Mapping Visual Media & the Geospatial Turn

DATE: 22 November 2019, 09:00 - 21:30
VENUE: University of Antwerp, Stadscampus, building SR (SR.008), Rodestraat 14, 2000 Antwerpen

B-magic and the Centre for Urban History (University of Antwerp) are organizing a one-day workshop entitled “Space is the place”. The organizers aim to create a meeting point between researchers focusing on performance and media studies (film, photography, magic lantern shows, etc.), and those working within the rapidly expanding field of digital and spatial humanities. By foregrounding new approaches and research projects, this workshop hopes to engender a new and innovative dialogue between various disciplines working with visual media that are mainly interested in spatial and contextual analysis.

* Background map: Felixarchief (Antwerpen), 12#12539/12#5022


  • 9h: Welcome & coffee
  • 9h30: Introduction
    • Kurt Vanhoutte, University of Antwerp, BE
    • Ilja Van Damme, University of Antwerp, BE
  • 10-11h: Keynote 1
    • Topical places, textual spaces. Mary Borgo Ton, Indiana University, US
  • 11-12h: Project presentations
    • Developing a Belgian Cinema Context: Reflections on an open access data platform for cinema history. Daniel Biltereyst, Ghent U, BE, Philippe Meers, University of Antwerp, BE, and Tamar Cachet, Ghent U, BE
    • I-Media-Cities, researching urban evolution through audiovisual archives. Davy Hanegreefs, Royal Belgian Film Archive, BE
  • 12-13h: Lunch
  • 13-14h: Keynote 2
    • Mapping Infrastructures: Reflections on the Geospatial Turn in Visual Media Historiography. Jeffrey Klenotic, University of New Hampshire, US
  • 14-15h: Project presentations
    • Geospatial Visualization of Historical Photographs. Florian Niebling, University of Würzburg - Media Informatics, DE
    • ArchiMediaL. Tino Mager, TU Delft, NL
  • 15-15h30: Break
  • 15h30-17h: B-magic researchers lightning round
    • Margo Buelens-Terryn & Iason Jongepier, University of Antwerp, BE
    • Wouter Egelmeers & Nelleke Teughels, KU Leuven, BE
    • Bart Moens, Université libre de Bruxelles, BE
    • Marte Van Hassel, Université libre de Bruxelles, BE
    • Nele Wynants, Université libre de Bruxelles, BE
    • Klaas Zwaan, Utrecht University, NL
  • 17-18h: General discussion
  • 18-20h: Dinner (optional)
  • 20-21h30: Evening programme
    • Un pays plus beau qu’avant (Hannes Verhoustraete, 2019, English subtitles) A Country More Beautiful Than Before (Un pays plus beau qu'avant) is a documentary film about a Congolese businessman in Brussels. The wanderings of Jean-Simon reveal a microcosm of informal commerce within the Congolese community. The everyday economic urgency of this ‘humble salesman’ is tied to the political and humanitarian urgency that animates the diaspora faced with the situation in Congo today and with Belgian colonial history. The film revolves around these two imperatives, in a negotiation between here and elsewhere, the past and the present. Watch the trailer


Topical places, textual spaces. Mary Borgo Ton, Indiana University, US

When the Royal Geographical Society in London made plans to purchase a magic lantern in 1890 for lectures, one of their members objected by calling the lantern show a “Sunday School Treat.” This keynote combines text analysis with geospatial mapping to trace the treat’s legacy. Such an approach is made possible by Lucerna, an open access resource that digitally remediates information about when and where lantern shows occurred. I use topic modeling, a form of statistical analysis, to identify literary tropes in eyewitness accounts of lantern shows that took place in Britain between 1874 and 1903. Mapping these topics reveals that the textual landscape created by missionary periodicals did not reflect the geographic distribution of lantern shows. Instead, published accounts offered a relatively uniform view of the lantern as an educational tool, regardless of the audience. This mode of media archaeology ultimately implicates acts of analog remediation in digital visualizations. 

Mary Borgo Ton is a Council on Library and Information Resources Postdoctoral Fellow in Data Curation for Latin American and Caribbean Studies at Indiana University. Her current research adopts digital approaches to screen-based media in the global south with a particular focus on nineteenth-century missionaries who traveled to Africa and Oceania with a magic lantern. She received her Ph.D. in British Literature from Indiana University with concentrations in Victorian Studies and the digital arts and humanities. As part of international digital humanities projects, including Livingstone Online and the Mesoamerican Archive, she collaborates with stakeholder institutions around the world to remediate historic slides, manuscripts, and cultural objects in order to increase access to these materials, critique the limitations of current digitization practices, and foreground perspectives from the global south through digital collections.

Developing a Belgian Cinema Context: Reflections on an open access data platform for cinema history. Daniel Biltereyst, Ghent U, BE, Philippe Meers, University of Antwerp, BE, and Tamar Cachet, Ghent U, BE

This paper presents an inter-university research project on sharing film historical data sets in Belgium (CinEcoS/Cinema EcoSystem, 2018-21), funded by the FWO-Hercules Fund. Integrating a large number of existing research datasets covering key aspects of Belgian film history such as production, distribution, exhibition, programming, censorship and reception, the CinEcoS platform will significantly improve the understanding and further exploration of cinema as a dominant public entertainment industry and as lived popular culture. We claim that the CINECoS platform will allow researchers to rewrite the history of cinema as a socio-cultural and economic institution in Flanders-Belgium, by tackling several central research questions: What was cinema’s economic, industrial and socio-cultural importance in Belgian society in the larger part of the 20th century? How can we map in detail how cinema culture developed during the last century into the main public entertainment up until the 1960s?

Daniel Biltereyst is Professor in Film and Media History and director of the Cinema and Media Studies (CIMS) research center at Ghent University, Belgium. Besides exploring new approaches to historical media and cinema cultures, he is engaged in work on screen culture as site of censorship, controversy, and public debate.

Philippe Meers is Professor in Film and Media Studies at the University of Antwerp, Belgium, where he is deputy director of the Visual and Digital Cultures Research Center (ViDi) and director of the Center for Mexican Studies. He has published widely on historical and contemporary film cultures and audiences.

Tamar Cachet is an historian and a researcher at the Ghent Center for Digital Humanities at Ghent University, Belgium, where she works on the Cinecos project, funded by the FWO-Hercules Fund.  

I-Media-Cities, researching urban evolution through audiovisual archives. Davy Hanegreefs, Royal Belgian Film Archive, BE

With the emergence and evolution of machine learning tools, the widespread integration of linked and open metadata standards in archives, and the growing online availability of digitized film heritage, audiovisual research is going through a period of change, and film archives need to adapt to that. Through a use case on urban development in Brussels, this presentation will talk about the experiences, successes and failures of the I-Media-Cities project, which aimed at placing audiovisual images in a geospatial context, and the lessons to be learned from collaborations between heritage institutions and researchers.

Davy Hanegreefs (Germanic languages and Cultural management, VUB) has been working on digital projects for cultural and heritage institutions since 2005. After working as an E-commerce manager, he became the Innovation Manager for, the federation of the Flemish Booktrade, where he guided publishers, writers and bookstores through their digital innovation processes. At the Royal belgian Film Archive, he is Head of Digital Strategy and Innovation, and serves as the project manager for european projects, such as I-Media-Cities. Currently, he is involved in several European projects developing linked open data standards and artificial intelligence tools for archives and museums, andis the founder of the CHANGE network, aimed at helping GLAM institutions with the integration and development of digital tools.

Mapping Infrastructures: Reflections on the Geospatial Turn in Visual Media Historiography. Jeffrey Klenotic, University of New Hampshire, US

Cultural researchers studying the history of media infrastructures and the growth of infrastructures for media increasingly face a proliferation of artifacts, records, and documents, as new troves of material become ever more readily available online. At the same time, computer search, mining, retrieval, and visualization tools enhance our ability to probe and explore this information from manifold social, spatial, and geographic perspectives. Abundant digital data and the geospatial turn have simultaneously deepened and broadened the time-space of visual media as a field of study. This affords exciting methodological opportunities but also creates historiographical and theoretical challenges as we seek to explain the relations between infrastructures and media cultures in ways that account for the diversity, complexity, and unevenness of their articulations. This presentation reflects on progress, problems, and prospects shaping research in this area, drawing partly from my own efforts to map the historical geography of cinema infrastructures and contribute to the growth of mapping infrastructures for cinema history.

Jeffrey Klenotic teaches courses in media, culture and society with a focus on the historical emergence and development of new communication technologies. He is a past winner of the UNH Manchester Teaching Excellence Award and is passionate about facilitating media education with students and the public. He was chosen as a participating scholar in the UNH Main Street Academy and has also won two UNH Faculty Scholars Awards, including one for his digital history project "Mapping Movies," which tracks the locations of movie theaters and allows users to explore changing landscapes of cinema history and social geography using interactive web-based maps. A founding member of the History of Moviegoing, Exhibition and Reception (HoMER) project, he has given lectures and research presentations to students and scholars in many countries, including Australia, Bahamas, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, England, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Scotland, and the Netherlands. His essays on cinema history have been published in journals such as "Senses of Cinema," "Film History," "Communication Review," and "The Velvet Light Trap," as well as in numerous books and encyclopedias. Originally from Pennsylvania, Dr. Klenotic joined UNH in 1992 and helped design the current Communication Arts major.

Geospatial Visualization of Historical Photographs. Florian Niebling, University of Würzburg - Media Informatics, DE

Digitized historical photographs are invaluable sources and key items for scholars in Cultural Heritage (CH) research. In addition to browsing online image collections using metadata, alternative ways of finding photographs are possible, by embedding the documents into spatial and temporal contexts to provide interactive access to these vast resources. Towards this goal, spatial properties of photographic items, i.e. position and orientation of the camera, can be automatically estimated using Structure from Motion (SfM) algorithms, even on historical photographs. In the talk we will introduce a web-based 4D browser environment that enables architectural historians to answer spatial research questions, such as Which buildings were photographed more (or less) often than others? From which directions has a point of interest been photographed? Is there one main preferred direction? Existing methods to visualize spatial properties of images statistically are limited. Although traditional visualization methods — such as heat maps — can be used to show positional distribution of large numbers of images, it is still not widely explored how to visualize distributions of their orientations. We will discuss visualization techniques for interactively browsing spatialized photographs to gain knowledge from a combination of historical depictions of buildings and corresponding 3D models of historic cityscapes. We present first adaptations of visualization methods from  their application domains that also address orientation, towards offering supporting tools to historians with corresponding spatial research questions.

Florian Niebling is a Professor of Media Informatics at the Chair of Human-Computer Interaction at the University of Würzburg. He received his doctorate on interactive parallel real-time graphics from University of Stuttgart in 2013. After heading the cyber-physical systems group at the chair for Software Engineering of Ubiquitous Systems (SEUS) at Technische Universität Dresden, he joined the HCI Group in Würzburg in 2015.
His research interests include software engineering of complex systems in parallel and distributed computing environments, scalable post-processing and visualization of large datasets, distributed computer graphics, as well as the interaction with data in virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and on the desktop. His interdisciplinary research involves diverse application domains from engineering to digital humanities.

ArchiMediaL. Tino Mager, TU Delft, NL

In cooperation with computer scientists, ArchiMediaL develops an automatic recognition of buildings in images based on deep learning and linked data. On the one hand, this is intended to make buildings on images without annotations accessible to research. On the other hand, the recognition of image content serves to interlink repositories independently of linguistic parameters. Both will be of particular benefit to research into buildings outside the architectural canon which have not yet been sufficiently considered. The project is a sample of the changing research conditions of architectural historians, who will increasingly integrate quantitative methods into their daily work in the future.

Tino Mager studied media technology in Leipzig and art history and communication science in Berlin, Barcelona and Tokyo; 2015 PhD in architectural history (Elsa Neumann Fellowship, Tiburtius Prize). After research stays in Japan and at the University of California, Los Angeles, he was a lecturer at the Technical University of Berlin and the ITU Istanbul, scientific assistant at the Chair of History and Theory of Architecture at the TU Dortmund and postdoctoral fellow of the Leibniz Association. Since 2017, Tino is postdoc at the Chair of History of Architecture and Urban Planning at TU Delft.