NCSA Special Seminar: "Revealing the Invisible: NCSA Expertise for the Study of Mediterranean Medieval Graffiti" — Mia Trentin and Colter Wehmeier

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Graffiti studies pose a challenge in the Humanities. Its existance has been an integral part of human history, from prehistoric times (Rock Art) through today (Street Art) with a rich variety of forms, techniques, and content, joined by a common element: the human need to set its unique and original presence in time and space. Historical graffiti collects past people’s messages, feelings, and ideas in a completely free and nonstereotyped way. Medieval graffiti thus enables us to better understand a past society, since they represent the real and authentic voice of common people, allowing us to get closer to their everyday life, ideas, and habits. Graffiti is a self-representation. Its content shows people’s knowledge of their visual culture and of their ideas and feelings, while the location of the graffiti displays people’s attitude toward that space. Until now, scholars have been largely unable to consider and analyze all of these variables together, as traditional methods are unable to manage such vast and numerous kinds of information.

Thanks to Mia Trentin, joint Postdoc with The Cyprus Institute-STARC and NCSA, a specific project in Digital Humanities has been implemented to study Medieval Graffiti, aiming to solve the major research issues in this field of study. During her two-month visit, Mia Trentin worked with NCSA expertise in data management systems, specifically Luigi Marini with Clowder, and Donna Cox's AVL team, who assisted Trentin in exploring innovative ways for visualizing her research material. Prof. Dede Ruggles of the Department of Landscape Architecture at Illinois also supported this effort by sharing her expertise in Mediterranean Medieval architecture and through her collaboration with The Cyprus Institute in the Getty Foundation project about Mediterranean Cities.

Colter Wehmeier, NCSA research assistant and graduate student at Illinois studying architecture with specializations in virtual and augmented reality for cultural heritage, has also been instrumental to this study. His experience in the visualization of cultural heritage based on archaeology, architectonic or historic queries helped to draw the structure of a new digital system able to manage, analyze and visualize graffiti data and information. At their joint lecture, Mia Trentin will present the research challanges presented by the study of graffiti and Colter Wehmeier will describe a possible way to face research needs through technology.