The Venice Time Machine Project

As I was reading Manovich’s article, Trending: the Promises and Challenges of Big Social Data and I was searching for the definition of ‘big data’,  I came across the Venice Time Machine , an interesting project from the University Ca’Foscari.

In his article, Manovich concludes that for the future development of Digital Humanities  is essential to educate ‘humanists that would be able to use data analysis and visualization software in their daily work, so they can combine quantitative and qualitative approaches in all their work’ (last par.) . In other words, the field of DH needs humanists that there would be more autonomous and not exclusively dependant to funding and grants for their research.Manovich himself has contributed greatly to the field of Digital Humanities with his laboratory (Software Studies Initiative). It seems that what happens now in Venice (collaboration of scholars from different disciplines as a more productive cost-effective method) is a step forward for DH. Although this is not something new to the field of DH,  it is apparent that the University of Ca’Foscari has already grasped the implications of  DH’s dubious web dimensions and is leading to organize schools that  will  function as laboratories promoting the project and fostering  the new digital scholars. In this era of ‘surface is the new depth’ data (Malovich),  it is imperative to realise  Frederic Kaplan’s views about the dimensions of DH  which individuals alone cannot handle ( 9.41-9.53) and  train a ‘new generation of DH researchers’ (10.19)

 The Venice Time Machine  is an aspiring  digitization project where scholars from  different disciplines (Humanities, Social Sciences, Computer Science and Engineering) try to digitalise documents of the national archive of Venice (Archivio di Stato di Venezia ) which has an impressive bureaucratic collection of over 70 kilometers of archival documents.This process is estimated to be completed in about 10 years and would result in a digital, historical, economic, artistic and geographical reconstruction of Venice over the past 1000 years. An aspiring project which raises a number of ethical questions.  Are we capable to recreate a historical past through this project when what we will perceive as historical facts  will not only be filtered through the subjective perception of historians but through the  supposedly objectivity of  a number of editors and translators that will take part in the project ? This tremendous project is not only beneficial for DH as it opens up a dialectic space for questioning but it could also assist many countries with bureaucratic issues .

 However, TMP’s results remain to be seen. What we should always bare in mind is that it is not the tools but the way people use them that makes technology special. Recreating the past at such a global scale and with such a mamoth amount of material to digitalise has its own implications. Translation errors,  false editing decisions,  error in the documents, interpretive biases. (7.40) .Theorizing about the meta-data of the process and effectively educating potential scholars to be ethical, moral and efficient when using humanities digital tools  is the key to success.

 More information:

My cover (click separate lines for terms) :Shows the frequency and where exactly some specific words appear in this text. It was made with Bubblelines from Voyant tools, a programme we used in class.

Manovich, Lev. ‘Trending: the Promises and Challenges of Big Social Data.’ In Debates in the Digital Humanities. M. Gold (Ed.) Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012. Pp. 460-475. Web

Kaplan, Frederic. The Venice Time Machine, Tedx talk.You Tube2013. 7 Oct. 2013. Web

Università Ca’ Foscari . Digital Humanities Venice Fall School. 2013. 7 Oct. 2013.  Web

Manovich, Lev. Software Studies Initiative . 2013. 7 Oct. 2013 .Web


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