Visiting the Bruce Springsteen Special Collection and Archive

By alchomet

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“He just went right over to that picture of him and Diane and smiled.” Eileen Chapman, Associate Director of the Arts at Monmouth University, explained to me what it was like when Bruce Springsteen himself came to visit the archive of his fan materials at the Bruce Springsteen Special Collection at Monmouth University. “He mostly wanted to just look around, but he didn’t request anything.” Still, she seemed pleased with the memory. “I can’t believe I forgot to ask him to sign the guest book!”  Eileen acts as director of the archive, assisted by Alana, a social work student at Monmouth. Together with another student assistant, they have tackled the work of tracking, arranging, and housing the collection, corresponding with patrons, providing reference, and serving the reading room.

There are no professional archivists on the staff, and none have ever worked there, but the Bruce Springsteen Special Collection is not a typical archive in a lot of ways. Most notably, the collection has nothing to do with Monmouth University’s library system, although it is housed on the Monmouth campus–the collection is not in the library, the librarians do not work on it, and the library system, for now, is not in the process of acquiring it. The archive is a single house located on Monmouth’s campus across the street from the student center, and adjacent to the performing arts building. It still looks a lot like a house–until the Springsteen collection moved in, it had been a living space for Monmouth students.

Eileen explained that the collection had been kept at the Asbury Park Public Library until 2011, when she suggested that the Friends of the Bruce Springsteen Special Collection (the group of fans who support and act as a kind of Board of Directors for the collection) move it to Monmouth University, only a few miles north of Asbury Park. She said that the public library really didn’t have space to house the quickly-growing collection, nor did they especially have the tools to provide access to its wide range of audio-visual formats. Various parts of the collection were being in stored closets and other strange spaces in the library, she explained, and library staff and directors began to disagree with the Friends over the treatment of the collection. Eileen was eventually able to convince Monmouth to take it on, although it took years. She told me that it had been a hard sell to the University to agree to house the collection–the library director did not agree that it would be relevant to the school’s library, and it remains apart from it today. The archive house only gets a few visitors a week–maybe 4 or 5, according to Eileen, and none of the University faculty have incorporated the collection into their coursework.

There are other subtle downsides to the archive’s move: unlike the public library, the house is open from 9 AM to 5 PM on weekdays only, rendering it inaccessible to most with a full time job. Its location–set back from an arterial street of the campus–is not exactly easy to find, even with a GPS. I had in fact taken a cab from a New Jersey transit station in order to get there, but then had to wander a bit before I saw the little unmarked house. Further, moving it even a little way outside Asbury Park makes it a harder stop for Springsteen tourists to make (although all visitors need to make an appointment with Eileen before coming in).

The archive house still retains some of the cozy feeling of a home, although much of the actual living spaces are occupied by steel shelving and Hollinger boxes, housing around 20,000 items of Springsteen fan material. The front living room of the house operates as the collection’s reading room. There is a large circular table for researchers to review material, and a reference desk across from the front door. There is a TV equipped with VHS and DVD players, as well as stereo equipment for playing records, CDs and cassettes. The kitchen has a few PCs, a microfilm reader, a flatbed scanner, a copy machine, and some arranging space on the counters. The rest of the house is the collection: the downstairs bedroom-like space holds newspapers and printed out internet-published articles, while bedroom spaces upstairs house academic papers, A/V materials, fan ‘zines, printed books, posters, t-shirts, and more. Decorating the living/reading room are beautiful, rare photos by Barry Schiener, a rock photographer, of Bruce in the ’70s and ’80s.

I love the idea of the archive house. Springsteen himself writes frequently of houses in his songs–the bedroom as personal space, the threshold, the porch, the yard, all hold immense weight in the universe of his lyrics. Only cars get more airplay in his lyrics than houses. It should go without saying, too, that his work glorifies the lives of working class Americans perhaps better than any other artist’s does–what better space to honor that vision than a simple home? Still, the collection might be even slightly more accessible if there were some signage by the road.

Eileen spends most of her time at the University working at the arts center, so when I visited on a Friday in November, a student assistant, Alana, worked with me. She has been working at the collection for four years, and is now in the middle of getting her Masters degree in social work from Monmouth. She seemed excited that I was studying to be an archivist, but hadn’t decided to go that route herself, although she loves working with the Springsteen collection; for one, Monmouth doesn’t offer a library or archives program.

Unfortunately, the collection barely has an online presence. The archive’s site has inventories of the collection by format, but no functioning OPAC (it remains un-integrated into the University library’s OPAC). Alana uses an excel spreadsheet to manage the archive’s inventory. For now, however, the collection is small enough that with some assistance, it’s not too difficult to assess and retrieve items of interest. When I requested to browse some of the ‘zines, Alana seemed unsurprised, and brought down a few boxes that she knew were popular. I mentioned that I was looking for a ‘zine a friend had made, and she worked with me in the inventory to find it, although there were no author names associated with ‘zine titles. My friend’s ‘zine (probably) wasn’t there–I should mention that almost all of the material in the collection has been donated.

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While there are a myriad of examples I could make of what professional archivists would do differently in the Bruce Springsteen Special Collection, there’s a whole lot that they get right. Would a University library even be the appropriate space to house the fan collections of the man who sings, “We learned more from a three-minute record, baby/than we ever learned in school”? Indeed, professionals are trained to provide better far better access to materials like these, and I am dreaming of the day that the collection gets a detailed online catalog, but absorption into a more sterile academic environment would likely mean losing the comfortable feeling of the archive house. It was a pleasure to talk to Eileen and Alana (Alana and I talked a lot, actually), and our feeling of camradarie was facilitated by the homey environment. It’s harder to just hang out with librarians in a library or archive, not in the least because of . In this sense, I think Alana and Eileen have beaten the burnout blues that plague a lot of University librarians. I felt that I could walk away knowing that the archive was conceived of and run with the rabid love of fans–this seems especially important given Springsteen’s powerful interpretations of alienated work in America.

When it was time to close up, Alana gave me a ride back to the train station (the archive house is located about 2 miles from the Long Branch New Jersey Transit stop on the Shoreline route). I had suggested that I could walk, but she seemed to expect that she would drive me, without us talking about it first. She said she frequently drove visitors to and from the collection. We drove past her old dorms on the way and she pointed them out–brick and square and overlooking the Jersey shore, but we were listening to pop radio in her car, and not The Boss. She assured me that she did indeed love Bruce, but, you know, some of her friends were bigger fans.

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…Oops! The Insidious Illusion of Privacy in the Networked Public

By beeewrites

If you’re a regular social media user, it can be easy to forget how public the internet really is. “Following” is a typical feature offered on social media sites, letting users choose who to see content from and creating a unique mini network visible on a personal home page. Facebook’s Newsfeed is a famous example of this, showing content that is populated by friends’ online activity. Sites like Twitter and Tumblr follow this same model, but somehow users are more cavalier with the types of things they share and say – perhaps because both networks function using user created pseudonyms. It’s unlikely to see someone post a scathing, detailed rant about their boss on Facebook because there is an understanding that it will be easily traced back to the author, but that same rant on Tumblr can theoretically only be traced back to the pseudonym. Although unique usernames do provide a certain level of anonymity, the vast audience of the internet remains the same. This can foster a false sense of security for users who are so comfortable in their self made networks that they let down guards they would otherwise keep in place.

The phenomenon of feeling like the only active person in a sea of strangers is also common; it is easy for users who don’t get much direct interaction with online peers to feel like they are operating in a void. Twitter user @whateverdude alludes to this during an outage period where the site was experiencing difficulties updating: “twitter is down, so for the next hour, i’ll be scrawling shit on post-its and tossing them out the window,” he writes. People who use their social media accounts like personal journals miss out on (or dismiss) the networking aspects of these websites and behave as if they are invisible. It might feel a bit like a modern, tech infused version of the old adage about a falling tree in an empty forest, except on the internet, someone is ALWAYS listening.

Earlier this year, a teenage girl on Tumblr posted an awkward picture of herself stuck standing in a stacked tower of classroom stools. “I was alone in the art room and had the thought ‘I wonder how many stools I can get over my head,'” she wrote. “Long story short i got stuck and the class walked in to me pathetically trying to wriggle out without being knocked over.” This simple, diary-like post suddenly started rapidly spreading, with other Tumblr users sharing it as a visual joke. What was originally relatively “private” and self-deprecating suddenly became mortifying, and the original poster reposted the photo with the note “stop reblogging this.” This made the joke even funnier, and the photo and its captions were spread even more. Pleading a third time, the poster writes, “Do you honestly think I want to be known as the ‘stuck in stools’ girl[?]”

The unfortunately dubbed Stool Girl. Identity kept ‘private’ here, but extremely traceable elsewhere.

In a piece for the Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, Nancy K. Baym and danah boyd speak on the precarious nature of networked publics, saying

“Most of the people engaging audiences and building identities and publics through social media are not […] fortunate. Some develop a sensibility through experience; others find themselves struggling to make sense of and manage their participation in networked publics; some misunderstand the consequences of their actions and make mistakes without realizing it.”

The only kind of mistake made by the teen on Tumblr was sharing too much and taking privacy for granted; the sudden visibility of her post led to embarrassment and therefore was a lesson in discretion. Concrete mistakes with real world implications are a dime a dozen for celebrities on Twitter, however. Posting a tweet from your phone takes mere seconds, and the 140 character limit forces users to make concise statements that can often come off as offensively blunt. The short form of Twitter also makes tweets extremely easy to misinterpret.

“the challenges of differing and sometimes unknown audiences can complicate self-presentation.” Baym and boyd continue. “Having to imagine one’s audience is a fundamental human problem rather than one distinctive to social media. But social media make it particularly challenging to understand “who is out there and when” and raises the potential for greater misalignment between imagined and actual audiences.”

This problem of forgetting about ones audience can be devastating to the carefully crafted images of public figures, giving fans insight into the potential true characters of their idols.  In 2011, actor Ashton Kutcher tweeted “How do you fire Jo Pa? #insult #noclass as a hawkeye fan I find it in poor taste” in response to Iowa State football coach Joe Paterno being fired for covering up a sexual abuse scandal. Fans instantly criticized Kutcher for his insensitive remarks that prioritized athletics over abuse victims. Within a day, Kutcher’s Twitter account was officially taken over by his PR team as he had to scramble to apologize for his error. Apparently he did not know all the details of the news story and had tweeted his immediate thoughts without thinking – a costly mistake that changed some fans’ opinions of him indefinitely.

A more recent celebrity Twitter controversy involved Nicki Minaj and Taylor Swift, and was also apparently due to carelessly quick tweeting. After releasing a popular but polarizing video featuring women of color for her song “Anaconda,” Nicki Minaj was hopeful her video would be nominated for a coveted MTV Video Music Award. When no nomination came, Minaj tweeted, ” If your video celebrates women with very slim bodies, you will be nominated for vid of the year.” Taylor Swift, whose video had been nominated, directly responded to Minaj less than an hour later, saying “I’ve done nothing but love & support you. It’s unlike you to pit women against each other. Maybe one of the men took your slot..” Swift’s tweet was immediately met with confusion from many fans and even Minaj herself, who responded directly to clarify her disappointment was not with Swift. Even more fans pointed out the irony of Swift’s mention of ‘pitting women against one another,’ since the very video that garnered her nomination depicted exactly that. Two days later, Swift apologized and admitted her mistake in thinking the jabs were directed at her, veritably admitting that her tweet was a mistake based upon a quick assumption.  Again, this error proved to be costly as it colored fans’ perceptions of Swift and questioned whether or not her comments (and later, silence) were part of a bigger scheme to cause a stir.  Authentic or not, Swift’s ironically eponymous initial action revealed she did not fully consider her audience or the implications of her post.

“As people engage in and reshape social media, they construct new types of publicness that echo but redefine publicness as it was known in unmediated and broadcast contexts,” Baym and boyd state.  Even though the act of image sharing or tweeting can be performed alone in one’s home, the minute the content is posted it becomes public.  Whether it is the security of a pseudonym or the general ease of sharing that makes users so cavalier with their content, blunders of all kinds will continue to be made online for all to see.

Sources:

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/08838151.2012.705200

http://spilled–ink-for-a-stranger.tumblr.com/post/114200321669/catastrophicmisfit-cintiahudsonperry

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2060045/Ashton-Kutcher-hands-Twitter-account-management-Penn-State-Joe-Paterno-posts.html#ixzz3uSVAfPqB

http://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/pop-shop/6641794/taylor-swift-nicki-minaj-twitter-argument-timeline

 

A Better Curated Web

By keneilb

The amount of information is seemingly endless on the internet. We’ve created mass amounts of connections upon connections where people can collaborate, exchange, debate, share, and consume as much as they desire. It’s an amazing time that we live in. For me, it is quite difficult to image what it was like to grow up in a world where such connections were limited, where it would take days if not weeks before my letter to someone far away were received and even longer before I could get a reply. Now, everything is at our fingertips.

The internet is a well spring. However, we live in a society that is highly capitalistic, and this effects even how we use the internet. Marketer’s are constantly begging for our attention, trying to advertise to us this and that, and trying their hardest to make it interesting. With the internet, this has become a much easier task since now websites are constantly collecting information on us that can now specifically target your interest based on your browsing habits. Have you ever searched up the sweater you wanted on Amazon, only to find that same sweater showing up again and again on the corner of your eyes on other web pages like Facebook? You might have even finally given in and bought it because it was so tempting. Honestly, its genius. But how does it help us explore such a wealth of information as the internet? We might find ourselves searching for a topic, only to have the search engine suggest sources to our already preconceived notions due to our browsing history. We get locked into our own little bubble, “curated” for us. McChesney points out this very fact, saying:

“Cyberspace is becoming less a frontier where citizens are like explorers on a glorious adventure than a cul-de-sac where advertising driven cues keep people in their little individualized bubble, making it unlikely for serendipity to occur.” (McChesney, 2013 p. 76)

In order for us to be able to explore the internet, a lot must change. For one, this method of curating our own little bubbles. The internet should be a place where serendipity happens and happens frequently. We should be able to look for something, and find something completely unexpected yet beneficial. Jason Silva, creator of Shots of Awe, has a very positive spin on this. Although I do not always agree with Jason because sometimes he is a bit overly optimistic about technology and its use today, I love listening to him because of that same reason. Jason gives us an inspiring look at what technology could be if we could do it right, without manipulative and controlling corporations and commercial media.

In this video, Jason Silva explores the idea of using algorithms that would take advantage of Big Data, and essentially create a semantic web that would be able to contextualize and take us out of our bubbles to find things that we might not have exactly been looking for but happens to be exactly what we needed. This would rid us of the “cul-de-sac” the internet likes to put us in today.

I’m not very sure when or how we will achieve this, but the idea is amazing. It would make the way we browse the web today seem primitive and useless. However, it still seems essential that for this kind of technology to work, our bread crumbs and foot prints on the web must still be collected and analyzed, which would not solve our discomforts with privacy. So far, it seems that it’s a give and take. If we want technology to improve past its current threshold, privacy must be sacrificed. That is, until someone can come up with a way to do this in a less invasive way.

 

Reference

McChesney, R. (2013). How can the political economy of communication help us understand the internet? In Digital disconnect: How capitalism is turning the Internet against democracy. The New Press.

Technology and Communication

By mgarci23

The most interesting topic that came up for me during this section was the history of technology and the evolution of communication. I loved learning about how people expressed their fear and wonder of the new emerging technology that could allow for greater communication. If history is anything to go by, methods of communication have been dominated by those who were powerful enough to control it. Thankfully, today governments and other influential organizations have lost some of the control they once had. Now anyone, with access to the internet or a mobile device, can communicate faster, farther and easier than before.

For a long time the only forms of communication were the spoken and written word. However, neither could reach great distances. For the Greeks and the Romans, town criers would receive the “news” of the town and speak about it.  The invention of the printing press in the mid 15th Century allowed books to be printed and distributed more frequently to those who could read and afford the prices. The invention of the telegraph, radio and then television provided, those with the means to do so, a way to send messages to others far away. Phones, computers, tablets and even the internet, were created to incorporate societies need to communicate quickly and efficiently. Email, text messaging and applications have facilitated the change from letters and telegrams to instant communication.

It was fascinating to read about the fear Walter Benjamin had that governments would misuse technology for their own, possible evil, deeds. In his article, Benjamin writes that,

“If the natural utilization of productive forces is impeded by the property system, the increase in technical devices, in speed, and in the sources of energy will press for an unnatural utilization, and this is found in war. The destructiveness of war furnishes proof that society has not been mature enough to incorporate technology as its organ, that technology has not been sufficiently developed to cope with the elemental forces of society.”

During the class discussion however, my group discussed how technology has been able to stop or at least limit how much propaganda governments create. Modern media methods counteract any government oversight. There are sites that allow users to live stream events recorded by people at the events. Its because of these sites that protests from parts of the world that are normally ignored by large media outlets.

Websites and pages on social media are dedicated to speaking out against corruption in other governments all around the world. Even locally, small new outlets, independent journalists and/or bloggers are able to spread socially important stories over the internet that while they may not be important to large media outlets, certainly matter to most of the population.  

Sites like Humans of New York on Facebook have connected people from different backgrounds and parts of the world. In the collection of Syrian refugees, the photographer was able to demonstrate the struggle many went through to escape their war torn countries and the difficulties they’ve faced finding a new place to call home. Millions of followers of the page have helped raised funds for those in need. Some have reached out to the people mentioned on the page to either help with living arrangements or to put them in contact with other people who would be able to help.

The most important aspect of the Humans of New York (HONY) is that it connects people. I don’t think that even Walter Benjamin could have imagined how powerful technology could become or how it could connect people from different parts of the world instantaneously. Thanks to sites like HONY, the photographer, Brandon, has been able to document and shed light on the difficulties refugees face when trying to enter a new country.

Hackers (even though it is illegal)  are able expose corrupt people or organization because of technology. Recently, the group known as Anonymous vowed to expose prominent members of the KKK and ISIS. By using their computers members of Anonymous used the social media as a tool for social justice. Their actions are another example of how the Internet, another element of technology, has been able to help fight against corruption and prejudices.  

While the internet was designed to expand communication between everyone, many people have used the internet to post or dismiss ideas. Facebook itself has become a daily news source where regular people can post “news” about themselves. Cellphones, laptops, tablets, have given media mobility. Live-streaming from mobile devices have allowed people from all over the world to watch and witness protests, speeches, demonstrations, and any other public events from different parts of the country or world.  

Many argue that cellphones and computers are limiting communication. I agree to come extent that this is true. Text messaging is not the same as having an in person conversation. Text messaging doesn’t convey emotion the same way as a verbal dialog. However phone calls and even video messages have replaced letter and in live communication. With a video call a person can be across the ocean and a group of people can have conversation face to face. There are limits to these forms of communication unfortunately. Video calls can only be made by people with computer and Internet access. In a way this is similar to the letters before computers and cell phones. If a person couldn’t write, they couldn’t communicate.

There is even technology that allows people with verbal or textile difficulties to communicate. So yes, technology can be used to spread evil doctrines and hate. However, technology can be used to counteract those actions as well. Therefore, people can argue that technology is neither a positive or a negative. It just exists as a tool in this time.

The Changing Nature of Awe: Melding the Humanities with Technology

By brookemorrison

It’s undeniable that technological skills are highly prioritized in our current world, and that schools seek to maintain relevancy in their lessons while new hardware and software are being produced at an exceedingly rapid speed—laptops and iPads have been introduced into everyday lessons, across many different subjects; students are participating in online, class-related discussion and blogging; websites like RapGenius are pushing the boundaries of how students perform literary analysis and annotation; “educational” computer games like Civilization are often used as supplementary learning materials. [1]

How does this influx of technology actually affect the humanities? Parents continue to express interest in science, “communications”, and math skills being emphasized in the classroom—arts, however, are often overlooked, or even considered unimportant. [2] This problem aligns ideologically with the mission of museums and specialized arts institutions like Poets House to increase outreach and engagement with their respective art forms. Is the answer to both, in fact, to include more of the technology lauded by the general public in these traditionally analog arts environments? Perhaps.

There are many ways that one can combine art and technology. The popular arts nonprofit and New Museum-affiliate Rhizome has created a series called Seven on Seven, where seven artists are matched with seven technologists and charged with the task of creating something new within the span of one day. [3] This kind of program encourages the combination of two different backgrounds— but even in this instance, art and technology are being viewed as separate. Perhaps it doesn’t need to be such a distinction— after all electronic music has been around for years, and the creation of simple illustration programs like Paint have brought about classes like Advanced Digital Painting, which was recently introduced into the curriculum at RISD.[4]

The advances for technology in the study of poetry are still rather rudimentary, but strides are being made with RapGenius’s offshoots of PoetryGenius and LitGenius. But are these websites more or less effective than physical manifestations of outreach programs? Poets House has developed the Poetry in the Branches program with the intention to raise awareness and engagement with the art form in public libraries, and other environments highly trafficked by children, like zoos. This analog approach to outreach has the Poets House staff physically present in order to train the librarians participating in the program. PitB itself also relies heavily on the implementation of in-person interactions with poems and poetry via guest speakers, workshops, reading series, etc., all with the aim to increase public engagement.[5] The physical presence of poetry is also emphasized—Marsha Howard, the PitB coordinator (interestingly, a former NYPL librarian), is quoted as saying “Poetry is most successful when your patrons hear it, see it, hear about it, bump into it, in as many ways as possible…It will be unavoidable if you do a good job.”[6]

This is true enough; as with any skill or knowledge, constant contact with the subject matter leads to learning, and often there are learning by-products of a particular educational activity  (à la Mr. Miyagi’s wax-on, wax-off lessons in Karate Kid). For example, English majors are often celebrated for their general ability to think critically and for their writing skills— by-products of close-reading and a myriad of writing assignments.[7] However, is this the initial aim of the English major? In most cases, certainly not—a love for literature, reading, or writing is usually at the heart of this choice. It just so happens that repeated engagement with the written word leads to a better understanding of language structure and use. (The same arguments can be made in the case of studying Philosophy, Art History, and others, of course.)

What if, along with the “by-product” of critical thinking skills, students of the humanities also gained skills in technology? And if this were to be the case, then programs like Poetry in the Branches would be immensely helpful in fostering an initial love for poetry, leading (ideally) to an elevated study of poetry, and the subsequent gains in critical thinking and technology skills. Perhaps the introduction of more technology-based humanities engagement would lead to more a well-rounded, tech-savvy (read: obviously employable) breed of humanities scholars. Furthermore, this change in tech-implementation could quell the fears of humanities students in graduating without marketable skills (and the fears of parents whose children arrive home for holidays having declared themselves a Fine Arts major).

In today’s world, higher education has taken the unfortunate turn towards vocational schooling— the aim is to find a career, and to gain applicable skill-sets rather than to stimulate the mind into growing, and creating new synapses and modes of thinking. The humanities seem to have developed a reputation as an academic inside-joke where the punchline is unemployment—but why? It didn’t used to be so. As Amory Blaine laments in Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise, “I may turn out an intellectual, but I’ll never write anything but mediocre poetry.”[8] True appreciation for art is noble, and to be gifted at it is rare. That potential poets and other artists might be discouraged due to a lack of employment marketability is quite sad, and ultimately detrimental to the future of humanity.

Rather than segregating art, science, and technology, let us continue to integrate them and encourage the crossing of intellectual borders; let’s make our poets write in zeros and ones, and have our scientists write sonnets about their discoveries. After all, as Socrates claims: the unexamined life is not worth living, and as celebrated programmer and activist Aaron Swartz said: “Be curious. Read widely. Try new things. What people call intelligence just boils down to curiosity.”[9] The pursuit of information and data can yield wonderfully creative means of expression, and artistic, often beautiful results. For example, the LinkedJazz Project has created a visual diagram of connections between jazz musicians, resulting in a mesmerizing chart:

Screenshot of LinkedJazz Project's Network Visualization Tool

Screenshot of LinkedJazz Project’s Network Visualization Tool

The poet Kenneth Goldsmith also incorporates the Internet frequently into his work. In his project Printing out the Internet (which he dedicated to Schwartz), Goldsmith encouraged the public to print pages of the Internet and send them to a gallery in Mexico City. [11]

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Image from Kenneth Goldsmith’s “Printing out the Internet.”

These are just two projects out of countless possibilities. The acknowledgement of technology and the Internet in artistic forms is an imperative if these art forms are going to survive in an increasingly technological world (or, at least, if they are going to continue to receive funding). We need creative people interested in the arts to be allowed to unabashedly pursue their interests, for the good of art, technology, and humanity.

 

Cited

  1. Klopfer, Eric; Osterweil, Scot; Groff, Jennifer; Haas, Jason, “Using the Technology of Today in the Classroom Today: The Instructional Power of Digital Games, Social Networking Simulations, and How Teachers Can Leverage Them.” The Education Arcade. MIT: 2009. Web. Accessed on 13 Dec 2015. <http://education.mit.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/GamesSimsSocNets_EdArcade.pdf>
  2. Sara Kehaulani Goo, “The skills Americans say kids need to succeed in life,” Pew Research Center, 19 February 2015. Accessed on 14 Dec 2015. <http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/02/19/skills-for-success/>
  3. Rhizome, “Seven on Seven.” Web. Accessed 14 Dec 2015. <http://sevenonseven.rhizome.org>
  4. RISD, “Fall 2015 Illustration Courses.” Web. Accessed 14 Dec 2015. <http://www.risd.edu/academics/illustration/courses/>
  5. Poets House, “Poetry in the Branches.” Web. Accessed 13 Dec 2015. <http://www.poetshouse.org/librarians-and-educators/librarians/poetry-in-the-branches/services>
  6. Howard, Marsha, as quoted by Marcella Veneziale in “Poets House National Institute Aims to Boost Poetry in Public Libraries.” Library Journal. 8 April 2010. Web. Accessed 13 Dec 2015. <http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2010/04/professional-reading/poets-house-national-instituteaimstoboost-poetry-in-public-libraries/#_>
  7. Lewin, Tamar. “As Interest Fades in the Humanities, Colleges Worry.” New York Times. 30 Oct 2013. Web. Accessed 13 Dec 2015. <http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/31/education/as-interest-fades-in-the-humanities-colleges-worry.html?_r=0>
  8. Fitzgerald, F. Scott. This Side of Paradise. Scribner, 1920. Google Books. Web. Accessed 14 Dec 2015.
  9. Schwartz, Aaron, as quoted in Silvia Puglisi’s preface to RESTful Rails Development: Building Open Applications and Services. Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly Media, 2015. Google Books. Web. Accessed 14 Dec 2015.
  10. LinkedJazz Project Visual Network. <https://linkedjazz.org/network/>
  11. Kenneth Goldsmith. Printing Out The Internet Tumblr. <http://printingtheinternet.tumblr.com>

 

Protected: ‘Doing Things’ With Data: Observation and Analysis

By katemeizner

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Blog Article #3

By cmcrilly

Blog Article #3

The field of Library and Information Science has grown and expanded as the world has progressed. This expansion has extended to online spheres from digitizing archives to online library collections. Coming from Upstate New York, I grew up in the shadow of Kodak and everything relating to George Eastman. The George Eastman House provides a lot of historic options for someone interested in photographic archives. It is because of this that I chose to do my third blog article on the George Eastman House online archives database. I am unable to conduct an in-person observation of the archives as they are a six hour drive but I am more interested in combing the online collections to see how such a vast collection is being translated digitally.

From class discussions, the article that most stood out to me on this subject is Walter Benjamin’s “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” Due to the digitization of documents and photographs, Benjamin’s article is pertinent in that it offers up the question of whether or not we are losing something in the digitization process. While this article may be a little out of date, having been written in the nineteen thirties, it still provides a valid viewpoint from which to consider the impact technology has on works of art and photographs. What could we possibly lose by digitizing photographic collections that record historic events, individuals, and other such precious time capsules into our past? Benjamin argues that the essence of the moment is lost in the reproduction of the image, “[e]ven the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking in one element: its presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be.” (Benjamin) It interesting to wonder if this doesn’t happen almost immediately after the act of taking a photo as the image itself is produced from a negative. On the other hand, as the negative is the pure image, would it technically be called reproduction if the negative is used…”in photography, process reproduction can bring out those aspects of the original that are unattainable to the naked eye yet accessible to the lens, which is adjustable and chooses its angle at will. And photographic reproduction, with the aid of certain processes, such as enlargement or slow motion, can capture images which escape natural vision. Secondly, technical reproduction can put the copy of the original into situations which would be out of reach for the original itself. Above all, it enables the original to meet the beholder halfway, be it in the form of a photograph or a phonograph record.” (Benjamin) According to Benjamin’s logic, it would still lose its presence in the time and space in which it was taken so even the act of developing a photo from the original negative would make it a reproduction.

The George Eastman House Online Collections are split up into several categories including collections of negatives, lantern slides and many smaller collections of photographs on historic events and persons. While there is some access to these collections, it is nowhere near complete which the sites recognize. I perused the main collections that the site highlights to judge the general functionality of the online collections. On both the Eastman Museum website and the George Eastman House site, there is a useful “Search” tool which allows someone to pin down a specific collection or photograph. Although this tool exists, there isn’t a lot of free movement between the collections which makes it difficult to compare images unless you open up a new window from which to view the images side by side. The licensing website that houses the collections is organized by general collection (technology, rare books, Civil War, Portraits of Photographers, 19th Century Streets, Eastman’s Legacy, and Frame clippings). The site recognizes that there is missing material and urges visitors of the site to check back regularly for updates to the collections. There are collections on these two specific sites and both offer different collections, one of the major cons with using these online collections is the difficulty of maneuvering within and between the collections which is a bit cumbersome. The Eastman Museum site recognizes that the database is only a fraction of the photography collection and is not a comprehensive representation of all of the museum’s materials and there is still much work to be done. However, they are off to a good start.

 

 

https://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/philosophy/works/ge/benjamin.htm

https://eastman.org/

http://licensing.eastmanhouse.org/GEH/C.aspx?VP3=HRender_VPage

An Open Source Cure for Cancer?: Paticipatory Medicine in the Digital Realm

By lilym

Diagnosed with brain cancer in September 2012, Italian designer, computer engineer, and hacker Salvatore Iaconesi decided to publish his personal medical data online, inviting the public to respond. The result was the creation of an online community of cancer survivors, family members, doctors, and other allies who came together to support Iaconesi (and each other) in treatment. La Cura therefore came to embody a collaborative social space, uniting treatment and healing outside of the hospital setting.

The project was motivated by Iaconesi’s experience as a patient—an experience he has described as dehumanizing and altogether isolating. According to Iaconesi, after diagnosis, he felt his individual identity disappear; in becoming a patient, his complexity as a human being was ignored to the point where he became a set of data for doctors to analyze and manipulate. Personal identity had been taken out of the equation, and data (rather than the human condition) came to determine his treatment.

La Cura essentially turned this dynamic on its head, appropriating Salvatore’s medical data and breaking the patient paradigm. The data was published online where anyone could access, interact with, or respond to it, thereby producing their own creative meaning. No longer a medical commodity, “the cure” became a social relationship born out of the interactions of the public. Salvatore’s project developed into an important global performance where personal expression marked a social consciousness. Cancer, as a social performance, is perhaps more suited to such treatments.

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Brain scans from Iaconesi’s medical record.

In the hospital setting, data associated with the body is expressed in language particular to doctors and other medical practitioners. Iaconesi was frustrated to find that his digital medical records were in a closed, proprietary format that he could not even open on his own computer. Feeling that his humanity had been replaced by restricted clinical records, he began with translating electronic medical records into “personal open data”.  As he explains on his website, he “cracked them[…,]opened them and converted the contents into open formats, so that [he] could share them with everyone.” (Iaconesi). He began by sending the data to doctors, and publishing their responses using open formats so others with his condition could benefit from the information. He compelled visitors to his website to “grab the information about my disease[…]and give me a CURE: create a video, an artwork, a map, a text, a poem, a game, or try to find a solution for my health problem.” (Iaconesi).  Obviously these formats are not one would traditionally associate with medical “cures,” but they serve to reframe the notion of “the cure” in as a more socially and community-based creation. At the end of this experiment, Iaconesi received, 35 videos, 600 poems, 15,000 testimonies, 500 reviews of doctors, and over 50,000 different strategies to cure his cancer.

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Portion of relational graph of submitted “cures”. (Full version can be found on La Cura website)

Resistance to these types of programs is often heard from healthcare practitioners and medical institutions that see the digital sphere as potentially misleading and unreliable. While these concerns are certainly founded, the potential for positive change in healthcare through such initiatives cannot be overlooked: digital spaces of interaction such as the internet allow for the public negotiation of power and an active sort of social creation that can be found nowhere else.

In open source, “a common problem is placed in a common space, and people from around the world turn themselves to working, in parallel, on this problem.” (Lessig, 107) This, in effect, turns the structure of governance on its head, as the control of information is central to power. Through La Cura, Iaconesi explores how networked communications are used to to empower both patients and patient communities. The internet both pluralizes flows of information while simultaneously widening the scope of commentary.

Though not quite what Larry Diamond has envisioned, parallels can be drawn between Iaconesi’s project and “liberation technology”. According to Diamond, liberation technology “is any form of information and communication technology (ICT) that can expand political, social, and economic freedom.” (Diamond, 70). Aiming to humanize and health care through the use of participatory media and digital communication, La Cura circumvents the traditional power structures of information—here, the ones that structure medical knowledge. Health care has been recast in a decidedly social way, shifting not only the dynamics of the patient/practitioner relationship but also the overall approach to disease treatment. Actively performing their own healing process with the use of digital media, users are empowered by such a reimagined system, constructing a reflexive space of creative healing.

More democratic healing practices target all spheres of a patient’s life and wellbeing. The environment of such living labs are co-developed with users—not just for them—to transform the healthcare center into a social hub where a diverse array of individuals’ distinctive needs initiate creation, rather than normalization. As in La Cura, active collaboration and performance in a social setting initiates a unique thinking process that targets the healing of the individual human being, rather than isolated treatment of a medically-defined disease. This expansion of participatory medicine into the digital realm allows for a more inclusive and interactive form of whole person care. As health becomes regarded as more than just the absence of pain and suffering, the dynamics of illness and disease must be viewed within this expanded framework of social, mental, and community health.

References

Diamond, L. (2010). “Liberation Technology,” Journal of Democracy 21(3): 69–83.

Iaconesi, S. (2012). La Cura, an Open Source Cure. http://opensourcecureforcancer.com/

Lessig, L. (1999). “Open Code and Open Societies: Values of Internet Governance,” Chicago-Kent Law Review 74, 101–116. http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/works/lessig/ final.PDF.

A Political Campaign in 140 Characters

By Jessica Jochum

Since the development of various technologies and progression of the digital age, the electoral process has dramatically changed since 1789 when George Washington was elected. The presidential candidates for the 2016 election are fighting a battle that hasn’t been fought before.

The Past – 1789 to 2000s.

In early America, presidents such as George Washington and James Monroe traveled by horseback or carriage to address crowds in person and published statements in “broadsheets” and early newspapers. Lincoln had the relative advantage of traveling by locomotive or using the telegraph. Telephones appeared in the White House in 1877 while Rutherford B. Hayes was president. Like Harding, President William Taft used the phonograph to distribute recordings of his speeches. However, the most rapid advancement in communication for presidents occurred in the 20th century. 1

Those advancements are found in the introduction of radio, television, and later, the internet. Each technology had the power to change, for better or for worse, a candidate’s campaigns and influence on voters.

One of the most notable, influential presidential campaigns that took advantage of the media occurred in 1960, when Kennedy was running against Nixon. They participated in first ever televised Presidential debates known as “The Great Debates.” The debates were simultaneously broadcasted over the radio. Those listening to the radio declared Nixon the winner of the debate, and those watching the televised broadcast decidedly chose Kennedy as the winner. Why was there such a stark difference of opinion? On the radio, listeners judge the debates through speech and tone. With the introduction of television, there came all kinds of new ways to judge candidates: not just by what was said, but body language, eye contact, charisma, and of course, appearance. When it came to the newly developed judging criteria, Kennedy floored his opponent. Kennedy looked directly into the camera, whereas Nixon shifted his gaze to the side. Kennedy was tanned, and wore make-up; Nixon looked pale and sickly after just recovering from the flu. 2

Polls revealed that more than half of all voters had been influenced by “The Great Debates,” while 6% claimed that the debates alone had decided their choice. Whether or not the debates cost Nixon the presidency, they were a major turning point in the 1960 race—and in the history of media in campaigns. 3 

Nixon-Kennedy-debates_19604

The slightly more recent past.

Social Media. Need I say more? Okay, I guess I do.

Barack Obama, coined the “President of Social Media”, garnered five million supporters on fifteen social networking sites for the 2008 election, with most of the “follower” count being on Facebook and Twitter. Prior to this election, neither of these platforms were used in campaigns. During his 2008 campaign, Obama launched an “Ask Me Anything” thread on popular site, Reddit, which became one of the most popular threads of all time. Obama and his team strategized to use these social media platforms to reach out to the young and minority voters. Upon his victory in the 2008 election, Barack sent a tweet “We just made history. All of this happened because you gave you time, talent and passion. All of this happened because of you. Thanks” – which was retweeted only 157 times. His later 2012 victory tweet (“Four more years.”)  became the most shared post in the site’s history, with over 400,000 retweets within a few hours of his posting. 5

barack

This dramatic increase shows the incredible growth of not only users on twitter, but their online interactions in politics. Obama was the first candidate to embrace and effectively utilize social media in his campaign, and throughout his presidency. His strategy was so effective because “the medium wasn’t the message, so to speak; it was the vehicle. It connected with people, with real enthusiasm, in real time, and gave them an easy and accessible way to show their support for change.” 6 Currently Obama has twenty aides that update his social media accounts.

Today.

The current campaigns for the 2016 Presidential Election featured the first “official” integration of social media of its kind – with Twitter. Sure, hashtags have been used widely for years – and Obama certainly capitalized on the use of Twitter during his campaign and throughout his presidency. However, this is the first election that Twitter officially partnered with the GOP and Democratic Debates.

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This partnership featured live coverage of the events on Twitter. Users simply had to click on the #GOPdebate or #DemDebate links and they would be brought to a live twitter feed of coverage. The feed showed popular tweets using the hashtags, a “top stories” with photos and videos, and a sidebar for related articles to topics being discussed on the debates, provided by organizations such as USA Today, New York Times, and Fox News. (It is worth noting briefly that the organizations that were live tweeting were largely either reiterating the candidates’ claims, or in some cases, to support their own agenda, so to speak. @PlannedParenthood was especially active during the debates, either condemning the views of Republicans or praising those of Democrats. Clearly, the material being promoted on twitter was not bias-free.)

The Democratic Debate on Nov 14th, 2015 aired on the CBS network. Twitter and CBS linked together, and users had the unique opportunity to tweet to CBS using the #DemDebate hashtag. Tweets were pulled from the thousands sent, and some were read to the candidates to respond to – not unlike how reality shows in the same vein as  America’s Got Talent and The Voice display live tweets. Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton made a statement early in the debate, and a twitter user tweeted asking her to clarify her response. Hillary addressed the question and cleared up any miscommunication (well, so she hopes).

All of the candidates were tweeting during the debates. Rather, someone on their team was tweeting from their accounts. This gave candidates an extra platform to clarify or expand upon their responses in the debate. Hillary Clinton’s twitter account even tweeted at the start of the debate, “If you’re not watching the #demdebate, we can email you the highlights!” along with a link to sign up for her mailing list. Clever, Hillary. Clever.  

Okay, but does social media really make a difference?

Facebook claims to have increased voter turnout by 340,000 votes. And a third of those aged 18-24 indicated that reading something on social media would influence their vote more than televised debates. In the same age group of those online, 41% of users participated in political activity online. 7

In today’s world, not having a digital presence would be more detrimental than having one. Candidates that don’t use social media might come off as if they had something to hide. Erin Lindsay, a principal for digital at Precision Strategies, says social media “forces candidates to show more personality. Authenticity is a big thing in social media. I think the candidates that are the most successful are the ones that are clearly the most comfortable.” 8 Voters want someone genuine, and social media gives a way for the candidates to prove their authenticity.

The political advertisement spending is expected to reach 11.4 billion dollars for the upcoming election. Spending on social media is estimated to account for over half of the one million dollar budget for social media – a 5,000% increase from the 2008 election. 9  With a budget this large, you can definitely expect a flurry of activity from the candidates on the networking platforms.

Facebook and Twitter have been the major sources of social media campaigning. However, this election is the first one in which we can see Instagram becoming an up-and-coming player. In November 2015, Instagram boasted having 400 million monthly users, as opposed to Twitter’s 316 million. 10  The campaigning territory on Instagram is starting to be utilized, but still is not as popular as Facebook and Twitter when it comes to political activity. Imagine the mental anguish that would go into choosing the best photo filter…

From riding on horseback to constructing a (hopefully) carefully thought out tweet, candidates have embraced technology as a part of their campaign.

  1. http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/harding-becomes-first-president-to-be-heard-on-the-radio
  2. http://www.history.com/topics/us-presidents/kennedy-nixon-debates
  3. http://www.history.com/topics/us-presidents/kennedy-nixon-debates
  4. http://www.kingsacademy.com/mhodges/03_The-World-since-1900/11_The-Bewildering-60s/pictures/Nixon-Kennedy-debates_1960.jpg
  5. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/nov/07/how-barack-obama-celebrated-twitter
  6. http://www.dragonflyeffect.com/blog/dragonfly-in-action/case-studies/the-obama-campaign/
  7. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/r-kay-green/the-game-changer-social-m_b_8568432.html
  8. http://thehill.com/policy/technology/251185-welcome-to-the-social-media-election
  9. http://www.wired.com/2015/08/digital-politcal-ads-2016/
  10. http://www.cnbc.com/2015/09/23/instagram-hits-400-million-users-beating-twitter.html

A Tale of Tweens, Teens and Technology Addiction

By alesram

teens-and-technology

Did you know?

That 92% of teens report going online daily- including 24% who say they go online “almost constantly”. More than half (56%) of teens defined in this report as those ages 13-17 go online several times a day, and 12% report once-a-day use. Just 6% report going online weekly and 2% go online less often. www.pewinternet.org 2015

Tweens (pre-teens) and teens of today are being born into the technological age where the computer coupled with the Internet and mobile phones have become super information highways that are fast becoming substitutes for parenting, personal interaction, socializing and learning. My daily encounters always incorporate seeing teens on the train or bus perusing their phones constantly either alone or in groups. Most of the time these teens are on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram where one can write headlines and post statuses with pictures. Obviously this happens at home as well, and most parents have come to accept this as the norm. But how normal is this norm? How normal is technology addiction? Technology is not overall bad; it is the overuse of technology that makes it bad for not only our tweens and teens but also everyone.

According to Larry Diamond, “Digital ICT has some exciting advantages over earlier technologies. The Internets’ decentralized character and ability (along with mobile-phone networks) to reach large numbers of people very quickly..” (Liberation Technology).

Based on the statement above, technology has evolved immeasurably since the 2000s. Earlier technology gains included computer labs, phone booths and landline telephones amongst others. In the earlier days one would visit the library or schools to use the computer lab, but today, this is now an option. Likewise, phone booths and landlines have been phased out with the invention of mobile phones, which have become easily accessible. As a result, many children (tweens/teens) seldom ask for permission to go play outside or to a friend’s house. Instead they are given smart phones with a wide variety of Apps, games and social media and they ask for permission to have a Facebook or Instagram account.

Consequences of Technology Abuse by Tweens and Teens

 

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  • Technology Abuse disrupts teenage learning

Technology has impeded our tweens and teens ability to think critically and be original in their ideas. For example, when faced with homework and assignments teens immediately go to the Internet to look for ready-made answers instead of researching information to stimulate their thoughts. This dependency on readily available information has created a new breed of what appears to be “lazy-thinking individuals” who tend to be intelligent outwardly but lack depth inwardly. There seems to be no attempt to think creatively, thus stimulating their cognition levels. Therefore it is not surprising that this teenage generation rely solely on “Google” to look up answers to simple questions such as “who is the 30th President of the United States?” We really should be looking among the tween/teens for future leaders who are strong-minded individuals capable of making wise decisions.

  • Technology Abuse is characterized as addiction

Jennifer Soong in her WebMD feature on “the Paradox of Modern Life” cites Healey (2009) who states that Internet Addiction can be explained as a psychological dependency that results from habitual or compulsive Internet use. Soong points out that even though Internet addiction is not yet recognized as a formal diagnosis, reports suggest that it is responsible, among other things for rearing a generation of impulsive individuals who are unable to concentrate – that is, it is negatively impacting their education, work and personal relationships. Meanwhile, it is Healey (2009)’s article in the Los Angeles Times entitled “Internet Addiction: a 21st century epidemic with some more at risk than others” that highlights the essential use of technology which is nearly escapable. Therefore Healey suggests protecting insatiably curious and eager to experiment learners since this addiction is a serious concern in this age of information.

  • Technology Abuse fosters poor social skills

In the teen link, kburt24 of Houston, Texas in writing about the question of  whether technology is hurting or helping social skills states that some technology can be useful for some interactions. It is stated that some kids allow the Internet to take control of their social lives and slowly, their willingness and ability to socialize face-to-face is decreasing. It is further stated that there is now a debate on this topic and researchers are worried that kids might be missing the importance of social cues and the ability to socialize without coming off as being considered socially awkward. This notion of being socially awkward is supported by Brown (2013) whose analysis shows that in the revised version of the DSM a new category of psychiatric disorder called “internet addiction disorder” has been proposed, thus highlighting the negative use of internet use. Brown (2013) cites a Professor of Communications at Alma College who reports that in the last five years there has been “erosion in students’ ability to focus and even their ability to engage in face-to-face interaction” (pp., 2-3). It is Wiesen (2014) in her Science learning article who states that some child development experts report that children who spend excessive time in front of screens are not developing the social skills they need to effectively handle interpersonal relationships.

In order to prevent technology abuse, I believe that everyone should be involved in this new developing phenomenon i.e. parents, teachers, children and schools. Parents need to become more tech-savvy and stop making excuses for their lack of computer skills; this will enable them to be more vigilant in their children’s technology use/overuse. Whether they are single parents or not this issue must be taken seriously and common goals should be expressed and implemented. Parents, set limits and boundaries on cell phone usage, set age limits for when your children can get cellphones, utilize time limits and even suggest getting a part-time job for of age children. In addition, schools and teachers can work hand-in-hand; stricter cellphone usage guidelines in schools should be monitored and there should be guidance in the use of “when” and “how” cellphones are used during school hours. Allocation of time should be organized that students are given ample opportunity for social interaction and discussions. This would aid in fostering the enriching learning environment needed by our tween and teens.

 

 

References

Brown, C. (2013). Digital Commons. Retrieved December 7th, 2015, from www.digitalcommons.com: http://digitalcommons.conncoll.edu/psychhp/40

 

kburt94. (n.d.). teenink. Retrieved December 7th, 2015, from www.teenink.com: http://www.teenink.com/opinion/current_events_politics/article/162125

 

Lenhart, A. (2015, april 9th). www.pewinternet.org. Retrieved December 7th, 2015, from www.pewinternet.org: http://www.pewinternet.org

 

M, H. (2009, October 5). LA Times. Retrieved December 7th, 2015, from www.latimes.com: http://latimesblog.latimes.com/booster_shots/2009/10/internet-addiction-a-21st-century-epidemic.html

 

Soong, J. (2005). WebMD LLC. Retrieved December 7th, 2015, from www.webmd.com: http://www.webmd.com

 

Wiesen, N. (2014, April 15). Science Learning. Retrieved December 7th, 2015, from www.scilearn.com: http://blog/social-skills-digital-age-screen-time

 

 

 

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