Last week my volunteer gig at the Brooklyn Museum was to help promote a new app, Ask. Ask engages Museum visitors with art. My role was to encourage visitors to download the app and use it. I helped visitors download the app, connect to the Brooklyn Museum wifi, turn on Bluetooth and toggle location services on for the app. Most visitors were tech savvy enough to require little assistance. But enough with the mundane.
A visitor snaps a photo using the app and the image is sent to the Audience Engagement team, the think tank behind Ask. These friendly, knowledgeable folks stand on the ready to engage visitors of the museum with the art in question. They are working with technology that includes a database of works in the Museum and they are continually building on a wiki that contains information about works as well as comparable styles, works, etc. The app works in real time; questions and answers are ephemeral. If you want to research further later, remember to take notes.
The team graciously gave me a demo at the end of my shift and let me hang around to see them in action, answering questions and looking up information on their wiki. For answers to my questions about the app, I was directed to the informative Tech blog where I found lots of information, starting with the announcement in September, 2014.
I took the app for a spin. Here are screenshots of my interactions:
Last weekend I attended my first THATCamp (The Humanities And Technology, for those not in the know). This one was focused on Museums. Here was an opportunity to gather with like minded folk interested in the convergence of technology and museum content and experience, in order to learn about projects in the works presented in the workshops, to discuss ideas suggested by campers for sessions, and to collaboratively hack some of those ideas in real time. The icing on this enriching time was that it cost nothing, and we got breakfast and lunch to boot.
Those responsible for THAT Camps hail from the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media George Mason University. The popularity of THATCamps has grown to the point that there is a full time coordinator, Amanda French. Amanda is a busy lady. There are now THATCamps all over the world, with many focusing on a specific theme within a discipline. I will venture to say that these Camps are no longer limited to the Humanities. Amanda works with the Camp based coordinator(s) on the specifics of the THATCamp locale and theme. The local coordinators are responsible for the logistics, like finding a space to host the Camp, securing sponsors, setting up the website, promoting the THATCamp, etc. I mentioned the bonus of my free THATCamp experience but, unfortunately, they’re not always free and so generously sponsored. However, Amanda & Co. do their best to keep costs as low as possible.
Now for my personal experience at THATCamp Museums. On Friday, there were nine options for workshops to attend (THATCamps don’t always offer workshops). The workshops were organized with a theme so while my eyes lit up like a kid in a candy store, I was able to narrow down those that I most wanted to attend. My simple request to Kimon Keramidas, the coordinator for THATCamp Museums 2012, was for the three workshops in the Seminar Room at the Bard Graduate Center, the host of THATCamp Museums 2012.
The first workshop I attended, conducted by Amanda French, was on the ins and outs of Omeka, the open source web publishing tool for displaying collections and exhibitions. Yes, Amanda teaches, too. Like its multifaceted Amanda, The Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media is responsible for Omeka.
The next workshop was on Smarthistory. I was encouraged when I first became aware of this free open online multimedia art history textbook alternative. I love that it provides an interactive immersive experience, so different from those dry art history texts with poor quality images that made me yawn back when I was studying art history. The affordance that ye olde technology enabled with the projection of images of works of art on a wall was what got my attention in those days, not the textbooks. The presentation by Beth Harris and Steven Zucker lived up to my expectations. Smarthistory has now reached the big time, joining the vast collection of educational resources at Khan Academy, thanks to a tweet from Beth Harris commenting on an article about Khan Academy.
The last workshop I attended was on Viewshare. Viewshare, an open source collection presentation platform, comes out of the Library of Congress’ National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program. Jefferson Bailey, Fellow at the Library of Congress’s Office of Strategic Initiatives, showed us how to create interactive maps and charts in Viewshare. My understanding is that Viewshare differs from Omeka in the features it offers.
Saturday morning the coordinators and campers launched into scheduling the sessions. There were so many great sessions proposed by campers; it was hard to choose which to attend. To allay the fear of winding up in a session that doesn’t grab a camper, one of the “rules” of THATCamp is “two feet,” encouraging campers to move on to another session when that’s the case.
The best way for me to process the information garnered from sessions that I attended is to mash it up. How can cameras and ipads in the gallery enhance the museum experience? Can curatorial collusion help represent and communicate information on digital material culture? Hmm.
The participants at the conference, Computers and their potential applications in museums; a conference sponsored by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, April 15, 16, 17, 1968, discussed ideas for how technology can support the study of the arts, yet we still have not achieved many of the goals set forth in that conference over forty years ago. Change happens slowly. It wasn’t until nearly twenty years later, at the Getty Conference in Pisa in 1984, Automatic processing of art history data and documents… , that Russell A. Kirsch, the first to scan an image in 1957, introduced the idea of using digitized images as surrogates for primary source material in his presentation titled “Making Art Historical Sources Visible to Computers: Pictures as Primary Sources for Computer-Based Art History Data.” Perhaps the work that comes out of THATCamp Museums can help accelerate change.
Okay, enough said here. I look forward to reading the Google docs for the workshop presentations and the session notes that campers generously documented and shared. And, another resource to refer to is the twitter stream of the hashtag #tcmny and thereby links to other resources, like this post, What I Learned at Camp, written for The Desk Set blog by fellow camper Meredith Wisner (who led a great session on Curatorial Collusion).
I learned about the source of my inspiration through an old-fashioned paper hand-out with an assignment that one of my daughters had to complete over this past winter break. The assignment was to see the exhibit Design with the Other 90%:CITIES, draw a picture about one of the projects represented and write about it. The exhibit, curated by the the Smithsonian Cooper- Hewitt National Design Museum, was on view at the U.N. Headquarters until January 9th. It featured “sixty projects, proposals, and solutions that address the complex issues arising from the unprecedented rise of informal settlements in emerging and developing economies .” Pretty lofty, I’d say. I wanted to learn more!
I did a little perfunctory research via Google. Nearly all of the links returned at the top of the list were directly to the website for the exhibit. One link went to a page on the Cooper Hewitt Museum’s website. It was on this page that I found out that the exhibit emerged from Design for the Other 90%, a similar Cooper-Hewitt exhibit from 2007 that featured affordable and socially responsible objects. There were a smattering of links to reviews on blogs. Way down the list was a link to a review on The Atlantic Cities. Appropriate. What about a review of the exhibit in the NY Times, I wondered. Not seeing a link in the search results, I went directly to its site and found an excellent review by Michael Kimmelman.
But, doesn’t the subject justify more than reviews of the exhibit? There is bona fide substance here, something that should get more visibility and support for the cause. So, how can those of us who believe that this issue warrants more public awareness do something about it?
Since I believe Jane McGonigal’s message, “Gaming can make a better world,” I look to games as a form of advocacy. (Has the term games-based advocacy been used yet?) So, I was happy to see that there are two games related to the exhibit. One, Future City Game, developed by British Council, Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES) and URBIS- Manchester’s Centre for Urban Life, is team-based design process that brings local residents and people from the public and private sectors together for two days to share their vision for the cities’ future. These players vote on urban planning and development ideas and present them to local stakeholders, professionals and residents. Forms of this game have been played in over one hundred cities since it was piloted in 2006!
The other is a series of games backed by the social initiative, Freedom HIV/AIDS. The Freedom HIV/AIDS games, played on mobile phones, were originally designed to educate India’s rural and semi-literate populations about the disease. When a player passes a level or answers a question correctly, informative texts are displayed on the screen. The games have been replicated in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda.
These games have been effective in both getting the public involved and in educating. You can head over to Games for Change to see more social and civic-minded games. Still, we need for these types of games to be massively multiplayer. Maybe more celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres can sing their praises, as she did for WeTopia. Come on folks, Let’s bring on the games!
The stunning image caught my eye, as did the title. It was something about cinema and science. The web page with the article sat on my desktop for days, maybe even weeks, waiting to be read. Why was I surprised when it was gone? After all, this is a computer that I share with my husband and two daughters. Oh, why didn’t I bookmark it? Same reason that I do other neglectful things.
Lucky for me, a colleague sent along the link to the article just as I was scratching my head trying to place where I saw it. Where Cinema and Biology Meet. That was it, in the Science section of The New York Times, of course! Because it was the visual that caught my eye in the first place, I went straight to the video before reading the article. Being able to wander through molecules! Fantastic! In fact, it reminded me of the movie from the ’60s, Fantastic Voyage, amplified by the monumental advances in technology that occurred in the last 20 of the 45 years since the movie was made.
So, there I was earlier tonight, viewing a webcast of a joint meetup event between the Science Writers in New York and the NYC G4C meetup group. I did intend to go in person, after all it was a meetup, but was thrilled when I found out the event would be Livestreamed. Bonus! I could stay home and oversee homework (sort of) and watch the event live! The theme was The Future of Play and the panel of speakers included Asi Burak, the co president of Games for Change and also one of the co-founders of Impact Games, the creators of the game platforms “PeaceMaker” and “Play the News“, Colleen Macklin, Associate Professor at Parsons and Director of PETLab who I had the privilege of seeing before at a Games for Change conference in 2009, Chris Burke creator of the game within a game, This Spartan Life, that uses Halo as its backdrop, and Dr. Melanie Stegman, program director of Educational Technologies at the Federation of American Scientists and project director of the game Immune Attack. Josephine Dorado, the moderator, teaches at the New School and is the live events producer for This Spartan Life.
Worried that the sound quality would be poor, I was reassured when I could hear just fine, through headphones, when necessary, and through the computer’s speaker. There were a few technical difficulties during Asi Burak’s presentation, limiting what he was able to present. But, that didn’t matter much to me because we, the five to six Livestream viewers, rarely got to see what was on the screen anyway. Colleen Macklin went through the history of games during which time I watched her turn her head to see the screen but couldn’t see it myself. I was glad that the question about slide availability came up; I look forward to seeing those. Melanie Stegman was the highlight for me. She talked about how players navigate through parts of the body in the educational game, Immune Attack, and are thus immersed in the experience. There was that Fantastic Voyage image going through my head again. That was better than having to watch yet another milk ad and missing about 15 seconds of a talk (every 15 minutes). Though, I am not complaining. It’s a small cost for free cloud based services.
At eight thirty when the moderator ended the presentations, the panelists could be overheard talking about… what else? Fantastic Voyage.
Okay, it’s been a while. That doesn’t mean that I have stopped marveling at the evolution of the approximately two-decade-old transformation of information flow, absorption, comprehension, etc. Au contraire! I’m excitedly seeing and anticipating new tools that will help to make meaning out of the petabytes of information stored in silos thought the world, and more and more in the cloud.
I just read a post on Mashable, A More Organic Way to Organize The Web’s Content by Lauren Indvik, about a new tool, Trailmeme, that will enable me to “create, annotate and walk individually curated trails through web content.” I can’t wait to build a trail! Wait, rather than spend this sunny afternoon building one, why not use a bundle from my delicious account or a list that my colleague created in diigo? I would love to map out that content.
No go. I am not going to forfeit this last sunny, warm Saturday afternoon in September to test this tool. I’ve already spent many an hour curating fine collections and would rather not have to start over. I’ll check out Trailmeme again when the functionality to import bookmarks is available.
Sometimes, I blog about other interests elsewhere. I recently wrote a post for the New York Art Resources Consortium about a collection of books that inspired one Saturday afternoon when I was volunteering at event in the Brooklyn Museum Libraries. Old books and modern technology. So glad the two can meet.
See my post on benefits of game development programs, inspired by a cover story in Community College Week. This post was written for a blog developed for the Global Skills for College Completion project.
I recently got into a heated discussion with one of my ten year old daughters about being a librarian. When I started a sentence “as a librarian…,” she insisted that I wasn’t one. My response was, “but I am – I’m a digital librarian.” Yes, she said, but you’re not a librarian. Why not, because I don’t work in a library, I asked? That seems to be her ten year old brain’s deduction. She is growing up in world of digital born information, yet still thinks that being a librarian has to do with a physical space, and books. Thanks, Google. Not!
Way back, in the mid 1990s, when I first thought about a career change, I did not think of being a librarian in the traditional sense. But I did know that I would need the skills of librarian if I wanted to learn how to organize the exponentially growing digital information on the Web. I humbly and ashamedly admit that I once considered “librarian” a dated professional title in the world of 21st century data organization. Now I boldly see that we librarians must carry on the name, and assure that the profession is effectively migrated to other data forms and environments.