Week 8: Response to Agnes Stauber

When I think about a museum and their presence online, I don’t want to just see posts of the art you can see in the museum – that’s why I visit a museum. Rather, it should give viewers context, both with the “behind the scenes”, as well as the history of the art itself. I think that’s the strength of LACMA’s videos, as it doesn’t necessarily focus on just one aspect, but rather, incorporates many different aspects of what the museum is about. They do not necessarily need to have a strong social media presence, although that helps a lot with increasing foot traffic, but having a digital presence can enhance a user’s experience, either after the museum visit, or before.

I am not a huge advocate of online courses — in high school, Khan Academy used to make me fall asleep (Salman Khan’s voice is extremely soothing for me), and I find other ones difficult to sit through as it’s not as engaging as traditional courses can be. However, I think online coding classes are very worth it. I currently use Lynda.com to learn JavaScript and SQL. If I had to pitch an online course, I would probably have one about running an e-commerce site. This would combine coding skills with graphic design and economics/management, and it’s pretty relevant to today’s consumers.

One thing that is interesting to note — MoMA just announced a few days ago that it would be launching a free photography course online, so it’ll be interesting to see how that turns out.

Stephanie actually posted the storytelling piece that I wanted to post (the Dreams of Dali VR is so well done), but Wired actually posed about something else I had seen, so I’m going to use that one instead. They are reporting about Google’s collaborations with large museums via the Cultural Institute project, which is digitizing tens of thousands of pieces onto a digital archive. This time, Google partnered with the Guggenheim Museum in New York  so that you can visit it through your computer. This combines Google’s street view option on maps with an extensive set of cameras/drones to capture the building, built by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Week 8: Response to Agnes Stauber

As far as digital storytelling, something I really look for is if the topic at hand is interesting at first glace, if the discussion of it is quick and to the point, and if the way it is presented is engaging. A good example I’ve stumbled upon in the past is (excuse the candid topic) Asian Flush, Explained. also by Vox (they do a really good job at these types of videos, evidently.) As with Noor’s example, the topic and the video length is perfect for motivating me to watch the video in its entirety. I think when conducting this type of storytelling to people who are unfamiliar with the given topic, videos in the format of a “crash course”–i.e. quick, to the point, exciting, sometimes funny–are really effective. Also, it doesn’t hurt that the video itself is visually striking.

Although this example is somewhat unrelated in the context of museums, I feel that museums are able to and should leverage this kind of storytelling in their digital presence. Looking at the LACMA’s current videos, it seems as though LACMA is doing relatively well in its videos angles–behind the scenes, interviews, expanding on exhibits’ topics, etc. I don’t really have strict requisites for museum’s digital presence beyond that, in all honesty. Videos are, to me, the most effective way to add context to curious museum goers, so long as they are done in a way that keeps viewers interested, as sometimes museums blur the line between a “digital presence” and “educational television, online.” Instagram being effectively used as a publicity tool and as a way to convert digital viewers into in-person viewers has also been discussed in readings, and I agree it’s a good tool in establishing digital presence. The Broad and The Met have been seen as good examples of this.

As far as online classes, I’ve taken a handful in an academic setting. One UCLA class was focused on 3D modeling in urban planning, and had two elements: a set of video lessons of the program SketchUp building on top of one another, and a set of videos giving real-life context to what we were modelling. The former was effective, but the latter was completely ineffective. The context videos were just really dull and did not come across as meaningful, where as the 3D modelling videos were engaging because of its “learn-by-doing” concept. I remember KhanAcademy in high school… and hating it; but I also remember going through Lynda classes on Adobe Creative Suite and Final Cut Pro and enjoying them, so perhaps my initial interest play a significant role in lessons’ perceived effectiveness. A class I would pitch would be maybe a web design class or an iOS application design class that would employ the same “learn-by-doing” aspect my 3D modelling class had, ultimately having students walk away with a finished product for a portfolio or something in that nature.

Museum’s Digital Presence/Online Course

One digital story telling piece that I found to be compelling was “Why babies in medieval paintings look like ugly old men” by Vox. I enjoyed the video because it clearly broke down a topic that you didn’t realize you wanted to know more about. It did this in a clear way in less then 3 minutes and I can honestly say that I learned something from it. Also the fact that the editing was really well done and the motion graphics gave it a modern and clean aesthetic added to my enjoyment as a viewer. I see far to many informational videos with interesting topics being ruined by being overly lengthy and poorly executed.

While the Vox video is coming from a media site, I do think videos similar to that have a place in museums digital presence. Not only can the videos be used to act as digital archives of important visuals and interviews, they can also bring traffic and attention to the museums themselves. Museums at times do take on a business model, and branding through video or other digital tools should be an avenue taken very seriously. The Tate is an example of a museum that does very well at documenting themselves through video in an entertaining way.

I don’t usually take online classes unless there is a specific skill that I want to learn that would further advance me in some career field that I am interested in. For example, I currently go through Lynda classes to learn various Adobe programs that I can’t completely learn at theory based classes at UCLA. If I had to pitch a class it would be on motion graphics and the curriculum would be skill based over theory. The course would probably involve creating a project by the end so that you students fully learn the process.

beyond education & contextualization: creativity

A museum should aim to educate the public about art, history, culture, etc., engaging with them in creative ways to communicate their significance and relevance to the current generation. It goes without saying then, that a museum’s digital presence should support this mission. The videos, articles and other forms of online content that a museum shares with the public should have a distinct purpose – to educate and contextualize – rather than to market and induce “likes” on social media, although in today’s digital age, an institution’s social capital seems to be a key (and to some degree, false) indicator of its legitimacy.

When it comes to art museums, I expect creativity and continuous effort to push the envelope even more so than I do from history museums, for instance. Art has always been a field that praises self-expression, progress and innovation – a lively spirit that I somehow expect to see transferred on to a museum’s digital space.

That being said, I don’t think I’d want to watch an online class about the influence of Modernism on American art or the techniques of Renaissance artists. I would however, watch a class about the influence of super hero comics on the meaning of social justice or the role of social media in democratizing the medium of photography.

Clearly, creativity is one aspect that I appreciate from a museum’s digital presence. One digital storytelling piece that I truly find creative is the piece about sound and urban architecture by Michael Kimmelman, architecture critic for The New York Times and pianist. In “Dear Architects: Sound Matters,” Kimmelman discusses the importance of sound as an architectural material in shaping people’s experience of buildings, contrasting the distinct “feel” of New York landmarks like the New York Public Library, High Line and Penn Station by the sound they each produce. The digital team at The New York Times makes the story an interactive one, including muted clips of the landmarks that become audible once readers hover their mouse over the clips. They are interspersed throughout the text and allow readers to immediately hear how each place that Kimmelman refers to differs from the rest.

The caption reads: Hover for sound. This article uses three-dimensional audio. The effect is only apparent if you listen with headphones.
The caption reads: “Hover for sound. This article uses three-dimensional audio. The effect is only apparent if you listen with headphones.”

Users can instantly feel how sound distinguishes one experience from another by hovering over the clips. Also, they are very much integrated with the text. Readers can find out for themselves what Kimmelman is saying about each place. And I find it so interesting how a short clip, shot from a fixed angle, can be so powerful in conveying a message. I don’t think a video could have achieved the same effect. Perhaps it’s the interactive aspect of the clip.

Week 8: Digital Storytelling

In the digital world, I expect museums to provide the information that they cannot provide in the physical exhibit. At least a catalog which can be used for in depth research, like that at the British Museum in London. All of the metadata and past articles and exhibits created by the museum should be online. Anything beyond the catalog I would consider extra with the museum going above and beyond. Social media, while good for advertisement, I consider unnecessary as they do not contribute to the information of objects. Most digital work is for exposure and not necessarily for education.

I have only taken an online course once before and my experience with it was not satisfactory. Honestly, I dislike the idea of online courses. For people who are in a position where they cannot attend school, I understand the necessity but opting for internet learning as opposed to personal experience and interaction seems unrealistic. The best version of a digital course I can think of would be based around independent research. The student would be monitored by regular interaction every week by the instructor online and would have more free-reign to build their own project. Particularly for digital projects, such as 3D modeling, the students would collaborate online while all viewing the same model and suggesting changes. However, I do not think traditional learning can take place over the internet.

I found this series a while back when I was exploring videos on ancient history. This particular one is about the life of adolescent girls in ancient Rome.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RQMgLxVxsrw

There are others along the same topic of history and random interesting concepts that have good imagery and narration. In general, TED Education tends to pick interesting topics that people are likely to click on and the content is well-rounded making it enjoyable. The videos are not too long but they provide a good amount of content.

Response to Agnes Stauber

Today I was entranced by the video “Dreams of Dali,” a “virtual reality experience” which takes viewers inside Salvador Dali’s Archeological Reminiscence of Millet’s “Angelus.” 

The video was created as part of the Disney and Dali exhibit at the Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida. The virtual reality is a synthesis between the fairylands we see in classic Disney films and Dali’s dreamlike paintings. Not only does it let the viewer see a whole new version of the painting, it allows one to imagine a world of Dali’s creation, maybe even entering into the realm of his mind. The presentation is more like that of a video game than a movie, as the viewer really feels like they are exploring this other world. “Lead developer Nathan Shipley used the same 3D modeling, lighting, and texturing tools game developers use, and built a gaze-based navigation system” to create this experience (Wired).

This video is free from text and there is no voiceover other than the haunting music playing in the background. The lack of human presence mediating one’s experience with the video differs from the videos available on Lacma’s website, and it is what makes this video so compelling.

As far as an online course, I would be interested in a course on Art Criticism. Criticism can be snarky and funny (like a YouTube video) which would make it enjoyable to watch through, while still being educational.

 

Multi-perspective Digital Story Telling

I read “The Museum as digital storyteller: Collaborative participatory creation of interactive digital experiences” by Maria Roussou, Laia Pujol, Akrivi Katifori, Angeliki Chrysanthi, Sara Perry, and Maria Vayanou. The essay discussed the methods employed in the CHESS (Cultural Heritage Experiences through Socio-personal interactions and Storytelling) research project that took place in multiple cultural institutions and museums.  The essay posits that creating digital story telling experiences and narratives for museums is a multilayered process that should involve interdisciplinary authoring groups. The essay also argues that in the age of  information technology and social media institutional boundaries of the museum are increasingly blurred, and thus audiences too must participate in the story telling process. I think this essay speaks to central concerns in the museum world at this moment: public engagement and participation; How can museums use digital technology and platforms to provide new avenues and spaces for audience engagement with museum spaces, exhibitions, and collections?

The Object Stories program at the Portland Art Museum (PAM) has a great digital platform for increasing audience engagement with collections through digital story telling. The Object stories websites has a collection of diverse personal narratives about objects in the PAMs collection, but also objects of the narrators choice, such as an old wallet or a child’s costume. The stories illuminate how objects in museums are not static, but have real uses, impacts and personal value, beyond the museum. Listening to the stories and seeing the pictures of the narrator and objects being discussed has a real resonance. I also think integrating objects outside of the museum’s collection shows that the musuem is interested in what is important to their audiences, and how they are hoping to get museum audiences to reflect on objects in the real world they way they would in a museum and vise versa.

The object stories and the conclusions made in the essay, made me think about the digital story telling project that I am going to create at the end of this class. Objects and their histories become much more meaningful when a multi-disciplinary and multi-perspective approach is taken in the digital story telling process. My challenge will be to integrate diverse narratives and perspectives regarding the object into an overarching account of an object.

Multiperspective Digital Story Telling

I read “The Museum as digital storyteller: Collaborative participatory creation of interactive digital experiences” by Maria Roussou, Laia Pujol, Akrivi Katifori, Angeliki Chrysanthi, Sara Perry, and Maria Vayanou. The essay discussed the methods employed in the CHESS (Cultural Heritage Experiences through Socio-personal interactions and Storytelling) research project that took place in multiple cultural institutions and museums.  The essay posits that creating digital story telling experiences and narratives for museums is a multilayered process that should involve interdisciplinary authoring groups. The essay also argues that in the age of  information technology and social media institutional boundaries of the museum are increasingly blurred, and thus audiences too must participate in the story telling process. I think this essay speaks to central concerns in the museum world at this moment: public engagement and participation; How can museums use digital technology and platforms to provide new avenues and spaces for audience engagement with museum spaces, exhibitions, and collections?

The Object Stories program at the Portland Art Museum (PAM) has a great digital platform for increasing audience engagement with collections through digital story telling. The Object stories websites has a collection of diverse personal narratives about objects in the PAMs collection, but also objects of the narrators choice, such as an old wallet or a child’s costume. The stories illuminate how objects in museums are not static, but have real uses, impacts and personal value, beyond the museum. Listening to the stories and seeing the pictures of the narrator and objects being discussed has a real resonance. I also think integrating objects outside of the museum’s collection shows that the musuem is interested in what is important to their audiences, and how they are hoping to get museum audiences to reflect on objects in the real world they way they would in a museum and vise versa.

The object stories and the conclusions made in the essay, made me think about the digital story telling project that I am going to create at the end of this class. Objects and their histories become much more meaningful when a multi-disciplinary and multi-perspective approach is taken in the digital story telling process. My challenge will be to integrate diverse narratives and perspectives regarding the object into an overarching account of an object.

Engineering Art Discovery Systems: Artsy vs “Five Every Day”

I really enjoyed Liam Andrew, Desi Gonzalez and Kurt Fendt’s article on “Playful Engineering: Designing and Building Art Discovery Systems”, which explores ways to “engineer the discovery of art” i.e. use technology to attract users to artwork, encourage a sustained relationship with art, and to help users gain a better understanding of the cultural community of Boston. I am by no means a developer or coder, but this article helped to explain some very technical concepts involved in the building of technological platforms and interfaces, which in turn helped me build on my own technical vocabulary. For a digital humanist, it is especially important to understand the technology being used in order to effectively apply and evaluate its usage in the art world.

The authors make an interesting comparison between content-based and collaborative filtering systems using Artbot’s discovery engine as an example. The latter takes on a “social approach”, which offer recommendation based on users’ behavior e.g. Amazon and Netflix. However, a drawback of this system is that it limits rather than expands a customer’s purview. While this might not seem particularly harmful in an ecommerce setting, the term “filter bubble” coined by Eli Pariser in 2011 speaks to the way in which modeling systems to fit a user’s behavior “isolates users from content that might differ from his or her viewpoints”. This algorithmic filtering leads to biased data and information narrowly skewed to enhance confirmation bias.

In contrast, content-based systems “look to the properties of the items themselves, rather than the users, for recommendation signals”. This seems more common in a museum setting, where “object and subject taxonomies built into the museum’s collection management systems” are relied upon to assist a user’s exploration. For instance, one can browse a museum’s collection by searching genre tags such as “Asian art” and “Roman art”. However, “generating and maintaining a taxonomy” is time intensive and dependent on the precision and dedication of the tagger. The worry is therefore that rigid classifications do not accurately represent a work of art, and do not allow for “happy accidents in the discovery process”, or serendipity.

In order to combat the drawbacks of each of these methods, Ethan Zuckerman recommends building digital tools that “infuse serendipity and a diversity of voices”. Specifically, the authors suggest building systems that allow for a hybrid of automation and curation. For instance, computers could perform preliminary web scraping and parsing, but developers need to constantly review their code and the information that results from data gathering in order to present it in a sensible and user-oriented way. This enables nuances to shine through recommendation apps such as Artsy, while saving time and energy on individual research and compilation.

This discussion makes me wonder about the app “Five Every Day”, which recommends five things to do in Los Angeles every day. Here is a photo (taken off Google) of its astonishingly simple interface:

interface

The scope of the app is fairly limited since it is only curated for events in LA, and even then it is limited to five things recommended by a trusted group of curators, as opposed to using a content or collaborative system. Rather than embarking on discovery individually, we wait every day to “discover” what is happening (the recommendations change every day), offering more of a wildcard/ surprise element to the app that differs from the serendipity offered by most other apps. While there is probably some engineering that goes into their research, the possibility of having systems engineered to satisfy one’s own preferences perhaps dilutes the cultural authority that curators traditionally have. While “Five Every Day” seems to restore such power to the curator, an increasing number of technological apps even outside the art world rely on these engineering systems to create a personalized experience for users. If “Five Every Day” were to expand and cover different geographic areas, I am interested to see how they manage the consistency of their recommendations, and whether they would develop their interface and jump on the “personalization” bandwagon.

Week 7

The NY Times article, “Tuning Out Digital Buzz, for an Intimate Communion With Art,” by Holland Cotter is a piece that I, along with many others in this generation can resonate with. This piece reminded me of the many articles published by pop culture websites and video showing “what we miss because of technology.” We are so invested in documenting our milestones and everyday activities instead of experiencing the moment itself. The video (now widely seen) showing what we miss is very powerful, especially to those of our generation, as many do not realize what happens.

However, there are arguments that this obsession with technology/social media/and “materialism” is somewhat of a fad. There are claims by millenials ourselves opposing to this culture. Since time has passed after the boom of social media, we are at the peak of utilization, yet more and more people are spending less time habitually browsing social media now. The way we use social media and technology is shifting as well, as more corporate companies and businesses use it as a tool to reach out to people. The very fact that people are calling our overuse of technology shows that this “problem” as some may call is being recognized in society. I believe this is the same for museums as well.

Growing up, I didn’t go to museums much simply because there weren’t many museums where I lived. However, the ones I did go to were very small, and the typical old fashioned museum. Little to no technological pieces were incorporated into the exhibits. With my museum visits, I noticed differences in the two museums I visited. One was very interactive and technology heavy, whereas the other was more of a classic stationary museum. I think it’s very important that we have both types, and think that this shift is going to continue no matter what, but, the old fashioned museum will always be around as well. The museums will shift to keep the value of the old fashioned type, while still incorporating new advancements.

Like Cotter, I believe there is a point to which we lose retention and the value of the museum visit due to too much technology, or too much “other stuff” incorporated when showing the objects. We remember the technology or the “cool” added tool to the object rather than the object itself. It’s overwhelming and it brings up other concerns, like generation gaps with technology. However, just like how the technological age that we live in now may be just a fad which is growing, yet changing, I believe this will translate to museums as well.