Author Archives: Gwen Shaw

Gwen’s Proposals

Proposal 1: Visualizing the Invisible: Artists’ social networks and connections


This project attempts to examine and work through two problems, one topical, the other disciplinary. Question 1: As a primarily visual, and multimedia discipline, how can digital tools transform, rather than simply transcribe or digitize, art historical inquiry? Question 2: How can we better account for personal and social influences, confluences, and intellectual history in art history? How can we make manifest these important and existing social and geo-political relations? This project intends to create a visualization framework (and maybe reusable tool) that can assist in visualizing artists’ social networks in order to better chart relationships, studio visits, correspondence, and more–things that can be crucial to social or intellectual art history but can be unwieldy or made into some other obtuse chart in the wrong hands. 

For my research and edification, I will be working with artists and activists of the 1950s and 1960s in New York City, with an emphasis on Minimalism and the Civil Rights Movement.

2. Personas

Nerdy Nosepants is a student studying art history and is working on Minimalism, Pop Art, American art, New York City, or a person/artist living or working in New York in the mid-twentieth century.

Rebecca Rabbit-hole-inquirer is someone who is interested in following the interconnections between different types of knowledges and links, such as those on Wikipedia, but wants a different venue to peruse the degrees of separation between politics, urban studies, or art.

Anna Arthistorian is an art historian looking for ways to integrate technology into her art historical work or pedagogy.

3. Use case scenario

Someone could find this tool on the web and would be able to access it publicly (when it is finished).

4. Full Fledged Version

Working on the model of Linked Jazz I will create a visualization of art and artists based on archival research of Minimalist art gallery exhibitions. Connections would be made between artists who were shown together, between galleries and artists, etc.  An expanded, and more comprehensive version could be assembled using correspondence histories, and could be especially interesting when applied to other art projects, including the New York Correspondence School.

In order to complete this I would need to access the Linked Jazz API, as well as familiarize myself with Gephi and D3.Js (which I have no idea about). This would take considerable time and effort. I would also need to conduct archival research, which is in my wheelhouse but is also time intensive (at least 2 full days archival research).

5. How much time? 80 hours (the bulk of which would be spent on learning the technology).

6. Stripped down version

For a stripped down or streamlined version I am loath to abandon the technology, since it seems SO useful. So instead I would scale down content, and do a sample of a single artist as a model on which to base a larger version. This would require less archival resources, research, and probably less knowledge of the technology.

7. How much time? 30 hours? (again, most of this would be spent on learning the technology).

(optional): Really really stripped down version: list/database of connections that could be implemented when time and technology allows.

Proposal 2: Map of artist activity

1. Introduction

Similar to the above project, since art history already has a significant visual component, I would like to engage with technological tools in a way that helps us understand something about art history that we can’t do otherwise. For this project, I would like to map out an artist’s (or several artists’) relationships to New York City.  Alternatively, it would be interesting to stake out a single place, like Max’s Kansas City, and chart the physical relationship to regulars to the bar and each other. Again, spatial and social relationships are ones that remain invisible in art history, both for rhetorical and disciplinary reasons (consider that few talk about artists/intellectuals that murder their wives/partners).

2. Personas

Nosey Nerdpants is a student studying art history and is working on  American art, New York City, or a person/artist living or working in New York in the mid-twentieth century.

Amy Arthistorian is an art historian looking for ways to integrate technology into her art historical work or pedagogy. This tool could be modified into a course project, or include crowdsourced information (provided it has been vetted or comes from an authorized source).

3. Use case scenario

Someone could find this tool on the web and would be able to access it publicly (when it is finished).

4. Full Fledged Version

A full version of this project could either be a stand-alone visualization on a website. Not sure what the right mapping tool would be; it is tempting to consider GIS, but it might just be too powerful for what I need. Aesthetics is also important, so it might be nice to use something that everyone is familiar with, i.e. for New York to use the Subway Map, or a floor plan (in the case of Max’s or the Warhol Factory or something). The use of a floor plan or schematic/map would also be opportune for historical studio buildings. For crowdsourcing, an ideal tool might be a collaborative sticky-note app with a map background, like NoteApp.

5. Time it takes? approx. 80 hours, with a large part of this researching artists and cultural producers who frequent a particular space, gallery, club, etc.

6. Stripped Version

A pared down version of this would include a single site, and might even just be an image or floor plan with links/shadowboxed information that pops up when one hovers over each individual (using wordpress?)

7. Time it takes? 40 hours, mostly research.

NB–I am really not committed to this project anymore

On the bi-literate brain

Our conversation yesterday about exigencies for both print and digital texts, and pressures that both we and our students feel to choose one over the other, reminded me of this article from New Tech City on WNYC on digital literacy and print literacy, and the different ways our brain engages with each medium. I am going to try to embed it below, too.  can’t embed it but have included a link to the page below again, just in case.



About Gwen Shaw

I’m a fourth year student in the art history doctoral program at the GC. My areas of interest and research include violence, race, and gender in 20th and 21st century art. I’m currently working on a couple of projects: on avant-garde filmmaker Maya Deren’s Haiti project and the representation of Haitian Vodoun; intersections (and lacunae) in the art history of the 1960s, especially Minimalism,  African-American artists, and the Civil Rights Movement; and the representation of disabled veterans in contemporary art (versus visual culture).

In addition to the PhD, I’m earning 6 (yes, 6) doctoral certificates: Instructional Technology and Pedagogy, Women’s Studies, Film Studies, American Studies, Africana Studies, and Critical Theory.

I think 2015 will be my last year of coursework, and look forward to this class and all the others I am taking this semester.

Provocation: Contexts and Practicalities

Hi all,

Sorry for the delay in getting this up on the site. I had some technical difficulties. -GS

Throughout “Contexts and Practicalities,” Christopher Stein runs through the importance of environmental factors and access to resources for a software (or ITP or digital) project. Throughout the text he highlights the importance of context (for him: Why, What, Who, Where, When, and How) and the practicalities of how the (software) project will the realized, which he outlines through the snazzy foursome of Build, Buy, Beg, or Borrow.

Through the 5 W’s and one H, Stein points out the essential, but perhaps overlooked, aspects of a digital project that should be worked through before beginning: Why is this being made: What is it? Where will it roll out and through what hardware? When will the production take place and how long will it take? And How will people implement it and take advantage of its function?

The 4 B’s, by contrast, discuss not the planning but the process of making the product and the means through which it will be realized: building your own custom platform/software; buying something off the shelf, using free; “begging” by using free, already developed tools, such as those offered by Google; or “borrowing” someone else’s work in the form of open source programs already in existence that one can customize to suit the project’s needs.

Stein concludes by highlighting user-centered design and embracing a process-oriented form of project management, where contingency and change is built in to the mindset and execution of the project, and, like a good academic assignment, future work is scaffolded on top of previous work completed and given flexibility to change per the exigencies of the project.

Although catchy to the point of self-help or how-to cliché, these alliterative groupings highlight ways of thinking, and planning, through the material conditions of a digital product and the contingencies of process. Also vital, to both Stein and many of the articles he links to, like Ethan Marcotte’s Responsive Web Design, is the role of the user, on whom discussions of good design focus. Another feature of the content Stein mentions , including Jason Santa Maria’s A Real Web Design Application, is the need for better design tools that more accurately simulate the digital medium of the Internet, since many apps that are in current use are tethered to an analog model of display and final product (i.e. graphic design and a material, paper (or something like it) medium). Essential to both the user-centered design and the aesthetic and functional flexibility of the web as medium is the notion of responsiveness—a rather radical acceptance of contingency and failure—even to the point of dialogue or relationship between user and product—that is more akin to laboratory work and the scientific method than it is to other design fields like architecture or typesetting. Perhaps this has to do with the relatively low-stakes nature of how we use some technology—for entertainment or to make our lives easier—rather than liveable (as in, our computer is not going to cave in and fall on us, like a roof, or collapse, like a suspension bridge). Not sure how much I actually mean that last sentence, but it might be worth thinking about.

This piece got me to thinking about the power of creation and design, and the ways technology is tethered through its materiality and origins in typesetting and graphic design to a past that sets the boundaries for what the final product is, or can be. Programming (and coding new software) and its design corollary are bound up in the creation of new worlds–new realms of existence and representation–whose appearance is not mandated by the materiality of the world, even if it is very deeply tied to the materiality through which the software could be displayed and used. A web page doesn’t need to look like a “page” at all—it could be something entirely different, if we could unhinge our minds enough to think about the function, purpose, and effectiveness of what we are trying to do, make, or convey.

Or, on the other hand, what if the materiality of display and hardware really does limit what kinds of software we can make and how we use it. What if the unlimited imagination of the Internet is actually quite bounded with our sensory experience of the world, the phenomenology of being (and/or using a computer).Would this be an instance of not as free as we think we are? Or too limited by the preconceived notions of our daily lives to be able to create a freer, more open design and aesthetic? And are these two things at odds? A story on WNYC a few weeks ago discussed the way reading on a screen changes our ability to read on the page—to the extent that our endurance to read for an extended period of time is impaired? This is not to say that reading on the internet makes you illiterate, but that it does change how our brains and eyes take in information, at the expense of other media and technologies if we don’t practice those, as well.