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Preview: Remora


A Librarian Rides on the Virtual Coattails of the Digerati. (A remora is a kind of suckerfish which attaches itself to larger creatures such as whales or sharks.)

Updated: 2014-10-05T02:20:07.694-04:00


Miscellany and stuff (or, 2 point 'all'!)


There is an interesting new book by David Weinberger called Everything is Miscellaneous , reviewed by Karen Schneider at ALATechSource and by Peter Morville. Weinberger was one of the authors of The Cluetrain Manifesto, and this new offering is yet another to be added to 'the 2.0 Reading List' along with The Long Tail by Chris Anderson and The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki. The latter come at their topic from a business perspective. The new "Miscellaneous" book moves the discussion closer to issues librarians are concerned about -- like classification. Schneider calls it "dangerous," but important -- clarifying in sum that "the danger comes if we don't listen."

A friend librarian commented on a previous post that he still doesn't know/understand what "2.0" means. Another brief, conceptual definition which makes a lot of sense to me:
Web 1.0 = Read Only (as in Read Only Memory or ROM)
Web 2.0 = the Read/Write Web (in which 'ordinary' users contribute or upload their own content as in blogs, wikis, TouTube and Flickr)

People have started talking about Web 3.0 (!...Wikipedia entry here; Tim Berners-Lee drops the 3.0-bomb and shrugs at 2.0 terminology here; Its relation to Service Oriented Architecture(SEO) is discussed here, and others say it will be the "full video Web") but that's just going too far. To me, the transition from 1.0 to 2.0 is a little like going from Modern to Postmodern (aside from the fact that these are historical terms with particular meanings for historians): You might as well call it Post-1.0 in that everything that comes after it is revolutionary and new and -- not 1.0. Thus, speaking of what comes next becomes a lexical anomaly: What's after postmodern? Post-postmodernism? I think of Web 3.0 (or "Post Web 2.0") as Tom Turner speaks of post-postmodernism—"Let us embrace post-postmodernism—and pray for a better name."(!)

The Blog People Are Coming!


Over at the ALA Techsource blog, Michael Stephens (of Tame the Web) takes a look back at a relatively recent online fracas in the ALA (American Library Association) community regarding outdated attitudes towards blogs and blogging.

Here are some terms which we unfortunately seem to be stuck with, or which have yet to be replaced by better options:
  • Blog (both noun and verb -- the latter being the more unfortunate).
  • Blogosphere
  • Biblioblogosphere (the blogosphere of the librarians -- sounds like a subtitle of a B movie sci fi epic)
  • Web 2.0 - or "Social Computing"
  • Library 2.0 - or "Next Gen Libraries & Librarians"
...And so on (add you own!)

2007 Web 2.0 Awards (from a company called SEOmoz)


Here is a a great window onto the world of Web 2.0. The 2007 Web 2.0 Awards come from SEOmoz, which is a "Seattle-based search-engine optimization company." There is a nice index of these in the Award Categories, from Books and Bookmarking, to Hosted Wikis and Podcast Services, to Mashups* and Widgets **.

* A mashup is a website or application that combines content from more than one source into an integrated experience. (Wikipedia)

** A web widget is a portable chunk of code that can be installed and executed within any separate...web page (Wikipedia)

This is, again, overwhelming if you don't have hours to spend or a very specific goal in mind and some previous experience. Check out the Color Blender (1st prize in Visual Arts) as one example of some cool free stuff!

My Digital Portfolio is up


Well, the semester is nearly over, and I've completed our final web page assignment for the class -- as Digital Portfolio landing page linking to all our work for the class.

I would like to continue blogging after this, but I've become dissatisfied with the title of my blog. If anyone is reading this, you may have noticed I changed the name from Image Remora to just Remora. Now I hate that too. I liked the name one of my fellow students used, *Useless Clutter*. Descriptive, concise, and catchy....

I thought of Perpetual Beta. This is one definition of Web 2.0, meaning *always in a development phase.* I'm taking suggestions. Don't suggest 'Roppin' with Ben' since someone already suggested it. But I guess you can vote for it.

Here's a final image from the semester. Happy Holidays!


Usability and interactivity: Common sense (...and Web 2.0)


Jacob Nielsen annoys me. I just had to get that out of the way, in the remote possibility that this fact was not clear from the rest of this post (to say nothing of the last one). Nielsen's points are not bad or wrong, but I think what bothers me is his self-righteousness about it. Also, his perspective is grounded in a capitalist's view of internet usability. In that context, his (almost) moralistic self-righteousness is intolerable. He values utility over aesthetics. The bottom line is making things easier for the customer, so you (as the seller of things or services online) can make more money.All the same, the actual content of his site, is really quite unobjectionable. The worst you you could say about it (apart from its presentation) is that it is mostly just common sense. Here are some valuable points he makes which are not simply common sense (except perhaps for those who live and breath on the internet):Make your page title something meaningful and direct that search engines will find (what he calls "search engine visibility")Organize text for online reading with the following, rather than a "wall of text" or something "non-scannable" (by search engines), like PDF files :subheads bulleted lists highlighted keywords short paragraphs the inverted pyramid a simple writing style, and de-fluffed language devoid of marketese.Avoiding fixed font sizes so people can make it larger if they need to (usability for the visually impaired)** Try hitting CTRL "+" (plus sign) and CTRL "-" (minus sign) and your browser will change the font size, if the website allows -- hence Nielsen's point)I'm not sure about his points on the three stages of the Digital Divide. It's certainly true that the economic divide is shrinking as computers become cheaper, but his suggestion that we dumb down websites for the 40% of our population who are "low-literacy users" to a 6th grade reading level on the home page is a bit offensive from a broader societal perspective. He's basically saying that we should market our sites to the lowest common denominator. Shouldn't we simply educate people better, or use the incredible power of the internet to improve education, including information literacy? His bottom line is economic rather than educational, and it makes his self-righteousness intolerable or extremely annoying at best. (To say nothing of that self-satisfied smirk on his face -- 70+ high resolution photos of himself on his usability site! Count 'em.)Last of all (for the time being) I think he's a little behind the times in terms of "that old saw," web 2.0. Web 2.0 is all about interactivity and usability. Jenny Levine spoke at her NYLA talk about the ease with which one can maintain a website, blog, or RSS aggregator these days, with the "type in the box" model of content creation, such as blogging -- the quintessential example of this. Just type in the box and click "publish." Instant update to your website. She of course was talking about using blogging in library web sites. I think Nielsen's approach to usability has a deep resonance with the theme of "marketing your library" which is an idea which has been around for a while. Having your corporate info in one place on your site (another good point by Nielsen), for instance, is just good PR. And especially for a public library, this kind of transparency is a good idea -- giving easy access to information about staff and the board and the mission statement all in one general space on the library's website. This is the "common sense" of marketing and PR.But web usability is in a sense one of the driving forces behind web 2.0, and Nielsen seems not be aware of it.To balance this negative perspective on Jacon Nielsen a little, I was more impressed with Nielsen's colleague Bruce Tognazzini, the Nielsen Norman Group's "software design guru." His site Ask Tog had some really interesting stuff, in particular the idea of Fitt's Lawwhich is that "The[...]

One other thing


I forgot to mention 2 things. One is that I used an image from Flickr, and I confess I didn't properly credit this on my flash page for this week, but I'm crediting it here. Click on the image to go to it on Flickr.


The other thing is that my page is supposed to go to a page with an MP3 of a cicada with a "Free to sample" Creative Commons license:


You have to register to download anything, I gather, which I didn't have time to do. I realized too that in Internet Explorer the "go to web page" behavior at the end of my animation didn't work. It was supposed to go to the cicada MP3 as linked above. There were better sounding ones but this one had a cooler graphic (actually an image of the sound file)!

Jacob Nielsen stole my lunch money in high school


Jacob Nielsen has about 70 high-resolution photos of himself on his site, with the following warning: *most of the large photos are several hundred kilobytes to download.*

I find it amusing for someone so concerned with usability to offer so many high-definition choices of his own image. I'm being a bit mean spirited, its true, picking on him like that, but for someone with such strong opinions put out there on the web for all to see, he's gotta expect that a little bit.

Anyway, I think he has some good points about Flash, the best points being about usability for people with disabilities and that search features don't see inside a flash application. But as he implies in his addendum, browser support for such things will only get better over time, as they already have. He's a bit self-satisfied though, when he gloats that
Even a big software company will listen to the insights provided by leading usability experts.
Also in his photo (I had to resize it down from about 5000 X 4000 pixels):

My last quibble with Nielsen is that his site is very plain and boring. I was going to be mean and say "like his haircut" but I decided not to. And the writing is not great, especially his intro to this page. OK that's the last one.

My own flash animation for this assignment features a picture of a cicada I took in North Carolina a year ago August. Here's the original:


I used a nice feature in Flash which is a nifty way to convert a bitmap (regular picture) to a vector image, which you can in turn convert to a symbol to make it move around. The command is Modify>Bitmap>Trace Bitmap. You can adjust the color threshold to get more or less detail. I could have done much better than I did if I had used a slightly larger original image size... I like the stylized look the traced bitmap can give.

I was very frustrated by Flash. I had my animation perfect and then tried to add more and in trying to edit the new stuff I was adding it ruined the older stuff. I think maybe I forgot to start a new scene... $%^(%^&(&$#%^(@!(#&!)@()@#&)%@#!!!! Oh well... Live and learn. The end result is that the "orient to path" did not "take" on the last part of my animation -- I even had it doing a motion and shape tween at the same time at one point, but in editing it -- the "undo" and history features are not as handy, thorough or literal as in photoshop-- I was unable to return to an earlier version of my flash document, and had to start over several times. It just takes time to learn these things. This last week was not a good one for practicing patience, speaking personally....

My Library 2.0 Poster Session at NYLA 2006


Library 2.0 (What*s That?): A Guide for the PerplexedConference Location in Saratoga Springs, NY, Nov. 1-4, 2006.(Scroll all the way down for the links).The *tagline* for my poster was: Library 2.0 is the virtual community center of a Web 2.0 world. This was my first poster session ever, and my first conference. I put the *tagline* (as it were) at the bottom of the poster -- shoulda been at the top... oh well, live and learn. Here are some pictures of my poster followed by links from its content (Librarian blogs, Wikis, Squidoo lenses (sort of like a pathfinder), articles, and Web 2.0 sites sorted roughly by category (some fall into multiple categories of course, or none of them, and are just stuck in).As people viewed my poster, some looked at it for a minute or so, and then said OK, so what is Library 2.0? Then I'd say social computing or participatory networking, and when that got more blank stares, Id say thatits about using technology to connect with patrons, creating a dynamic virtual presence for your library on the internet, using these new tools to communicate and create a community space there on the web. -- It's not Us vs Google, in other words, but us, just as much as Google, on the internet to claim our own space and create our own value there with these tools. Then they'd start nodding, and say, Ok, that makes sense. To me, Library 2.0 is about new means (technology -- Web 2.0) for old ends. Libraries and marketing and newsletters and community space are all *old* ideas, but the 2.0 technology gives us a perfect means to these ends. The popularity of MySpace is an indication of what is to come. (Those kids will be our adult patrons before too long!) Library 2.0 is about helping to shape what comes!For recommended intros to the idea, I'd recommend the Best Practices Wiki and the Squidoo Lenses as the best anchor from which to begin exploring these ideas. (An annotated guide to the Web 2.0 sites listed at the bottom would have been great, but I this is all I had time for. I should be writing a paper for my Archives class right now!...)Library 2.0Blogs by librariansLibrarian in BlackThe Shifted Librarian Tame the Web Infotangle See Also Library Crunch Information Wants To Be Free Library 2.0: an Academic’s Perspective Free Range Librarian Library Stuff Wikis to watchLibrary Success: A Best Practices Wiki Blogging Libraries WikiBooklover*s Wiki at Princeton Public LibraryToolkit for the Expert Web Searcher (LITA)Squidoo LensesLibrary 2.0 Reading List Library 2.0 in Three Easy Steps Intro to Web 2.0 ArticlesTim O’Reilly: “What is Web 2.0” Walt Crawford: Cites and Insights, Vol. 6, No. 2, 2006, “Library 2.0 and ‘Library 2.0’” Library 2.0 OPACs(The Future is now! The "Web 2 -OPAC")NCSU Libraries OPACLamson Library (Plymouth State Univ, NH)'s "WPopac" with a Word Press (blogging software) interface!Web 2.0 sites(The categories are of a general, approximate *catch-all* variety)Aggregators, *Trend Followers,* etc.BloglinesBlogbridgeRojoTopix.netSwickiRollyoTechnoratiDiggMemeStreamsSuprgluOrganizersdel.ici.ousFURLAll ConsumingKaboodleTa-Da ListsLibrary ThingBibliophilGuruLibZoteroSocial NetworkingTag WorldMySpaceBuddypicFacebookLinkedInConnoteaSharing and CollaboratingYouTubeFlickrWriteboardGoogle Docs and Spreadsheets (formery Writely)NuvvoSquidooWikipediapbwiki[...]

Creativity, blogging and solipsism


My indecision regarding how to respond to the Creative Commons copyright assignment, wide open as it is, has caused me some consternation. Strangely, my reaction to the directive to copyright something on the one hand, and to create something using the tools presented by Web Team 4 on the other, have been completely different. The creative "spirit" in which I use a certain technique like animation or drop down menus (i.e., mostly practical web-design tools) is very different from the creative spirit with which I play the piano or take a picture on a whim. And in fact I find a third case, in which I deliberately present and claim a work as my own -- i.e., by copyrighting it. In the first case, that of using web tools in Fireworks, my reaction is that of the boy who thinks airplanes and firetrucks are cool -- the latter because it has moving parts (a ladder). I want to make an animation that "looks cool." For this assignment I fixated on the idea of photographing a flag repeatedly from the same angle so as to use the separate pictures as frames in the animation. A simple and (now that I think of it) often-used gimmick on the web. Simple animated GIF files alternating two images to give a simplistic impression of movement are not at all uncommon. When I actually tried this, -- well, first of all I was disappointed that the enormous flag I photographed in the previous post (and the Discount Flooring Supermart Warehouse alongside of which it stands) had been taken down--apparently for the winter.But secondly, when I did it with an ordinary-sized flag, I found the resulting background more interesting than the flag itself: i.e., the passing clouds (it was a very windy day). And then, since it was just an ordinary American flag, I felt it was very "un-PC" (I confess), since, although I can say I am proud of what the flag represents (to me), it was so almost abused in the days, weeks and months after 9-11 that it feels like it expresses something I don't want to say. In that time after 9-11, the flag began to represent bigotry to me. Mindless rage against the "other". Now, of course that's just my own personal impression, and I don't want the political to totally overtake this post (or this blog), so I'll leave it at that and move on.But to get back to my narrative, there is a difference between this kind of creative spirit (which I might describe as the spirit of innovation) and creativity in the sense of an artistic spirit. And this creative spirit is something pure in itself that I believe is tainted by self-consciousness -- hence the third category. Blogging feels extremely narcissistic in this way. In other words, as soon as I think of copyrighting something, I begin to think reflectively (reflexively?) about how my work (and therefore myself) will be perceived by others. Creative work tends to have this intensely personal quality to it, with which we identify wholly (as artists or authors). I have mixed feelings about all of this. For one thing, I don't think the ultimate aim of art is to "express oneself". Art is about Beauty. I know Beauty is in the eye of the beholder (and so should be democratically a lowercase, rather than a proper noun), and more so than ever in this postmodern age, but I have a weakness for the old-fashioned view that says it's an objective truth. There must be a middle ground here. I could go on about the creative spirit being the wellspring of life and all, but the main thing I want to express here is that I am not my art, and my art is not an expression of myself. Of course in some way it does reflect and result from who I am, but the relation is not an identity or an equivalency. It's much more complex than that, and -- most importantly -- it's irrelevant to the work of art. The life of the artist is irrelevant to the value of her art.I could say [...]

Dicount Flooring of America


The first establishes the setting. The second gives a sense of the scale. The tent beneath it is apparently a smoking area.



"Time Capsule" photos


Here are some pictures I took for the Time Capsule project for this week, which I didn't use in the assignment.

(image) This one is fairly self-explanatory.

The next one is a detail from the view from my living room window. The flag on the right is probably a quarter of a mile away. It's a very large flag, perhaps 30 ft long.


I mentioned it in my previous post. I went over there last night and took some night photos of it along with the Discount Carpet/Flooring Supermart alongside of which it stands...

Blogging for the Future


This week's assignment, to create something for the Yahoo Time Capsule project, I must say I was not too excited about. Most of the time capsule submissions I looked at at the site were not very different from heading to heading (Beauty, Hope, Anger, etc.), and nearly all reminded me of signatures in a high school yearbook. "Shout out to my man Jerome." (I totally made that up)... "I love my kids." "Out for drinks with my best friend." Ok so none of these were not actual submissions, but they do give you their flavor.I don't disapprove in any way, it's just not something I feel compelled to join in on. (Maybe for Jerome's sake?...) Anyway, I had no idea what to do, except to take more pictures. I ended up using some obvious, easy choices for "slices of life" in my world. One was an altered picture of the view outside my living room window, from which I can see two American flags. (One of them is enormous, outside of the Discount Flooring Supermart Outlet near the highway, which you can also see from my window.) The other pictures I used were of my cat. Then it seemed really lame, so I wrote a few lines to incorporate some text, and made a brief statement about the flag and about being an American. Very short and simple, and inevitably political. You can see the result here:Time Capsule 2006I spent most of my time the last couple days preparing for a tutorial my team has to give in class tomorrow on using the Fireworks software we've been learning to create some of the fancier effects in these last couple assignments, so I confess I just wanted to get this done. It came out ok though.I came across a different yet similar project just this week, in a library blog.(I've been trying to add more blogs to my blogroll in the sidebar...and incidentally I changed templates for this blog because the other one was not displaying well in Internet Explorer -- the sidebar was showing up at the very bottom of the blog, after the last post. I don't like this one as well stylistically, but it gives more room for pictures....)I will try to find the link in a minute, but it was a British project asking people over there to blog about their day "a day in the life of Britain" or something.Here is a BBC News story about it. It's called One Day in History, and its being called the "biggest blog in history." October 17 was the day, but they're still accepting submissions. They seem to just want "Britons" for it though. Sponsored by the History Matters campaign.One thing interesting about this stuff for me is that we've been reading in my archives and manuscripts class about archiving policies and procedures (theory). In the 80s and 90s they developed an approach called Documentation Strategy which involved collaborating between many organizations to decide what ought to be preserved and then figuring out how to do it. With electronic media, issues of preservation have a whole new kettle of fish to clean.Will my blog be available to historians in the 22nd century? Will they care to read it if it is? (Will they have time? If every 5th person alive between now and then writes a blog once a week, how many gigabytes or terabytes of storage will be needed per year to update and maintain it over the next century, taken into account the population growth which we've been warned about again recently?)Here's a pertinent quote from the BBC article about the "Blog of Britain" I mentioned above:The wonderful thing about these records is we don't yet know what it is about them that will be interesting in the future.It may be that historians in the future will be amazed that on 17 October 2006 we were still eating meat or driving privately owned cars.Or maybe they'll be amazed that someone thought a blog was good place to store inform[...]

FREE image editing software (article)


I'm seriously considering NOT purchasing Photoshop. A simple search for "photo editing open source" led to the following article on

Top 8 Free Photo Editors for Windows

-- count 'em. The first one, GIMP, is apparently
often lauded as the "free photoshop."
I'm gonna try it.

As for Dreamweaver and Fireworks, I think I like them too well not to buy them. Assuming I need to create web pages. Who doesn't? I guess you can get away without doing so, but I'm becoming a professional person, and I have to "market myself" and stuff. Scary.

HTML Kit is great, but the CSS and Javascript features (rollovers and such) on Dreamweaver are pretty appealing... Fireworks I've decided I want, for sure. I could probably get away without Dreamweaver. Any library I work for will likely already have it or something like it. If I do anything on my own, I can get away with HTML Kit and Fireworks. But converting to XHTML, what about that feature of Dreamweaver?

I must confess my tendency is to want to buy everything. I am an American, damnit, and I want it all! Budget be damned! Ha ha. Very funny. Not very professional -- but being professional sure is a good rationalization for spending the money!

empty string error css validation [Google search]


This search string on Google eventually got me to the following words of wisdom on a newsgroup:

Validators report where the problem becomes noticable, not where the
problem is.

Aha! It's always something simple...

No time for good talk


Pehaps I should have gone to Hampshire. I learn best when at my leisure, which doesn't exist in graduate school. I think Mark Twain and Virginia Woolf said it best (who said which? I leave it to you to distinguish):

One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.

Never let your schooling interfere with your education.

Amen. Eating well = having leisure time (my own paraphrase). Woolf was talking here (in A Room of One's Own) about after-dinner conversation -- i.e., intellectual discussion. The previous sentence is another wonderful gem:
The human frame being what it is, heart, body and brain all mixed together, and not contained in separate compartments as they will be no doubt in another million years, a good dinner is of great importance to good talk.

Maybe Oxford is where I should have gone. Do they have a "library school"?...

By the by, I found the quote online, not using Google Book Search (as might have been more appropriate considering our reading this week) but nevertheless from a digitized version of Woolf's famous essay, linked above as well as here.

Library of the Future: Alphaville 2016


For our current assignment, we had to create the web portal for the Library of the Future (at least that was the option I chose). The page was to be a visual response to the "Impacts of Mass Digitization Projects on Libraries and Information Policy." An article by Trudi Bellardo Hahn with this title summarizes the issues we were to address.

My fictitious Alphaville Public Library is in effect a gallery of Library 2.0 features which link to real sites, most of them actual libraries which have begin to transform their sites to offer more and more "virtual" library services using web 2.0 technologies. [What the heck is this "2.0" business?]

The first two features on my page ("Search the Virtual Library" and "Virtual Reference" - on the upper left side of the navigation bar) highlight the futuristic possibilities which mass digitization of the libraries of the world could bring us. Google Book Search holds the place of the Virtual Library of the future, while an MIT Artificial Intelligence project holds the place of the virtual reference librarian. The latter is, as I understand it, the actual technological basis of what used to be (now, which answers questions in natural language like "How high is Mount Everest?" Researcgh continues in this are and it is just a matter of time until voice recognition software combined with this sort of natural language processing are able to replace employees at information desks, both real and virtual, the world over...

Meanwhile, the "Googlized" library of the future , the NextGen Library, the "Library 2.0," is already upon us. OPACs (online catalogs) which look and act like (and perhaps even improve upon?!) interfaces like Google and are already being developed.

One of the most impressive of these to me is the Lamson Library experiment with an OPAC interfaced embedded in blog software (WordPress, specifically) -- what Casey Bisson (its architect) has dubbed (for lack of a better name) the WPopac.

Casey Bisson's blog post explanation about this is well worth reading for anyone interested in becoming a systems librarian, and fascinating for the rest of us (I guess I'm not in that latter category--yet?...we'll see...). It does not replace the ILS (Integrated Library System), but provides an interface with it.

Wow. There's just so much to blog about on this topic, I can't help but agree with my classmate on the frustrations of being a grad student in this program. Perhaps all grad students everywhere can empathize too. More on this in the next post... and yet more...!

Fair use and the very idea of a public library


I think Lessig has it right. What Google is doing, when spelled out so clearly, as Lessig does in his href="">30-min multimedia presentation, seems very much like "fair use". Pverall his analysis is very illuminating. And very alarming. The phrase "IP extremism" (Intellectual Property, not Internet Protocol) is a sobering one. This suggestion that what is going on is a kind of intellectual property "land grab" for control over our cultural heritage is frightening. But it fits all too well with so many other trends of the times.It occurred to me that what libraries do and have always done is not so different from what Google is doing in a virtual environment. "You mean they actually let people use books without paying for them, including the ideas inside?" Luckily there is a strong counter movement, if you will (not to be too partisan, "us" vs. "them" about it...). Open source and the like.And for authors of content on and off the web interested in protecting their work without as Lessig says "stifling creativity" there is something called a Creative Commons License -- actually several different kinds. What they say about it:We have built upon the "all rights reserved" concept of traditional copyright to offer a voluntary "some rights reserved" approach. We're a nonprofit organization. All of our tools are free.Pretty cool, eh?As I was beginning this class, I was wondering about the images people put up on Flickr, the image-sharing social-networking site which uses tags and comments for organizing, sharing, and searching photos: Can anyone download them? What protections are available?It's basically the same question which comes with every increase of convenience and accessibility offered by technology: Is it secure? As for Flickr, you can control the degree of access to the photos you put up, making them public or only available to those you've invited. (There may be still more subtleties; I haven;t really used it -- yet...) And they make clear that in order to use a photo found on Flickr, you have to ask permission of the person who uploaded or took it. If you have an account (it's all free), you can easily send a message to whoever posted the image you're interested in. (By the way here's an interview with Flickr I found on the Creative Commons website, from July 2004)The Creative Commons licenses are a great compromise for authors who want to protect themselves and encourage others to engage with their work in a creative way. There's some quote about the best form of flattery I can't remember precisely, but it's usually applied to jazz musicians. Copying (was it?) is the best form of flattery. Anyhow, as I understand it these licenses are real legal entities, though I can't say that I understand the legal side of it very well myself.OH yeah -- one other thing. I'm working on a poster session for the upcoming NYLA conference on Library 2.0, and I summarize the applications of the "2.0" concept (social computing if you want the 2-word summary) as follows:Social NetworkingCommunity BuildingGrass Roots OrganizationMarketingSurveillance That last one gives you a double-take, right? Well, technology is a double-edged sword, as they say, and for me, the "2.0" thing is all about the technology, and let's face it: if you can network more easily, they can watch you more easily. Not that I plan to do anything differently because of it. I think the new tools are great. But just as you don't leave your car unlocked in a gigantic parking lot -- just in case! -- don't broadcast personal info on the web. [...]

Images for 10-11-06


I forgot to upload images for today! For my photo blog. (If a picture is worth 1000 words, how many gigabytes is a photo blog worth?) Ok that wasn't funny especially.

I was writing a bit about patterns in nature and architecture. Silhouettes of human-made things against the sky is one of the simplest examples of this, if you want to see it that way. Here are two "powerlines" shots. Parallel lines against the sky -- simple yet pleasing to the eye, kind of, sort of, maybe, no?



And another example of intersecting patterns is George Rickey's sculpture at the Empire State Plaza, "Two Lines Oblique", against one of the four similar State office buildings, at night. It's a bit pixelated/grainy, thanks to my Kodak Easyshare, though I've adjusted the shadow/highlight, hue/saturation (slightly), and, most importantly, the contrast/brightness. This set of adjustments has become standard for me since using photoshop.


There are apparently other instances of this Two Lines Oblique sculpture by Rickey throughout the country, such as at the University of Kentucky Art Museum as seen in this link: Theirs looks smaller.

Using the contrast and brightness adjustment in photoshop is very similar to what one does in the darkroom, though obviously it's much easier. I don't really have pretensions of creating something "genuine" or "authentic" like a film purist -- I mean, I do, but I don't put much stock in it. As a mild proponent of Oscar Wilde's ideas of Art and the role of the Artist, I could hardly object to the manipulation of the image by any means whatsoever. I imagine the author of "The Decay of Lying" would approve of the power of Photoshop to "alter reality." Indeed, he argues that life and nature imitate art rather than the other way around. The artist is the creator of truth. "Newspapers, even, have degenerated. They may now be completely relied upon." (Some would argue this last point.) Of course, aesthetic truth is all that matters to Wilde, and I really think his position is more than just sophistry, wit, and intelligent fluff. "The arts are the beginning and the end of [the hu-]man, of civilization as we know it." Someone said that once, I'll bet, and if they didn't, well, I just did...

Web Page 3, my Cityscape Gallery, is up


Here is my Cityscape Gallery. I wanted to do rollovers, but this was the path of least resistance, and besides, it allowed me to spend more time actually taking pictures. There will be time for these "rollovers" later.I thoroughly enjoyed exploring the city through the lens of my Kodak Easyshare camera. Someday I will get a real camera, but in the meantime, I can live with "grainy" night shots. Pixilated is perhaps more accurate, graininess being more appropriately applied to film, as I understand it-- Not to put too fine a point on it....Last week's foray into theory was both exciting and frustrating for me. I love that stuff, and could go on forever about it. I was inspired to look up some things I read awhile back in college:Oscar Wilde wrote some interesting essay-type things in the form of dialogues (Platonic, I might say, but they're always smoking cigarettes and laying about divans and such -- maybe not so un-Platonic, actually), one of which is the Decay of Lying. In it he complains about the growth of the tendency towards realism in the literature of his time. It was published in 1891. He sings the praises of art and artifice as opposed to the joys of nature:My own experience is that the more we study Art, the less we care for Nature. What Art really reveals to us is Nature's lack of design, her curious crudities, her extraordinary monotony, her absolutely unfinished condition. Nature has good intentions, of course, but, as Aristotle once said, she cannot carry them out.If Nature had been comfortable, mankind would never have invented architecture, and I prefer houses to the open air. In a house we all feel of the proper proportions. Everything is subordinated to us, fashioned for our use and our pleasure.In examining architecture through photography, I have always been drawn to the ways in which it interacts with nature. Ivy on a building, trees in a courtyard, the silhouette of a statue against a sunset sky. These seem rather trite examples, but the theme has been an interesting one to me since I took photography class in college. I took a lot of pictures back then that I didn't do much with, of Chicago. Perhaps I will scan some and use them in this class eventually...For the current page, I made a point of going to the Empire State Plaza at night. The enormous lights they use to light up all the buildings there make for some interesting play of light and shadow. A great building like the State Capitol looks especially impressive at night when it's lit up like a movie set.Another theme along similar lines I find especially compelling is that of construction and scaffolding. Also the interplay of patterns. The pattern of a scaffold superimposed on the facade of a building. There seems to be a kind of visual irony in the covering of a building with scaffolding. The summer I took my photography class, there was a church in Hyde Park the steeple of which was surrounded by scaffolding. I never took any pictures of it (unfortunately), but I always thought it was an ominous image if interpreted symbolically: The church is in need of repair....So I find Wilde's sophistry quite intoxicating and persuasive. In the same volume in which "The Decay of Lying" was published (Intentions) is another piece called "The Critic as Artist, with some remarks on the importance of doing nothing." In it he contradicts "the gross popular error" that it is easier to talk about a thing than to do it:It is very much more difficult to talk about a thing than to do it. In the sphere of actual life that is of course obvious. Anybody can make[...]

The Decay of Lying: Wilde claims from Oscar and other frustrated lines of thinking


I forgot to post this draft! -- good grief, this blogging is still so new!.... I wrote it last week in regard to the whatsit exercise...

Oscar Wilde wrote some interesting essay-type things in the form of dialogues (Platonic, I might say, but they're always smoking cigarettes and laying about divans and such), one of which is the Decay of Lying. In it he complains about the growth of the tendency towards realism in the literature of his time. It was published in 1891. In it he also sings the praises of artifice as opposed to the "pleasures of nature":
My own experience is that the more we study Art, the less we care for Nature. What Art really reveals to us is Nature's lack of design, her curious crudities, her extraordinary monotony, her absolutely unfinished condition. Nature has good intentions, of course, but, as Aristotle once said, she cannot carry them out.

If Nature had been comfortable, mankind would never have invented architecture, and I prefer houses to the open air. In a house we all feel of the proper proportions. Everything is subordinated to us, fashioned for our use and our pleasure.

Walter Benjamin in The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction suggests (if I remember correctly) that the changes made to the nature of Art by photography were underway even before photography was invented, or made much of an impression -- which makes sense if you realism as a movement predated teh invention of photography. [I withdrew from my art history class as an undergrad (though that didn't stop the prof from including the grade I had at the time I withdrew with the "W": "W-F"), so I'm not really sure, but my impression is that the movement from Romanticism to Modernism included some overlapping of realism on both sides...]

In any case I find Wilde's sophistry quite intoxicating and persuasive. In the same volume in which "The Decay of Lying" was published (Intentions) is another piece called "The Critic as Artist, with some remarks on the importance of doing nothing." In it he contradicts "the gross popular error" that it is easier to talk about a thing than to do it:
It is very much more difficult to talk about a thing than to do it. In the sphere of actual life that is of course obvious. Anybody can make history. Only a great man can write it....

Some trouble with Blogger


Comments don't show at the bottom of the posts, but they are there if you click on "0 Comments".
My latest post for class is not showing up yet. I dunno.

The link to my "Web Page 2" for IST 659:


Blogging about Benjamin (say Ben-Yah Meeen) --Walter, that is.


Walter Benjamin was a pretty impressive writer, at least that much is clear. Not much else is, except I like him -- mostly.This piece we read, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction," is a classic, but I think you have to be a full-on Marxist philosopher yourself if you're going to a) fully understand his argument and, therefore, b) have any hope of knowing how close to being right he is. I think he's got something, by Jove, but haven't a clue as to what it is! Or put it this way. I think he's mostly right, but whether and how all the advanced Marxist theory really fits in or helps his argument (never mind his little foray into Freudian theory), I couldn't say myself. Well, let me think about it a minute.... No, no, I really couldn't say, not this time, anyway.Luckily, in this digital age of ours, you can cut and paste the things you don't understand into another document and file it away for some late night when you're having trouble sleeping. And you're left with all the gems, which are sprinkled throughout, generously, especially at the beginnings and endings of paragraphs, which to me is a sign that he's an excellent writer. Anyone who knows to put his best stuff at the beginning or the end of a paragraph is alright in my book. Either that or he's a politician. --Ok, but enough with the comedy! Let's have some pictures, or at least a few quotes!...Ok, here's a smattering, with which I will try to summarize his argument (I'll put a smiley after the real gems and a frowner after the ones that are sort of confusing but I can kind of see where he's going if I squint really hard with my head upside down on a clear day."Even the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking in one thing: its presence in time and space..."In other words,"The presence of the original is the prerequisite to the concept of authenticity." :QOK, and then he ties that to the concept of the "aura" of a work, which he defines conveniently as "that which withers in the age of mechanical reproduction."[Incidentally I wish the translators had updated his usage. He's always talking about "the film" is this and "the film" is that -- it's hard not to read it with a heavy German accent: "Ze filum, ze filum, zat vill be ze end."]"By making reproductions, [this process] substitutes a plurality of copies for a unique existence."Here's one where he loses me:"The uniqueness of a work of art is inseparable from its being embedded in the fabric of tradition."Then he goes on for a while with some historical analysis about the difference between a cult value and an exhibitionist value of art through history, and some other stuff which is REALLY interesting (I don't mean to be sarcastic this time), but is too much for here and now. Later he gets to some good bits with"...Much futile thought had been devoted to the question of whether photography is an art. The primary question -- whether the very invention of photography had not transformed the entire nature of art -- was not raised.""For the first time -- and this is the effect of [the] film -- man has to operate with his whole living person, yet forgoing its aura.""The feeling of strangeness that overcomes the actor before the basically of the same kind as the estrangement felt before one's own image in the mirror."And here's where he becomes downright prophetic in his vision of the impact of technology on the arts and society -- in reference to the ease of 'self-publishing':"Thus, the distinction between author an[...]

SUNY Architecture and Me: (Web) Page 1


My first web page assignment is up. Just under the wire, too:SUNY Architecture: Ben's Page1.I took a photography class as an undergrad and thoroughly enjoyed it. So I'm really glad to get back to doing some photography for a class. It was a challenge to alter the photos with photoshop -- I must admit my own tendency, aesthetically speaking, is to be traditionalist or "purist" with my picture-taking and such. But of course, photoshop lets you make your pictures look better than they would if you used a regular camera and sent them off to the lab to be developed.....Anyway, I took over 50 pictures for this first assignment, and so I will I think put a couple up here.This is a close-up of a grate over what I assume is a vent of some kind on ye ol' academic podium near the fountain. I converted it to black and white (adjustments - desaturate) and adjusted the contrast and brightness to get the maximum "silhouette" effect.So anyway, I'm realizing that I did this assignment slightly backwards. I mean, I talked about how I manipulated the images on the website and I'm talking more about my personal relation or response to the architecture here on my blog. Oops! I think it's alright though. I could have created a more unifying theme for the website photos, but I guess I just wanted to present a variety of things, and the theme of the vertical lines is universal enough. Not many images of architecture lack vertical lines....The architecture of the main library at my undergrad school in Chicago had some very similar architecture to Stone's Uptown campus modernist style -- or whatever you'd call it. (Here's a picture of it on Wikipedia: Regenstein Library . The architect was Helmut Jahn. It cost $20 Million and was completed in 1970. Go Wikipedia!Anyway, I hope I am able to enjoy the rest of the assignments for this class as much as I enjoyed taking the photographs. I think I'll put more of those pictures up, perhaps here. Of course here, it's a photo blog....Well, to wrap it up, I'll put up another photo. This one I altered more than some -- It was one of the first I worked on. I took it when it was nearly dark out--in fact it was dark out. So it has a real grainy effect -- also due to my "cheap-o" Kodak Easyshare, 4.0 MB camera. I was going to borrow a fine SLR digital, but then time was short, and the work was long, so I didn't. Here's my "nightgarden" picture, of the Japanese-style rock garden below the stairwell to the lower level in front of the main library:The "funny" thing about this picture (aside from the fact that I took it at night) was that it's altered in a way you can't see very well because it's so "grainy" -- But I had to, since the time stamp feature was on on my camera, and I had to cover up the date (in big yellow lettering) in the lower right hand corner. So I copy and pasted the little wooden bridge from the middle of the picture, and put a couple other copies of it around too for symmetry... I liked the symmetry.[...]

Plagiarism and Citation Styles


I thought the plagiarism tutorial was excellent. I especially liked the quick and dirty overview of the differences between APA, MLA and Chicago styles of citation.

Another professor "confessed" (my paraphrase) that he prefers Chicago style. I myself prefer Chicago style since I lives there for 11 years and went to the University of Chicago... And for the record, I prefer footnotes to endnotes. Just in case it comes up.

Anyway... Must upload a picture. Let's try that -- how about my screen capture of the certificate page after my "print to file" command on the print dialog box froze up my laptop in the Ultraviolet Cafe earlier today.

Here goes nothing....

(image) Hey, it worked!

First Post for class


This is my first post for Image Remora, a blog for IST 659 with Professor Tom Mackey.

A Remora is a kind of fish, as stated in the description. (Stay tuned for a picture of a remora which I will try to include here at some point. )