Mapping the Movida

Mapping the Movida: A Digital Humanities Project

by: Vanessa Ceia

Mapping the Movida is an open web archive and geo-spatial project that visualizes the cultural and creative hubs and networks of the Movida, a sociological phenomenon and cultural renaissance that emerged in the first decade of Spanish democracy (roughly 1976-1986), most notably in Madrid. Vanessa Ceia (College Fellow, Harvard University) created Mapping the Movida during her tenure as Visiting Scholar in Hispanic Studies at Brown University in 2015-16. The project is a response to the limited scope of artists— mostly male and active in central Madrid—historically associated with the Movida in mainstream press and scholarship. In its mission to bring to light uncharted human geographies of the period, Mapping the Movida aims to:

(1) re-create the Madrid of the Movida using a range of multimedia, data and thick mapping technologies that not only catalyze the present but also go back in time to document the Madrid of the past;

(2) visualize creative networks and cultural hubs of the Movida through various cultural lenses—including national Spanish media outlets (El País, ABC, El Mundo), scholarly articles, and subcultural publications from the period (La Luna de Madrid, El Víbora, Ozono, Madrid Me Mata, and zines)—to reveal how each lens represents the Movida in different and/or similar ways;

(3) create a public archive and searchable database of Movida events and artists’ documented movements in Madrid during the Movida (1976-1986); and

(4) de-colonize the geographies of the Movida by revealing new spaces, artists, and socio-economic classes that problematize the cultural and spatial canon of the Movida.

Inspired by the thick mapping and visualization projects of Todd Presner, David Shepard, Yoh Kawano, and Johanna Drucker, this project began with a map of the Movida as imagined by Spain’s major news outlets (ABC, El Mundo, El País) and the works of prominent scholars of the Movida and Spanish Transition. This original baseline map was limited to 16 points of interest referenced in 309 articles about the Movida in El País, Spain’s most widely read newspaper. After mining data from events listings and advertisements from subcultural publications and zines from the period, the map of the Movida has expanded to 230 locations in Madrid, including peripheral neighborhoods and largely working-class municipalities such as Alcorcón and Carabanchel. At stake in these findings, are both the cultural geographies of Madrid during this period and the many minority artists who have yet to be studied within the corpus of so-called Movida artists and texts. These include artists such as Moral Dudosa and Acrobacia Terrestre, and locations such as Sala Imperio, about which details can be found in the postings on this site.

It should be noted that, though this project focuses on the greater Madrid Metropolitan Area, the Movida was not limited to the Spanish capital. A number of ‘Movidas’ occured in major cities across Spain’s autonomous communities, particularly in Galicia, Catalunya, the Basque Country, and Andalucía. In future, and in the spirit of de- centralizing the Movida archive, Mapping the Movida will also explore creative networks, key locations, and human geographies beyond Madrid. Key sources for this expansion include subcultural publications such as El Tintimán (Vigo), Star (Barcelona), and Carajillo (Barcelona).

Digital Tools Used: Carto, Esri Story Maps, Google Earth, Google Maps

Data formats: kml, csv

Keywords: Madrid, Movida, mapping, GIS, human geography, data visualization, digital humanities, La Luna de Madrid

Dr. Michael Puett and the Power of Imagination

Harvard Professor Michael Puett, inspired by the ancient Chinese text “Zhuangzi,” invites us to view the world from multiple perspectives and unleash the power of our imagination.

Focus: Vassiliki Rapti

Dr. Vassiliki Rapti, Preceptor in Modern Greek, pushes the boundaries of digital media instruction in her classroom by engaging her students in new ways and challenging traditional language teaching methods. DARTH Crimson spotlights her work as an example of the successful integration of technology into course design. Dr. Rapti’s approach allows for greater creativity in the classroom, and this experimentation has resulted in a direct positive response in student enthusiasm and performance.

In one assignment, Rapti instructs her students to set up Facebook profiles for the class. They use the Greek language user interface setting and correspond entirely in Greek. The student responses she has collected have emphasized their enthusiasm for utilizing the language in an immersive, everyday manner, giving them routine practice in a practical space. Some students have chosen to keep their accounts set to the Greek interface indefinitely to hone their skills further.There are also more artistic assignments that provide the opportunity to use technology for self-expression. This approach has earned her recognition, including an Elson Family Award for the integration of the arts into the curriculum. “I realized that allowing the students to be creative is a great motivation for them to improve their language skills,” Rapti said, going on to describe the most ambitious project she tackles with her language students: film inspired by the chorus in Greek tragedy.

All of Rapti’s Modern Greek classes produce a film as a final project. Students participate from every step along the way through research, scripting, acting, filming, and post-production. There is a job for everyone, and English subtitles make the all-Greek performances easily accessible to all audiences. She devised this project while seeking “a more creative and lasting way to teach Modern Greek, and one which could be assessed beyond the final exam.” Although students were receptive to replacing a final exam with an ongoing project, Rapti knew it would be a challenge. “I wondered how I could assess my students in all four language skills (writing, reading, listening, speaking) both in their individual and collective contribution. I was looking, in particular, for a collective experience that would naturally engage each student separately and encourage all students to give their best.”

Rapti found help in the Media Production Center, who continually offer their expertise in film production at Harvard, as well as the Language Resource Center in Lamont Library. Rapti stresses the importance of finding resources within the community to support ambitious ideas such as the film project and also recognizes her other collaborators: Rhea Karabelas-Lesage, Head Bibliographer of the Modern Greek Special Collection; the Woodberry Poetry Room, which has rare materials in Modern Greek; the Sackler Museum; the Arts @29 Garden; the Greek Film Society at Harvard; the Harvard College Hellenic Society; and the Greek Institute.

It does not stop at film either. Students have produced other creative projects as well. One student painted a plate in imitation of an Ancient Greek relic, incorporating a well-researched Greek text. Another developed a playable board game around the Odyssey. Others have designed video projects and slideshows that blend Greek poetry with self-made imagery.

Digital media technologies are more accessible than ever before, and Rapti has shown them to be effective tools for cultivating creativity and self-expression in pedagogy. Her courses engage and enthuse, raising the bar where traditional methods fall flat, because when given the opportunity students will surprise you with their ingenuity.


“Omeropolis” by Yannis Koulias, Advanced Modern Greek 100

Focus: Afsaneh Najmabadi

Serendipity and artistry have guided Afsaneh Najmabadi in her quest to make the material culture of women in Qajar Iran (c. 1796-1925) available to anyone with an internet browser. Soon after her decision to build the archive Women’s Worlds in Qajar Iran, her mother passed away. As Najmabadi organized her parents’ personal effects, she found letters exchanged between her father’s father and his aunt over an inheritance. This led her to dig further into her own family’s history during Qajar Iran and the discovery of a veritable treasure trove of documentation in the neighborhood where she grew up:

There are twenty-five volumes of registry books…On my father’s side of the family, male members going back several generations were the local, religious notables with whom local people would register births, deaths, marriage, divorce but also all kinds of social interactions such as water disputes, deeds of sale. This was in the late 19th, early 20th century in a period when there were no formal governmental structures that did this kind of registry. All these aspects of life, whether in big cities, small towns or rural areas were entrusted to the local, trusted elderly, especially those with religious training.

These volumes are not in my holding. Basically the grandfather of my [paternal] grandmother is a very well known figure in the neighborhood where I was born and grew up. And he is buried in a mausoleum there and within it is a library where these volumes are kept. Ten years ago, several institutions in Iran started digitizing documents like these, and they went to my grandfather’s mausoleum and asked permission to digitize all twenty-five volumes. That was a huge bonus for us. I went, kind of sheepishly, with my laptop to see the family member who oversees the mausoleum to see if he would give me a table of contents of all the materials there. Instead, he gave me 8 DVDS with all the digitized material. This was shortly before I started WWQI and so it is one of the first collections to make it to the website. You can actually write the social history of this neighborhood—which bears his name—by reading the twenty five volumes of the registry.

Will Najmabadi be the one writing that history? She demurs. Though she plans on immersing herself in the WWQI website during an upcoming sabbatical, Najmabadi’s ambition is that her graduate students will make the most use of the site.  Najmabadi encourages her students to do multi-genre history and not to depend solely on one form of record–documents, works of art, photographs, etc.—rather to juxtapose these multimedia in their approaches to reconstructing social history.