Author Archives: Alex Bordino

Resources for Film Studies Projects

As I know there are at least a couple other film studies people here, and hopefully others are interested as well, below is a non-exhaustive list of possible tools and/or resources for film analysis. One final note that I would like to add is that I think these tools are productive for stimulating both analytical and creative abilities, the latter of which is often lacking in traditional humanities scholarship and pedagogy.

  • Digital Storytelling & Animated GIFs – digital storytelling seems to be growing in undergraduate and K-12 curriculums. This could be a great tool for humanities-based coursework as it allows students to think differently about how stories and films are constructed. Recording/editing mechanisms are now inexpensive and somewhat ubiquitous, and platforms like YouTube can easily publicize a student’s work. Animated GIFs may perform a similar function. Matt pointed me to Jim Groom’s blog, which is very interesting:
  • ClipNotes for iPad – this is a very cool app for doing film studies, though at the moment, it is extremely difficult to share one’s work, and use is obviously limited to iPad owners.
  • Visualization – earlier in the semester we looked at Brendan Dawes’ “Cinema Redux” project, which is perhaps the best example, though varying approaches to visualizing films are possible.
  • Cinemetrics – this is a great tool for doing film measurement analysis. The website contains detailed information, a database, and some written scholarship on the topic.
  • Max 6 – we used Max with Phidgets during Bill Turkel’s workshop earlier in the semester. Max contains several free tutorials on working with video clips in the program. There are some very cool possibilities.

I hope everyone has a nice break!

Mapping Movies

Steve Romalewski offered us a broad overview of the many tools one can utilize for mapping projects. It is astounding to consider the sophistication of programs like ArcGIS and QGIS when, as Steve noted, the majority of the functionality is never even used, and wonderfully complex, insightful maps are created nonetheless. Equally astounding, however, are more recent, smaller-scale tools such as,, and even ESRI’s Storymaps. While both ArcGIS and QGIS are powerful devices that are not particularly intimidating, a humanist may find one of the latter mapping tools more appropriate for his/her work. Intuitive and easily navigable, such tools can be remarkably effective for geo-plotting humanistic data. Since my background is in film studies, I am particularly interested in thinking of ways to map movie data.

Despite an abundance of work and theory developed around literary mapping (particularly the work of Franco Moretti), there seem to be relatively few attempts to synthesize cinema and maps. Of note, however, is Stephen Mamber’s digital work, as well as his 2003 essay, “Narrative Mapping”, which outlines potential approaches for mapping narrative films. Also notable is Jeffrey Klenotic’s current project “Mapping Movies” (see Narrative mappings of a film may be interesting, particularly when multiple settings occur and the geography itself has contextual meaning, but Klenotic’s project shows that other forms of mapping cinema are possible. Though unfinished at the moment, this project intends to map film exhibitions from an historical perspective in order to gain social and cultural knowledge regarding the movie-going population in certain locations at certain moments in time. Another conceivable approach could involve mapping production locations, if one was doing historical research on the business itself, or perhaps simply investigating how production locations contrast their fictional counterparts. Likewise, mapping a particular film author’s work (either by production location or fictional setting) might offer insight only attainable through geographical visualization. Suffice to say, the potential is vast.

ESRI’s Storymaps, though seemingly unsophisticated and geared toward a consumer-base, may in fact offer the greatest potential for mapping movies. If people haven’t tried this quick, easy, and fun tutorial, I would highly recommend it: The “map tour” template (and other templates probably have this functionality, as well) allows one to import web images and video (via flickr, youtube, etc.). This is great for geo-tagging photos from a road trip. But this could be equally valuable for a scholarly, narrative mapping project. Historical documents, manuscripts, etc. can be compiled, converted to image files, posted to a site like Flickr, then very easily mapped in Storymaps. For film study, one could rip a DVD using a simple, free tool like Handbrake (, break down scenes according to setting (using QuickTime Player or simple editing software like iMovie), post each scene as a separate video to YouTube, then embed the URL to a pin in Storymaps (based, of course, on the geographic location in which the scene is set). Likewise, the video clip is viewable in a side bar, similar to National Geographic’s “Geostories” ( One can, therefore, watch an entire film while simultaneously tracing the narrative geographically.

This process may seem a bit convoluted, but it is actually quite simple, and it offers a new way of looking at a particular film, or any story.

11/18/13 Katina Rogers: Alt-Academic Careers

While many graduate programs continue to focus on tenure track placement rates, a growing proportion of humanities scholars are embracing a much broader range of intellectually stimulating careers in, around, and beyond the academy. Focusing both on her own career path and on her research at the Modern Language Association, the Scholarly Communication Institute, and the Scholars’ Lab at the University of Virginia, Katina Rogers will discuss strategies to support professionalization, public scholarship, and career development across a wide array of possible outcomes.

Katina Rogers is managing editor of MLA Commons, the Modern Language Association’s new online platform for collaboration and scholarly communication. She previously served as Senior Research Specialist with the Scholarly Communication Institute, a Mellon-funded humanities think tank based in the University of Virginia’s Scholars’ Lab. Her current research focuses on graduate education reform, career paths for humanities scholars, and innovative modes of scholarly production. Katina holds a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of Colorado.

11/11/14 Ray Siemens: “The Building Blocks of the Social Scholarly Edition”

This talk explores elements of the scholarly edition in the context of new and emerging social media from two pertinent perspectives: the first from the foundational perspective of its theoretical context, particularly as that context intersects with a utility-based consideration of the toolkit that allows us to consider the social edition as an extension of the traditions in which it is situated and which it has the potential to inform productively; the second is from the perspective of an iterative implementation of one such edition, A Social Edition of the Devonshire MS [BL Add MS 17,492] (…), carried out via a research team operating in conjunction with an advisory group representing key expertise in the methods and content-area embraced by the edition.

Ray Siemens ( is Canada Research Chair in Humanities Computing and Distinguished Professor in the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Victoria, in English and Computer Science, and visiting professor at NYU in 2013. He is founding editor of the electronic scholarly journal Early Modern Literary Studies, and his publications include, among others, Blackwell’s Companion to Digital Humanities (with Schreibman and Unsworth), Blackwell’s Companion to Digital Literary Studies (with Schreibman), A Social Edition of the Devonshire MS, and Literary Studies in the Digital Age (MLA, with Price). He directs the Implementing New Knowledge Environments project, the Digital Humanities Summer Institute and the UVic Electronic Textual Cultures Lab, and serves as Vice President of the Canadian Federation of the Humanities and Social Sciences for Research Dissemination and Chair of the Modern Language Association’s Committee on Scholarly Editions, recently serving also as Chair of the international Alliance of Digital Humanities Organisations’ Steering Committee.

11/4/13 Kathleen Fitzpatrick: “Open Review, the New Peer, and the Future of Scholarly Communication”

A talk with Kathleen Fitzpatrick sponsored by the CUNY Digital Humanities Initiative and the Digital Praxis Seminar at the CUNY Graduate Center November 4, 2013.

Recent experiments in open peer review, as well as a recent study of open review practices jointly conducted by MediaCommons and NYU Press, suggest that online scholarly communication may be changing the nature of the “peer,” as well as the shapes of scholarly communities. This presentation will explore the history and future of peer review as a means of thinking through the issues that open review raises for communities of practice online.

Kathleen Fitzpatrick is Director of Scholarly Communication of the Modern Language Association and Visiting Research Professor of English at NYU. She is author of Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academy (NYU Press, 2011) and of The Anxiety of Obsolescence: The American Novel in the Age of Television (Vanderbilt University Press, 2006). She is co-founder of the digital scholarly network MediaCommons, where she has led a number of experiments in open peer review and other innovations in scholarly publishing.

Further Thoughts on Digital Pedagogy — How We Think

I found yesterday’s class discussion extremely productive. Particularly striking was the question posed regarding learning outcomes—I.e., if one is teaching writing, what should one expect his/her students to actually gain/know by the end of the term?

As Mark Sample notes, the undergraduate essay is somewhat superfluous. Therefore, I find that augmenting critical thinking abilities, broadly speaking, is the most effective learning outcome, particularly for undergrads whose paths are often uncertain. However, this raises a somewhat abstract question as to how we think, which may be where DH pedagogy comes into play. For instance, there may have once been a moment in history when the most effective means for producing critical thinking involved reading and writing, but perhaps that is no longer the case. In my extremely limited teaching experience I have found that writing skills seem to be decreasing and technological skills are exponentially increasing, and this is not an attribute of shifting pedagogical strategies but of mass culture in general and perhaps even radically different psychological modalities. Digital pedagogy seems to support this shift, whereas traditional pedagogy may be working against it.

Katherine Hayles’ most recent book How We Think: Digital Media and Contemporary Technogenesis highlights the distinction between hyper-reading and close-reading, and she calls for an amalgamation of the two. In other words, we should embrace the way we think and process information as a digital culture, but the ability to close-read is still valuable. This, I find, is the best approach to pedagogy in the digital age.

Admittedly, I am simply outlining my thoughts following yesterday’s discussion, and this is probably not an adequate account of what I feel is an important discussion in DH and certainly beyond. Do people, particularly those with more teaching experience, have any thoughts?

Thing Theory and Interactivity

It is striking that discussions of theory in DH seem primarily focused on how DH projects themselves provide theory rather than actually theorizing about the nature of DH as an academic discipline. The latter ostensibly belongs more appropriately to a discussion on defining DH (as we have discussed in week 2), but I find it productive and relevant to discuss here. Looking first at what Ramsay and Rockwell refer to as “thing theory” then noting the importance of interactivity in digital scholarship, I will attempt to broadly approach these two issues—i.e., locating theory in DH and literally defining a theory of DH—to substantiate DH as a theoretical undertaking but more importantly to illustrate how DH is unique from traditional humanities.

Regarding the hack vs. yack debate, it seems clear that even the strongest proponents of methodology over theory would agree that there is no strict dichotomy between the two. As Natalia Cecire notes, “the two are not antithetical” (56). In fact, hack and yack share essential qualities, namely the overall goal of humanistic inquiry. The only apparent differences involve the tools and media utilized. But throughout history humans have used a variety of tools and media to externalize thought (from Paleolithic cave paintings to film and new media). Simply put, humanities scholarship has long suffered from the tyranny of oral and written discourse as its primary media. DH utilizes digital tools as its media to externalize thought and humanistic inquiry. The digital product itself possesses (or should possess) the essential qualities of a written piece of scholarship, i.e., theory (notably, theory with a lower case “t”).

Ramsay and Rockwell refer to this as thing theory: “Prototypes are theories, which is to say they already contain or somehow embody that type of discourse that is most valued—namely, the theoretical” (3), and later more poignantly claim, “To ask whether coding is a scholarly act is like asking whether writing is a scholarly act” (8). I would perhaps add that coding itself is a form of writing, just as, for instance, filmmaking or other media creation are forms of writing, insofar as a communicable textual entity is created. As Drucker notes, such forms of scholarship involve “an analysis of ways representational systems produce a spoken subject” (8).

Can a film not act as a form of scholarship? Interestingly, tenure-track faculty in film production departments (though not necessarily a humanities discipline) are assessed purely on their body of film work. And it seems equally valid for a traditional humanist to produce a provocative film in lieu of a formal essay. Additionally, an inherent rule in filmmaking (though often broken) involves concealing the process (the tools). Regarding digital scholarship, Patrick Murray-John notes, “A good user interface is designed specifically so that you don’t have to deal with the inner workings of the application” (76). This is becoming a bit of a digression, but I would at least like to pose the question: is this an important rule for DH?

Equally striking, however, is Gary Hall’s take in “There are No Digital Humanities.” Hall questions the computational turn in humanities as a movement, stressing the notion that it appears to be a reverse of Lyotard’s Postmodern Condition, allowing science and quantitative information to dominate the humanities. This is an important point that deserves deeper investigation, particularly as DH continually evolves.

Ben Schmidt’s thesis is particularly useful here: “The answer, I am convinced, is that we should have prior beliefs about the ways the world is structured, and only ever use digital methods to try to create works which let us watch those structures in operation” (61). The individual subject, the human, is key in interpreting even the most empirical humanistic inquiry. Furthermore, DH fundamentally advocates open-access and, more importantly, interactivity. The ability of the user (scholar or non-scholar) to experience a DH work and interpolate his/her experiences and thoughts seems to allow DH to evade a reversal of postmodernism. Whether via data visualization, topic models, or simply blogs and open-access texts, which allow peer review/critique and interactivity with the text, the foundation of DH as a discipline appears firmly rooted in subjective humanistic inquiry in a manner that is unique and potentially more effective than traditional scholarship.

In this sense, DH can and should innately contain both theory (generally speaking) as well as a theory of itself, i.e., promoting subjective interactivity with relatively objective knowledge.

DH: Practice and Theory

INITIAL DEFINITION: The theory and practice of digital technology application in academic research, promoting an inclusive community of scholars and non-scholars and crossing disciplinary lines.

ADDENDUM: I would certainly add the role of pedagogy, both in practice and theory, to this definition. My only other concern is the scope of what I mean by “academic research”. Does this include all academic research or merely humanities-based research? I would like to think it includes all academic disciplines, including the sciences, despite the term “humanities” in DH. However, limitations seem necessary. For example, my field of film studies innately requires the use of digital technology (i.e., the ability to operate a DVD player), but I wouldn’t consider this digital humanities per se. Therefore, how advanced do the tools need to be to fall under the digital humanities umbrella?


Furthermore, I would like to reflect on two additional points.

Firstly, I think the theoretical aspect of DH is important, which seems to be what Liu and Ramsay are getting at in their recent blog posts. Though we are all eager (myself included) to dive into the practical side of DH, it is crucial to reflect and make sense out of how digital tools are affecting scholarship and what it means to be human.

Secondly, while reading an article for another class, “Books in Time” by Carla Hesse, I was struck by a passage that seemed relevant to DH:

In the future, it seems, there will be no fixed canons of texts and no fixed epistemological boundaries between disciplines, only paths of inquiry, modes of integration, and moments of encounter (Hesse, 31).

Presently, DH seems to be the latter, not a discipline, but perhaps it is superfluous and contradictory to attempt to define it as such.