Response to Agnes Stauber

I watched most of the videos on but the one that I found to be really entertaining and overall enjoyable was The Megalith Arrives at LACMA: The Making of Levitated Mass. LACMA’s video production, I have to say, is incredible! I think with the variety that the museum provides in its video content is what makes users engaged with not only what the video is about, but also the museum sphere and experience as a whole. Along that line, the video about the Megalith was one that had an interesting composition that was so simple, yet really impactful. I loved how the video was quite literally about how LACMA moved the Monolith into the vicinity of the museum building with thousands of onlookers cheering and documenting it. The shots of the crowds of people and the huge mass gave me a look at just how important the museum community is and how experiences like this make museums so wondrous and overall lasting.

Speaking of “lasting,” this is where digital presence comes into play. Yes, the fact that LACMA has a video section on their website- now common among most museums- is already evidence of a good and evolving progression into the digital world. When we’re talking about online classes, I also think positively on this method of delivering content from institutions like that of a museum. Essentially growing up on Khan Academy and other online resources during my high school years, I think online classes are extremely helpful in terms of allowing students to interact with content on their own terms, time, and interest, as well as have more subjectivity and material to discuss and present with professors, other students, and the like. I think that more art-centered classes would be interesting; that is, classes like understanding composition of paintings, color theory, visual literature, and so on. I think Khan Academy has a few videos on art history and the humanities in general, but they’re usually very general and sometimes gloss over the finer information that one would receive in a classroom setting. With these video ideas, which can involve having allotted time and instructions for activities to do while watching, I think positive engagement and interest would follow.

One digital storytelling piece that I recently saw other than the Monolith one earlier is by Variety Magazine called SAG Winners Recall Their First Acting Job. The video is quite short- only 3:39 minutes- but the significance of the subject stands in how the individuals talk about their experiences, all culminating into how their success with winning a SAG award singlehandedly changed their lives. Funny, uplifting, and warmhearted, the stories of the SAG winners remind us how dreams can be achieved against all odds. In the end, all individuals joke and reminisce about both the hard and good times of their journey to success. I personally love digital storytelling projects like this, which involve multiple perspectives that overarch into a single or common theme. I also am intrigued with videos that cover events rather than physical objects, as the personal connection we have as human beings are often associated with the memorable times in our lives.

All in all, with this post comes the reminder that the class will be visiting LACMA this Friday, and I can’t wait to wander through one of my favorite museums again and see what’s new, digitally and on exhibition!

Accessibility: ‘Tuning Out Digital Buzz,’ or Just Being Anti-Millennial?

Okay, maybe I’m looking at this in a sort of biased way given that I myself am a millennial, but was anyone else getting a “I’m against the digitization of art because these kids nowadays don’t understand MY non-digital experience with it” vibe from Holland Cotter’s article, “Tuning Out Digital Buzz, for an Intimate Communion with Art?”

I feel that the argument of baby boomers vs. millennials is pretty prominent in pop culture, especially when we’re talking about how things were back in the good ol’ days without Facebook or Twitter, or Skype or the Chase Mobile app. This argument goes further into the museum world; that is, the ever-so talked about critiques of this generation being so obsessed with digital technology, that we supposedly overlook the significance of artwork and digitally-independent museum experiences. Cotter herself explains, “Like libraries, they were places where the volume was low, the energy slow, the technology unobtrusive. You came to them to look, to think and, in the days before museums became the prime social spaces they are now, to be alone in a small, like-minded crowd.” She recalls moments of true resonance from her experience of museums, stating that “the only way you would retain most of what you saw was by spending time in the galleries and imprinting things on your brain.” But then Cotter goes on to explain the downfalls of technology in museum spaces, particularly, when people rely on digital supplements as the only way to even experience a museum.

But Cotter also brings up examples that work in favor of #TeamDigital. And I quote, “The basic idea is simple: More people should be able to see more art. Who would argue?” It goes without saying that every human being reserves the right of accessibility. Though there may be some parts of the museum experience that can be “missing,” isn’t the fact that making such well-known, generally agreed upon, and culturally significant works open to viewing and learning to all a huge leap for museums? With the reputation of being historically exclusive to those of higher class, or the ones who have the privilege of calling themselves true art appreciators or experts, it’s definitely a plus. Cotter describes the Museum of Modern Art’s direction into encouraging photographs of the objects, as “in general, MoMA is encouraging the picture-taking impulse” for means of sharing and reproducing on the Internet. The museum’s Instagram account is reflective of this culture of having museum-goers either post about their experiences, or allow for followers both around the world and in that sort of interest field to see these experiences and compare it to their own; or rather, even inspire an experience for those who cannot attend the physical space. Reproduction through this Instagram account makes pieces from the museum accessible in another digital delivery method, which can lead to people wanting to visit the MoMA’s website, or search up artists and objects online for their own interests. Reproduction is just that: a representation of an object that is otherwise remote or unable to be physically experienced by everyone, so Cotter’s point of digital accessibility being inaccurate of a work is somewhat skewed.

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(The MoMA’s Instagram account encourages patrons to take photos and tag them to be featured.)

In a previous post, I mentioned that scale is usually hard to decipher in digital reproductions. Yet sometimes, aspects of art such as scale or texture is still relatively easy to replicate with today’s technology, even though Cotter disagrees. But ince technology is still improving, who’s to say that we’re missing out on details if we’ve yet to discover or create a method to completely capture them? It’s like how human beings have only explored 2% of the earth’s oceans; anything is possible, and with further digital advancements, we’re getting closer to more possibilities and opportunities of engagement and recording. So why make things less accessible, just because a few minor things might be missing? Accessibility via internet and digital means is such an improvement from the once closed-off space of musuems, so Cotter having to say negative things about not being able to physically experience exhibits and objects is just a little contradictory to her approval of accessibility.

And the further we distance ourselves from art itself, from being in front of it with all filters gone, life is what we lose — art’s and ours.

Anyway, maybe I’m just a bit insulted at Cotter’s viewpoint on accessibility. I mean, admittedly, I do love my digital gadgets, and can see why Cotter would assume this generation of being utterly sucked into them. But at the same time, here’s what I have to say to her: have some faith! It’s a different time and a different meaning of museums that this generation lives in. Art is and can be everywhere, and through digital means, art is not only preserved and reproduced, but even transformed and interpreted in many, many ways. Good or bad, that depends on the eye of the patron. But what matters in the grand scheme of things, is that we can look at works old and new, physical or digital, and think to ourselves, wow, this is art, this is culture, this is what x means to y, this is us, and not have to worry about if our experiences are accurate or need to be validated by a traditional way of thinking.

The Museum Interface: “Flattening” Interpretations or Inciting New Ones?

One of this week’s readings stems from the magazine Art In America, and combines the perspectives of experts to discuss and prompt critical questions pertaining to the use of digital platforms and supplementations in the museum world. What certainly stood out to me was the overall concern for works’ interpretations- specifically, who has the “say” in how people, regardless of experiencing a museum collection or piece in person or online. Rob Giampietro, a renowned leading designer and writer for Google Design, explains this best in the article, stating the example of Instagram as a method of digital delivery that is both compelling and undermining of museum experiences, particularly using the installation “The Sugar Sphinx” by Kara Walker. He says, “In Instagram’s interface, pictures of Walker’s installation appear stamp-sized on a phone’s screen, flattened in all dimensions, their likers and commenters quantified.” It’s interesting how when even the dimensions of a work or installation is put online in, say, a museum collection, it is still lacking in the experience of scale; Walker’s Sugar Sphinx is huge, but when captured in an Instagram photo, it’s size is immediately somewhat downplayed.

However, Giampietro adds, “These images may document the installation, but they also document and identify each photographer’s individual presence in the space.” Instagram images, especially when captured by a user at the installation in real time, creates an interpretation that is altogether unique and different from that of other, similar Instagram images. If one were to see a collage of all the Instagram photos of Walker’s Sugar Sphinx, every single moment captured is an entirely separate interpretation and experience of the installation; something that is only brought out of documenting through social media photographs.

The new hyper-visibility is difficult because it can transform a unique installation into commodified image; the work’s lasting political power could easily be mistaken for a fleeting trend.

A formal photo of The Sugar Sphinx versus the variety of photos of it seen on Instagram, with commentary and initial reactions usually being rather vulgar.


Giampietro later concludes, “Those discouraged from visiting Walker’s installation in person because of its ubiquity on social media may have been discouraged not by what the installation itself offered but by what its flood of representations removed: the sense that an encounter with the work could be personal or transformative.” The numerous capturing of the installation may take away a real-life experience when seeing it in a museum setting, but it also allows users to interpret art in their own way; the argument thus lies in the allowance or legitimacy in interpretation,a s museums have long worked toward giving further context to works which essentially “give” us interpretations rather than leave room for them.

The Difference (Or Lack Thereof?) Between Work and Image

Hopefully, the title of this post encompasses what most of us were thinking while reading Cataloguing Cultural Objects: A Guide to Describing Cultural Works and Their Images; the top of page 6 had me going, The digital image is surrogate for a photograph, which is a work, that contains a work inside of it, which emulates another work, work? What? Admittedly it took another close look at the text to decipher what author M. Baca was implying. In part I of the manual, Baca briefly explains the differentiation between a work and an image.

CCO recommends making a clear distinction between the work and the image.

A work is “a distinct intellectual or artistic creation limited primarily to objects and structures made by humans, including built works, visual art works, and cultural artifacts.” An image is “a visual representation of a work. It typically exists in photomechanical, photographic, or digital format.” This part of the reading sort of reminded me on our discussion on categories and how these categories affect the veneration and exhibition of works in museum settings. The mouthful at the end of that section is, in a sense, true; an image can contain a work, which may be based off an initial work itself. Baca gives the example of “a photograph of a work may also be treated as either a work of art or an image, depending on the stature of the photographer and the aesthetic or historical value of the photograph.” But what does the reputation of the photographer have to do with distinguishing a photo as a work, and why does the photo need any sort of historical or aesthetic value? Baca states, “…another photograph purchased from a commercial source depicting the same structure would probably be treated as a photographic documentation of the [object]…” This, again, highlights the controversy behind what and who gets venerated, esteemed, or put on display due to name and cultural significance.


A work versus below, being an image.


Art is, of course, full of contradictions; but in this day and age, it seems that the justifications to make something an art work aren’t as unattainable. More popular artists do exist, but would that be more of a matter of time, or just general popular opinion– then again, who’s opinion makes an artist consensually great across all boards? I feel that Baca’s point on works and images being two different categories are valid to an extent, but with the residence of the digital age, it’s hard to say where the hard line is. Is my photo of the painting of Roy Lichtenstein’s Mirror #1 just a documentation of the work, or can it be a work itself if I decide to put it on display somewhere, or if someone requests for it to be put on display? There is never a truly finite answer to questions like this, much like how there is not a limitation on what digital humanities can explore or withhold within the field of museum studies.

Open Cultural Data in Digital Apps

Reading “What’s Next for Open Cultural Data in Museums?” by Mia Ridge really intrigued me with the relevance it has on recent exposures or reformed licensing for creating digital applications. Ridge first explains what open cultural data is, being “data from cultural institutions that is made available for use in a machine-readable format under an open license.” While this allows much potential and possibility in how museums can use supplementary digital methods to better visitors’ experiences or understandings of the collections, open cultural data can also be misused by becoming digitized. Ridge says, “Open cultural data could be as simple as publishing a downloadable text file.” From one perspective, this is a great way of exposing cultural data to the general public, letting people use the content without any extreme repercussions that may come with copyright restrictions. On the other hand, Ridge also determines that some open cultural data is overlooked; obstacles resulting in this includes confusing licenses, poor record quality of data, lack of general interest, and overall ambiguous data.

The statement by Ridge reminded me of the projects we had looked at for Week 1, where we examined digital projects to get a grasp of how technology either adds or detracts from the experience museums are trying to create for visitors. My table was give the “TateBall” app for iPhone. Users shake a magic “Tate-ball”– the app calls upon temperature, location, and time of day to pick out an art piece from the Tate Modern museum. While pretty cool and does amplify the involvement of visitors at the Tate, my table had agreed that no educational purpose came from the app other than being introduced to art pieces we haven’t known about before. This then ties back into how Ridge is certain in open cultural data’s purpose being generally misunderstood by developers, programmers, and museums, as she later concludes “There is often a tension between the need for easy-to-use datasets using common vocabularies for simple ‘mash-up’ style applications and the need for more sophisticated data structures…  to support internal uses, partnerships between museums, libraries and archives, or for use in research-led projects.”

“…Open cultural data projects seem to work better when they set aside resources for community interaction…”

I definitely agree with her, since the digital app of the TateBall had potential in improving audience interaction, but didn’t deliver any resonance for it; it could be possible that the app developers used a dataset that only provided the very basic information about the Tate collections, and nothing further? Nothing about why these art pieces are housed in the Tate, where they come from, or why they were created is given in the app; users are left to either speculate about the app’s intentions, or they are left confused and gain little knowledge about the pieces, thus reducing the effect of resonance. It could also be said that perhaps an app like the TateBall does nothing to enhance experience; maybe it’s just the fact that it being digital detracts from the art, in this case, and therefore could detract from the great potential that the open cultural data had. All in all, open cultural data faces a huge grey area in how we interpret the data and decide to use it, as well as how our intent of opening it up- it’s very existence, even- to the public is called into question if delivery methods such as digital mediums aren’t effective.

The Exhibitionary Complex: The Crystal Palace in the Digital Age

This week, I had the pleasure of reading Tony Bennett’s “The Exhibitionary Complex,” and was really intrigued with his explanations and justifications behind the complexities of the formation of both exposition and spectacle. Drawing upon numerous examples from past institutions, such as a “cabinet of curiosities” and a “Great Exhibition,” Bennett brings up the notion and case of the Crystal Palace. A cousin to the panopticon, which was an architectural method that allowed maximum observation of inhabitants, the Crystal Palace “reversed the panoptical principle by fixing the eyes of the multitude upon an assemblage of glamorous commodities. The Panopticon was designed so that everyone could be seen; the Crystal Palace was designed so that everyone could see.” Interestingly, the Crystal Palace combines the functions of both spectacle or participatory observation, with the concept of surveillance. Bennett continues to explain how the Crystal Palace is a useful term in the exhibitionary complex; society itself is a spectacle, institutions’ involvement of providing spectacles, and above all, allows for permanent displays of knowledge, thus asserting power.

I found this idea of the Crystal Palace and its purpose to be reminiscent of many of today’s museums and their exhibits. Like how we had discussed in class, it seems as if many museums are employing the use of installations and interactivity to better exhibit art. But a question is raised; with the purpose of many pieces being audience participation, are the users then pieces of the art itself? It can be said that a museum is a Crystal Palace, where museum goers are not only encouraged to view works, the spectacles, but are also assumed to be “under surveillance” of the museum. Heavy words, I know, but it is essentially observable in how power is displayed by what is called for in an exhibition, as well as how museums essentially “curate” the public as viewers themselves.

“…The development of the exhibitionary complex also posed a new demand: that everyone should see, and not just the ostentation of imposing facades but their contents too.”

To further surmise, I especially feel that Bennett’s words are imperatively relatable to the expositions of the digital age– everyone should see, but with the addition of evolving forms of digital display and creation, everyone should be seen as participants of these expositions, as well.