Category Archives: Final Essay

African American Exodus to Paris

Elizabeth-Burton Jones
Paris Final Paper

African American Exodus to Paris


Cultures are living and breathing institutions and organisms. There are many pieces and parts that govern the functionality of a culture in various settings. These pieces and parts include parts of the mental framework, actual body parts, but most definitive is the color of the culture’s skin.

Color lines are still prominent today, however in the 1900’s to 1920’s, skin color granted or denied access to every path, specifically in the United States with regards to the African American culture. Such definitive access made the day in the life of an African American difficult and without much mobility. To counter the lack of access, many African Americans fled to Europe in hopes of finding out if the colorblind myth truly existed.

Accordingly, this final project will attempt to better understand the African American culture while inhabiting Paris, France. By exploring the ideas of cultural access, primitivism, and cultural memory, I will attempt to examine the motives of African American Exodus to Paris from the 1900’s and during the Interwar Time period (1920s-1930s). But, most importantly, I will explore the absence of African American memory in Paris.  All of this information will synthesize with a trip to Paris to better understand the context of the situation.


During August 2013 I flew to Paris, France to research the African American Exodus for the Special Topics in CCT course. I visited jazz clubs, museums, and soaked in the liberation as a part of my research.  In Paris I stayed on the Left Bank, I experienced the culture, interviewed diverse people, ate the food, traveled as Parisians travel and researched. I took multiple tours about the city of Paris. I also took tours that focused on the African American Exodus to Paris.

African American Cultural Access:

At the dawn of the 1900s in American, labor based slavery ended but mental slavery, that started ions prior, had fully developed. When referring to mental slavery, I am suggesting the mental tug of war between being a human being encapsulated in a skin color that does not let your will run free. But, before this study can properly access the ideas that surround the notion of the black self, it is imperative to skim the influencers of the construct.


The universe is connected by nodes of networks that govern hegemony. Every way that a person is connected is governed through the their own existential place in the world. One way of looking at the notion of finding a place in the world is through “cosmopolitanism”.

“’Cosmopolitanism,”” the central term of Color and Culture, was first given expression in the West by the Greek Cynic Diogenes in the fourth century and the Cynic-influenced Stoics of the third century. It meant seeing oneself as ‘a citizen of the world,’ connected in a fundamental way to those outside family groups and conventional polities, yet without precluding the possibility of local connections.” (Friedel 5)

To better understand cosmopolitanism, it can be illustrated by the final Harry Potter film. In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part two, there is a glorious scene where people of all walks of being come together to protect the power of good against the Dark Lord. In a scene before the battle is begun, the wizards that are on Harry’s side, flick their wands to the sky and white orbs expel from their wands. Thousands of orbs create a connection, which appears to be a network of protection. This is how I envision cosmopolitanism, having each orb of light, no matter the origin, coming together and creating a collective safe space for creativity.


Accordingly, Immanuel Kant further enhances this positive slant on cosmopolitanism. In Perpetual Peace, Kant adds a layer to the notion of cosmopolitanism. This layer is hospitality. “Hospitality means the right of a stranger not to be treated as an enemy when he arrives in the land of another.” (Kant 20) a neoclassical approach to hospitality spawns from the idea of the protective collective. In this group people are welcoming and connected through fibers of universality.

The universality perspective is also looked at through the Enlightenment. “In Perpetual Peace (1795) Kant, along with many other Enlightenment thinkers, adopts a cosmopolitan perspective when he argues that individuals have rights as ‘citizens of the earth’ rather than as citizens of particular states.” (Friedel 5). Through this lens, it is important to think of the audience and ask: for whom was Cosmopolitanism created?

download (3)With regard to definition of a person’s place in the world, Nwankwo, defines the personal place in the world as a place for “Cosmopolitanism, the definition of oneself through that world beyond one’s own origins, was a crucial element of modernity (and the Enlightenment). Imperialism and Orientalism were in fact forms of European cosmopolitanism, and more specifically of the ways Europeans constructed their definitions of self and community in relation to and through their relationship to the broader world. “ (Nwankwo 9). Accordingly, cosmopolitanism is juxtaposed by identity and personal place in the world.

Therefore, it is important to assess the self and the individual psychological cosmopolitanism then the collective cosmopolitanism. Therefore, Friedel mentions that, “A cosmopolitan position implies an overarching concern for humanity that requires an acknowledgement of the important particularities of local identity claims…cosmopolitanism respects difference while asserting a common ground of equality that mediates between the particular and the universal.” (Friedel 6).  Identify paired with cosmopolitanism is a very complex paradigm. Therefore, to narrow the idea of cosmopolitanism down, the paper will focus on the African American take on cosmopolitanism known as Black cosmopolitanism.

Black Cosmopolitanism

The idea of cosmopolitanism sounds amazing writhing with endless possibilities of positive interconnectedness. However, at the same time, the idea is very limiting especially during the 1900’s and the years that closely embrace it. On the larger scale, cosmopolitanism was an impossible ideal for people of color.

Unbelievably Racist Vintage Valentine's Day Cards (2) This was an impossible idea mainly because of descent. “People of African descent’s approaches to public self-representation were born, in significant part, of the Atlantic power structure’s attempts to deny them access to cosmopolitan subjectivity” (Nwankwo 10). Therefore, in a time where cosmopolitanism was popular, it was selectively accessible.

The selection of who could live the ideal was mainly determined by the color of a person’s skin. “…race effectively determining the possible parameters of identity for people of African descent.” (Nwankwo 10) This selection had major ramifications on the ways in which African American people were allowed to physically and mentally move about their country.


The biggest fallacy with cosmopolitanism is the way in which people could assess it. For African Americans in the United States in the 1900’s cosmopolitanism was extremely binary. African Americans had to jump through various hoops and this changed the definition of their world. For instance, for Caucasian people of the time, the world had many continents and various lands. But for African Americans of the time, the world possibly only extended down the road to the local downtown. Yet, when they would arrive to the downtown area, it their world was further deduced to color lines.


These color lines included white only and black only movie theatre seats, schools, water fountains, etc. Plus, the quality was further shrunk as well. The quality of the color coordinated facilities were very black and white in that the black facilities were usually dilapidated and the white facilities were usually of fair condition. Therefore, city life was the first hoop. The second hoop mainly included, state life, in certain states at this time slavery or the institutionalized internalized social constructs of inferiority and superiority based on race were still prevalent. Therefore, states were speed bumps as well. Finally, the country as a whole was so uncertain of feelings for African Americans (and other minorities), that it is too hard to gauge what the national identity or picture of the standard African American.

Even though, we do not know how the nation as a whole thought about African American’s, we can look at how African Americans addressed their strife. Nwankwo provides a glimpse for what the African American standard could have been during this time. “They also sought to free themselves from the concomitant understanding of them as uncivilized beings, and to prove [themselves] part of the civilized (aka modern) world.” (Nwankwo 19). The notion of having to prove one’s self is hard to imagine when there aren’t encouraging bodies outside of your culture.

Byproducts of Comparison

download (1)In order to further assess the state of the African American during the turn of the century, this paper will compare the ideas of habitus and double consciousness and the paper will pair symbolic culture with the idea of the black body.

When assessing the idea of capital Pierre Bourdieu says that capital does not have inertia (Bourdieu).  He says that, “at each moment anyone can become anything” (Bourdieu). Therefore, in the world of capital, everything is fair game.

However, with regards to symbolic capital, that is not the case. With symbolic capital, “Each field of symbolic capital reproduced the system of unequal relations in the economic field (relations of class and power) and, in doing so, reproduces the fundamental structure of social inequality” (Grenfell and Moore 104). Therefore, symbolic capital creates a divide in the free capital world.

images (1)Furthermore, the symbolic actors create “…Symbolic fields, on the bases of their specific principles, establish hierarchies of discrimination (some things are better or more worthy than others).” (Grenfell and Moore 104). Therefore, symbolic capital creates internal and external hierarchies.

Frantz Fanon further explains these internal hierarchies in literature. In Fanon’s idea about the Black body, Fanon argues that the color of one’s skin creates a symbol of inferiority and hierarchy. Skin color becomes away of categorizing people. “Every position of one’s own, every effort at security, is based on relations of dependence, with the diminution of the other.” (Fanon 164). The idea of “dependence” has internal and external ramifications.

The symbolic color of skin becomes a symbol of history of either oppression or dominance. For instance, Fanon says that, “It was on the universal level of the intellect that I understood this inner kinship—I was the grandson of slaves in exactly the same way in which President Lebrun was the grandson of tax-paying, hard-working peasants.” (Fanon 85). Skin color becomes the signifier and it creates prejudices.

Habitus and Double Consciousness

According to the lens of symbolic culture, habitus is an actor in the cognitive realm.

Symbolic capital, that is to say, capital — in whatever form — insofar as it is represented, i.e. , apprehended symbolically, in a relationship of knowledge or, more precisely, of misrecognition and recognition, presupposes the intervention of the habitus, as a socially constituted cognitive capacity .” (Bourdieu footnotes of the reading). So this definition suggests that habitus is “as a socially constituted cognitive capacity” which could be analyzed as being a way of thinking that is the residue of societal influence.

In addition another adaptation of habitus comes from Grenfell and Moore. They assess habitus as “habitus with reference to inner-consciousness and practice” (Grenfell and Moore 110).  This definition stresses the idea of the internal dimensions of consciousness. Therefore, both definitions take into consideration the ability to map out the mind and the way that it works.

Therefore by addressing the definitions by Bourdieu and the adaptation by Grenfell and Moore Habitus is approached as a form of the consciousness that is “socially constituted”.

Accordingly, it fits nicely with the DuBoisian theory of double consciousness. According to W.E.B. DuBois double consciousness is:

“It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One feels his two-ness,—an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder. The history of the American Negro is the history of this strife,—this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self. In this merging he wishes neither of the older selves to be lost. He does not wish to Africanize America, for America has too much to teach the world and Africa; he does not with to bleach his Negro blood in a flood of white Americanism, for he believes—foolishly, perhaps, but fervently—that Negro blood has yet a message for the world. He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without losing the opportunity of self-development.” (W.E.B. DuBois)

This seminal source offers the blue print for double consciousness. It grants depth to the concept of the self.

Therefore, if both definitions of habitus and double consciousness are paired together, then they grant credence to an internal battle for societal acceptance. Habitus is an internal battle for social acceptance because it is “socially constituted” instead of organically constituted. Also, double consciousness yearns for societal acceptance instead of second-class citizenship based on race.

All Together:

mixing bowl

Through each facet through the studies of symbolic capital, the black body, habitus, and double consciousness, they offer a multidimensional approach to the African American Exodus to Paris. Meaning, that symbolically, the Black body is inferior and this changes the mental framework of a Black persons existentialism. As a result, the individual is inherently aware that he or she is inferior solely because of classification. This was the obstacle course that Black people of the early 1900’s had to go through every day if not every hour.

The-Jazz-Century-The-Jazz-008To help illustrate the obstacle of symbolic culture, there is the notion of primitivism. Two examples of de-blackboxing the propaganda of primitivism include W.E.B. Dubois’ Paris Exposition and the Branly Exposition.

Primitivism is typically viewed as less sophisticated. To assess the definition of primitivism, Nwankwo mentions that it was a tactic of dehumanization. He says that:

“Implicit in the Atlantic power structures’ fear of violent uprising and designation of people of African descent as less than a whole (hu)man was the notion that they were primitive savages, that is to say, premodern barbarians. The perception of people of African descent as less than human and not worthy of being seen as equal to those of European descent operated in tandem with the construction of people of African descent as an antithesis of the modern.” (Nwankwo 9)

Therefore, primitivism was an idea used to dehumanize minorities. It can be obscene in nature.

It is necessary to echo the idea about primitivism and the negative aspects because it initiates all of the problems in the paper. In the realm of African Americans, W.E.B. Dubois tried to combat these “savage” ideas not only by theories, but also by photography with many exhibits. One exhibit that stands out above the rest is the 1900 Paris Exposition. The Exposition is a mash-up of culture and the physical nature of the African American:

“Further, while the first images in Du Bois’s 1900 Paris Exposition albums formally recall the photographs that eugenicists and biological racialists used to codify bodies in racial terms, Du Bois’s albums as a whole dismantle the physical coherence of the imagined racial type, disengaging the images of African American men and women from the circumscription of a sliding evolutionary scale.” (Smith 61)


These images are very important because they counter the primitive image. They show the world that African Americans are more than their race, that they are people. Through these pictures, DuBois gives visual depth to the African American race by showing various facets of the race. Du Bois subjects or “types” display “a diverse array of individuals not bound by physical appearance, by the ‘hair and one and color’ that Du Bois rejects as singular signs of racial belonging in his 1897essay ‘The Conservation of Races.’ In Du Bois’s albums, blond and pale ‘Negro types’ are placed beside brunette and brown ones, a juxtaposition that challenges color codifications as markers of racial difference and the body itself as a sign of racial meaning” (Smith 61). This propaganda attempted to chip away at the standard of primitivism.

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In today’s world these images might not be as shocking because the world is becoming more diverse. However, in the 1900s race had boundaries such as where people could go, what they could do, and so on. Race was definitive. Also, race was pictured in very demeaning ways. For instance, DuBois created images and postures of sophistication in his photographs and this countered biological racist images where the cultural subjects were pictured naked and primitive (Smith 46-47).





Musée du Quai Branly

Another opinion of primitivism comes from Charles Ratton who collected primitive works of art. However, instead of using the images as a tool for inferiority, he aimed to fetishize the primitive way of life.

“He realised that these arts that we inaccurately term ‘primitive’ obey the same laws and are deserving of the same esteem as the classical arts and those of Asia, the latter being known and appreciated themselves for scarcely forty years. He decided to devote himself entirely to them.” —Charles Ratton about himself. (Art Daily).

He attempted to grant further agency to primitive work.

Both DuBois and Ratton attempted to change a standard so they used visual mediums. They were both a means to the end of misunderstanding just through different lenses. For instance, DuBois showed various depictions of African American’s to breakdown classifications and challenges the ideas of classification. Here are some images from the exhibit that I visited while I was in Paris.

IMG_3377 IMG_3378 IMG_3379 IMG_3381 IMG_3387 IMG_3395 IMG_3396 IMG_3400 IMG_3405 Paris 2013 City of Light 011

Ratton, wanted to grant more agency to primitive art. This is an interesting concept because it seems difficult to do based on the images and pieces of art. Most of the images in the exhibit are either over sexualized or are extreme from the classics. This is paired with interesting layouts. For instance, there was one room that was an office room with the primitive art as a decoration. The primitive art as a decoration could either be a marketing ploy to show that primitive art can be an office trinket, which could be an artistic way of supporting colonialism. Or this idea could signify the different of economic status and dominance. Either way, it is an interesting dichotomy. Here are some pictures of the movie clips:

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However, the most confusing connection was a small screen in the back corner of the exhibit. In this corner, the exhibit displayed an old African American movie. This movie was an all African American cast and the language that was used was very stereotypical of older films (broken English and grammatical errors). I found this to be quite interesting because I wasn’t sure of the connection between the primitive art and the movie.

One can assume that the map of the room was possibly suggesting a connection between the primitive art and the primitive African American stereotype.

However, if both of the exhibits are placed on the same playing field, then it can be deduced that the both contributors are trying to address the boxed in definition of primitivism and trying to create another point of view. DuBois is trying to change the standard of dehumanizing the African American image and Ratton is attempting to enhance interest in primitive art in efforts to make it a high culture medium.

The Exodus

Another approach to assessing dehumanizing views was the Exodus. This means that the people would leave America for Europe.

download (2) With all of these roadblocks, it seems as though Paris was the agora for social change. In accordance, many African Americans made the Exodus to Paris to see if the myth of acceptance and change were true. Many influential African Americans like Mary Church Terrill, Bessie Coleman, and Mary Mcloud Bethune. Just to name a few. African Americans from all disciplines visited Paris. There were myths that people could “artists and performers sought refuge from American racism, places to just be themselves and practice their craft.” (Bennefield).


All Pictures 8.14.13 271As a graduate student, reading all of the books and watching videos still left me wondering about actual life in Paris. I sort of had my own Exodus.

Is there an actual difference? Is the “veil” removed? So I decided to find out. From previous travels to Italy, I knew that there was more of a feeling of acceptance.

In Paris, it was the same living by myself in Paris, France for two weeks opened my eyes to the sights and sounds and goose bumps of acceptance. The first difference was a lack of definition. In Paris, I did not have to define myself by race. No one really asked me and if people asked, it was to find out what country I was from. Even though asking which country a person is from is quite similar to asking what race or breeding a person has, it felt differently.

Another point of definition was my appearance. I didn’t have to define my appearance. I could wear whatever I wanted. I could take risks or I could abide by whatever fashion codes that I wanted to at that moment. I should mention, that Paris of course is a fashion capitol, and I am typically a fashionable person, therefore I imagined that every day while in Paris, I would have to wear pieces of haute couture to go to the grocery store. But, that wasn’t the case. The style that I typically wear which is more of a “dressy casual” was the standard in Paris.

My hair was not defined. As a person of color, my hair is sometimes considered a threat to airspace. All jokes aside, there are plenty of Black hair philosophies with regards to letting the hair go natural or suppressing it with the straightener. In America as an effect of the construct that curly hair is not professional or wild, I sometimes feel the need to straighten it because so I don’t stand out, so that I become in with the mix. However, in Paris, I could style my hair in any way. The curls could get big and frizzy, but that was a norm. Many people in Paris had curly and wavy hair.

Bottom-line, I felt as though I belonged. I do not speak that much French and I actually had a French tutor and read books on how to pronounce French words, and I listened to tape that taught the language before I left, but that wasn’t necessary. People understood that French wasn’t my first language, and as long as I was polite SVP, then the French were polite to me.

Nevertheless, I still love being an American and all of the affordances the country gives me. However, I had to go and experience to better inform my writing.

When I boarded the plane for Paris, I knew that this trip would forever change my life. I knew that I was joining the ranks of the countless African Americans that sought artistic and educational freedom. Similarly, when I boarded the plane to head back to America, I knew that I would take this trip with me in my heart everyday. The opportunity to live, breath, and move within a culture that I innately felt comfortable in is indescribable but extremely important at the same time.

Accordingly, if this trip was and is extremely life changing for me, and extremely life-changing for the African American people of the 1900s and Interwar Paris, then how is this story cultivated?

While growing up, whether during black history month or during my undergraduate African American history class, the idea of African American leaving America for Europe always entranced me. Even though this subject was only covered for a portion of a class or a few paragraphs in a book, I always wanted to know more. This lack of depth in the field of expatriates or even travellers, is a very crucial missing part to African American history. It is only acknowledged briefly and it is only memorialized two times in Paris (Josephine Baker and Richard Wright) (Bennefield). So what does this mean to the African American music culture.

To further explore this area, we must set ourselves into Black Paris. We must imagine the life the longing and the appreciation for a space in which people could freely express their interests in music.

Sounds of Black Paris

—Langston Hughes, ASK YOUR MAMA (Elkin)

Road map around Paris

In Paris, in the 1900’s artists flocked to find liberation. This community formed into an artist’s dream:

“By the early 1920s a tiny black community had taken root in Paris. It was a diverse assemblage of people, who had come to the French capital by many different roads and for many different reasons. Some had been attracted by the legends of intimate cafes and the bright lights of the Champs-Elysees, whereas others came there as self-conscious refugees from American racism” (Stovall 34)

Paris was the place to experience sites, sounds, tastes, and all of the senses.

“I’m not gonna spend my life being a color” –Michael Jackson “Black or White”

Typically when African Americans made the journey to Paris in the 1920s, they gathered in Montmartre (Stovall 40). The settlement of Monmartre is an interesting dichotomy. On one side, it is in Paris and it is a place where African Americans can feel free to be humans instead of color. However, at the same time, the location of Montmartre was not as empowering.

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“Like Harlem, Monmartre was an area with a seedy reputation located north of the places inhabited by the wealthy and genteel, who came to visit it in the dead of night to finish up an evening on the town. Both areas were the centers of the local black population, and places where whites intent on exotic slumming could come to experience black culture” (Stovall 43-44).

Montmartre was a place to go to revel in the promiscuous ways of life. Therefore, this casts a grey shadow of the Parisian experience because of the promiscuity. Having the center of the early 1900s and Interwar Paris a site for promiscuity is an interesting effect because promiscuity is usually linked to describing African American women. Going back to the days of slavery, “…slave owners portrayed enslaved women as promiscuous, immoral  Jezebels who seduced their masters. Consequently, there were no legal or social sanctions against raping Black women (West,2002b).” (West 1491). Therefore, was Monmartre just another extension of a promiscuous ownership of the Black body? Even though there were monetary determinants that made Monmartre the center for Blacks in Paris during the 1900s and Interwar Paris, the promiscuity is just accepted in the area.

Photo during a personalized tour of Montmartre

Photo during a personalized tour of Montmartre

When I visited Montmartre for the first time, I was shocked. I did not believe that this was the hub for the foundation of Black empowerment in Paris. As I walked by the Moulin Rouge and other cabarets, I was in disbelief. I walked through a market crowded with people clamoring over goods. It was not what I envisioned. It was not what I had in my cultural memory. Instead, my cultural memory alluded to the hub of African American empowerment, on the Left Bank in San Germain-de Pres (which the would happen later). My cultural memory, all of the glamour that was portrayed in the days of Josephine Baker and her colleagues, was not there so accordingly I thought I was lost and that I wasn’t in the right place. Even though Monmartre is an interesting area and the view from the SacréCœur is beautiful, my positive slant was slightly jilted.

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Images from tour of Montmartre:

Paris 2013 City of Light 171 Paris 2013 City of Light 172 Paris 2013 City of Light 170 Paris 2013 City of Light 160 Paris 2013 City of Light 158 Paris 2013 City of Light 157

The gilt might come from a positive slant on stories that are ultimately written in books and disseminated to the youth. In the African American culture, stories are created in a legendary way because they piece together the positive parts and create a patchwork for positive memory. “The term African American symbolizes a unique storytelling tradition that is a synthesis of values and rituals rooted in African and American societies (Faulkner, 1977; Hamilton, 1985;Stewart, 1997).” (Banks-Wallace 410). Through the patchwork, negative memories are usually hidden. These aspects are hidden possibly because these stories could be creating a positive standard for the race. Just as W.E.B. DuBois’ photographs illustrated mainly highly sophisticated subjects, African American stories tend to only highlight the positive as a way of conquering images and stories used to negatively categorize the race.

Accordingly, by sifting out negative images to construct a positive image, this bleeds into positive story telling because the image was carefully constructed and would not want to be negatively communicated through story telling. “Many women have been taught that sharing stories about the interiors of African American life is disloyal to ‘The Race.’ Dangerous, or both. To avoid sharing stories, some people become very silent…” (Banks-Wallace 420). Sharing interior stories could be dangerous because they can reveal the underpinnings of the double conscious. As mentioned before, most African Americans walk through life with two senses of self-based on interaction with other races. Therefore, double consciousness is further constructed by stories because the storytellers are forever cognizant of the ramifications.

This leads to the power of the storyteller. Whether the storyteller is a photographer or a historian, there is power in the way that the story is remembered. With regards to bus tours, I took multiple. I rode around the city for days to discover how the history of Paris is disseminated for tour groups. I went to museums to explore exhibits to see how the history was portrayed. I discovered that the tales of the African Americans that travelled to Paris were not told in great detail or at all on the commercial tours. They were only told when I went on cultural specific tours.


Tour Group


Montmartre Tour Guide

Montmartre Tour Guide

Furthermore there is power in the actual infrastructure of the city. For instance, in Paris the myths of Montmatre as Harlem are only for the pure imagination.

While walking down the streets of Montmartre on a tour, the tour guide mentioned the hustle and bustle that happened in the area. The parties that were thrown the Black opulence that overflowed the streets. The music that caressed eardrums into a daze.

While on tour in Montmartre a luxurious car happened to drive down the street. It helped paint the picture of the scene years ago.

While on tour in Montmartre a luxurious car happened to drive down the street. It helped paint the picture of the scene years ago.

Those were the days. The days in the twenties are mere memories constructed by vast storytellers of the African American interaction in Paris. These stories follow similar formats for they are based on other stories from the time. Therefore, the stories are meta stories.

But, no matter the way that the story was told, there is still an absence. An absence in the infrastructure. As the tour guide and I leisurely strolled down the streets of Paris with our snacks and drinks, I was forced to create a synthesis from her words. I was told to imagine the way that the city was. Imagine the hustle and bustle of the empowerment. Imagine seeing Langston Hughes as a busboy. Imagine Josephine Baker strolling and her glamorous outfits twinkling in the moonlight. Imagine.

But, the imagination was stifled by the appearance. Now the area is different. Facades have come and gone. People have moved in and out. The only real marker of the significance of the area is a small square sign that denotes the street name.

In the area, there isn’t a plaque that notes the African Americans that were the legends. There are only shifting buildings keeping up with a new era. Yet, this place is important. This area is integral to the hope of an empowered African American. This place is where people could be free.

To demonstrate the emptiness of the space, there is the story of Eugene Bullard.

Eugene Bullard: “Combat pilot, nightclub owner and manager Bullard was a major player I the night life of Black Paris during the interwar years. He was finally driven from his adopted country by the Nazi invasion of Paris during World War II.” (Anderson and Wells 90). Bullard was thoroughly praised in Paris yet not in his home country. He was known as a French national hero for his commitment in the armed forces (Chivalette).

“At the nightclub, Le Grand Duc, where he was the host and part owner, Bullard entertained the likes of Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gloria Swanson and England’s Prince of Wales. He opened his own club soon after his marriage which soon became one of Paris’ most famous entertainment spots for singers and musicians of the time.” (Chivalette) In Paris he was not only successful, but he was also honored.

Yet, when he came back to America the hero received “… work as an elevator operator in Rockefeller Center. It was the job he would hold until he retired.” (Chivalette).

Other highlights of his life include that                                                                                             ”…French government requested his presence to help relight the Eternal Flame of the Tomb of the Unknown French Soldier at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris…In 1959 at age 65, he was named Knight of the Legion of Honor in a lavish ceremony in New York City. Dave Garraway interviewed him on the Today Show, still America did nothing to acknowledge this honor or acknowledge his place in history. President-General Charles de Gaulle of France, while visiting New York    City, publically and internationally embraced Eugene Bullard as a true French hero in 1960.” (Chivalette).

The trend as noted by Chivalette is that America as a whole never acknowledged his accomplishments publicly as France did.

France honored him in life and death.                                                                                           “On 12 October, 1961, after suffering a long illness due to the wounds he received, Eugene Jacques Bullard passed away… On 17 October, with the tri-color of France draping his coffin, he was laid to rest with full honors by the Federation of French War Officers at Flushing Cemetery in New York.” (Chivalette)

Yet, the common denominator is that France remembered Eugene Bullard through actions and not monuments. This begs the question of the importance of physical objects and outward gestures.

Usually power is prominent through infrastructure. This paper will approach infrastructure as different forms of monuments and physical buildings and markers. In Paris, there are a plethora of markers and monuments for the French. Everywhere that a person walks is practically a chapter in a history book.

Accordingly, these chapters or these areas are heavily marked in one way or another by bus tours that discharge busload after busload of tourists at these sites or merely having a statue in an area. The statue signifies importance. Yet, with regards to the African American interwar experience in Paris, there are few markers and it forces a person to be creative. For instance the street sign of Pigalle becomes a monument in a way.

Yet, this leads to the bigger issue of power and the African Americans. “As Foucault (1977) put it, “Since memory is actually a very important factor in struggle… if one controls people’s memory, one controls their dynamism.” (Olick and Robbins 126). Therefore, if power determines what is remembered then it equally determines what is forgotten.


The legends of Pigalle are not formally marked with a memorial. For instance with regards to cultural memory, there isn’t actual marker that signifies the place as there is just down the rad one can find the Moulin Rouge preserved with all of its significance.

Why is it important because as the years go by and people begin to forget the correct stories, what will be left? How will people know that there is such a presence and importance down these streets?

Most of the city of Paris is constructed in an antimodernist way. From an antimodernist perspective, is:                                                                                                                       “… the disposition of those who felt a discomfort…for the modernity of industrial, urban society. Antimodernists valued the singular artistry of the work of the master craftsman and disdained a modernity that replaced the artisan’s work with mass-produced objects, food, and architecture that antimodernists considered to be neither prettier nor better made” (Hobbs 54).

With the antimodern perspective this could describe why African Americans are not memorialized in Paris, because they came in a modern time after the marvels of the city were already made. But is that true? Who constitutes what is modern and at what time that it is purely modern? However, I’m not sure if that is an accurate reason for the disconnect.

The real question is where are the African American people? In Paris, everywhere I went there was some sort of monument and some sort of historical significance. Every when I would go out for a night on the town in Bastille, even though the places that I went were not historically marked there was still the knowledge of the area and the historical significance. But, I didn’t find this to be true for African Americans. With this specific culture, I did not find many references to their important Exodus. This story of the countless of African Americans is crucial to African American history studies and we learn about it all the time, yet the same markers and significance are not reciprocated.

There are only two African American people that are memorialized in Paris. “Josephine Baker and Richard Wright are the only two African Americans in Paris memorialized with a plaque in the city because they became Paris citizens, according to Ealy.” (Bennefield)

Josephine Baker Hotel

Josephine Baker Hotel

Paris 2013 City of Light 166

With regards to physical monuments, Josephine Baker has a square, the hotel, and there are hints of Josephine Baker’s influence in many current ad campaigns in current day Paris.


According to the time frame, Josephine Baker represents the whole of African Americans that made the Exodus in the 1900s and Interwar Paris.


Josephine Baker was a “Performer. Baker went to Paris in 1925 with the show La Revue Négre  and enjoyed overnight success in her role. She adopted France as he home country, always returning even though her singing and acting career took her all over the world. She died in Paris in 1975” (Anderson and Wells 88). Josephine Baker was a remarkable woman that challenged primitivism, was a French spy, and believed in diversity and the Parisians loved her. When she died, “Josephine Baker’s funeral on April 15, 1975, formed a spectacular finale to her unique career. The French government gave her a state funeral at the city’s impressive Madeline church, the first American woman it had ever honored in this way.” (Stovall 286). This is an incredible honor for Josephine and the state funeral was a first, with regards to an American woman being honored this way. Yet, is this memorialized? How do people know that the first American woman to have a state funeral in the Madeline church was an African American woman? It is not taught so does that mean it’s not remembered.

However, one way that Josephine Baker is remembered is through an area of town that is marked in her honor. “Paris Mayor Jean Tiberi christened ‘La Place Josephine Baker’ after the American-born singer, social activist and French national hero who made the French capital her home for a half-century.” (Cox News Service). This is important.

When I visited this square, after getting lost in the city, I found it to be quiet interesting and up to interpretation. For many people, this square means many different things. For a dancer, this square recognizes the beauty of being different while creating your art. For a person in the military, this square exudes sacrifice and gull. For an academic, this square represents movements for recognizing more African Americans that prized Paris as their home and finally felt accepted as humans.

Being in this square it is clear, that memory is not just for the books, but it is for hope. In regards to hope, or in this case hope of a culture, there are trials and offsets of mental slavery that this square helps breakdown because it remembers a person that represents a people that fled to Paris to escape oppression.

Musical interlude

Another way that people are remembering African Americans and the African American musicians is through the jazz club scene and performing standards. On some nights, in Paris, I would travel to jazz clubs such as Ducs des Lombards and Caveau de la Huchette. I would interview the artists and spectators. One night at the Ducs des Lombards the band played originals but the covered the standards like “Besame Mucho”, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, “Battle Hymn Of The Republic ”.

During the intermission, I interviewed the band. The leader of the band did not speak that much English, so I asked a fellow band mate to translate for me. The takeaway from the interview was that most of his inspiration artists were African Americans. At one point, the bandleader said that he “is black”. Even though I’m not sure of the context that he was referring to, but nonetheless there was a connection that he made through the music that honored these musicians.

Pictures from some interviews and conversations:


Duc des Lombards


Duc des Lombards











Caveau de la Huchette

Caveau de la Huchette

Caveau de la Huchette

At the Caveau de la Huchette, I interviewed a lot of people. When I interviewed a man that claimed Geneva and Paris, about race he told me that race does not matter. I asked a young woman why she comes to jazz clubs and she said that  the music makes her feel clever it opens her mind. She also commented on that it was a soulful experience. I interviewed a family from Germany as well and they said that this was their first time at a jazz club. As the night rolled on an people filled the dance floor the German family eased into the feeling that they could dance to jazz music. It was great watching their inhibitions dissipate.

Also, I interviewed a man from Pennsylvania that said that I should instead check out Japanese Jazz culture. As the night rolled on and the band took their first break, I chatted with the bass player who identified as a music producer and musician.  We chatted about the generational shift between the old wave of jazz and the new wave of jazz. This new wave could be thought of as a different form of jazz culture.

“Gotta have a gimmick” – Gypsy

The new wave audience is changing. Before, the predominant people that listened and performed jazz in Paris were the African Americans. But, while in Paris, I witnessed that all of the musicians were Caucasian and most of the spectators were Caucasian as well. This could be the cause of many things. First it was August in Paris, and during this time the Parisians go on holiday. But, regardless I shouldn’t have been the only African American in the crowd. Another reason could be the generational shift and the commodity of jazz. This commodity recognizes that Paris is known for having the jazz greats visit their town and accordingly, companies or marketing organizations could have aspirations of shifting the audience.

The Main Takeaway: Music Memory

black-paris-divasTakeaway from all of the literature boils down to the idea of liberation and memory. Through all of the readings and theories, it can be deduced that African Americans had an extremely trying time in America especially during the 1900’s and Interwar time frame.

However, by using these puzzling theories that, it is easier to access what the role of memory. For instance, in each situation, there seems to be a negative reaction. Yes, it all goes back to Newton. For instance, with regards to cosmopolitanism, the negative reaction is symbolic culture, which spawns ideas about African American’s relationship with cosmopolitanism.  These theories lend themselves to the mental struggle of persona. But, in order to avoid these troubles in the future, there needs to be a recollection of said events that are described by the theories. In stead, the culture is left with oral history, which can disintegrate and turn with twitches of the tongue and selective memory. Essentially, in a perfect world, I would open an African American museum in Paris. This museum would be an unbiased museum that would tell the tale of the Exodus to Paris. This is necessary, because awareness of the black self and liberation, are key concepts in the prominent movements. Therefore, someone stretch to say that the “I’m Black and I’m Proud” popular phrase repeated by James Brown could be a remix of countless tales of liberation and realization that being African American, Black, colored or whatever you would like to call it, is not a “veil” rather another color in the palette of life.

Another takeaway is that there are two African Americans that are memorialized in Paris. But what about the thousands of African Americans that journeyed to Paris and basked in liberation? To scale back, what about the hundreds of African Americans that came to Paris and still come to Paris as a way to experience musical freedom. The takeaway is that in the absence of their physical memorial, the music has become a boundless vessel for memory.

However, whatever the reason, this could at least be some form of cultural memory. Through interviews and conversations, it seems as though people go by the music over the memory of where it was. Maybe the music made more sense and will be the memory.

The music knows no bounds and in some cases can be played or sung without documentation. Therefore, through the notes of each street performer, through the pull on each string of the bass, and through the smile of each piano player as he or she gets into the groove, that is a nod to the people that came before and lived in harmony and freedom.

Other topics:

The Mamy for Sale: Tourists shops selling the past

Jazz finds Religion: A religious take on Jazz music and race

Baldwin and the Paris Essays

Reference and Beginning Bibliography:

Ake, David Andrew. Jazz Cultures. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002.

Assmann, Jan, and John Czaplicka. “Collective Memory and Cultural Identity.” New German Critique 65 (1995): 125-33. JSTOR. Duke University Press. Web. Dec. 2013. <>.

Banks-Wallace, J.. 03/2002. Talk that Talk: Storytelling and Analysis Rooted in African American Oral Tradition, Qualitative health research, 12(3), 410 – 426-426. (ISSN: 1049-7323).

Bennefield, Robin. “Understanding Black Paris.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 19 Sept. 2011. Web. Dec. 2013. <>.

Boittin, Jennifer A. Colonial Metropolis: The Urban Grounds of Anti-Imperialism and Feminism in Interwar Paris. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2010. Print.

Berliner, Paul. Thinking in Jazz: The Infinite Art of Improvisation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994.

Blumenthal, Bob. Jazz: An Introduction to the History and Legends Behind America’s Music. New York: Collins, 2007.

Bruce, Dickson D., Jr. “W. E. B. Du Bois and the Idea of Double Consciousness.”American Literature 64.2 (1992): 299-309. JSTOR. Duke University Press. Web. Nov. 2013. <>.

Chivalette, William I. “Corporal Eugene Jacques Bullard First Black American Fighter Pilot.” Corporal Eugene Jacques Bullard. Air & Space Power Journal, n.d. Web. Sept. 2013. <>.

Cox News Service. “Paris Dedicates Square To Jazz-era Legend.” Chicago Tribune. Chicago Tribune, 04 Feb. 2001. Web. 12 Dec. 2013. <>.

Du Bois, W. E. Burghardt. “Strivings of the Negro People.” The Atlantic. The Atlantic Monthly Group, 1 Aug. 1897. Web. Dec. 2013. <>.

Elkin, Lauren. “Langston Hughes in Paris.” Paris in French and Expat Literature., 15 Nov. 2010. Web. Dec. 2013. <>.

Fanon, Frantz. Black Skin, White Masks. London: Pluto, 2008. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost). Web. 7 Dec. 2013.

Friedel, Tania. Racial Discourse and Cosmopolitanism in Twentieth-century African American Writing. New York: Routledge, 2008. Print.

Giddins, Gary, and Scott Knowles DeVeaux. Jazz. New York: W.W. Norton, 2009.

Gioia, Ted. The History of Jazz. 2nd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.

Hobbs, Stuart D. “Exhibiting Antimodernism: History, Memory, and the Aestheticized Past in Mid-twentieth-century America.” The Public Historian23.3 (2001): 39-61. Print.

Kant, Immanuel, and Lewis White. Beck. Perpetual Peace. Edited, With an Introd. by Lewis White Beck. New York: Liberal Arts, 1957. Print.

Moore, Jerry D. Visions of Culture: An Introduction to Anthropological Theories and Theorists. 4th ed. Lanham: Md., 2012. Print.

“Musée Du Quai Branly Explores Tribal Art in a Landmark Exhibition That Charts Its Rapid Rise.” Jose Villarreal, n.d. Web. Oct. 2013. <>.

“Newton’s Third Law.” Newton’s Third Law. The Physics Classroom, 2013. Web. Dec. 2013. <>.

Nielsen, Cynthia R. Foucault, Douglass, Fanon, and Scotus in Dialogue: On Social Construction and Freedom. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013. Print.

Nwankwo, Ifeoma Kiddoe. Black Cosmopolitanism: Racial Consciousness and Transnational Identity in the Nineteenth-century Americas. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 2005. Print

Olick, J. K., & Robbins, J. (1998). Social memory studies: From “collective memory” to the historical sociology of mnemonic practices. Annual Review of Sociology, 24, 105-140. Retrieved from

Peterson, Charles. Dubois, Fanon, Cabral: The Margins of Elite Anti-Colonial Leadership. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2007. Print.

“Review: Charles Ratton – The Invention of the ‘Primitive’ Arts, Musée Du Quai Branly.” Spear’s. Spear’s Magazine, 13 Aug. 2013. Web. Nov. 2013. <>.

Riding, Alan. “American Artists in Interwar Paris, Seeking Novelty.” The New York Times: Arts. The New York Times, 10 Nov. 2003. Web. Dec. 2013. <>.

Smith, Shawn M. Photography on the Color Line: W.e.b. Du Bois, Race, and Visual Culture. Durham: Duke University Press, 2004. Print.

Tannen, D. (1982). Spoken and written language: Exploring orality and literacy. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.

Tannen, Deborah. “Oral and Literate Strategies in Spoken and Written Narratives.”Language 58.1 (1982): 1-21. JSTOR. Linguistic Society of America. Web. <>. 

West, Carolyn M. “Black women and intimate partner violence new directions for research.” Journal of Interpersonal Violence 19.12 (2004): 1487-1493.

Yancy, George. Black Bodies, White Gazes: The Continuing Significance of Race. Lanham, Md: Rowman & Littlefield Pub, 2008. Print.


Final: Remixing Shakespeare

In William Shakespeare’s Coriolamus Act II, Scene III Coriolamus claims,

What custom wills, in all things should we do’t,

The dust on antique time would lie unswept,

And mountainous error be too highly heap’d

For truth to o’er peer

(Shakespeare, Evans & Tobin 1460).

Although the verbiage appears a bit archaic, the sentiment applies even now.  There are times when change is necessary; if change does not happen, then problems (or errors) of the past will only worsen.  This advice is even pertinent to the current education system.  For the most part, Shakespeare’s works have been taught in the same outdated way for generations.  The few additions primarily centered on the addition of film to the syllabus.  Why has so little changed?  It is no wonder students struggle with Shakespeare in schools.

Remix and e-editions could revolutionize the way Shakespeare is taught in schools.  When everything is becoming digital, even the most classic works may benefit from the shift in paradigm.  Advanced high school students and undergraduate students may find Shakespeare’s works more accessible through the creation and inspection of remixed works of Shakespeare and the supplementation of e-editions.

Shakespeare may be easier for students to understand, if they understand that even his first folios were not written by him, but by his contemporaries and friends.  We know the plays were his, sometimes with the help of a co-playwright, but we do not have his handwriting on paper.  So, his friends and contemporaries made a copy, with appropriate attributions, which is a concept which will be considered in this paper (Hirsch).

This paper is exploring different ideas which could be combined to create an e-edition, remix site which students could use as a way to more easily access Shakespeare’s works.  This could be used as an educational tool for teachers and a way for students to continue their interest in Shakespeare outside of the classroom.

Shakespeare in Schools        

In high school and some undergraduate studies, many students see reading Shakespeare as a tedious task.  It is no surprise students feel this way when teachers use the same teaching method that was used on the students’ parents and grandparents.  When students lose interest, the entire reason for teaching them one of the most highly-regarded pieces of literature is lost.

The Common Core Standards, which have been adopted in 45 states and the District of Columbia, include Shakespeare in their high school literacy program.  According to the standards a student should be able to, “Determine two or more themes or central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text, including how they interact and build on one another to produce a complex account; provide an objective summary of the text,” by the time they are a senior (

Students are required to learn the content, so how should teachers approach the task? In Teaching English by Susan Brindley, she recommends teaching Shakespeare’s works actively, instead of students learning Shakespeare in a more solitary manner.  She recommends teachers see his works as a script instead of a mere sheet of text. Bruce Avery expands on Brindley’s basic ideas in “You Don’t Know Jack: Engaging the Twenty-First Century Student with Shakespeare’s Plays.”  Avery’s approach to reengage Jack with Shakespeare includes a multitude of foci, but the most important aspect of his approach is challenging electronic media for a student’s attention. He also explains students are able to mold their own identity through the use of social media.  Phenomenon like Facebook and YouTube make self-representation a central theme to the lives of students.

The ‘theatricality’ of Shakespeare’s culture is nothing compared to the multimediated theatricality of our own, and this fact prompts my attempt at answering the second question above with another question: is there a way to explore contemporary attitudes about self-representation in such a way that they form an approach to Shakespeare’s language? (Pg. 139)

The use of remix and e-editions may be the answer to Avery’s question. By teaching Shakespeare in such a way that the “multimediated theatricality” of Shakespeare is on display, there may be a greater chance of the students connecting.

What is Remix?

What is remix?  At first sight, the question seem simplistic, but in all reality, there are a multitude of answers.  There are many differing definitions of remix; three of the most well-known experts on remix are Lawrence Lessig, Eduardo Navas, and Kerbie Ferguson; the three take varying stances in regard to remix.

Lessig shapes two cultures: read-only culture (RO) and read/write culture (RW).  RO culture is one in which the audience passively consumes.  This is currently how most Shakespeare is taught in the classroom.  Students do not interact with the piece, they merely view it from a distance.  RW culture is what most understand as remix culture.  It is a culture in which people can interact with the piece.  They can shape it and mold it in ways the author has no control over.  Lessig says the obstacle facing RW culture is the question of how can we nurture creativity and still maximize a profit.  His solution is to use the distribution channels as the place of profit, instead of hiding the pieces behind copyright (Lessig).

Navas writes:

Today, Remix (the activity of taking samples from pre-existing materials to combine them into new forms according to personal taste) has been extended to other areas of culture, including the visual arts; it plays a vital role in mass communication, especially on the Internet” (Navas).

In the video, “Everything is a Remix, Part 1: The Song Remains the Same,” Kerbie Ferguson argues that it is possible to say “everything is a remix.”  He says remixing is a folk art.  He explains that “copy” and “knock-offs” are two forms of remix which are generally found within the music genre.  He continues his ideas in, “Everything is a Remix, Part 2: Remix Inc.,” where he cites specific examples of remixes, like Star Wars.  Ferguson states, “Creation requires influence. Everything we make is a remix of existing creations, our lives, and the lives of others.”  In “Everything is a Remix, Part 3: The Elements of Creativity,” Ferguson explains that “copying is how we learn.”  We must emulate others before we can create something new through transformation. Copy, transform, and combine are the basic elements of creativity, according to Ferguson.  His last video of the series, “Everything is a Remix, Part 4: System Failure,” Ferguson approaches how our laws are failing our system of creativity.  Many of his ideas mirror Lessig in this manner.

Everything is a Remix: Part 3

In Professor Martin Irvine’s abstract, “Remix and the Dialogic Engine of Culture: A model for Generative Cominatoriality,” he writes of placing ideas into the “combinatorial conceptual software.”  While he specifically cites music in his example, it can also be applied to the works of Shakespeare.  Professor Irvine writes, “The meaning of a remix emerges from the symbolic (re)uses of the quotational units in a new context of meanings, not from their prior disquotational function in other expression.”  So, within Shakespeare, the remix is most importantly understood within the context of the present, not necessarily from the previous meaning.

In this paper, Navas’s definition will be held as the commanding authority.  Remix is taking samples from an archive and using these samples to combine them into a new form.  Ferguson’s interpretation should also be taken into account.  I agree with his claims that remix is a folk art.  It is possible to remix without the use of digital technologies, but it would be naive to claim technology has not certainly shaped remix into an even more prominent part of culture through music, video, art, etc.

Why use online or e-editions?

The advantage of creating online, hypertext Shakespeare editions are numerous and convincing for many Shakespeare scholars.  While some examples have been mentioned, it is also beneficial because of the ability hypertext has to expand the understanding of Shakespeare’s works.

First and foremost, the common theme amongst all of the writers is the de-centralized text.  Michael Best says, in “Standing In Rich Place: Electrifying the Multiple-Text Edition or, Every Text Is Multiple,” the texts themselves are “fluid,” and an online, hypertext Shakespeare archive would help the text be realized.  It is fluid because it is known that there are multiple versions of Shakespeare’s works.  Rather than trying to create one text, which will likely limit the “real presence” of Shakespeare in his works, David Kastan says we should make the works as available as possible (Kastan 87).  This means we should offer versions of the play before and after they were subjected to use on stage; we should offer paperbacks, single plays, and complete compilations of his works; we should present versions with modernized English and others with old English; we should offer Shakespeare unedited, with facsimile copies.  Even with these many different versions, we could not possibly find the “real presence” of Shakespeare, but we could more easily understand the fluidity of Shakespeare’s works.  Here, Kastan returns to the digital text.  As there are not size limitations and it is fluid, it serves as the perfect host to this combination of texts.  Kastan explains on page 87:

For a Shakespeare edition, one could have an edited text (or indeed more than one), as well as digital facsimiles of all early printings; and additional resources could be included, like source texts or concordances, theater reviews, illustrations, audio clips, and even film versions, all of which can be linked to allow easy movement back and forth between them.

There is also opportunity to change the academic field; in, “The Kingdom has been Digitized: Electronic Editions of Renaissance Drama and the Long Shadows of Shakespeare and Print,” B.D.Hirsch writes that this is an opportunity to expand the canon.  Shakespeare is one of the only authors widely recognized from the Renaissance period, even though many of his plays were collaborative works.  He first equates the layout of current critical analysis of Shakespeare and other Renaissance-period works as behind barbed wire; the many brackets and other devices used to further explain the work make it hard to access the actual language.  Electronic editions removed the barbed wire as tools like hyperlinking can be used instead.  He also cites the shaping of a community as an incredible benefit of using electronic editions.  In what Hirsch argues is a far too limited group, this kind of group growth could change the entire climate of Renaissance-drama studies. Hirsch claims academia is doing a disservice to both Shakespeare and his contemporaries; his contemporaries are not acknowledged and scholars cannot truly examine and critique Shakespeare’s works if they do not understand other works which were widely-accepted during his era. Hirsch demands action; he proposes critical editions of Renaissance-period drama be published without the demand.  He suggests a new model, which stretches the cannon should be implemented.  He believes the only way to do this is to escape the boundaries of the printed word; there are too many obstructions, like publishers and marketing departments, involved in print. The growth of the canon is worth the challenges of maintaining the technologies necessary for electronic editions.

The use of multimedia only enhances the advantages of creating an online, hypertext Shakespeare archive.  In “The Text of Performance and the Performance of Text in the Electronic Edition,” Best approaches how electronic media can act as a tool for times in which Shakespeare’s writing (and stage directions) may hinder the actor’s (or reader’s) ability to understand a scene.  He writes that many times actors or directors may have to change part of a scene in order for it to make sense, Best then questions how this can be shown in electronic media for the reader.

Best first explains why using electronic media is more beneficial than strictly print:

One important difference between the electronic and the print text is, of course,the capacity of the electronic medium to go beyond text: to provide examples of the interaction of text and performance – on stage and film – and to show how each illuminates the other (Pg. 269).

Best is essentially explaining that one can actually show what is taking place, as opposed to merely describing the performance.  In online text, one can create hyperlinks to the different versions of the scene, so the reader can also see how it has been acted out.  He explains that using digital media is the most efficient and effective way to express the different ways a scene can be constructed.

These elements make an online, hypertext Shakespeare archive especially alluring.  The archive opens up many opportunities for students and academic scholars to further their understanding of Shakespeare’s works.

Shakespeare’s Archive

Shakespeare worked from an archive too, the concept of remix is not new, just the use of the word “remix.”  Romeo and Juliet is easily the most well-known piece of Shakespeare.  It is also fairly common knowledge that it is not an original story by Shakespeare.  According to the Riverside Shakespeare Anthology, the first remenents of Romeo and Juliet comes from Ephesiaca, where sleeping potion is used as an escape from a forced marriage.  Next, Masuccio of Salerno combines this concept with star-crossed lovers in Il Novellino.  Luigi da Porto adds the setting, Verona, and the names for the feuding families.  He also adds Franciscan Lorenzo, creating almost the exact story we now know through Shakespeare.  “Shakespeare’s direct source was, however, none of these, but a poem by Aruthur Brooke, based on Boiastuau and published in 1562,” (Shakespeare, Evans & Tobin 1101).  Brooke is “kinder” to his lovers and the relationship last longer.  Shakespeare’s remix of the story includes the harsher tone.  The major ways in which Shakespeare remixed the story is by placing it in a play and his famous use of iambic pentameter.

Information of this kind can be found concerning a multitude of Shakespeare’s works.  It may be helpful to students if they understand that Shakespeare was a remixer.  The reason he is well-recognized is his mastery of language, the eloquence in which he tells these stories.  As he remixed works to create his masterpieces, many others have remixed his works.

Early Remixes of Shakespeare

Charles and Mary Lamb’s “Tales from Shakespeare” is arguable the earliest documented form of Shakespeare’s works being remixed. The brother and sister duo worked for Thomas Hodgkins to create children’s books from Shakespeare’s works. The book was published in 1807, with only Charles being credited.  It is now known Mary also worked on many of the stories (Lamb iii-v).

The method in which the pair used to create these stories is important to understand. They actively avoided using language that was included in the English vocabulary after Shakespeare’s time.  It is known that Mary primarily worked on the comedies and Charles primarily worked on the tragedies.  The English histories and Roman plays were left untouched by the two (Lamb v-x).  Charles maintains the themes and the period language, but steers away from creating a dialogue; he works strictly in narrative.  Mary’s remixes are more conversational, although the introduction justifies this remix by saying the works she remixed were more difficult.

Modern Shakespeare Remixes

Remixes of Shakespeare have progressed through the centuries.  In the eighteenth-century, neo-classists started to make adaptions of their own to Shakespeare’s works.  John Dennis qualifies his remix of Coriolanus by saying “he was opposed to preserving the unities at the cost of ‘offending all Common Sense,’” (Branam 21).  Dennis wrote The Invader of the Country by combining six of Shakespeare’s ten scenes to create his first act.  Dennis also changed the location in some of the scenes.  Creating an atmosphere of unity (Branam 21-22).

With the introduction of film, there was also a new form of remix introduced. Romeo + Juliet, which was released in 1996, is an example of a remixed Shakespeare on film.  The era in which the play takes place is where the major aspect of remix takes place.  They speak directly from the Romeo and Juliet script by William Shakespeare.

Improvisation is another form of remix which has become popular in recent times. Vigjay Iyer argues that improvisation should be regards as “identical with what we call experience.”  He further explains that through this definition there is not a difference between what we experience as humans and improvisation.  We are always improvising. He also explains that some improvisation can be considered good or bad, like saving someone from danger or harming someone. Iyer says, “In other words, you might say that there are degrees, layers or levels to what we call “improvisation.” There’s a primal level at which we learn how to just be in the world, and then there’s another level at which we’re responding to conditions that are thrust upon us.”

Paul Miller stated that digital media is “not necessarily about the process per se, it’s about never saying that there’s something that’s finished.  Once something’s digital, essentially you’re looking at versions.  Anything can be edited, transformed, and completely made into new things.” This interpretation of improvisation is more embraceable as it seems a bit more definable.

The Improvised Shakespeare Company has been in existence since 2005 and performs every Friday night in Chicago. I think this is an interesting example of Miller’s interpretation of improvisation.  The actors are creating new work based upon something old: in this case, it is the style and speech of Shakespeare. This is a contrast from working solely from Shakespeare’s scripts. Which leave little room for improvisation.  While there is still a bit of space built into the script for improvisation, but not an extensive build up.

How to use Shakespeare in the Classroom

As technology improves, there are more and more ways in which remix can be used in education. In “Utopian Plagiarism, Hypertextuality, and Electronic Cultural Production” released by the Critical Art Ensemble, they state:

This is the age of the recombinant: recombinant bodies, recombinant gender, recombinant texts, recombinant culture. Looking back through the privileged frame of hindsight, one can argue that the recombinant has always been key in the development of meaning and invention; recent extraordinary advances in electronic technology have called attention to the recombinant both in theory and in practice (for example, the use of morphing in video and film).

As remix or “recombination” becomes more and more prevalent in society, it would be a disservice for the pedagogy of education not to incorporate this very idea. In the same way experiential learning has become a component of many educational pedagogies, remix should also play a role. Remix offers a new way for students to learn; generally a very hands-on approach can be used. Remix can make some things more accessible to students, like in aforementioned case of Shakespeare. It also can turn something which seems old and worn out into something more exciting and interesting. Remix also unpacks the technologies in a way; to create a remix, one must often break it into many smaller pieces.

The use of remix in education is much different than the use of remix in a more corporate sense. Ideally, money should not be the driving factor behind an education, which is a tangent I could speak on for hours. Educational remix should make learning more fun and make the students more invested, as they are able to put a personal spin on a piece of literature which may seem so distant and out of touch.

A Remixed Lesson Plan

The following is a lesson plan teachers and professors could use after the website is created.  Anything in italics are the notes I would use as the professor of this lecture and assignment.

First, assign the students Act V, Scene 1 of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, short readings from Navas, and the videos from Ferguson.  The students will already have read the rest of the play.  It would not be assigned in one piece, but in multiple, smaller assignments.

Then teach a lesson on the history of Shakespeare’s texts and the lack of source text. This lecture should also include ideas from Navas and Ferguson.  Shakespeare initially created plays, actors would have their own editions of the play, which often underwent changes, but there was not master script for his plays.  It seems that he never intended they be published.  So, this means there is no text we can say with certainty is the centered (master) text.  This archive has been created to help us understand the fluidity of Shakespeare’s text.  The first folios were created by Shakespeare’s friends and contemporaries after he died.  They are often attributed as the most accurate.  Theatrical versions of the plays may capture what Shakespeare had in mind more than anything else.  Ideas from Navas and Ferguson will include sampling, copy, transform, and combine.

Now, the students will access the e-edition, (the remix/e-edition website which is the focus of this paper) and write a short blog post on the experience.  The blog posts should contain information about how they navigated the website and which links they inspected.  It should explain what they learned about Shakespeare, hopefully that he left some pieces of the play rather ambiguous and up to the director (him, in most cases) to decide.  Students should also note how different the first folio and Arden seem to be structured, yet they both contain the play.  Once class reconvenes, discuss the blogs and the experience in the same way they were discussed on the blog. 

Have students pick the text and video clip they imagine to be the most appropriate portrayal of the scene.  This does not necessarily mean period appropriate, but appropriate to the aura of the text.  Once they pick, have them compare the two.  See if they find differences or similarities that are notable, specifically, how they have been remixed. In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the text will not play as apparent an effect as the video.  Students will need to defend their choice in video by explaining how the costume, background, actors, etc. seem to portray the play in a way that honors the themes and narrative.

Now the students will be given their major assignment.  In small groups the students will create their own remixes of the scene.  The will take into account stage direction, costuming, props, and language.  After each group gives performance, they will explain the reasons for their interpretation and entertain questions. They will not be graded on ability to memorize lines or act. They will be graded on understanding of text, ability to cite sources for their remixes, and explain what their most significant changes were .The students should be able to defend their choices by talking about how they understood the themes and narrative.  They should reference back to their experience using the archive and explain anything which translated across all media.  Ultimately, the students will need to have an academic reason for every decision they made concerning the scene they created.


After researching education, Shakespeare, and remix, I have found what I believe to be the appropriate purpose for The website should be used as an educational resource.  Students should be able to easily understand there is more to Shakespeare than the workbooks teachers (occasionally) use instead of teaching.  Students should use professional examples of remix from the website to help them shape their own remixes of Shakespeare.  Shakespeare should be an experience.  Shakespeare should not live only in the Read-Only Culture.  It belongs in the Read-Write Culture as well. should house a hypertext, e-edition for students to work from; from the website, students can see the multiple versions of Shakespeare’s works: first folios, performed plays, film, etc.  They can choose to use this as a tool or as a place to showcase their own remixed works through the use of forums.

Works Cited

Avery, Bruce. “You Don’t Know Jack: Engaging the Twenty-First-Century Student with Shakespeare’s Plays.” Pedagogy 11.1 (2011): 135-152. Project MUSE. Web. 23 Oct. 2013. <>.

Best, Michael. “Standing In Rich Place: Electrifying The Multiple-Text Edition Or, Every Text Is Multiple.” College Literature 36.1 (2009): 26-39. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 23 Oct. 2013.

Best, Michael. “The Text of Performance and the Performance of Text in the Electronic Edition – Springer.” The Text of Performance and the Performance of Text in the Electronic Edition – Springer. Language Resources and Evaluation, 01 Aug. 2002. Web. 23 Oct. 2013.

Branam, George Curtis. Eighteenth-century Adaptations of Shakespearean Tragedy.Berkeley: University of California, 1956. Print.

Brindley, Susan. Teaching English. London: Routledge, 1993. Print.

Ferguson, Kerbie. “Everything Is a Remix Part 1: Watch It Now.” YouTube. YouTube, 27 Oct. 2010. Web. 07 Dec. 2013. <>.

Ferguson, Kerbie. “Everything Is a Remix Part 2.” YouTube. YouTube, 02 Feb. 2011. Web. 07 Dec. 2013. <>.

Ferguson, Kerbie. “Everything Is a Remix Part 3.” YouTube. YouTube, 22 June 2011. Web. 07 Dec. 2013. <>.

Ferguson, Kerbie. “Everything Is a Remix Part 4.” YouTube. YouTube, 16 Feb. 2012. Web. 07 Dec. 2013. <>.

Ferguson, Kerbie. “Everything Is a Remix.” Everything Is a Remix. N.p., 16 Feb. 2012. Web. 07 Dec. 2013. <>.

Hirsch, B. D. (2011), The Kingdom has been Digitized: Electronic Editions of Renaissance Drama and the Long Shadows of Shakespeare and Print. Literature Compass, 8: 568–591.

Irvine, Dr. Martin. “Remix and the Dialogic Engine of Culture: A Model for Generative Combinatoriality.” Abstract. The Routledge Companion to Remix Studies(n.d.): n. pag. Print.

Iyer, Vijay, and Paul D. Miller. “Improvising Digital Culture.” N.p., n.d. Web. 28 May 2013.

Kastan, David Scott. “From Codex to Computer; Or, Presence of Mind.” Shakespeare and the Book. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge UP, 2001. 78-92. Print.

Lamb, Charles, and Mary Lamb. Tales from Shakespeare: For the Use of Young Persons, with an Introductory Sketch. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1894. Print.

Lessig, Lawrence. Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy. New York: Penguin, 2009. Print.

“Mission Statement.” Common Core State Standards Initiative. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 June 2013. <>

Navas, Eduardo. “Remix Theory » Remix Defined.” Remix Theory RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 May 2013.

Navas, Eduardo. Remix Theory: The Aesthetics of Sampling. Wien: Springer, Web. 13 Nov. 2013. <>.

Shakespeare, William, G. Blakemore Evans, and J. J. M. Tobin. The Riverside Shakespeare. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997. Print.

“The Improvised Shakespeare Company: About.” The Improvised Shakespeare Company: About. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 May 2013.

William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet. Dir. Baz Luhrmann. By Craig Pearce. Perf. Leonardo DiCaprio, Claire Danes, Jesse Bradford, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Brian Dennehy, John Leguizamo, Miriam Margolyes, Harold Perrineau, Christina Pickles, Pete Postlethwaite, Paul Rudd, Paul Sorvino, Diane Venora, and M. Emmet Walsh. Released by Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp., 1996. DVD.

Data, Representation and Visualization

By Eric Cruet

I. Introduction

“Use a picture. It’s worth a thousand words.” Arthur Brisbane -1911

What constitutes an awesome visualization? Some think of it as flashy graphics, while others look for busy charts and colorful graphs.   A better general definition is one that provides a clear, visual frame to represent data, in a way that allows the observer to “see” a trend, outline, pattern, outlier, or other significant information which would otherwise been imperceptible to him by just looking at the source data.

Mediology is based on the differentiation of transmission and communication.  According to Regis Debray, to communicate means to transport information in a space within one and the same space-time-sphere.  To transmit means to transport information in time between different space-time-spheres. Communication is a moment in a longer process and a fragment of a larger whole, that we call transmission [1]. Based on Debray’s definition, visualization is a medium as opposed to a specific tool.  A tool generates bar charts and graphs.  A medium has the ability to communicate emotion, curiosity, activity, energy, and granularity.  For instance, the pictorial representations to scale of human anatomical components in Gray’s Anatomy have persevered the test of time, communicating the same information across generations of medical students globally.

Data is the basis of any visualization and as such, an abstraction of information and facts. The data set is a collection of snapshots of the desired data at one point in time and usually serves as the basis for the visualization.  Statistics are used to manipulate and analyze the set, since collectively, the data points in the set generate means, medians, and standard deviations.  But what is most important is the context associated with the data and the results, in other words, what they represent.  They translate into descriptions of people, places, and things that allow the comparison and contrast of specific items.  When you drill down on the data, you obtain individual details about members and objects of the population.  All of the above can be used to tell visual stories, and make data that usually look like columns and rows of numbers, human and relatable.

II. Data

When you ask most people what is data, they reply with a vague description usually related to a file, an application or numbers.  Some might mention spreadsheets or databases. These are all containers and formats that data comes in, but provide it very little context.  That’s where representation and visualization come in.

William Cleveland and Robert McGill are often cited for their work on perception and accuracy in statistics [2].  Elements like position, scale, and the use of scatterplots, followed by length, angle and then slope can be attributed to their work.  Edward Tufte is also credited with identifying some of the first basic rules of design.  But his most important rule was that “most principles of design should be greeted with some skepticism” [3].

Data is undergoing a paradigm shift.  There is more to the term “big data” than the quantity. Most of our institutions were established under the assumption that decisions would be made with information that was scarce, exact, and causal in nature.  This situation is changing rapidly now that amounts of data are huge, can be quickly processed, and some degree of uncertainty is acceptable [4].  In certain operating scenarios, correlations are more important than causality.  Most importantly, many times we are interested in data streams, as opposed to data snapshots.

So the type, source and volume of data influences the way information is represented, communicated and visualized.  The following example contains statistical data for traffic fatalities [5] in the US in a chart format:

This is the basic table containing the source data.  In order for it to tell us more than just counts of fatalities, a process of representation and visualization needs to take place.  This entails the application of computational methods, good design principles, some basic rules about art layout, color, and the use of templates, and decisions about the level of granularity for the type of information you wish to relay.


III. Representation

There is value in looking at data beyond the mean, median, or total because these measurements only tell part of the story.  Many times, aggregates or values around the middle of the distribution hide the interesting details that really need focus for decision making or illustrative purposes.

Outliers which stand outside of the centrally situated values could also be needing attention. Changes over time sometimes indicate that something positive (or negative) is happening (or about to happen) in the system under observation.  Regular occurrences or patterns could help you anticipate future events and granularity can be adjusted depending on variability. The graph below [10] is an example of a creative representation of the data table in the previous section:

Although these are snapshots, they provide a different perspective on the the same data by communicating alternative information.  One glance at the chart tells you that traffic fatalities have decreased substantially over time.  Key milestones are listed by year of significance.  It’s a different take on what could be a boring line chart.

Finally, a poster[10] drilling down into a comparison of traffic vs. total fatalities data for 2008 – 2009:

The poster format is well suited for this type of information.  It utilizes a variety of graphs and charts to represent data.  It summarizes the information well and has a good level of detail.  The use of color is appropriate and the shapes and sizes complement each other.

When you look at these representations, they look much better than columns and rows of statistics one after the other.

IV. Visualization

Visualization has been around for centuries, but it is relatively new as a field of study.  Even the experts in the field have not settled on what exactly comprises it.  One of the topics of debate is: when and where does visualization become art?

The answers to these questions vary depending on whom you ask.  But rather than think of the field as composed of disparate categories that work independently from others, it is better thought of as a continuous spectrum that stretches from statistics to data art [9].  Although you can find examples at each extreme, most of what you commonly see is a mixture of both.  Where there is a balance of statistics, design, and aesthetics is most likely that you will find the best examples of visualization work.

My post in Week 1 deals with mapping large scales of change.  Much of mankind’s preoccupation has been with changes in the sciences, technology, sociology and economics.  More recently, the concern has shifted to variations in climate, global financial states, the effect of technology on society, and the increasing use of unlawful violence intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies i.e terrorism.

Traditionally, network, graph, and cluster analysis are the mathematical tools used to understand specific instances of the data generated by these scenarios at a given point in time. But without methods to distinguish between real patterns and statistical error, which can be significant in large data sets, these approaches may not be ideal for studying change.  Also, patterns and trends can be better ascertained by observing behaviour over time, as opposed to at a specific point in time. By looking at a time series and assigning weights to individual networks, we can determine meaningful structural differences vs. random fluctuations [2].

In the follow up post in Week 2, the unique, clever use of alluvial diagrams [2] by M. Rosvall and C. T. Bergstrom in their research entitled “Mapping change in large networks”, is a good example of how accurate statistics, good design, and simple artwork can reveal interesting, otherwise, hidden patterns in the data.  Using bibliometrics, which utilizes quantitative analysis and statistics to find patterns of publication within a given field or body of literature, they tracked citation patterns among scientific journals.  This allowed them to map idea flows and how the flow of ideas influenced changes in the science disciplines over time.  The resulting diagram and link to the research can be found below:


Just at a glance, what is evident from the “picture” is the fact that from 2000 – 2010, the neurosciences emerged as a new “discipline” from the fields of neurology and molecular and cell biology.  In this case the visualization served as the data analysis tool revealing the changes that the research hypotheses was trying to uncover. 

Along the lines of using visualization as a data analysis tool, the collaboration team of Fernanda Viégas and Martin Wattenberg, (at have invented artistic, creative ways of using visualization to express data.  Although they have a suite of impressive examples at their site, history flow is a tool that allows you to explore the history of any Wikipedia entry over time.

As shown below, the visual looks like an inverted stacked area chart where each layer reprpesents a body of text.  As time passes, new layers are added or removed and you can see the change in overall size via the total vertical height of the full stack:

The image above is the diagram for the wiki article on abortion. The black gashes show points where the article has been deleted and replaced with offensive comments. This type of vandalism turns out to be common on controversial articles.  The authors performed statistical analysis in 2003 to investigate the issue of online vandalism [6], and discovered that the median lifetime of certain types of vandalism is measured in minutes.  This is an alternate use of the alluvial diagram   shown previously, but in a different context.  Whereas in the previous case it was mapping changes in science, in this instance it is mapping changes to the bodies of text in Wikipedia articles.

Another great example of using visualization as a tool is this wind map, which provides a living portrait of the wind currents over the U.S.  Clicking on the map will take you to the real time instance.  Check it out:

Finally, researchers in cognitive science are using Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI), an MRI-based neuroimaging technique which makes it possible to visualize the location, orientation, and anisotropy of the brain’s white matter tracts.  Once they have a suitable group of sample volunteers, they test for neuropsychological factors such as general cognition, memory and information processing speed.  In addition, metrics such as fiber counts, length, diffusion rate, and diffusion anisotropy are statistically correlated to support the data.  The statistical relationship to age is usually modeled using a linear regression.  The fiber’s direction is indicated by the tensor’s main eigenvector. This vector can be color-coded, yielding a cartography of the tracts’ position, direction (red for right-left, blue for foot-head, green for anterior-posterior), and anisotropy (as indicated by the tract’s brightness).  In the following study, the researchers provide a visual assessment of the white matter maturation for 80 subjects of distint ages [7]:


This image illustrates the significant age related differences between tract-based bundles in the brain.  Red and blue indicate negative and positive correlation respectively.




This diagram shows the significant age related effects in connectivity based bundles.  Red and blue indicate negative and positive correlation, respectively.  Light gray connections had no significant effects, and the higher the saturation in the color, the more significant the age related effect in the result.  The population average bundle volume (sum of fiber lengths) is mapped to cord thickness.  Total bundle volume of each grey matter region is mapped proportionately to arc length.

Key: L=Left, R=Right, F=Frontal, T=Temporal, P=Parietal, O=Occipital, S=Subcortical

In closing these DTI scans can also derive neural tract directional information from the data using 3D or multidimensional vector algorithms based on six or more gradient directions, sufficient to compute the diffusion tensor. The diffusion model is a rather simple model of the diffusion process, assuming homogeneity and linearity of the diffusion within each image voxel. From the diffusion tensor, diffusion anisotropy measures such as the fractional anisotropy (FA), can be computed. Moreover, the principal direction of the diffusion tensor can be used to infer the white-matter connectivity of the brain (i.e. tractography; trying to see which part of the brain is connected to which other part).  Here’s a video clip on 3D DTI:


V. Interpretations

The intention of visualization is to communicate results to a wider audience.  Imagine you are a tour guide.  Put yourself in the tourist’s position.  You’re on a tour of a city where historic events have occurred over centuries.  What would the tourist want out of the tour?  He wants to know about when and where key events happened, who the main characters were, and why the buildings have particular shapes or colors.  All tour guides have their own personality, but they should stay on course and on the subject that the tourist paid to hear about.  Above all else, the tourist wants the guide to be factual and truthful in his account of events.  If he doesn’t know the answer to a question, he should be honest and say so.

As leading a tour of data through the use of visualization, presenters (or representers) should assume similar responsibilities.  It’s your duty to point out key highlights, background info, stay focused, and eliminate confusion.  Always aim your content at your target audience, and remember, speak the truth and nothing but the truth.

“The naked truth is always better than the best dressed lie”

Ann Landers (1918 – 2002) 

Appendix A: 3D Visualizations – Follows References Section


[1] Debray, Régis “Qu’est-ce que la médiologie?” Trans. Martin Irvine. Le Monde Diplomatique, August 1999, p32.

[2] Cleveland, W. S., & McGill, R. (1984). Graphical perception: Theory, experimentation, and application to the development of graphical methods.Journal of the American Statistical Association79(387), 531-554.

[3] Tufte, E. R., & Graves-Morris, P. R. (1983). The visual display of quantitative information (Vol. 2). Cheshire, CT: Graphics press.

[4] Mayer-Schönberger, V., & Cukier, K. (2013). Big Data: A Revolution that Will Transform how We Live, Work, and Think. Eamon Dolan/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.


[5] Rosvall, M., & Bergstrom, C. T. (2010). Mapping change in large networks. PloS one5(1), e8694.

[6] Viégas, F. B., Wattenberg, M., & Dave, K. (2004, April). Studying cooperation and conflict between authors with history flow visualizations. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human factors in computing systems (pp. 575-582). ACM.

[7] Cabeen, R. P., Bastin, M. E., & Laidlaw, D. H. (2013). A Diffusion MRI Resource of 80 Age-varied Subjects with Neuropsychological and Demographic Measures. ISMRM.


[9] Yau, N. (2013). Data Points: Visualization That Means Something. John Wiley & Sons.


Appendix A: 3D Visualizations 

Diffusion spectrum imaging [8], developed by neuroscientist Van Wedeen at Massachusetts General Hospital, analyzes magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data in new ways, letting scientists map the nerve fibers that carry information between cells. This image, generated from a living human brain, shows a reconstruction of the entire brain The red fibers in the middle and lower left are part of the corpus callosum, which connects the two halves of the brain.

This image, generated from a living human brain, shows a subset of fibers. The red fibers in the middle and lower left are part of the corpus callosum, which connects the two halves of the brain.

Mapping Diffusion

Neural fibers in the brain are too tiny to image directly, so scientists map them by measuring the diffusion of water molecules along their length. The scientists first break the MRI image into “voxels,” or three-dimensional pixels, and calculate the speed at which water is moving through each voxel in every direction. Those data are represented here as peanut-shaped blobs. From each shape, the researchers can infer the most likely path of the various nerve fibers (red and blue lines) passing through that spot.

This image is the isolated optic tract, which relays visual signals from the eyes to the visual cortex, from the brain of an owl monkey. The blue lines at lower right represent nerve fibers connecting the eyes to the lateral geniculate nucleus (marked by the white ball), a pea-size ball of neurons that acts as a relay station for visual information. Those signals are then sent to the visual cortex, at the back of the head, via the blue and purple fibers that arc across the brain.


Edited on Microsoft Surface RT

Final Essay: The Google Art Project, A Virtual Museum

Arielle Orem 


Engineers and developers are constantly trying to innovate ways to bridge the gap between physical space (reality) and virtual space (virtual reality).  Overcoming this divide is also becoming increasingly of interest to museum professionals as they seek to “join up the museum experience with the online experience, taking the museum beyond the boundaries of the physical building and allowing online visitors into the museum” (Patten). In his essay “Web Lab – bridging the divide between the online and in-museum experience, Dave Patten, Head of New Media at the Science Museum London, describes the current Web Lab exhibition consisting of five Google Chrome experiments: Lab Tag Explorer, Universal Orchestra, Teleporters, Sketchbots, and Data Tracer. The exhibition utilizes several types of technology to bridge the gap, including streaming video feeds from web cameras inside the physical museum, HTML5 and advanced browser capabilities, and robotics to visually represent data. “For example, [visitors] can see how the Data Tracer experiment uses WebGI to generate the 3D map they fly through when following their image search” (Patten).

The Lab Tag Explorer Experiment is made up of several parts: the Lab Tag dispenser, the Lab Tag writer, and the Lab Tag Explorer. When you “enter” the exhibition (both online and in the physical museum), you are assigned a Lab Tag, a unique identifier which is used to mark your presence within the exhibition; the Lab Tag also allows you to capture and store information that you wish to return to later. In the physical museum,guests receive a Lab Tag by visiting the Lab Tag dispenser; Lab Tags are automatically assigned by the browser for online visitors. According to Patten:

“[The Lab Tag Writer] carries the title of the exhibition and a real-time count of the number of users who are currently online in Web Lab… The effect is to help draw physical visitors down to the exhibition and at the same time make them aware they are joining something… The key aims of the Lab Tag Writer are to help physical visitors understand they are about to enter an exhibition that is already being used by lots of people online, and to help them understand the global nature of Web Lab.”  

The Lab Tag Explorer emphasizes the globally-networked nature of the exhibition by allowing users to save and review their own Web Lab creative projects and share their projects creations through their existing social media networks. Visitors can also view other visitors’ projects.

Each of the other four experiments -Universal Orchestra, Teleporters, Sketchbots, and Data Tracer-  reinforce this same central theme: “[museum visitors] are sharing Web Lab with visitors from around the world” (Patten). The Web Lab exhibition explores ways in which museums can integrate physical and virtual museum spaces.

Google, an integral contributor to the Web Lab project, has taken it’s own approach to joining together the physical and virtual worlds through the Google Cultural Institute, which includes the Google Art Project (GAP). The GAP bridges the gap by creating a virtual museum, partnering with physical museums across the world to bring art objects to a global audience. This essay examines the extension of the museum into the virtual space using the Google Art Project as a case study.

Background: Understanding the Museum Space

In order to understand the significance of the GAP and its implications for contemporary art, museums, and culture, it is important to discuss the history of the museum as an institution and an industry. In the past, the museum has been considered as a type of sacred space where cultural knowledge is produced. Within that space, museums acted as thought leaders, framing the conversations about art objects, art history, and contemporary culture.

Sacred Authority of Museum Space

Critical of the discourse of modernity offered by twentieth century scholars, Michael Foucault  sought to present a more precise description of his own unique historical moment. In 1967, Foucault delivered a lecture (which was later published as Of Other Spaces in 1984) on the importance of spaces and the ways in which space is considered and discussed. In the past, there were clear distinctions between spaces, a “hierarchical ensemble of places: sacred places and profane places; protected places and open, exposed places; urban places and rural places… It was this complete hierarchy, this opposition, this intersection of places that constituted what could very roughly be called medieval spaces: the space of emplacement” (Foucault, 372). Foucault acknowledges that these separations still exist to some extent, but – recognizing the increasing interconnected, yet often contradictory, nature of contemporary society – suggests two new primary types of spaces: utopias and heterotopias.

“Utopias are sites with no real places. They are sites that have a general relation of direct of inverted analogy with the real space of Society. They present society itself in a perfected form, or else society turned upside down, but in any case these utopias are fundamentally unreal spaces.” (Foucault, 374)

 ”[Heterotopias] are something like counter-sites, a kind of effectively enacted utopia in which the real sites, all the other real sites that can be found within the culture, are simultaneously represented, contested, and inverted. Places of this kind are outside of all places, even though it may be possible to indicate their location in reality.” (Foucault, 374)

Foucault  concerns himself primarily with heterotopias and goes on to describe five main principles of heterotopias:

  1. Heterotopias exist in all societies (Foucault, 375)
  2. Over time, societies can change the function of existing heterotopias (Foucault, 375)
  3. Heterotopias are “capable of juxtaposing in a single real place several sites that are in themselves incompatible” (Foucault, 376)
  4. “Heterotopias are most often linked to slices in time” which can be either accumulating or fleeting (Foucault, 377)
  5. Heterotopias are “not freely accessible like a public space… to get in one must have certain permission and make certain gestures” (Foucault, 378)

These principles can be applied to understanding the museum as a heterotopic space. For this discussion, I am using “museum” to mean an institution that collects works of art and displays them for the edification of audiences. As such, “museums” have existed in all societies although they were sometimes known by different names – churches, universities, or private domestic collections. Over time, these “museums” were transformed into the institutions we recognize today as museums; we are now witnessing the next transformation of these institutions as they transition into the digital world through projects like the GAP. The Google Art Project can be considered as a type of heterotopic space, operating as a virtual museum; this topic is discussed in greater detail in later in this essay.

From Sacred to Secular: The Loss of Aura through Reproduction

In his “Introduction to Museum Without Walls,” Andre Malraux discusses the history of museums and their transition to the type of institution that we recognize as a museum today. The discourse surrounding museums changed as the museum transitioned into a new type of institution; additionally, new discourse was created by these new institutions – the discourse of art history. Malraux argues that museums “are so much a part of our lives today that we forget they have imposed on the spectator a wholly new attitude toward the work of art; they have tended to estrange the works they bring together from their original functions and to transform even portraits into pictures” (Malraux, 386). The separation of the artwork from its origin echoes Walter Benjamin’s ideas about the loss of aura.

Benjamin, in “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” (1936), was concerned with the impact that mechanical reproductive technologies would have on art, arguing that there was a shift in emphasis from cult value to exhibition value. In contemporary culture it is more important for a work of art to be seen by many and be well-recognized (requiring numerous reproductions in exhibition catalogs, promotional media, etc…) than to be held in high regard by an elite, esteemed few. Aware of the importance of attracting large audiences, curators seek out works of art that are entertaining or shocking; this influences many artists to produce a very specific type of work and limits creativity.

Benjamin also discusses the implications of technology on art and society, tracing the transition of art from a cult(ural) object created for the contemplative few to a political object distributed to the masses. Authenticity and the concept of “an original” are integral to Benjamin’s argument: “The authenticity of a thing is the essence of all that is transmissible from its beginning, ranging from its substantive duration to its testimony to the history which it has experienced.”  Benjamin attributes a sense of authority to authentic artworks, saying, “that which withers in the age of mechanical reproduction is the aura of the work of art.”

Foucault also confronts the impact that the contemporary museum has had on art and literature in his essay “Fantasia of the Library” (1977). He says: “Dejeuner sur l’Herbe and Olympia [by Manet] were perhaps the first ‘museum’ paintings, the first paintings in European art that were less a response to the achievement of Giorgione, Raphael, and Velasquez than an acknowledgement… of the new and substantial relationship of painting to itself, as a manifestation of the existence of museums and the particular reality and interdependence that paintings acquire in museums” (Crimp, 47). Manet became famous during the modern era for using his artwork to point out the relationship between a painting and its sources; for example, Manet’s Olympia remixes Titian’s Venus of Urbino. Contemporary, post-modern artists continue this trend using reproductive technologies; this is the topic of Douglas Crimp’s essay “On the Museum’s Ruins” (1980). Crimp uses Rauschenberg as an example of a postmodern artist.  In his artwork Crocus (1962), Rauschenberg remixes Manet’s work by simply silkscreening photographs of Olympia onto a canvas, juxtaposed with images of trucks, helicopters, and insects. Artists are aware of the “estrangement” that takes place when a work of art enters the museum and are expressing their reactions to this phenomenon in their artistic creations.

Changing Perceptions of Space: Re-mediating the Museum

As Benjamin points out, mechanical reproductions of artworks alter perceptions of space/place/time and can often reveal things about the original that were not visible or noticed with the naked eye. Reproductions also allow for greater audiences to experience a version of the original that would not be possible otherwise. Malraux is primarily concerned with the use of photography to reproduce art and, by extension, re-mediate real space. Through photography, Malraux argues that “a museum without walls has been opened to us, and it will carry infinitely further that limited revelation of the world of art which the real museums offer us within their walls; in answer to their appeal, the plastic arts have produced their printing press” (Malraux, 371). I think that digital technologies allow this “museum without walls” to expand exponentially by re-mediating the museum.

In Remediation: Understanding New Media (2000), Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin argue that “new media are doing exactly what their predecessors have done: presenting themselves as refashioned and improved versions of other media… what is new about new media comes from the particular ways in which they refashion older media and the ways in which older media refashion themselves to answer the challenges of new media” (14-15). Virtual museums projects could be considered a remediation of the traditional museum.

Bolter and Grusin identify the “double logic of remediation;” that is, “our culture’s [desire] both to multiply its media and to erase all traces of mediation” (5). This double logic rests on two main principles: immediacy and hypermediacy. “Immediacy dictates that the medium itself should disappear and leave us in the presence of the thing represented: sitting in the race car or standing on a mountaintop” (Bolter and Grusin, 6). As the authors point out, this aspect of remediation is not a novel invention brought about by digital media; painting, photography, and computer systems for virtual reality all “seek to put the viewer in the same space as the objects viewed” (Bolter and Grusin, 11). Hypermediacy works in opposition to immediacy, revealing the mediation by combining multiple forms of media into a single media object; “hypermediated forms ask us to take pleasure in the act of mediation” (Bolter and Grusin, 14).

Immediacy can be understood by considering the ubiquity of the graphical user interface (GUI). “Immediacy is meant to make the computer interface ‘natural’ rather than arbitrary… the desktop metaphor, which has replaced the wholly textual command-line interface, is supposed to assimilate the computer to the physical desktop and to the materials (file folders, sheets of paper, inbox , trash basket, etc.) familiar to office workers. The mouse and pen-based interface allow the user the immediacy of touching, dragging, and manipulating visually attractive ideograms” (Bolter and Grusin, 23). The authors speculate about the emergence of three-dimensional versions of this interface; the Google Art Project fulfills this speculation.  The GAP offers a “museum view” allowing audiences to virtually navigate through the three-dimensional space of New York City’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). View “Starry Night” by Vincent Van Gogh in museum view here. Simply click on the area of the floor where you would like to move to and watch as your view changes to reflect your new location within the virtual space. The point of view presented in this virtual environment is meant to reproduce the view that museum visitors experience when standing in the physical gallery. The interface in this virtual environment strives to be as natural as possible, simply pointing and clicking in the direction you desire to move and selecting icons to view information about the artworks displayed.

The authors contrast immediacy with hypermediacy, saying: “In digital technology, as often in the earlier history of Western representation, hypermediacy expresses itself as mutliplicity.  If the logic of immediacy leads one either to erase or to render automatic the act of representation, the logic of hypermediacy acknowledges multiple acts of representation and makes them visible. Where immediacy suggests a unified visual space, contemporary hypermediacy offers a heterogeneous space, in which representation is conceived of not as a window on to the world, but rather as “windowed” itself — with windows that open on to other representations or other media. The logic of hypermediacy multiplies the signs of mediation and in this way tries to reproduce the rich sensorium of human experience…. Hypermedia makes us aware of the medium or media and… reminds us of our desire for immediacy.” (Bolter and Grusin, 34)

 The Google Art Project: A Virtual Museum

Virtual Museum as Heterotopic Space

When considered as a digital museum, the Google Art Project reveals many of Foucault’s characteristics for a “heterotopia.” The GAP is able to juxtapose in a single virtual space many works of art from across the world which could not otherwise be viewed in one collection, confounding our understanding of space. Museums, both the brick-and-mortar and the virtual versions, accumulate works of art from across the decades (and often centuries), altering our understanding of time. Finally, museums – especially virtual ones – are not accessible to everyone, despite their open appearance and mission to serve the public. Audiences of virtual museums must have access to the technology required to view the artwork, including a computer and high-speed internet access, just as audiences of more traditional museums must have the leisure time to visit the museum. Furthermore, in order to fully participate in the museum, both types of audiences must have some amount of training in how to view the works of art and discuss them.

User-Controlled Exploration of Space

The Google Art Project provides a platform for viewing high-resolution reproductions of famous works of art from around the globe. Viewers are often presented with flattened images of multi-dimensional artworks, for example this mural of Anthony and Cleopatra by Rene Antoine Houasse. Painted in 1860 in the ceiling of the Venus Salon at the Palace of Versailles in France, the GAP image erases the context of the painting and alters the viewers perceptions of space and place. The image as it appears on your computer screen can vary somewhat in size, but it cannot accurately match the nearly 10-foot wide and 7-foot high original painting.

Additionally, viewers can zoom in on sections of interest, In his article, Benjamin uses the medicinal metaphor of a magician and a surgeon to describe change in relationship between the artwork and the audience. “The magician heals a sick person by the laying on of hands; the surgeon cuts into the patient’s body. The magician maintains the natural distance between the patient and himself….he greatly increases [this distance] by virtue of his authority. The surgeon does exactly the reverse; he greatly diminishes the distance between himself and the patient by penetrating into the patient’s body.” Traditional artwork such as ceiling murals at Versailles are the work of the magician, maintaining the distance and authority of the original artwork.  The virtual reproduction of Anthony and Cleopatra allows the viewer to use the zoom tool as a scalpel, mimicking the surgeon and cutting into the artwork.

Finally, the Google Art Project expands the reach of the original artwork by providing a digital reproduction that is accessible to viewers around the world through the internet. In the past, technical reproductions relied on creating large quantities of copies to reach such a large audience, so much that Benjamin suggested that “quantity has been transmuted into quality.” The GAP seems to offer a digital reproduction with the goal of preserving a sense of authenticity rather than destroying it.  As museums agree to grant Google with unique access to reproduce and distribute its artworks as high-res images, it is likely that these images will come to complement – and, in some cases where great geographic distances prohibit an immediate physical experience, stand in for – the original artwork. The GAP offers universal access (substituting quantity) to quality reproductions of revered works of art.

Remediating the Museum

The Google Art Project’s museum view provides an excellent example of the immediacy of new media. The GAP’s museum view also exhibits qualities of hypermediacy. Look again at the museum view of MoMA. Notice that in the new tab that opens, the window is split into several sections. Across the top is a menu with hyperlinks to important pages and information, beneath which is the page header with the title of the artwork, the author’s name, and the date of creation. The main portion of the window is split into three sections: a map of the museum floor plan on the left, an icon toolbar in the center, and a three-dimensional virtual interface on the right. The footer includes yet another menu with hyperlinked information.  This one window displays several types of media: text, hypertext, digital graphics, and 3-D virtual reality. Each medium is represented in a way that reflects our cultural desire for immediacy, encouraging us to interact with the digital environment in a natural way. The hypermediacy of the environment is revealed when we consider the entire window, the sum of these media into a single media object (the window interface). No effort is made to conceal the media, but rather to organize it in a way that is functional and visually appealing; audiences are aware of the media represented within the window.

Under Remediation: Maintaining Continuity of the Museum Mission 

In her CCT thesis project “Mediating the Museum: Investigating Institutional Goals in Physical and Digital Space” (2012), Alicia M. Dillon examines how three major museums have approached the internet as a tool for expanding their missions: The Whitney Museum of American Art, The Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles, and The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Drawing on Bourdieu’s theory of cultural capital and Malraux’s and Crimp’s commentaries on contemporary museums, Dillon asserts that – compared with physical spaces – “the museum website is an equally potent space for communicating a museum’s message” (9). Citing Bolter and Grusin’s theory on remediation, Dillon’s research takes “a close look at both the walls of the museum, the online space, as well as their shared object (the work of art) to highlight the complications of the art museum’s dual architecture in the 21st century” (10). Ultimately, Dillon argues that “understanding the [physical and virtual] spaces as equal but distinct is imperative for art museum’s ability to maximize their public image” (10).

Dillon’s case study of the Hirshhorn Museum lends itself to this analysis of the GAP because the museum is part of the Smithsonian Institution. Although the Hirshhorn has not yet elected to participate in the Google Art Project, several other museums within the Smithsonian have contributed to the project (The American Art Museum, and The Freer and Sackler Galleries). As Dillon points out in her thesis:

“The Hirshhorn is assigned symbolic power through both the Smithsonian Institution as well as its location on the National Mall. This is extended to its online URL through the <.si> extension. Its <.edu> extension signifies the institution’s primarily educational narrative.” (115)

The messages communicated by the architecture of the museum’s virtual space complement the architecture of the museum’s physical space to create seamless brand-continuity. A similar statement could be made about The American Art Museum and The Freer and Sackler Galleries. In future research, it will be important to explore the impact participation in the Google Art Project might have on each museum’s brand. Art objects shared with audiences through the project no longer reside in an <> extension, but rather at a <.com> – owned by one of the world’s largest corporations, no less. Many questions on this topic must be examined, including: What are the implications of this structural shift on the message being communicated? Does the Google Art Project have a mission of its own? If so, how does the project’s mission confirm or complicate the mission of each partnering institution? Does partnering with Google impact the museum’s brand? What does the museum sacrifice by using the Google Art Project rather than creating its own platform to share its art objects with global audiences? What benefits do partnering museums receive? Answering these questions could provide both museums and audiences with more critical perspectives on participation in the GAP.

Making Art Available to All through the Museum Commons 

Dillon understands the virtual space as an extension of the physical museum space, another avenue for accomplishing the mission of the museum. In its simple mission statement, the Smithsonian Institute aims to accomplish “the increase and diffusion of knowledge.”  An important step in carrying out this mission is to increase public access to art objects; one strategy for accomplishing this is through a museum commons, a type of virtual museum.

New York Times article “Online, It’s the Mouse That Runs the Museum (2010), Alex Wright discusses how museums are using new technologies to explore new strategies for building collections, inspiring creativity, and facilitating learning. Wright describes how the National September 11 Museum and Memorial crowdsourced the task of building its collection. In a similar way, The Museum of the History of Polish Jews utilized social media sites such as Youtube, Flickr, and Facebook to obtain content for it’s Virtual Shtetl project.

Wright also points to the idea of a museum commons, citing the Smithsonian Institution as a case study: “That institution recently began an ambitious initiative called the Smithsonian Commons to develop technologies and licensing agreements that would let visitors download, share and remix the museum’s vast collection of public domain assets. Using the new tools, Web users should be able to annotate images, create personalized views of the collection and export fully licensed images for use on their own Web sites or elsewhere.” Unfortunately, I was unable to find a functioning commons site for the Smithsonian; it seems this project is still in development. Wright quotes Michael Edson, the Smithsonian’s New Media Directors, “described the initiative as a step in the institution’s larger mission to shift ‘from an authority-centric broadcast platform to one that recognizes the importance of distributive knowledge creation’.”

In future research, I am interested to compare how the proposed Smithsonian Commons might function similarly to the Google Art Project (which the several of the Smithsonian Museums participate in) – both would allow increased public access to art objects and encourage participatory learning through a user-guided experience. What are the unique qualities of each project and how do they complement or compete with one another? For example, the Smithsonian Commons would make art objects available for use with attribution, encouraging creativity and remix – a feature that is lacking in the current Google Art Project. Google’s advanced platform and global presence encourages the participation of many institutions, increasing the database of art objects available to audiences. Is it important for the Smithsonian to host it’s own platform as part of its brand continuity?  How do these qualities weigh against each other?

Facilitating Learning through the Virtual Museum

The virtual museum can provide more than just increased public access to artworks, it can facilitate learning. In “Exploring Gigapixel Image Environments for Science Communication and Learning in Museums, (2013) Ahmed Ansari, Illah Nourbakhsh, Marti Louw, and Chris Bartley describe the Stories in the Rock exhibit – a collaborative project between the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Carnegie Mellon University, and the University of Pittsburgh. Stories in the Rock uses zoomable user interfaces (ZUIs) to “offer a spatial way to display and organize large amounts of information in a single interface using scroll, pan, and zoom controls; text, images, graphics, audio, and video can be embedded at spatial locations and zoom levels within an image, creating localized sites for commenting and conversation” (Ansari et al.). The authors identify the challenge addressed by this project: “how to develop intuitive interaction spaces that cater to disparate types of users, giving them deeper agency and choice in how to move through content in ways that are personally relevant and support coherent meaning making.”

The article identifies five “promising affordances” of gigapixel image-based platforms:

1.“Deep looking and noticing in a shared observational space.” The authors cite Nancy Proctor, Digital Editor and Head of Mobile Strategy & Initiatives at the Smithsonian Institution, as she describes in her discussion of the Google Art Project, “the gigapixel scans by which artworks are rendered into digital data streams are enabling intimate encounters with images at visual depths not possible even in the galleries.”

2.“Democratizing a tool of science.” According to Ansari et al “Websites like and invite gigapixel image makers from all over the world to upload their content to be viewed, annotated, geolocated, commented on, and shared globally. This affordance is not utilized by the Google Art Project, preserving the role of museum curators as gatekeepers. Museum professionals maintain the most traditional “curating” role by continuing to select which pieces will be available for public view rather than allowing users to add their own gigapixel images of artworks which they find interesting. While many of the “old masters” are owned by museum and therefore must be included through the museum, many new forms of contemporary art could be considered “open source” – such as graffiti art and street art – and could easily be captured and uploaded by users.

3.”Encouraging participatory learning.” While some could argue that the Google Art Project does encourage audience participation in the creation of knowledge by allowing users to guide their own experience, there is great room for improvement in this category. Ansari et al use the North Carolina State University Insect Museum  as a case study to demonstrate how “museum scientists and users could interact and have conversational exchanges about insect biology.” Currently, the Google Art Project does not allow for users to annotate artworks; adding this feature would facilitate conversations and the collaborative creation of new knowledge.

4.”Offering new visuospatial ways to curate collections and environments.” The authors citeThe Nature Valley Trail View as a case study, “enabling users to virtually explore and walk along trails at the Grand Canyon, Great Smoky Mountains and Yellowstone National Parks… along the way contextual “call outs” provide additional, interactive media overlays for a more dynamic experience.” Google Art Project offers a similar experience through its “museum view” available for many of the participating institutions. The screen capture below shows two “call outs” with information about the sculptures on display and their artists.


Musee d'Orsay in Google Art Project's "Museum View"

First floor of the Musee d’Orsay in Google Art Project’s “Museum View”


5.”Enabling context-dependent annotations and mediation.” Ansari et al cite the website for Canadian design firm Castor as an example of how “embedded information can be revealed depending on user interactions and locations within a three-dimensional space, dynamically tying information to user exploration.” Currently, Google Art Project is not making use of this technology. In order to do so, Google would need to encourage curators to include “call outs” on individual aspects of each work of art which appear as the user zooms in on a particular section of the artwork; this approach would still allow users to guide their own experience and select only information that is of interest to them, while providing some structure to aid the learning environment. Such an approach would “help museum visitors notice details, pick out salient features, and make personal connections to topics of interest” (Ansari et al).

Evaluating the Virtual Museum as a Hypermedia Learning Environment

In Multimedia for Learning: Methods and Development (2001), Stephen Alessi and Stanley Trollip identify several types of hypermedia learning environments (including “the museum”) sharing three essential features:

  1. “A database of information
  2. Multiple methods of navigation, including hyperlinks
  3. Multiple media (e.g., text, audio, video) for presentation of the information” (142)

Focusing on the database of information as the foundation for the hypermedia learning environment, Alessi and Trollip examine several key factors: “media types, size and organization of the database, resolution, modifiability, visible and internal structure, platform independence, and language independence” (150). These factors provide useful tools for examining the Google Art Project’s database of information.

The Google Art Project uses several media types including text, still pictoral images, and zoomable gigapixel images. The project features images of a vast range of art objects; the hypermedia learning environment offers a way for learners to make sense of this large database. The authors argue that “the size of the database is important in that it should impact the design of navigation methods and features to support learning… the more content, the more important it is to provide a variety of flexible navigation features and to provide features to facilitate motivation, memory, comprehension, and other aspects of learning” (152). The Google Art Project database uses several methods of organization, including “collections,” “artists,” “artworks,” and “user galleries.” Using multiple organizational methods “can facilitate a learner’s efficiency and use of the database” (Alessi and Trollip, 152).High-resolution images are a point of pride for the Google Art Project, boasting gigapixel images for many of it’s shared art objects. Currently, the project does not offer users many options for modifiability. The GAP does not allow for users to annotate artworks; adding this feature would facilitate conversations and the collaborative creation of new knowledge. While users can save objects in their own “galleries” (essentially bookmarking artworks that are of particular personal interest) users are unable to add their own text (as the authors note: “the equivalent of marking marginal notes, underlining, and highlighting). It is impossible to evaluate the interaction of visible and internal structures because the internal structures of the project are not made available to the public. Because it is web-based, platform independence is not really an issue for the Google Art Project, though there are several similar issues to be considered: how well does the project perform when viewed in different browsers (Chrome, Internet Explorer, and Firefox) and how does it operation change when viewed through a touch-screen device as opposed to a traditional point-and-click navigation. As far as I can tell, the project does not allow for language independence; it seems that the site is only available in English. In future research, a more extensive evaluation of the virtual museum as a learning environment using Alessi and Trollop’s theories on instructional design could provide additional recommendations for improving the Google Art Project.


The Google Art Project can be considered as a digital museum, extending the physical space of the museum into the virtual space. The museums which participate in this project are taking advantage of Google’s platform to further their individual missions. In the case of the Smithsonian Institute, the GAP allows for the diffusion of artworks across the globe and the increase in knowledge about these art objects through the user-controlled learning environment. In the future, research should be conducted to examine how the remediation of the museum in the virtual space has challenged traditional museum practices within the physical museum space as well as the cultural implications of these challenges.


Alessi, Stephen M., and Stanley R. Trollop. Multimedia for Learning: Methods and Development. 3rd ed. Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 2001.

Ansari, Ahmed, Illah Nourbakhsh, Marti Louw, and Chris Bartley. “Exploring Gigapixel Image Environments for Science Communication and Learning in Museums.”  Paper presented at the annual conference of Museums and the Web, Portland, Oregon, April 17-20, 2013.

Benjamin, Walter. “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” Illuminations: Essays and Reflections. Edited by Hannah Arendt. Translated by Harry Zohn. New York: Schoken Books, 1969.

Bolter, Jay David, and Richard Grusin. Remediation: Understanding New Media. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2000.

Crimp, Douglas. “On the Museum’s Ruins.” October 13 (1980): 41-57.

Dillon,Alicia M. “Mediating the Museum: Investigating Institutional Goals in Physical and Digital Space.” MA Thesis; Communication, Culture, and Technology at Georgetown University; 2012.

Foucault, Michel. “Texts/Contexts: Of Other Spaces.” In Grasping the World: The Idea of the Museum. Edited by Donald Preziosi and Claire Farago. 371-379. Burlington  VT: Ashgate Pub., 2004. Originally published in Diacritics 16.1 (1986): 22-27.

Malraux, Andre. “Introduction to Museum without Walls.”  In Grasping the World: The Idea of the Museum. Edited by Donald Preziosi and Claire Farago. 368-371. Burlington  VT: Ashgate Pub., 2004. Originally published in Museum Without Walls. translated by Stuart Gilbert and Francis Price. 9-12. New Jersey: Doubleday, 1967.

Patten, Dave. “Web Lab- bridging the divide between the online and in-museum experience.” Paper presented at the annual conference of Museums and the Web, Portland, Oregon, April 17-20, 2013.

Wright, Alex. “Online, It’s the Mouse That Runs the Museum.” New York Times, January 19, 2010. 


Final Essay: Take Aways, Bibliography, Outcomes

Doing the Final Summation Essay

What Should I Get from the Summer Independent Study Research?

Framing Your Summation

Your final essay or project description can be shorter and different from a full research essay. I want you to do a synthesis of your readings and research threads, pulling together the main “take aways” from the readings and what you’ve learned. This is a good process because it directs your attention to summing up main points in your own descriptions, outlining the theory and methods you’ve encountered, and taking stock of what you’ve learned. It’s also good to mention new topics, ideas, approaches that have opened up for you, and what would be needed to do further work on the topic(s).

Bibliographic “Competence” as a Researcher

An important outcome for independent research on a new topic is getting a sense of the major bibliography in the field. What are the key texts, theories, state of research, approaches, and arguments that have defined the field (or intersection of fields in interdisciplinary studies)? This is the first step in doing serious research as graduate students and ongoing in your careers. This means that you have to know and be accountable for dealing with the works, statements, and accumulated research that defines a field. Building this is important for establishing your credibility when you write about a topic, and shows how you enter a longstanding conversation, debate, or research problem as a member of a research community. (We always enter a field midstream and have to find our way in the flow of accumulated knowledge and information.) Developing this marks your transition from student to member of a research community (though we never stop being students!). Developing your understanding of the major research and arguments in a field is also the first step in positioning your own argument(s) and research in the wider ongoing conversation of the field.

So, one important “take away” from your summer research should include your sense of the defining bibliography on the topic. Of course, you wouldn’t have time to read all the foundational books, articles, or other works, but you can develop a sense of what the leading people in the field are talking about, what they assume has been done in research and argument leading up to their own work. This can also help enormously in your orientation to the field and a preparation for further research and writing.  In practical terms, this means including a bibliography at the end of the summation essay, including texts/works that you have discovered are important but didn’t have time to get to. You can also frame parts of your summation as a review of the key works that have defined the field.

–Martin Irvine


Narratology: A Study of Narration, Structure, and History

Throughout this semester I’ve been trying to think through narratives, whether that is through different mediums, their constructs, or their application to certain genres. Historical narratives, especially historical fiction, are particularly interesting to me because they instill imagination and, in some cases, wish fulfillment, but also include real facts and can perpetuate knowledge of humans passed through generations. However, one of the major takeaways of this study has been that narrative itself is just a form, a method that can be transposed through different structures and modalities. It can be broken down much like linguistics or semiotics; there is a formula, or at least different variations on the formula. First I’m going to discuss narrative more generally, and the basic tenets of narrative, but I’m also going to look at narrative through the lens of the example of The Great Gatsby where it applies, but definitely in the context of a historical narrative and as an example of narrative remediation.


Narrative Markers

There are a couple of markers that denote that something is a narrative, depending, of course, on who you ask. One of the biggest markers of a narrative is the structure of having a beginning, a middle, and an end. Another big overlapping tenet is that narratives should impart some sort of meaning, as opposed to just chronologically telling a story. Chatman describes narrative in the structuralist vein by describing it as having two parts: story and discourse. The story is the chain of events, plus the existents, which are the characters, setting, or time period among other attributes. The discourse would be the means in which the content is communicated. Chatman described is as the “what” versus the “how” (Chatman). Another big tenet of narration, at least from Chatman’s perspective, is the importance of eventhood, characterhood, or settinghood to color in a narrative beyond just a meaningless string of occurrences. He describes it by showing a cartoon of just dots and lines that are animated, but when placed within a setting they are given more meaning and don’t need overt vocal narration to be understood. In his view, the structure provided the narration.

Another big commonality between the different thinkers on narration is the importance of a sense of time. Bordwell wrote that the narrative process is “the activity of selecting, arranging, and rendering story material in order to achieve specific time-bound effects on a perceiver” (xi). In this theory, narrative would be a chain of events with cause and effect relationships within a certain time and place (Bordwell and Thompson). Here, story and plot are separated similarly to how Chatman described the difference between story and discourse. However, taking it a step further, film narration also typically includes actions that happen offscreen or which are not explicitly explained within the film. A story would contain all of the sets of events in a narrative, whether or not they are explicitly presented or if they are inferred. But the plot is only what is visibly and audibly present the film, during the actual time period one physically watches the film. So what you see with your eyes is the plot, but the story might extend beyond that.

An example of the type of action that might happen offscreen is most apparent in a story about murder mystery. Typically the actual crime isn’t shown, the effects of it are shown and the film is about trying to solve the mystery or to figure out what happened. The Great Gatsby has a lot of examples of action that happened offscreen, and is dealt with in different ways depending on the adaptation. But one of the bigger mysteries is Gatsby’s background, which in some ways gets filled in for the audience, but in others is inferred. Also, Gatsby and Daisy’s past happen “offscreen” so to speak. This is a good example of a narrative not happening chronologically, which is another big tenet of narration. The use of flashbacks or inferred events differentiate a narration from a mere plot or chronicle, as it would be described in historical accounts. Therefore, if a person wanted to describe the plot of a movie, they would describe what happened on screen. To describe the story, however, they would describe any important tidbits that happened offscreen but were described or inferred – even from a time period before the story started.


Mediation and Audience Participation
Beyond the inferred off-screen action, there are other components to mediated stories that are external to the plot itself. Bordwell and Thompson refer to them as nondigetic elements, which include things like the credits, editing, or even music. The digesis, in this format, is the recounted story or story as a whole (Bordwell and Thompson). In the world of comics, the role of the audience is also included in inferring what happens “offscreen” through what McCloud calls “closure”. This means that the reader puts together what happens between different frames by extrapolating the action for themselves. McCloud talks a lot about the role of audience participation as sort of an integral part of narration, which seems to be an important question that is discussed with mediation. He says that in comics, the writer depends on the reader to decide for him or herself what happens between frames, and almost encourage different creative licensing to take place with the reader. He wants you to decide for yourself how some action happened, so he will just tell you what happened, but not necessarily how. From McCloud’s perspective, if you asked creators if they thought their stories were being interpreted exactly as they intended, only about 20% of creators would say yes. A lot of this comes from the way that different people would interpret the closure within a story; everyone fills in those gaps differently. Joanna Drucker explained what happened on the page itself as depiction, compared to what the audience perceives or fills in themselves, which she called representation (Drucker).

In comics and graphic novels, the sense of time is shown through the use of the gutter, or white space between blocks, as well as with the actual size of the boxes or through negative space. The dialogue itself sort of sets a tempo for the timing of the story because the time it would take to speak the words is generally how long a box with dialogue should last. But Scott McCloud wrote that it is easy for the reader to know where in time they are because the past and future are basically visible through their peripheral vision (McCloud). Unlike in a film or television show, the past isn’t reliant on audience memory; it’s right there on the page (104).

Drucker echoes some of McCloud’s theories on the role of the audience to impart messaging with graphic novels. She says that “We know that a lot of slippage occurs between the telling and the told. Not only is there not a one-to-one relation of signifier to signified in any sight system…but much of what occurs within the materiality of graphic works cannot be simply perceived as a mechanical device for unfolding a story” (40).

The role of mediation in regards to narrative is interesting because throughout the course of the semester I found that mediums themselves don’t change any sort of narrative structures. However, how narrations might be perceived or compared to one another can change with mediation. One of the primary ways that this is demonstrated is through the notion of immersion. With immersion, the audience becomes part of the story as much as possible. The goal is to have the medium fade into the background as much as possible. Digital media is thought to provide this in a more seamless way, then say, film, which was more seamless than, say, a book. Drucker said that film theorists posited that the primary identification with viewing a film was the situation of the viewing with the content coming in second. However, with modern movies and computer technology becoming so prevalanetly used in their creation, it’s easier for the audience to become immersed in a film. Drucker said, ”When we enter a fictional world, we do not merely ‘suspend’ a critical faculty; we also exercise a creative faculty. We do not suspend disbelief so much as we actively create belief. Because of our desire to experience immersion, we focus our attention on the enveloping world and we use our intelligence to reinforce rather than to question the reality of the experience” (110). She continued, “We bring our own cognitive, cultural, and psychological templates to every story as we assess the characters and anticipate the way the story is likely to go” (110).

With film, the technology is improving the amount of immersion. As Bolter and Grusin put it, “Filmmakers routinely spend tens of millions of dollars to film on location or to recreate period costumes and places in order to make their viewers feel as if they were ‘really’ there” (5). Murray shows that this kind of technology might even be better suited to portray narratives. “Decades before the invention of the motion picture camera, the prose fiction of the nineteenth century began to experiment with filmic techniques. We can catch glimpses of the coming cinema in Emily Bronte’s complex use of flashback, in Dickens’ crosscuts between intersecting stories, and in Tolstoy’s battlefield panoramas that dissolve into close-up vignettes of a single soldier. Though still bound to the printed page, storytellers were already striving toward juxtapositions that were easier to manage with images than with words” (29). Murray felt that older forms of media were already primed for current forms. But she continued, “Eventually all successful storytelling technologies become ‘transparent’: we lose consciousness of the medium and see neither print nor film but only the power of the story itself. If digital art reaches the same level of expressiveness as these older media, we will no longer concern ourselves with how we are receiving the information. We will only think about what truth it has told us about our lives” (26).

Narration and History

Hayden White writes about narration and history, and offered a lot of insight into what makes a historical account a narrative. Because in his view historians are under no obligation to write history as a narrative, and most don’t. In order to make a history into a narrative, there has be meaning, a beginning, middle, and end, and some cause and effect. Cause and effect are other major components to narrative theory. In some cases, an outside force might wreak havoc on the characters, which would then provide something for characters, who possess specific traits, to react to and to show how they might respond under certain circumstances. 

To think through some of the ideas of narration with history, and the structure as a whole, I want to go through the example of The Great Gatsby. This is by no means a special case, but a historical story that has been mediated through multiple forms and adaptations and that shines some light on some of these narration theories.

I recently watched the newest movie version, which Baz Luhrmann adapted this year. One of the first things that I noticed was the change in the way the narrator is inserted into the story. Nick Carraway, the narrator, is a part of the novel, as well, actively participating in the events. But in the movie, it starts with him in a sanitarium telling a doctor the entire story as a flashback. Another change in the basic structure is that a lot of the inferred information that the reader was meant to “close” for themselves in the novel was explicitly explained in the movie. This is true of some actual action and background information for the characters, and also for some of the symbolism of the book.

One of the most glaring attributes in the newest movie version is that it is a mediated version of the story, meant to almost reference the medium itself. The original movie version, filmed in the 1970s, was basically a straightforward film adaptation where jazz music played and the visual nature of the film was pretty static. In Luhrmann’s version, footage of the 1920s in black and white are shown alongside CGI shots of New York City; hip hop music replaces jazz music, but with all references still being to “jazz” while Jay-Z plays in the background.

Bolter and Grusin said “Sometimes hypermediacy has adopted a playful or subversive attitude, both acknowledging and undercutting the desire for immediacy” (34). In a lot of cases, this adaptation was overtly referencing what came before, sometimes with a kind of wink and a nudge that alludes to the mediation itself.

Bolter and Grusin talked about historical fiction films made in the 1990s which didn’t reference the books which they were adapting. Jane Austen film adaptations are still popular, and often follow the book and are costumed in historical costumes in realistic settings with no mention of the book on which it was based. In some views, that would ruin the immediacy. But Luhrmann’s Gatsby seemed to be overtly referencing the book, acknowledging that it’s a remake and that it’s pulling from other source material while sort of putting a new spin on the story. The most obvious way that this is portrayed is at the end of the film where it’s shown that Nick Carraway was writing the story as he told his therapist and signs the entire account as “The Great Gatsby by Nick Carraway”. I thought this was an interesting addition because it overtly references the book, which isn’t typical, but then it also attributes a different writer to the story. It calls out the narrator, as well, which is atypical of other narrative structures. Probably the most glaring example of referencing the source novel was that at certain points, usually for really iconic quotes from the novel, the text from the novel are shown on the screen as Nick narrates, pulling Fitzgerald’s actual words onto the screen.

Bolter and Grusin put it this way, “The digital medium can be more aggressive in its remediation. It can try to refashion the older medium or media entirely, while still marking the presence of the older media and therefore maintaining a sense of multiplicity or hypermediacy” (46).

Between the narrator change and the use of modern music with the historical setting, costuming, and references, Luhrmann’s Gatsby is an epitomization of remix culture. As Bolter and Grusin say it, “This tearing out of context makes us aware of the artificiality of both the digital version and the original clip. The work becomes a mosaic in which we are simultaneously aware of the individual pieces and their new, inappropriate setting” (47). They felt that through hypermediacy, creators can make the audience delight in the juxtaposition of old and new and to acknowledge the medium as the medium. It would be difficult for the audience to forget the medium while watching Luhrmann’s version of Gatsby. It is more than just a film version; it’s certainly the digital version of the story. While the immersion is still likely there, it is impossible to not notice all the different forms of media and the different ways the story is being remixed with modern social and economic opinions, current music, computer graphical editing and imagery, old clips, and typed out quotes from the novel.  As Bolter and Grusin say, “No medium today, and certainly no single media event, seems to do its cultural work in isolation from other media, any more than it works in isolation from other social and economic forces” (15).

One of the big themes of The Great Gatsby is morality and the effect that all of this wealth had on society in the 1920s. The hero of the story, Gatsby, is shown to be a fraud and not always the best person, but he’s so focused on his wild daydream to reunite with Daisy that he becomes sympathetic and the audience wants to follow him on his quest.  

Hayden White says that any historical narrative has the desire to moralize the events that it describes. “And this suggests that narrativity, certainly in factual storytelling and probably in fictional storytelling as well, is intimately related to, if not a function of, the impulse to moralize reality, that is, to identify it with the social system that is the source of any morality that we can imagine” (18).

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote the characters of The Great Gatsby in the time period in which he lived, so it’s difficult to see if he was meditating on the morality of his own crowd. I think that he was. The “eyes” in the Valley of Ashes were constantly referred to in Luhrmann’s version as the eyes of God and that everything was seen by them. This was alluded to in the book, but really hammered home in the film. Luhrmann’s version seems like a hyperbolic reference to the morality of the historical account, with the lens of looking through time and seeing it in hindsight. White commented a lot about the use of historical narrative to provide meaning to the past, or to be a form of wish fulfillment showing that it all mattered in an existential type of way. He viewed it as a way to merge the imaginary with the real, and usually in order to make sense of the world or to give life meaning. He also viewed this as as easier and probably less problematic with fiction than with fact, which is why The Great Gatsby is an interesting case. While it is set in a historical time period, the characters themselves are fictional, which allowed Fitzgerald, and later Luhrmann, the opportunity to meditate on the meaning of the time without attributing it to real people.

White talked about the different kinds of historical accounts that historians can write, namely the difference between annals, chronicles, and history proper (White). Annals lack any narrative component and is basically just a list of events in chronological order. A chronicle, in his view, wants to tell a story and usually starts to tell one, but falls short but ending abruptly, or failing to achieve narrative closure. Historical narratives, by comparison, take into account what came before. They ponder the meaning of the events that are chosen to be included. And, most importantly, they have an ending. The ending is one of the biggest keys mainly because history continues on forever, so the narrativization of a story must include picking out that period with which the story can begin and end – a key tenet of narrative. White admits that not all histories are suitable for narrative and don’t need to be put into that form. He said, “But real events should not speak, should not tell themselves. Real events should simply be: they can perfectly well serve as the referents of a discourse, can be spoken about, but they should not pose as the tellers of a narrative” (8).

In White’s perspective, a historical narrative should attempt to fill in the blanks that an annal would leave between mere mentions of events that occurred. It would give them meaning and a moral center. “The historical narrative, as against the chronicle, reveals to us a world that is putatively ‘finished,’ done with, over, and yet not dissolved, not falling apart. In this world, reality wears the mask of a meaning, the completeness and fullness of which we can only imagine, never experience. Insofar as historical stories can be completed, can be given narrative closure, can be shown to have had a plot all along, they give to reality the odor of the ideal” (23).

But another big part of his argument is that considering historical narratives should be a way to sort of erase reality and show the wish fulfillment of a storied version of the past. The Great Gatsby is a great example of this construct. Fitzgerald seems to be yearning to find meaning within the novel; or at least his characters are struggling to make sense of the world that they inhabit, along with the economic and social constructs that entails. But the author must choose the way to conclude the story, though history moved on. As White put it, “I cannot think of any other way of ‘concluding’ an account of real events; for we cannot say, surely, that any sequence of real events actually comes to an end, that reality itself disappears, that events of the order of the real have ceased to happen. Such events could only have seemed to have ceased to happen when meaning is shifted, and shifted by narrative means, from one physical or social space to another” (26). But he continued that by fantasizing about the past, in much of the ways that The Great Gatsby does, certainly in the newest adaptation, that the construct of a formal story real events are skewed to become wish-fulfilling mechanisms. White said, “In the enigma of this wish, this desire, we catch a glimpse of the cultural function of narrativizing discourse in general, an intimation of the psychological impulse behind the apparently universal need not only to narrate but to give to events an aspect of narrativity” (8).

Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby was a visually pleasing daydream into what it was like to live in the 1920s for a certain population of people. He moralized the ways which their wealth affected them, as well as the ways that they might have given up ethics and morals to get that money, while providing the lush landscape and historical references. He also moralized what people will do when they are in love and what fuels human behavior, essentially. By filling in these gaps with his imaginary characters, borrowed from Fitzgerald of course, he could paint a picture of the time period. It is certainly a narrative version of the time. White said, “The presence of these blank years in the annalist’s account permits us to perceive, by way of contrast, the extent to which narrative strains to produce the effect of having filled in all the gaps, to put an image of continuity, coherency, and meaning in place of the fantasies of emptiness, need, and frustrated desire that inhabit our nightmares about the destructive power of time” (15).

The short clips of the 1920s that are used in the mediated version would be closer representations of the chronicle where newspaper images are used to show that the stock market was booming and that Prohibition had sent people to secret parties and clubs to continue drinking. It is through the characters of Gatsby, Daisy, and Nick Carraway that the audience can start to fill in those morals for themselves. The closure of the historical narrative comes from personal knowledge of events mixed with the characterization and setting that the author provides. Off-screen action is referred to implicitly since it is set in a known time period, so the time mechanisms of the narrative are just as important. But as White summed up, “…this value attached to narrativity in the representation of real events arises out of a desire to have real events display the coherence, integrity, fullness, and closure of an image of life that is and can only be imaginary. The notion that sequences of real events possess the formal attributes of the stories we tell about imaginary events could only have its origin in wishes, daydreams, reveries” (27).



Narratives are everywhere. The more I read about the structure of the narrative, the more I realized how often they are used in our day-to-day lives. Friends tell their stories through narratives. Advertisements sell products by telling a story. Culturally, they have become expected across the world and have been shown to be a way to connect with others in a universal way. Drucker said, “Production, distribution, audience and reader expectations, as well as differences of cultural positioning, all help give graphic novels their identity” (41).  I think that the concept of expectations and cultural positioning definitely go beyond just graphic novels. Different mediums are viewed differently depending on the culture. And The Great Gatsby is an interesting version of that, especially with the critical reviews that came from the remediated version that Luhrmann created. Audience participation is different with certain mediums, and immersion can range, as well. But it is also what the audience expects, what they already know of a story, and what they already know of a history that can all become parts of the way that they digest the narrative.

I studied narratology this semester, which is the ensemble of theories of narratives, narrative texts, images, events, cultural artifacts that tell a “story”. I wanted to learn how to understand, analyze, and evaluate narratives. I think that these readings certainly forwarded this desire along. I thought that the mediation aspect actually made a bigger effect than I thought that it would. I had been curious about the importance of the audience while considering different media forms and the intentions of the creator. I’ve learned that it kind of does matter which medium is used in that sense. Certain media produce certain means of increasing audience participation. Graphic novelists can choose to draw their characters in more simplistic versions so the reader will extrapolate themselves onto the narrator. Digital media can force the audience to participate in the narrative itself. It will be really interesting to see how much further this can go. Because while virtual reality could insert the audience into the story itself, there are still the same structures of the beginning, middle, and end. There are the moral implications, the necessity to fill in the gaps between events. There is the need for characterization and for setting. And those components seem to repeat regardless of the media form, and regardless of the time period. Narratizing history has those same elements, as well, and it’s up to the author if they want to consider the social implications of a time period and if they want to determine story, pulled from a list of events. But it does seem that narrative histories are separate from histories themselves, or the history proper that White refers to. These narratives seem to exist to give the past some meaning and to reassure those in the present, which isn’t a bad reason to create art.

Overall, White sums it up nicely by saying, “So natural is the impulse to narrate, so inevitable is the form of narrative for any report of the way things really happened, that narrativity could appear problematical only in a culture in which it was absent – absent or, as in some domains of contemporary Western intellectual and artistic culture, programmatically refused” (5).



References and Works Cited

Bal, Mieke. Narratology: Introduction to the Theory of Narrative. Third Edition. Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto Press, 2009.

Chatman, Seymour. Story and Discourse: Narrative Structure in Fiction and Film. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1980.

Bordwell, David. Narration in the Fiction Film. University of Wisconsin Press, 1985.

Bordwell, David, and Kristin Thompson. Film Art: An Introduction (with Tutorial CD-ROM). 8th ed. New York, NY and London, UK: McGraw-Hill, 2006.

Bolter, Jay David, and Richard Grusin. Remediation: Understanding New Media. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2000.

Drucker, Johanna. “Graphic Devices: Narration and Navigation.” Narrative 16, no. 2 (2008): 121–139.

Drucker, Johanna. “What Is Graphic About Graphic Novels?” English Language Notes, Special Issue: Graphia: The Graphic Novel and Literary Criticism,  46, no. 2 (2008): 39–XI.

McCloud, Scott. Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. Reprint. William Morrow Paperbacks, 1994.

Murray, Janet H. Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1998.

White, Hayden. Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Europe. Baltimore, MD: John’s Hopkins University Press, 1973.

White, Hayden. “On Narrative.” Critical Inquiry, 7, no. 1 (Autumn, 1980): 4-27.