Digital Cities

Fall 2014

ISIS 380S/VMSS 380s

Victoria Szabo

Tu 1:25pm-3:55pm The Wired! Lab

This interdisciplinary course combines theoretical and practical approaches to digital places and spaces as an emerging new media form, with a special focus on digital cities as sites of contemporary and historical representation and influence. It is a “hybrid” course in the sense that it combines a discussion seminar with lab-based exercises. Major assignments combine written and digital media authoring components. No technical experience is assumed, but it will be important to work hands-on inside and outside class.

Digital Cities are defined here as digital representations of urban spaces that serve to inform, engage, and/or influence the user who interacts with them. These might include, for example, web-based mapping and annotation projects in Google Earth or other online mapping systems, interactive information graphics focused on statical data and other information about a city and its inhabitants, and GPS-based systems designed for real-time navigation within an urban environment. Digital city annotations within these contexts might focus on historical data, architectural or urban history, the lives of individuals and communities within city spaces, artistic and scientific communities who operated within its bounds, and representations of change over time, networks of association, and other data products of urban analysis.

Over the course of the semester we will not only examine various historical and creative map-based digital city projects, but also create our own. Using Durham as our “lab” and possibility space for workshop exerdcises, we will work with Global Information System (GIS) data, web-based digital mapping and annotation systems, and augmented reality authoring environments to create digital city projects based on existing materials and our own original research.  Student projects may choose to focus on Durham or on another city of your choice.

Gothic Cathedrals

Fall 2017, Fall 2016, Fall 2015, Fall 2014, Fall 2012

ARTHIST 225-01 & 225-01L | MEDREN 215-01

Current Instructor: Edward Triplett

Past Instructor: Caroline Bruzelius

Fall 2017: TTh 11:45am-1:00pm | Perkins LINK 072 (Classroom 6)

In this course, students work in teams of 3 to create a fictional cathedral. They write a narrative and propose a program for the decoration (stained glass and portals) and architecture (ground plan, elevation, section and façade) of a cathedral situated in a specific place and time. The historical narrative begins with the Christianization of the site, and must consider access to supplies of wood and stone (students study geological maps). The fictional cathedral also needs to be located near roads, ports, or rivers in order to provide the economic basis for the project. All proposals include fictional budgets (income and expenditures) as well as an outline for the organization of the labor force.

The “master builders” in this class learn a computer-design program (AutoCad) to produce their cathedral plans and drawings appropriate in style and structure to the date and place chosen by the group. Projects are presented to a jury at the end of the semester and prizes are awarded for teamwork, project quality, and originality.

Historical & Cultural Visualization Proseminar 1

Fall 2017, Fall 2016, Fall 2015, Fall 2014

ARTHIST 580S-01 | HCVIS 580S-01 | ISS 580S-01 | VMS 580S-01

Victoria Szabo

Th 8:45-11:15am | Wired! Lab (Smith, Bay 11, A233)

Interactivity and online content management through databases, collaborative blogs, and other systems. Data visualization based on textual, image, and quantitative sources. Basic techniques for virtual reality, simulations, augmented reality, and game-based historical and cultural visualization project development. Mini-projects based on existing and new research data from the Wired! Lab and elsewhere. Best practices for digital research project planning and collaboration.Theoretical topics include: critical digital heritage, virtuality and culture, information aesthetics, hypermedia information design. Instructor consent required.

This course is a core part of the MA in Digital Art History/Computational Media.

The Mendicant Revolution

Fall 2012, Fall 2014

Caroline Bruzelius


This course examines the impact of two new religious orders, the Franciscans and Dominicans (mendicant friars), on cities, architecture, literature, painting and sculpture.

In the early 13th century, two men, Francis and Dominic, started religious movements that had a profound impact on the world. Although their institutions were different in many ways, they shared some common goals: outreach to the public through public sermons aimed at converting heretics, a spiritual vocation dedicated to imitating the poverty of Christ and the Apostles, and a focus on people living in cities. This became a profoundly urban movement, engaging with laymen in the public spaces of cities (squares, piazzas, markets) as well as in the private spaces of homes. Because of their public role, friars became immensely popular and influenced many aspects of late medieval life. Their use of imagery in painting and sculpture initiated new trends in the representation of sacred themes, for example. The importance of sermons as a mode of outreach to the public led to the invention of new types of texts, such as concordances, popularizing saint’s lives. They created a new type of urban convent for their communities that were often flanked by public piazzas for preaching.

New Media, Memory, and the Visual Archive

Fall 2014

VMS 565S

Mark Olson

Wed 10:05am-12:35pm The Wired! Lab

Modern memory is first of all archival. It relies entirely on the specificity of the trace, the materiality of the vestige, the concreteness of the recording, the visibility of the image.
– Pierre Nora, “Between Memory and History: Les Lieux de Mémoire”

Is modern memory, as Pierre Nora claims, archival? If so, then individual and cultural memory might depend crucially on the material technologies of inscription and storage that constitute contemporary archives. New media technologies afford novel ways of recording and archiving the stuff of cultures and societies – narratives, images, ideologies, administrative records, and other forms of information or data.

An emerging body of work, both theoretical and artistic and informed by media studies and visual studies, has begun to interrogate the media-specificity of particular mnemotechnologies. The aim of this course is to engage and extend their work as we explore the impact of new media on the changing nature of archives as technologies of cultural memory and knowledge production.

Our major analytical themes include: medium specificity and the “storage capacity” of new media; the database as cultural form; the body and image as archive; new media and the documentation of “everyday life”; memory, counter-memory and the politics of the archive; archival materiality and digital ephemerality. Our primary focus will be on archives of visual artifacts (image, moving image) but because “there are no visual media” we must consider the role of other sensory modalities (what McLuhan calls differential sense ratios) in the construction of individual, institutional and collective memory.

Drawing on a range of theories and sources, we will examine the “art of memory” (art as technics) embedded in our modes of inscription, archivization, and representation, as well as in theories of mind and learning. At stake are competing claims about the mnemotechnics of new media technologies, contrasting the possibilities and pitfalls of prosthetic (and perhaps posthuman) memory with struggles over the nature of historical memory under digital conditions.