Center for Research in Computing and the Arts: 40th Anniversary Celebration

Join us on Tuesday May 1 to celebrate 40 years of Center for Research in Computing and the Arts (CRCA) at UCSD:



Impressionism visualizations: final class project by Megan O'Rourke

Previously we featured visualizations of selected paintings by Impressionist artists created by Megan O'Rourke in my undergraduate class at UCSD (Winter 2012). One visualization compared works of artists using multiple image plots; the second used color histograms to show the same data in a different way.

Here is Megan's final class project which extends her investigation into new areas: comparing how different artists represented faces using image averaging, and visualizing evolution of their paintings over time in relation to brightness, saturation and hue.

To measure image properties used for visualizations, Megan used ImageMeasure macro which we distributed as part of our free ImagePlot software.


Impressionist Portraits

Impressionism Sparklines

Impressionist Color Sparklines

Explanation of how this visualization was generated

Project text

Software Studies Initiative awarded $477,000 grant from Mellon Foundation

Project name:

Tools for the Analysis and Visualization of Large Image and Video Collections for the Humanities

Project team:

PI: Dr. Lev Manovich, Professor of Visual Arts, University of California, San Diego (UCSD);
Director, Software Studies Initiative, California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2.

Almila Akdag, Postdoctoral Researcher, e-Humanities Group, The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences; Visiting Scholar, Visual Arts and Communication Design, Sabanci University, Istanbul, Turkey.

Loretta Auvil, Senior Project Coordinator at Illinois Informatics Institute, University of Illinois; SEASR co-PI.

Jeremy Douglass, Technical Director, Software Studies Initiative, UCSD.

Elizabeth Losh, Director of Academic Programs, Sixth College, Program in Culture, Art, and Technology, UCSD.

Project summary:

Since 2008, Software Studies Initiative at California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2) and University of California, San Diego (UCSD) has been developing a comprehensive set of software tools for the quantitative analysis and visualization of large collections of images and video. The tools were designed for academic researchers in the humanities, and have already been used by scholars in a number of disciplines including art history, archeology, film and media studies, dance studies, and game studies. We have also been working with a number of prominent cultural institutions and collections including the Library of Congress, Getty Research Institute, the Austrian Film Museum, and the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Image, in using our techniques with their collections and data sets. The software development and its applications has received support from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the University of California Humanities Research Institute (UCHRI), UC San Diego, and the California Institute for Telecommunications & Information Technologies (Calit2).

In our new three year project funded by $477,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, we will work to fully integrate our techniques and tools into the SEASR/Meandre environment, a major platform for digital humanities research developed with key support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The integrated tools will come with comprehensive documentation and a set of examples covering a number of fields in the humanities and humanistic social sciences. This integration will address a current goal of SEASR to “continue to evolve to include processing of images and other multimedia data formats.” We anticipate these tools being used by an ever-expanding range of people, including academics and students in the humanities and humanistic social sciences, museum curators and visitors, and cultural creators who want to better understand how their work fits within a larger context

In addition to making available to others software tools, accessible user interfaces, documentation, and examples, Software Studies Initiative will also collaborate with other researchers to carry out large-scale case studies. Each case study will demonstrate how, within a particular field, quantitative analysis and visualization of images and/or video can open new research possibilities for that field. Each study will include documentation of the appropriate SEASR workflows, a paper describing the data, the methods used, the findings, and high-resolution still and animated visualizations:

Almila Akdag will lead the case study which will combine network analysis and image processing to explore a few million images and user data from deviantArt (the most popular social network for user-generated art).

Jeremy Douglass will lead the analysis of our one million manga images dataset.

Elizabeth Losh will lead the case study which applies our methods to thousands of hours of political video on the web and TV news.

Over 200 undergraduate and graduate UCSD students will participate in the project over its three year period, exploring selected data sets as part of their classes in visualization and computational art history, and digital humanities.


Lev Manovich, Director, Software Studies Initiative []

More information:

Our methods for the analysis and visualization of large visual data sets

Our projects (analysis of image sets covering video games, visual art, graphic design, maagzines, newspapers, comic books, TV, films, animation, motion graphics.) (Over 900 visualizations and sketches from our lab)

Our open source software tools (digital image processing and visualization of image sets of any size.)

Case study: One million manga pages

Pilot project: Digging Into Global News

Manovich's two day seminar in MediaArtHistories program, Krems, Austria, May 14-15

Two day seminar with Lev MANOVICH on the 10-year evolution from "Language of New Media
(2001)" to "Software Takes Command" and Cultural Annalytics" - May 14-15, 2012.
Center for Image Science, Danube University, Krems, Austria.

day 1: new media theory and software studies (based on The Language
of New Media and Software Takes Command books)

day 2: new methods for the study of visual media (based on cultural
analytics articles and projects at

Other lecturers and excursion for May 2012 start of MediaArtHistories program:

In affiliation with Leonardo / ISAST and UTD, Roger MALINA maps the history of Leonardo and the future of the Art, Sciences & Technology fields.

Jussi PARIKKA’s innovative scholarship on Insect Media.

Linz excursion - Nina WENHART takes students behind the scenes of Ars Electronica, Stadtwerkstatt and more; meeting with the founders & next generation of the Ars Electronica Festival, Prix, Centers, and Lab: Christine SCHÖPF, Hannes LEOPOLDSEDER, Horst HOERTNER, & Christopher LINDINGER.

Contact - application information:
Andrea Haberson

Contact - course and content questions
Wendy Coones

MEDIA.ART.HISTORIES, MA - The MediaArtHistories learning environment at the Center for Image Science integrates world-wide leading scholars from the field into a faculty working intensely with the students in seminars and workshops. The MediaArtHistories masters program conveys the most important developments of contemporary art through a network of renowned international theorists, artists, curators and many others. Historical derivations that go far back into art and media history are tied in intriguing ways to digital art. Key approaches and methods from Image Science, Media Archaeology and the History of Science & Technology will be discussed. Media Art History offers a basis for understanding evolutionary history of audiovisual media, from the Laterna Magica to the Panorama, Phantasmagoria, Film, and the Virtual Art of recent decades. Using online databases and other modern aids, knowledge of computer animation, net art, interactive, telematic and genetic art as well as the most recent reflections on nano art, CAVE installations, augmented reality and wearables are introduced.


STUDENTS - The course is held in English and is low-residency with rolling admissions. Acceptance into the program requires a previous degree at or above the Bachelors level, or the equivalent through relevant work experience. International students come from countries like Canada, Hong Kong, Ukraine, USA, Japan, , Brazil, Iceland, Russia, Egypt, Germany, & Korea and Mexico.

DANUBE UNIVERSITY - located in the UNESCO world heritage Wachau, near Vienna is the first public university in Europe which specializes in university-based advanced education offering low-residency degree programs for working professionals and lifelong learners.

CENTER FOR IMAGE SCIENCE - international experts analyze the image worlds of art, science, politics and economy and elucidate how they originated, became established and how they have stood the test of time. The innovative approach at the Center for Image Science is reinforced by praxis-oriented study. Without interrupting their career, students have the opportunity gain key qualifications for the contemporary art and media marketplace through modular courses in internationally unique surroundings. Students in the MediaArtHistories, MA program come twice a year for 2-week blocks to the CIS in the 1000-year-old Monastery Göttweig, and the newly built Danube University main campus.

The next Module is May 4-15, 2012.

Visualizations of Impressionist artists - color histograms (part 2)

Visualizations of Impressionist artists - color palettes (part 1) were created by UCSD undergraduate student Megan O'Rourke for her homework in my Winter 2012 class data visualization and compututional art history (the link is to Spring 2012 version of the class).

Here is another innovative visualization created by Megan. She adopted histogram technique to compare color palettes of six Impressionist artists. The histograms show the relative proportions of different hue in the set of paintings of each artist. (To make this visualization easier to read, below is the visualization of the same images from the earlier post. It maps paintings according to x-axis = median saturation, y-axis = average hue).

Together, the two visualizations reveal strong similarity between the color "footprints" of the selected paintings of these artists.

Impressionists Color Ranges

Impressionism Image Plots

Images of 630 Impressionist paintings.


Number of paintings per artist:
Artstor contains only some of the paintings by these arists. The diffrences in the numbers of images available for each artist reflect the differences in popularity of each artist as well their varied productivity.

The histograms use the median hue values measured per each painting.

Visualizations of Impressionist artists - color palette comparisons (part 1)

The following visualizations was created by UCSD undergraduate student Megan O'Rourke in my Winter 2012 class data visualization and compututional art history (the link is to Spring 2012 version of the class).

The visualizations compare color palettes in paintings of of six Impressionist artists. In each image plot, x-axis = median saturation; y-axis = median hue. The visualizations were created with our open source ImagePlot software. Click on each image to see high resolution version.

Images of 630 Impressionist paintings.
Number of paintings per artist:
Artstor contains only some of the paintings by these arists. The diffrences in the numbers of images available for each artist reflect the differences in popularity of each artist as well their varied productivity.

Impressionism Image Plots

When I wrote a macro which we distribute with ImagePlot and included average hue as one the image measurements, I was not sure if it can be actually used in a meaningful way. Megan's visualization shows that this measurement is quite useful. Her other invention was to extend plots vertically and place them side by side - a really good format for comparing image sets.

Teaching of art history for many decades of the 20th century was built on comparing two images at a time using slide projector technology. Media visualization methods developed at our lab allow scaling of comparision. Any number of images can be placed side by side and sorted according to multiple attributes (including metadata, content and visual form).

Close-up: a comparison between Cassat, Monet, Morissot:

Comparing Cassatt, Monet, and Morissot

Looking at the visualizations, I am struck by how similar are the color footprints of the Impressionist artists. What are the reasons for this similarity? How does it relate to the range of subects in their works, and their habit of working outside using newly available technology of oil paint in tubes?

close-up: all 1226 Impressionist paintings:

1226 Impressionist paintings (x - saturation, y - hue) w640

visualizing explosion of digital data

The World's Technological Capacity to Store, Communicate, and Compute Information.

Martin Hilbert1 and Priscila López.

Science, February 10, 2011.


We estimate the world's technological capacity to store, communicate, and compute information, tracking 60 analog and digital technologies during the period from 1986 to 2007. In 2007, humankind was able to store 2.9 × 1020 optimally compressed bytes, communicate almost 2 × 1021 bytes, and carry out 6.4 × 1018 instructions per second on general-purpose computers. General-purpose computing capacity grew at an annual rate of 58%. The world's capacity for bidirectional telecommunication grew at 28% per year, closely followed by the increase in globally stored information (23%). Humankind's capacity for unidirectional information diffusion through broadcasting channels has experienced comparatively modest annual growth (6%). Telecommunication has been dominated by digital technologies since 1990 (99.9% in digital format in 2007), and the majority of our technological memory has been in digital format since the early 2000s (94% digital in 2007).

Illustration from the article in Washington Post about this research:


Guide to visualizing image and video collections

Guide to visualizing image and video collections

The guide describes the techniques used in our Software Studies Lab to explore large image and video sets.

Like our previously released ImagePlot software, these techniques use free ImageJ digital image analysis application with our custom macros.

The guide covers the following operations (software used is in brackets):

- Download and setup free ImageJ software used to prepare images and video for visualizations, and create visualizations.
- Automatically detect shots in a video (shotdetect).
- Output video as a sequence of frames (ImageJ).
- Automatically scale all images in a folder (ImageJ).
- Create "montage" and "slice" visualizations (ImageJ).
- Create "montage" and "slice" visualizations with diff. size images located in multiple folders (ImageMontage, ImageSlice).
- Use Unix commands to create a data file containing file paths to images located in multiple folders (Unix).

Data Visualization and Computational Art History - my 2012 Spring course syllabus, UCSD

Data Visualization and Computational Art History

Course syllabus

Instructor: Lev Manovich

Spring 2012, Visual Arts Department,UCSD:
undergraduate course: VIS 149 / ICAM 130: Special Topics
graduate course: VIS 219: Special Topics


Comparing van Gogh paintings done in Paris and Arles. 
X-axis = median brightness. Y-axis=median saturation.
Software: ImagePlot.

"Visualization as a Method in Art History" - slides of my 10 min intro to 2012 CAA session

session info:

Information Visualization as a Research Method in Art History
Friday, February 24, 2:30 PM–5:00 PM
West Hall Meeting Room 502A, Level 2, Los Angeles Convention Center

Christian Huemer, Getty Research Institute;
Lev Manovich, University of California, San Diego

Visualizing the Ecology of Complex Networks in Art History
Maximilian Schich, Northeastern University

Geoinformatics and Art History: Visualizing the Reception of American Art in Western Europe, 1948-1968
Catherine Dossin, Purdue University

Interactive Mapping of the Agents of the Art Market in Europe (1550-1800)
Sophie Raux, Université Lille Nord de France

Visualizing Art, Law, and Markets
Victoria Szabo, Duke University

Lithics Visualization Project for Analysis of Patterns and Aesthetic Presentation
Georgia Gene Berryhill, University of Maryland, Tom Levy, UCSD, and Lev Manovich, UCSD and Calit2

Information Visualization and Museum Practice
Piotr Adamczyk, Google and University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

new article: Lev Manovich, "How to Follow Software Users? (Digital Humanities, Software Studies, Big Data)"


Lev Manovich. How to Follow Software Users? (Digital Humanites, Software Studies, Big Data).


Big data is the new media of 2010s. Like previous waves of computer technologies, it changes what it means to know something and how we can generate this knowledge. So far, all big data projects in digital humanities that I am aware of used digitized cultural artifacts from the past. If we want to apply the big data paradigm to the study of contemporary interactive software-driven media, we are facing fascinating theoretical questions and challenges. What exactly is “big data” in the case of interactive media? How do we study the interactive temporal experiences of the users, as opposed to only analyzing the code of software programs and contents of media files? This articles provides possible answers to these questions and proposes a methodology for the study of interactive media as “big data.”


This new article is not published anywhere yet. If you want to reference it, use the URL of this post.

Illustration: Heatmap of user eye movement superimposed over a website she is looking at.