Dear Data: Challenging Data One Post at a Time

CP’s Note: This story about my collaboration with the course, Race, Racism, and Power originally appears in my department’s ‘Teaching with LITS’ nook on the College’s website. I’ve edited it slightly to fit the style of this site.

Caro Pinto worked with the course Race, Racism, and Power taught by Assistant Professor Vanessa Rosa of the Department of Spanish, Latina/o and Latin American Studies during the fall 2017 semester. The class includes an assignment known as ‘Dear Data.’ For this assignment, students generate data visualizations of their readings several times throughout the semester. They use numbers, drawings, dotted lines, and other forms of visual communication to frame their posts. This assignment is modeled after the project and subsequent book Dear Data by Gioriga Lupi and Stefanie Posavec. The assignment grew out of informal hallway conversations between Pinto and Rosa in 2016 and continues to evolve each semester Rosa offers the course.

The assignment interrupts naturalized and calcified conceptions of what ‘data’ is or is not. It creates space for new forms of engagement with course readings and for student interactions. Why is a two page response paper the main way students engage with readings? Must academic communication simply be limited to writing? This assignment liberates students to imagine new forms of engagement with knowledge production.

Excited about the new possibilities this assignment afforded them, students wanted to share their posts more broadly. They organized an exhibition of their Dear Data posts in atrium of Williston Library and created a zine of their posts for viewers to take with them to reflect on their work. The exhibit created a space for the campus to engage with their visualizations and consider how much ‘data’ encompasses. Selections from the Dear Data Exhibit in the Williston Library Atirum


I’m embedded in course called Race, Racism, and Power with Vanessa Rosa that includes an assignment known as ‘Dear Data.’ In ‘Dear Data,’ students generate data visualizations of their readings several times throughout the semester. They use numbers, drawings, dotted lines, and other forms of visual communication to frame their posts. This assignment is modeled after the project and book by Gioriga Lupi and Stefanie Posavec.

The assignment interrupts what I think of often naturalized and calcified conceptions of what ‘data’ is or is not. It creates space for new forms of engagement with course readings and for student interactions. It’s one of the best things about my work and I am already looking forward to incorporating more examples and framing for the future!

This semester, the students wanted to stage and exhibit and I’m excited to share that some their posts are on view in the atrium of the library until 19 December 2017. I’m excited to celebrate the opening of the exhibit and to share the zine they created tonight at 7 pm.

The students’ energy around this project was infectious and spirit lifting. Come and see their work if you can. I’ll plan to post some other photos here soon, but here are some tweets from Vanessa as a start.

And finally, some photos from the opening itself:

Zotero 5.0 is Here: Giving ‘My Publications’ a Spin

icon-pencil-square-o Zotero 5.0 is here! I will not go into a release notes deep dive, but I wanted to write a few words about the new ‘My Publications’ feature, but first, a few quick notes:

  1. I’ve been a Zotero user for so long that my username is my secret shame; it is identical to the Yahoo! account I used in 2005/6 barely out of undergrad.
  2. Due to limited storage, I eliminated many citations I no longer needed from unrealized writing projects to ‘maybe later’ readings to books I wanted to buy for library collections I no longer support. It felt good to part ways with those items and enjoy Zotero 5.0 with the essentials.
  3. I did not collect the citations of published works, so I reflected on how much I’ve accomplished since 2005 when I was in a history graduate program unsure of my future.

Bullet three is a lead into some quick thoughts about the new feature ‘My Publications’ that allows users to syndicate their publications on their Zotero profile page. Mine was bare; I did not have an ‘about me’ nor did I have a photograph of my myself. It was yet another reminder of my caropinto2004 self.

This is a screenshot of Caro Pinto's Zotero profile with links to publications, a biography, and a photograph of Caro Pinto
It Me. Sans Followers.

icon-clock-o Fast thoughts on ‘My Publications:’

  1. Easy to save citations from around the web/repositories/libraries and move them into the ‘My Publications’ tab.
  2. You can assign a creative commons license that allows for people to peruse your publications and share files. Or if you’ve published in a journal where you cannot share freely, you can hold copyright and just display the citation. I felt like it was a healthy audit of how many items I’ve published can be distributed with a Creative Commons license and how many cannot. I’ve learned a great deal about considering the terms of publication over the last five years and I still have a ways to go, but I am more or less happy with my ratio of sharing versus not.
  3. Many items will auto import metadata that might not totally jive with the reality of your citation. I had to make a few adjustments from ‘web page’ to ‘blog post’ and ‘blog post’ to ‘journal article.’ It’s a gentle reminder to us all that COMPUTER is not infallible.
  4. Sadly, you cannot create custom fields for ‘My Publications.’ I wanted to add some of my book reviews to my page and sadly, I could not find a ‘book review’ category nor the space to create a custom field from the stand alone version. Perhaps there are other workarounds.
  5. I imagine this will be a useful teaching moment for Zotero workshops…

Teaching a Mid-Career Librarian New Tricks: Becoming an Art Librarian

I’ve loved art since my early, awkward adolescence. I remember the first time I saw a Picasso in person. I will never forget feeling lost in a large Rothko canvas. I felt all the feelings and did not know why. It was not for a lack of trying; In middle school, I owned a copy of a book called Abstract Art that I tried to read in fits and starts without success, but lost myself in the photographs of the art works.

I went to Mass MoCA for the first time during the fall of my first year at Smith College and returned several times during my four years. One of my main regrets from my undergraduate years is that I did not take any art history classes; they intimidated me. Nonetheless, I spent quite a bit of my senior year wandering the stacks of the Hillyer Art Library thumbing through art books looking.

Until recently, I decided that poetry was not for me, but really it was because I felt like there was a joke I did not understand. I felt the same way about art history; I believed that I was not sophisticated enough to understand why I was looking at and believed I lacked a facility with language to make critical judgments. It wasn’t for me or so I thought.

I kept going to museums and began to recover from my impostor syndrome. Now, I read poetry and peruse Artforum. 

In December, I became the art history liaison. I embraced the chance to collaborate with the College’s art museum and to select art books. It was also the opportunity to learn about a new discipline with fresh eyes and an open heart.

My journey began in January; I met with Valley colleagues and began to request books and journal articles on the UNC-Chapel Hill’s INLS 749: Art and Visual Information Management syllabus. I reviewed research guides from different universities and colleges to familiarize myself with the main research tools and foundational texts. Finally, I joined the Art Libraries Society of North America (ARLIS/NA) and began reading back issues of the association’s journal Art Documentation.

I learned a lot about artist books from reading Johanna Drucker’s The Century of Artists Books (while there is no singular definition, I can say that Ed Ruscha’s Twenty-Six Gasoline Stations is a stellar example). I learned the difference between an auction catalog, a catalogue raisonné, and an exhibition catalog. I made of list of major journals in the field. I followed the College Art Association on Twitter. I began to unpack how the academic study of art differs from connoisseurship. I read histories of the fine arts in the United States. I learned that art history grew exponentially between 1940 and 1960. I read E.H. Gombich’s The Story of Art. 

This is a stack of books I read to learn about being an art librarian next to my stuffed Totoro

I mulled one of the questions posed in Griselda Pollock’s seminal 1981 text, Vision, and Difference: “is adding women to art history the same as producing feminist art history?” I immersed myself in black contemporary art through Kimberly Drew’s digital projects. I bought an amazing book at African-American artists in Los Angeles.

I wanted to do a mini research project about an artist, so after I read Ariel Levy’s profile of Catherine Opie in The New Yorker in March, I requested several books of her photographs, watched a documentary about her process on PBS, and poured over her oeuvre.

I poured over texts aimed at students. The History of Art: A Student Handbook offered a useful frame, “Art Criticism and art appreciation are near neighbors and both are ways into art history.” It helped unpack the difference between art appreciation and art history as a discipline, “art history is the term employed to denote the discipline that examines the history of art and artifacts…the history of art is what is studied and art history is the cluster of means by which it is studied.” I began to understand how art history is “about a historical process.” I discovered that there are many research methodologies for students to pursue from comparative analysis of different works to social context analysis. I started to teach some research sessions including one on Chinese art.

Caro Pinto and a stack of art books

Above all, I enjoyed myself. I loved reading about art and developing new tools for looking artworks of art more critically. My training as a historian helps contextualize much of what I look at and how I approach teaching students about how to do research, mainly, to make them all believe what I could not believe at age twenty, that the study of art is for all of us.

Reflections on a dh+lib Transition

Ahoy!  icon-anchor

The 2016-2017 school year was my busiest year in academic libraries. My role saw a number of shifts; I added art history as a department, broadened my collaborations with the College’s art museum, and now lead the LITS WordPress Team. To make room for these new developments, I realized I had to step away from some projects and committees. Transitions are always an opportune moment for reflections and I realized over the last few weeks that the last few years prepared me for these new and challenging roles.

On May 11, 2017, I sent off my last email as the Review Editor of dh+lib. I sent out my first one nearly four years ago to the date. I’ve loved being a Review Editor on that team, but I realized during this school year that it was time for me to step into a new phase of the dh+lib project to create more space for my growing campus commitments. It was sad to sign off for the last time, but I also felt proud of the work I’ve accomplished in collaboration with the other editors over the last four years. My colleagues even wrote a VERY touching farewell post.

Putting together my final newsletter.
Pen and paper still gets the job done.

My work with dh+lib prepared me for my new projects at Mount Holyoke. Deeper engagement with WordPress and sustained consideration about the editorial process prepared me to move forward on eportfolio projects and WordPress governance on campus. Working on the review with colleagues via email and video conference taught me how to engage in a large scale project asynchronously; I gained experience with project management and blended learning. I channeled that experience into the blended learning projects I consulted on which helped me grow into my role as an instructional designer.

Above all, the relationships I cultivated through this project have been the greatest gift. I’ve learned so much from my fellow editors, the content the editors-at-large selected, and from the original content that the site publishes. I am grateful to remain a part of this project as a contributing editor and the remain connected to many wonderful colleagues.