– contributed by Jodi Kearns.
Book of the Month is starting a new feature: Staff Picks! Each month, a CHP staff member will select a book from the collection. This month’s selection is by Dr. Jodi Kearns, Digital Projects Manager.
BOOK: An Atlas of Infant Behavior: A Systematic Delineation of the Forms of Early Growth of Human Behavior Patterns by Arnold Gesell, (1934) 2 volumes.
The CHP houses an estimated 13,000 reels of film; roughly one third of these are part of the Child Development Film Archives.
Among the CDFA films are reels of raw footage from Arnold Gesell’s research from as early as the 1910s when he was filming infants and children performing tasks that hadn’t previously been captured as moving images. Tasks filmed represent stages of development, such as an infant rolling from front to back, using a spoon to feed himself, playing with blocks, or kicking his legs in bath.
By no small stretch of the imagination, one can figure that multiple copies of reels of 35mm film and projectors to play them on were not immediately available for use by those studying child development and infant behavior in 1930s America. The Atlas of Infant Behavior was created to bring observable, sequenced movements to studies in child development.
In the Atlas prefatory summary, Gesell describes the statistical processes by which he and his team objectively selected still frames from the hours of moving images to use as representative of the complete sequence of infant movements.
The research team’s final selections provided students of child development with “patterned organization of the movements” so that students need not have access to the actual films in order to observe “developmental sequences of infant behaviors.”
Today, we would call Gesell’s statistical and objective cinema analysis keyframe analyses, which have been accomplished by computers for several decades for the purposes of using structural compositions of the film’s data stream itself in order to determine keyframes that could be used to represent whole films in information retrieval systems.
This two-volume atlas of child development is my pick for CHP’s Book of the Month because it offers a brilliant example of 100-year-old methods of film analysis and generous information overlap between the history of psychology and my own field, Information Science.