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Teaching and Learning Multimodal Communications

Alyssa Arbuckle, Alison Hedley, Shaun Macpherson, Alyssa McLeod, Jana Millar Usiskin, Daniel Powell, Jentery Sayers, Emily Smith, Michael Stevens, Authors

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Mobilizing the Victorian Maternal Body: Methodology

I considered using a variety of popular texts to map general social guidelines onto a geographic map. However, the volume and diversity of information that such an approach would require is presently infeasible. I also considered representing the historical data in another, less geographically particular way—for example, a graphic visualization in which a woman's home is the center of a network of spheres. This would allow for exploration of more abstract semantic patterns in sets of varied historical data (i.e. medical, religious, political). However, the geographic nature of digital mapping incorporates an essential facet of Victorian conceptions of maternity. Just as as the socio-cultural discursive framework is important to demarcating the maternal body as a subject of population politics, so too are the English landscape's physical features.

For the sake of simplicity and accuracy, “Mobilizing the Maternal Body” will visualize the mobility of one historical woman as she has outlined it in her diaries. Because this decision is a recent one, I have yet to find a diary collection comprehensive enough to suit the project, and the mapping process as articulated here is contingent on that data. To exemplify what that data might look like parsed out, this Google spreadsheet includes mobility data about the protagonist of The Woman Who Did. Ideally the project will use a diary series spanning pre- and post-natal life, the comparative mapping of which may more clearly reveal patterns of mobility and autonomy.

For a sample data model, I have used a section of Stanford's 1897 Map of Central London. I selected a section representing two very different neighborhoods, Lambeth and Westminster. Because I lack data for a specific woman's mobility, the parsed data (which I have yet to map onto the .kml rendering of the Stanford section) reflects general guidelines for the middle-class Victorian woman who is pregnant but not visibly so (and may thereby continue to appear in public to some extent). The guidelines are based primarily on class distinctions demarcated in the Charles Booth Online poverty maps of London, in addition to my knowledge of the theory of maternal marking and the recommendations of Cassell's Book of the Household—recommendations that include abstaining from absolutely all physical or emotional excess throughout pregnancy and, instead, striving to ensure a healthy, beautiful baby by temperance and contemplation of beauty.

The sample data models highlight the methodological uncertainties that continue to surface (aside from the as-yet uncertain status of a historical resource). I continue to question my choice of visualization; could I better organize information into patterns using another type of graphic representation? However, the metadata is the most obvious of the project's methodological uncertainties: the organization of data into a spreadsheet is not yet systematic, largely because the nascent data model presented is based on a hypothetical woman's range of mobility (and only on a very simple level of data; I lack the information that would shape her travels by practical domestic requirements, such as shopping). I made several value judgments that, were I to continue to use this model, would require more overt theoretical unpacking within the map. For example, is the theory of maternal marking as influential on maternal behavior as the map suggests? Indeed, mapping out an individual woman's maternal mobility, as recorded in her diaries, may actually be more methodologically neutral. Whether or not she lists any justifications for her movement or lack thereof, more onus will fall with the user to interpret the information presented.

Author: Alison Hedley
Word Count: 575
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