Digital Image Analysis – Part 2

Thanks to all who attended the digital images workshop at Birkbeck in London on 14 February 2017. It was great to test out the manual and batch processing functions of ImageJ, and there seemed to be a number of applications for the measurements that can be done using the software, sometimes involving the angle of lines set on the image, e.g. the direction of eyes in a painting or photograph, sometimes about the calculation of area, such as the treatment of lighter, foregrounded details against dark backgrounds.

Whereas the manual tools seemed quite intuitive, the challenge arises with the use of macros and batch processing. We worked with Lev Manovich and the Software Studies Initiative’s ImagePlot package, which contains a number of macros allowing users to extract features, such as median brightness, from a large set of image files. It also allows you to create scatterplots of those data points and overlay thumbnails of the images. At least in theory!

We encountered a few errors when trying to start the plots, but after downloading the ImageJ (64-bit) package from the National Institutes of Health website, the data seemed to work better with the macros on the Mac OS, and we managed to plot the visualisations.

Another point to remember when using ImageJ is to have Java installed: – this slowed us down a bit at the beginning of the day, but we got the software up and running.

We spent less time on our other software, ANVIL and Cinemetrics, but I am considering how the former might be intergrated into our workshops on language data analysis at the University of East Anglia. The coding specifications are absolutely fascinating for research into the interaction between gesture and language.

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Digital Image Analysis – Part 1

This is the first of a series of posts that document my preparation of teaching materials for the CHASE Arts and Humanities in the Digital Age workshop on digital images. In our programme so far, our postgraduate research students have been introduced to the concepts of metadata and pixel values that accompany image files. This workshop will go one step beyond that in using software to analyse features in images, to take a quantitative approach to them, by making measurements and, using another tool developed by Lev Manovich’s team at the Software Studies Initiative, actually visualise the data in innovative ways. I am also hoping to examine the moving image as well – albeit briefly – with reference to video annotation processes, using a piece of software called Anvil, developed by Michael Kipp.

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Graphic Novels for Doctoral Researcher Development?

A draing of Matthew sitting at a computer, next to a pile of books, a lamp and a cup of coffeeThose who have dropped by my office in the last few months will have been bored by my incessant chatter about the value of graphic novels.  The main reason for my interest is that one of my MA in Higher Education Practice assignments involves this format as part of the assessment, and there is an academic value to working with images in education.

So what’s the big deal? Well, for me, drawing is not just putting pencil to paper, it is about drawing on memories of events, emotions, people and things. An excellent example is Art Spiegelman’s Maus (Spiegelman 2011). The great thing about the page of the graphic novel is the layout: panels and spaces between panels. These influence how we view the narrative (McCloud 1994, 94-117), but take a step back from a specific panel and our brains do some amazing things with words and images. The open awareness of our visual field synthesizes the images and text much more rapidly than reading alone (Sousanis 2015, 61-67), so we see both sequentially and simultaneously. This is great for thinking holistically about your research, teaching and learning in general. Try it. You might like it!


  • McCloud, S. 1994. Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. New York: HarperCollins.
  • Sousanis, N. 2015. Unflattening. Cambridge, Mass. Harvard University Press.
  • Spiegelman, A. 2011. MetaMaus: A Look Inside a Modern Classic, Maus. London: Viking.
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