Day 3

We delved (briefly) today into a discussion of how power structures are built into our data structures. Our guest speaker Kimon Keramidas, Assistant Professor and Director of the Digital Media Lab, Bard Graduate Center, referenced briefly a project by Aaron Glass on Franz Boas that deals with indigenous knowledge systems and databases (must look that up). Someone gave an example of a person working on a digital project to make a database of First Nations objects publicly available on the internet, consulting with a First Nations person, and discovering that the typical systems of classification (Dublin Core) often lead museum professionals and others to replicate colonial systems of knowledge/power. Granted, the very idea of making a catalog of objects from another culture publicly available is very embedded in Western European civilization! But how do we catalog objects in ways that allow us to understand their original purposes or to see them anew instead of perpetuating stereotypes of knowledge?

I thought, wow, the power of the internet: One could catalog a small group of objects in various ways, according to various cultural values, and compare them, side by side! A way to visualize how differently various cultures think/value. (Even that project smacks of the desire of the Western mind to master all areas of knowledge though, right?) Of course, that would require a complex, relational database. Omeka wouldn’t cut it for a project such as that. Which brings me to Omeka.

Today’s assignment is to blog about differences between various platforms for content management that we’ve been introduced to (Omeka, Drupal Gardens, and Scalar). Sadly, we didn’t have much time for hands-on exploration of these. I only poked around Omeka myself. It’s amazing that this resource is available to scholars for free! And it is fairly easy to use (although I did not find it to be intuitive). But extremely limited, too. Just trying to enter a few “items,” I began to hate the Dublin Core. Several other participants observed that it would be nice to have the option of using the VRA core, instead (thanks to JJ Bauer for pointing to me to the link). But standards for classification aside, Omeka is a flat database, not relational. I have been spoiled by my earlier experiences with Filemaker Pro–I expect great flexibility from my data management systems. At any rate, I think Omeka will be a great tool for pedagogy. I look forward to playing later with Drupal Gardens and Scalar to see what they can do.

Source: Day 3