Writing Assignment #2

According to Lev Manovich, cultural analytics is “the use of computational and visualization methods for the analysis of massive cultural datasets and flows.” This definition explains cultural analytics as a systematic way of understanding a digital humanities project. Cultural analytics as a way of studying certain digital humanities projects can be insightful and allow for one to thoroughly understand a project that may be initially daunting to him/her. Basically, the application of cultural analytics to a digital humanities project allows one to see patterns, connections, and changes over time of cultural datasets.

The “Costume History Collection” and its corresponding digital archive, LUNA digital imaging database, present four books from the mid eighteenth century to the mid nineteenth century. These books present information on style of dress within this time period. The books contain information such as fabric types, style of dress for brides, international style of dress, and pattern diagrams. The physical books are located in the Special Collections and Rare Books Room of Waldo Library at Western Michigan University.

The LUNA online database presents the information from the books in a very user-friendly and accessible manner. The project itself is relatively simple since it only contains four individual books. The online database provides useful tools such as a way to search the metadata to locate certain images, and the capability to zoom in and out of very high resolution images to get a closer look. While a user views an image, he/she is able to simultaneously view its metadata on the side. A few examples of the metadata available on each image are “measurements,” “material,” “cultural context,” “location,” and “style period.” This metadata is useful in organizing the images into different categories, depending on what the user is studying, whether it be the “style period” or the actual size of the image.

Overall, this digital humanities project is successful when analyzed on the basis of cultural analytics. It does a good job drawing connections between the four books on mid-eighteenth century to mid-nineteenth century fashion. The design of the website is intuitive and there are numerous ways to refine the information to study connections based on the images metadata.

Jean Beecher

Sources:

Manovich, Lev. “How and why study big cultural data.”
https://web.library.wmich.edu/digidb/costume/about.php