Author Archives: Johnathan Thayer

Objectivity/Subjectivity in Photography and Archives

Inspired by Ashleigh’s presentation, I want to share an excellent article from the archival theory journal Archivaria, “Records of Simple Truth and Precision: Photography, Archives, and the Illusion of Control,” which argues that the advent of the daguerreotype in 1830s France had epistemological parallels in 19th c. French archival theory, which privileged the archival fonds as an objective and organically produced historical artifact.

Here it is:

Brooklyn in Love and War

Here’s the project that I mentioned in class, created by Molly Rosner who is in the American Studies PhD program at Rutgers-Newark:

About this Blog

This blog looks at the nation’s history as filtered through the well-documented relationship between my grandparents.  I never knew Sylvia, but she and my grandfather, Alex, wrote hundreds of letters to each other during the years that Alex was stationed abroad during WWII.

Each post examines a letter that helps the story of two people unfold as they navigate their relationship with each other and with the war.

I will also look at the letters in the context of Brooklyn and how it has changed over time. The blog is also a platform to examine different methods of storytelling that are used throughout the letters.

Here is a link to the first post on this blog:

Follow this blog on Twitter @bkinloveandwar.

Twitter as research tool / digital marginalia

I took a different approach to this exercise, having not really made connections to our readings about text deformance until reading the other blog posts before class. My bots (or hypothetical bots) were conceived as research tools rather than text generators.

First: wanted to set up an account that tweeted a random audio clip from my oral history site ( I would need the bot to pull both the clip title and the clip description from the metadata, ideally. I quickly realized this is very difficult to set up for someone with very little exposure to programming.

Next: I decided to use a ready-made service, RoundTeam, to set up a simple keyword retweet that I could use as a research tool. This is generally how I use Twitter anyway–as a content aggregator in which I follow people who post content or links to content, and I re-tweet things that I’ve read or interacted with. It’s a sort of digital reading journal for me. From an archival perspective, this is what I find most interesting about Twitter: that users are leaving digital marginalia that represent traces of their interactions with the “text” of the internet. The Library of Congress Twitter archive project seems promising, but I wish there was more transparency as to what exactly they are doing.

Anyway, since I research the cultural history of urban port districts (aka “sailortowns”) I created an account “SailortownRTs,” and attempted to configure it so that it would retweet any mention of the keyword “sailortown,” but immediately ran into the problem that applying this function to all of Twitter requires a paid account.

Admittedly, I haven’t spent much time attempting to figure out how to do this from scratch. I plan on seeing what I can do over the weekend drawing on other examples.