This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Latin American History. Please check back later for the full article.
The burgeoning digital technologies of the early twenty-first century are rapidly changing and engrossing millions of people across the globe. YouTube and Facebook are but two examples of social network sites (SNSs) whose social implications are so vast they deserve concerted research. The artifacts, the media, and their implications call for study within specific social and cultural contexts, for their uses and appropriations vary considerably and can suggest different meanings.
Ethnographic research, begun in 2008, follows people connected to electronic music (e-music) in the largest urban centers of Brazil, namely São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. This study traces the migration of this social group from Orkut (which was at that time the most popular SNS in Brazil, by far) to Facebook, which continues to increase in popularity.
The complex topic of learning how people use social media to build their identities is especially interesting. The utilization of terms such as “identity performance,” “self-presentation,” or “self-representation” may denote radically different approaches to the “phenomenon.” Moreover, a methodological concern arises: It is important to gather data concerning people’s use of Facebook, and this should be done online. Nevertheless, it is also relevant to carry out direct interviews to better understand the dynamics of individuals’ self-performance. This fuels debates about the appropriate “adaptation” of ethnographic methods and techniques to virtual environments.
This ethnographic research evaluates concepts such as “virtual ethnography” and “netnography” that have been used to differentiate off-line and online research methods. This line of research argues that although there are specific characteristics of the computer-mediated communication regarding interaction and particular languages for research “in” and “outside” the Internet, such communication takes place in environments that should no longer be treated as “non-places,” or in terms of “real” versus “virtual” as some approaches suggest; rather these spaces should be viewed as a continuum.
In 2012, in-depth, face-to-face interviews were conducted with five social actors from the e-music scenes mentioned above. The questions were informed by review of both the literature on identity construction in SNSs and that on ethnographic methods applied in digital contexts. The interviews were combined with a close observation of the Facebook profiles of these same people.
The study found that the processes of self-presentation of these social actors on Facebook are linked to the daily performance of certain aspects of their identities—mostly related to music as a way of self-expression—for specific “imagined audiences.” The interviewees carefully manage the impressions they want to create for their connections, trying to maintain or break a supposed “expressive coherence” of their online and off-line selves, hence restoring regimes of visibility and identity construction in contemporary times.
Felipe Morales Leal and Lourdes Roca
The Laboratorio Audiovisual de Investigación Social (Social Research Audiovisual Lab, or LAIS) at the Instituto Mora in Mexico has worked in both audiovisual production and the study of the visual world in which we live today. Constructing research sources from photographic images and audiovisual materials constitutes its fundamental purpose. Research methodologies that incorporate images are its plan of action and reflection, and along with the ongoing construction of alternatives, they are put into practice in diverse types of products that result in human resource training with specialized courses and workshops.
With the ultimate goal of promoting research that uses and disseminates images and audiovisual materials, LAIS has numerous research documentaries in its collection, a Website with photographic libraries, projects with an array of public interest products, publications in both digital and print format, and information technology development for the online publication of research tools, as well as specialized workshops and courses on the subject. An important reference at the Latin American level for years, the Instituto Mora’s Social Research Audiovisual Lab drives the expansion of each of these resources.
Danielle B. Barefoot
The 21st century brought with it a mass digitization of archival materials that rapidly changed preservation, research, and pedagogy practices. Chilean digital databases, archives, and humanities projects have grown steadily since the late 1990s. These resources developed with the central goals of democratizing access to sources and removing obstructive barriers including accessibility and physical distance. Remote access capabilities coupled with open access of collections encourages greater interaction with repositories including libraries, museums, and archives and materials such as historical documents, newspapers, paper ephemera, music and audio recordings, and photography.
While not exhaustive, these sites demonstrate the extensive range of digitized sources available that span from the pre-Columbian through modern periods. Researchers, teachers, and students seeking primary sources will find a multitude of themes including indigenous peoples, culture, science and technology, history, politics, environment, and human rights. Some sites, such as Memoria Chilena and the National Security Archive, feature a fully digitized collection with articles and downloadable PDF material. Others, such as Museo de la Memoria y Derechos Humanos, and the Biblioteca Nacional Digital, have non-digitized holdings that call for an in-person visit. Lastly, the Dirección de Bibliotecas Archivos y Museos and Biblioteca Digital del Patrimonio Iberoamericano serve as digital source aggregates that collect and allow users to search across affiliated sites. Aggregation is the newest step in the digital revolution. This newer process permits the archiving of entire archives, which will transform how scholars understand source collection, non-immersive “fieldwork,” and research methodologies.
Digital resources drastically improve the accessibility of sources concerning Chile. At the individual level, user skill may affect the browsing experience, especially when searching for sources. Many digital resources allow for truncated and Boolean logic queries. Users can customize their browsing experience by implementing these tools to expand or narrow the search. At the website level, these resources incorporate open access coupled with universal design practices to democratize the individual browsing experience. Open access allows users to access content free of charge. Universal design ensures access equity through coding and website design. However, in terms of accessibility, room for improvement exists. Users employing screen readers and captioning technologies will have vastly different experiences within each of these resources based on the device and software utilized. Organizations who have undertaken the digitization process must ensure they continue cultivating equitable digital spaces that all users may enjoy.
Mesoamerica is a culture zone that stretches geographically from approximately north-central Mexico into the northwestern half of Central America. Human occupation of this region dates back thousands of years. The end of the Post-Classic Period (c. 1519) is marked by the invasion of the region by Europeans, who were looking to extract goods, services, and taxes from the Mesoamerican peoples. Spanish occupation stretched into the early 19th century. Neocolonial Mesoamerica, of the 19th and 20th centuries, came to experience increasing influences from the United States, Britain, Germany, and other external powers. The past two centuries have also been marked by a continuing local control by a minority, Euro-originating elite over a majority, indigenous population, even as what we once knew as Mesoamerica faded from view. The division between these ethnicities has grown somewhat less clear as a result of the increasing mixed-heritage mestizo or ladino population across the region. Authoritarian regimes marked much of the 20th century, and civilian rule (still without much or any indigenous participation) came at the end of that century, continuing up to the present. But police and military authorities remain present, concerned with internal dissent and unrest at least as much as external threats.
For the present purposes, Digital Mesoamerica has as its focus the region’s indigenous cultures and their histories. Shared cultural traits in the pre-contact era—such as the calendars, glyphic writing, the ball court, human sacrifice, certain legends and religious beliefs, agricultural methods, art, and technologies—set off the many peoples of Mesoamerica from other parts of the Americas. The history of the culture zone is rich for exploring the rise of civilizations, social, economic, and political systems, gender ideologies and practices, religions, land tenure and agricultural systems, medicine, mathematics, astronomy, calendrics, and language diversity (among many other themes). Colonization and its dimensions—such as the impact of epidemic disease, the nature of hybrid religions, evolving tribute and labor systems, struggles over land, efforts to defend some measure of local autonomy, and more—is another arena of great scholarly interest. Contemporary studies are marked by human rights and cultural survival issues, ethnography, mining and other environmental crises, and fair trade, among many other topics.
The most popular and numerous digital resources supporting research and teaching related to Mesoamerican cultures and their histories tend to center on indigenous-authored manuscripts and maps, some of them pre-contact and most of them colonial. These sources are located primarily in Mexican, Guatemalan, U.S., and European repositories, where institutional funds are supporting the creation of open-access digital collections of such materials, along with audio demonstrating language use, videos of all kinds, educational units, and photographs of three-dimensional cultural heritage materials. We are also witnessing moves toward the aggregation of digital content across multiple repositories, such as we see with the World Digital Library, the Internet Archive, and the Getty Research Portal, among others, which increasingly represent Mesoamerica along with other regions of the world. Individuals are also submitting their full-text publications to such aggregators as Academia.edu, announcing their public talks and publications on listservs, Twitter, and Facebook pages, or creating their own robust, one-of-a-kind Web-based projects (with funding from host institutions or national endowments).
Researchers in major Mexico City archives in the early 1970s had access to very few finding aids for historical documents and record sets. Since then, archivists and researchers have worked diligently to organize record sets and create catalogues for an untold number of documents. Since the early twenty-first century, researchers in the Archivo General de la Nación, the Archivo Histórico de la Ciudad de México, the Archivo Histórico del Arzobispado de México, the Archivo Histórico de la Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional, and the Archivo General de Notarías have been able to access databases, searchable PDF catalogues, and a small array of digital collections.
Work toward inventorying and cataloguing record sets began long before the development of technologies available today. Typescript catalogues for record sets in the Archivo Histórico de la Ciudad de México date from the 1920s. Work on inventories, card catalogues, typescripts, and published catalogues for record sets in the Archivo General de la Nación and the Archivo Histórico de la Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional began during the 1930s and 1940s. Work on cataloguing the documents in the Archivo General de Notarías and the Archivo Histórico del Arzobispado de México began during the 1980s and 1990s. Since the early twenty-first century researchers have been able to access databases, searchable PDF catalogues, and a limited number of digitized documents for all these major archives.
New technologies began to make digitization possible, and thus Mexican libraries, along with archives, began to digitize primary and secondary sources. Some of those projects involve digitizing microfilm; others involve digitizing complete record sets and printed books. Still others involve transcriptions of historical documents. While the scope and quality of those projects vary from institution to institution, all create heretofore unimaginable access to historical documents.
María C. Gaztambide
Documents of 20th-century Latin American and Latino Art: A Digital Archive and Publications Project is a multiyear initiative at the International Center for the Arts of the Americas (ICAA) of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston that seeks to consolidate Latin American and Latino art as a field of study and to place it on equal footing with other established aesthetic traditions. It encompasses the recovery, translation into English, and publication of primary texts by Latin American and Latino artists, critics, and curators who have played a fundamental role in the development of modern and contemporary art in countries or communities throughout the Americas. The ICAA makes these essential bibliographic materials available free of charge through a digital archive and a series of fully annotated book anthologies published in English. It is facilitating new historical scholarship on 20th-century Latin American and Latino art through a framework of thirteen open-ended editorial categories that center on thematic rather than more traditional chronological guidelines. This approach broadens the discourse on the modern and contemporary art produced along this cultural axis. A discussion and contextualization of a selection of recovered documents that relate to the editorial category of “Resisting Categories: Latin American and/or Latino?” supports this central argument. These and other little-known or previously inaccessible primary source and critical materials will ultimately encourage interdisciplinary and transnational (re)readings of how aesthetics, social issues, and artistic tendencies have been contested and developed in the region.
The early 19th century was a period of intense turmoil and chaos in the Spanish-speaking world: The Napoleonic Wars and French occupation of the Peninsula in the 1800s, independence movements in the Americas, the liberal constitution of Cádiz, Napoleon’s defeat, and the reinstallation of the Bourbons in the 1810s, and finally, the second constitutional period, the iron fist of restoration, and the eventual loss of most American possessions between 1821 and 1825. The least affected areas in the midst of this turmoil were the loyalist islands of Cuba and Puerto Rico, metaphorically the “eye of the hurricane.” It is within this context that a corpus of some dozen letters, preserved in the Spanish National Archive, were written. They were produced in the circum-Caribbean region—most in Puerto Rico—and addressed mainly to relatives and business partners on the other side of the Atlantic. The letters in question were archived without accompanying documentation, probably seized by authorities loyal to the restoration of the Ancien Régime. As a central element, this digital resource—“En el Ojo del Huracán”—displays these primary sources in an online presentation.
Beyond the historiographic value of the sources, the project explores the differences between traditional and digital edition standards (TEI) for digital letter editions with the aim of showcasing the benefits of implementing the digital paradigm and for different visualizations, functionalities, analysis and incorporation in larger infrastructures.
Joanne Harwood, Valerie Fraser, and Sarah J. Demelo
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Latin American History. Please check back later for the full article.
The Essex Collection of Art from Latin America (ESCALA) was originally founded as the University of Essex Collection of Latin American Art (UECLAA) in 1993, but, with no permanent display space, a versatile online presence has been essential to its success as a resource for students, curators, and researchers. By about the year 2000 it comprised around 400 works from about 10 different countries.
While it is important to remember that viewing a work of art onscreen is no substitute for viewing it firsthand, the digital catalogue is an essential aspect of ESCALA’s activities. It can offer resources that a paper catalogue cannot (it can provide a record of an artist’s performance, for example), it serves as a versatile resource for teaching and research, and it generates interest in the field among those who happen upon it through random searches.
Launched in 1997,
Between 1997 and 2006, the Website grew exponentially, but like many of its early counterparts, the site’s utility and navigability ultimately suffered as a result of the rapid development of new software and the obsolescence of existing digital platforms; searches became sluggish and unwieldy. While visitorship remained high for an academic site—over a million unique visitors a year—a 2012 survey indicated that scholars frequented only known parts of the site while novice users spent as little as a few minutes on the site. The global economic crisis of 2008 destabilized FAMSI’s funding, and in 2010 the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) assumed stewardship of the foundation as well as the Website. The museum began to maintain and review
This research project investigates women’s involvement in the struggles to achieve political independence in Spanish America and Brazil during the first half of the 19th century. The project is hosted at the University of Nottingham, Department of Spanish, Portuguese, and Latin American Studies, School of Cultures, Languages, and Area Studies; it was funded by the University of Nottingham and the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) between 2001 and 2014. The online searchable database was a core output of the first of these AHRC-funded projects (2001–2006): “Gendering Latin American Independence: Women’s Political Culture and the Textual Construction of Gender 1790–1850.” It was enhanced in stages with an AHRC Pilot Dissemination Award (2006–2007) and Follow-on Funding (2012) for the crowd-sourcing project “
The aim of the follow-on-funding awards was to stimulate widespread public debate, preferably in collaboration with partners (national and international). This was of particular importance with respect to the involvement of Latin American women in the independence wars against Spain and Portugal, an aspect of women’s history that had been much neglected. Since 2006, a lively public debate has emerged about women’s involvement in the wars of independence, especially in Latin America. The debate has focused on women’s exclusion from mainstream nationalist historiography and their problematic position in postindependence politics and public culture. The unprecedented surge of interest in women’s history and the founding discourses of the Spanish American republics has been triggered by the bicentenary celebrations of Spanish American political independence, which began in 2010 and will continue into the 2020s, and the recent rise to political prominence of women in Latin America (women presidents in Brazil, Costa Rica, Chile, and Argentina).
The research project of 2001–2006 focused more specifically on the constructions of gender categories in the culture of the independence period and the impact of war and conflict on women’s lives, social relationships, and cultural production. The research emphasized the significance of women in the independence process and explored the reasons for their subsequent exclusion from political culture until recently. Independence was examined in terms of gender: (a) the study of women’s political culture, (b) women’s activities and writings, and (c) the textual construction of gender in political discourse. Questions were posed: Did the wars of independence change traditional ways of thinking about women, and change women’s views of themselves? How was the category “woman” produced historically and politically in Spanish America at the time? In what ways were those identified as women constructed ambiguously as subjects and objects in political discourse? What were women’s responses to the republican discourse of individual rights that equated individuality with masculinity? Why, after political independence, were political rights still denied to over half the population according to the criterion of sexual difference?