that Google has released as it has been ‘upgraded’ numerous times. It is a closed source – meaning that the proprietary software is owned by one organization and the source code is not shared with the general public to look at or make changes to it. The only issue I have found with it, is some users complaining about their privacy being exposed to the corporation, however I do believe that Google has a great privacy and security terms which protect its clients from hackers. Google docs has initially been released in February 2007 and is currently used by millions of users from all around the world, who export and import files frequently and another one of Google’s pros is that it can convert files into several different formats including PDF’s and HTML.
To conclude, I would highly encourage the usage of Google docs as I think that it’s a great invention which I personally use on daily basis. I think it is extremely reliable and easy to use – if you have previously used any word processing program then you should have no problem with this. If you have any more questions on this leave me a comment or else have a look at Google’s supportive ‘learning centre’ which should instruct you on how to get started and answer any questions that you might have.