Behind the Camera at AAS

Behind the Camera at the 2022 Association for Asian Studies Annual Conference, Honolulu, Hawai’i.

At the 2022 Association for Asian Studies Annual Conference, Behind the Camera was featured on the roundtable panel, “Japanese Visual Culture in the Digital Humanities: Strategies for Engagement, Accessibility, and Design.” Participants in the panel addressed a series of questions regarding how digital humanities projects can provide new opportunities to expand engagement with Japanese visual culture, as well as what some of the key challenges are in designing and coordinating platforms that engage diverse audiences in multiple languages and visual formats. This roundtable provided the opportunity to present and discuss projects published in the last decade that have broadened access to the study of Japanese visual culture, including Behind the Camera.

“Technologies of seeing are all processes of design that require choices about what is worthy of being seen.”

Ellen Sebring, as Creative Director of MIT’s Visualizing Cultures (VC), discussed the development of the platform and scholarly collaborations that form the project, which celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2022. Drawing on examples from the visual innovations that VC has made, she showed how the platform bridges traditional and digital scholarship and how unexpected relationships emerge in image-driven research. Shigeru Miyagawa (MIT) reflected on the challenges of creating opportunities for increased user engagement and interaction with visual materials through two examples that VC undertook: 1) clearing copyright for the image database under Creative Commons by working with nearly 200 museums and private collections; and 2) developing an extensive curriculum and offering workshops nationwide for pre-college teachers. Rika Hiro (USC) introduced the process and challenges of organizing an online exhibition with students by using a largely unprocessed archival collection of early twentieth-century Japanese posters, resulting in the Scalar website, Unpinning History. Steven Geofrey (Harvard) thoughtfully addressed the challenges of using data visualization to deconstruct, interrogate, and interact with textual artifacts of material and visual culture, including Japanese textbooks, news media, and survey data that appear in his projects Atomic Narratives and Sono Toki. Finally, Carrie Cushman (University of Hartford) brought to the conversation issues around making the histories of women in photography accessible through bilingual teaching modules that consist of video lectures, annotated bibliographies, and image galleries. In a lively conversation about different aspects of these varied digital humanities projects, each member of the roundtable reflected on successful strategies, user feedback, and challenges in designing public-facing platforms.