How a Virus Spreads, and How to Avoid It: A Former NASA Engineer Demonstrates with a Blacklight in a Classroom

The past few weeks have remind­ed us just why virus­es have been such a for­mi­da­ble ene­my of human­i­ty for so long. Though very few of the count­less virus­es in exis­tence affect us in any way, let alone a lethal one, we can’t see them with­out micro­scopes. And so when a dead­ly virus breaks out, we live our dai­ly lives with an invis­i­ble killer in our midst. Aggres­sive test­ing, as sev­er­al coro­n­avirus-afflict­ed coun­tries have proven, does much to low­er the rate of trans­mis­sion. But how, exact­ly, does trans­mis­sion hap­pen? In the video above, Youtu­ber Mark Rober, a for­mer NASA engi­neer and Apple prod­uct design­er, demon­strates the process vivid­ly by tak­ing a black­light into that most dis­eased of all envi­ron­ments: the ele­men­tary-school class­room.

You can’t see virus­es under a black­light, but you can see the spe­cial pow­der that Rober applies to the hands of the class’s teacher. At the begin­ning of the school day, the teacher shakes the hand of just three kids, touch­ing none of the oth­ers, and by lunchtime — a cou­ple of hours after Rober pow­ders the hands of one more stu­dent dur­ing morn­ing break — the black­light reveals the “germs” every­where.

This despite fair­ly dili­gent hand-wash­ing, albeit hand-wash­ing unac­com­pa­nied by the dis­in­fec­tion of sur­faces, cell­phones, and oth­er objects in and parts of the class­room. “Even if a virus is spread through air­borne trans­mis­sion,” Rober says, “those tiny droplets don’t stay in the air for long. Then they land on sur­faces, wait­ing to be touched by our hands.” This leads him to the dec­la­ra­tion that “the ulti­mate defense against catch­ing a virus is: just don’t touch your face.”

Rober calls your eyes, nose, and mouth “the sin­gle weak spot on the Death Star when it comes to virus­es. That’s the only way they can get in to infect you.” Hence, here in the time of COVID-19, the fre­quent urg­ings not just to wash our hands but to refrain from touch­ing our faces as well. Increas­ing­ly many of us have become hyper-aware of our own “germ hygiene,” as Rober calls it, but the oth­er half of the bat­tle against the pan­dem­ic must be insti­tu­tion­al: school clo­sures, for exam­ple, one of which was announced over the PA sys­tem dur­ing this very video’s shoot. “Because of this virus, we are going to be clos­ing school for three weeks,” says the prin­ci­pal, not with­out a note of excite­ment in his voice — but an excite­ment hard­ly com­pa­ra­ble to the sub­se­quent explo­sion of joy among the third-graders lis­ten­ing. Chal­leng­ing though this time may be, chil­dren like these remind us to take our fun wher­ev­er we find it.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Inter­ac­tive Web Site Tracks the Glob­al Spread of the Coro­n­avirus: Cre­at­ed and Sup­port­ed by Johns Hop­kins

Free Cours­es on the Coro­n­avirus: What You Need to Know About the Emerg­ing Pan­dem­ic

Watch Bac­te­ria Become Resis­tant to Antibi­otics in a Mat­ter of Days: A Quick, Stop-Motion Film

The His­to­ry of the Plague: Every Major Epi­dem­ic in an Ani­mat­ed Map

Jared Dia­mond Iden­ti­fies the Real, Unex­pect­ed Risks in Our Every­day Life (in a Psy­che­del­ic Ani­mat­ed Video)

200 Free Kids’ Edu­ca­tion­al Resources: Video Lessons, Apps, Books, Web­sites & More

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Watch AI-Restored Film of Laborers Going Through Life in Victorian England (1901)

In these times, we need to keep at some kind of rou­tine. And so I’d like to doff my cloth worker’s cap to Denis Shiryaev, who once again has returned from the ear­ly days of cin­e­ma with anoth­er AI-restored clip of film from the ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry.

Ah, but there’s some­thing amiss this time, a glitch in the matrix of expec­ta­tions. Not all sources can be saved by tech­nol­o­gy. Fans of Shiryaev’s crys­tal clear jour­neys back in time (find them in the Relat­eds below) might find the footage rough. It doesn’t make this film any less fas­ci­nat­ing.

Sagar Mitchell and James Keny­on start­ed their film busi­ness to try to copy the suc­cess of sim­i­lar, ear­li­er film­mak­ers like the Lumiere Broth­ers in Paris. Audi­ences would pay to see short films of how peo­ple lived, worked, walked about, and just exist­ed. It was a win­dow into anoth­er real­i­ty, and by pure chance a hun­dred of Mitchell & Keny­on’s films were found pre­served in a Black­burn, UK base­ment near­ly a cen­tu­ry lat­er. This is a com­pi­la­tion of three of them, scored by Guy Jones with mild atmos­pher­ics.

More than any of the oth­er films that Shiryaev has “restored,” Mitchell & Keny­on don’t try to hide their cam­era or pre­tend it’s not there. Instead, these three films make a point of invit­ing their sub­jects to look direct­ly at us, and because of Shiryaev’s work these dozens and dozens of eyes real­ly seem to be watch­ing us from across time. The young boys are cheeky, the young girls shy, the old­er adults bemused or slight­ly irri­tat­ed. There is no par­tic­u­lar focus here–we can choose who we want to fol­low, which indeed was one of the rea­sons for these films pop­u­lar­i­ty. They were designed for repeat vis­its.

There are two par­tic­u­lar points of inter­est that hap­pen very quick­ly. One is at 1:09–the appear­ance of an Afro-Caribbean man as part of the work­force. Peo­ple of African descent had lived in Britain since the 12th cen­tu­ry, but this might be one of the ear­li­est films of such a per­son. The oth­er is lat­er at 4:24, which might be the first film of a bloke giv­ing the cam­era the rude two-fin­gered salute. This moment is why the British Film Insti­tute dubbed Mitchell & Keny­on “the acci­den­tal anthro­pol­o­gists.”

(You might also watch for the fight that breaks out near the end of the film. Real or not? You be the judge.)

Relat­ed Con­tent:

A Trip Through New York City in 1911: Vin­tage Video of NYC Gets Col­orized & Revived with Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence

Icon­ic Film from 1896 Restored with Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence: Watch an AI-Upscaled Ver­sion of the Lumière Broth­ers’ The Arrival of a Train at La Cio­tat Sta­tion

Watch Scenes from Belle Époque Paris Vivid­ly Restored with Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence (Cir­ca 1890)

Watch Scenes from Czarist Moscow Vivid­ly Restored with Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence (May 1896)

Immac­u­late­ly Restored Film Lets You Revis­it Life in New York City in 1911

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the Notes from the Shed pod­cast and is the pro­duc­er of KCR­W’s Curi­ous Coast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, and/or watch his films here.

Audible Providing Free Audio Books to Kids & Teens: Introducing the New Service, Audible Stories

A heads up to all par­ents, Audi­ble has announced that they’re pro­vid­ing free sto­ries for kids dur­ing this peri­od of social dis­tanc­ing, which inevitably means wide­spread school clo­sures. They write:

For as long as schools are closed, we’re open. Start­ing today, kids every­where can instant­ly stream an incred­i­ble col­lec­tion of sto­ries, includ­ing titles across six dif­fer­ent lan­guages, that will help them con­tin­ue dream­ing, learn­ing, and just being kids.

All sto­ries are free to stream on your desk­top, lap­top, phone or tablet.

Explore the col­lec­tion, select a title and start lis­ten­ing.

It’s that easy.

Win­nie the Pooh, Alice’s Adven­tures in Won­der­land, Beat­rix Pot­ter–they’re all avail­able as free audio.

You can find more free audio books in our col­lec­tion, 1,000 Free Audio Books: Down­load Great Books for Free

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Enter an Archive of 6,000 His­tor­i­cal Children’s Books, All Dig­i­tized and Free to Read Online

A Dig­i­tal Archive of 1,800+ Children’s Books from UCLA

Clas­sic Children’s Books Now Dig­i­tized and Put Online: Revis­it Vin­tage Works from the 19th & 20th Cen­turies


Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks: The 2020 Edition

Back in 2014, this image won a con­test on a sub­red­dit devot­ed to Blender, “the amaz­ing open-source soft­ware pro­gram for 3D mod­el­ing, ani­ma­tion, ren­der­ing and more.” (You can down­load the free soft­ware here.) The image riffs, of course, on Edward Hop­per’s clas­sic 1942 paint­ing, “Nighthawks,” tak­ing its theme of lone­li­ness to new extremes–extremes that we’re just start­ing to get accus­tomed to now.

Find lots of back­ground infor­ma­tion on the orig­i­nal “Nighthawks” paint­ing in the Relat­eds below.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Edward Hopper’s Icon­ic Paint­ing Nighthawks Explained in a 7‑Minute Video Intro­duc­tion

How Edward Hop­per “Sto­ry­board­ed” His Icon­ic Paint­ing Nighthawks

Dis­cov­er the Artist Who Men­tored Edward Hop­per & Inspired “Nighthawks”

Sev­en Videos Explain How Edward Hopper’s Paint­ings Expressed Amer­i­can Lone­li­ness and Alien­ation

The Art Insti­tute of Chica­go Puts 44,000+ Works of Art Online: View Them in High Res­o­lu­tion


The Books We Can Use to Rebuild Civilization, Selected by Neal Stephenson, Brian Eno, Tim O’Reilly & More

With so many of us across the world stuck at home, human­i­ty’s thoughts have turned to what we’ll do when we can resume our nor­mal lives. This time of quar­an­tine, lock­down, and oth­er forms of iso­la­tion urges us to reflect, but also to read — and in many cas­es to read the impor­tant books we’d neglect­ed in our pre-coro­n­avirus lives. Quite a few such vol­umes appear in the Long Now Foun­da­tion’s “Man­u­al for Civ­i­liza­tion,” which long­time Open Cul­ture read­ers will remem­ber us fea­tur­ing not long after it launched in 2014. Its name refers to a library, one that accord­ing to the Foun­da­tion’s exec­u­tive direc­tor Alexan­der Rose “will include the rough­ly 3500 books most essen­tial to sus­tain or rebuild civ­i­liza­tion.”

“Using this as an cura­to­r­i­al prin­ci­ple,” Rose adds, “is help­ing us assem­ble a very inter­est­ing col­lec­tion of books.” So too are their choic­es of peo­ple asked for rec­om­men­da­tions of books to put on the Man­u­al for Civ­i­liza­tion’s shelves.

Take, for instance, the his­to­ry-focused list of books pro­vid­ed by Snow CrashCrypto­nom­i­con, and The Baroque Cycle author Neal Stephen­son, a pro­lif­ic writer in his own right:

  • Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol­umes 1–6 by Edward Gib­bon
  • The Odyssey by Homer trans­lat­ed by Robert Fagles
  • The Ili­ad by Homer trans­lat­ed by Robert Fagles
  • The Struc­tures of Every­day Life: Civ­i­liza­tion & Cap­i­tal­ism, 15th-18th Cen­tu­ry, Vol­umes 1–3 by Fer­nand Braudel
  • 1491: New Rev­e­la­tions of the Amer­i­c­as Before Colum­bus by Charles C. Mann
  • Newton’s Prin­cip­ia for the Com­mon Read­er by S. Chan­drasekhar
  • Leviathan: Or the Mat­ter, Forme, and Pow­er of a Com­mon­wealth Eccle­si­as­ti­call and Civ­il by Thomas Hobbes
  • The Amer­i­can Prac­ti­cal Nav­i­ga­tor: An Epit­o­me of Nav­i­ga­tion by Nathaniel Bowditch
  • Pax Bri­tan­ni­ca: A Three Vol­ume Set (Heaven’s Com­mand, Pax Bri­tan­ni­ca, and Farewell the Trum­pets) by James Mor­ris
  • Son Of The Morn­ing Star: Custer and the Lit­tle Bighorn by Evan S. Con­nell
  • The Siege at Peking by Peter Flem­ing
  • Marl­bor­ough, His Life & Times, Vol­umes 1–6 by Win­ston Churchill
  • The Mak­ing of the Atom­ic Bomb by Richard Rhodes
  • Dark Sun: The Mak­ing of the Hydro­gen Bomb by Richard Rhodes
  • The Road to Real­i­ty: A Com­plete Guide to the Laws of the Uni­verse by Roger Pen­rose

The Long Now Foun­da­tion did­n’t just approach Stephen­son because they enjoy his nov­els: he was pre­vi­ous­ly involved with the Foun­da­tion’s “Clock of the Long Now” project, a mechan­i­cal clock engi­neered to keep time for 10,000 years and thus serve as a phys­i­cal reminder of the neces­si­ty of long-term think­ing. The process of com­ing up with ideas for the Clock pro­vid­ed Stephen­son with inspi­ra­tion for his nov­el Anath­em, which deals with monas­tic com­mu­ni­ties of intel­lec­tu­als ded­i­cat­ed to safe­guard­ing knowl­edge against the col­lapse of soci­ety.

Music pro­duc­er and visu­al artist Bri­an Eno’s album Jan­u­ary 07003 / Bell Stud­ies for The Clock of The Long Now also came out of his own work on the Clock, and as a found­ing mem­ber of the Long Now Foun­da­tion he nat­u­ral­ly also had a list of books (pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture) rich with his­tor­i­cal, polit­i­cal, philo­soph­i­cal, soci­o­log­i­cal, archi­tec­tur­al, lit­er­ary, and aes­thet­ic texts to con­tribute:

More recent­ly, pro­gram­mer and pub­lish­er Tim O’Reil­ly drew up an even more expan­sive list of books for addi­tion to the Man­u­al for Civ­i­liza­tion. Owing to the wide and ever-grow­ing array of tech­ni­cal books put out by the pub­lish­er that bears his name, you might guess that O’Reil­ly would most­ly rec­om­mend vol­umes per­ti­nent to rebuild­ing our dig­i­tal world. In fact he offers a range of high­ly ana­log choic­es, the­mat­i­cal­ly speak­ing, which he breaks down into four cat­e­gories. First come the “religious/ philo­soph­i­cal works”:

  • The Way of Life Accord­ing to Lao Tzu trans­lat­ed by Wit­ter Byn­ner
  • The Bha­gavad Gita trans­lat­ed by Christo­pher Ish­er­wood
  • The Analects of Con­fu­cius trans­lat­ed by Roger Ames and Hen­ry Rose­mont
  • The Tri­al and Death of Socrates by Pla­to (trans­lat­ed by GMA Grube, revised by John Coop­er)
  • Zen in the Art of Archery by Eugene Her­rigel
  • The New Tes­ta­ment
  • An Intro­duc­tion to Real­is­tic Phi­los­o­phy by John Wild
  • The Hero With a Thou­sand Faces by Joseph Camp­bell
  • The Masks of God (4 vol­umes) by Joseph Camp­bell

Then the lit­er­a­ture:

  • The Com­plete Works of William Shake­speare
  • Chapman’s Homer: The Ili­ad and The Odyssey trans­lat­ed by George Chap­man
  • Samuel John­son: Poems and Select­ed Prose
  • To the Light­house by Vir­ginia Woolf
  • The Palm at the End of the Mind by Wal­lace Stevens
  • The Four Quar­tets by T.S.Eliot

Then books about “sci­ence, tech­nol­o­gy, and soci­ety”:

  • A Pat­tern Lan­guage by Christo­pher Alexan­der
  • The Death and Life of Great Amer­i­can Cities by Jane Jacobs
  • Gov­ern­ing the Com­mons by Eli­nor Ostrom
  • The Plea­sure of Find­ing Things Out by Richard Feyn­man
  • The Feyn­man Lec­tures on Physics by Richard Feyn­man

And final­ly, “stuff that would be use­ful if civ­i­liza­tion declines”:

  • The Fox­fire Books edit­ed by Eliot Wig­gin­ton (more info)
  • The Track­er: The True Sto­ry of Tom Brown Jr. by Tom Brown
  • Putting Food By by Ruth Hertzberg
  • Luther Bur­bank: His Meth­ods and Dis­cov­er­ies and Their Prac­ti­cal Appli­ca­tion by Luther Bur­bank
  • Plant and mush­room iden­ti­fi­ca­tion man­u­als for every major geog­ra­phy: Edi­ble Wild Plants: A North Amer­i­can Field Guide and Edi­ble Wild Mush­rooms of North Amer­i­ca
  • Guide to Iden­ti­fy­ing Trees and Shrubs by Mark Zam­par­do

O’Reil­ly adds that “you also need engi­neer­ing, includ­ing (bicy­cles, flight, bridges, and fac­to­ries), spin­ning and weav­ing and the man­u­fac­tur­ing tech­nol­o­gy there­of, met­al­lur­gy, mate­ri­als sci­ence, math (includ­ing slide rule design and log­a­rith­mic tables), chem­istry, biol­o­gy, fun­da­men­tals of com­put­er chips (and alter­nate ways of doing com­put­ing with­out the abil­i­ty to do a full fab).”

At the Long Now Foun­da­tion’s site you’ll find more rec­om­men­da­tions by such lumi­nar­ies as Whole Earth Cat­a­log founder Stew­art Brand, Wired found­ing edi­tor Kevin Kel­ly, and Brain Pick­ings cura­tor Maria Popo­va. Whether your inter­ests incline toward the tech­ni­cal, the his­tor­i­cal, the philo­soph­i­cal, or toward prac­ti­cal­ly any­thing else besides, the Man­u­al for Civ­i­liza­tion has more than a few books for you to digest. (Near­ly 900 of them are avail­able for free at the Inter­net Archive.) What’s more, the coro­n­avirus has grant­ed an entire­ly plau­si­ble excuse to spend more of our days read­ing — and a fair­ly good rea­son to con­sid­er how we might run soci­ety dif­fer­ent­ly in the future.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Bri­an Eno Lists 20 Books for Rebuild­ing Civ­i­liza­tion & 59 Books For Build­ing Your Intel­lec­tu­al World

Stew­art Brand’s List of 76 Books for Rebuild­ing Civ­i­liza­tion

Neil deGrasse Tyson Lists 8 (Free) Books Every Intel­li­gent Per­son Should Read

The 10 Great­est Books Ever, Accord­ing to 125 Top Authors (Down­load Them for Free)

Why You Should Read The Plague, the Albert Camus Nov­el the Coro­n­avirus Has Made a Best­seller Again

Ray Brad­bury Explains Why Lit­er­a­ture is the Safe­ty Valve of Civ­i­liza­tion (in Which Case We Need More Lit­er­a­ture!)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

6 Minute Reprieve From the World’s Troubles, Courtesy of Tilda Swinton, Countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo, and Five Springer Spaniels

This video of Til­da Swin­ton’s Springer Spaniels cavort­ing in pas­toral Scot­land to a Han­del aria per­formed by coun­tertenor Antho­ny Roth Costan­zo won’t cure what ails you, but it is def­i­nite­ly good med­i­cine.

Swin­ton and her part­ner, artist San­dro Kopp, filmed the beau­ti­ful beasts in such a way as to high­light their dog­gy exu­ber­ance, whether mov­ing as a pack or tak­ing a solo turn.

The title of the aria, “Rompo i Lac­ci,” from the sec­ond act of Flavio, trans­lates to “I break the laces,” and there’s no mis­tak­ing the joy Rosy, Dora, Louis, Dot, and Snow­bear take in being off the leash.

Flash­backs to their roly­poly pup­py selves are cute, but it’s the feath­ery ears and tails of the adult dogs that steal the show as they bound around beach and field.

The film­mak­ers get a lot of mileage from their stars’ lolling pink tongues and will­ing­ness to vig­or­ous­ly launch them­selves toward any out of frame treat.

We’ve nev­er seen a ten­nis ball achieve such beau­ty.

There’s also some fun to be had in spe­cial effects where­in the dogs are dou­bled by a mir­ror effect and lat­er, when one of them turns into a canine Rorschach blot.

The video was orig­i­nal­ly screened as part of Costan­zo’s mul­ti-media Glass Han­del instal­la­tion for Opera Philadel­phia, an explo­ration into how opera can make the hairs on the back of our neck stand up.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Stephen Fry Hosts “The Sci­ence of Opera,” a Dis­cus­sion of How Music Moves Us Phys­i­cal­ly to Tears

How a Philip Glass Opera Gets Made: An Inside Look

Til­da Swin­ton Recites Poem by Rumi While Reek­ing of Vetiv­er, Heliotrope & Musk

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

Linked Jazz: A Huge Data Visualization Maps the Relationships Between Countless Jazz Musicians & Restores Forgotten Women to Jazz History

Hav­ing watched the devel­op­ment of inter­ac­tive data visu­al­iza­tions as a writer for Open Cul­ture, I’ve seen my share of impres­sive exam­ples, espe­cial­ly when it comes to map­ping music. Per­haps the old­est such resource, the still-updat­ing Ishkur’s Guide to Elec­tron­ic Music, also hap­pens to be one of the best for its com­pre­hen­sive­ness and wit­ty tone. Anoth­er high achiev­er, The Uni­verse of Miles Davis, released on what would have been Davis’ 90th birth­day, is more focused but no less dense a col­lec­tion of names, record labels, styles, etc.

While visu­al­iz­ing the his­to­ry of any form of music can result in a sig­nif­i­cant degree of com­plex­i­ty, depend­ing on how deeply one drills down on the specifics, jazz might seem espe­cial­ly chal­leng­ing. Choos­ing one major fig­ure pulls up thou­sands of con­nec­tions. As these mul­ti­ply, they might run into the mil­lions. But some­how, one of the best music data visu­al­iza­tions I’ve seen yet—Pratt Institute’s Linked Jazz project—accounts seam­less­ly for what appears to be the whole of jazz, includ­ing obscure and for­got­ten fig­ures and inter­ac­tive, dynam­ic fil­ters that make the his­to­ry of women in jazz more vis­i­ble, and let users build maps of their own.

Jazz musi­cians “are like fam­i­ly,” Zena Lat­to, one of the musi­cians the project recov­ered, told an inter­view­er in 2015. A mul­ti-racial, transna­tion­al, active­ly mul­ti-gen­er­a­tional fam­i­ly that meets all over the world to play togeth­er con­stant­ly, that is. As a form of music built on ensem­ble play­ers and jour­ney­men soloists who some­times form bands for no more than a sin­gle album or tour, jazz musi­cians prob­a­bly form more rela­tion­ships across age, gen­der, race, and nation­al­i­ty than those in any oth­er genre.

That organ­ic, built-in diver­si­ty, a fea­ture of the music through­out its his­to­ry, shows up in every per­mu­ta­tion of the Linked Jazz map, and comes through in the record­ed inter­views, per­for­mances, and oth­er accom­pa­ny­ing info linked to each musi­cian. Like the Uni­verse of Miles Davis, Linked Jazz leans heav­i­ly on Wikipedia for its infor­ma­tion. And in using such “linked open data (LOD),” as Pratt notes in a blog post, the project “also reveals archival gaps. While icons such as John Coltrane and Miles Davis have large dig­i­tal foot­prints, less­er-known per­form­ers may bare­ly have a mention”—despite the fact that most of those play­ers, at one time or anoth­er, played with, stud­ied under, or record­ed with the greats.

Such was the case with Lat­to, who was men­tored by Ben­ny Good­man and toured through­out the 1940s and 50s with the Inter­na­tion­al Sweet­hearts of Rhythm, “con­sid­ered the first inte­grat­ed all-women band in the Unit­ed States.” Lat­to was “part of a net­work that stretched from New York to New Orleans,” but her name had dis­ap­peared entire­ly until Pratt School of Infor­ma­tion pro­fes­sor Cristi­na Pattuel­li found it on a tat­tered fly­er for a Carnegie Hall con­cert. “Soon, through Linked Jazz, Lot­ta had a Wikipedia page and her inter­view was pub­lished on the Inter­net Archive.”

Linked Jazz’s focus on women musi­cians does not mean gen­der seg­re­ga­tion, but a redis­cov­ery of wom­en’s place in all of jazz.  Like all of the oth­er fil­ters, the Linked Jazz data map’s gen­der view shows both men and women promi­nent­ly in the lit­tle pho­to bub­bles con­nect­ed by webs of red and blue lines. But as you begin click­ing around, you will see the per­spec­tive has shift­ed. “Linked Jazz has con­cen­trat­ed on pro­cess­ing more inter­views with women jazz musi­cians,” writes Pratt, “and these resources have been enhanced by a series of Women of Jazz Wikipedia Edit-a-thons in 2015 and 2017.”

Like­wise, the inclu­sion of these inter­views, biogra­phies, and record­ings have enhanced the breadth and scope of Linked Jazz, which as a whole rep­re­sents the best inten­tions in open data map­ping, real­ized by a design that makes explor­ing the daunt­ing his­to­ry of jazz a mat­ter of strolling through a dig­i­tal library with the entire cat­a­log appear­ing instant­ly at your fin­ger­tips. The project also shows how thought­ful data map­ping can not only repli­cate the exist­ing state of infor­ma­tion, but also con­tribute sig­nif­i­cant­ly by find­ing and restor­ing miss­ing links.


Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Influ­ence of Miles Davis Revealed with Data Visu­al­iza­tion: For His 90th Birth­day Today

How Dave Brubeck’s Time Out Changed Jazz Music

The Brains of Jazz and Clas­si­cal Musi­cians Work Dif­fer­ent­ly, New Research Shows

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

Bruce Springsteen Releases Live Concert Film Online: Watch “London Calling: Live In Hyde Park” and Practice Self Distancing

A mes­sage from Bruce: “Prac­tice social dis­tanc­ing & stream ‘Lon­don Call­ing: Live In Hyde Park’ from the com­fort of your own home, now on YouTube & Apple Music in its entire­ty for the 1st time!” Watch it all above.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.