From a Distance, What do my bankers and their departments look like?

My interest in exploring digital history was, in fact, prompted by listening to various digital scholars talk about what might be gained from “distant” reading. What patterns or connections might be turned up through data mining that I would not (or could) not see simply by reading the articles myself. Over the time that I have been reading about women’s departments–particularly in promotional literature for banks–I have formed some impressions. Would those working premises be born out if I were to look at materials more systematically. For instance, it has seemed to me that commercial banks, esp. in the 1920s, presenting themselves as modern, usually had three features: 1. an impressive vault; 2. an effective ventilation system; and 3. a woman’s department. While I can imagine coding to determine if that impression is accurate, I am also wondering what other elements might I have missed. And, of course, if I can confirm these elements (or determine others), the question remains–what connection might there be among them?

To be continued.

Source: From a Distance, What do my bankers and their departments look like?


The presentation/discussion with Michael O’Malley was quite a show—”a really big shew”—as Ed Sullivan might have said.

In thinking it over, it seems it was a mash-up (not necessarily a bad thing) of a lot of different issues. I appreciate that he gave us ways to think about music and songs as sources. And also how to present that information (or chance to “think historically” about the sources) to students (or others) through digital technology.

To do that, tho, he relied on knowledge he has both as a historian and as a musician. Lots of musical knowledge—about singers, beat, chords, recording studies—even before he got to the “technical” matters of compression and mid-range dips (I don’t think that was the word).

The resources:

as well as youtube [and how to capture videos from it ] will be fun—it not useful—in the future.

I have questions of historical interpretation: I don’t know that a song like “Chinaman Blues” that promotes racism/orientalism/etc. is “transgressive.” Or if it is “transgressive,” how does that transgression differ from the Flirtations (the ‘90s gay male a cappella group) singing “My Boyfriend’s Back”


or how lesbian audiences “in the know” about Dusty Springfield dusty

or Leslie Gore Gore

listened to them (vs. other listeners). Being passed information about them—or Janis Ian—

janis ian
was a rite of passage in some gilt communities—a “threshold” experience.

This is a long way of getting to the issue that I am always mulling around: which of the approaches are interesting to see what people have done, but I am unlikely to ever use (because I lack, not simply the digital technical ability, but the ability to think historically with/through that kind of source) and which are the ones that I can see doing although right now I am at sea (bobbin’ along). No need to decide anything now although I do find myself “tuning out” (so to speak) when I don’t see myself using it.

And that experience is a good reminder of what students often go through—an additional plus of this institute for me as a teacher.

Source: Reflections