The Appification of Protest

Posted by on Tuesday January 10 2012

It had to happen: the app as social protest tool.

“Armchair activists now have a tool that can transport their SOPA protestations into the real world: Boycott SOPA, an Android app that scans barcodes and tells you whether an object’s manufacturer/publisher is a supporter of the much maligned Stop Online Piracy Act.

…You could even take it one step further and make Boycott the one-stop-shop for all of your political needs. Imagine if you could scan a cereal box and find out that the company’s CEO likes to hunt rhinos, ride elephants, and eat shark fin soup — at the same time. Imagine if you could scan a video game box and immediately see all of the active legislation, the Representative sponsors and supporters, and how much money they’ve received from industry lobbying. You could even go as far as equipping the app with facial recognition, so that you can point your phone at a Senator’s face on the TV and quickly find out whether what he’s saying actually jibes with his real world behavior and voting record. This isn’t a futuristic concept; we could do this right now with the tech we have.

Filed under: Random Musings
So long and thanks for all the fish!

Posted by on Tuesday December 27 2011

This is my last regular blog for I’ve had a great time thinking out loud in this location beginning with my very first post, about Madonna, on Wednesday March 15 2006 but it’s time to pass the torch to the bright, young, talented generation doing fantastic things for museums and technology.

As I’ve returned to being primarily an art historian I don’t have a whole lot that’s relevant to say in the Musematic arena anymore. What prompted me to write this post in the first place is I currently find myself in a situation where technology cannot help me–and I’m not talking about computers, Ipads, or GPS. For the first time in years I’m stuck and can’t think of a technology to save me–and mind you I’ve been in some tight places before.

There was the time I was in Egypt, traveling as resident art historian for Eastern Michigan University’s European Cultural History Program. Half the group had gone to the pyramids where, after viewing the monuments, they would jump on camels and meet us at the Step-Pyramids of Djoser. My group had headed for the Step-Pyramids and was caught in a sudden sandstorm and would have been completely lost had it not been for compass.

And then there was the time a group of us decided to spend the night in one of the caves near the cave monasteries in Cappadocia, Turkey. What saved us that evening was a technology that has been around for eons–a piece of flint and some metal to strike a spark.

The phones at the Post in Rome enabled me to complete my dissertation. The monks at the Church of the Aracoeli in Rome refused to let a woman into the Bufalini Chapel in the 1980s and so you might say that a large pocketful of gettoni enabled me to reach a friend with connections at the Cleveland diocese, who made connections in Rome, who got me an audience with the Pope’s Confessor, who made a phone call to the Fransicans at the Aracoeli and told them to let me in to see the painting cycle I needed to see. And, six months later, I was on top of the world because I had my very own dot matrix printer to print out my completed dissertation–of course it took several hours and was loud and annoying but what an improvement over carbon paper and white out.

But tomorrow folks I’m invited to a Debutante Ball! As the mother of her “Escort,” the “Deb’s” parents have kindly invited me to sit at their table. My son will be resplendent in his tuxedo, head and shoulders better looking than any handsome prince I’ve ever seen. I’ve got a dress and a carriage (okay so it’s a used Audi but let’s not quibble over the details). So what’s the problem? This event lasts for 8 hours and the grand total of my experience with balls comes from Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer novels–and I’m pretty sure things have changed since the Regency period. E-how offered me the following suggestions when I typed in “How to behave at a Debutante Ball.”

I’m off the grid tomorrow night and to tell you the truth, I’m scared. E-how offers this particularly frightening piece of advice:

The simplest way to remember how to behave at a debutante ball is to make sure that you don’t do or say anything that you wouldn’t do or say in front of your grandmother, your first grade teacher and your minister.

Wish me luck. It’s a brave new world. And, in the words of the immortal Douglas Adams “So long and thanks for all the fish!”

The Appification of Content

Posted by on Tuesday December 20 2011

From the always-worth-reading Nicolas Carr (author of The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains), an interesting view on the “appification” of media.

“Not only has the net left its Wild West days; it’s entered the era of the gated suburban subdivision. As part of this trend, the open, html-based website is being replaced, or at least supplemented, by the proprietary app. In app stores, the already blurry line between software and media disappears altogether. Apps are as much content-delivery services as they are conventional software programs. Newspapers, magazines, books, games, music albums, TV shows: All are being reimagined as apps. Appified, if you will.”

Filed under: Random Musings
To CIO, or not to CIO

Posted by on Tuesday December 6 2011

An issue I’m currently struggling with…

To CIO, or not to CIO – that is the question:
Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of mismanaged data
Or to take arms against a sea of piecemeal information decisions
And by strategizing, end them. To define, to plan –
A CIO – and by define to say we end the heartache
of our audience once and for all,
be it one or be it one thousand?
‘Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished.
To define, to plan – a CIO – perchance to dream
Of ending battles of lord and master
Of our information; ay, there’s the rub,
Where for art the strategic IT plan?
That ‘tis obsolete when ‘tis writ? For in that plan
What dreams of organizing information
And content deployment may come? When
We have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause. There’s the respect
That makes calamity of integrating
One trickery app twixt another.
And in the end, to grunt and sweat
With that ticketing app from who’s reporting
I.T. know not how. And in the end to grunt
And sweat with that collection information system
That puzzles the will, and dread our weary days
With it, and ne’er call the desk that is helpless,
Because that does make cowards of us all.
So, soft you now, the fair museum technologist!
Be all your sins remembered, dread of time is here
When we need a plan or decision of
Great pitch and moment to organize these things
Lest we get hit by a bus, and all our sins forgotten.

Filed under: Random Musings
2011 Horizon Report>Museum Edition

Posted by on Sunday November 27 2011

Just wanted to announce that the 2011 Horizon Report>Museum Edition has gone to press (and was officially launched at MCN in Atlanta last week). Follow this link to a page where you can a) download the report, or b) watch a >4 minute video which gives a brief overview of the six technologies featured in this year’s report.

Meanwhile, as always with Horizon Reports, you can view all of the work of the advisory board leading up to the publication of the report (including lots of great resources) on the project wiki:

Thanks to Nancy Proctor and the MCN Program Team for facilitating the launch of this year’s report at MCN 2011 in Atlanta last week.

What museum technologists can learn from the Wu-Tang Clan

Posted by on Monday November 21 2011

For those of you that made it to Atlanta, I did a brief presentation at MCN2011 about collaboration to create digital interactive exhibits. Some people noted that my presentation contained references to the hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan. Why the Wu? I choose them because they are an extraordinary example of the benefits of working on projects as a team. Here are seven tips from the Wu-Tang way of working that we can learn from.

 You Gotta Have a Crew

Wu-Tang clan is made up of eight rappers (nine before the death of ODB). When you have this many collaborators in one group, you have lots of creative minds working together to reach the same goal. Having a team of people work on a project means you have better and faster results because the responsibility is shared. However…

 There Must Be A Strong Leader

In Wu-Tang, RZA runs the show. Sure, there are a lot of strong personalities contributing to the product, but RZA chooses the direction they go, and he has final say. On technology projects, someone has to take responsibility for setting the goals to reach. Committee doesn’t make great projects. Have a leader, have a vision, and take the expertise of each group member and put it where it can enrich the whole.

(Cash Rules Everything Around Me) 

Maybe not all of you are familiar with the term, but it’s applicable to all of our work. Technology projects are expensive. The costs of the devices and the hours of labor to develop and implement them add up quickly. Focus on the outcomes, divide labor between the members of the group, and have deadlines for each project.

 Work With What You Have

The first few Wu-Tang albums sound like they were recorded in a basement. That’s because they were recorded in RZA’s basement. You have to use what’s available to you, and you have to maximize that to your advantage. It’s not going to be perfect, but if you are doing something original that has engaging content, most of your audience won’t mind.

Have A Network

Wu-Tang is not just a group of rappers, they are also collaborators with a number of other groups. Their willingness to share what they learned and their success has opened doors for other artists. Your institution can’t work in a void. Find other organizations to share knowledge and information with. Everyone benefits.

 Innovate, Don’t Recreate

Wu-Tang is influential because they took their interests, 60′s and 70′s kung-fu cinema, and put it in the framework of hip-hop music. They didn’t reinvent the genre, just spun it in a way that highlighted their strengths. You don’t have to create something brand new for your museum. Take what you have available to you and put your mark on it.

Capturing the experience with free software

Posted by on Friday November 4 2011

The Museum of Photographic Arts was fortunate to receive a large grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to implement a multi-touch screen device and interface for an upcoming exhibition. Through our partnerships we were able to get two students from the University of California, San Diego to develop the interface for us. We wanted to test the interface with various audiences before we put it into the public, but we ran into a problem in that the UCSD students were not able to be on site when we ran the tests.

There ended up being a free and elegant solution to this problem. We downloaded a screen capture program called HyperCam. This software allowed us to record users touching the interface, as well as the audio during the session. We brought in small groups of people of various ages and asked them to use the interface without any guidance. As they reached points where they did not know what to do, we would give them instructions on next steps. After they were done, we asked them to give us feedback about their experience. All of this was recorded onto the computer as a video file that we could send to the students working on the project.

This process became essential to the development of the interface. We ran three different rounds of testing as the interface was built, which gave the students working on the project a lot of material to work from. The students were able to go back to the recorded files and pinpoint trouble spots and create guidance cues for the users.

Free tools such as the HyperCam screen capture software and others enable an institution like ours to work in ways we have not before. In this case, it gave us an opportunity to refine a project based on user feedback rather than our assumptions.

Filed under: Digital media andEvaluation andTools
Cool new stuff available online (thanks Royal Society)

Posted by on Wednesday October 26 2011

UK’s Royal Society has made access to its historical journal (60,000+ papers) available free online. Here’s a great article from BBC on the topic:

Filed under: Random Musings
Mobile Apps for Citizen Science

Posted by on Wednesday October 12 2011

One of the really cool and exciting things about the rise of the mobile platform is that, by definition, they can be used almost anywhere. This greatly impacts the scale and scope of educational opportunities for organizations looking to get their programs (literally) into the hands of a curious public.

So imagine the opportunities for science organizations looking to encourage self-guided discovery by the public, or adding information from the field into their research databases. In the 19th and early 20th century, science was often conducted by private citizens, whose curiosity (and private funds) allowed them to go out and collect information about the natural world. They kept logs, collected specimens, and wrote papers about what they found. Later in the century, these efforts were concentrated in museums and universities, and the academic perception was that the collection of scientific data was only valid if performed by highly-trained experts.

Now, in the Information Age, access to this data is easier than ever before, and a curious public is eager to learn and contribute their findings back to various bodies of knowledge. With mobile apps, the potential for great warehouses of scientific data, collected from backyards, beaches, mountains, and public parks, is enormous. And even if the app is not designed to collect data, the immediacy of the world means a question can be asked and an answer received in short order.

Back here at BPOC, we’ve begun exploring such apps, and two of our Wounded Warrior interns, Mitchel McCullough and John Donner, and volunteer Sam Trusley, reviewed 14 different citizen science apps. Their descriptions and notes are below the cut. And if you have a favorite app or opinions about the ones listed below, please share it in the comments! (more…)

Filed under: Mobile Interpretation andReviews andTools
Pinterest: Museums take note

Posted by on Monday September 19 2011

From “ReadWriteWeb” last Saturday (I’m behind on my newsletters because our old router at home gave up the ghost) so here’s an article entitled: “If you’ve never heard of pinterest you’re a bigh dork.” Pinterest is a visual bookmarking site used primarily by women–user-generated content curation in another sphere. Check it out.

Filed under: Announcements andTools