{drum roll}—–> the final product.

6 May

This is the last post for our final projects- the final product is up and running. I edited the site based on the feedback from last class:

-I decreased the overall line length, changed the font (to match the exhibitions page), and increased the font size for easier reading

-I decreased the word space between my blockquotes

-For my pull quotes I increased the line length and the letter spacing to make it easier to read; this may not be so apparent on the index page since I tried to keep the design on that page tighter

-For all the pullquotes, save the index one, I decreased the length of the border

-I added a picture of one of the figures from Hieronymus Bosch’s Saint Anthony Triptych to Ethical Aesthetics to break up the amount of white space and text in attempt to not lose the reader

-I changed the font color of the links on the exhibition page to a darker green

-I changed some of the spacing between H2 and the content

 I’m hoping these changes have made some improvement. Amber’s website has also made some nice improvements which I commented about on her blog. Cheers everyone to the end of the semester!


BioEsthetiek–>Final Project Review

30 Apr

Today the second half of class [including moi] will have their final project preliminary critique. So here it goes:


I’m still tweaking here and there– the exhibitions page for some odd reason has been giving me the most problems in terms of alignment, spacing, etc.

At any rate, advice or a critical review is definitely welkom…

What would Schiller do?

23 Apr

ImageThis week we have been working on our final sites for our portfolio. I chose to create a site to introduce the topic, BioArt, since it is a subject that has not been widely discussed in either Art History or Aesthetics. I was introduced to it while studying a course on Art, Design, Science, and Ethics at Leiden Universiteit and when I came home and started enthusiastically talking about, the question came at me: okay, so what is BioArt? The site is designed to introduce the subject, current artists/designers, and discuss why its problematic for the art historian and the philosophical aesthetician– it also includes some writings by my friend and contemporary, Neva Lukic.

What would/can the art historian say about something like bulletproof skin? What would neo-Schiller out there say?What would Schiller do? He’d want to discuss it and then maybe write another manifesto. Discussion is key when the variables for this experiemental movement include both the humanities and the sciences. Discussion is the most important part of the aesthetic generated by works of bioart.

My question for this week is— if I want to create a discussion forum on my website for discussion threads on the topics discussed on the website, what is the easiest (a relative term) way to do it?

Schiller can’t help me with jquery. [Apparently my computer can’t either since it’s crashed x20 since I put jquery code in]. Can you?

I thought of uploading a wordpress site that is specifically used as a discussion forum for my final website but I’m not sure that’s what I’m going for. I even thought of just designing a simple ‘guestbook’ that could be used…but i’m a little overwhelmed by the suggestions on the web. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated!

Het Kritiek

16 Apr

This week we completed our design projects. Our blog entry is to provide an early critique of our fellow classmates. My critique will be of Lindsey’s project, which presents a review of Rosemarie Zagarri’s “Revolutionary Blacklash: Women and Politics in the Early American Republic”.

I thought Lindsey did a great job choosing a well suited color scheme; the colors make sense for the historic theme (ie, Red-White-and Blue…viva la Revolution!) and the neutral background compliments the darker tones used for the font choices and the image. I like the neutral background as opposed to a bright white since it mimics the color of aged parchment.

The image was well placed and the colorization of the engraving was a nice touch to make the heading stand out.

She embedded three fonts for the website. The font choice for the heading (Aquiline) was a wonderful choice; it makes sense for the historical period she is writing about and the size/color scheme help create a strong heading.

I wish there more space between the content and both the header/navigation bar and that the navigation bar was further down from the header—I think that its cool that its juxtaposed the way it is, but since it is the same color of “review” I would be it slightly below the baseline for “review”, then push the content down accordingly.

I think the colors of the navigational menu should all be a lighter color like the light grey that was chosen for “Type assignment”. A lighter color would be easier to read against the deep red background. The hover color scheme works very well.

The font choice for the paragraphs was easy on the eyes and had a well-chosen line height. I’m glad she chose grey instead of black for the font choice since the grey compliments the subdued color palette. The image that she used to break up the paragraphs was chosen to separate the background information of her book with her own opinion—I thought it was a well-chosen spot and again, had adequate spacing around the image.

Overall, great job!!

This is my design project— any advice would be great!

Reshaping Intellectual Inquiry with Digital Media

9 Apr

This week we read Joshua Brown’s “History and the Web, From the Illustrated Newspaper to Cyberspace: Visual Technologies and Interaction in the Nineteenth and Twenty-First Centuries”. This covered the attempts and progress made to integrate visual media and scholarship in a way that successfully promotes intellectual inquiry and scholarly dialogue.  The first large attempt in this area was the implementation of CD-ROMs to produce interactive book/databases for learning history (ie. Who Built America? From the Centennial Celebration of 1876 to the Great War of 1914 or one of my favorites, Microsoft’s Encarta). This attempt was just starting to take a stab at Barbara Stafford’s statement that ‘the imagist of the twenty-first century will have to force homogeneous data to exhibit its heterogeneity’. How can we use digital media and the web to exploit the information within our own scholarship and on a larger scale, historical databases?

Joshua Brown presents the case of the ‘Lost Museum’ (http://www.lostmuseum.cuny.edu/home.html) for an example of how Historians might tackle the aforementioned question. This website hosts a 3-D visualization of Barnum’s American Museum and an archive of documents and other resources. The 3-D visualization was done in a ‘whodunnit’ format; the spectator goes through the rooms of the Museum in a 3-D recreation, clicking on objects to gather clues about who might have burned down the museum. The goal was to keep the spectator engaged, providing an innovative path to intellectual inquiry that would provide some knowledge on antebellum America and New York City during this period. Was it successful?

Joshua Brown thinks it’s a great attempt, but that the 3-D visualization contained a  narrowed paths of inquiry, creating an environment for ‘passive spectatorship’. I agree with him. After testing out the website,  I was admittedly a ‘passive spectator’ for only a few minutes. I didn’t expect  to peruse the museum with the speed and the freedom I have in MarioKart on Nintendo Wii, but the navigation was awkward enough to be annoying. More annoying, and also mentioned by Lindsey, was that not all the objects were clickable. Therefore, after a few minutes of awkwardly exploring the space and finding what objects I could interact with, I gave up and went straight to the archives, which I thought were effectively organized. A larger problem also mentioned by Celeste, is that there was a disconnect between the large amount of information in the archive and what Brown called the ‘narrow’ display within the 3-D visualization. It would have been much more successful if the integration of the archive into the 3-D visualization was better.

Just some hits at the design (since that project is coming up next week): Since I looked at the ‘Lost Museum’ before reading Brown’s article, I had absolutely no idea as to what this website was about  by glancing at the homepage. I think that’s a problem.  I only clicked on the title “Lost Museum” because I was lost…

I thought the quality and the size of the videos could be larger, but I thought that the option to read the voice narrative was a nice feature, especially considering our discussions on accessibility.

At the end of the day, innovation like the ‘Lost Museum’ project deserves a lot of credit for giving historians and art historians an example of how we might use digital media to exploit the information within our own scholarship and what we can do to improve it.




Web + design? How about science + design?

2 Apr

Some food for the read part of the read-write culture::


PopTech 2011 – “The World Rebalancing” Speaker: “The Changing Nature of Things” USA, October 19-22 2011

BioDesigners + BioArts are also starting to run the gamut of materials and reproduction too. Location? Science research labs near you. Sweet? Not sure yet. Curious? Right-o.

Will Curiosity Kill the Aesthetically Digitzed Cat?

2 Apr

Our brains tackled two different subjects this week; the first deals with the impact that visual structure and accessible design have on websites and the transmission of information via the World Wide Web. The other deals with this image: creativity strapped to the railroad by the copyright ropes, waiting to be steamrolled by the law.

Larry Lessig doesn’t use those exact words, he says that creativity is being “strangled” by the law. He begins the talk, referencing John Philip Sousa who claimed that modern machines were leading society from a “read-write culture” to the “read only culture”. Those terrible machines.  Larry Lessig believes that the interactive web can reignite the read-write culture by allowing user written content; as long as those pesky copyright laws go along with the digital read-write revolution of course. There is a bigger debate underlying the copy right law discussions. This debate concerns the implications of using any type of reproduction in the creation of a ‘new’ product. Does any hint of reproduction, mimesis, etc. necessarily negate the ability to use ‘new’ or ‘creative’ when we describe a digital production?

There wouldn’t be a problem with copy right law litigation if there was agreement on the aesthetics concerning “reproduction” in the digital age, which has been tagged the “remix” age due to the popularity of remixing multimedia and streaming them online as creative or unique works of ____. I don’t really know what to call the remix videos in Lessig’s lecture: he calls them creative, Sheri might call them digital scrap, and I’m at a loss.

After watching the video, I revisited Walter Benjamin’s “The Artwork in the Age of its mechanical Reproducibility” with some added reprisal from Adorno in Kai Hammermeister’s review of the German Aesthetic Tradition. Technology, or those ‘terrible machines’ have the ability to stifle the imagination through what Walter Benjamin calls “distracted consumption”. “Distracted consumption” is a byproduct of our exposure to multimedia that trains the eye in a new mode of perception that “is characterized by disjoined moments and a rapid succession of impulses”. We don’t process information the same way as someone in 1912 did. Or 1974. Or even 1995.  Our thinking is different. And so is the creative process. Benjamin thought positively of the industrialization of culture since it allowed for a wider participation in art through  accessibility by the masses made possible through reproduction. So have machines invited a new type of creativity through the web revival of “read-write” as Lessig suggests?

Sousa is right to an extent— new technology changes are cognitive sense perception whether we realize it or not, producing new challenges to creativity be it good ones or bad ones. Do we say that creativity has been displaced because of machines? Adorno would call the theory of distracted consumption indistinguishable from mass entertainment, where mass entertainment is “nothing but the elimination of critical thought”. Ouch. So that’s what they mean by watching too much YouTube these days?

I really don’t have an answer. I was looking at Sheri’s response to Lessig’s argument along with the points made by Claire in her response to Sheri and the optimistic view points that Richard shared concerning the potential of creativity through these new channels of technology. I tried to work through my opinion in my response to Sheri’s blog and I think remain in the “I don’t know what the right answer is”.

But I’m curious. I’m curious to see what the potential of the word creativity has when the world is allowed to run the full gamut after complete freedom is allotted to methods of digital production. Maybe it will be a case of curiosity killed the cat. Maybe this “read-write” culture will just be a “read-manipulate” culture. But I’m still curious.

As for the Hans Rosling lecture that brought up effective ways to liberate data (www.gapminder.org), I think there are a lot of chemists out there that need to collaborate with the Swedish designers. There are a lot of conference attendees that might actually stay awake and learn something. That being said, the way we organize our information by balancing web design, visual architecture, and accessibility are huge contributions to our success as digital communicators of history. Speaking of web design, what’s up with “Guidelines for visualizing links”? Maybe I’m being a design snob but that page was seriously lacking some snazziness. At any rate, I’m sure these sites along with “White Space Is Not Your Enemy” will be viable resources for our design project that is due in a few weeks.

Addendum—> Dork shorts.

26 Mar


I commented on this week’s readings on last week’s blog post. Since I won’t be in class this week, I’m posting two helpful tips on photoshop since Dr. Petrik asked us to look for widgets and tips on top of our regular reading/responses.

The first tip is how to color by creating action buttons—I thought this would be pretty cool for coloring a photo that didn’t have a large amount of detail; but perhaps it might be more work than it tries to save? I’ll let you decide.

This second tip (which I found right below the one above) is if you like to create your own graphics in illustrator and grabble over the fact that transferring your vector image to photoshop leaves you in the “@&#$%^!” domain. I experienced this while trying to edit the graphic in the heading of my portfolio website, which I had created in illustrator.

Overall, http://psd.tutsplus.com has some pretty cool stuff for the photoshop dabbler.

With regards to our readings for this week, several of my classmates have made some insightful comments; I specifically commented on David‘s blog regarding the translation of the visual to the textual for the sake of accessible information for an inclusive audience.


A Blind Aesthetic

19 Mar

This week we focused on how disabled people interact with the web and how web designers can impact the way the disabled interact positively or negatively with the content on their site.

 I was inspired by the different technological adaptations for the visually impaired; for instance, I did not know about the use of a Braille display used in the place of a computer screen. With the use of screen readers, the importance of how we incorporate text into our websites becomes powerfully magnified— this seems to underline Joe Clark’s statement (from “How Disabled People Use Computers”), “text is not a feature of Websites, it is a primitive, a fundamental and unalterable component”, with a thick red marker. The information we choose and how we display it becomes a major factor as to how people extract the message from our site.  

 The important attention to detail to the text that is displayed and the alternate text we attach to images can be improved with CSS techniques learned from http://webaim.org/techniques/css/invisiblecontent/.

 Then I came to a new question: What is the aesthetic experience for the blind? How does being visually impaired affect the way the blind interact with a work of art or the museum? Are they completely limited to a tactile experience? As an art historian, how can we act as mediators for art works for the blind?

 I came across “Somewhere in between Touch and Vision: In Search of a Meaningful Art Education for Blind Individuals” by Karin de Coster and Gerrit Loots. Some museums in Belgium organize touch tours and handling sessions for the mediation of the aesthetic. The article underlined an important question that I would like to research further:

 “What happens when the experience of sight becomes the subject of art itself?”

 Housen’s The eye of the beholder: Measuring Aesthetic Development” tries to address this problem. She ran experiments with blind persons at the Museum of Modern Art in New York; despite being visually impaired, most of the participants used the same cognitive approach to art as those with sight.  However, the aesthetic experience was not just a subjective sensation of beauty, but an experience made possible through conversation and dialogue where the museum guide acts as a translator for “moderating tactile sensations into visual components”.

 This brings me back another question: if the aesthetic experience ceases to be a subjective sensation of beauty, is there such a thing as “art for art sake?” when the aesthetic rests so heavily on a dialogue? If you’ve ever seen Amelie, there is a part where she helps a blind man cross the road and she describes everything in sight, leaving him with an incredible aesthetic experience of the world around him. Perhaps for the congenitally blind the imagination must play a large part, but I think in the end, the aesthetic experience in itself becomes a subjective sensation of beauty.

 How can we act as mediators for the images we place on the web? Both Celeste and Sheri have made comments about the impact of captions beneath the image that I thought generated interesting dialogue. Text is does have a great impact on how we mediate images—for the visually impaired, I think that the ‘large narratives’ make up the details that comprise their overall experience.

At the end of the day, this brings be back to the original point that despite the amazing visual affects and images we can bring to the website canvas, the incorporation and use of text is our most valuable brush.

Of course, it is fun to focus on the visual details of an image as we have done with our photo restorations that were due this week; any advice on how to improve mine would be greatly appreciated!

Photograph Aesthetics: Lies, PFIs, and Function

5 Mar

I was inspired by the dialogue in Errol Morris’ “The Case of the Inappropriate Alarm Clock” to excavate some reading on the aesthetics of photography. In part 7, Bill Ganzel mentioned that there was an aesthetic change between his photo and Mark Klett’s that rested upon a change in function: from scientific to humanistic.  If its aesthetic is dependent on function, does a photograph’s categorization as “fake” or “real” rest completely on this function?

I went downstairs to make some tea before I tried to find the answer in Paloma Atencia-Linares’ “Fiction, Nonfiction, and Deceptive Photographic Representation” in the Journal of Aesthetic and Art Criticism (Vol. 70, No.1, Winter 2012).  While I was making my tea, my parents were watching one of their favorite crime tv shows and the man taking the stand was describing how he manipulated a photo still of a video, much to the jury’s disgust. Since my thoughts decided to follow me downstairs I asked myself: did this guy commit an aesthetic crime by “faking it”?

Interestingly enough, I found out in the article that most philosophers would say no— at least, not entirely.  Many philosophers consider themselves PFIs; they stand on the side of the argument that photographs cannot represent ficta due to “Purported Fictional Incompetence”. There is an entire debate on whether or not photographs can “lie”.

PFIs argue that the photograph is fictionally incompetent because it is constrained by the real object that produced the image. This object is not entirely imagined like a subject in a painting, but can exist freely outside the photographer’s brain. Gregory Currie is mentioned to argue that photographs may not represent fiction by source, origin , or photographic means, but they do so by use— or function.  Atencia-Linares’ continues by suggesting that photographic means can include the dark room (or in our case, the Photoshop Lab) and that manipulations during the photographic production can lead to the production of “ficta”; the photograph becomes a fictional representation and not a photographic representation of a fictional object (which remains nonfictional).

Whether or not you consider yourself a PFI, both articles point to the complexity inherent in the label, “fake photograph”.

This week I did scan some old photographs of my mother’s. I used the unsharp mask filter in Dr. Petrik’s tutorials, which seemed to work well for editing one of the images.  Lynda.com’s photo restoration tutorials are very helpful, but going back in forth between video and interface does get old.

I also noticed something when I was diving through old photographs: I prefer the torn, the tattered, and the discolored. I have no real desire to photoshop a single one of my mother’s photographs. Blown out whites? I’ll take them. I like the way time can change the materiality of a photograph and turn it into something else. Tattered photographs are like paintings with old varnish: they may not have the original intended function, but the new aesthetic that they behold has an unusual beauty to it.

And despite these remarks, I still want to be a conservator and remove old varnish.  Why? Because the aesthetic depends on function. And restoring a photograph, painting, object, etc. to a state where aging is reversed is not a lie or a preference for crisp newness over nostalgic agedness. It is an act that becomes imperative for the intended use of that cultural object. When the aesthetic is dependent on function, we should be ever more careful on how we use the images that are available to us in our research.

Regarding the readings for this week, I commented on Megan’s blog