Rhiannon's Blog

"Art should not be segregated in museums; it needs to live free among us"


Filed under: Uncategorized — rhiannonvt at 11:35 am on Friday, November 23, 2012

After exploring Scratch and attempting to create an animated scene between a dog and a tennis ball, I found that the complexity of programming most interesting. Although Scratch has reduced programming into simple terms and can be used virtually be anyone, it still seems complicated and very precise. For me, it took several runs of trial and error to reach a very simple and short outcome. Not to mention the project looks very amateur and basic as if a child has created it. I can imagine that it would take lots of time and practice to create a project that tells a story or is a game and that the easiest way to figure it out would be messing around with the different features. Scratch attempts to create a friendly interface with blocks that are connected like puzzle pieces but with one wrong move, your project can fail to work the way you want it to. After working with this program, I have only just begun to understand the preciseness needed in programming. Since programming is based on the logic of “if this, then that” it is very important to define each element you want in your project and what you want that element to do and when you want it to do it. Just with this simple exercise, I have gotten a glimpse of how computer programs work and really admire the amazing things programmers have instructed computers to do. At the same time, I find programming very scary but perhaps with some practice and with the creation of simple projects on Scratch it won’t seem so bad anymore…

My attempts at programming…

Digital Preservation

Filed under: Uncategorized — rhiannonvt at 12:13 pm on Friday, November 16, 2012

In the readings for this week I thought there were a couple of very interesting points made about digital preservation.

In the video called “Why Digital Preservation is Important to Everyone” on the Library of Congress website the narrator outlines three important factors about saving personal, digital files. 1. They are FRAGILE. 2. They are DEPENDENT on technology. 3. They require ACTIVE MANAGEMENT. These points demonstrate how temporary our digital files can be and that they are much less permanent than their analog counterparts. With this in mind, I wonder if the trade off for a faster, more convenient way of living is really worth it when it may all just disappear after a relatively short period of time. Should we then go back to our old-fashioned methods of communicating and recording our memories?

At the same time though, Roy Rosenzweig’s article “Scarcity or Abundance? Preserving the Past in the Digital Era” explains that simply “printing out e-mail messages makes rapid searches of them impossible and often jettisons crucial links to related messages and attachments” and that “nor is there any good way to preserve interactive and experimental digital creations”. So essentially going back to analog forms or at least preserving digital records on paper will not solve the problem of digital preservation. Like Rosenzweig said, if we just print out our personal records and store them in a filing cabinet like we used to the records will not preserve the interactivity and easy manipulability of their original digital format. In other words, a paper record does not and cannot equal digital material. Plus we all know how much more difficult it is to search through a huge stack of papers than type in search terms in a database or archive.

The problem of preserving digital material almost seems hopeless then since digital records are subject to their fragility (one glitch can make a whole file unreadable), dependability on technology (which is constantly changing and updating) and their constant need for management and up keeping. And it’s not like we can just go back to analog form since that is also unreliable and will lose a great deal of information when taken from its digital format. What then should we do? Rosenzweig runs through a number of methods that have been/are being used to save digital records but for each one there is something that is lost or will be lost in just a matter of time. I guess at this point it is just important to be aware of this problem and continue to work towards finding a suitable way to save digital files that stays true to the original content and will last for a long period of time.

Quantity over quality?

Filed under: Uncategorized — rhiannonvt at 11:10 am on Friday, November 9, 2012  Tagged

One of the most surprising points that Cohen made in his essay, “From Babel to Knowledge: Data Mining Large Digital Collections” is summarized in this quote:

“As the size of a collection grows, you can begin to extract information and knowledge from it in ways that are impossible with small collections, even if the quality of individual documents in that giant corpus is relatively poor.”

From the moment we start school and are asked to do research on a topic there is one phrase teachers constantly say, “quality over quantity”. As students and professionals, we are always asked to evaluate and assess our sources before using them and not to collect bunch of sources that may not have “good” information. It comes as a shock then, when Cohen asserts that in the context of data mining, a high volume of “poor” quality sources is actually more valuable than a small volume of very good sources. With this in mind, we can say that having 100 hundred mediocre sources that claim Abraham Lincoln was born in 1809 would have more worth than having twenty scholarly sources say the same thing. Although it seems backwards, in a way it makes sense because relying on a few sources, even if they are written by experts, can have its disadvantages. No matter how studied someone is in a subject, they are bound to make mistakes, have biases and make assumptions so it can be helpful to check their claims with a variety of other sources. I have to say though, it seems the use of quantity over quality in research would probably be most helpful to find facts such as dates and locations and less helpful for finding deeper analyses and interpretations of facts.

Another interesting thing about Cohen’s argument of quantity over quality is related to digitalizing texts themselves. In their book  “Digital History”, Cohen and Rosenzweig describe the various methods for digitalizing analogues. For each method, there are benefits and consequences, the benefits usually being easier search capabilities or convenience and the shortcomings being a lack of manipulability or expense. Overall though it seems that spending more time and money on digitalizing a text would be better in the long run because the text would be easier to search and manipulate. In this essay however, Cohen asserts that it would be better to use low-quality methods to digitalize a greater number of texts than to use high-quality digitalization for a smaller number of texts. He supports this theory with the fact that with a greater number of texts to work, data mining can find more patterns and repetitions that can be useful for research. As a result, rules and conventions that we believe to be indisputable are challenged by the invention of new technologies and their application to the academic world.

Presentation versus Content

Filed under: Uncategorized — rhiannonvt at 10:50 am on Friday, November 2, 2012

In Edward Tufte’s article “Powerpoint is Evil” I found this sentence most interesting:

“Audience boredom is usually a content failure, not a decoration failure.”

With this point Tufte is trying to say that if your audience is bored with your presentation of some sort of information it is because the information is irrelevant, of poor quality or lacks integrity not because your presentation is not formatted correctly. I disagree with this statement entirely and believe that presentation plays an equal role in making something interesting to an audience. If you take valuable content, write it into a formal speech and simply read it to an audience, it makes it hard for the listeners to access and absorb the information because they are only required to use one sense, hearing. In this case, it is harder for the audience to keep their focus because they can be distracted by their four other senses and simply ignore the information being brought to their ears. If however, you pair a speech with a visual presentation, not only are you able to exemplify your main points with ease but also you are now requiring your audience to use two senses, hearing and sight, which will keep their attention longer. As a result, it is important to combine both content and presentation so that they work together in conveying a message.

Another point is that even the most mundane and dull content can become interesting depending on its presentation and presenter. I’m sure almost everyone has had the experience where they are forced to take a class in school that does not interest them at all and they expect to hate the class. But once they meet the teacher and listen to the lectures, it soon becomes their favorite class. This proves that the way information is presented, preferable in a dynamic and stimulating way with the use of visual tools and enthusiasm, effects how the receiver responds to the information. We may prefer to think sometimes that as intellectual human beings we are beyond our senses but truth be told, we still respond to flashy colors, movement and loud sounds. In addition, especially with the younger generations, our attention spans are short and we usually need constant reminders to keep our minds from wandering. In effect, presentation may not be everything but it certainly is something. 

The Power of Visual Devices

Filed under: Uncategorized — rhiannonvt at 11:23 am on Friday, October 26, 2012

When I first read the Feltron Annual Reports, I was confused as to what the data was reporting. After looking through a few reports, I realized that they all represented information pertaining to Nicholas Felton (2010 is not actually about him but his dad Gordon Felton). Despite my initial confusion, the reports are fascinating displays of presenting data and really emphasize how presentation is everything. When you look at what exactly Felton is describing through his visual tools, you realize how mundane and insignificant the date can be. For instance, how important to the average person is it to know how many drinks Felton consumed in in 2006 and what type of drinks they were? The pie graphs, bar graphs, colors and enlarged numbers, however, make the information visually pleasing and make the viewer curious as to what they are looking at. If the information was simply written out in paragraph style it is less likely someone would be interested in reading it.

The use of visual aids such as graphs and charts, seem easier for us to digest and comprehend than long passages of text, which seem to require higher concentration. This is why in their powerpoint presentations, teachers typically avoid pasting large amount of text on their slides and prefer the use of pictures, graphs and other visual tools. I think most students would agree that image- heavy presentations are much easier to focus on and keep alert during than presentations boggled down with text. It is important to note though, visual aids should be accompanied by some text in order to relay its message effectively and hinder misinterpretation. For instance, without the legend, the graph on the second page of the Feltron 2006 Annual Report would not make any sense and would just look like a series of numbers some of which are in a box and/or highlighted in yellow. As a result, visual devices can be extremely effective for conveying information in a clear and concise way, which is something we should keep in mind as we research our historical topics. Oftentimes in school, when asked to do research, students immediately look for books, articles and other text-heavy materials to use to make yet another text-based presentation of research. If however, we want to convey our findings in a more attention grabbing way that can be just as accurate, we should look to the use of visual devices in our research projects.

Take this example:

Here is a list of all the different cities that own works by Andy Warhol and how many works the cities own:

Amersterdam 1
Balitmore 2
Basel 3
Boston 1
Budapest 1
Buffalo 1
Chicago 2
Cologne 4
Dayton 1
Detroit 1
Dijon 1
Dunkirk 1
Dusseldorf 1
Fort Worth 2
Frankfurt am Main 2
Houston 6
Kansas City 1
La Jolia 3
London 2
Los Angeles 1
Mainz 1
Minneapolis 1
Monchengladbach 5
Montpellier 1
Montreal 2
Munich 1
New York 27
Paris 3
Princeton 1
Richmond 1
Stockholm 1
Stuttgart 1
Toronto 1
Toulouse 1
Washington DC 3
Zurich 1

Compare that with this bar graph that relies the same information but with the help of a visual tool:


Map of Andy Warhol’s Solo Exhibitions

Filed under: Uncategorized — rhiannonvt at 9:58 am on Friday, October 26, 2012

I have create a map on Google Maps that shows all the different locations where Andy Warhol’s works have been exhibited as a solo show. If you click on the locations, it will also tell you the year(s) the exhibitions took place. I can also open this map with Google Earth but I am not sure how to make that available for everyone else to see.

Andy Warhol Exhibition Map

Hypercities- Hypercollaboration

Filed under: Uncategorized — rhiannonvt at 12:44 pm on Friday, October 19, 2012

After exploring Hypercities and watching the “Getting Started” video, I found the website’s emphasis on collaboration most interesting. In several moments of the video the narrator mentions the different types of people and organizations that contribute to the site in quotes. For example:

“Hypercities is essentially a time travel application, in which high school students and university students collaborate using social technologies to delve into the past, present and future of city spaces” (seconds 20-34).

“It’s a collaborative undertaking in which universities, museums, libraries, cultural institutions, non-profits and community advocacy groups all contribute content (seconds 48-59).

“I’ll also notice that there’s various kinds of material: historical material, academic content, archival content, as well as community generated content all living side by side” ( minutes 2:32-2:43).

This emphasis on collaboration is undoubtedly a way to relay the new possibilities made available with the use of new technologies. A project whose goal is to create a site full of vast knowledge found from a variety of sources would not be possible without the powers of the Internet and other technological advancements. This website allows anyone to publish useful information to contribute to a greater and more in depth understanding of a specific location at a specific time. As a result, viewers of the site can sort through information if they need a specific type of source (i.e. an academic source for a college paper) or simply browse through the information in order to get a broader perspective. Because the information is provided by all sorts of people and organizations, it allows the viewer to see the same location and time period from different angles. For example, when looking at the city of Los Angeles Sunset Blvd map from the 1920s, there are a number of different collections associated with the map. Under “Classes” there are maps created by students for university projects and under “Public Collections” there are excerpts written by the Works Progress Administration and video clips from past news reports. In effect, with the use of technological tools found on hypercities.com, history becomes more open to the public, who is now allowed to shape and construct it, and not solely dictated by trained historians.

Exploring Hypercities

The Wonders of Google(?)

Filed under: Uncategorized — rhiannonvt at 10:46 am on Friday, October 12, 2012

After browsing through the various services Google has to offer, I found Google Drive the most surprising and new service that technology can provide us. With Google Drive, documents, charts, presentations and drawings saved to Google Docs are automatically saved to your computer and any other devices you wish to sync. In addition, any files you add to the Google Drive folder on your computer or devices is automatically added to Google Docs online. I find this interesting because I did not know it was possible to make a connection between online folders and folders on a computer without having to manually download them. How is it possible to add a folder to Google Docs without being connected to the Internet? And how is it possible to download a file onto a device without using that device?

This new technology really proves how the Internet is able to make connections we never before thought possible and opens up so many new avenues. At the same time, though, I can’t help but think back to the Honan article were the use of technology to connect many devices together for the convenience of the user ended up making that user more vulnerable. If someone where to hack into a Google account they would be able to erase all the Google Doc files, which would also erase all the files stored on any computers or devices. Would there also be a way for them to hack into other folders stored on those computers and devices synced with Google Drive? I don’t know if it is possible but it is a scary thought.

False Sense of Security

Filed under: Uncategorized — rhiannonvt at 12:14 pm on Friday, September 28, 2012

In Mat Honan’s article “How Apple and Amazon Security Flaws led to my Epic Hacking”, I found the ease in which the hackers were able to break into all of Honan’s accounts and devices especially disturbing. Because Honan had all his accounts linked together and his devices hooked up to iCloud once the hackers got into one account they had access to his entire digital life. This goes to show that new technologies made by Apple and other companies to make things easier for their users can actually end up harming them. As consumers of digital material, we want easy access to all our digital information all the time but what we don’t realize is that this allows other, unwanted people to have access to this same information. Are we really ready to give up security for convenience? I mean think about it, how many of us have our passwords saved on our computers so we don’t have to go through the hassle of signing into our accounts every time we want to use them? And how many of us have our credit numbers stored in our accounts such as Amazon, so we don’t have to put the in effort of typing in the numbers every time we want to purchase something? Sure it makes it so much easier and faster to purchase something when all you have to do is click a button but then again that means someone else can just as easily purchase something from your account.

I think that our demand for convenience and our laziness (think about “Passwords Under Assault” where for 25 accounts people only have 6.5 passwords) combined with our disregard or ignorance of how dangerous hackers can be, has led us to believe that by assigning a password to an account (even one like Password1) makes it secure. In reality though, passwords can be easily changed or in the case of Honan, are not even needed at all to access an account.

Another thing Honan pointed out that I found interesting, was that even using the same username for several accounts can be dangerous. I never really thought about protecting my username because I guess I figured without a password it won’t get anywhere. Usernames can be seen by anybody and when they are typed into the login text box they are not hidden like passwords are. I think this leads us to believe that they are not that important and do not need to be protected. As it turns out, usernames, especially ones that are e-mail addresses, can be of value to hackers and can help link them to all of your other accounts. With all this information in mind, I now have a different attitude towards the security of my online accounts and now realize the devastating effects that can result from a lack of precaution employed when using the Internet.

Quotations from the past

Filed under: Uncategorized — rhiannonvt at 12:53 pm on Friday, September 21, 2012

In the video “The Amen Break” I found this statement particularly interesting:

“To trace the history of the amen break is to trace the history of a brief period of time when it seemed digital tools offered a potentially unlimited amount of new forms of expression, where cultural production, at least musically, was full of possibilities by virtue of being able to freely appropriate from the musical past to make new combinations and thus new meanings” (Minute  15.03-15.26).

As argued in the video, it seems the increase in copyright laws, although meant to protect the authors of creative works, can in fact greatly restrict new innovations in art. The less a creator can use, the less he or she can create. Not to mention the slippery slope of what constitutes truly “original” creative material since essentially everything has been borrowed from someone else’s idea. The Amen Break video mentions this when the narrator says that “nothing today… is genuinely new” because our culture is based on a public domain and without that domain it is impossible to create new forms and expressions.

A great example of this can be found in Renaissance art. Like the time before the Amen Break was strictly copyrighted by Zero G Limited, art during the Renaissance wasn’t subject to issues of copyright infringement and artists frequently quoted their contemporaries without question. Here, artists openly borrowed certain compositional structures, iconography and pictorial solutions from each other using a method called imitation, in which artists would take the best qualities from a previous work and emulate them into a more perfect work. For example, Domenichino’s Rebuke of Adam and Eve undoubtedly quotes Michelangelo’s  Creation of Adam from the Sistine Chapel Ceiling in an explicit way. The floating figure of God is almost exactly the same in both paintings. However, Michelangelo did not attempt to prosecute Domenichino on copyright infringement because first of all, no such laws existed during this time and second of all, the artistic community understood the importance of imitation in the progression of art. Most likely, Michelangelo got his idea for the image of God from somewhere else so he would not be able to claim the rights to it. As a result, before demanding rights to intellectual property, it is vital to understand the importance of sharing in the realms of artistic creation and innovation.

Domenichino's The Rebuke of Adam and Eve


Michelangelo's Creation of Adam

Next Page »