Blogs Media Lab Conferences

Apply now: Superscript Blog Mentorship Program, presented in partnership with Hyperallergic

To put ideas discussed at the Superscript online arts journalism conference into practice, we announce the Superscript Blog Mentorship, presented in partnership with Hyperallergic. This responsive blogging program will create a pop-up newsroom in the Walker Art Center Library and engage a trio of enterprising bloggers in covering the three-day convening. We are seeking three […]

Screen shot 2015-04-08 at 9.25.30 AM

To put ideas discussed at the Superscript online arts journalism conference into practice, we announce the Superscript Blog Mentorship, presented in partnership with Hyperallergic. This responsive blogging program will create a pop-up newsroom in the Walker Art Center Library and engage a trio of enterprising bloggers in covering the three-day convening.

We are seeking three bloggers to create live online responses to the conference—under the guidance of three world-class editorial mentors, led by Hyperallergic’s Jillian Steinhauer—through quick-hit blogging, Q&As, profiles, issues essays, and other formats. Each participant will produce a series of blog posts to be published on the Walker blogs and Mn Artists throughout Superscript, leading up to longer piece for publication on Hyperallergic. This program aims to create a dynamic documentation of Superscript 2015, for attendees and online audiences alike, while offering emerging writers invaluable instruction from seasoned arts journalists, publication experience with three digital platforms, and access to the speakers and attendees of Superscript.

Each mentorship participant will receive:

  • Free admission to Superscript (a $200 value)
  • Journalistic mentorship from three top arts editors
  • A $100 publication fee paid by Hyperallergic
  • Publication bylines on Hyperallergic, the Walker Art Center blogs, and Mn Artists
  • Access to the speakers and attendees of Superscript
  • A Superscript t-shirt

Applicants must:

  • be available for a one-hour training session on Thursday evening, May 28 and throughout the duration of the conference,
  • have a fluent command of English (spoken and written),
  • have a working knowledge of key digital tools including WordPress, Skype, Twitter, Instagram, etc.,
  • have knowledge of and interest in contemporary art in all its forms (visual, performing, moving-image art, and new media art; design; architecture; public practice) as well as online cultural publishing,
  • have access to a laptop and camera for use during the conference,
  • be self-motivated, energetic, and open to learning,
  • be calm under pressure, communicative, resourceful, and efficient.

Open Call for Participation

Applicants must be within three years of graduation from college and cannot derive their main source of income from arts writing. They must have a demonstrable interest and commitment to the arts as well as enthusiasm and high energy.

To apply, please email the following to superscript@walkerart.org, with “Superscript Blog Mentorship Application” in the subject line:

  • Cover letter stating in 500 words or fewer why you’re interested in the program and what you hope to gain from it,
  • CV,
  • 2–3 writing samples (published or personal writing accepted)

All application materials must be submitted as a single PDF.

Deadline for applications: Wednesday, May 6, 2015.

Superscript: Arts Journalism and Criticism in a Digital Age is a three-day international conference to be held at the Walker Art Center May 28–30, 2015. Copresented by the Walker and Mn Artists is convenes artists, critics, editors, and writers—including Pitchfork founder Ryan Schreiber, poet-critic Claudia La Rocca, the New Inquiry editor Ayesha Siddiqi, artnet News editor Ben Davis, and many others—for a discussion on digital cultural publishing’s present realities and its possible futures.

About Hyperallergic

Hyperallergic is a forum for playful, serious, and radical perspectives on art and culture in the world today. Since 2009, Hyperallergic has published more than 500 writers and is read by close to 1 million people per month.

@hyperallergic

The Team

jillians-sqJillian Steinhauer, the project’s lead editor, is senior editor of Hyperallergic and a writer living in Brooklyn. Her work has been published in Slate, the Los Angeles Review of Books, The Paris Review Daily, and other publications. A graduate of NYU’s Cultural Reporting & Criticism program, she was recently nominated for a 2014 Best Art Reporting award from the International Association of Art Critics. She’s served as juror/judge for art festivals, cat video festivals, and tote bag competitions.

@jilnotjill

nicolec-sqNicole J. Caruth is the former editorial manager at Art21 and founding editor of the Art21 Magazine (est. 2013). Her writing has appeared in a range of publications, including ARTnewsC MagazineGastronomicaPublic Art ReviewWalker Art Center Magazine, and the Phaidon Press books Vitamin Green and Vitamin D2. She has held positions at the Brooklyn Museum, School of Visual Arts, and Wangechi Mutu Studio. She is currently Artistic Director for Exhibitions and Public Engagement at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts.

@nicolejcaruth

islaly-sqIsla Leaver-Yap works with artists to produce texts, events, and shows. As the Walker’s Bentson Film Scholar, she researches and publishes on works in the Ruben/Bentson Film and Video Study Collection and examines its context and legacy within the field of artists’ moving image in contemporary art. She is currently working with artists Moyra Davey and James Richards on producing new works for the collection. She is based in Glasgow, where she is the Project Director of LUX Scotland, and commutes twice a year to the Walker.

@islaly

Staff

Paul Schmelzer is editor of the Walker homepage and blogs. A past editor at Adbusters, he’s written for Artforum.com, Art 21, Cabinet, Medium.com’s re:form, Raw Vision, and Utne Reader, among others. Former editor of the Minnesota Independent and managing editor of its DC-based nonprofit parent, he’s the first digital journalist in Minnesota history to win a Society of Professional Journalists Page One Award or a University of Minnesota School of Journalism Frank Premack Award for Public Affairs Journalism. He blogs at Eyeteeth.org.

@iteeth @walkermag

Susannah Schouweiler is a writer, arts critic, and editor-in-chief of Mn Artists, an artist-driven, online media platform based at the Walker Art Center covering the art and artists of the Midwest. Before her work with Mn Artists, she served as the editor of Ruminator, a nationally distributed art and literature magazine. She lives and works in St. Paul, Minnesota.

@susannahs @mnartistsdotorg

<a href="/superscript">Superscript</a>

A screenshot of the Superscript website

 

The Internet has always been an experimental publishing platform.

In contrast to the linear nature of most publishing endeavors in history, the hyperlink was invented in 1965 by Ted Nelson, who was obsessed with keeping track of his neurotic and divergent paths of thinking, and in turn, the publishing of his writing. Superscript, the Walker’s first conference on arts journalism and criticism in a digital age, intentionally puts the hyperlink — one of the definite features of new media — in the forefront of its design. The hyperlink is not simply a software feature; it is telling of our shift in thinking beyond linearity and context to an arena of layered networks and interconnectedness: the medium is the message. The web is a postmodernist tool necessitated by a postmodernist perspective.

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One of Ted Nelson’s mockups of transpointing windows, 1972

Screenshot of the hyperlink working demo, 1998

I. Text

Publishing online ranges from pre-built platforms with uniform templates and one-click submission buttons to articles that have custom layouts that take months or years to implement. The aesthetic of the Superscript website is intentionally retro, stripped down and typographically emphatic, to pay homage to text as the only necessity in publishing.

We can see this minimalism within modern services such as Readability or Pocket; sometimes we just want to digest the text-as-information like a machine. Text speaks to our modern combinational approach of social communication with computational models:

Text is the most socially useful communication technology. It works well in 1:1, 1:N, and M:N modes. It can be indexed and searched efficiently, even by hand. It can be translated. It can be produced and consumed at variable speeds. It is asynchronous. It can be compared, diffed, clustered, corrected, summarized and filtered algorithmically. It permits multiparty editing. It permits branching conversations, lurking, annotation, quoting, reviewing, summarizing, structured responses, exegesis, even fan fic. The breadth, scale and depth of ways people use text is unmatched by anything. –always bet on text

In digital publishing, text is our data where books are the compiled program. Superscript’s starkness allows for easy consumption as an informational website by foregrounding the letter.

II. Conference Websites

There are limitless examples and templates of typical conference web design. But as a conference that is devoted to digital publishing, it would be a mistake to miss this opportunity for creating something unconventional.

A typical conference will have a navigation bar with multiple items (e.g. Speakers, Schedule, Register, Location). I wanted to call out navigation-as-hyperlink-as-content, so as to not necessarily distinguish between them. This purposely obfuscate details as to create a dialogue between the page and the user. So-called best practices instilled in design to create an interface as no interface creates a one-sided transaction that is hardly memorable. In willfully obscuring, we create conversation. Although there are risks in this approach, such as alienating readers, we know for the most part that those seeking this conference will have both the curiosity and engagement to grapple with a novel display.

III. Page Dimensionality

out

Triple Canopy’s long form layout

A screenshot of the Tankboys website

The horizontal layout of the site is inspired by two publication platforms: Triple Canopy and Tankboys. The landing page serves as a merged Cover and Page 1 with an index and key information. It imitates the format of a book or a magazine, using headings and paragraph blocks, split across two leaves. However, when clicking a link on an index leaf, it branches out. The interacted hyperlink shows its essential function, not necessarily to open another page, but to unfold more information. On this unfolded branch, hyperlink clicks are then used to unfold more information, albeit as toggles that expand vertically. Then, hovering on hyperlinks of names overlays images of those individuals. These three interactions — (1) the vertical extension of the leaf, (2) the horizontal toggling of details, and (3) the hovering of overlay images — create a visual three-dimensionality that encapsulates the networked and stratified modularity of the hyperlink.

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(1) The vertical extension of the leaf

(2) The horizontal toggling of details

(3) The hovering of overlay images

III. Identity

The identity and personality of Superscript was done by Dante Carlos, a senior designer at the Walker. It is his attention to both print and web typographic styling and mixing that is able to demarcate the hyperlink while not backgrounding plain text. Although there was only a postcard designed with this identity in mind before the website was launched, it went through many iterations:

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Two distinct graphical elements that I gleaned from his sketches were the use of spinners and graphs. The spinners serve as a visual cue of process when it comes to producing or publishing. On the web, there is the indeterminate loader when waiting for the design and content elements to load; in print, there is the printing register to align design and content properly. The graphs are arbitrary trend lines. They are telling of the dichotomous cycle of publishing: enduring and disseminable yet ephemeral and disposable.

IV. Outro

Although Superscript is a conference occurring on-site, this does not mean we will be subordinating our virtual audience. The Superscript website will go through two additional phases: a live version and an archival version. As the conference is occurring, a video stream, live stenography embed, and Twitter feed will be added. Once the conference is over, we will be archiving all the live material that was produced. In addition, we will be hosting a second page called Superscript Reader that will aggregate digital keynote commissions, Walker Channel film commissions, and related article and blog entries.

This is a unique conference that coincides overlapping domains of design, curation, editing, publishing, and technology. It is a distinct time to condense and skim this online activity to a singular aggregate reflection. This mirrors our everyday browsing: we consume a neverending flood of hyperlinks that we filter and coalesce internally. The screen emerges outward through us.

Postscript

My personal list of Superscript must-sees include Pitchfork, Rhizome, Hyperallergic, The New Inquiry and e-flux. If you’ve gotten all the way down here, you should probably buy a ticket.

Catalyzing Conversation and Transcending Technology at INST-INT

INST-INT—an international conference of acclaimed creators exploring the intersection of art, technology, and interaction—returned to the Walker for its second year over the weekend. Organized by the same folks responsible for the Eyeo Festival, the September 25 through 27 gathering focused on installation art, interaction, responsive environments, smart objects, public art, and the challenge of creating engaging experiences.  A series […]

Obscura Digital project illUmiNations: Protecting Our Planet, presented by the United Nations Department of Public Information in partnership with the Oceanic Preservation Society and Insurgent Media, New York, 2014

INST-INT—an international conference of acclaimed creators exploring the intersection of art, technology, and interaction—returned to the Walker for its second year over the weekend. Organized by the same folks responsible for the Eyeo Festival, the September 25 through 27 gathering focused on installation art, interaction, responsive environments, smart objects, public art, and the challenge of creating engaging experiences.  A series of amazingly inspirational presentations covered a wide range of topics, from machines conveying sociopolitical messages to public sculptures made with advanced material studies to the use of technology as an extension of the body. The most interesting were those projects that not only made use of technology in creative ways, but also used it to catalyze conversations about social or political issues and examine ideas beyond the technology itself.

Social and Political Interaction

For example, Japanese artist Sputkino presented her Menstruation Machine,  a wearable device fitted with a blood dispensing mechanism and electrodes simulating the lower abdomen that simulates the pain and bleeding of a five-day menstruation process. Sputkino also presented The Moonwalk Machine, a work that reimagines NASA’s Mars Rover to leave female traces on the surface of Mars through the use of new wheel tracks outfitted with high heels. I could not help to draw parallels between these works and a project by Megumi Igarashi (aka Rokudenashi-ko) in which she distributed electronic data that could be used to replicate models of her genitalia using a 3D printer, a project that landed her in jail on charges of obscenity. These projects are inspiring as a form of social activism in the face of the shifting role of women in Japan.

Dan Goods, a visual strategist for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, gave the most inspired talk of the weekend, focused on the “million things that could mess up your visionary project.” Dan talked about how bad wires, Congress, holes in the ionosphere, the Vatican, and other unforeseen circumstances can threaten to derail your project, and he discussed ways to plan for disaster. About his work, he said, “I am passionate about creating moments in peoples lives where they can interact with something beautiful, meaningful, and/or possibly profound,” and expanded on this by saying he wants to, “create experiences where people have a moment of awe about the universe.” This passion really became evident during his presentation on the HI JUNO project, where more than 1,400 ham radio operators collaborated to transmit “HI JUNO” in Morse code, in unison, as the spacecraft made its slingshot pass around earth. The work made it clear that some of the best projects are those that give many people a chance to consider the unknown and to imagine the space beyond our physical world. Goods closed his talk by demonstrating a Muon detector and described how these invisible particles are bits of exploded stars that are moving through all matter on earth, equating our bodies with space matter and recalling the temporality of life.

Considering the recent People’s Climate March, I was also extremely inspired by the Obscura Digital project illUmiNations: Protecting Our Planet, organized in partnership with the Oceanic Preservation Society (OPS) as a lead-up to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Climate Summit. For this project, many organizations collaborated to create a 30-story architectural projection, which lit up the United Nations Headquarters in New York with images of extinct species and a call to make climate action a reality in every society across the globe. As a prelude to the People’s Climate March, which filled the streets of New York with more than 300,000 people who marched to protest international inaction on climate change, the intent of this project was to inspire citizens to take climate action. This theme of social or political action was evident in many of the projects in various forms. This opened up some larger conversations about the role of art in society, need for many different forms of interaction, and the power of participation in public space.

Architecture, Materiality, and Virtualization

The relationship between built form, public space, and our connection an imagined world were important aspects of many of the projects presented by showing how they pushed material limits, reclaimed public space, or questioned our relationship to digital technology. Jen Lewin’s presentation titled Please Touch the Art detailed her large interactive art installations created to activate and connect community. One question she is interested in is, “How can interactive sculpture be used to transform and change public experience?” Looking at projects like The Pool and her Light and Sound Harps, it becomes clear how she has found a way to bring together her interests in painting, light, architecture, and dance. Using specialized rotational molding of plastic and other fabrication techniques her studio creates interactive public art that has withstood the abuse of more than 4,000 people in one day—an effort that requires significant material research.

Janet Echelman Skies Painted with Unnumbered Sparks, Vancouver, Canada, 2014

This need to explore and examine the materality of physical form was no more evident than in the work of Janet Echelman, who discussed her largest most interactive sculpture, Skies Painted with Unnumbered Sparks. In collaboration with artist Aaron Koblin, creative director of the Data Arts Team in Google’s Creative Lab, Studio Echelman developed a massive suspended sculpture of net and mesh for the TED conference’s 30th anniversary in Vancouver. Pushing material boundaries, this project was made possible through the development of custom 3D modeling software that allowed Echelman to simulate environmental conditions and complex geometries. Using Honeywell Spectra fiber, a lightweight, durable material 15 times stronger than steel, this work spans 745 feet between Fairmont Waterfront and the Vancouver Convention Center, and is equipped with an interactive lighting environment that allows visitors to use their phones to interact with the work.

Klaus Obermaier and Ars Electronica Futurelab, Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring) by Igor Stravinsky, 2006

Taking a different approach to interaction, Klaus Obermaier discussed his staging of Igor Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring) in his talk titled Interactive Installations vs. Interactive Performing Arts. Recontextualized for contemporary society, this 1913 ballet and orchestral concert work is transformed by Obermaier into a live 3D projection performance, in which the dancer and the orchestra contribute to the form of the work through real time interaction, generating the viewer experience. Amazingly, this work premiered in 2006, when things like Kinect motion tracking did not even exist. Of course, this work is not just about technology, and that’s what makes it so interesting. “The issue of the day is the authenticity of experience in the light of the ongoing virtualization of our habitats,” Obermaier said. “It is the dissolution of our sensuous perception, of the space-time continuum, the fading dividing line between real and virtual, fact and fake, that takes us to the limits of our existence.” Indeed, we find this struggle in our own lives, all to often consumed with social media and digital culture. By reinterpreting a controversial historic work through the lens of technology, Obermaier asks powerful questions about the effects of technology on humanity and significance of being in relationship to the digital world.

Clearly, many themes emerged during the conference, but the real value was in connecting with such inspiring people. As a rich open-source community, almost every person at this gathering was willing to not just share their greatest ideas, but also give you the building blocks of their projects to use and modify as your own. It was an amazing opportunity that offered a chance to see the most cutting-edge interactive, experience-driven, technological work from artists who traveled the globe to have conversations about the direction of new media, find new ways of collaborating, and to develop methods for making work. Thanks to all the people at INST-INT for another fabulous gathering of minds. I was honored to participate. Be sure keep a lookout for the talks to be posted online, and don’t miss it next year.

See Change 2014: Creative Inspiration

See Change 2014 conference at the University of Minnesota (in its fifth year) brings together another diverse set of creative perspectives on design and the undercurrent of change driven by design. This year was no different. In the five years I have attended See Change, it has consistently given me inspiration and a view into […]

See Change 2014 conference at the University of Minnesota (in its fifth year) brings together another diverse set of creative perspectives on design and the undercurrent of change driven by design. This year was no different. In the five years I have attended See Change, it has consistently given me inspiration and a view into a world of design which I am now entering late in my software development career. As an MFA student in interactive design, I consider attending See Change part of my curriculum. As an artist, I feel a connection with the creative drive of those who have made visual expression their line of gainful employment, sustaining, in a sense, both sides of their lives in one endeavor. All this appeals to my personal sense of holistic integration.

Conference presentations ranged from how we work and interact as individuals to creativity theory. Along this spectrum Aby Wolf lead us through singing exercises, Paul Trani looked at the 3D printing revolution, and two inspiring photographers showing their great work and telling wonderful stories. If any theme stands out among this diversity, it is this: how to find inspiration in your creative work. On that topic, photographer Douglas Kirkland responds, “keep many irons in the fire,” and his vast body of work expresses this passion and sustained inspiration. Annie Griffiths, after recounting her story of engaging in a photographic subject one hurried morning, when she forgot to wear pants, advocates, “find a passion that makes you forget to put your pants on.”

For the finale, genial professor Barry Kudrowitz compared close links between creativity a type of humor based on incongruity, making non-obvious connections (as opposed to slapstick or cathartic types of humor). Making non-obvious associations, Kudrowitz posits, means getting past the obvious ones, which itself seems obvious. But what studies have shown might not be so obvious: it is the simple correlation between the number of ideas and having good ones. This happens because the good ideas are usually found at the tail of the chart—he’s also an engineer, so there were charts! Getting past the usual and obvious means getting past the first ten or so ideas.

If it is possible to summarize See Change 2014 with an agglomeration of quotes (lacking attribution—sorry), here is what that could be: scale is the enemy of doing good work, print is still important, collaboration is a key ingredient, suspend judgment, the quiet power of space, stay open, know your inspiration, just the right amount of wrong, find the creative hook and make bold statements, be comfortable being uncomfortable, silly ideas can be stepping stones, Tigers and Bears (hey, you had to be there!)

8-Ball (Eyeo Edition): Kim Rees

During the June 3–5 Eyeo Festival, we opened up the Media Lab blog to the many coders, artists, and web developers speaking at the conference, which took place at the Walker. To give presenters a chance to introduce themselves, we sent out our 8-Ball artist questionnaire, in which we pose some of life’s most–and possibly […]

Peroscopic's data exploration tool on US gun violence

Peroscopic’s data exploration tool on US gun violence

During the June 3–5 Eyeo Festival, we opened up the Media Lab blog to the many coders, artists, and web developers speaking at the conference, which took place at the Walker. To give presenters a chance to introduce themselves, we sent out our 8-Ball artist questionnaire, in which we pose some of life’s most–and possibly least–pressing questions. Three, Hong Kong-based coder/designer Cédric Sam; Giorgia Lupi, founder of the Milan–based information design company Accurat; and–today–Kim Rees, took us up on the offer. The head of Information Visualization at Periscopic, a Portland-based data visualization firm, Rees says she’s particularly excited about a current project, a landmark because it’s the first time she’s used textiles to visualize data: “I’m working on a series of textile pieces that are based on custom and personal data from about 20 people I’ve met recently.”

Here’s our favorite eight responses of the many Rees answered for us:

What technological innovation is going to most dramatically alter our near future?
3D printing and nanotech. (Nanotech is so old, but has so much potential. Someday there will be a renewed interest in nanotech, and I will get self-cleaning clothes and nanobots that will keep my nails perfectly trimmed).

What global issue most excites or angers you?
Human trafficking and modern day slavery. It’s so difficult to combat and goes undetected or unaddressed. It’s very distressing to me and outrages me that it’s not causing a global, public outcry.

Which living person do you most admire?
Somaly Mam. She escaped life as a child sex slave and now works to rescue other girls. She’s an incredibly strong, inspiring, and humbling person.

What’s your most vivid memory from childhood?
A field fire we drove by in rural Minnesota. I was very young. It seemed like the world was on fire.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Politeness. Kindness is mandatory, but pleases and thank-yous are affectation.

What artists would you like to collaborate with?
I would love to work with Maya Lin on something. I have this dream of obtaining an aircraft carrier and turning it into a floating anachic society. I would love to have her design the landscape.

Is there anybody you’d refuse to shake hands with?
There are lots of people. We’re working on some things about gun violence. In the course of this project I’ve read a lot of stories about child murderers and sexual predators. There are many sickening stories that I will never forget. Those people — I could never shake hands with them or possibly even be in the same room with them.

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what would it be?
A dollar bill. I’d love to be a fly on the wall, so to speak, to see how people live, see what they value, see their exchanges.

8-Ball (Eyeo Edition): Giorgia Lupi

During last week’s Eyeo Festival, we opened up the Media Lab blog to the many coders, artists, and web developers speaking at the conference, which took place at the Walker. To give presenters a chance to introduce themselves, we sent out our 8-Ball artist questionnaire, in which we pose some of life’s most–and possibly least–pressing […]

"The real Montalbano," a data visualization from Accurat's La Lettura project

“The real Montalbano,” a data visualization from Accurat’s La Lettura project

During last week’s Eyeo Festival, we opened up the Media Lab blog to the many coders, artists, and web developers speaking at the conference, which took place at the Walker. To give presenters a chance to introduce themselves, we sent out our 8-Ball artist questionnaire, in which we pose some of life’s most–and possibly least–pressing questions. Two, Hong Kong-based coder and designer Cédric Sam and Giorgia Lupi, founder of the Milan–based information design company Accurat, took us up on the offer. Lupi says her company is her most exciting project at the moment. Founded two years ago, Accurat is opening a New York office, where it’ll expand its work in “imagining new ways to tell stories through data.” Our favorite eight replies to our questions:

What is your favourite inanimate object?
My pencil case (even I don’t feel it being inanimate).

If you could pose one question to every person on earth, what would it be?
What (why) do you live for?

What’s your favourite place to people-watch.
The Underground (and Twitter).

What artist turned your world upside-down?
John Cage.

If you own a pet, what characteristics do you share with it?
Getting bored of everything after a little while.

What’s your favourite recording of all time?
Synapscape‘s Act!

What have you been listening to lately?
Battles’ “Wall Street” (Gui Boratto remix)

What is your advice for young people today?
Do a lot and stop complaining about meaningless stuff. Draw, and fight for beauty.

8-Ball (Eyeo Edition): Cédric Sam

With the Eyeo Festival bringing an international array of coders, designers, and artists to the Walker this week, we decided to open the Media Lab blog to conference speakers. To give all presenters a chance to introduce themselves, we’ve sent out our 8-Ball artist questionnaire, in which we pose some of life’s most–and possibly least–pressing […]

With the Eyeo Festival bringing an international array of coders, designers, and artists to the Walker this week, we decided to open the Media Lab blog to conference speakers. To give all presenters a chance to introduce themselves, we’ve sent out our 8-Ball artist questionnaire, in which we pose some of life’s most–and possibly least–pressing issues. The first to take us up on our offer is Cédric Sam, a designer and coder who hails from Montréal but has lived in Hong Kong since 2009. Tomorrow morning he presents on what he’s learned about social media in China and how his experiences there might inform the work of designers, programmers, and journalists into the future.

Describe a recent dream in 15 words or less.
I was lost in an endless indoor shopping mall in Hong Kong…

What technological innovation is going to most dramatically alter our near future?
I think it‘s going to be affordable mobile broadband Internet. I lived in Hong Kong for three years and fast Internet on the go is relatively affordable and created many new use cases that we don’t yet see in North America.

What’s your most embarrassing moment?
When I was in high school, we participated in an overnight quiz competition. I was so tired by 1 am that I entered and used the girl’s bathroom. And they printed it on the event’s newsletter. So here it is again. :)

Fill in the blank: What the world needs now is _________________.
More delightful data experiences. Or more experiences with delightful data.

If you could have any career, what would you choose?
Dataset tamer.

What’s your most vivid memory from childhood?
Playing in cornfields in suburban Montreal. They’re now occupied with houses and a Canadian Tire.

What’s your favorite comfort food?
Shepherd’s pie (aka Pâté chinois, in Quebec). And my Chinese comfort food is congee.

What is your advice for young people today?
Avoid bandwagons. Talk to people (not just at your school or in your own country) to figure out what those bandwagons are!

Museums & the Web 2012 Conference Notes

It’s been a couple of years since I attended the annual Museums & the Web conference. A must-stop for professionals working in the field of museums + all things online, this conference celebrated its 16th anniversary under new management with the same great content we’ve come to expect. A few of my conference takeaways: Cultural […]

It’s been a couple of years since I attended the annual Museums & the Web conference. A must-stop for professionals working in the field of museums + all things online, this conference celebrated its 16th anniversary under new management with the same great content we’ve come to expect.

A few of my conference takeaways:

Cultural data sculpting
Sarah Kenderine kicked off the conference, wowing us with her work in immersive environments using panoramic and stereoscopic display systems. I was entranced by recent installations using 3D imagery, high resolution augmented panoramas, and circular screens to recreate cultural heritage sites, performances and narratives (imagine dancers animating images in a cave painting and physical interactions with enormous datasets). From Hampi, India, and the Mogao caves, Dunhuang, China, to adaptions of Beckett narratives, the work of Kenderine’s lab at the City University of Hong Kong demonstrates the amazing possibilities for enhanced exploration, interactive interpretation, and new modalities of human interaction for cultural heritage preservation. Project documentation available here.

Be where the puck is going
In a session on Digital Strategies, Bruce Wyman evoked Wayne Gretsky’s advice to “Skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.” Bruce spoke to the permeability of place as the future of interactive media and suggested restrictive digital strategies may run counter to our needs. In a period of fundamental change, we need to evolve the things that we are good at, be nimble, and design not for the device but for the visitor and their engagement. Wyman encouraged us to trust our audiences and serialize the experience by developing content that transcends and crosses platforms.

Like Wyman, Rob Stein is an eloquent technology advocate. In the same session, he advised to make sure your digital strategy reflects the larger museum strategy. And all you technologists who think you have difficulty getting upper management’s ear, work on your communication skills. Learn to write! Despite his claim that writing doesn’t come easy, Stein’s paper is excellent: Blow Up Your Digital Strategy: Changing the Conversation about Museums and Technology.

After Gutenberg
There was much talk in conference sessions and informal meetups about changing publishing models. In the session After Gutenberg, the Whitney’s Sarah Hromack described the evolution of Whitney Stories, a blog wherein the museum is wrestling with questions of authority—what stories do we want to tell, which staff are qualified to speak on behalf of the museum, editorial approval—and issues of sustainability. I haven’t had a chance to read the paper but the presentation was a refreshingly honest assessment of the inherent problems in this work and the reality of making it a part of our daily practice (not in addition to what we do but rethinking how we do our work).

A museum without labels
The Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) is Australia’s largest private museum, a “secular temple” of 6,000 square meters to worship materialism with nary a label on the walls. Visitors use the ‘O’ mobile device to read about art on display and listen to interviews with the artists. The museum’s unique take on audience engagement—including claims to remove the most popular work as evidenced in ‘O’ stats and restricting online collection access to visitors who have actually experienced the artwork—suggest this is indeed a museum visitors are unlikely to forget. I enjoyed this article on MONA’s founder, David Walsh, describing his vision for this “subversive Disneyland.”

Spreading an analytics culture
There were a number of good sessions addressing the importance of continuous evaluation and building a culture of analytics. The panel on the Culture24 research project focused on the key findings in their recently published report. Among them, be clear what you are trying to do online and who it is for. Revise the whole suite of metrics you care about and the tools used to measure them. Google Analytics is only part of a multi-tool solution that begins with a good problem definition.

One of the participants in the Culture24 project, the Tate went into more detail on its efforts in a subsequent session and paper Making Sense of Numbers: A Journey of Spreading the Analytics Culture at Tate. Using the Tate Liverpool Alice in Wonderland exhibition as a test case, they described the analytics tools used (including Hootsuite, Adwords, Google Analytics, Facebook Insights, ticketing system, and YouTube analytics), matrices, and reports built in response to the exhibitions communication plan and areas of activity, both on and offline. While the exhibition reporting was awe-inspiring in its quality and thoroughness, Tijana Tasich, Tate’s senior digital producer, admitted that more work, training, and resources are required to implement similar evaluations across the organization and its programs.

Epic fail
There’s much to learn from failed projects in our field and #MW2012 used this as a topic for its closing session. Hats off to the project cases studies that took the stage to reveal what didn’t work and why. Each project report included a round of bingo, with categories for failure occupying spaces on the card. Among them: poor organizational fit, must-be-invented-here syndrome, feature creep, tech in search of a problem, no user research, pleasing donors and funders, no local context, no backup plan, and not knowing when to say goodbye. Wifi was off during the session, forcing all of us to listen, learn, and not tweet specifics. Everyone should feel good after their time in the chair with therapist Wyman and his Labrador. We appreciate your honesty and hope we’re brave enough to take the stage at future conferences.

Best of Web Awards
The Walker was lucky enough to walk away with two awards for the redesign of our website (best in the category of Innovation/Experimental and best Overall). We are honored to receive the recognition of our peers and humbled to be in the company of so many excellent projects. The full slate of winners is available here.

Museums and the Web 2011 recap

I shared a ride to the airport with some colleagues who had very different takeaways from the conference than I did, so it’s clear there wasn’t a universal message. Everyone picks and chooses the ideas that might apply to what they’re working on.  Here’s what stood out to me: Cast wider nets: organize, filter, present. […]

I shared a ride to the airport with some colleagues who had very different takeaways from the conference than I did, so it’s clear there wasn’t a universal message. Everyone picks and chooses the ideas that might apply to what they’re working on.  Here’s what stood out to me:

Open Graph ProtocolCast wider nets: organize, filter, present.

Just as we’re getting good at putting our content online and connected internally, we’re starting to realize that’s not good enough. We need to connect more dots for our visitors: show related content not just from our institution, and not just from other institutions in the sector, but the entire web. We’re still a trusted source dealing with authoritative information, but we’re now expected to use that authority to interpret and present more than just our own content.

Part of this includes opening up our content in return so that we can be part of someone else’s related content. This includes OpenGraph markup (FaceBook, etc), simple machine readable versions, and above all: sort out our licensing and make it easy to understand what can be shared and how!

Standardize access, not content.

There was some of the usual hand-wringing over metadata formats and authorities, but also some new ideas on skirting that hurdle rather than jumping it. While everyone agrees we need to continue to work towards clean, linked, open data using shared authorities, there are a number of steps we can take right now that can potentially have a great impact.

Namely, what if we standardize the access to the data, rather than the data itself? Rather than building another API (although we’re still going to), we can provide similar and simpler functionality right now. (In an afternoon, if my impassioned rant is to be believed!  :)  Details to follow.)

Stop inventing. Iterate.

A great demo (early beta here: http://trope.com/miami/) was given in the unfortunate timeslot of 8am on Saturday morning. The Art in Public Places project by Miami-Dade County is, to quote @minxmertzmomo: “a great example of doing the obvious thing excellently”. There is a tendency to try to solve our shared problems in a unique way with a special and clever twist (guilty!), when instead we should be choosing best-practices from working solutions and applying them in an un-complicated way. To reach higher we need to stand on others’ shoulders instead of building our own stepladders.

Tate Collection OnlineDon’t finish building the wrong site.

James Davis from the Tate presented a great paper describing the process they’ve taken to launch the new (also beta) version of their Collections site: http://beta.tate.org.uk/art/explorer. The paper is a lovely narrative exploring the issues we face when development takes years and we must constantly remind ourselves to not finish building what we started building, but instead what it’s become along the way.

Summary

For me the conference provided a great summary of the latest innovations and thinking of museums online, and affirmed for me many of the choices and directions we’re taking in our current relaunch project. It was fantastic to see old friends and make new ones, and hopefully set the stage for future collaborations. I’ve also got a growing list of stuff to steal (er, shoulders to stand on.. :). Fantastic stuff all around!

 

Do one thing in April…

… blog about it in May! Museums and the Web 2009 wrapped up with a challenge to all the inspired delegates: use the energy and ideas generated here to get one thing done in April.  (The idea being that many small steps build momentum, and it’s too easy to ignore the small upgrades we should […]

… blog about it in May!

onview

Museums and the Web 2009 wrapped up with a challenge to all the inspired delegates: use the energy and ideas generated here to get one thing done in April.  (The idea being that many small steps build momentum, and it’s too easy to ignore the small upgrades we should constantly be pushing out.)

Yesterday I pushed out a few small upgrades to our aging collection site:

You can now limit your search to objects that are On View

What works by Dan Flavin can you come see right now?

browser_searchOpenSearch capable

Can’t get enough of our collection?  Add it to your browser’s built-in search box!  When you’re on the Collection site, you should be able to pull down your browser’s search field and add “Walker Art Center”.

Developers (Piotr!): you can now use the Walker collection in your Yahoo Pipes tool without having to scrape the results!  Not an API (yet), but a good step.  Check out the XML for ideas.

Bring it all together:

You’re a busy person.  You’d love to come see Chuck Close’s Big Self-Portrait, and you know the Walker’s got it in their collection, but you see it’s not on view.  You don’t have time to check our website every day, so how will you ever know when it goes on display?  Easy:  build a search that finds Big Self-Portrait, then turn on the “On View” flag.  The object disappears (not on view), but you can subscribe to the OpenSearch RSS feed for this query (click the rss icon).  Now, when Big Self-Portrait is available to see in the galleries, the object will show up in your RSS reader!  (note: I picked this painting randomly.  I make no guarantee about seeing it in the galleries any time soon.  :)

So, baby steps.  Get one things done that opens more doors.

#didonethinginapril (I tag Andrew at the MIA to get one thing done in May!)

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