Conceptual Reflections

Mariam Posner reflection

Miriam Posner argues that Digital Humanities are using infrastructures and data models drawn from other disciplines such as business and questions the effectiveness of Google Maps, mainly because of the way in which it distorts space into a graph of longitude and latitude while flattening the model into a fixed single vision of the world and the surprising lack of visual alternatives being available, or what they would look like from different viewpoints if produced by different people with different viewpoints from locations around the world.

She makes points of computer interfaces choosing ease of use over critical engagement and problems of visualisations, which can easily convey quantities, but are not able to show differing opinions, or define difference. To overcome this, interfaces rely on a simplification of categorisation or to fit people into groups as in the census form (tick box that represents group and only allows black/white) Although the form asks the individual to self define what group they identify with, while at the same time limiting their possible answers, into a generalisation forming a means of control, as a person may identify with more than one group also limiting of tools and answers in this way does not give a clear picture of the actual ethnicity of the country mentioned (U.S)

In her Arts example of gender representing male, female and unknown, while attempting to provide some level of equality in that women are involved in the arts it bases gender on sex, but not orientation or what individuals may define themselves as, incidentally it adds an “unknown”, box similar to the “other”, in census form as if to reinforce predetermined norms   dictated within society anyone that falls outside of these categories is placed outside.

Posner also suggests investigating models and visualisations of race and gender derived from place and peoples experience of living there, and how they vary from place to place and from different perspectives and that race and gender are not fixed categorisations but constructs that are fluid and develop over time and place while also calling for new ways of designing the archive instead of replicating existing models while questioning the power that these categorisations represent. While Posner discusses easy to use interfaces that lack the ability to examine how the structures of inequality and injustice still exist in the U.S. to combat this she argues for D.H. projects to be made stronger and powerful and that is inclusive of unrepresented communities.

When Posner mentions power relations and and how Digital Humanities needs to develop inclusive racial and gender theories which challenge and question existing power structures and are relevant to peoples lives today although theorists such as Michel Foucault done in depth analysis of power and control structures and how people act within them and society, Giorgio Agamben expanded on Foucault’s theory of apparatus (institutions, regulations, laws, forming a network of disciplinary structures which spread out throughout society until it became almost invisible) Agamben in his essay “What is an Apparatus”, added computers, mobile phones, literature, navigation anything that had the ability to control or capture the behaviours of living beings or that could form a network between the elements.




Jerome McGann

Jerome McGann speaks about the divide in education between text and interpretation of theory, which he now sees as compounded by the arrival of digital technology in recent years which is causing a crisis for educational institutions as on one hand colleges are still ingrained with traditional methods and on the other hand there is a shift towards digital technologies resulting in a large number of resources now needing to be digitised. Although another problem is the shortages in universities of people skilled to do this transfer.

While projects are being carried out in digital form, McGann argues that literary departments are far behind and unaware of the need to train people in the editing and transfer of text.

What’s needed is ways of developing the methods of transcribing the book form to digital and similarly the way in which the book becomes re engineered through this process in digital form through hypertext and cybertext and also the need for developing interfaces and digital tools that can cope with this transition effectively and not add hindrance to the digitisation of large files for example with large amounts of hyperlinks the generate more associated files and similarly SGML/XML text files all of which have a divided structure.


Lawrence Lessig Free Culture reflection

Lessig begins by making the point where free culture stemmed from i.e. free speech, free markets, free enterprise, free elections and free trade and that free culture is not necessarily a free for all as intellectual property is protected for the creators. He highlights the case regarding the arrival of FM radio, and RCA doing everything they could to supress it both through legal and government channels, simply because apart from the technology working better than theirs it was a direct threat to their broadcasting power. Lessig argued that this was symbolic of what can happen with law, in that a large corporation can influence governments to protect its interests and sometimes preventing technologic change that would have been beneficial to the public.

Lessig also makes the point that we are shifting from being a free culture to a permission one as corporations are effecting the way in which the internet works in the guise of protection of the artists and creators, when in reality they want to protect the corporations interests by influencing laws regarding the production of culture.

With the birth of the internet and new technologies it became possible to share and copy music, imagery, and data at an increasing rate, which companies labelled piracy and began to attempt to enforce copyright laws even though the internet had eroded the scope and grasp of publishing laws while at the same time seeking to enforce regulations on the creative class. While digital technologies were creating new opportunities for creativity, laws were arising to contain this in order to preserve commercial interests.

Lessig commented that copyright periods were usually thirty-two years after which copyright then expired and anyone was free to build upon the culture, as it had passed into the public domain. In recent years companies and commercial interests seek not only to control and enforce copyright, but also to impose regulations on the creation of culture and dominate it on every level including the ways it is digested, hence society is becoming more of a permission culture or pay to use, rather than a free culture.

Digital Artefact VAS


When I first went to Virtual Art Space, I had to download a player before I could enter site, although the download did work straight away with no problems. I found the navigation toggle at times difficult to operate with a mouse as if feels to be designed more for a joystick, when using mouse it tends to zoom into walls and away from pictures, also it is difficult to get into video rooms, as it tends to bring you into next exhibitor instead, for looking at exhibitions it is probably better to use the guided tour option or the left and right buttons on screen to get to next picture. When using the zoom function pictures become pixelated, while in contrast in the video rooms, videos are clear and even cast shadow on floor, and sound is clear with added echo giving effect of being in a real gallery immersive space, the only problem with videos is that they don’t load straight away and some come with a pop up about the load time being up to five minutes. The site also includes sections for artist C.V. s and biography along with contact details. The home page also provided an A-Z artist index, while this only shows 12 artist thumbnails per page and links there is also a search box for individual artists. While the Virtual Art Space only facilitates 2D, photographic and sculptural work, the real test for a 3D gallery would be to provide a platform for rendering installations consisting of 3D elements and multiple projections, whereby the viewer can view installation from different angles as well as from within as in the real world.

Setting up a gallery on site was fairly straightforward as pictures can be uploaded straight away without resizing, the gallery space comes in three different layouts for free version for 14, 16 or 20 works along with the option to upload video and sculpture within the same gallery space, the size of each video is capped at 20mb which restricts the size and length of video which requires checking file size and compression of files before uploading. The site also only accepts OGG files, while they do provide a converter there is no guide or information about different files, When I went to convert short video files, none of them would convert and there was only a very poor F.A.Q. section, Overall site is limited as it does not cater for other mediums while userability is good and ease of access for uploading and displaying 2D works this is let down by the problems with the video section.



Voyant Tools reflection

I found Voyant Tools useful for analysing text especially the ease at which it produced visualisations of key words and links between them within text. What works really well is the interface that would allow multiple visualisations in different formats to be displayed along side the text for example text arc, word cloud and various graphs. It is also interesting to see the way in which context of the text is stripped away from the main body and reanimated through its keywords, linked themes and phrases. I found some of the link tools reminiscent of mind maps, but in reverse i.e. putting in a finished text and then generating a map, while some of the tools were really clear and quickly generated, a few were not such as scatter graph and word tree, while others just enlarged one frame, but what was annoying was the absence of a back button on the dashboard to return to previous stat.


Prezi evaluation

Out of Powtoon, Emaze and Prezi, I found Prezi to be the most accessible, and slightly clearer how to use as it provided a step by step tutorial to guide you while creating your first Prezi, although I did find the navigation awkward to control as it kept changing the size.

What I found to be a major problem with Prezi was that after creating a presentation on one machine, the real test was opening it on another device or its transferability across devices and how it reacts. When opening on an ipad it was slow to load, and constant messages that parts of presentation may not display, even after downloading the Prezi viewer, it still had severe problems loading also when it does open on another device the orientation is different.

Prezi is something I would avoid using for a presentation for the main reason, I would not trust it to open properly on another machine, also co ordination goes off in different directions when creating a presentation as its not linear, similarly the balloons and boxes never go to the required size, as some remain too small to add text.