Information Flux in the 21st Century

THATCamp Museums NYC 2012

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).

May 27, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Information Sharing, Advocacy, Games

For several weeks, I’ve had a niggling feeling that I have something to say. Finally, inspiration to write and post, after over a year of silence.

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!

January 16, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Fantastic Voyage

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.

December 8, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Blazing a Curated Trail

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.

September 25, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Splendor of Ancient Egypt Depicted in 19th Century Books

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.

Monumental Treatise on Ancient Egyptian Monuments.

Accompagnamento di una mummia ... Digital ID: 425469. New York Public Library
Image from NYPL Digital Gallery.

May 9, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Game On

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.

March 26, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Yes, I am a librarian!

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.

February 28, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Content Curation

My employer recently sent my fellow digital librarian and me a link to post on Robin Good’s blog, Content Curation: Why is The Content Curator The Key Emerging Online Editorial Role of the Future. After reading this post, I began to contemplate what I do, and whether my new degree is necessary. I returned to school to pursue a Masters in Information and Library Science (MILS) because I anticipated that there would be a need for web content curation, although I thought of it as web or digital librarianship, and believed the education was necessary to do this job well. And, I still do.

Ultimately, content curation is pretty much what my job entails, and I could not imagine doing it competently without the additional education. But, I started thinking about other areas where content curation could be done without an MILS. If all you’re doing is scouring the web for specific content, what does the library school education give you? Well, you learn about the importance of authority, for one. And, how to determine a reputable source.

There are news sites, focused content websites, reference resource sites, news site blogs, personal blogs, social media sites, etc. I think part of what we digital/web librarians bring is the ability to organize and sort the sites and content to determine which information is of most value to the organization. It may not necessarily be the authoritative information, depending on the organization, but we are skilled to make those decisions. With the social/collaboritive aspect of the web in the 21st century, this skill is more critical than ever.

I am a big proponent of the social and collaborative aspect of the web. I delight in seeing it in action. The other day I witnessed an error in an online article that was caught and the correction posted in a comment in real time. This was on the New York Times website, although I’m sure it is not a unique occurrence. On the flip side, I read in the book Everything is Miscellaneous by David Weinberger a response by Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, to the media about an accusation of an erroneous entry in Wikipedia. Jimmy Wales said “Wikipedia contained an error. How shocking.” I chuckled at this comment. Of course, entries in Wikipedia often contain errors. They’re not written and edited by Nobel Laureates, and scholars in particular fields (well, maybe sometimes), but there are entries on just about everything you can think of, and then some. It is more often than not the go to online resource for a definition on just about anything. Should we stop there? Heck no, it should be a springboard to further research.

The first thing that comes to mind when I hear the word curator is museum curator. What is a museum curator? The first sentence in the definition on Wikipedia is “Traditionally, a curator or keeper of a cultural heritage institution (e.g. gallery, museum, or archive) is a content specialist responsible for an institution’s collections.” (Check out the resources listed for this entry!) So, as content curators, our content is information, and as librarians we’re nothing if not information specialists. As my employer aptly put it, digital librarians: content with authority!

January 25, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

An Event on Information Island in Second Life

At 9 pm last Thursday night, Jackson Darkwatch strolled into the open air auditorium on Information Island, ready to listen to a group of panelists discuss the topic, “Are LIS Programs on Target for Today’s Workplace?”. Jackson sat in a floating seat attentively looking in the direction of the panelists. As the panelists were beginning, a newcomer landed smack on the stage, facing the audience, and boldly admitted he was a newbie. He followed with questions about getting the audio element to work. After struggling through this myself, I chimed in with my mode of success; Jackson Darkwatch’s hands moved as I typed.

Information Island is in Second Life. I began my exploration into this virtual world last year, but my first avatar, Simona Moonwall, had some problems; I lost her hair and made her into a cloud. I retired Simona, named a new avatar Jackson Darkwatch, put a hat on her and called it a day. Jackson is in a respectable enough form to teleport aimlessly to random places. Occassionally, when situated in one of these random places, she has been approached by an avatar inviting small talk. This was not stimulating enough to waste, ahem, spend time there. However, the invitation to listen to a panel of librarians was intriguing. Librarians have a home in Second Life. Information Island is that home and the space is actually used as a resource center, staffed with a “librarian.” I can say from experience that a librarian is not there 24/7; the last time JD visited, the place was desolate.

The Island was hopping on the night of the event. Avatars were landing left and right. Once I found the right coordinates on the map for the location of the auditorium, I got Jackson there. I muted my speaker when prompted to do so, fixed the audio component so that I could hear the panelists, and kept a low profile for Jackson. The panel was comprised of academics, information professionals, and a library school student. All had somewhat zany sounding names, not dissimilar to Jackson Darkwatch and Simona Moonwall. A moderator directed questions to an avatar to answer. Common responses were heard: “depends where you end up working,” “subjects have evolved, i.e., cataloging, and that is not always reflected in the classroom,” and so on. The dual degree dilemma was discussed. One panelist talked about how she was perceived as credible outside the library community by her MBA, not her MLS. The discussion was lively and civilized. Jackson sat still the entire hour (except for the few moments of hand movement while I typed.) I, however, left for a few minutes to put my daughters to bed.

I could see how Second Life is a bit, well, outré. Facebook is more tangible, of course in the virtual sense. As is Twitter. But, Second Life does fit into the canon of Web 2.0, so I’m not throwing an apple into a group of oranges here. I must admit, after listening to the panelists, I did appreciate the experience, and got something out of this professional development event. And, not to disappoint, my observation about the insularity of the library community was once again reinforced. Before the panelists began speaking, question after question appeared in the chat screen to inspire their discussion. Jackson’s name was associated with mine about RDF and Semantic Web with regard to libraries; a reply of “*shiver*” was shot back from one of the panelists. Jackson followed with “Shouldn’t libraries be sharing their treasures?” My heart was warmed by a simple reply of “yes” from another avatar.

SL, like Twitter, has its virtues. Will I let Jackson attend another professional event? Yes. Will I teleport her aimlessly again? Maybe. Do I have a Twitter account yet? Yes. infoflux.

November 22, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment


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