Historical Glitch: Understanding Digital Media Through the Photographic Lens Public Deposited

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  • March 19, 2019
  • Davis, Jade
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Communication
  • Historical glitch: Understanding digital media Through the Photographic Lens, explores the intersecting media ecologies of social media, digital heritage content, as well as culture. The case study for this project, Vintage Black Beauty was digitally born on the social networking site Tumblr. By “digitally born” I refer to how these images were curated and published as a collection. The Tumblr was designed to put digital tools into practice by disseminating historical photographs of black women in their everyday lives from across the black diaspora. This project has two aims: one, to theorize how these photos changed (and if they did change) once extracted from their original curated frames, i.e. magazines, exhibits, and other historical photographic project; and, two, to understand how audiences (here, Tumblr users) engaged photographic narratives when the material document is deployed beyond its initial structure and transformed into a digital product. These aims are theoretically understood through the works of Fanon, Hurston, and McLuhan. Additionally, a digital performance piece that analyzes the effects of this practice, informed by DaDa art practices, puts the theoretical implications into motion by placing the digitized photographs gathered on Vintage Black Beauty in conversation with media from the same time periods. Through exploring this ecology, I argue that we can gain a better understanding of some of the differences between digital and analog media, their different potentials for change, as well as the inherent limits they pose. While digital media do allow for greater access and dissemination, they are still tied to a screened experience and held to ethical standards determined by various stakeholders who are often ephemeral or evolving and in contradiction with how we have been trained to conceive of knowledge production. As more of our social lives move to the digital it is important we understand the implications for both formal and informal learning systems as these are space where culture is codified.
Date of publication
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Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Hillis, Ken
  • Alexander Craft, Renee
  • Pollock, Della
  • Rudinsky, Joyce
  • Gray, Mary
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2015
Place of publication
  • Chapel Hill, NC
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