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Fate of Reading in a Digital Age

HASTAC - Mon, 2009-04-27 07:02

For anyone in the Ann Arbor arear on May 15, here's the info for a Symposiumon "Bookishness:  The New Fate of Reading in a Digital Age."  The way this is framed and the cast of characters suggest this might even get beyond the really, really tiresome "it used to be wonderful, now it is dreadful" nostalgic binarism of pre- and post-digital reading habits.  (Just ask Hawthorne or, for that matter, Thomas Jefferson about how terrible reading habits are because of "new technologies" . . . or women, or the non-elite, or . . . )


 Here's the announcement and I hope someone there will live blog or tweet it for those of us who can't be there!


Bookishness: The New Fate of Reading in the Digital Age

Symposium on May 15th, 2009 in 3222 Angell Hall

Please visit our website for a full program: http://www.sitemaker.umich.edu/bookishnessmqr/home

9:30-10:00: Coffee and Refreshments
10-12:00: Panel on New Reading Practices and Literacies in a Digital Age

2:00-4:00: Forum on New Insitutions for the Digital Age

At the current moment of ever-accelerating technological change, it's particularly important to pause and think about the challenges generated by new media and how they might or might not change the ways we read in the decades to come.  What new literacies are generated in the digital era?  What happens to the cultural practices and norms associated with and generated by the traditional book? And most importantly, how are institutions--libraries, bookstores, newspapers and magazines, presses, universities, the general reading public--responding to this new situation?  How ought they respond?

The Michigan Quarterly Review and Rackham are co-sponsoring this first in what we hope will be a series of open discussions devoted to thinking through these questions.  A morning session will be devoted to theory and history; an afternoon session, to questions of institutional response.  Symposium speakers will include University Librarian Paul Courant, Alan Liu (English Department, UC Santa Barbara, Director of Transliteracies: Research in the Technological, Cultural and Social Practices of Online Reading ), Phil Pochoda (Director, U of Michigan Press), Jessica Pressman (English Department, Yale),  Leah Price (English Department, Harvard University), Sam Tanenhaus (editor, New York Times Book Review).

Admission is free and open to the public.  Please mark your calendars!

digital stewardship now digest for 27 April 2009

HASTAC - Sun, 2009-04-26 16:15

digital stewardship now  

digest for 27 April 2009

All Posts: http://digitalstewardshipnow.wordpress.com/

Recent Posts:

We focused our attentions this week to the launch of the World Digital Library…and there is much to focus on…

 World Digital Library: governance, charter, sustainability  26 April 2009

 World Digital Library Launch: “9D” collection access… 25 April 2009

 World Digital Library Launch: Manuscripts (124) provide proof-of-concept  22 April 2009

 World Digital Library Launch: Initial Sound Recordings (five easy pieces)  22 April 2009

 World Digital Library (WDL) Launched: A Whimper AND a Bang  21 April 2009


We will use this electronic channel to post information and offer observations on milestones, issues, opportunities and solutions from across the global digital stewardship landscape. This weekly digest of new post headlines is pushed to email lists…the blog is primarily available at http://digitalstewardshipnow.wordpress.com/ and via RSS feed, etc. from the site. Your comments are very welcome via email to david.r.curry@drcurryassociates.net or to specific posts.

David R. Curry


Managing Principal

davidrcurryAssociates/digital stewardship practice


HASTAC III: What's the Matter with New Arts Media? A Forum on the Ubiquitous Arts

HASTAC - Sat, 2009-04-25 09:53

With a title that might cause pause, this thought-provoking panel brought up many compelling issues on the topic of "new arts media." First of all, notice "new arts media" rather than "new media arts," a turn in focus that puts the "new" on the artistic practice rather than the form or the media. Of course, the term "new" is endlessly debatable - but it's an interesting use. Focusing on the ubiquitous arts, the panelists spoke on the aesthetics, epistemologies, ontologies, phenomenologies of artistic practices using the technologies that surround, fascinate and confound us.

Coming from a background in performance and computing forms, Thecla Schiphorst’s recent work focuses on sense making and experience modeling through physical computing. Schiphorst is a Media Artist/Designer and Faculty Member in the School of Interactive Arts and Technology at Simon Fraser University. Drawing inspiration from the concept of "somaesethetics" and the work of Rudolf Laban, her work explores the possibilities of framing experience as skill, of extending beyond artistic practice, and of valuing epistemologies that exist outside of an academic framework. It is through these possibilities that she arrives at four concepts to emphasize in her consideration of the ubiquitous arts: materiality, experience, aesthetics, and collaboration.

Highlighting these topics, while moving chronologically through her recent works, Schiphorst talked about three projects. Whisper[s] is a collaborative project that builds/ explores "a wearable, handheld, intimate, sensory, personal, expressive, responsive system." As Schiphorst described the project, whisper[s] involved a series of experiments into understanding gesture, awareness, and wearability; understanding the body as device and as "devicing." Experiments included: using the stethoscope as a receiving and giving device, rather than surveyor of the body; and wearing shirts sown together, connecting subjects in unfamiliar ways. Exhale posits breath as empathic, poses the act of listening to someone's breath as information retrieval, and forwards using technology to create spaces of intimacy, curtailing traditional senses of trust towards something else, towards a different experience of collaboration. soft(n) conceives of these themes in relationship to limb-like, yet welcoming plush, lumpy objects.    


Mikel Rouse followed in the panel's order; he shared some of his work and experiences of art practice in more theatrical and musical registers. Showing some of his contemporary operas, Rouse began with Dennis Cleveland - describing it as "opera staged as TV talk show." The opera was a significant installment in a trilogy of contemporary operas, but also began his collaboration with the University of Illinois and the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts at UIUC, specifically. It is here that Rouse staged a redesigned version of the production in 2001, and where he also began to glimpse the technological innovations coming from NCSA, technologies seeming "beyond [his] paygrade and skillset." Coming from an independent art background in NYC, Rouse was more familiar with the make-do approach, but inspired by the high-tech advances he saw at UIUC, he developed a project that used StereoTV - which acted as an impetus for the latest opera in the trilogy, The End of Cinematics. From what Rouse showed of this project, I was quite enamored. Using a somewhat "low-tech" alternative to stereoscopy and 3D, The End of Cinematics cleverly used rear and front projection to create a lush production of simultaneous perceptual richness and instability.

Rouse also talked about his project Gravity Radio, an interactive piece that attempts to use audio in ways that recapture the 'magic of radio,' and about his homage to the collaborations between John Cage and Merce Cunningham that used iPods set to shuffle to deliver different sequences of a score for every audience member. Determined to not let the technology leave the artist behind, while still retaining an eccentric approach that engages the surreal, the corporate, the popular, and the magical - Rouse's career continues to inspire and challenge.      

Next up was Anne Balsamo, Professor and Associate Chair at the Interactive Media Division at USC's School of Cinematic Arts. As her career has spanned many different professional configurations that one can imagine to explore the relationships between technology and culture – being a scholar, researcher, new media designer, and entrepreneur—she is uniquely positioned to address varied issues surrounding the ubiquitous arts. Balsamo’s recent book Designing Culture: The Technological Imagination at Work (Duke, forthcoming) explored innovation’s connections to imagination, specifically as a quality of mind to think through technology. Balsamo asks what are some of the ways that we can think about collaboration and aesthetics as it is expressed in the performance of innovation? She forwards that a certain sense of improvisation is required to make future world making possible.  This also leads to her latest work, which explores the concept and practice of “tinkering” as a mode of knowledge construction.     

Balsamo described a shift in her formerly analyzing the cultural practices of the (now) elite class of technologists in Silicon Valley to more recently mapping diffuse and scattered, yet embodied spaces for participatory communities of learning.  Balsamo’s very cool presentation was made with the beta version of a new presentation tool called Prezi (a zooming presentation editor) and it nicely, and quite literally, mapped out a broader understanding of innovation. Balsamo’s presentation can be viewed at this link. I highly recommend exploring the presentation, as it welcomes re-readings, re-playings and re-visiting.


The last presenter was also the session chair and moderator - Donna Cox, director of the Advanced Visualization Laboratory at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (AVL) and the Illinois Emerging Digital Research and Education in Arts Media Institute (edream); Cox also serves as the first Michael Aiken Endowed Chair and as Professor of Art + Design. Cox’s work is interested in unpacking, but also most importantly creating with our digi-epistemologies and visu-phors -- which is to say she’s engaged with how we see things and how these are endlessly in dialogue with our cultural dispositions.  In her time at AVL, the lab has fashioned novel ways to represent data, treating data cinematically,  “transforming data into artful animations that provide insights into complex systems.” Throughout her presentation it was clear that AVL has had an impact on the visualization of scientific data for a very large audience. Cox forwarded the possibilities and opportunities of such a wide-ranging audience, asking how do we bring our culture with us in how we envision the workings of the universe?  How might we repurpose this data and how does it already inform our forms of entertainment, and vice versa?

As the viewers of Nova, or AVL’s other data visualizations for NASA and other scientific projects, share and re-circulate these representations of natural phenomena, how are they themselves co-authors in these conceptions of science that compose, construct and surround our world? What about when these technologies reach down into nanotechnology? These are some of the questions Cox posed and engaged in her compelling presentation, all in front of a background projecting some of the amazing animations that have been created at AVL over the years.


In the duration of the Q& A session, many other interesting topics were raised:

  • It seems that a newer generation of artists don’t feel as compelled to call themselves cross-genre because it’s become more acceptable and less necessary to defend such a position. What high/ low culture divide? Rouse named NY-based Punch Brothers specifically as an instructive example.  
  • Is this a really new generation thing? Or is it just an ideology that’s been hard to put to rest? One, that of the lone creator, that still persists despite our best efforts. We need to put more of an emphasis on collaboration – a characteristic that it’s mentioned is key to tinkering. 
  • What about the notion of the human? (Not remembering what the segue was here...) And our Western constructions/ assumptions that plague us so stubbornly? What are some alternatives? The panel answer to this was to go to “perspective” as an often used example: specifically in 3D modeling program Maya, why have to view through Cartesian perspective? What about isometric? 
  • On this thread, Cathy Davidson pointed the audience to the work of Shin Mizukoshi. As she described it, his work directly challenges an impulse to archive – staging elaborate productions that are documented in the process, only to be immediately destroyed.
  • Another thread of inquiry developed around DIY biotechnology. I’m including a video of Shiphorst’s answer to a question on the topic (posed by Jentery Sayers)…

  • Thecla Schiphorst response at HASTAC III, 21 April 2009 from 412 on Vimeo
  • Constance Penley replied to this thought with a Freudian position that rationalized the telepathic as a subjective construction of meaning making.

The Q&A session ended with inquiry into the methods of evaluation for tinkering, which drew Balsamo to conclude that she conceives of tinkering not as an institutional modality, but as an evolutionary imperative. It is a practice embodied in the people and communities that practice it, instead of belonging to the institutional structure. All in all, the panel pressed its audience to consider the “matter”—the practices, the tactility, and the communities—of “New Arts Media” in original and exciting ways.


HASTAC III: Continuous Installations | Tuesday, April 21 @ 4:44PM

HASTAC - Thu, 2009-04-23 00:48
Guy Garnett
the Logoverse

Okay, so this was strangely captivating. You walk up to a computer and you're this little i-beam icon. You can type a few simple commands in to make your little i-beam tiny, small, regular, or big. You can do a "jump," which sends your i-beam flying up, then down again. You can "\home" and go back to the starting point.

The other thing you can do is type messages and change their colors, shapes, stretch them, squish them, make them enormous, and so on.

Guy had two computers (I think it was two) in Krannert and one (at least) in the NCSA lobby. I played with the one at Kranner last night during the eDream Reception. So you have a couple of other people doing this, too. Or not. At times, I think I was alone.

Common messages seen typed out? Typos. There were a lot of "jump" and "tiny" and "color" words floating around. You needed a backslash before the commands to get them to, well, do the command. If you forgot it (which I did too, of course), your little mistakes were floating all over the screen.

The coolest thing, though, was a sudden floating "anyone there?" coming from a little purple i-beam. I couldn't resist writing "over here." However, that was as far as the conversation went.

Maybe new hor d'oeurves came out at that moment.

John Toenjes
Leonardo's Chimes Interactive

This was a telemersive environment that served as a musical instrument. Cameras projected your image onscreen, where floating white bars surrounded you (well, the "you" on the screen), ringing out as they hit you. This sounds violent, but wasn't. You could reach out and "strike" them, too, if you wanted to drop the passivity from your role in the instrument. A Nintendo Wii was involved: gotta love the Wii.

I don't know much about tuning things. In fact, I know pretty much nothing about tuning things. I do know it sounded really beautiful, though.

JJ Higgins
Voyeurism Installation with Tent

I'm still trying to wrap my head around this one. You have a clear tent. There are either two or three mini TVs in there, playing various things -- not tv TV, but I'm not sure if they were made for this or taken from elsewhere. I'm guessing they were made for this. There was a box of Nilla Wafers (mmm. . .), a number of books, a flickering "fire log" (obviously not actually heated), and other things that conjured up a childhood sort of atmosphere, although not entirely. A lot of the books had things stacked over the titles, but I'm not sure if it was intentional.

I may be overusing the word, but captivating is appropriate here, too. I wanted to root around and uncover stuff, but had that gosh darn tent in the way! I think that's true of voyeurism, too, though: you're peeking in, but it's partially on someone else's terms.

This is not to say that I'm a creepy stalker, although I do love Flickr.

HASTAC III: Community Informatics Panel | Tuesday, April 21 @ 2:43PM

HASTAC - Thu, 2009-04-23 00:44

The monitor, Tom Maccalla, brought it straight from the dome. Or so Will said.

Will Patterson
I POWERED-Hip Hop as Information Science

Where does the value of culture come in? When it starts connecting people and moving communities forward. To do that in hip hop, we need honesty, we need people who are actually willing to bring their truth to the stage.

Will just went over about a bazillion ways he's brought this into the Champaign-Urbana area. It's an understatement to say the list and effect these have are impressive. A few of them:

Chip Bruce

Why are kids dropping out of school? Maybe, Chip says, because school's not bringing anything of relevance to students. It's not real. We need to find ways to make learning connect to real life, of value to real life. Education needs to be fixed.

What's one guiding principle? Education needs to start with the learner.

What seems to work? Getting kids involved in GPS-enabled photography, creating materials for community "libraries," get them out in the world. We can't rely on community technology centers anyway; we need to bring these things to the communities where kids can use them out where the learning is.

What should the goal of education be?

  1. learn how to connect with the world
  2. learn how to act responsibly
  3. learn how to transform the world and give back

Comments: On having a real education where tangible effects are seen: "They want to make mud pies and stack up blocks." This statement really resonated with me. I think it's why I'm enjoying phonetics research so much now and why I liked biology and physics and chemistry in high school (and college).

Angel David Nieves
Virtual Heritage in the New South Africa

I was really looking forward to this. Unfortunately, things were behind schedule and I had to leave for work. Boo hiss. I believe materials will be online, though, so if I can find them, I'll link to them.

HASTAC III: Rapid Fire Lightning Talks | Tuesday, April 21 @ 9:11AM

HASTAC - Thu, 2009-04-23 00:41

Max Edelson
The Cartography of American Colonization Database (CACD)

The big question: How do I take notes on a map? How do I link it to other maps? How do I store this information and join it so I can use it in scholarly research?

What is he hoping to have? A system that can:

  1. link to high-res images, extensive text alongside
  2. search feature
  3. put them all on a timeline for historic context
  4. georeference the maps, displaying them on an internet 3D mapping platform (MS Mapcruncher)

Why do this? What's the value?

  1. tracking toponym shifts
  2. getting the information available/usable for scholars and teachers
  3. you can learn more with the maps together than you can with them singularly

Comment: I love Google Maps. Street view is insane. I'm moving to Seattle for the summer and have virtually "walked" around the neighborhood I'll be living in a number of times. You can find all the coffee shops within a whatever-mile radius from any point you've clicked on. What could be better?

Nick Montfort
Interactive Fiction

The big question: How do you combine a an interactive video game and a narrative into interactive fiction. . .and how do you make money off of it? Why do we care?

What he's envisioning/coding/currently rocking out on:

  • goes beyond Cave environments.
  • a limited simulation of a "microworld"
  • multiple realities for multiple characters (IF Actual World Model)

How do we get what we like about narratives into this format?

  • It's a function of the Expression vs. Content divide: interesting expression can make boring content entertaining.
  • We can vary tense, mood, and voice.

How do we change the old format into this vision?
Most important factors in the program flow:

  1. narrator
  2. world models,
  3. a plan for narrating

Wanna see it for yourself? http://curveship.com

Comment: Does anyone else remember Choose Your Own Adventure books? Hot. And, okay, as someone who was obsessed with Zork as a child, this is a delight.

W. Michelle Harris
Tangible Experience Design: An education bridge between Industrial Design and Computing

Big question: How do you combine the Information Technology and Industrial Design? Can we get HCI out of the software-only view? How can we make something tangible, that interacts with people and all their five senses?

To work on answering this, Harris created a Tangible Experience Design course. The idea? She has her students:

  1. Study people in a particular context.
  2. Decide how they want to change the experience for those people in that context.
  3. Design something that can do that.
  4. Build a prototype, test it, refine it, and so on.

She's still working to get the right balance: how much electronics, programming, which theories, how deep to go into each of these?

Comments: She spoke about two challenges she's given her classes, the second being "The Forest Challenge," or how to bring an environment to people. Supercool. Reminds me of a lot of the telemersion stuff that's going on here done in a more physical manner.

Abdul Alkalimat
eBlack Studies and the African Diaspora: A revolution in the revolution

Q: What can we do about the divide (community, spacial, racial, class) that's being created/furthered by digitization? How can we use digitization to decrease inequalities?

He's come up with the D7 Model on Digitization:
D1: define the problem
D2: data collection
D3: digitization (now we can de-spacialize, can collaborate in real-time)
D4: discovery
D5: design of the results
D6: dissemination (who's your audience?)
D7: difference (evaluating results)

The big challenge? We need to create the "citizen scientist." We need to get the data to the public.

Some solutions he's offering:

Patrick Jagoda
Network Aesthetics: American Fictions in the Era of Interconnections

Q: How are networks changing the world? When did this all start?

A: He's focusing on post-WWII as the time of the largest push. Some of the main ideas:

  • "Global village" and "globalization" was used as far back as the late 1960s to early 1970s.
  • Networks are everywhere, and are responsible for our global linkage, but carry no worthy affects.
  • Network aesthetics have been seen in postmodern fiction, experimental fiction, movies (Syriana, The Matrix), tv shows (24, The Wire), comics, interactive fiction.

What do we need? We need a trans-disciplinary approach to study networks, their effects and meaning.

Peter Leonard
Marking up Stone: TEI, GIS, and Medieval Runology

Q: How do we use these technologies to traverse digital boundaries in the same way analog boundaries have been traversed?

A: Peter presented two main functions here:

  1. Take the GIS location to map the content of the rune against its location. We can then place them in the context of the religious migration, teaching ust more about the migration and giving us more information about the runes themselves.
  2. We can use XSL to mark up corrections in carving errors and put modern date formats in place of the runic ones, without losing the original information.

Comment: Peter said that most people in the room were far more familiar with TEI than with runes and what they were. Invert that statement and you have me. Runes rock.

John Johnston
Computer Fictions as Cognitive Models

Q: What do we see in current computer fictions?

A: These works are everywhere and have some common threads:

  • no unifying agency
  • characters are closed systems
  • themes of hostile digital takeover of a character's life
  • entanglement: singular events can no longer happen, because everything is part of a network
  • no event is meaningless or random: it all fits somewhere

Jeffrey McClurken
Uncomfortable, but Not Paralyzed

Question: How do we teach digital history to undergraduates?
Answer: The following are necessary:

  • Digital literacy/fluency must be central to our methods
  • Emphasize creativity
  • Get rid of the term paper, as it's not relevant to post-school jobs.

Other points:

  • The idea of "digital natives" isn't useful: many people are "natives" to digital technology, but aren't at all fluent with it.
  • Start engaging undergrads instead of avoiding/ignoring them.

Uncomfortable, but not paralyzed: fear and the pushing of boundaries is good and necessary within education, but we don't want people to freeze and turn off totally.

Comments: I'll echo something here that he stated: this is also important outside of a school setting. I had a manager (well, I've had many, but this one was a good one) who said that he wanted employees who failed, because it meant they were actually taking risks in their work. Obviously it's important to learn from one's mistakes, but you get the idea.

HASTAC III: Poster Session | Tuesday, April 21 @ 9:08AM

HASTAC - Thu, 2009-04-23 00:36
I got out of the poster sessions today and I have one huge complaint: they were captivating and I didn't want to leave. I had trouble going from one to the other, all for good reasons. There was only an hour for the whole segment, which would have been fine, had they not all been stellar.

So, because I don't think I'll have time to pay adequate service to each of these, I'll talk about Jason Price's poster "Notes and Reflections from the Global Lives Project," which fascinates me.

The main idea is that they take ten people from ten different countries and film a full 24 hours for each. The result is 240 unedited hours of life, through a single eye. I keep wanting to say that it brings human life up to the level of art, but that's not it at all. It shows, I think, that life is art all along and we're just usually too involved in it or busy or mentally/physically/emotionally entangled in it to see that.

They've done everything so far on almost no money at all. It's an enormous undertaking being done by a ton of committed, hard-working, rather selfless volunteers. It's kind of amazing. Jason joked that his major sponsors so far were Mastercard, Visa, and American Express, although he also raised some money for the Malawi project (which he's leading, and you can find it on Facebook) by running a 25k.

They'll be serving this up in a really cool installation. There will be ten private viewing rooms, running each of the ten seperate movies. There will also be a circular viewing chamber where all will be running simultaneously. Again, cue the amazing volunteers.

They're still completing the shoots, but are planning on premiering it later this year. If I'm lucky enough to be within driving distance of a U.S. installation, you can bet I'll be there.

HASTAC III: eDream Reception | Tuesday, April 21 @ 8:17AM

HASTAC - Thu, 2009-04-23 00:28
No comments on any one specific thing said, but I came away with one thing last night.

I'm from the University if Illinois. There's a joking-but-somewhat-true divide between "North Campus" and the rest of the school. Most of the engineering/computerscience/techie stuff is up here. The rest of the school is, well, not up here. Our buildings are older (I'm in Linguistics), our facilities are less shiny and new and fast and powerful, and a lot of people that I know up here aren't sure of the worth of what goes on down there.

You don't always see, out in front, the people who straddle that divide. I saw that last night. And it's wonderful to see how many there really are here and how the belief that all of these disciplines can coexist, and are richer when they do, is really being embraced.

HASTAC III: DML Panel: Tim Lenoir, Virtual Peace | Monday, April 20, 2009 @ 9:11AM

HASTAC - Thu, 2009-04-23 00:26
Tim's talking about America's Army, which I blogged about earlier this year. If you're unfamiliar with it, it's a video game that doubles as a training environment for soldiers.

They saw another possibility with this, and I love the direction he's taking with it, where instead of blowing the bejeezus out of "enemy combatants," he's using the Unreal engine to create "Virtual Peace," which uses the same platform to create a 3D virtual environment where the players can practice R&D, natural disaster recovery, and negotiation.

Interestingly, the army has used games for this before, but they were text-based, and not as captivating as the shiny, exciting shoot-em-up counterparts. This project really capitalizes on the effectiveness of 3D game environment to train for the other (hopefully as important) side of military training. Supercool.

HASTAC III: Digital Media Learning Competition Panel introduction | Monday, April 20, 2009 @ 8:43AM

HASTAC - Thu, 2009-04-23 00:23

Craig Wacker's talk: themes, bits and pieces

How are young people changing as a result of their exposure/immersion in technology?

"geeking out"

program for migrant workers in l.a.
- internet access to provide for documenting daily life

Black Cloud project
- 40 sensors across the world, at least 5 in Chicago (Illinois, represent)
- they collect information about CO2, noise, heat, and light
- they sent out kids to collect this information
- not only the raw data was collected, but cellphone pictures of the brochures, of the buildings, research on the buildings

HASTAC III: The conference so far | Monday, April 20, 2009 @ 8:39AM

HASTAC - Thu, 2009-04-23 00:18

consists of me getting a HASTAC III bag (this will be reused for grocery shopping), some tasty fruits, a cream cheese pastry-thing (blintz?). They also kicked my cup of tea out of the auditorium, so it reentered in my ubiquitous green water bottle.


Don't they know those "no food or drink" signs don't apply to me. . .?

HASTAC III: Emerging Technologies Panel

HASTAC - Wed, 2009-04-22 20:46
This Tuesday morning panel, chaired by James Myers, NCSA, featured Julie Klein, Ian Chapp, Anne-Marie Armstrong, and Nardina Mein overviewing digital initiatives at Wayne State University, Michael Twidale and Richard Urban discussing their prototyping of an exploratory system for navigating library collections at the University of Illinois, Jentery Sayers and myself (Matthew Wilson) discussing their efforts in the development and implementation of a digital humanities course at the University of Washington, Lisa Wymore overviewing her teleimmersion projects at UC Berkeley, and Alan Craig demonstrating his efforts (with Robert McGrath) at NCSA to create applications for augmented reality.

At the view from “10,000 feet”  (thank you, Michael Twidale and Richard Urban), this panel represents a diversity of technologies as they are employed in learning contexts, whether for supporting faculty and students across the university, in a specific classroom, on the stage, or for the individual media user.

In “Lessons for Teaching with Technology in Humanities and Social Sciences”, Julie Klein, Ian Chapp, Anne-Marie Armstrong, and Nardina Mein, overviewed Wayne State’s Digital Humanities Collaboratory, Digital Library Collections, the LUNA project for digital asset management, and the Digital Learning and Development Sandbox.  Of note, for the audience, is their notion of ‘learning objects’, launching in September, which creates a testable object for researchers, educators, and students.

In “Patchwork Prototyping an IMLS DCC Collection Dashboard”, Michael Twidale and Richard Urban discuss their work to address the problem of skimming over a large number of collections (500+) housed in the library system at the U. of Illinois -- of providing a user an Internet-based dashboard to read at a distance across the collection: geographically, semantically, lexically.  They are using a prototyping process with diverse users to see what kinds of information widgets should be available to those perusing the collections.

In “Mapping the Digital Humanities”, Jentery Sayers and Matthew Wilson (myself) presented their/our efforts in developing and implementing digital humanities curriculum at the U. of Washington.  They discussed three emphases that guide their project: practices and processes rather than products and effects, the materiality of digital objects, and forces and affects rather than points and representations.  The course is structured around practices of mapping: using a class blog and a collaborative Google Map.  Students are asked to code (using XHTML and CSS), collect objects focusing on the everyday, practice distant reading, and texturize their digital encodings.

In “Traversing Digital Boundaries via Tele-Immersive Environment Exploration of Geographically Distributed Dance Performance”, Lisa Wymore, from UC Berkeley, discussed the use of teleimmersion in dance performance.  Here, she is interested in how these digital technologies enable a new choreographic method and allow new forms of expression.  Her interest is in the embodiment of virtual realities wherein our bodies enter into the digital landscape as opposed to be represented through avatars.

In “Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality”, Alan Craig, NCSA demonstrated an augmented reality system, whereby texts can be augmented using a system of images that, when recognized by a webcam, creates on the user’s computer screen an additional, 3D image.

My Musical Identity - Reflections of a Reformed Conformist

HASTAC - Wed, 2009-04-22 10:04

Here it is. The big, bad truth. My very first CD was Hanson’s Middle of Nowhere. And with that purchase, at the age of ten, I ventured out into the world of radio stations and pop videos, searching for my musical identity. After enough awkward introductions at parties and pretty much any other kind of social gathering, I'm convinced that preferred artists or bands define character and personality. They clue the outside world on who we are and what clique we fit into. So me, admit to having no musical identity? I don't think so!

In elementary school, I was forced to shrug my way through many a conversation. What did I think of Nsync's new song? Well, it was better than their last one. But my answer was never satisfactory to the cool people, and I’d soon hear those dreaded words. 

What kind of music do you listen to anyway?  

"Uh, ya know dude, everything," I was at a loss for words. But on one fated afternoon I heard Hanson and bought their album. And my life began! Because of Hanson, I now had something to say during recess discussions. 

Unfortunately, within a few months, I realized the Hanson thing was hurting my image more than helping. That was when I found my savior, Makaveli. Everyone loved him. So I decided to buy me some rap albums. B.I.G., Puffy, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, and Sisqo filled my CD stand. Guests would enter my room and take just one look at those Parental Advisory albums and it was clear to them; I was a bonafide rapper!

The reality, however, was that my music taste was far more expansive than just Forgot about Dre. and The Thong Song. I actually listened to ELP, Santana, Mystic Revealers, and the Gypsy Kings . . . and that’s not even half of ‘em! And yet to conform, I hid all my other interests behind my new identity as a rapper. The reality was that I had no favorites! And we teens rely on those favorites. That’s how we can judge each other right off the bat, right? Admirers of Cher are generally over fifty, right? And as my sister witheringly says, "If you liked Hanson's first album, the world can pretty much tell you're a lost cause…"

So what happens if you’re like me? If you like N'sync and Limp Bizkit and Outkast at the same time? If you defy all stereotypes, all classification, and every generalization? I thought I needed to develop a true musical identity, but what I discovered is that there is no single identity to be found! I am proud to say that I cannot be categorized. Through painstaking attempts to conform, I have realized that I am different. Unclassifiable. I’m a bit of this, a bit of that, and Ya know . . . everything.  

What are you?

Energy: What's the Future?

HASTAC - Wed, 2009-04-22 09:33

"What is a man without energy? Nothing--nothing at all. Sum all the gifts that man is endowed with, and we give our greatest share of admiration to his energy. And today, if I were a heathen, I would rear a statue to Energy and fall down and worship it!"

So spoke Mark Twain and I'm inclined to agree. But sadly, had Twain in fact reared that statue in Energy's honor, I don’t believe I'd have the energy today to fall down, or worship it. 
You see, I suffer from chronic energy depletion syndrome; my reserves just can’t combat the day-to-day drain. I spend most of my life running around like a chicken with my head cut off. Nobody realizes how much energy it takes me to simply wake up in the morning. Nobody realizes how much energy it takes to stay awake in class. And as Albert Camus once said, "Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal."

I'm one of those people. And I'm not alone. Which is why, I suppose, it's been said that America's number one energy crisis is Monday morning. Coffee our only means by which to last the day. Because we use up all our energy in spurts, on the weekends, at parties, barbecues, conferences or tournaments, and we make no provision for the work week. Now even in my lackluster, sleep deprived state I can sense parallels between human energy depletion and the problems which plague America and the world today. We're using up our energy sources too fast, and if we don't provide for the future, we'll collapse Monday morning and even Starbucks won't be enough to keep us awake.  

"Ours is the most wasteful nation on Earth," said then President Jimmy Carter. "We waste more energy than we import. With about the same standard of living, we use twice as much energy per person as do other countries like Germany, Japan, and Sweden." If that was in 1977, where do we stand today? The 3-D light-up reindeer my neighbors sported on their front lawn through December must have themselves used up twice as much energy as Sweden, never mind the rest of America. We are wastrels, we are spendthrifts. And while I'm playing the blame game, we are entirely too dependent on petroleum. 

For the past twenty odd years, we have gone through an energy crisis without an effective policy by which to deal with the crisis. We so thoughtlessly rely on imported oil, that we have made no provisions by which to conserve gasoline or other petroleum products. We have no sufficient policy by which to develop and put into use alternative energy sources. And as any Californian will tell you, we have no adequate system for public transportation.

This failure in American policy is reflected in the predictions of the US Department of Energy. Petroleum demand is expected to grow from 19.5 million barrels per day used in 1999 to 25.8 million barrels in 2020. And what do they attribute the increase to? The inadequate "transportation sector," which accounts for 70% of US petroleum consumption. 

The answer? Some think we ought to take a cue from the Chinese and go from four wheels to two. Writer S.S. Wilson is of that school of thought: "Since the bicycle makes little demand on material or energy resources, contributes little to pollution, makes a positive contribution to health and causes little death or injury, it can be regarded as the most benevolent of machines." And since we Americans are notoriously lazy, prone to obesity, and fond of cheeseburgers, employment of the bicycle would kill two birds with one stone.

But let's be honest. Bicycling is a fairly improvident mode of transportation. Doesn't allow for twenty mile commutes, doesn't protect against the rain, and probably wouldn't catch on with the skirt-wearing faction of the work force. Which leaves us back where we started. Dependent on petroleum.

"The problem," explained Dave Barry, author of Postpetroleum Guzzler, "is that we have run out of dinosaurs to form oil with. Scientists working for the Department of Energy have tried to form oil using other animals They've piled thousands of tons of sand and Middle Eastern countries on top of cows, raccoons, haddock, laboratory rats, etc., but so far all they have managed to do is run up an enormous bulldozer-rental bill and anger a lot of Middle- Eastern persons. None of the animals turned into oil, although most of the laboratory rats developed cancer."

M. King Hubbert, author of Resources and Man, would have been more than dismayed. For Hubbert believes that "the fortunes of the world's human population are inextricably interrelated with the use that is made of energy resources."

And what use has been made of our resources? We have lab. rats with cancer and no alternative energy source. Therein lies the problem. As a nation we have yet to adopt a wide variety of fuels and are therefore at the mercy of the petroleum market. "We've embarked on the beginning of the last days of the age of oil," then ARCO chairman Mike Bowlin explained, "Embrace the future and recognize the growing demand for a wide range of fuels or ignore reality and slowly—but surely—be left behind."

"It's a confused world," a wise man once sad, "We're running out of electricity -- and nobody even knows what it is." According to the American Wind Energy Association, the answer to our energy problems is simple. Wind. Who doesn't know what wind is? Wind is abundant and can supply more than three times our total electricity needs. Wind is domestic, doesn't need to be imported, and will help reduce our dependence on foreign nations. Wind is clean, avoids other "harmful fossil fuel pollutants such as mercury, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides" and will make both our air and water healthier. What's more, wind is inexhaustible. "Unlike fossil fuels or uranium," an American Wind Energy Association statement explains, "wind energy is renewable and can be used without reducing the birthright of future generations." 

Although some, like ecologist Paul Ehrlich, feel that "giving society cheap, abundant energy would be the equivalent of giving an idiot child a machine gun," wind energy would be easily available and beneficial to the environment. Analysts Lester Brown, Michael Renner, and Brian Halweil predict that wind energy will be the "cornerstone of the new energy economy." Their findings indicate that world wind generation grew 26% from 1997 to 1998 alone, and now that we've expanded the US wind generating capacity from California to Minnesota, Oregon, and Wyoming, the new industry will further expand in the new millennium.

 So as they say during mass at my Jesuit high school, "Let us pray." Let us invoke the words of Thomas John Carlisle, and appeal to an energy-dispensing, eco-friendly God. 

"Dear God, Help us to harness the wind, the water, the sun, and all the ready and renewable sources of power. Teach us to conserve, preserve, use wisely the blessed treasures of our wealth-stored earth. You, who are life and energy and blessing, teach us to revere and respect your tender world."

And while we're waiting for God's response, which many would argue will never come, we must heed the words of God's right hand man, Mahatma Gandhi, and "be the change we want to see in the world." Alternative sources of energy? We must first find internal, alternative sources of energy. It's going to take inspired, mercurial individuals to harness the winds, the sun, and the sea.

Coffee, anyone?

What technology makes us forget about.

HASTAC - Wed, 2009-04-22 09:22

Hello Everyone!

I'm one of Prof. Cathy Davidson's students from the course she was teaching this past semester. I'm not quite sure how well this blog post will be received, but on a technological forum such this, I felt that the following was appropriate. I should start first by saying that I am a huge geek/nerd and a lover of all things technological. It was only after a semester of thinking about the internet, the global consciousness, computers, and technology that I began to reminisce about what life was like before these concepts.

There was a time when I could call myself an avid reader. There was a time when, every night, I would sit down in an easy chair, take out 5 or 6 books, and read them all before going to bed…. Yes, when I was…four years old I used to be quite fond of books. But lets be realistic, it was never very hard for me to read See Spot Run, The Cat in the Hat, & The Berenstein Bears. I used spend maybe 5 whole minutes reading a given book, and everything I wanted from it would be obtained. The plot learned, the satisfaction given,… I mean hey, they were mostly pictures anyway. But recently, the books of my age group seem to be getting much longer, and with their added length it takes a lot more time to read them. I'll admit that I watched Peter Jackson's movies before picking up Tolkien's mammoth of a book--the Lord of the Rings, but it wasn't really my dislike of reading that drove me away from Tolkein's novels… I simply reasoned that I could get the same fulfillment out of watching the movies, that I could get reading the books. 

In retrospect, I believe that we as a society embrace work-relieving technology. I remember a piece on CNN that claimed some 75% of high school students interviewed admitted to reading all their English textbooks in summary form on the internet. I don't think it's so bad that we as a society have developed all the "gadgets" that save us time and effort. But what are we losing by using these devices--the cliff notes, the segway scooter, the instant messager, wikipedia? I never think of any of these things in a negative context, but recently I wonder whether we as a society have duped ourselves into believing that all of our "gadgets" give us the same fulfillment that some effort-consuming tasks might. Cliff notes will never compare to reading an actual book, the segway cannot possibly replace the joy of a good walk, AIM will never be the same thing as talking face to face (although video chat comes pretty close),  and as for wikipedia? Well, let's just say that wikipedia doesn't always give complete or completely accurate information on anything. 

 I don't remember the last time I set foot in a library. I don't remember the last time I painted a picture. I don't remember the last time I built.... anything, really except for my computer. But all of these experiences are things that I remember taking so much pleasure in as a child. After a few sleepless nights writing final papers (and final blog posts), I wonder if the direction that civilization is going is the right one. As the poet, William Henry Davies put it, "What is this life if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare?" I think he brings up a decent point.

HASTAC III: Disciplinary Practices Panel

HASTAC - Wed, 2009-04-22 02:29

This panel featured Katherine Mezur (University of Washington) presenting "New Medium: Ditching the Disciplinary Rules and Founding Tech/Performance" and Aden Evens (Dartmouth College) presenting "Desire and the Mouse." The third scheduled speaker, Lev Manovich (University of California at San Diego), was unable to attend.

Katherine Mezur (University of Washington) and two University of Washington students, Eunsu Kang and Diana Garcia Snyder, who collaborated on an interactive dance performance called "PuPaa" joined us via webcam from Washington to discuss their work. Mezur's presentation focused on the conceptualization of a new media, its presentation, aesthetics, and practices, which explores image play and the interaction between human bodies and technology.

Mezur is interested in looking at how digital art coalesces into transitional space from three perspectives: that of the witness, the choreographer, and the media artist. For her, one of the primary characteristics of technology is its slippery and elusive nature.  Attempts at incorporating technology into traditional performances leads to rigidity of stage and screen, forcing bodies and technologies into weird compromises in which human and technology barely acknowledge one another.

The repeatability of media necessitates pushing the borders of the possible: "We need to think big. We need to get rid of forms, sequences, protocol. For a while I thought that engineers should dance and dancers should take a math class. Now I want a visual consciousness that unites."

Her example of a way in which we can experience a new media is the 2008 performance of "PuPaa" (http://kangeunsu.com/pupaa/documentation.htm). In this work, directed by Kang and choreographed by Snyder, the slow movements of the Butoh style of dance combine with the cameras and lights situated on the bodies of the dancers to communicate with the audience in a new way. (Another site: http://dxarts.washington.edu/~eskang/pupaa)

Eunsu Kang described her experience with the project by explaining her background as a media artist interested in the post-human media body. She had previously experimented with mobile sound projection systems, but when she tried them, they did not convey the impression of merging into the human body but rather remained a device that the individual was wearing, rather than a part of him or her.

This was not her experience with "PuPaa." Initially the dancers in "PuPaa" were afraid of moving around with the devices and cords, but then they began to sense it as a part of their body, as augmentation. Later they felt sad when they took off the devices (for example, they would say "See you later!" to their machines) and they gave their equipment names. In addition to incorporating the bodies of the performers, "PuPaa" also involved the audience: At the end of the show, one of the dancers is wearing a camera on her wrist and she points it at the audience, which is then projected onto a screen formed from the skirt of one of the performers.

During the Q&A, a member of the audience asked about the future of this type of performance and about the questions raised by preserving it digitally. Mazur responded by emphasizing that video recording is another kind of performance, but it is not THE performance experienced in the space by performers and audience. Dynamic kinds of recording such as 3D offer possibilities but live bodies are still essential.

Aden Evens (Dartmouth College) explored the nature of human-computer interaction in a different way by focusing on the mouse-based interface and its position in the expression of desire. The mouse is a narrow, restricted interface that mediates between the material and the abstract by translating human desires through a sequence of elementary commands. Although a single click is a complex act that involves hundreds of muscles and computer elements, it comes down to a binary opposition: either the button is pressed or it is not.

The mouse operates on differential mathematics, recording its numbers to the computer 1500 times per second, and excludes facets of touch (namely, it doesn't matter how hard the button is clicked). The materiality of the mouse is coded binary, as though the computer reaches out through it to interact with the human body. Thus the user's body also becomes digitized and oriented towards the interface, translating human desires into a single binary act.

The digital world is not the material world, but a world generated by processes of abstraction in which touch is curtailed because what you are touching does not actually touch you back. The icon thus functions as the complement to the mouse click because it becomes "whatever can be clicked." Even in the simplest case, the icon for a file does not resemble that file; it functions as a handle rather than a signifier. For Evens, this abstract nature is precisely that which makes the computer so powerful.

During the Q&A session, Mazur asked Evens about whether he has considered the emotional connection felt by the user: when she deletes an icon, she has an emotional reaction to her action. She wondered what happens to the user who interacts with the interface?

Evens discussed the potential of Mazur's work to understand how the hybrid form of human and technology changes the way bodies work. Rather than simply working towards a more efficient input device, we should consider what it means and what is actually happening.

HASTAC III: Visit to the Intermedia Gallery at Krannert Art Museum

HASTAC - Wed, 2009-04-22 01:53

As part of the HASTAC III: Traversing Digital Boundaries Conference, a group of conference participants were allowed a special glimpse of the current exhibitions at the Intermedia/  CANVAS gallery at the Krannert Art Museum at UIUC. It was a kinetic, fast-paced tour of an exhibition of works from members of the group blog Grand Text Auto. Led by Damon Loren Baker (Art, Design, and Technology Curator at the Intermedia Gallery) and accompanied by Nick Montfort (Digital Media, MIT/ Grand Text Auto), the tour brought up a lot of interesting questions about traversing the boundaries of form and reception, in writing and in the museum space.

Here's a look into our journey in the Intermedia Gallery:

Nick Montfort was available to give context for the projects on exhibition, in the video excerpt below he talks about the aims of Grand Text Auto. 

Damon Baker also spoke about his curatorial choices with the Intermedia Gallery and how Grand Text Auto fits in.

The group was also able to enjoy a good amount of time playing Michael Mateas and Andrew Stern's Facade, a one-act narrative. This playable interactive drama provides some delightfully awkward exchanges.


The exhibition will be up until July 26th. Do visit! The CANVAS will be up soon and thanks for Damon and Nick for the great tour! Also, check out Nick's detailed post at Grand Text Auto about the exhibit. 


HASTAC - Tue, 2009-04-21 16:29

In high school, we had a computer room full of Teletype terminals with 300-baud dial-up lines to the University of Delaware Project Delta -- a DEC pdp11/45 running RSTS -- real-time/time-sharing operating system.  We wrote, ran and debugged programs interactively in BASIC.  We had Kenneth Snelson ASCII-Art pin-up calendars on the walls.  We generated buckets of chads with the paper-tape punch.   I did my science project on Electronic Music.  I still have blueprints that Engineers sent me from Moog Music of old System-3 modules.

In 1974, programming at Lehigh University was FORTRAN punch-cards, an IBM batch system and Pdp8 Assembly Language -- "It's your PAL."  It was like going back to the stone age.  The Electronic Music Studio had a Buchla, which was really weird to play.  A guy in my dorm had a Mini-Moog, which was much more intuitive to me.  The Electrical Engineering labs had huge installations of dusty old power-conversion equipment -- motor/dynamos -- which had been obviously unused for years.

 I dropped out of Lehigh in 1976 and worked at Rollins Broadcasting Station WAMS, 1380 KHz AM, 5,000 Watts.  In 1977, I started at the University of Delaware.   While I was re-taking Calculus and Differential Equiations, I studied Art & Technology -- a la Billy Kluever/Robert Rauschenberg's E.A.T. of 1962 -- at the Library.  I took two Electrical Engineering required courses per semester and filled the rest with Art History, Drawing, Visual Design, Sculpture, Electronic Music, Psychology of Perception, Theater Technology, Physical Optics and Physical Acoustics.  It was a generalized education in Art & Technology.  I have had Color Theory from every possible perspective, including video engineering and computer graphics.

The main product of my undergraduate career was United States Patent 4,248,120, "Stringed Musical Instrument with Electrical Feedback" and an article on the self-same Electroacoustic Monochord, published in "Perspectives of  New Music", 1981-1982.  I bought an old upright piano, disassembled it and did some work on creating a mechanically reorganized "Inifitely-Preparable" version. I designed and built some prototype circuits and mechanical assemblies for a polyphonic keyboard that measured inertia from piano hammers.  It kept the feel of a piano without any electromechanical fiddling.

By the time I graduated with my Bachelors in Electrical Engineering, my professors were telling me that the TI DSP chip can synthesize a symphony orchestra in real-time, therefore music is not longer a hardware problem.

My first job was at AT&T Bell Laboratories.  I spent a lot of time in the Bell Labs Technical Library.  I researched my grandfather, who was a radio pioneer, audio engineer and supervisor of the sound stage in Brooklyn, NY where Vitaphone and later Western Electric sound-on-picture recording was developed.

HASTAC III Panel Session: Born Digital Scholarship: New Strategies, Projects and Possibilities

HASTAC - Tue, 2009-04-21 09:27

Tara McPherson (University of Southern California) began by describing her own "escape" from her former identity as a literary scholar, emphasizing the need for humanities scholars in the field of computing. She advocated a more involved approach in which the humanities scholar moves beyond the role of "content provider" towards collaborative efforts and new forms of authorship; ideally, the digital humanities scholar "should write AND visualize theory" rather than perpetuating old conventions.

With the multinational potential of scholarship in the digital humanities, the impetus is on us as scholars to think about what we want to do and what kinds of audiences we hope to reach. As editor of the journal Vectors (http://www.vectorsjournal.org/), McPherson deals with innovative projects that could not exist in traditional print formats, such as the collaborative work "Killer Entertainments" by Jennifer Terry and Raegan Terry that displays video produced by soldiers in Iraq in an interactive interface.

"Killer Entertainments" (http://www.vectorsjournal.org/index.php?page=7&projectId=8)

Wendy Chun (Brown University) described her concept of a new theory within media studies, "running theory," that modifies Lovink and Wark's argument for "theory on the run" (a theory that travels along the same media vectors as the material it engages) and recasts theory as the site of an alliance in which theoretical and technological questions are merged. Her project "Programmed Visions" plays with the idea of race as origins, as some form of programmability similar to software.

"Programmed Visions"(http://www.vectorsjournal.org/index.php?page=7&projectId=8)

Craig Dietrich (University of Maine) focused on effective management of resources, including servers, code, server farms, electricity, oil, but also people (programmers, writers and scholars), in his thoughts about digital humanities projects. Collaborations between people in different fields can ideally create projects are distributed and networked in innovative ways. His project "Thoughtmesh" provides a way for scholars to generate their own tags linking their work to the work of others to create new networks.

Another project currently being developed at the University of Maine deals with the problem of archiving online projects and material; by working with artists and creators to develop collaboration and documentation of their projects, Dietrich hopes to document the ways in which culture can be preserved.

"Thoughmesh" (http://thoughtmesh.net/)

Sharon Daniel (University of California at Santa Cruz) views herself as a "context-provider" rather than a "content-provider." Her work on "Public Secrets" and the upcoming project "Blood Sugar" expand the definition of who constitutes the public, traversing the boundaries between inside and outside, public and private. "Public Secrets" reveals the secret injustices of the penal system through an interactive interface of over 600 linked and interconnected statements by female prisoners. "Blood Sugar" is the result of many hours of conversation with drug users who use the needle exchange offered by an HIV education and prevention program; the conversations are preserved intact, unlike "Public Secrets," and are linked through "parasitic connections and the space they inhabit."

"Public Secrets"(http://www.vectorsjournal.org/index.php?page=7&projectId=57)


During the Q&A session that followed, one audience member asked about the friction between the work produced and the ways in which it is evaluated in academia, as well as the idea of scholarship as practice rather than as representation.

McPherson noted that there are fields in which different models for evaluation exist, such as screenwriters who are evaluated for screenplays that never got produced as well as for those that did, and architects who are evaluated for their models or plans.  For her, the question of producing new mechanisms is reinforced by humanities' awareness of its own waning relevance.

Daniel mentioned that while she feels lucky to inhabit a type of hybrid space since artists not pressured to publish scholarship, born-digital works are rarely exhibited in museums and commercial galleries.

For Chun, collaboration and networking is the key. The idea of alliance and the need for projects to be in contact with each other is pivotal, since change will not happen from just one group alone.

HASTAC III Panel Session: Situated in Time and Space: New Developments in the Display of Geographic Data

HASTAC - Tue, 2009-04-21 08:09
As a self-described "former historian" with a M.A. in History, Mano began with an overview of the history of maps, pointing out that humans have been making maps for a very long time. He cited John Snow's 1854 map of the cholera outbreak in London (http://www.ph.ucla.edu/epi/snow/snowmap1_1854_lge.htm) as an early example of the use of geospatially-located data, making the point that "people have already been doing what we think of as revolutionary for a long time." Another example, a 1907 Rand McNally guidebook with pictures and maps giving turn-by-turn directions for travel, works in much the same way as the "Directions" feature of Google maps.

Turning to the functions and applicability of Google Earth, Mano mentioned that while many people see it as a good way to spy on their neighbors, it's better to view it as a platform for displaying geographic data, which is its intended purpose. Some of the new features of Google Earth 2.0 include bathymetric data (ocean views), touring capabilities that allow the user to script his or her own presentation using Keyhole Markup Language (KML), views of Mars, and the inclusion of historical imagery (allowing the user to overlay historical maps or images onto the map).

Mano then showed some demonstrations of how these technologies help us to see how people visualize the world, noting that these features are particularly useful for ecological activism. Some KML touring demos are available here: http://www.google.com/gadgets/directory?synd=earth&cat=featured.

Other applications include explorations of urban spaces such as Singapore or Peachtree, Georgia. Peachtree's Interactive Web Map allows the user to view layers highlighting the locations of crimes during a certain period (such as golf cart theft), locations of fire hydrants, and other data.

3D Singapore Explorer


Peachtree City GIS Interactive Web Map


During the Q&A session following his talk, Mano was asked about the licensing problems that might arise in collaborative "mash-ups" between different organizations or data-generating entities. In his response, he noted that determining the source of information is a major issue and fortunately there is a lot of publicly available data (some of it more or less accurate!); Google's basic idea as far as licensing issues is that if you make the map readily available to everyone, then you can use the programs.

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