Graduate Spotlight: Kate Bundy

Kate Bundy is a doctoral candidate in Hispanic Studies in the LLC department and recently finished her thesis, a cross-section between film studies and critical metadata analysis in which Kate performs metadata annotation, data mining, and mapping.
Image by Kate Bundy.

In her research project, Kate analyzes national labelling in the metadata of the short film database Cortos de Metraje. Her interest in this topic began in 2008 when she organized a Spanish short film festival. Many of the short films were in languages other than Spanish, with international actors, communicating transnational and international meanings, but with the label of being "Spanish." 

This led Kate to ask: Why are films aligned with a particular national label? What are the tensions between how films are made and how they tell stories, against or aligned with that national label? To address these questions, Kate mines samples of short films from the database and performs deep metadata annotation. She cleans and organizes collected metadata and maps it against their existing national label. Kate utilizes mapping tools to visualize scattered plurality as she considers the map as a point of departure to visualize what more transnational metadata looks like. In her analyses, Kate reflects on the structure and geopolitics of metadata and the film industry.

"Metadata is a textual expression of a film online, and national metadata needs to catch up with the Web and the world around us, which is increasingly transnational."

Map of national affiliations of Spanish-language 2015 short films on Cortos de Metraje.
Map of national affiliations (language, director, actor, funding sources, film location, film setting, online label) of Spanish-language 2015 short films in Cortos de Metraje. Map on Google myMaps, created by Kate Bundy.

Working with digital artifacts

Kate explains that when we think of archives we tend to think about older, material artifacts. However, she engages with archival research by dealing with an era at the cusp of digitization (Web 2.0) and working with digital objects in a digital order of information. Her work thus analyzes the affordances of the digital, where space and potential could be infinite. Kate believes archives are also in a digital web era: digital archives deal with issues of representation, coloniality, and even marketing, as they consider their digital strategies, target audiences, and channels for engagement

"Metadata is not static. Some metadata points change or are updated. Metadata contains potential and we need to find better ways to express the pluralities within cultural artifacts and make visible actors and contributors who are otherwise left out of the legitimacy game."

Doing and thinking DH

For Kate, DH means addressing humanistic questions with computational methods or addressing computational questions with humanistic methods. Her thesis does both. She zooms in on three short films and analyzes the posthumanist stories of their narrative and their context, focusing on the decentralization of the human. Kate is especially interested in science fictional representations of cyborgs who are not white (Latin American or North African) and pertain to a working class. These films represent moments of crisis in supposedly egalitarian technosocieties. Her case studies are thus an extension of how reductive metadata sets up the Web for false ideals of global egalitarianism.

Map of national affiliations of Spanish-language 2010 short films on Cortos de Metraje.
Map of national affiliations (red for director, blue for online label) of Spanish-language 2010 short films on Cortos de Metraje. Map on Google myMaps, created by Kate Bundy.

Kate is currently open to careers both inside and outside of academia. So far, she finds that tech companies are increasingly interested in candidates who have experience with data analysis, user behaviour testing, web accessibility, and digital strategy skills like content management and web analytics. Kate believes that writing a dissertation is a form of project management because it requires skills like goal-setting, constant adaptation, networking, delegation, risk assessment, and time management every step of the way. As a digitally-oriented humanist, Kate encourages her fellow DHers to consider career options both within and beyond the traditional channels for academics.

Learn more about Kate's research on her personal website, where you can read more about her dissertation and find links to her maps.

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