“Use men to get the things you want!”

The above quote comes from Baby Face (1933), a “Pre-Code” Hollywood film starring Barbara Stanwyck that embraced Nietszche and exploitation as a primary means of Depression era survival. This did not go over so well with the newly empowered MPPDA, who upon enforcing their Production Code in 1934 required that any re-release of this film have the offending Nietszche material cut out and replaced by a new voice-over containing a moralizing lecture (and at least an implication that the book in the scene is a Bible, rather than the writing of Nietszche). No master and slave power dynamic and more a cautionary “there is a right way and a wrong way” for Lily Powers to get along in the world.

I think this is an appropriate choice for today’s workshop response, since we were tasked in the afternoon with “exploiting” one of three free content management systems–Drupal, Omeka, and Scalar–to see if one of them would suit our particular project. And because I tested Scalar using the above offending scene, creating a film and censorship project (still private, but also with all of one page and 2 media items in it, so not that interesting to the outside observer yet). I was attracted to Scalar because it was designed specifically to be used with multimedia projects using images, video, sound, etc, because a lot of those kinds of files could be linked in from outside sources (so not having to have a lot of server space built in for large media files), but also because, as I said to my other Scalar-testing colleagues at the table, it is rather like a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book, based on nodes and paths but not requiring a linear structure and including other visualization techniques to link data within the project.

Scalar was somewhat the reverse of my experience working with other CMS or blogging tools like WordPress, in that it required me to ingest or link to my media first and then build pages, comments, notes and annotations around that media second. Easy enough to re-orient myself to, and also not requiring me to have a grand plan or structure from the start. And the annotations and tags are truly wonderful. I could annotate my video clip, starting at the moment where the cobbler invokes the great philosopher and ending with Lily’s thoughtful “huh” (notice the clip above is just pulled in from Youtube and has no annotations). The annotation could include detailed text explaining why I made that particular choice (Here Be Voice-Over after The Code!) which would pop-up under the playback of the video when it came to the annotation starting point. Tags could be anything I want, and would be created as a page within my project, which meant that I could Tag any media object or other page, as well as add further explanatory information, links, bibliography or notes to the Tag itself–my first tag was “Pre-Code” and I can see how that could use some defining for audiences not familiar with the brief period from 1930-1934 when the MPPDA had a written censorship code but the studio members really didn’t make any attempt to enforce said self-produced code until further threats of Catholic boycotts forced them to finally capitulate and set up an office that would police the industry until 1968. I could add links to wikipedia, PDFs, and more. And, with more items tagged, and more tags, I could very easily look at my project as a network visualization (tags are links, lots of mentions in tags would mean sizeable nodes), showing how censorship could cross studios, films, actors, genres, gender, or any other grouping that would change the mostly linear and anecdotal story of film censorship in current scholarship. And I could see all of this potential after only an hour-and-a-half of work, which was even more exciting, especially if I am hoping to have students engage with this tool for a course assignment.

Source: “Use men to get the things you want!”

Platforms (and we’re not talking about the shoes)

There are a lot of different kinds of platforms in the world, but today the subject was web hosting platforms for art history research projects. As a group, we played with Drupal, Scalar and Omeka, but we also looked at a great variety of sites, thinking about their designs, their architecture, how well their design served their goals, how difficult or complex the sites were to construct and maintain.

I appreciated the chance to play with Omeka, especially to see what kind of a learning curve there would be to become truly effective in using the platform to accomplish what I would like to. As someone based in a museum, I know that my research will be hosted (eventually!) on the museum site and I won’t be personally responsible for constructing a website. I am looking forward to learning more and happy that I won’t have to rely completely on my limited skills to get my work out there.

For me the big takeaway today was the extended conversation in the morning about challenges faced by scholars at small schools with limited support for digital projects (or even research in some cases). It took a while but by the end of the morning, the group and our fabulous instructors, Sheila A. Brennan and Sharon M. Leon of the RRCHNM, and guest instructor Kimon Keramidas, Director of the Digital Media Lab, Bard Graduate Center, had come up with a range of strategies to address those challenges. Now we just have to lay the groundwork for those ideas to become reality.

Source: Platforms (and we’re not talking about the shoes)

Ugly Duckling

duckI was really really really looking forward to getting my project started today, especially with all the promises that Omeka was super-easy and awesome-intuitive.  Not true!  Maybe after having easy experiences setting up several sites on WordPress in the last years, I expected Omeka to be a souped-up version of what I already know, but more powerful, cooler, maybe even prettier.  Instead it felt clunky, and even by reading the step-by-step instructions, which helped me get a few things set up, I still just don’t have a clear sense of how everything fits together.  Also, it seems that the kinds of things I was counting on to make my project happen are not super-easy or available; or maybe that’s still just yet to be revealed. I ended the day with a sort of half-baked digital draft of something no one would want to look at, let alone use.

Overall, my experience this afternoon reflected those of my first time baking a pie, which was not that long ago.  I am pretty accomplished in the kitchen, but for some reason the skills for fruit pies elude me, and ultimately I think: why bother, when cake is better anyhow?  I’m not willing yet to throw out Omeka like I did with that sad blueberry pie, but I am willing to right now just claim the prize for Ugliest Ducklingest with hopes that this serious case of the uglies will resolve itself into something much more elegant, useful and beautiful in the (hopefully near) future.

image source: click here


Source: Ugly Duckling