Author Archives: Jean ʒɑ̃

Workshop (Nov.26, 2018): How to use Pivot Chart in Excel for data visualization

On Nov 26, 2018, I’ve attended the data visualization workshop organized by GC ITP Skills Lab in the GC main library. The instructor’s first name was Hannah and she said her specialization is commuter science.  (She didn’t inform more about herself, so apologies for missing more detailed information about her affiliations, research interest, and so on. )

The workshop was largely focused on how to visualize datasets with Pivot Chart in Excel.

  1. Hannah provided us the graduation.csv that collected data of the number of high school (?) students that arrays the data as follows: Demographic,Borough,Cohort,Total Cohort,Total Grads,Total Regents,Advanced Regents,Regents w/o Advanced ,Local,Still Enrolled,Dropped Out. Because I’m not familiar with the borough divisions as well as the culture where students frequently drop out, the dataset itself felt somewhat distant to me. (But we will see what I learned to overcome geographic and cultural unfamiliarity in dealing with data through geo-visualization techniques merged with data visualization. )
  2. Then, Hannah asked us to import that dataset to Excel. Simply we had to click “insert” and then find “Pivotchart” and then we imported the dataset by browsing the file saved in our drive previously.  We had to adjust the format of the dataset a bit at this stage. Although we were not sure what to do with it exactly, the data started displaying as a chart on-screen.
  3.  We learned the merit of using Pivotchart in data-visualization is that we can adjust categories and select/deselect “the fields” we wanted to see distinctively on the chart.  The figure below is one of the examples we’ve got in trying out various charts.

    figure 1

    4.  we’ve tried different graph styles as well depending on what we want to see and which graphs would be more effective for chosen field characteristics.

    5. After that, Hannah taught us how to merge Google Earth’s geographic information with the data visualization and visualize them together by variating the colors (and the color degrees) of the fields. We’ve tried a few different datasets to do this and it was interesting to discover that we can use GIS platforms (eg. Google Earth/Map) and the statistic data graphs at the same time, which helps those who are unfamiliar with site-specific geography and its relevance to data in a given data visualization & analysis project.  

Overall, this workshop was helpful in a way that taught us to use a familiar software like Excel in a data visualization project for our specific needs of seeing the selected data fields which can be also aligned with geo-visualization by utilizing GIS technology.



post-class response to Simone Browne’s “race and surveillance”

As we have discussed in the class on Nov 27th, I think, Simone Browne’s article/chapter of “Race and Surveillance” brings us back to the task of constructing or weaving infrastructure for the equal distribution of social materials & tools and knowledge for everyone engaged in the construct of a community. Browne’s cautious (which is, I sense, “rationally” and scientifically processed for her scholarship) methodology of seeing technology and its operation as “marginalizing surveillance” is focused on seeing its unequal “racializing outcomes” on the level of governmental control of the populations. Instead of widening her scholarly attention to “marginalizing technology” as a lens to see subconscious layers of science & technology and its ways of perceiving every social agent and actor as well as their socio-geographies along the lines of races and classes, Browne examines the factual elements of “racializing outcomes” by addressing how the governmental agencies use photographies (eg. mug shots), collected data, biometrics, and so forth. However, the correlations between technology and racializing surveillance, I believe, permeate the form of everyday suspicion & paranoia and interpersonal (and communal) interaction that we (everyone) in the class are shaping and controlling in the logic of safety, sanity, and self-care.  As much as we live with the class anxieties and pursue idealized or standardized values of well-being, we tend to categorize the others who don’t promote those values efficiently as “shameful” and even “dangerous” beings and push them away from our boundaries of living and communicating. Though I don’t want to sound emotional or metaphorical, I would say that technological, cognitive and social mechanism of surveillance is infinitely shaming itself as much as anxieties of class and racial degeneration wouldn’t decrease in the system of using marginalizing technologies and othering social differences along racial lines.

After reading Browne’s article which is centered on state surveillance and its technology and history, I wanted to question what if this racializing (and classifying) technologies are used in private sectors in agreement with the governmental policies that justify the use of surveilling technologies and media for perceiving the “truth” of the individuals against the privacy and dignity of the selective individuals and communities. This question reminded me of the article I read earlier this year that discusses the surveillance technology that groups and potentially criminalizes the neighbors of color:  http://bostonreview.net/race-law-justice/clarence-harlan-orsi-hoverboarding-while-black (Please take a look when you have a moment.) My question is, if the contemporary ways of self-care and well-being are promoted by such marginalizing technology and “citizens” support it, how would we structurize and operate the digital humanities as resistance to it? Although Browne’s and other readings didn’t discuss it in particular, I believe that bell hooks’ argument for “oppositional gaze” still functions as an alternative way for us to approach the DH differently from the governmental (as well as privatizing) technologies and networks (over virtual and actual socio-geographies). How we can build the DH platforms where the marginalized can “look back” at the system-builders & agencies without fear of being punished and stigmatized? As we discussed in the class, learning from the narrative/storytelling and experience of “repairs” on the side of the marginalized in the social infrastructure would be a first step for this.  But I believe that this will require interdisciplinary work that even provides legal aids to social actors and agents to counter-act the dominant use of technology and its networks for the governmentalization of the population as much as such oppositional acts or resistance can be promptly criminalized by the norms of safety in any modern societies that we are now living in.  I don’t have a concrete answer here but I think binding the purpose of the DH and “oppositional gaze” under the appropriate legal support is important as much as the reparative or resistant narratives can be easily dissipated under the master narrative of safety and development. (For example, if activist hackers deliberately create the glitches to oppose marginalizing technologies, how are they going to avoid punishments? )




Network analysis praxis: Intimacy of early American avant-garde filmmakers

For my second praxis assignment, I decided to visualize the friendship and intimacy of early American avant-garde filmmakers based on their collaboration & cast information in Film-makers Lecture Bureau Catalogue No. 1 (1969) (see fig 1) and supplementary research (when necessary).  Continuing my interest in mapping demolished old Times Square’s adult theater (and relevant) venues before its disappearance, I wanted to digitize and visualize the ephemeral records of subcultural art/event participants (in this case, early American avant-garde filmmakers and actors) whose relationships (personal and/or creative friendships) are addressed fragmentary ways and not yet explored in terms of the shape and intensity of its networks. I research and write about American avant-garde films from their beginning to the present, and I (and other researchers/scholars/critics) emphasize collaborative & amateur community in illustrating the characteristics of early Avant-garde filmmaking, but I wasn’t sure how much (and how complicatedly) filmmakers/artists were actually connected, so I wanted to take advantage of this assignment for my studies of their friendships based on collaboration records in the catalogue.  Film-makers Lecture bureau happened as a division of The Film-makers’ Cooperative (aka The New American Cinema Group) that was founded in 1961 and served as an artist-run, non-profit collective organization that hosted screenings & lectures as well as distributions of their film prints. It was located in 175 Lexington Avenue New York 10016 at that time (1969, the year of this catalogue printed), but, at some point (I still couldn’t figure when it was yet), it moved to their current address, 475 Park Avenue New York NY 10016.

fig 1

This catalogue has gathered individual artists’ — whose list is alphabetized by their last names — screenings & lectures along with the brief descriptions of their works and talks in the year of 1969. (But there’s no precise information of lecture/screening dates.) At times, the descriptions of the film have the collaboration & cast information, but it’s neither consistent nor patterned in any way. So it was challenging to collect the information of their friendships (either artistic or personal) but I’m interested in dealing with imperfect & ephemeral historical records like this even if that task often requires more work, so it was an enjoyable experience over all. The following images (fig 2, 3, & 4) are the screenshots of the “friendship” graphics that I made by using Gephi 0.9.2. Of course, to import spreadsheets of nodes and edges, I first collected data manually (even by using other catalogues, newspapers, scholarly writings, and online archives to some degree when the cast information is missing). Apparently, as I excavated more, there was too much information about collaborating and even personal relationships (family, romance, and so on) so I couldn’t go further than 12 pages of this initial catalogue. (The entire book is 72 pages long.) So the result I show below is less than 20 percent of their networks that should be digitized and certainly much less than the actual relationships that are not recorded in any way.

I used Libreoffice calc to make spreadsheets (as it was recommended by one of our TAs and DH fellows Patrick Smyth) and imported them in Gephi 0.9.2. There are 51 nodes (51 names of artists) and  82 edges (connections) so far. Most of them preferred collaboration or collective filmmaking (within this community) to individual filmmaking.  But a few artists worked rather individually for minimalistic structural works (that do not need much filming and performers and instead rely on solitary editing process). A few actors were just spouses of artists and they didn’t connect to other artists. However, most of the filmmakers were connected crossing genders and those relationships created the various shapes of quartz-like terminations as much as they were connected around the important members of The New American Cinema Group, such as Jonas Mekas, Shirley Clarke, Gregory Markopoulos, Stan Brakhage,  Storm De Hirsch, and others. Jonas Mekas is a Lithuanian American (refugee and then immigrant) filmmaker, and, as you can see from the screenshots, he was mutually connected to most of the avant-garde filmmakers at that time as much as he also worked as a full film critic (he was a first full-time film critic for The Village Voice). However, it doesn’t mean that he functioned/functions as a patriarchal figure in those connections although his name appears too large (as I wasn’t completely able to figure out how to size node labels gradually upon their popularity ranks although I tried so many times by adjusting the node ranking “degree”) In fact, as you can see other artists (women filmmakers included, such as Shirley Clarke, Storm De Hirsch, Daisy Aldan, and Marie Menken; I haven’t included her here just yet, among many others), without Mekas’ mediations, independently collaborated although it didn’t mean the exclusion of Jonas Mekas either in other projects. So in these images, their connections create multiple diamonds around some of the important figures in their community, and I suspect that it will create more if I add more nodes and edges as I further develop the project.

fig 2

fig 3

fig 4  

Beyond this post as an assignment for this Intro DH class, I’d certainly like to further pursue this as I believe revealing collaborative and intimate (yet independent and democratic) nature of alternative (avant-garde or experimental, and amateur) filmmaking is important to distinguish those communal yet unrestrictive art practices from large studio centered commercial filmmaking. The former was (and is even now in a much less visible way) weaving an artist community and shaped the participants’ work and life at varying, intimate levels.

Mapping Praxis Assignment: Specters of Samuel R. Delany’s Times Square

For this mapping praxis assignment, I made a virtual map (marked over the Open Street current/2018 map) of places (demolished adult /gay porn theaters or micro-cinemas, pubs, clubs, and other subcultural public sites) addressed and illustrated in Samuel R. Delany’s book ‘Times Square Red, Times Square Blue’ (1999). The book is composed of two essays that are written in 1998 when most of the adult theaters (especially, gay porn theaters) and other relevant venues were either already closed (and demolished) or were doomed to vanish under Times Square Development Project that New York City implemented on its cityscape. Samuel R. Delany as a gay writer criticized the disappearance of the gay sexual outlets in Manhattan, which began in the 60s and expanded in the mid & late 90s. He wrote these two essays while remembering his “happier” times as a working-class New Yorker who frequented those venues to “contact” other gay men beyond classes, races, and so forth. While writing, he also photographed the soon-to-vanish-places located in the actual streets.  In the map, I pointed out the names and locations of those places by finding out their past addresses through reading Delany’s book and other digitized archives of Manhattan’s demolished theaters and other past venues. Also, I used the pop-ups that include the descriptions and photographs of those spots by Samuel R. Delany. As for the places Delany didn’t photograph, I added the respective historical photographs after searching them online. This is an on-going project as I further research about Delany’s own writing (quasi-memoir), other old New Yorkers’ writing (often fragmentary) as well as the history of adult cinemas & micro-cinemas in Manhattan.

figure 1

figure 2

figure 3

You can see the published map (in progress) here:


Further remarks

  1. I deliberately marked those venues on the current Open Street Map (from ArcGIS) as I wanted to create the affirmatively haunting (albeit minor) topography and effects of those demolished places inside the current geography of Manhattan. Considering the “adult” quality of those venues, I wanted to mark them as X-X-X but I don’t know much about censorship on ArcGIS so I just used preset symbolized icons (cinemas, pubs, restaurants, etc.).
  2. Since maps like Google map and ArcGIS don’t have records of the addresses of the venues that disappeared in the process of Times Square Development Project, I had to manually find the addresses the old venues based on Delany’s descriptions and other archival information (newspapers and anecdotal notes by New Yorkers). Also, looking at old movies that filmed the Manhattan streets from the 60s to the 90s was helpful to see whether Delany’s writing is based on the actual history.
  3. As I consider this a humanistic and literary project (though it intersects with the scholarship of film history), I used pop-ups to cite Samuel R. Delany’s writing and photographs in the book. Choosing most compelling (culturally, historically, and theoretically) remarks by Delany is painstaking and I’m still working on making this more interesting to the wider range of the audience.
  4. Speaking of usability, the pop-ups do not function smoothly, but it seems like I need to learn professional visualization programming separately.
  5. If I have a premier ArcGIS account, I’d add a layer of information regarding the current property prices of those marked addresses to demonstrate why subcultural businesses no longer can enter those districts.

On “Backward Reading” and experimental poetry

As a fan of contemporary poet Lyn Hejinian’s expansive “language” poetry practice that, in my opinion, has culminated in ‘the book of thousand eyes’ (2012), I was delighted to read this week’s assigned article “Deformance and interpretation” (by Lisa Samules and Jerome McGann, 1999). The article showcases the deformative reading-practice of poetry and its implication of multifaceted interpretations of poetry in the field of inadequate and performative language poetics. The article goes back to Emily Dickinson’s appraisal and defense of  ‘Backward Reading’ and displays some examples of reassembled, omitted, and re-spaced texts that reread — literally, from end to beginning — and reorder Wallace Stevens’s exemplary two poems: “The Search for Sound Free from Motion” and “The Snow Man.” What these experiments demonstrate through the reconfiguration of the word-order isn’t probably new in poetry writing practice as a variety of similar practice have been done in surrealist typographic and collage poetry since the advent of modernist poetry (in the least of romance language tradition) and objectivist poetry (speaking of history of American/British poetry) that includes Louis Zukofsky, Lorine Niedecker, and Myungmi Kim, among many others. Also, Susan Howe’s facsimile poetic experiments continue this graphic modernism at the intersection with language poetry while it serves the archival intention of poetry writing as well (which I will not further discuss in this post.)  However, I still believe that the article’s ‘displays’ of sample poetry deformed by “backward reading” effectively present the functions and effects of these ‘reversing,’  ‘rewriting,’ and ‘undoing’ experimental reading activities in pursuit of the open-ended interpretations through the looking-glass of the text as opposed to a service to the undecodable intuition, mystery, and authenticity in the tradition of romantic poetics. Backward Reading or deformative interpretation first estranges a reader from the text’s supposed directness and adequacy and deliberately operates a new machine of reading the words in different – both semantic and graphic – compositions.
In these activities or displays, what matters more is the performative transformation of relationality between words in relationship with various reader-responses than the original (if any) ‘content’ of the poem. In these practices, the original ‘content’ undergoes its own reduction and is exposed to the de-hierarchical and re-configuring system of language and its varying operative and interpretative relations. Even if it might first appear as technical or mere engineering of words, this unlocking and remapping of the text as an open self indicates a further philosophical dimension of learning the new constitution of poem-words (in particular, nouns and pronouns) with redistributed semantic weight on each word (as demonstrated in the case of rewriting of “The Search for Sound Free From Motion.” Reordering and redistribution of the words can open the ambiguous texture and meanings of poetry and possibly the socio-linguistic imagination of the indefinite and transformative networks of readers with different approaches to the text-net. Also, as one sees the different graphics of rewriting of “The Snow Man,” the text can also create new interpretations thanks to its visual compositions which remind us of Mallermean visual poetry. While the article didn’t mention Mallermean or post-Mallermean poetry tradition in either romance language literature or American avant-garde poetic lineage, one can further research the practice of seeing a poetic-text as a self-mutating organism in consideration of modernist techniques of internal textual permutations, ellipsis, mirroring, and so forth. Importantly, the article suggests that these techniques of estranging the text and revitalizing it in new assemblages are not just the text-centered practice. The article keeps referring to the reader’s positionality in seeing the text and reconstituting the meanings of the text. So even if Wallace Stevens’s poetry is often discussed as poetry of ‘nothingness,’ one can witness that, through these word-shifting experiments, it can operate many minuscule somethings in the mind of the readers. In addition, I’d like to point out, whereas the article, being written in 1999, didn’t discuss the moving-image transformation of written poetry in contemporary visual art, both analog and digital (as well as hybrid-media) moving image artists have ventured into graphing word-poetry towards visual poetry in motion, which would even more complicate the possibility of the text as a transformative work upon the viewer’s (beyond the reader’s) semiotic and aesthetic engagement with it, especially on digital platforms of literature.