Fingerprints in Image-Driven Scholarship

Speaker: Ellen Sebring, MIT. Moderator: Noel Jackson, MIT. Abstract: Where do images from the historical record take you in historical inquiry and what is offered by working within the digital environment? This presentation will be a case-based examination of the "visual fingerprints" of the Opium Wars in the mid-1800s and the Boxer Uprising of 1900 as a way of exploring this transitional period of Chinese history. Components include methodology, image-first questing, sense-based learning, and the idea of developing chaos to find patterns. Traditional historical research that begins with images followed by text creates an opposing simultaneous movement from the concrete to the general and vice versa. The "look and feel" of war is rendered as proof of concept for the viability of digital image-driven scholarship shown by research & authoring within a digital environment. Graphic sets emerge during research characterized by signature graphics, "hot" images, series and juxtapositions, and often the emergence of a defining media type for each historical event. Links between these wars within a 60-year period are visibly evident, as well as each event's unique visual fingerprint.