[-empyre-] visualization as the new language of theory

Simon Biggs s.biggs at eca.ac.uk
Wed Feb 3 20:39:48 EST 2010

A number of interesting threads are evident in this posting.

The primary hypothesis seems to concern why there has been an avoidance of
employing quantitative research methodologies in the arts and humanities.
Following from that, the questions raised are foundational, asking whether
this is primarily due to the epistemic and cultural histories of such
research or the character of the data-sets encountered, or both. Indeed, can
one speak of data-sets within the typical foci of the arts and humanities
(manuscripts, films, artworks, music, etc). Can a novel be rendered as a
data-set? Can a reader¹s interpretation of a text be rendered as data,
accepting that a novel exists not only within the pages of a book but in the
context of its (public and private) reception? Is what is the case for a
novel also the case for other cultural artefacts, such as animation, or do
different kinds of cultural artefacts require different analytical models?
If a novel, or other artefact, can be rendered as data then what value might
flow from that? If we were to visualise a data-set derived from a
quantitative analysis of a text and its interpretation (the latter
proposition would seem to require mind-reading technology we currently do
not possess, whatever might be claimed for current scanning and imaging
technologies) would that visualisation really be worth a thousand words?

Subsequent to these questions, we might need to inquire into how and why
conventional quantitative methods are applied within their normal contexts
and ask whether the outcomes revealed through that analysis reveal positive
or negative consequences for research in the arts and humanities. We might
then seek to steer our inquiry towards addressing whether such methods are
necessarily appropriate in the traditional quantitative sciences. We might
ask, sympathetically, as is proposed here in the application of quantitative
methods to traditionally qualitative subjects, whether typical subjects of
inquiry in the physical sciences might benefit from qualitative analysis? If
so, it is possible that these questions are already being addressed (eg:
Latour, Law, Biagioli, etc, have all written extensively on this).

However, whilst I think these are all interesting questions they are
definitely not on the current topic (animation). I don¹t want to distract
the list from the topic so we might want to tag this subject for later
discussion. Seeking to assure the topic remains the focus I will ask whether
animation, closely related to visualisation in some ways, might be a
cultural form of expression with particular relevance in a world that is
being progressively rendered instrumentalised through gradual processes of
quantitative ordering.



Simon Biggs

Research Professor
edinburgh college of art
s.biggs at eca.ac.uk

Creative Interdisciplinary Research into CoLlaborative Environments
CIRCLE research group

simon at littlepig.org.uk
AIM/Skype: simonbiggsuk

From: Lev Manovich <manovich.lev at gmail.com>
Reply-To: soft_skinned_space <empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au>
Date: Tue, 2 Feb 2010 23:49:32 -0800
To: <empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au>
Subject: [-empyre-] visualization as the new language of theory

In the 20th century, intellectuals devoted lots of energy to analyzing
lens-based narrative visuals (photography and cinema) and modern
non-figurative art. Animation, graphic design, typography, information
design, and other areas of visual culture were mostly ignored. in
fact, if you are to search for books which theoretically analyze
graphics, you will find only a single title published in France in the
end of 1960s: Jacques Bertin, Semiology of Graphics (English edition,

In the 1990s, most areas of culture industry switched to
software-based production. As a result, graphic design (as well as as
other areas of visual culture I listed above) assumed much more
central position in contemporary culture. Additionally, visual culture
became hybrid. Today, a still design or a moving image sequence now
typically combine many previously separate media. Such hybrids are now
the norm.

A case in point are contemporary motion graphics (commercials, music
videos, film and TV titles, and other short forms). They are as
prominent today as film and TV narratives - but they cannot be
adequately described using the concepts of film theory. Motion
graphics typically combine multiple media and techniques (live action
video, 2D and 3D animation, typography, effects, compositing, etc.).
Instead of being divided into a number of discrete shots, a work often
is a single visual flow which constantly changes over time. (For a
more detailed analysis, see the chapter "After Effects, or How Cinema
Became Design" in my book Software Takes Command.)

Cultural Analytics approach can be used to analyze motion graphics -
as well as other areas of contemporary visual culture largely ignored
by academic theory. The algorithmic analysis and visualization of how
different visual parameters change over time allows us to describe
moving images in new ways.  We can graph temporal patterns across many
visual and semantic parameters, and compare them across different

Below are links to some results of our explorations into different
ways of visualizing temporal changes in motion graphics.


One of the most important advantageous of Cultural Analytics approach
is the ability to analyze and graph continuos qualities such as the
amount and type of motion. The following graph reveals the amazing
motion patterns across a feature film by Dziga Vertov (I have not
applied this technique to a pure "animation" work but it will be
trivial to do):


(full-size image)
empyre forum
empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au

Edinburgh College of Art (eca) is a charity registered in Scotland, number SC009201

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: https://mail.cofa.unsw.edu.au/pipermail/empyre/attachments/20100203/e6edb8a9/attachment.html 

More information about the empyre mailing list