Week 11, April 19: Skin Deeep and Racial Categorization

Pretty glad we decided on Skin Deep as our project name because despite having to switch gears and move away from a data driven project, we are still able to comment on both the significance of missing data in the fashion model industry and also the breadth of its need to establish a standard procedure for collecting this information considering the impact fashion has on culture today.

I’ve been focusing on fleshing out my thread of racial categorization this week by asking myself why it is important for the fashion industry to collect and provide this information in the first place.  Although there’s been lots of talk regarding the need for diversity in the first place, it has been difficult to  quantify and support this claim beyond ethnographic reports and the efforts of online bloggers.  From “Erasure and Recognition: The Census, Race and the National Imagination” by Naomi Mezey, I’ve been able to begin thinking about racial categorization as an opportunity to make meaning out of the people who are a part of the fashion model industry.


Week 11, April 19: Skin Deep at NYFW (GP #8)

Last week, our group met with Alycia Sellie at the GC Library to discuss copyright, fair use, and the runway photos we collected from Vogue.com for our project.  Although there are concerns to consider, we’ve come to terms with there being no easy answer and decided to move forward with developing our visualizations to supplement the analytical narrative threads we had presented in our last class session (missing data/ messy data, tokenism, and racial categorization).  From the resources provided to us from librarians, it is clear that we must make an effort to “transform” the images we use for educational purposes in order to “make meaning” and illustrate our observations.

If anyone is interested in those resources on copyright and fair use, please let us know and we could forward you what we have.  We also intend to preserve our project in a traditional essay format.

Week 10: Failing Well

Last week, our group accepted that our project could not collect the desired data required to begin quantifying the alleged racial disparities found on the runway and in the casting of MOC.  Although this development was discouraging initially, we’ve managed to repurpose both the information we have gathered and what we could not to begin analyzing what the lack of accessible data says about the fashion model industry’s labor practices and the importance of developing more sophisticated enumeration procedures sanctioned by the government in order to highlight these issues more explicitly.

Skin Deep at NYFW will push forward and, in what Bethany Nowviskie calls “failing well,” aim instead to construct a longform visual essay online on the difficulties of qualifying race in an industry that values beauty as defined by a history of racist aesthetics.  After speaking with Jennifer Tang last week, we’ve identified three major threads to discuss and split them up between the three of us to begin writing content.  Scarlett will research tokenism in the industry and use Lineisy Montero, a model from the Dominican Republic who has been covered extensively by popular media and walked nearly every show in our sample data set, as a case study to build her argument.  Nico will look into the significance of missing data and its connection to erasure in our project and the problem with messy data in similar projects we had hoped to use as paradigms.  I will be focusing on racial categorization and the anxieties that surround conversations about race.

Our project will explore these topics and, by better understanding exactly where we went wrong, hope to provide other projects with an example of what kind of questions they can begin asking early on in research dealing with similar content.

Week 9, April 5: Test Site

A late post.

We received confirmation last week through Professor Wythoff from Professor Gold that the Graduate Center will be paying for hosting with Reclaim Hosting should we wish to use it this semester. I’ve agreed to be the lead on this account and, while we wait for further instructions, moved forward with building the site using custom HTML/ CSS.  I’m probably going to be purchasing Dreamweaver for my personal machine since it’s what I’m most comfortable with from experience with the program at work – if anyone knows any student deals, please hit me up.  Right now, the test site that the public will never see is unknowingly being hosted by NJIT:


Please view on a web browser on your laptop for now because I haven’t worked out the formatting for mobile.  But I will remove evidence of this once hosting’s been secured.

Week 8, March 29: Identity and Some Reading

Am I the only one who can’t start writing an essay until I’ve figured out the title?  I know that’s an “essay writing don’t” but it’s just the way I’ve been.  Anyway, I’m relieved to announce a group name and the creation of our Twitter! Please follow us at:


I’ve also reached out to both Professor Wythoff and Professor Gold about hosting for our website and am looking forward to hearing back from Professor Gold regarding what is available for us this week.  For now, I’m preparing a landing page for our group with our mission statement and possibly a cute About Us page to go with it.

A lot of the reading I’ve done for the project has been both discouraging but thought provoking.  While much of what’s been published on the modeling industry indicates that research is based heavily on ethnography due to the lack of formal and public data, it is also true that this lack of information reveals its own story of erasure in the model industry and the performance of aesthetic labor in general.

Week 8, March 29: Skin Deep at NYFW (Group Post #5)

We are happy to announce a group name and the creation of our Twitter! Please follow us at:


The landing page is still under construction but will be added to this post and announced on our Twitter tomorrow evening.  It will exist initially on WordPress, but we’re still researching other hosting options for the final project.  Last week, we were able to attend the “People Centered Digital Research at the GC” workshop hosted by GC Digital Fellows Jennifer Tang and Patrick Sweeney, who spoke about how using digital tools or digital methods either enhances meanings or changes the way we make meanings in our collection of data.

Discussions with the GC Fellows have helped us work through conceptualizing our project as well as navigate issues of race using available readings.  From one such reading, “Managing the Semiotics of Skin Tone: Race and Aesthetic Labor in the Fashion Modeling Industry” by Elizabeth Wissinger, the author indicates that existing public data on models is few and far between and what has been made available by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not provide information on race or gender.  This is one obstacle our group faces and we’ve set ourselves a project deadline in the event that we’ll need to switch gears.  Still, there are many avenues to explore regarding the presentation and performance of race on the runway at NYFW and we are prepared to do what we can in order to tell this story.

Week 7, March 22: Storytelling

I realized last week that I forgot about storytelling.  My initial interest in digital humanities was in how information can tell a different story or reveal a story that was not as apparent before.  Conceptualizing our project helped me to remember this.  For our website, we want to be able to tell both a story driven by both visualization and information.  I’ve sort of latched onto the idea that a parallax scrolling webpage would be a dynamic way to tell the story of diversity – or the lack of diversity – in the most recent NYFW, especially considering our project’s subjects.

It might just be me, but finding specific literature on either the construction or erasure of diversity on the runway has been very difficult.  Despite this and other setbacks, our group has managed to compile a master list from the model rosters we’ve pulled from several shows.  We’ve also begun to ask several questions regarding this data that we hope to answer in the end.

Week 6, March 15: New Tricks

For some reason, I’ve been lowkey having fun figuring out how to use Google Sheets as we navigate the beginnings of our data collection (the pattern seems to be us going “two steps forward, one step” back in terms of methodology, but we’re working on it).  Last week, I figured out how to use a pivot table to calculate the designer data we collected from mentions in fashion magazines during NYFW2016.  It wasn’t a pretty pivot table, but it worked.  We were also able to brainstorm web design ideas since it seems that UX design will be more important in our data presentation.  I was worried that we might need something complicated, but the Digital Fellows felt that we wouldn’t need to use much beyond HTML, CSS, and jQuery for this project.

A short update this week, but I expect to have more to show after next weekend.

Week 5, March 8: Overthinking

Personally, the last class session was an exploration in overthinking.  Because I joined this project from outside of the Fashion Studies track, I attempted to deconstruct Diversity in NYFW as I would a novel.  In the end, there were too many layers and finding my way back to the beginning in order to help my group refocus the project’s scope was its own journey.

With help from GC Digital Fellows Jennifer Tang and Patrick Smythe, our group was able to establish steps for identifying the recent NYFW’s most talked about designers according to how often they are mentioned across nine fashion magazines trusted by the industry.  From there, we will be moving onto quantifying this information as a part of our methodology and pulling model rosters from which designers stood out.

I’m also pretty positive I put my foot in my mouth during last week’s project presentation when I presented an idea for an interactive portion of our project.  Will definitely revisit this at another time.  For now, the focus is on data collection, quantification, and information design.  Although the project began as a graph, it seems to have grown into a mapping project or a body topography of the catwalk.  Last week’s brainstorming session on web design was particularly optimistic.