Three terms from the Bill Viola reading resonated with my current efforts in other dimensions: memory, spatial movement, and storage (recording) of ideas (p. 467). The “Russian Flu” project is at the intersection of these three terms: how can the transmission of disease (spatial movement) be studied using newspaper reports (storage of ideas) in ways that are useful for both historical and contemporary understanding (memory). The challenge in this project, however, engages the broader issue raised by Viola about the transition across media. In this project, one shift in media is obvious: the digitization of newspapers, thus moving from paper to electronic media. The transition across media platforms is actually more complicated, in ways that can illustrate the tensions and themes central to Viola’s work. Information about disease begins as biomedical (symptoms) which is then reported, orally in most cases, to and by physicians, and then collected on some level by health officials and reporters, who turn this information into text. Even in the late nineteenth century, this information took on an electronic form, as news was transmitted by telegraph wires between cities and internationally along cable lines. The text then enters the paper medium, which ┬áis how it remained for a couple of decades, until someone microfilmed the newspaper, turning the paper medium into film. The information remained in this medium for another few decades, and then was digitized, which is the current form being studied by students and transformed into an online database. In other words, this point where we are now comes at the end of a long process involved multiple transitions. The anticipatory stage outlined by Viola, where are we going and what will we find when we get there (a porcupine?) is thus suggestive of on-going processes that are central to this other research project.

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