Graphical Expressions of Humanistic Interpretation in Digital Environments

Thursday, May 20, 2010
3-4:30 pm (note time)
Bartos Theater
MIT Media Lab


Humanists have adopted visualization techniques with enthusiasm in recent years, borrowing display formats from quantitative approaches rooted in social and natural sciences. But are the standard metrics and conventions developed for analysis of empirical inquiries fundamentally at odds with tenets of traditional humanistic interpretation? How are complexity, contradiction, uncertainty, ambiguity, and other basic features of interpretative activity to be given graphical expression? Does the introduction of affect into visual displays simply shift all visualization towards idiosyncratic and subjective approaches that lack clear legibility? Or can we imagine conventions that might introduce some of the necessary qualifications and variables essential to creating graphical expressions of humanistic interpretation?


Keynote: Johanna Drucker is the Martin and Bernard Breslauer Professor in the Department of Information Studies at UCLA where her research focuses on modeling interpretation for electronic scholarship, digital aesthetics, and the history of visual information design. Her teaching interests include the history of the book and print culture, history of information, and critical studies in visual knowledge representation.

Respondents: Amber Frid-Jimenez is a lecturer in MIT's new Program in Art, Culture and Technology (ACT). As an artist, her work confronts issues ranging from politics and surveillance to representations of women in media. Frid-Jimenez is a graduate of the MIT Media Laboratory where she studied with John Maeda in the Physical Language Workshop.

Nick Montfort is associate professor of digital media in the Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies at MIT. He is the author of several books including Twisty Little Passages: An Approach to Interactive Fiction.

Moderator: Kurt Fendt is director of HyperStudio, MIT’s Center for Digital Humanities and teaches a range of upper-level courses in the German Studies Program.

Co-sponsor: MIT HyperStudio