Exploring Zines: Print Culture + Digital Humanities

Exploring Zines: Print Culture + Digital Humanities

“Exploring Zines: Print Culture and Digital Humanities” examines the print culture of zines through a digital lens. The point is not to digitize zines, but rather to create a new way of understanding the information held within the paper, ink, staples, and content of these DIY creations.

This websites serves as a laboratory to examine how digital humanities tools can help us analyze metadata (such as date, location, materials used, etc.) of zines to learn about them as a cultural phenomenon; we do not digitize content because we believe that the holding and reading the physical print medium is integral to the experience of zines. We look to digitally explore these print items ethically, keeping in mind the intent of creators.

The results of this project were presented at the Society of American Archivists 2013 Annual Conference.

Project Details

Christopher Arena and Alexandra Dolan-Mescal, both zinesters and Queens College MLS candidates, examined what contextual information can be drawn from zine collections to enhance understanding of them without digitizing content, which often goes against the wishes of creators.

Working with the Shouting Shorelines Zine Collection, the covers of 178 zines were scanned and contextual information about each issue was documented. Information fields included author, subject, year, location, media used, extent, format, and copyright statement. Using this information, and adhering to Dublincore metadata standards, visualizations were created to contextualize this information.

The project was divided into two phases:

Phase One consisted of getting word out about the website, collecting data, and documenting input from users. The website was designed to allow users to add comments about the zines and add specific information related to the titles.

Phase Two consisted of generating interactive data visualizations with the hope of mapping trends related to the zines and providing contextual evidence. These visualizations included a timeline of the zines, a subject heading word cloud, a pie chart showing the copyright statements in the collection, and a map plotting the location of the zines. All of these visualizations were created with free, open-source technologies.