Course blog

Week 9: Theory and Digital Humanities

Natalia Cecire’s article “Introduction: Theory and the Virtues of Digital Humanities” discusses the debates around the role of theory in the digital humanities which are centered around the relationships of saying and doing. What most interested me about Cecire’s article was the section on how “Claims about doing are economic claims.” Cecire demonstrates how the “epistemology of doing has come to be framed in strangely specific terms, with social consequences for how it plays out in the wider discipline.” She uses the examples of wording such as “hands-on,” “getting your hands dirty,” and “building” which offer a distinctly masculine view of what exactly constitutes doing. These words are distinctly different from other metaphors for doing, such as “weaving, cooking… or nurturing. ” Cecire makes the points that within the humanities are dimensions of praxis: performance and activism, which are commonly found in disciplines such as women’s and ethnic studies. The choice of digital humanities to use terms such as “digging” and “building” to describe doing as leads to “distinctive methodologies of digital humanities [to be] represented in comfortably industrial terms.” Cecire argues that though the digital humanities is increasingly represented as a “return to a (white, male) industrial order of union jobs and visible products,” it is also in the best position to “critique and effect change in a social form—not merely to replicate it.”

An example I found of the digital humanities being “implicated in the postindustrial ‘feminization of labor’” that Cecire mentions can be found in Shawn Wen’s article “The Ladies Vanish.” Weapp-383n discusses the “different class of workers” found at Google that worked for ScanOps, “the team that did the painstaking work of scanning texts that make up Google Books.” These workers were mostly black and Latino, and started their shifts at 4 am in order to keep them separate from the majority of predominately white workers on the Google campus. Google erases the laborers from its Google Books project, in favor of promoting the technology and “expansive virtual library.” Google is not alone in hiding the human labor. Amazon has a Mechanical Turk program which “hires people to do invisible work online—work which makes their client companies’ software look flawless.” According to Wen:

The New York Times reports that workers on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk earn an estimated range of $1.20 to $5 per hour on average. Even more controversially, the terms of service allow employers to “accept” or “reject” the work after they receive it, no questions asked. The company is allowed to keep the work after they “reject” it, but the worker is denied pay and receives a lower online rating, making it harder to obtain future work on the site… [To add to this,] a study by NYU professor Panos Ipeirotis found that almost 70% of Mechanical Turkers were women. How shocking: the low prestige, invisible, poorly paid jobs on the Internet are filled by women. Women provide the behind the scenes labor that is mystified as the work of computers, unglamorous work transformed into apparent algorithmic perfection.

These examples show the importance of why the digital humanities should critique and effect change, and why theory is a fundamental place to begin.

Week 9: Digital Karnak

During my freshman year I took Architecture 10A with Diane Favro. The course covered a lot of Greek and Roman architecture. I also distinctly remember pulling an all-nighter to complete an interactive Google Earth guide through Roman victory marches. The project took the viewer through the city of Rome on Google Earth past different landmarks. Movement though space is one of the most important ways we can understand architecture so to have a way to digitally interact with a space is very helpful. I think that Favro’s “Meaning in Motion” can be applied to another UCLA project is Digital Karnak (Favro is one of the directors of this project). Digital Karnak is a great exploration of the temple complex at Karnak. One of the things that makes this project so great and really distinguishes it from other 3D interactive projects of ancient spaces is that you can explore what the complex looked like through time. The timemap indicates what buildings were built, destroyed, or inactive during a certain period of time.

The experience Karnak tab includes information on how the space was used for different activities. Unfortunately the way we explore these spaces is only through 3D videos that don’t allow the viewer to freely explore the space. However, this isn’t a problem as these are supposed to be like “guided tours” through a specific place during a specific event. Fortunately this is supplemented by the Google Earth tab if you want to download the 3D model on Google Earth so you can freely explore the complex. Unlike the Digital Roman Forum The information is very easy to navigate and you don’t have to search for a specific thing in order to find information on it. There isn’t a search bar in Digital Karnak but you can use the “Browse archive” tab. I think that Digital Karnak exhibits the five operating principles set forth by the CVRLab which are to “follow the highest scientific standards”, “to conceptualize the models as ‘knowledge representations'”, “to include the surrounding environmental context”, “to utilize real-time visual simulation”, and “to promote access and utilization by other scholars”. A great part Digital Karnak is the “External Resources” tab for further exploration of the topic of Karnak specifically and Egyptology as a whole.

Week 9: Soarin’ Over California


“A Personal Walk Through Historical Simulation Modeling at UCLA” by Diane Favro described UCLA’s efforts to create a digital technologies to study Roman architecture and culture. “For the Romans, walking, thinking, and memory were inextricably intertwined”, and Favro and some colleagues wanted to reflect this through reproducing historical Roman architecture. The UCLA Cultural Virtual Reality Lab (CVRLab) and the Experimental Technologies Center (ETC) have worked together since the 90s to try to accomplish this. In the beginning, they held showings at the UCLA Visualization Portal, which was a theater with surround sound and a large semi-spherical screen that “gives the audience a sense of immersion in the projected models”. Since then, the teams have made an interactive website in 2003, and their 3D models have been featured in Google Earth Ancient Rome 3D in 2008.

Over Thanksgiving break my parents and 11 year-old sister visited me in LA. My sister wanted to go to Disneyland, and since my parents were sick of even the idea, they dropped me off with her. I was reminded of theme park simulators after reading about the UCLA Visualization Portal being used for 3D Roman models of ancient building. Soarin’ Over California, a ride I did just last week, uses 3D simulation so that riders feel like they’re actually soaring over the Golden Gate Bridge or Half Dome.

The CVRLab team had many issues, as Favro mentioned in her article, with the UCLA Visualization Portal. Viewers familiar with the historical spaces or those with gaming experience would become disoriented in the environments. This prompted the CVRLab team to add a map that shows the position and orientation while in the middle of the simulation. But then the map took away the feeling of actually being in the environment.

Although the CVRLab eventually produced successful contributions to 3D modeling and the UCLA Visualization Portal was a decade before well-developed simulators came out, Soarin’ Over California was an immediate success in 2001. Guests are lifted in seats in a forward position so that the look into the large, concave movie screen. Subtle movements of the seats are synchronized with the film to mimic the feeling of flight. Scents are projected in various scenes, and wind is blown in riders’ faces.

It’s interesting to see the differences in how 3D modeling simulation and simulation in general is used for different purposes. It’ll be especially interesting where the future of simulation is headed (The Matrix, anyone?).

Week 9 Virtual Reality and Urban Simulation

Using three-dimensional technologies to create content and taking anything that exists in reality and creating it in a virtual reality is an incredible concept. Consider the evolution of video games. Remember some of the earlier video games like Pong or Snake? The player in Pong would make sure the black dot on the screen, or the Ping-Pong ball, hit the black stick, or the Ping-Pong paddle, every time the ball neared the edge of the screen. The game Snake consisted of a long pixelated “snake” that continuous chased different dots to eat them and then the snake would grow longer. Disregarding the fact that my explanations of these early video games are poor, make sure you consider the video games that exist today. Not that I am an expert, but the quality and user experience of these virtual games are high quality and complex in comparison to older games like Pong and Snake.

Video games are just one of the many uses for vitual reality technologies. After Favro referred to the UCLA Urban Simulation Team (UST) in her “Meaning in Motion” essay, I found the UCLA UST website and started to explore. Urban simulation can be useful for many reasons. For instance, UCLA UST uses computer modeling to create large-scale urban environments. Their main project is the creations of a real time virtual model of the entire Los Angeles basin. Searching through their website I found a short simulation and screen shots of simulations of different places in Los Angeles. They have many screen shots of a UCLA simulation, which I was most impressed with. It is extremely accurate in design and appearance. The simulations are so accurate that the graffiti on the walls and different signs throughout the city are legible.

The UCLA UST’s designs are not just used for appearance and virtual entertainment. In fact, their designs are used for community governance and emergency response in Los Angeles. The simulations are also used to understand Los Angeles transportation in real time and the different methods of traveling from Point A to Point B in Los Angeles.


Visualizing Ancient Past – Week 9


The idea that we may be able to recreate something that is so far away, in time and location, is incredible. To be able to recreate even partially what ancient Rome was like will give new perspectives to many. Walking through Rome in current day, although there are ruins and you are still able to imagine what life was like, it doesn’t come anywhere close to the real thing. The visualization that Favro is talking about makes this much more of a reality. You can get so much more of a feel for the ancient city if it looks like you are actually walking through the buildings at eye level. I do also like that the project focuses on the physical history and buildings and strays away from including people in it because it is “distracting.”
This made me think of the street view option that Google Maps has to offer. Although the intention of the map is for you to more easily visualize where you are going, it can also be used in a similar matter. Even in the picture, you can clearly see that the purpose of the map is not intended to give anyone a realistic idea of the area. However, it does have real cars and real people on the street as it would at any given moment. However, the picture quality tends to be a little grainy. It does create a snapshot of the world as we know it today, just as we are trying to recreate with Rome. You could potentially “walk through” the streets in other areas by just searching them on a map. Of course, the representation of Rome is much more detailed and well thought out, it is more or less the same concept – giving people the ability to see what something is really like without being there. While you can never retain the whole ambience of a setting through a visualization, creating something that looks like you could be walking through it makes it a much more realistic case.

Favro, Diane. “Methodological Essays « Visualizing Statues.” Visualizing Statues. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Dec. 2014.

Using the Historical Stimulation Model in Class
Primary Source: a 360 degree view of Times Square

In Classics 20, Discovering Romans (taught by Professor Johannson), we often use the Roman Stimulation Model that is mentioned in Favro’s “Meaning in Motion” article. It is an interesting supplement to the lecture. Some of it’s best uses in class were to show the route of the Roman Funeral March and the typical Victory Parade that generals took upon returning to Rome after war. It has also been used to model the course of battles that took place within the city. However, I sometimes wonder weather Prof Johannson is over eager to use the tool- it doesn’t really mean anything when used in conjecture with one of Castillo’s poems, or to show where Roman theater productions “may have” taken place.
While reading the article, I wondered what other classes I have taken may have benefitted from such a visualization tool. I think Dinosaurs and their Relatives (EPS SCI 17) would have been a good one. The class focused on the rise and fall of dinosaurs, theories of evolution, and changing lands during historic times. Rather than a stimulation where you can explore the lands, however, a tool showing the change in one area over the decades would have been good. For example, showing the land before, during, and after a flash flood or fire would have contributed to our understanding of migration and the formation of sedentary rock. This is also a problem we often run into in Classics 20: the time frame for the stimulation is stagnant, and sometimes does not align with our purposes. The professor may show us where a building was, but the stimulation models a time after that building was destroyed. The tool, although interesting and usually effective, would benefit from showing a greater range of time periods.
This also reminds me of a famous New York attraction- a 3D tour of Times Square. You sit in seats and are surrounded on all sides by a view of the landmark. The seats rock in place back and forth, side to side, as the visualization takes you through the city. There is also fake wind that blows at you throughout the tour. It is like being on a roller coaster tour of NYC! The stimulation works so well that some people actually get motion sick on the “ride”. Although this would be a strange thing to implement in a class at UCLA, it is an example of a whole-body experience through a stimulation tool, which uses much of the same technology as the UCLA CVR.


digital humanities1

The human history is overflowing with words. It seems as though anyone can throw together a few simple sentence, and appear as a factual mastermind. With the birth of modernity, words have in some ways lost there validity. Many people are saying, but few are doing. Now what does that mean? Natalia Cecire wrote a brilliant article describing the development and current standing of Digital Humanities. In it she illuminates profound questions that we, as a discipline, must ask ourselves. How has the epistemological understandings of our species changed, and what can we do to fix it? These changes must be tied back to our evolution, our development, our integration of technology. These complex words, used as a tool of translation, must be built upon, I mean anyone can Google search a topic and suddenly appear to have omnipresent knowledge, or shall I say wikiwisdom of a topic. This is when the nice digital humanists steps in and show the world there is more ways to translate our thoughts;  there are tools out that can implement data, and produce a translated knowledge that is pertinent to a range of terrains and minds. As Cecire puts it, we must make sense our of what is happening to our world. We must be the translators, builders, or miners of this new way of obtaining knowledge, through technological processes and advancements.

This article inspired my thought process over the past few days. it stirred ideas, and new ways of communication and education kept running through my mind. Our thoughts and dreams can be turned into actions, I believe it. The education system in this country, and elsewhere, is flawed. It does not account for the thinkers that process differently, such as auditory, visual, and kinesthetic learners, and children are left behind. What if there was system that could process the learning patterns of a child, and distinguish the ways in which the child will best be taught. We have lost the arts, the passion, and creativity in learning. We have lost our communication route. The world is moving forward yet the children are held back by these enormous books filled will beautiful knowledge but is honestly a drag. It sounds terrible right, but it is so completely true. Technology is our new tool is translating knowledge, and it needs to be incorporated on a larger scale. We have the tools, we have the knowledge, we have the passion, but I think it is our job, DH101, to translate and effect change into the lives of those to come, in hope of making this world a more understanding, peaceful place. I can tell you this, there is nothing more rewarding that seeing the eyes of a child light up, and what if it was knowledge, thoughts, creativity,  that created those sparks. This is the discipline I wish to work in, a discipline of dreamers and imagineers.



3D Archaeology

  • Lisa Snyder and Scott Friedman. “Software Interface for Real-Time Exploration and Educational Use of Three-Dimensional Computer Models of Historic Urban Environments.” National Endowment for the Humanities, September 16, 2013.

I apologize – I’m about to totally geek out on you!! In reading Synder and Friedman’s piece on 3D modeling, I was struck by the variety of applications this type of software has in archaeology – and the very best part is that it can be super simple, and therefore easy to apply in the field! This technology is helping to upgrade the excavation process, which still includes a lot of hand written notes and drawings, as well as advancing cultural preservation. There are incredibly exciting applications for this type of software in cases of rescue archaeology, or sites which are being destroyed due to natural processes. At Apollonia Arsuf in Israel for example, they are trying to implement a program using this type of tech to digitally reconstruct the Crusader Castle on site. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the castle (which was located strategically on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean) is now crumbling piece by piece into the sea as the limestone cliff loses its structural integrity. It is important to note however, the incredible amount of research and scholarship that go into these types of reconstruction projects- I myself spent the better part of several months researching extant, contemporary examples of Crusader fortification architecture in the Near East and compiled a database of these forms. This information was to be used to help fill in the gaps, where pieces of the Arsuf castle were so badly damaged or missing that they needed to be fabricated, rather than photographed or scanned.

Another incredibly cool application for this tech is underwater archaeology! Water has very different preservation effects on different materials and artifacts, and it can often be incredibly detrimental and destructive to remove an object from the water it has been sitting in for centuries (probably the most well known example is of wooden shipwrecks, which can be incredibly well preserved in salt or brackish water, but can essentially disintegrate very rapidly when exposed to air). At a field school I attended on the island of Menorca in Spain, they are using underwater cameras to take photos of submerged artifacts (at even just above  5 megapixels). These images are reconstructed in programs like Agisoft, which use photogrammetry to stitch the photos together into a 3D mesh, which can be manipulated, exported to CAD programs like AutoCAD or ArcGIS, etc.! The photo above is an example from Menorca.

3D Modeling


While looking through this week’s articles, Diane Favro’s, “A Personal Walk Through Historical Simulation Modeling at UCLA,” caught my eye. In her article, Favro describes the history of 3D modeling at UCLA and its functionality in an architecture project of recreating the Roman Forum.   Favro’s project, Visualizing Statues, “takes the reader on a tour through a simulation of [Rome] in the late antique period…demonstrating how inscriptions, sculptures, buildings, and monuments in Rome forged enduring memories and transported the reader beyond the here-and-now.” As seen through Favro’s project, 3D modeling allows one to “[exploit] movement as a way to generate a narrative, to explain contemporary monuments and, ultimately, to animate history and convey values” (Favro). Beyond Favro’s project and arcitecture, 3D modeling has many other uses including in other industries including film, animation, medicine, etc. 3D modeling can be described as sculpting vs. painting—It allows one to create advanced graphics that enables one to view images from a different perspective.

Although a lot less practical, I have experienced 3D modeling through many computer games, most notably Zoo Tycoon and Roller-coaster Tycoon. Zoo Tycoon and Roller-coaster Tycoon are simulation video games where the “player must build, expand and/or upgrade a zoo [or theme park] by purchasing animals, creating suitable living environments…allocate staff and resources for their maintenance and care, provide…visitors [with] food and drink stands, sanitary facilities, picnic areas and an aesthetically pleasing environment (Wikipedia).

These games allow the player a lot of room for creativity to create a 3D world. When you start the game it is a completely empty patch of grass, but little by little you can create semi-lifelike roller-coasters or animal exhibits. With each new version of the games, the graphics became more and more realistic. You were able to have a 360 degree view of your structures and theme parks as a whole.


As seen above, in the earliest models of these games, although there were still 3D images, the picture quality was not very realistic and the user could not get as much mobility throughout the games.

_-Zoo-Tycoon-2-Ultimate-Collection-PC-_Zoo-Tycoon-2-exe-has-stopped-workingRollerCoaster_Tycoon_2_-_Interface_and_Rides In the second version of these games, the images became a lot more realistic and more three dimensional, although they were still pixelated. The graphics in these versions were a vast improvement from the previous technology.


In the latest version of Zoo Tycoon, the 3D images are extremely life like. The detail provided on these images shows just how advanced technology has gotten now a days and it will only continue to get better.

Works Cited:

Diane Favro, “Meaning in Motion. A Personal Walk Through Historical Simulation Modeling at UCLA,” in Visualizing Statues in the Late Antique Forum

Week 9 – Frida Kahlo Was A Hacker

Natalia Cecire’s “Introduction: Theory and the Virtues of Digital Humanities” discusses the concept of hackers. She quotes from Tad Suiters, “a hacker is a person who looks at systemic knowledge structures and learns about them from making or doing.” Ultimately hackers are autodidacts, she quotes him. Speaking of autodidacts, I immediately thought of Frida Kahlo. Though not involved with the technology we frequent today, she was was a self taught artist. After being temporarily immobilized from an accident, Frida Kahlo picked up painting and then pursued painting instead of her intended course of medicine. Could we consider her as a hacker of her time however? I would say so. She was an active communist and feminist and depicted such themes in her artwork thus displaying her knowledge about systemic structures.

How Frida ties into media is in this manner. This Thanksgiving weekend (which I hope everyone had a safe and enjoyable one) I was looking at items online as anyone would for the sales to come. I stumbled upon this:


frida iphone case

One would expect that someone who owns such a case would be a fan of Frida Kahlo. However, if one were a fan of Frida then one would know that she detested capitalism and abhorred industrialization. These were ideals she lived by and believed in. What has been created is taking her identity and turned it into a commodity that has been mass produced and sold in a consumer oriented society. Ironic.

I did some searching around and found gems like this:


in which the author white-washes her identity in a postcard.

Instead of using these hackers as goals, we see them being used as idols to manipulate. Something to consider is glorification of hackers today and the diminishing value of actually being an autodidact. Cecire quotes Stephen Ramsay that “digital humanities is characterized by a “move from reading to making.” My observation is a lack of self-taught making. Instead there is a flux of re-creating from original source and then the multiplication of these recreations.

One rare example of inspired creation is Aarthi Parthasarathy. She enjoyed Wondermark’s Victorian era woodcut cartoons so much she decided to use Indian Mughal art to create her own cartoons called Royal Existentials.

Here is an example of Wondermark:

Here is Royal Existentials:



(Click to make bigger)

So are hackers becoming fewer? Is it more popular to idolize hackers rather than become one?