museums


I’m in a quandry. I’m producing podcasts for my favorite museum and I want to make them very accessible. I’ve taken the time to add the transcript for each podcast to the lyrics metadata of each mp3…only to discover that the most current iPods deny me the joy of seeing the transcript/lyrics.

A cheesy solution is to dump the transcript into the rss feed for the podcast in the description. It doesn’t feel symantically proper…but it does allow even ancient iPods (like my iPod mini) to access the transcript.

So, at the moment, I’ve doubled up. I want to leave the transcript in the lyrics because that is semantically correct. But I have to put the transcripts in the description if I want anyone to actually see them on their iPod.

What do you think? Should I keep it doubled up? Or should I just put the transcript in the description?

And of course, I’ll be talkin’ to Apple asking them about their plans to solve this problem in the future.

Update: Workshop in Austin is sold out.

I wanted to let y’all know about a wonderful 3 day Digital Storytelling Workshop that is being hosted at UT, March 19-21st. This is the first ever Center for Digital Storytelling open workshop in Texas! Joe Lambert will lead this experience. Joe is the founder of the Digital Storytelling movement and author of Digital Storytelling-Capturing Lives, Creating Community. I had the good fortune to attend Joe’s sessions within the last year with some folks from the Blanton Museum. Joe’s workshop inspired us to create the Geometry of Hope Interactive Exhibit using the techniques we learned in this workshop + Pachyderm (the open source multimedia authoring tool).

If you have a story to tell…what are you waiting for?

Digital Storytelling Workshop – March 19-21, 2007

In 1993, Joe Lambert and his collaborators developed a unique workshop environment that assists people in creating video stories from their family photos and home video. It is based on a philosophy of emphasizing fundamental elements of good storymaking combined with a demystification of multimedia technology and tools.

We have helped over 10,000 people to mine powerful and effective tales from the pictures of their lives, or the lives of their loved ones. The stories have covered every conceivable topic: tales of survival and achievement; corporate brand stories, travel adventures; love stories, health and healing; oral histories about cultures, historic periods, and work experiences; and memorials to loved ones.

The class is a great introduction for the multimedia novice or the professional to working with digital imaging and digital video softwares.
The workshops include hands-on instruction to Adobe Photoshop and Final Cut Express and script/storyboard development. The CDS teaching staff will give each student specific assistance on their projects, including design, scripting, and other issues regarding the specific use of their digital story.

Students will complete a 3 minute piece which will be output to disk and mailed following the workshop.

Course Objectives

  1. To provide students with an introduction to the tools of desktop video in a production context.
  2. To introduce storytelling methodology (point of view, emotional content, dramatic action) into a dialogue about new media content
  3. Assist students in completing a project.
  4. Provide a Digital Storytelling Cookbook.

Monday-Wednesday, March 19-21, 2007
North Office Building A (NOA)
University of Texas
Austin, TX

Price: $ 495 USD Individual project

To register email workshop@storycenter.org or for more information visit StoryCenter Workshops.

The world needs to hear your story.

Have you see the SXSWi logo this year? It looks like a lightning bolt and now I know why! I’ve just returned from the SXSWi Southwestern Connections party at the Beauty Bar. I’m still buzzing from the creative energy that flowed freely tonight.

In SXSWi style, I wandered around the room and introduce myself to people I didn’t know. This is how I connected with a Burner named Sparky. Sparky took me on a magic carpet ride through his personal discovery of Burning Man. It was an amazing journey that took my breath away.

He drew pictures with words in my mind. For a moment, I closed my eyes and I imagined that I was at Burning Man 2000, seeing the faces of man, the ribcage junglegym and the burning heart(h).

I was in awe…at how much his experience of Burning Man harmonized with my vision for museums and the principles of Web 2.0 that make my heart beat faster. His words still echo in my head

  • radical self-expression
  • radical inclusion
  • gifting society

The magic of SXSWi has begun.

Some works of art are instantly accessible. Take the slides at the Tate Modern (aka the Unilever Series: Carsten Höller). You don’t need to read a label or know the title of this exhibit to connect with it. You can just experience it.

If you care to go deeper, you can consider the artists thoughts:

Carsten Höller: A slide is a sculpture that you can travel inside. However, it would be a mistake to think that you have to use the slide to make sense of it. Looking at the work from the outside is a different but equally valid experience, just as one might contemplate The Endless Column (1938) by Constantin Brancusi. From an architectural and practical perspective, the slides are one of the building’s means of transporting people, equivalent to the escalators, elevators or stairs. Slides deliver people quickly, safely and elegantly to their destinations, they’re inexpensive to construct and energy-efficient. They’re also a device for experiencing an emotional state that is a unique condition somewhere between delight and madness. It was described in the fifties by the French writer Roger Caillois as ‘a kind of voluptuous panic upon an otherwise lucid mind’.

I believe Carsten’s slide is a challenge to all museums to invite your visitors inside the art…to create opportunities for people to be transformed by their experience. And I’m thrilled to see so many museums already taking up this challenge. Look at what the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMoMA) is doing today in their Kiefer exhibit. The brilliant minds at SFMoMA know that “your interest in a work of art drops precipitously the further you move away from it, physically.” They have added learning lounges embedded in the exhibits that meet the visitors where they are…in the galleries, providing a focused gallery experience with multiple points of access.

As museums slide head first in to this creative adventure of building exhibits that are simply irresistible, I see the fabulous effects of collaboration around Pachyderm. Pachyderm is an open source authoring environment for creators of web-based and multimedia learning experiences. Some of my favorite examples:

  • SFMoMA sharing their knowledge and tools for creating online learning modules via the open source project Pachyderm
  • New Media Consortium bringing museums and higher education together to collaborate on digital media
  • The Edward and Betty Marcus Digital Education Project putting Pachyderm in the hands of so many Texas museums

Last week, at the Pachyderm Conference in Austin, I was inspired by the work that is occurring at the Seattle Art Museum (where they are preparing for an exciting reopenning), The Walters’ Integrating the Arts: Mummies, Manuscripts & Madonnas, SFMoMA and many others. Two high points for me:

  • brainstorming in the bar with Tim Svenonius and Anne Manning about how to create meaningful online learning experiences
  • hearing Peter Samis say “Video is useless without a transcript. My cardinal rule – get video transcribed immediately.

    What thrilled me most about this statement was Peter was not approaching transcription as a requirement for accessibility, he was explaining how critical a transcript was in the process of editing and pinpointing the most powerful clips from the original video. After the final edits, the addition of synchronized closed captioning is a simple step for SFMoMA. Oh, how I dearly love it when semantics and accessibility work hand-in-hand.

So, I encourage you to join me as I explore the new worlds within museums by:

I’d love to hear about your discoveries!

a lime wearing a green ipod

Friday’s are perfect for fieldtrips. Time to get out of the office and explore technology in the real world. This morning I found myself at Whole Foods with Megan checking out the iPod audio tour of the store. What? An audio tour of a grocery store? Mmmmmhmmmm. And, let me say, Whole Foods is more like a food exploratorium than a grocery store.

Whole Foods has teamed up with Apple and KUT to create a 20 minute tour highlighting some of my favorite features of the store like Beer Alley and Candy Island. And if that isn’t enough, Waterloo Records loaded the iPods with tunes that will have you dancing through the aisles.

Now for a little plus delta review.

Plus

  • Quality Audio – A lot of thought was obviously put in to the tour script. I found each segment to be interesting and the variety of voices made me feel like I was on a backstage tour. Audio production was obviously done by experienced professionals.
  • Perfect Length – What is the right length? For me, it always leaves me wanting a bit more. I actually listened to the whole 20 minute tour and found it enjoyable.
  • Sweet Music – I love the idea of being able to check out an iPod preloaded by Waterloo Records with delicious music to shop by.
  • Cool Factor – Ya gotta admit, an iPod tour of a grocery store is hot!

Delta

  • Shuffle – my iPod was set to shuffle, so after listening to the introduction in the produce section, it then skipped to the conclusion…oops! I was able to turn shuffle off, but an inexperienced iPoder would have been lost.
  • Continuous Play – iPods are designed for listening to music. The continuous play feature made me feel rushed. It wasn’t until I got to Beer Alley that I thought…hey, I’m not ready to leave here yet, and pressed pause. Easy for me, but not obvious to iPod neophytes
  • Start Point – When Megan was handed her iPod, it was set to the architecture tour, rather than the store tour. It took her a while to realize that my tour must be different (as I left her in the dust over by the artichokes). Finding the store tour took some sleuthing on her part that could have been a brick wall for other users.

So, my overall experience was very positive. The only issues I had were inherent to the iPod interface itself. Reminds me of a wonderful quote from Peter Samis’ recent paper on artcasting:

Podcasts are a new format and require a new way of thinking about audio tours – it’s best not to use podcasts as object-specific guides. Unlike keypad-based tours, iPods require familiarity with the clickwheel at their center. For visitors who have never used an iPod – and there are millions of such elders in the museum-going population – the clickwheel can be utterly mystifying. What do you click? How do you adjust the volume? What happens if you inadvertently press the back arrow or, worse yet, hit the Menu button and leap out of the playlist altogether? Such uncertainties can leave a visitor feeling hopelessly lost. (Moss, 2006)

So, the next time you are in the Whole Foods in Austin on Lamar, stop by customer service and get your hands on a hot iPod mini to enhance your explorations of this market mecca.

unadorned canvas with a slit cut down the middle at a slight angle

How is it that a museum can touch me so deeply? Perhaps it is because I’m still new to the adventure that contemporary art offers. Where an initial impression might be “Dear Lord, what is that?” or perhaps a good hard laugh…like when I approached Spatial Concept ‘Waiting’ by Lucio Fontana.

Honestly, a slashed canvas didn’t move me. But, armed with an Antenna Audio PDA, I dove into the interpretation…and discovered a doorway in. Simplicity, movement, sculpture, opening, opportunity…the hole became a portal to my future. And I knew, with all my heart…that when given that small window…I’m ready to look, listen, taste, consider and leap.

large egglike sculpture with a vertical opening.  white on outside, reflective deep red, almost black on the inside

And while bonding with “Waiting” required a little interpretive help from the PDA…my connection to Anish Kapoor’s Ishi’s Light 2003 was instant. I didn’t need to know the title or have anyone tell me what this work might mean…I understood instinctually…as though the piece spoke directly to my soul. When I resonate with a work of art like this, it is as though I have found completeness. My mind clears and I feel as though I’ve been filled with light. I could stay there all day…but realize I don’t need to…because once I’ve experience a work on this level…it becomes a part of me.

I wonder if the energy I feel pouring off Ishi’s Light comes directly from the artist…or if the work actually absorbs and reflects the élan of all the souls that have communed with it.

So, what about you? Have you ever “fallen into a work of art with all of your being”? Do you ever connect with a piece without knowing anything about it? Have you ever initially rejected a work as junk only to fall in love with it later? Tell me…I want to know.

Just a quick note to say I’m headed to Europe for adventure, romance and museum technology. You just knew I couldn’t plan a vacation without a geek moment!

First stop…Belgium…where I plan to soak in the ambiance and spend deliciously lazy days with my sweetheart…then off to London for a conference at the Tate Modern, Help at Hand. And as luck would have it, I’ll be in town just long enough to meet up with the folks headed to @Media and NotMedia.

On my list of important things to do:

  • Buy Matt Robin as many pints as he wants (for being such a prince and sending me a JoshuaInk badge)
  • Meet (in person) the wonderful people I’ve gotten to know online this year including the famous #$%@caster.
  • Give all my SXSW friends a great big huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuug! (who knew I would only have to wait three months to get a hicks fix?)

I’m all about universal accessibility. I get a real jolt when I can break down barriers between people and information. But a colleague asked me a question today that has me perplexed.

How do I caption a work of art that is a video? If I caption a video installation, am I changing the work of art? Does seeing a caption at the bottom of the video affect the intent and desire of the original artist of that video?

How can I provide the captioning and audio description to people who want/need it while still maintaining the integrity of the work of art?

I want to know what you think? Don’t be shy!

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