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Massachusetts Institute of Technology © 2015 Visualizing Cultures

Black Ships & Samurai on Broadway
"Visualizing Japan (1850s–1930s): Westernization, Protest, Modernity"

Co-instructed by Andrew Gordon of Harvard (left)
and John Dower of MIT (right), the course looks at Japanese history and the skills and questions involved in reading history through images now accessible in digital formats.

MOOC: “Visualizing Japan (1850s–1930s): Westernization, Protest, Modernity”

In 2014, Visualizing Cultures' content and image-driven approach was made into a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) in a first-time collaboration between MITx and HarvardX: "Visualizing Japan (1850s–1930s): Westernization, Protest, Modernity,” or VJx. The course ran Sept. 3 to Oct. 22 with discussions, polls, and word clouds. Detailed scripting by Professors John W. Dower (MIT) and Andrew Gordon (Harvard), with lead content developer Ellen Sebring (MIT), gave an image-driven structure to the online lectures and courseware.


This co-taught course looks at Japanese history and the skills and questions involved in reading history through images now accessible in digital formats. The introductory module considers methodologies historians use to “visualize” the past, and is followed by three modules that explore the themes of Westernization (in Commodore Perry’s 1853–54 expedition to Japan), social protest (in Tokyo’s 1905 Hibiya Riot), and modernity (as seen in the archives of the major Japanese cosmetics company, Shiseido).


This is a past/archived course, but an archived version of VJx can be taken at any time (click here). Certain features may not be active, but many people enjoy watching the videos and working with the materials. At this time you can only explore the course in a self-paced fashion, but make sure to check for reruns of VJx.




“Visualizing Asia in the Modern World”
A Conference on Image-Driven Scholarship

Visualizing Cultures co-sponsored a series of content-driven conferences, inviting scholars from diverse institutions and disciplines to discuss the theory and practice of image-driven scholarship, and to present topics based on the visual record of 19th- and 20th-century East and Southeast Asia.

2015 Yale Conference, “Visualizing Asia: Images | History | Digital”
2013 Yale Conference, “Visualizing Asia in the Modern World”
2012 Princeton Conference Program
2011 Harvard Conference Program
2010 Yale Conference Program

Visualizing Cultures Scholars Meeting

In January 2007 a colloquium of Visualizing Cultures scholars and advisors took place in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where scholars shared ideas and research related to the project and their contributions.




Short List of Visualizing Cultures Educational Outreach Events

• NCTA Visualizing Cultures Teachers Workshop, spring 2007
• AAS Visualizing Cultures Teachers Workshop, early 2007
• NERC NCSS, March 2007
• iCampus event, December 2006
• NCSS Conference, December 2006
• Primary Source Teachers Workshop, July 2006
• TEA Workshop, July 2006




MIT Visualizing Cultures/Five College Center
for East Asian Studies conference


On May 6, 2006, Visualizing Cultures and the Five College Center for East Asian Studies held a teachers conference in MIT’s Stada Center. This day-long workshop, attended by more then 90 area teachers, was a collaboration of Visualizing Cultures and Kathleen Woods-Masalaski, director of the Five College Center for East Asian Studies at Smith College. The focus of the workshop was Visualizing Cultures and the curriculum, but it also included presentations by other teacher resource groups working with VC including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Primary Source; and, from Yale, PIER.


John Dower presented a pedagogical overview of Visualizing Cultures and spoke to the myriad of resources available to teachers on the website including the VCID database and VCTV video resources. The afternoon sessions included concurrent workshops featuring the Visualizing Cultures curriculum where all teachers were able to work hands-on with the new VC curriculum.


Exit surveys were conducted asking the teachers their thoughts regarding the content and if they felt they could include the curriculum in their lesson plans. Of the 90 surveys collected there were 89 positive responses.




NCSS Teachers Conference

On November 17–20, 2005, the National Council for the Social Studies held its annual conference in Kansas City, Missouri. This yearly gathering brings together over 5000 social science teachers from the United States for four days of peer exchange, workshops, and seminars. Each year the NCSS receives as many as 1000 proposals for inclusion in the conference program.


Visualizing Cultures and the Black Ships & Samurai curriculum, developed in collaboration with Lynn Parisi, director of the Teaching East Asia (TEA) program at the University of Colorado, were selected as part of the NCSS program. Lynn and several teachers in her TEA program presented the Visualizing Cultures curriculum for the Black Ships & Samurai unit in a two-hour workshop. Teachers took part in actual lessons and classroom exercises. Afterwards, they discussed how they would employ Visualizing Cultures in their lesson plans, and how the curriculum addressed national standards.


Scott Shunk, Program Director for Visualizing Cultures, presented an overview of the project and discussed with teachers what types of content, technology, and additional curriculum would be available from Visualizing Cultures in the coming months.


Over 40 teachers attended the workshop and had an overwhelmingly positive response when asked about the content and the curriculum’s application in their classrooms. Three of the teachers who attended the workshop have become field testers for the project. Additionally, TEA will keep in contact with these teachers and many others they work with in similar workshops and provide periodic updates as Visualizing Cultures introduces new content and curriculum.


Visualizing Cultures has been nominated to do a half-day workshop for the 2006 NCSS conference to be held in Washington, DC, in December, elevating it to a featured presentation.




NERC NCSS Conference

In May 2005 the New England regional conference of the National Council for the Social Studies held its annual event. John Dower and Scott Shunk presented the Ground Zero 1945 unit as a keynote seminar to over 150 teachers in attendance.


Visualizing Cultures was featured again as part of the NERC event held in March 2007 bringing together over 500 regional social science teachers.









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