In Minoo Moallem’s Nation on the Move, Persian carpets function as both literal objects of textual analysis and also as metaphors for how objects of transnational exchange are produced, marketed and consumed. Along the way, they accrue a multiplicity of meanings and provide glimpses into complex circuits of labor, ideology and imagination. Erik Loyer’s interface for the project is deceptively simple, mobilizing a playful metaphor for the weaving process itself, as users are invited to make connections between nodes of information, artifacts and analysis by stretching a string across the surface of an image. Moallem’s analysis is dense with allusion and a multiplicity of voices that create a rich (dare I say?) tapestry of perspectives, analytical paradigms and potential axes of investigation. Among the most powerful elements of this far-reaching exploration are the author’s own ethnographic research materials, which remind us of the labor and lived experience of the women who actually make the carpets. Their stories and experiences are rendered through images, conversations and testimonies that ground the analysis of broader circuits of distribution and consumption.
Nation on the Move is also one of the first Vectors projects to deploy an alternative indexing system which makes the project’s full contents available via an interface, generated dynamically from the database of materials feeding the project. The visualization engine used for this parallel interface reveals the categories and connections used to map the materials feeding Loyer’s interface, but significantly, each item in the database is assigned a discrete URL to facilitate citation, indexing and accessibility. Although the primary Vectors interface remains the richest and most stimulating means of experiencing Moallem’s work, we hope that making each element of her research and analysis available externally will help the project find a broader audience and suggest possibilities for extending her investigation even further.Posted by sanderson in editorial on Jun 30th, 2009