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MA Thesis Showcase Recap

May 8, 2019

On April 23, 2019 we had our MA Thesis Showcase to celebrate the work of our Spring 2019 MA in Digital Art History/Computational Media graduates. Here’s a brief recap of the projects that the students presented and a look at some of the digital components they’ve made.


Rob Arcand, “Stack Music: Spotify and the Platformization of the Digital Music Commodity”

Rob’s work looks at music’s changing commodity status, arriving at the moment of “digital music as a canary in the coal mine of informatic or cognitive capitalism.” Stack, software platforming, reveal the material basis of platforms in the technological components on which they rely. He focuses on the machine listening aspect of Spotify, which developed as a way to solve data science problems – based on the premise that sound can function as a computational utility. Rob argues that algorithms shape and are shaped by a cultural life. Data and algorithms are the means by which the music, film, and culture industries are each becoming leaner, reshaped by data-oriented practices in an effort to cut costs and streamline cultural production. Music’s commodification no longer exists at the level of digital files but at a whole industry level where platforms like Spotify are an intermediary between users, artists, and advertisers. For his digital component, Rob created a site that you can see here.


Angelina Liu: “The Alife Bestiary: An AR Object Recognition Project on the Archivolt of Alife”

Angelina’s project worked with the Alife Arch currently in the Brummer’s Collection at the Nasher Museum of Art, the piece was originally an archivolt on the Alife Cathedral. She worked to study one of the most immediately visual elements of the arch – the iconography on the arch’s surface. For her digital project, Angelina worked with AR to annotate a real world object pseudo-directly. As a tool, AR provides a more immediate experience with the objects. The purpose of app is to use AR interactivity to explore the iconography, using object recognition to encourage users to look at the object and displays directly. Other benefits of AR include the ability to show more complex non-linear explanations about the iconography, promote learning on site rather than through a website or pamphlet. As Angelina argues, AR can be more effective in information retention (as applied to paintings) than guided tours.


Kira Xie, “Reimagining Model Minority: An Inquiry into the Post-1965 Chinese Immigration in the United States.”

In her thesis, Kira tackles the Model Minority Theory, from a 1966 article from the US News and World Report. The trope describes Chinese and other Asian Americans based on their education and professional success. Kira’s thesis elaborates on the idea of model minority and on ideas of Chinese immigrants to look at the issues they confront. The projects relies on reports on geographic distribution, census data, Tableau visualization, and oral history. Kira built a website on WordPress, raise history and awareness of issues of Chinese immigration as a means to allow readers to experience the thesis in a non-linear fashion.  She questions the Model Minority Myth as presenting both achievements and challenges.  It has created a problematic image of the minority group as a monolith and obscured problems. Chinese immigrants still face problems with education on a high school basis, glass ceiling in professional settings, and cultural association. Misconceptions of Chinese people not being able to work well in professional settings – image of perpetual stranger still affects their image in America. A cultural emphasis on education for the earlier generations of immigrants was made in hopes of raising a pathway for subsequent generations. Kira hopes that her thesis will be a living history of Chinese immigrants in the US, it will help immigrants learn about their history, and how different perspectives. The accompanying website she created can be seen here.

Image Credits: Hannah Jacobs, Angelina Liu