Distant Viewing TV: Changing Scope

11 March 2018

Here we discuss our progress and changes in the project over the past 9 months. While we have not been blogging, much has been progressing in the background on our work. We also discuss plans and a timeline for future developments.

This post is part of a series about the Distant Viewing TV project. To see a full list of available posts in the series see Distant Viewing TV: Introduction.

The Distant Viewing TV project has undergone several major changes since our last blog post. Our initial results from face and shot detection were presented at the international DH conference in Montréal and the Joint Statistical Meetings in Baltimore. We received great feedback from many people, including DH colleagues, media scholars, and fellow computational statisticians. Following these conversations, we decided to expand the scope of our project under the name Distant Viewing. This expanded project seeks to construct methods, theories, and software to facilitate the algorithmic production of metadata summarizing the content (e.g., people/actors, dialogue, scenes, objects) and style (e.g., shot angle, shot length, lighting, framing, sound) of time-based media. Distant Viewing TV, our original study of US sitcoms in the Network Era, is now a particular case-study within this larger frame.

In response to the changing scope of the project, we spent the Fall writing about the general framework of Distant Viewing as a method. We wrote a theoretical article, “Distant Viewing: Analyzing Large Visual Corpora”, establishing a methodological and theoretical framework for the study of large collections of visual materials. We then underwent a major rewriting of our original project grant to include this larger scope and theoretical underpinning. Finally, we expanded our case studies to a larger set with a much more diverse set of materials:

  • early Hollywood feature films, with Jenny Oyallon-Koloski (University of Illinois-Urbana Champagne)
  • mid-century educational films produced by the US Government Bret Vukoder (Carnegie Mellon University)
  • Network Era comedies Annie Berke (Hollins University)
  • police procedurals Claudia Calhoun (NYU)
  • local television news broadcasts, with the American Archive of Public Broadcasting

We hope that these case-study collaborations will lead to exciting new scholarship in a variety of sub-disciplines. They also help use produce methods and software tools that are useful to a wide range of applications in the humanities.

With our article out, grant submitted, and collaborations in place we have finally been freed up to work again on the distant viewing toolkit. For an update on that progress, see our next blog post at: Distant Viewing: Frame Level Annotations.