Method without Methodology: Data and the Digital Humanities

Introduction by OpenMethods Editor (Delphine Montoliu): This post reflects on the link between the quotidian use of photography and Digital Humanities.

In working across disciplines and developing new methods for research, Selfiecity is exemplary of the Digital Humanities. Methodological innovation is, according to Manovich, “the key question of digital humanities—how to combine ‘distant reading’ of patterns with ‘close reading’ of particular artifacts—by proposing a multi-scale reading.”2 Selfiecity’s biggest achievement is its combination of formal analysis—the close study of compositional decisions—with maps that situate each selfie as one node amidst a wider field. In this regard, the project resembles Phototrails, another of Manovich’s attempts to take on the world of social media–bound images. Phototrails tackles the whole gamut of photographs uploaded to Instagram, sorting them by hue, brightness, and upload time and creating image plots to “explore visual patterns.” These patterns are more aesthetic than analytical—a number of image plots resemble rainbow-fringed black holes with swirling pixels ordered by color family. Other patterns are attached to specific events, like the tracking of image production around disasters like Hurricane Sandy.


Original publication date: 04/2016.

Source: Method without Methodology: Data and the Digital Humanities – Journal #72 April 2016 – e-flux