Next VizCult: Peter Christensen, University of Rochester

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This talk will examine the opportunities that the digital humanities affords the creation of new types of evidence in the study of architecture and architectural history that serve to challenges ideas of solitary authorship. This talk will demonstrate this opportunity through an instructive case study: the architecture of the Ottoman railway network and the buildings designed by the railway network’s German engineers. Generic prefabricated building plans modeled on the German Heimatstil and designed by German architects in Frankfurt were, in the earlier years of the network’s development, deployed to remote sites within the Ottoman empire and adapted in situ by Ottoman laborers. German engineers implementing these designs, supervising an ever-shifting multiethnic labor force, did their best to reconcile the generic blueprints with the specific work site. Meanwhile, the laborers reviewed the blueprints, performing their own form of reconciliation. By virtue of their own notions of what a building should look like, the laborers brought to these buildings their own circumscribed authorial “fingerprints,” an idea which this talk will problematize vis-à-vis the field of biometrics and its digital technologies.

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