My research focuses on the visual historical record and the potential of visual narrative. I am working with transmedial narratology within relational databases, in particular, on the ways image-driven scholarship within the digital environment opens new pathways of historical research. My case study explores the visual record of China's Boxer Uprising in 1900 that inspired unprecedented media coverage around the globe. Parallels with today's media revolution some hundred years later give additional value to these emerging narrative methodologies.
In a proposed visual data field model of narrative, images align, as imprinted by an author, to illuminate historical themes and provocative sub-texts. The qualities of narrative embedded within a visual data field are experiential, immersive, and unlike traditional text-based narrative, sustain a state of unresolved complexity.
Parallax between similar image sets—for example, photographs taken by three very different men within the walls of the 55-day siege in Beijing—creates a granularity in which the whole is more than the sum of the parts. Events were usually filtered through an editor who selected the “best” photo to publish. A visual data field model restores rejected views, adding texture to the scene by revealing the "edited-out" periphery and hinting at the presence of the photographer(s). This complex visual historiography emanates from the participants themselves while events were still unfolding.
My academic work at MIT and University of Plymouth involves conference presentations and papers on visual history, transmedial narratology and visual narrative models. Currently, I am writing a unit on China’s Boxer Uprising in 1900 for Visualizing Cultures and plan to design the essay as a “visual image data field” book.
Visit MIT Visualizing Cultures to view essays and visual narratives created in collaboration with historians that explore the visual record of early modern Japan and China. This project, founded in 2002, promotes image-driven scholarship in the area of history based on the newly accessible digital visual record.